In my letter I tried to describe the period between July 7-19, 1944 so I could use statistics from a War Dept. study for that period. Its hard to condense 12 days of combat to 15 pages long hand!
This time I will attempt to cover July 19-July 24, 1944. (Ready for Operation Cobra or breakout in the next installment.)
Some letters to me from 30th Division soldiers written many years after the war ended. This may only add to confusion because some of them can't be sure even of the date they were wounded. Confusion is a key element of combat.
--------------July 19, 1944------------------
This was a very bad day for me and is picked by some Historians as the worst day for the 30th Division.
The plan of attack was 2nd platoon on the left and 3rd platoon on the right with me as acting Platoon leader. The 1st platoon was in reserve and 4th Platoon which has machine guns and mortars was with the forward command post.
The closer we got to St Lo the more resistance we met. The fields here were much larger and the ground more level than it had been closer to the Beach Head. I was assigned an area bordered by a road from St Giles to St Lo. Before I had gone far, I was stopped by a dug in German Tank with a very brave crew and plenty of machine gun ammunition--no gas--no shells for big guns. In behind the tank were German mortars and infantry.
We were using radios and talking in the clear. I was K-3, the CP was K. I called for support from the weapons platoon. Capt. Smith sent it to me with a replacement officer, Lt. Williams in charge. We had received him the night before and this was his first day in combat. K company was still under strength. In order to get a field of fire to the dug in tank they had to set up the machine guns in a farm pond which is bad because of concussion.
Sgt. Wacker set up the #1 gun and got into action first. Soon after it started firing the gun crew was hit by mortars. Sgt. Wacker was shot in both legs. George Tibbetts set up #2 gun and started firing. Mortars took it out. Letter from Tibbetts describing this action is enclosed. Our casualties were high. Lt. Williams was killed in his first day of Battle. Both Tibetts and Wasker were original K co. men. The photocopies of pictures attached to Tibetts letter were made at Camp Blanding when I was in charge of the light Machine gun section. Both men are dead now. George died in VA Hospital in Mass. Oct. 15, 1992. Wacker died with a stroke April 7, 1994. While we were stationed at Alysbury England Sgt. Wacher, Sgt. Harris, and I shared a room. I found one of Wackers letters describing his wounds and how he lost down to 125 lbs when he was discharged with 90% disability.
By afternoon of July 19th I was in charge of what was left of the weapons platoon, 3rd platoon and a few men who had got cut off from 2nd Platoon.
I called the CP and requested permission to move out of the road which their mortars and artillery had zero on. I wanted to set up on higher ground just back of the road. Permission was denied and a arrangement was made to meet Capt. Smith at the 1st curve in the road on my left at midnight. I could not describe my situation talking in the Clear on Radio. Too much danger of enemy interception.
When we had our meeting, Capt. Smith told me to hold what I had until day light and that instead of continuing the attack they would join me and help remove my wounded. See copy of letter from Sgt. Helton where he describes Pat Pope who was wounded July 19th ending up in Lawson General Hospital in Atlanta with both legs and one arm off.
Before daylight I company pulled out leaving my right flank exposed. I talked to the Lt. in charge as they passed thru our area. I tried to get him to help me with that tank. Of course he couldn't and it was a mistake to ask him. He asked me what I was drinking? I told him "apple Jack Brandy" and offered him some out of my canteen. He ordered me to pour it out which I did. I did not know his name--the next time I saw him was when he gave me first aid when his platoon helped me out of the river Vire when I was wounded but that will keep until the next letter.
It took us 1/2 day to remove our wounded. By after noon the 29th Division had captured St. Lo. The War Dept. study of that period credits 30th Div. for making it possible. See photo copy of Hal Boyles' news release July 29th, 1944. T/Sgt. Byers killed on a patrol.
Moved past on the right of St. Lo. This was the worst damaged city I saw in the war. One of men found 1 pane of glass still intact and broke it with the butt of his rifle.
We were in location where we would be for the break out. This was the day Capt. Smith was wounded. See his letter to me Aug 25, 1989. The co. Executive officer Lt. Carl Harnden took command of K Co.
----------------------July 23, 1944---------------------------
Period of waiting and preparation. After dark Lt. Harnden sent a runner to bring one platoon at a time back 1,000 yds to give us a margin of safety for the air attack.
Your grandfather, John,
PS. Added another letter to me 12-11-92 from Enoch Potter, my BAR man from Pikeville, Ky. Its hard to read and another example of confusion. Tom Dobbs stuck the German before a shot was fired. I'm glad Potter remembers my help instead of the times I put him in Harm's way. A case of battle fatigue in operation Cobra.