Yes, I know: it should be a 48-star flag... The 115th A.A.A. Gun Battalion, 1943 to 1945

France (Part 6)

ALENÇON (Alencon)

Following the great Normandy breakthrough and the subsequent epic antiaircraft action at the Avranches funnel, any doubt of the AAA role was abolished. Not only the Battalion but every higher headquarters developed an enthusiasm for the great protecting power of AAA. A brief study of the overall situation at this time indicated a torn and disorganized enemy fleeing the then shrinking Falaise Gap, whose southern pincers was formed by Third Army's XV Corps. A move in this direction had been expected and materialized on the 13th of August 1944, when the Battalion was assigned to the XV Corps for operations. Our mission was to be somewhere in the vicinity of newly won Le Mans. On that day, an exceptionally clear and warm one, the Battalion marched on one of the longest, dirtiest and weariest moves in its combat history. The fury of mobile war's mailed fist stamped destruction along its path, marked every road or lane, field or woods with hundreds of burnt or burning vehicles and tanks, hundreds of smashed artillery pieces, overturned carts and wagons, dead horses and cattle, bloated and stinking in the heat. This was typical of the Victory Highway the 115th was destined to follow.

Upon arriving at the RC at Le Mans, it was learned orders had been changed and the Battalion was to follow the advance elements of the Armor and Infantry into freshly bombed and littered Alençon (Alencon) -- one of the gates into the Falaise Gap. Again, because of our high degree of mobility and deployment drill, no problems were encountered in the reconnaissance and occupation of positions which had to be simultaneous. In spite of the difficulties involved and the long 150 mile march, all four batteries were set up and "in action" the same night, furnishing timely protection for bridges and other critical points along the line of advance. Enemy air activity during this assignment was light compared to those warded off at Ducey. The slackening off of attacks was good indication that the enemy was again resorting to the evident policy of probing for information and conserving his resources. Most sorties in our area were reconnaissance flights with only scattered bombing and strafing attacks. Raids were predominately by ME-109's, FW-190's, and JU-88's.

The rapidity of the entire advance had created small enemy pockets throughout the sector, and, in this respect it was not uncommon that patrols and skirmishes by various elements of the 115th netted a goodly amount of prisoners.

The perpetual digging and revetting, the unceasing alertness and watchfulness, the snatches of broken sleep and the hastily devoured "C" rations, typified the continual never-settle-down lives of the Battalion. Little "extras" like eggs, cider or wines, heretofore easily obtained by barter, had all but vanished, but there was the potential increment of wistful eyed Mademoiselles.

Any rumor or illusions of being one of the units to advance Paris way by this time was out. The general tactic was to take immediate advantage of a disorganized enemy so an axis of advance was formed: northeast from Paris toward Belgium, with the 1st Army in the center, the 3rd Army on the right, the British on the left encircling Le Havre and driving north toward Dieppe, and the Canadians on the coast,cleaning up the strongpoints. The Seine bridge-head was being expanded by XV Corps; as a preliminary the V Corps was to clear the Paris outskirts and attack northeast with the 5th Armored, while VII Corps was to move generally east between V Corps and 3rd Army. During this build-up, the 115th was reattached from XV Corps to XII Corps, whose mission was to secure Châteaudun (Chateaudun) and Orléans (Orleans) and patrol and protect the southern flank of Third Army. . . .

. . . On August 20th 1944, moving with the major elements of the 4th Armored and 35th Infantry Div., the 115th whipped into battered and rainswept Châteaudun (Chateaudun) to assume the immediate protection of vital bridges and road nets high on the Luftwaffe's "priority" list. Despite a driving rain, pitch darkness, and contingents of enemy troops in the vicinity, the Battalion again got into position in record time with courage and enthusiasm for another chance at a "kill". While the enemy was strafing and bombing front line troops and installations mainly during darkness, not once did he enter our zone during the three day mission at Chateaudun. In the meantime, 83rd Division had heavy troop and artillery concentrations poised for the attack on Orleans, so the Battalion moved to . . .

. . . the approaches of Orléans (Orleans) to provide AA protection for these troops, but the mission was of short duration. Orleans had fallen and the 4th Armored Division sped to Sens, where it was decided our guns were needed worse than at Orleans. On the 24th of August 1944 after a hasty march order, with the smoke of battle still mushrooming the area, the Battalion accompanied the 4th Armored, which preceded the Infantry 80 miles to . . .

. . . Sens. Here our guns could be used in a dual role if necessary -- AA or Ground. The whole sector was "raw" with destruction and death and extensive areas had been liberally mined by the enemy. Positions had hardly been occupied and the heavy equipment set up when action commenced. For the four day period ending 28th of August 1944, more than 53 of the attacking planes were brought under our fire and several sent down in flames. Enemy attacks were directed mainly against troop concentrations, FA and AA positions, our positions being no exception. Although Sens itself was attacked with fire bombs, the important and vital rail junctions and bridges spanning the Yonne River were kept from direct attack by our concentrated fire. Following this period there was a sharp decline in aerial activity which allowed more time and effort directed toward improving already revetted positions which had been hastily scraped out of shale and rock.

Although the town of Sens was immediately declared "Off Limits" most of the Battalion managed to take a much needed bath in the Yonne River, and those with the incentive for adventure, despite the chances they were taking, found the gay spots the town offered such as the continental Cafè de la Grappe overlooking the river, where the availability of "effective" wines and liquors became well-known to more than a few of the Battalion. All the fronts were pushing so swiftly and territory was being wrestled so rapidly from a stunned and disorganized enemy that a change of mission appeared inevitable.

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is assigned to Third Army's XV Corps on 13 August 1944, traveling through Le Mans and on to Alençon (Alencon), "one of the gates into the Falaise Gap", where all 4 batteries are setup and "in action" the same night.

One week later, "the 115th was reattached from XV Corps to XII Corps, whose mission was to secure Châteaudun (Chateaudun) and Orléans (Orleans) and patrol and protect the southern flank of Third Army" and arrives in Châteaudun (Chateaudun) on the 20th of August with the 4th Armored Division and 35th Infantry Division. Three days later, it's on to Orléans (Orleans) to protect the 83rd Division as it masses for the attack. But Orlean fell quickly, so it was off to accompany the 4th Armored to Sens on August 24th, 80 miles ahead of the infantry. During four days at Sens, protecting Yonne River bridges, rail junctions and our troop concentrations, more than 53 attacking planes are brought under fire by the 115th and "several sent down in flames."
 
Updated Tuesday June 07, 2005 09:10:32 PDT
The original text of The Story of the 115th A.A.A. Gun Battalion, published by the unit in 1945, is in the public domain. So how, you may ask, can I claim that the contents of these web pages are protected by copyright?

The answer is that it is my own transcription of the text and images into electronic format, and compilation into these web pages that is copyrighted. In addition, the web design, art, and annotations, plus all material from my father's personal albums are copyrighted original works. I reserve all rights to how all these materials are used. You may not copy them or store them in any retrieval system without permission.