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Up Alexander (2) Alexander (3) Alexander (4) Alexander (5) Alexander (6) Alexander (7) POWs In Holzheim Darrell Apple R.E. Archambault David Axelrod

THIRTY FOUR DAYS IN NORMANDY IN 1944 (Pg 5)

    Our men shot them to pieces. I don't know how it happened but German artillery major survived the incident. Some Frenchman on a bicycle saw the action, turned around and pedaled madly back northeast on the river road. I'm sure he informed the Germans of our position. Shortly thereafter I spotted German tanks on a road junction about three quarters of a mile to the northeast on the river road. I had my artillery observer bring down a concentration of fire. When the smoke cleared the tanks had gone and I saw no further German action in that area. The lack of firing in the 2nd Battalion area led me to believe that they had also reached the river. Leaving a platoon-sized roadblock on the river road, I gathered the Battalion and started them moving southwest on the river road to where the main road crossed the Douve river. I went ahead with my orderly and a radio operator. When I arrived at the bridge I met Colonel Ekman and General Ridgeway. The last of the 2nd Battalion had just crossed the half-blown bridge. Ekman ordered me to bring up the 1st Battalion. I told him they were already on the way and the lead elements began arriving as I spoke. I directed them to speed up the crossing behind the 2nd Battalion.

    Ridgeway informed me that he had 15 batteries of artillery to back us in the establishment of the bridgehead. My 1st Battalion crossed the bridge unopposed immediately behind the 2nd Battalion. We took up a position on the high ground in the northeast part of St. Sauveur le Vicomte, and the 2nd Battalion was positioned straight ahead. Soon the 508th was brought up and took up a position in the southwest part of the town. A very firm bridgehead had been established. The following day, the 9th Division crossed the bridge and in two days reached the west coast of the Normandy peninsula cutting off any movement by the Germans from northeast to the southwest or vice versa, enabling General Collins and his Corps to intensify their drive to the north northeast to capture Cherbourg.

    Late on the 16th the 1st Battalion occupied the high ground in the northern part of St. Sauveur le Vicomte, I had set up my command post in one of the nearby farmhouses. One of the Battalion Headquarters men came to me and said he was going to cook me a delicious duck dinner with potatoes and tomatoes from a garden and a duck from a pond. Later, my staff and I sat down at a kitchen table prepared to eat our hot meal for the first time in 10 days. The field telephone rang. It was a call from Colonel Ekman. He said that General Ridgeway had called and wanted me to report to Colonel Roy E. Lindquist, Commanding Officer of the 508th, as soon as possible. He said that I would be the Regimental Executive Officer of the 508th and that they needed me there. In a few minutes, the telephone rang again and General Ridgeway confirmed the order. I said to General Ridgeway that I was a 505 man--and he said, "you WERE! So, I jumped into a jeep, left my duck dinner to Major Bill Hagen, my replacement, and reported to Colonel Lindquist. I received a rather cold reception. The senior officers of the 508th had been together for about one and a half years and I was an outsider.

    The 508th, along with the other three regiments of the division, were deployed in defensive positions facing the southwest and held those positions along with other units while General Collins carried out his assault and defeat of the German units defending Cherbourg. This defensive position was held from June 18th to the morning of July 3rd with not a great deal of action other than harassing fire from both sides. On the morning of July 3rd, the Division and other units were unleashed on a drive to the southwest to take La Haye du Puits. In the defensive period from June 18th to the morning of July 3rd, not a great deal happened. We received infrequent incoming mortar and artillery fire. However, as Executive Officer, I had little to do and had Colonel Lindquist's approval to frequently check out the Regiment's defensive positions. Most of the time I would take my orderly, Virgil McGuire, with me, but about half the time I went alone. One evening I was restless. It was a very dark night with a cloudy sky and we were in a wooded area straddling a dirt road, which ran into the enemy's positions. I decided to check some of our positions, one in particular that protruded into the German position. I quietly moved down the dirt road through the trees. All at once I realized I was hearing German voices on both sides of me. Very quietly, I turned around and sneaked back to where I had come from. I finally located our roadblock. Both men were asleep but not for long. Another night I had been out checking our deployment and it started to rain again. I returned to our command post and my orderly, McGuire, had somewhere procured a pup tent and two blankets. Alongside the tent McGuire had dug a trench as we had been receiving occasional mortar fire in the bivouac area. There was mud in the bottom of the slit trench so I moved into the pup tent with my two blankets and was soon sound asleep. I awakened to the sound of mortar fire and explosions but was too comfortable to move into the muddy slit trench and went back to sleep. Again I awakened to the sound of nearby explosions. One round landed very close, and with the next flash and explosion, I could see four holes in the top of the pup tent. Yes, I got up and took my two blankets and moved into the muddy slit trench.

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