The Train

From:
SECOND UNITED STATES CAVALRY – A HISTORY
Compiled, edited and published by Historical Section, Second Cavalry Association
Maj. A. L. Lambert and Cpt. G. B. Layton, 2d Cavalry

Troop A, 42d Squadron

6 August 1944

Sunday, August 6, was quiet and peaceful as Lt. Wolf’s platoon returned from Ancenis (map I)(map 16) to St. Mars la Jaille (map I)(map 16).

The civilians were all togged out in their best and going to and from church. It hardly seemed possible that a war was in progress.

Hardly had we settled down to enjoy a little local color than civilians and FFI’s both reported a German train six kilometers away approaching the town. Furthermore, the excited Frenchmen gesticulated, the track was broken just three kilometers outside the town. This meant, of course, that the train would have to stop when it reached the broken part of the track.

Few outfits have ever had the opportunity to shoot up a train so we took off in a cloud of dust for the vicinity of the broken track in order to meet the train as it approached. As soon as we arrived the armored car was placed in an advantageous position and the 37mm aimed at the place where the train would probably have to stop. The two bantams were run into concealment close by. Everything proceeded according to plan. Apparently the engineer spotted the break in the rails, for he began to slow down.

Doremus, the 37mm gunner, opened up on the engine with HE shells, pouring effective fire on his target as fast as the loader, Bonelli, could slap shells into the breech.

The engine burst into flames and immediately the two MG bantams left concealment and sped to open ground, firing as they moved and preventing any efforts the enemy might make to organize effective resistance. The two machine gunners, Wendell and Brady, raked the train with deadly fire, and repulsed all attempts made by the enemy to escape. Soon the Germans began making frantic signs of surrender and the cease firing order was given by Lt. Wolf. Part of the patrol advanced cautiously and commenced rounding up the remnants of the German force. Thoroughly cowed, the future PW’s greeted our men with arms raised. The engineer, thus far escaping detection, suddenly made his bid for freedom, where upon Bell and Haar dropped him in his tracks.

After all the Jerries still able to walk had been rendered harmless, we tallied up our hours work. 15 enemy were dead, 10 wounded and 35 prisoners. In addition we had destroyed one train plus approximately one million dollars worth of irreplaceable equipment and engineering supplies. This was achieved without the loss of our own men or equipment.

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