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

France (Part 8)

LUNÉVILLE (Luneville)

The next day, Hq., A and B received March Order for the following day, September 21st. We were now to move down near Lunéville (Luneville), the textile center of Alsace-Lorraine. Protecting the bridges and supply routes through that city was to be our mission, but in the next month we were to do much more than that. We set up outside of Luneville without incident, and awaited further orders. They weren't long in coming, but when they did come, they were a lot different from our original mission. At about this time the Germans had securely dug-in outside Luneville in the Forêt de Parroy (Foret de Parroy) area, and all attempts thus far to evict them had proved unsuccessful. The 79th Infantry Division had suffered heavy casualities in these attempts. There was a critical shortage of 105 and 155 mm ammunition, and the problem was how to give the doughboys better support while sparing their depleted stock of ammunition. This was the situation when we arrived on the scene, and as it turned out, we were the answer to their prayer. There was plenty of 90 mm ammo on hand, and as we had experienced firing field artillery, we were given the job of supporting the 79th Division. Our first firing mission came down on the 25th of September, and from then until the 11th of October, we fired field artillery day and night, expending a total of 2297 rounds.

When we moved to Lunéville (Luneville) we were Third Army troops, but on September 28th we were assigned to the Seventh U. S. Army, and two days later C and D Batteries moved down from Charmes to join us. Now, at full strength again, we really started firing in earnest. On October 1st we received a hurried call from Corps Artillery, "Germans concentrating for attack, break it up". B Battery was given the mission, and while our Fire Direction Center computed the necessary data, the gun crews checked their orientation. At 0715 the order to fire was given. Round after round of HE whistled over our head as Baker gave them the business. We could hear the explosion of the low air bursts as they poured into the Jerry's position. One hour later the cease fire order came down, and with it the comment, "Mission accomplished, enemy infantry completely dispersed". The next day, the situation was almost the same, except that this time it was our infantry who were doing the attacking. A and B Batteries were to be used for this mission; A Battery firing low air bursts to keep the enemy pinned down, while B Battery fired interdiction fire on the enemy supply routes thereby cutting off all supplies to their front lines. After we finished firing, our infantry was to launch its attack. Everything went as planned, and our infantry advanced several hundred yards, capturing many dazed Germans, and finding many more dead, a silent tribute to our intense shelling.

On October 3rd our battalion was reorganized in accordance with a new Table of Organization, and there were many changes and beaucoups of new ratings. Although there was the inevitable confusion with the new set-up, this didn't effect our firing, and we continued to give the Jerries hell. Our next important job was the destruction of a church steeple in the town of Manonvillers. The Germans were using the steeple as an O.P. and it was important that it be knocked out. D Battery was assigned this task, and on October 7th at three o'clock in the afternoon, they commenced firing. Shortly after this, Lieut. Gen. Patch, Commanding General of the Seventh Army, visited our area, and it was with great pleasure that we told him of the destruction of the enemy O.P., for destroyed it was with a minimum expenditure of ammunition. No sooner had General Patch left the area, than approximately eighteen enemy shells burst around our area. Luckily, none of our boys were hit, although we all got a good shaking up. The following day, and the day after that, more enemy shells landed around our C.P. and gun positions, but this time we weren't so lucky. One of our boys was seriously wounded, suffering shrapnel wounds in the hand, leg and neck. By now we were tired of being on the receiving end, and the following day, October 10th, we really meant business. From 0800 in the morning until ten o'clock that night we fired 653 rounds into the Germans positions. It was a grueling day, but that night we were a tired yet happy bunch. We had paid the Jerrys back tenfold, and they must have learned from that lesson, for during the rest of our stay in Luneville not one enemy shell came in.

COMMERCY

You reach a certain point where you begin to feel run-down. The nervous tension of waiting for the next actlon, the physical strain of long dusty convoys, the digging-in of equipment have their effect. After three months of this we were weary and needed a rest badly. Our armies had reached the peak of our drive. Our supply lines could no longer keep up with us. The weather had turned sour. The Germans were fighting bitterly and they had excellent fortifications. The whole front bogged down.

So when we pulled out of Luneville, attached once again to Third Army, on October 15th and rolled some 50 odd miles to a town called Commercy, nobody was unhappy about it. Here was a chance to relax and we did -- with vigor.

Commercy, like all French cities no matter how small, was liberally supplied with Cafés. When we were not on duty protecting the town from "enemy activity" (there was none) we'd hop a truck and roll into the main square, jump out and spend our time and money pleasantly. One particular cafe became very popular among us. Behind its bar a woman of magnificent proportions presided. When she laughed her whole body trembled like jello -- and she was always laughing. The girls who worked in the cafe with her were an affable crew and only added charm to the place. We used to call it "37" because nobody could remember "Le Chat Noir". It was an ideal spot to waste your time. There were other places, perhaps prettier, but "37" had personality and character. Somehow, you'd always end an afternoon there.

For a soldier such things do not last. Almost two months had passed when the dirty finger of war again beckoned. We packed our decks of cards, our toothbrushes and other necessary equipment, said "au revoir" to our friends, and sadly watched Commercy grow smaller, fainter, until it disappeared on the horizon. It was December 6th, 1944. We were back in the war. How much, we didn't know. Within the next two weeks we were to discover how very much we were in it.

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moves to the area of Lunéville (Luneville) on 21 September 1944, and is soon assigned to fire Field Artillery in support of the 79th Infantry Division, attempting to evict the Germans from the Foret de Parroy. "Our first firing mission came down on the 25th of September, and from then until the 11th of October, we fired field artillery day and night, expending a total of 2297 rounds."

This page includes some details of FA missions and results.

The 115th is assigned temporarily to the Seventh Army as of 28 September, and Commanding General Lt. Gen. Patch visits them on October 7th. They are back in the Third Army when they leave Luneville the 15th of October for Commercy. Duty at Commercy is essentially a rest break until called back to the war on 6 December 1944.
 
Updated Tuesday June 07, 2005 09:10:38 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.