The 242nd Field Artillery Battalion was formed in August, 1942 at Camp White, Oregon. Most of the men in the original unit stayed with the 242nd until it was de-activated in Europe the summer of 1945. We trained in Camp White near Medford, Oregon, in 9th Corp Firing Range near Yakima, Washington, leaving for Fort Sill, Oklahoma March 1943,where we trained the candidates for OCS, and F A School. We convoyed to Camp Howze, TX in spring 1944 where we took the Army Ground Forces test preparatory to going overseas. We sailed from Brooklyn July 1, 1944, landing Greenock, Scotland.
After receiving all new equipment, we had a few weeks of brush-up training before boarding ship at South Hampton England. Our landing was at Utah Beach, August 19. The men and equipment were parked in an orchard while truck drivers immediately were put to use hauling infantry, ammunition and gas to those fighting at Falaise Gap. I was an assistant driver in that effort. The fighting at night looked like distant thunderstorms in Nebraska . Continuous red flashing like lightning with the noise just barely audible.
This transporting of troops and supplies went on for several days. I went back to the battalion and we were on the move. We went through many villages until we received orders to go into position near Charms which was full of Germans. We dug in the guns in a gully below a hill, dug fox holes and trenches. The batteries were almost in a line about a hundred yards apart. Forward observers went up the hill and crawled to the top. I went along as I was in the Survey Section.
We peeked over the hill and there were thousands of Germans down there. The Moselle River ran through the town. The Germans had set up road blocks and we figured they had mined the roads and bridges. There were several tanks in sight, a lot of horse-drawn artillery. Men were sleeping in the sun, some fooling around with a soccer ball, everyone acting normal, no excitement to be seen although we were sure they knew we were here only about a mile away. They could have wiped us out in an hour had they wanted to. We called Group Hdqtrs and reported our position and what we had seen. They said, 'Get the hell out of there.' We got out fast.
September 14th, 1944 ' First taste of combat
We had pulled back to the village of Mirecourt. My work of liaison (Battery Agent) meant I should be at Hdqtrs Battery but it was dark and I didn't know where they were. At dark the Germans started to move to try to get out of a pocket they were in. Our whole battalion started firing, fired most of the night on the roads and crossroads the Germans were using to escape.
Sgt Reed (old regular Army) and I sat down by a tree about 25 yards behind the continually firing cannon. We talked about how bad it was going to get. He said he guessed this was what he had been in the Army for all these years. He asked, 'What do you think, Kid?' I said, 'It's a little like Fort Sill these first few hours.'
A little after midnight he said, 'I'm getting sleepy. I guess I'll take a nap.' I said, 'Me, too.' We leaned back against a tree and slept about 3 hours. When we woke up, the guns were still firing. All you could see was the dull red flashes of the cannon, the smoke around the flash, and the silhouette of the cannoneers. Eerie. (Most everyone got so they could sleep while only a few yards from the terrible noise of the cannon. Learned it in Fort Sill, I guess)
We had some of the 79th Div in front of us and the 310 F A Battalion joined us. The Germans counterattacked a few times but the breaches in the line were repaired by our artillery fire.
The next morning there were many German prisoners, many dead Germans and all kinds of wrecked German equipment, and lots of dead horses. There had been quite a bit of horse-drawn artillery. There were many wounded, both German and American and quite a few American dead. We now knew we had been fighting a German Reinforced Combat Team, probably 2500 to 3000 men. We got darn near all of them, maybe 2 or 3 hundred escaped.