When we (Company I, 38th Inf) were dug in on the approach to Hill 192 in Normandy my Fox-hole Buddy and I had quite a sobering experience. (As if everything that happened in Normandy wasn't "sobering") Dean Wilhelm and I were sharing a fox-hole that was well dug-in under one of the ubiquitous hedgerows. Of course, any observation to the front was impossible because the hedgerow was about 5+ feet high and we were dug in another 4 feet deep. We got the brilliant idea that we would use our entrenching tool to dig a hole through the hedgerow so we could see on the other side. We dug most of the day, but waited until after dark to make the final break-through to the other side.
The following night we were both sitting on the edge of our foxhole listening for all of those night-noises that were so common. When we heard something that we could not discount as a cow moving on the other side of the hedgerow, we would pull the pin on a grenade and lob it over the hedgerow.
We had done this maybe 4, or 5 times just after dark. The last time we lobbed a grenade, we both leaned forward, rather instinctively, so that our noses were almost touching, waiting for the detonation of the grenade. As if by signal, when the grenade exploded so did a burst of machine gun fire from the German Hedgerow, aimed right through the hole that we had so carefully dug.
If you have ever smelled tracers about an inch and a half below your nose, you will never forget the smell and the experience.Both Dean and I slouched down lower than we had ever been in that Fox-hole. And you better believe that was the last grenade we tossed that night.
We thought we had been very careful not to let any dirt fall through on the far side. Obviously we were not as successful as we thought we were. The Germans had seen the hole and zeroed their machine gun in on that hole, just waiting for us to lob one more grenade. I'm sure the fact that neither one of made a sound the rest of the night made the Germans think that they had taken care of us.
After training in Northern Ireland and Wales from October 1943 to June 1944, the 2nd Infantry Division crossed the channel to land on Omaha Beach on D plus 1 (7 June 1944) near Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer. Attacking across the Aure River on 10 June, the division liberated Trévières and proceeded to assault and secure Hill 192, a key enemy strong point on the road to Saint-Lo. After three weeks of fortifying the position and by order of Commanding General Walter M. Robertson, the order was given to take Hill 192. On 11 July under the command of Col.Ralph Wise Zwicker the 38th Infantry Regiment and with the 9th and the 23rd by his side the battle began at 5:45am. Using an artillery concept from World War I (rolling barrage) and with the support of 25,000 rounds of HE/WP that were fired by 8 artillery battalions, the hill was taken.
Except for three days during the Battle of the Bulge, this was the heaviest expenditure of ammunition by the 38th Field Artillery Battalion; And was the only time during the 11 months of combat that 2nd Division artillery used a rolling barrage. The division went on the defensive until 26 July. After exploiting the Saint-Lo breakout, the 2nd Division then advanced across the Vire to take Tinchebray on 15 August 1944. The division then raced toward Brest, the heavily defended port fortress which happened to be a major port for German U-boats. After 39 days of fighting the Battle for Brest was won, and was the first place the Army Air Forces used bunker busting bombs.
Remember each and every sacrifice, made for your freedom!
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