134th Infantry Regiment
"All Hell Can't Stop Us"
Transcribed by Roberta V. Russo, Palatine, Illinois
Normandy at last! Atop the steep slopes rising sheer above the shelving Omaha Beach, one could view the terrible wreckage of the invasion. Broken and battered ships and landing craft, enough for a fair-sized navy - the path marked with engineer tape, along which one must pass in order not to be blown to bits by the hidden dangers of the mine-infested beach - the German pillboxes, crushed like plaster of Paris models, and their once formidable guns battered and broken as if made of tin - the dirty and dazed German PW's - the barrage balloons, protecting what seemed to be the most incredible collection of wreckage imaginable - the fresh graves of the many Americans who had died to force this entry into Hitler's domain.
Looking inland one beheld the beginning of the hedgerow country, scarred and still hot from the heat of battle as the invasion troops pressed in to expand the beach-head. One could plainly hear the rumble of artillery and estimate the fury of the not-too-distant front. Overpowering emotions filled the heart of every soldier - bewilderment at the stark reality of war - the unbelievable cost already - the unthinkable cost yet to come. The future held little promise - grim and foreboding.
This feeling of futility passed on in a moment as the doughboys marched inland, only to return again and again in subsequent terrible weeks ahead before the German Back at St. Lo was finally broken.
After a brief reorganization period orders were received to move to an assembly area several miles inland. En route, huge piles of artillery ammunition were observed stored in open fields. Cattle and horses bloated with death lay stiff-legged in the Normandy sun. The air was permeated with the unmistakable odor of carrion, animal and human, a smell of the battlefield, never to be forgotten.
The first night was spent in the open, hedgerow bordered fields. Each man automatically pitched a tent with his buddy. This was the first and last time these tents were ever pitched. Maneuver style foxholes were dug in close proximity to the tents. These foxholes were to become the one and only installation of a soldier bivouac in the weeks to come.
The doughboys, by this time, were reassuring themselves that combat might not be so bad. They no longer flinched at the blinding flash and the reverberating roar of the mighty guns supporting the attack.
Reassurance was shattered in an instant when the sky was suddenly lighted by flares to the sound of the throbbing drone of the Luftwaffe. Hundreds of anti-aircraft guns opened at once, showering sparks upward like great chains of golden beads. The remainder of the night was spent in fitful sleep and improving foxholes.
On July 8, the Regimental organic vehicles were unloaded and brought up to the assembly area. The balance of the 8th and the morning of the 9th were spent in removing waterproofing from vehicles and final conditioning of weapons and equipment before moving into the line. Again the illusion that they were battle-seasoned returned to the doughboys. Again the illusion was shattered by the Luftwaffe. Foxholes were still further improved.
The afternoon of July 9 found the 137th marching forward to relieve elements of the 119th Infantry Regiment of the 30th Division in the vicinity of Le Meauffe, north of St. Lo. That night the 1st and 2nd Battalions relieved the 119th and now at last were in the line. The 137th had only Germans in front of it.
The positions of the 119th were dug into the Normandy hedgerows. Two weeks of preparation had improved their foxholes to the acme of doughboy refinement. The bedraggled infantrymen of the 119th were deliriously happy to see fresh troops arrive. They had suffered heavy casualties, and had been under continuous shellfire for over two weeks. The men were dirty and jittery, and told the 137th soldiers horror stories that caused a slump in morale. This was not unusual, as the 137th soldiers learned later, for horror stories usually accompanied the relief of a unit under these conditions.
The men of the 137th now learned what it was to be shelled. The Germans no doubt knew the exact location of the American lines and would hurl artillery and mortar at anyone who showed himself. The importance of overhead cover as protection against the deadly tree bursts was apparent.
As daylight seeped over the Normandy countryside one could see that he was definitely in the hedgerow country. These ancient hedgerows checker boarding the landscape formed seemingly impregnable fortified lines. Many explanations are offered for the Norman phenomenon. Some say that they came about as a result of ancient farmers clearing their fields of rock. Others say they are scars of old irrigation ditches. Still others cling to the theory that they are remnants of fortifications thrown up in medieval times to protect the Normans against the savage Huns. However they came about, they were there, to the front, and occupied by Germans. The story of their origin was immaterial. The job of taking them was the assignment of the 137th. Once again the feeling of futility closed in.
At 1500 July 10, 1944, the Division order was issued, and at 1700 Colonel Grant Layng issued to the 137th Infantry officers Field Order No. 1, the first combat order of the 137th Infantry during World War II. The order called for an attack at 0600 the following morning, July 11, 1944, on German positions from the Vire River near St. Gilles, extending southeast through La Pte Ferme toward Le Carillon. On the left of the 137th Infantry was the 320th Infantry and on the right the 30th Division, which was operating along the opposite bank of the river. The immediate objective was to capture the high ground north of the Vire River with an ultimate objective of capturing the city of St. Lo, core of the German defenses in this sector.
At 1920 on July 10, 1944, the Regiment's first casualty as a result of enemy fire occurred. Eight rounds of 88mm artillery fire were poured into the area occupied by Company H, and Private Owen J. McBride was killed. Private Robert G. Reason and Private First Class Robert Waugh were wounded at the same time.
During the night of July 10 - 11, the 1st and 2nd Battalions were in position for the attack with Company G in reserve. The 3rd Battalion was held as Division reserve due to their late debarkation and arrival in the area. In the early morning, both the 1st and 2nd Battalions received enemy mortar fire. In the first actual contact with the enemy, Company C encountered a reconnaissance patrol which was driven off. Company F also encountered an enemy patrol during the night.
The following morning the artillery preparation went off at 0540 and pounded known enemy positions for 20 minutes. At 0600 the doughboys rose numbly from their cramped positions in foxholes and stumbled toward the enemy - bewildered - frightened - expectant. On the right of the regimental sector the 1st Battalion attacked with Companies B and C, Company B on the right. One the left of the regimental sector the 2nd Battalion attacked with Companies E and F, Company F on the right. The men advanced, slowly, cautiously, making ghostly figures in the pre-dawn half light. After what seemed an infinity of expectancy, it happened - the ominous ripping sound of a German MG 42 shattered the morning air. Mortar fire smothered the advancing infantrymen. Dead and wounded littered the ground.
In a moment a fanfare of human reactions presented itself - heroism - cowardice- confusion. In an instant this greatest of all proving grounds rated the leaders. Many brave deeds went unnoticed.
With the attack scarcely begun, Colonel Layng, the Regimental Commander, was wounded in the face and leg by machine gun fire at 0715. The 137th force had encountered a fortified church on Highway 3, north of St. Gilles, and, for most of the morning, was pinned down by heavy machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire. At the time the Regimental Commander was wounded, Lieutenant Colonel Wilson, commander of the supporting 219th Field Artillery Battalion, and Captain Kerr, artillery liaison officer, were killed, and the first platoon of Company C suffered heavy casualties.
Brigadier General Edmund Sebree, assistant Division Commander, assumed command of the 137th Infantry at 0830. That night, at 2000, Colonel Harold R. Emery reported and assumed command. Thus the Regiment had its third Regimental Commander in 24 hours.
The first enemy prisoners captured indicated that the Regiment was facing elements of the 879th, 898th, and 899th Infantry Regiments, which composed the Kampt Gruppe Kentner (combat team commanded by Colonel General Kentner).
Despite pounding by artillery, the fortified church north of St. Gilles could not be taken, and this, together with a fortified chateau in the same vicinity, held up the 1st Battalion most of the day. The 2nd Battalion made advances up to 400 yards, with Company F making the greatest gain until a shortage of ammunition held up its advance.
At 1430 Company G was committed in a gap between E and F. The 3rd Battalion reverted to regimental control and was committed at 1830 on the right of the 2nd Battalion with a mission of by-passing St. Gilles and cutting the St. Lo-Pont Hebert Road. With the entire Regiment now committed, only small gains were made until the fighting was held up for the night to permit reorganization and resupply.
Casualties in the 137th Infantry for the first day's operations were 12 killed, 96 wounded, and 18 missing in action.
The Regiment again attacked at 0800 on July 12, with 2nd and 3rd Battalions in the leading echelon. The weather remained cloudy, with intermittent showers. Tank destroyers were attached to the Regiment, and heavy artillery support was continued. Enemy fire continued from the church north of St. Gilles, and at 1045 elements of the 1st Battalion stormed that stronghold and finally took it and the surrounding buildings. The 1st Battalion then moved on and contacted elements of the 3rd Battalion which had cut in behind these strong points. The 1st Battalion cleaned out remaining hostile resistance in the vicinity of St. Gilles by 1400.
The 3rd Battalion pushed on to Highway 3, southeast of St. Gilles, where they were held up by machine gun fire, mines, and booby traps. At 1600 a strong enemy position was captured about 1,000 yards south of St. Gilles.
Heavy enemy mortar and artillery fire continued, and snipers were active. Casualties for July 12 were seven killed, 74 wounded, and seven missing. 1st Lt. John T. Graham, Jr., Platoon Leader of Company F, was the first officer of the Regiment to give his life in this conflict. On this day many Germans were killed and three were captured.
On July 13, the Regiment attacked at 0800, with the 3rd and 2nd Battalions again leading. Visibility was poor, and aerial support was called off, but the artillery support remained excellent.
The 3rd Battalion moved 500 yards before being held up by machine gun fire. The 2nd Battalion, on the right, received heavy shelling and made no marked advance. These forces received heavy fire from enemy 88mm artillery regularly during the day, although at 1145 our own batteries knocked out two enemy mobile 88's. Time burst was also used for the first time by the Germans. It was evident that the hedgerows so common in Normandy were being used to the maximum in the plan of the German defense.
Forty-seven prisoners were taken during the day. Some of these surrendered as a result of broadcasts to them across the enemy lines by means of a loudspeaker, encouraging them to give up the fight. Propaganda leaflets had also been dropped over the enemy lines during the night, which may have had some results. The prisoners were mostly of Polish, Czech, and Austrian descent, and appeared glad to be out of the fighting.
After being held up in the early part of the day, the 2nd Battalion broke through for a gain of 500 yards. An enemy counterattack forced the 3rd Battalion back to its original position at 2200.
Our casualties on this day were the heaviest yet, with 21 killed, 87 wounded, and 17 missing in action.
On Friday, July 14, the Regiment attacked again at 0800, with one platoon of medium tanks in support of each battalion. By 1300 the 1st Battalion had advanced up to 300 yards, but was meeting stiff resistance at La Pte Ferme. By 1630 the 1st Battalion was attacking the enemy stronghold at La Marel, where German troops had assembled in the stone buildings in that area. The 3rd Battalion, on the right, had established contact with enemy forces on the strongly held road junction of Highways 2 and 3. All elements were encountering heavy minefields and 88mm fire.
Casualties in the Regiment totaled 127. Of these, 17 were killed, 106 wounded, and four missing. Forty prisoners were taken; some of them reported that many German soldiers wanted to surrender, but were being closely watched by officers and non-commissioned officers.
On July 15, the Regiment attacked, for the fifth consecutive morning, and were met by heavy artillery fire. With the 3rd Battalion established 200 yards north of Highway 2, main road to St. Lo, Company K pushed forward to the road at 0910, but was held up there by machine gun fire.
No large gains were made by any battalion during the day. The main effort for the Division was made by the 134th Infantry, on the Division left, which was committed for the first time. The 1st Battalion turned back a strong German counterattack at noon.
The loudspeaker method of contacting the enemy troops was again used, and 25 prisoners were taken. The 137th lost 16 men killed, 100 wounded, and one missing in action on this day.
On Sunday, July 16, the battle slowed down considerably. The week's attack and the heavy artillery pounding were beginning to tell on the enemy forces, and reports began to come back of their units attempting to operate with a drastic reduction of men, with no replacements; of a shortage of food, water, and ammunition; and of extensive use of horse-drawn vehicles due to lack of gasoline.
Our forces consolidated and strengthened their lines during the day. The 2nd Battalion, operating in the vicinity of Le Carrillon, advanced 600 yards at one point.
Casualties in the Regiment showed a marked decrease as the action slowed down and as the men became more battle-wise. On the 16th five men were killed, 23 wounded, and two missing in action.
At the close of the first week of combat, the 137th Infantry was still operating with the 30th Division on the right and the 320th Infantry on the left.
On Monday, July 17, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 137th jumped off at 0430, an earlier hour than had been customary previously. The 3rd Battalion remained in reserve in a switch with the 1st Battalion shortly after midnight.
Poor visibility made the going slow for a time, although it was soon apparent that our forces were reducing enemy resistance by constant artillery and small arms fire. Company B gained the highway leading southeast from Pont Hebert at 0615. Company C encountered some machine gun fire, and called for Tank Destroyers to take out blockhouses which they spotted.
At 0945, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander, 1st Battalion Commander, was wounded, and Lieutenant Colonel Stowers assumed command of the Battalion.
At noon Company A knocked out enemy strong points at the west edge of Pont Hebert. Reports of enemy tanks southeast of that battered town shortly after noon proved false, and by 1800 the 1st Battalion had moved 700 yards south of the highway. At this time the 3rd Battalion, which had been held in reserve during the day, was alerted to move into position to attack southeast and seize the high ground near Les Anges, with one company to block the vital St. Lo road.
Thereafter the 1st Battalion advanced rapidly along the east bank of the river, and shortly after midnight was reported to be on the Division objective. The Battalion Commander officially reported his position at 0733 Tuesday morning as being in the bend of the river south of Rampan.
The 2nd Battalion, on the left of the 1st, was held up until 1435 by a machine gun strong point near La Capelle. The 3rd Battalion in the meantime was mopping up in the area north of Rampan and La Capelle.
By the evening of the 18th the entire Regiment had crossed the vital St. Lo - Pont Hebert Road, and was firmly entrenched on the high north bank of the Vire River, a stone's throw west of Lt. Lo. The city of St. Lo, deep in the valley of the Vire, was untenable due to the positions of the 137th, and was actually no longer a military objective.
The following day St. Lo was entered by a task force from the 134th Infantry Regiment of the 35th Division and a task force from the 29th Division. In spite of the publicity which accompanied the official entry of St. Lo, due credit must be given to the valiant infantrymen of the 137th who crashed through the German main line of resistance, first of the Division on the Division objective, and were overlooking St. Lo at the time it was entered.
Casualties of the 137th Infantry for the two days' fighting were 13 killed, 57 wounded, and seven missing on the 18th. Prisoners taken numbered 22 on the 17th and 29 on the 18th. The Germans, in their rapid withdrawal, left behind great quantities of weapons, ammunition, and assorted materiel.
With St. Lo taken in eight days of fighting, the 19th of July was a period of patrolling rear areas and cleaning out scattered Germans, clearing minefields, and reorganization of forces for defense of areas occupied. The Germans, from their positions across the river, continued to shell our troops with mortar and artillery fire, and shortly before 2300 Wednesday night, single-engine bombers flew over the regimental area dropping flares and butterfly bombs.
On this day losses were nine killed, 11 wounded, and one missing. Clearing the area boosted the number of prisoners captured to 54 for the 19th. On this day also the Corps Commander issued a commendation for the fine showing of the 35th Division in their part of the operation.
On July 20, the 1st and 3rd Battalions strengthened their positions north of the river, with the 2nd Battalion in a reserve status. At 2200 the 2nd Battalion relieved the 1st Battalion, with reverted to reserve.
Aside from artillery and mortar fire, the 137th Infantry encountered no enemy action from July 29th to 30th. Accordingly, the casualties were very light with one killed, five wounded, and two missing on the 20th, none killed, seven wounded, and one missing on the 21st, none killed, four wounded, and none missing on the 22nd, and one killed, eight wounded, and one missing on the 23rd.
On the 20th eight prisoners were taken. On the 21st two German soldiers swam the river to give themselves up, and on the 22nd another prisoner was taken.
With the tempo of the battle decreasing, acts of heroism and miraculous achievements by individuals and units of the 137th Infantry began to come to light. High among these was the heroic action of Technical Sergeant Frank A. Gonzales, a platoon sergeant in Company I. On July 12, after his platoon leader had been killed, Sergeant Gonzales took command of the platoon, which had been under heavy mortar and machine gun fire. Using sound judgment and quick thinking, Gonzales commanded an attached tank destroyer, the crew of which had been reduced by enemy fire, and blasted out a gun nest. When this TD bogged down, Gonzales returned to bring up another which pulled the first to safety. The sergeant then blasted out the remaining nests and his platoon was able to advance. For this act he was recommended for battlefield promotion to the rank of second lieutenant.
Also recommended for battlefield promotion to the rank of second lieutenant was Technical Sergeant Claude A. Hupp, a platoon sergeant of Company M. On July 13, after several unsuccessful attempts of his platoon to cross a wheat field which the Germans had well covered with machine gun fire, and after his platoon leader was killed, Sergeant Hupp determined the location of the enemy emplacements, obtained a light machine gun, and firing from the hip, killed three Germans. This neutralized the first nest. He then led his platoon to clear out the remaining two nests. The entire Battalion was then able to advance.
Private First Class Howard G. Nichols and Technical Sergeant Richard E. Blair saved the lives of three men during the afternoon of July 13 southeast of Le Meauffe. These two members of Company A observed a disabled tank in an area in which they knew an artillery barrage was due to fall. A wounded member of the crew was still in the tank, and Staff Sergeant Volk and Sergeant Blankenship, also of Company A, both lay wounded near the tank. Ignoring the imminent danger of artillery fire, Sergeant Blair and Private Nichols re-entered the danger zone and removed the wounded men to a place of comparative safety behind the tank before the barrage fell. Private Nichol was wounded during the barrage, but after he and Sergeant Blair evacuated the three wounded men Nichols joined his platoon in the attack until ordered to the aid station by his commanding officer.
Drawing praise and commendation from every officer and man in the army are the combat medics. Showing unequalled courage and utter disregard for their own safety, countless lives were saved by these men, litter bearers, technicians, and surgeons. These brave soldiers, unarmed, carry out their work of rescue, attention, and evacuation of the wounded. Working in the front lines, and not waiting for the enemy fire to cease before going to the soldiers' assistance, these men were subjected to every hazard of the infantryman. Cases of individual heroism include those of Sergeant Earl V. Spengler, and of Corporal Peter Seiwert.
Sergeant Spengler, attached to Company F, at 1000 on the 11th of July, ignored enemy machine gun and sniper fire and left the concealment of hedges to follow a wounded soldier and remove him from an open field, undoubtedly saving the man's life.
Corporal Seiwert, during the night of July 15, braved an enemy barrage to go to the aid of two wounded officers. While administering aid, he himself was hit by shrapnel, but continued to treat their wounds and remained with them for an hour in the midst of artillery fire until they were evacuated.
Private 1st Class Leonard L. Coffman and Private 1st Class Cofford S. Goza, both of Company M, rescued an injured soldier of the 219th Field Artillery Battalion who was enveloped in the flames of a burning quarter-ton truck after a direct hit from enemy artillery. After removing the helpless man from the vehicle, they smothered the flames of his burning clothing, working in the face of continued enemy shelling. This incident occurred on July 11 near St. Gilles.
With the first action, in which the Regimental Commander was wounded, 1st Lieutenant Harry C. Simpson (later promoted to captain) distinguished himself by saving the life of a wounded officer. After being pinned down by deadly machine gun fire for over two hours, Lieutenant Simpson saw his opportunity when an artillery barrage forced the German machine gunner to take cover for a brief instant. Disregarding his own chances of being wounded in this shellfire, Lieutenant Simpson was able to drag his fellow officer, Lieutenant Guinessy, to the slight protection of a tree and some hedge, where he rendered all assistance possible. Although continued German fire prevented his evacuation from that area until the following day, Lieutenant Guinessy was still alive when finally evacuated.
1st Lieutenant Sidney K. Strong (later promoted to captain), the Executive Officer of Company A, assumed command of a provisional platoon on July 13 and carried out an attack upon a position where all previous attacks had failed. Exposing himself to enemy machine gun fire, he pointed out enemy emplacements which were successfully disposed of. Eight of the enemy were killed, twelve taken prisoner, and large amounts of enemy materiel was captured. This was a case of outstanding leadership under fire.
Late in the afternoon of July 13 two platoons of Company L, one of which had as a member Technical Sergeant Mitchell R. Hughbanks, were pinned down by machine gun fire. After the Company radio man had been killed, Sergeant Hughbanks removed the radio from the hand of the dead soldier, called the Battalion Command Post, and requested artillery fire on the German position. For almost an hour he directed the fire, until the enemy emplacements were neutralized.
Throughout the siege of St. Lo, Sergeant Allen C. Allburty distinguished himself by heroic achievements under fire in his capacity as communications sergeant. During the period July 11 - 17, he constantly kept the radio in operation despite enemy fire. He was of great assistance to the Battalion Commander in keeping him informed, and he helped reorganize his own Company after the Company Commander and Executive Officer had become casualties.
Outstanding leadership shown by enlisted men resulted in numerous recommendations for battlefield appointment as second lieutenant. In addition to Technical Sergeants Hupp and Gonzales, recommendations included the following:
Technical Sergeant Louis A. Griffith, A Company.
Technical Sergeant Wilbur G. Hobbs, C Company.
Technical Sergeant Victor W. Shulty, C Company.
Technical Sergeant Elwin I. Shopteese, E Company.
Technical Sergeant Lloyd W. Belt, Jr., L Company.
Technical Sergeant Paul L. Power, Med. Detach.
Staff Sergeant William G. Ligon, Med. Detach.
Staff Sergeant Walter J. Black, Med. Detach.
Six Privates First Class showed such qualities of leadership under fire that they were promoted to Staff Sergeant, a jump of three grades. These men, all members of rifle companies, were:
Staff Sergeant Harold T. Shaw (16 July), I Company.
Staff Sergeant Gerald Jones (16 July), I Company.
Staff Sergeant Glenwood B. Dahgren (17 July), B Company.
Staff Sergeant Cecil D. Bruer (17 July), K Company.
Staff Sergeant Harold P. Green (21 July), K Company.
Staff Sergeant LeRoy D. Fagan (21 July), L Company.
Staff Sergeant Bob R. Adams was promoted two grades to the position of 1st Sergeant of Company C.
At the end of two weeks in combat, the fine training and quality of men of the 137th Infantry was obvious as they proved themselves to be an aggressive, efficient fighting machine. Contributing to the success of the Regiment in its initial operation was the smooth handling of supplies of all classes. Compared to this was the woeful lack of supplies suffered by the Germans.
Another tremendous advantage enjoyed by our forces was that of replacements received. After the first few days of the battle, replacements were received regularly, both officers and enlisted men. Reports from German prisoners indicated that their replacements were practically non-existent.
On July 24th the Regiment remained in a defensive status. The day was comparatively quiet, with scattered mortar and artillery fire, mostly on road junctions. The 1st Battalion remained in Division reserve. The 134th Infantry was now on the left of the Regiment. The 30th Division remained on the right.
One man was killed and one wounded on the 24th. No enemy prisoners were taken.
Colonel Emery was evacuated to the hospital at 2030, July 24. Colonel Robert Sears joined the Regiment at 1830 and assumed command.
Almost a week had passed and the great armored push that was expected to follow the fall of St. Lo had not come. American and German lines were tensed, waiting for something to happen to break the deadlock in hostilities. At 1100 on July 25, the air suddenly seemed filled with planes - American planes! The bombers plodding overhead with their energetic fighter escort seemed like great winged birds with tiny mosquitos dashing about in their midst. American planes! 3,000 of them! What a spectacle - the smoke trail of the plunging pilot flares - the rain of the deadly eggs of the bombers - the earth-shaking crunch and rumble as the bombs exploded - the mushrooming of German flak - bombers burst into flames and fell to pieces, and tiny fighters plummeted to the earth from the deadly flak. Still the procession of planes continued for thirty minutes and then silence. A heavy smoke pall hung over the German positions. Suddenly, fighter planes dashed through the smoke and strafed the dazed and retreating enemy. It was a wonderful spectacle - a fitting prologue to the breaking out of Patton's armor.
Three prisoners were taken during the day. Bombing caused two men to be killed and three men injured in the Regiment.
The 30th Division continued their attack on the right the following day, but the positions of the 137th remained unchanged.
An alert 3rd Battalion observer watched 45 Germans, with full equipment, enter a house northeast of St. Lo, then notified the artillery, which demolished the building.
At 2300 enemy bombers made an appearance over the 3rd Battalion area and dropped several bombs. No men were killed on this day, but five men were wounded. On the 26th no prisoners were taken.
On July 27 the 1st Battalion was attached to the 134th Infantry, and that Regiment attacked at 1000. The 320th Infantry also attacked at that time. The 137th, less 1st Battalion, was in Division reserve. During the day the 117th Infantry (30th Division) pushed across the 35th Division front, and the 137th moved to a new area between La Luzerne and St. Lo.
No casualties of any kind were reported on this day, for the first time since the Regiment entered combat. However, a physical check of personnel and reports from various sources revealed that, during the first week of combat, the Regiment suffered numerous casualties which had not previously been reported. These included 34 killed, 71 wounded, and four missing.
The Divisions on the right and left of the 35th continued their advance.
On the 28th, the 35th Division became part of V Corps, and resumed the attack at 1000. The 1st Battalion of the 137th remained attached to the 134th Infantry, which advanced throughout the day with little opposition.
Notification was received of the appointment of Technical Sergeants Claude A. Hupp of Company M and Frank A. Gonzales of Company I as second lieutenants. These men had distinguished themselves in the first few days' action. They were assigned to their original companies.
The only casualties reported for the day were two men wounded.
The 1st Battalion reverted to Regimental control on 29 July. The Regiment moved from north of La Bedellerie, down Highway 2, southeast of St. Lo, to the vicinity of La Barbee, and remained in Division reserve. The Division objective at this time was the high ground east and north of Torigni sur Vire.
No enemy artillery fire was reported, but enemy planes were again over the area. One man was wounded on the 29th, as the casualties remained almost non-existent for the third successive day. No prisoners were taken on the 27th, 28th, or 29th.
On the 30th the Regiment was organized into Task Force S, under the command of Brigadier General Sebree. The force also included the 219th Field Artillery Battalion, 737th Tank Battalion less one company, Company B of 60th Engineers, Company B of 110th Medics, one company from 654th Tank Destroyer Battalion, one platoon from 35th Reconnaissance Troop, and a detachment from the 35th Signal Company.
Task Force S was given the mission of seizing two objectives, the first being the high ground southeast of Brectouville, and finally, the Division objective, which was the high ground north of the Vire River, southeast of Tessy sur Vire. The Regiment then moved to the area near le Renoudiere and prepared to attack the following morning. Casualties for the day were one officer and five enlisted men wounded. No prisoners were taken.
After receiving an enemy bombing during the night, the Regiment attacked in columns of battalions at 0618, with the 3rd Battalion leading and the 1st following at 300 yards. The 2nd Battalion was in reserve. The Regimental I & R Platoon had been given its first full mission on this operation and first encountered enemy machine gun fire south of Conde sir Vire.
The 3rd Battalion was held up by machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire north of les Fontaines, about 1.500 yards south of Conde sir Vire, at 0930, but had pushed on to the bridge 500 yards south of les Fontaines by noon.
The 1st Battalion was slowed up during the early part of the day. They were meeting heavy artillery and mortar fire along their entire front.
The 3rd Battalion ran into heavy enemy machine gun fire and light mortars north of Brectouvillle at 1900, and was forced to withdraw. The 1st Battalion was then maneuvered to the left of the 3rd, and both battalions reorganized. By 2300 the 3rd Battalion had pushed through to the initial objective, with Company L reported in the vicinity of La Roque.
Tank support was of considerable help in our advance, and artillery support, though not as heavy as the first week, remained good.
Casualties for 31 July were two killed, and 19 wounded; six prisoners were taken. The Regiment maintained contact with the retreating enemy, and prepared to resume the attack at 0530 the following morning, August 1.
The 134th Infantry on the left of the 35th Division and the 30th Division on the right, continued the attack as the Division drove south and east from St. Lo toward Tessy sur Vire.
On August 1 Task Force S attacked at 0530, with the 3rd Battalion on the right, the 1st on the left, and 2nd in reserve. Early reports were that the Germans had been digging in all along the front, with no evidence of withdrawal. Nevertheless, the 1st Battalion pushed cross country toward Brectouville, and their supporting tanks moved along the road to that town, which had been reported as the location of a German headquarters the previous day. At 0850 the main body of the Battalion was in Brectouville. Farther south, they found new half-track and other large vehicle tracks, and also freshly dug slit trenches and foxholes, which indicated the Germans had just left the vicinity. A large prepared communications cable leading through the area was left behind in their hasty departure.
By noon the 1st Battalion was at the stream north and west of Pitaunay, where they were held up by enemy machine gun and mortar fire. At that time the 3rd Battalion had crossed the same stream and were at a point slightly south of le Mt. Herbert.
With a strong enemy line encountered extending from south of le Mt. Herbert to Pitaunay and west, the task force reorganized and launched a coordinated attack at 1800. After an advance of approximately 1,000 yards, the 1st Battalion ran into heavy machine gun and mortar fire again, and in addition, direct 88 fire, at 2050. The Battalion received heavy casualties, and B and C Companies were cut off for a time. The Battalion fell back, and the 2nd Battalion was ordered to move around to the right of the 1st, to march on Tessy, and cut the Tessy-Torigni road. It had already been reported that Allied armored forces had entered Tessy during the evening.
The attack continued on August 2 during the night, and a coordinated night attack was made shortly after midnight with the 2nd Battalion jumping off at 0045 and the 3rd at 0130. By 0800 the 3rd Battalion was in Domjean. The 2nd Battalion, now operating on the right of the 3rd, crossed Highway 3 leading northwest from Tessy, pushed down the east bank of the Vire River, and had reached the double bend in the river south of le Mesnil by 1000. At 1050 the Battalion Commander reported two of its rifle companies and the heavy weapons company across the river.
At 1530 the 1st Battalion was reported south of les Verges, and the 3rd Battalion at Beau Costil. All battalions were receiving heavy shelling from German artillery and mortar positions west of the Vire River. However, steady progress was made, and the high ground north of the river was cleared of the enemy resistance by 1800. Four enemy tanks observed at the bend of the river north of Pontfarcy were destroyed by American aircraft. At 1845 the main body of the 3rd Battalion was across the river.
With the 2nd and 3rd Battalions across the river, the Division Commander then ordered one battalion to remain north of the river. The 1st Battalion remained, to protect the west flank of the Division.
The attack again continued through the night of August 3, and at 0210 the following morning, Company E was on the objective. The 3rd Battalion was on the objective at 0735.
The weather, which had been clear during the first three days of the present operation, became cloudy and overcast, and rain fell during the afternoon, ranging from a light sprinkle north of the Vire to thunder showers to the south of the river.
The 2nd and 3rd Battalions resumed the attack south of the river, and moved forward with very little opposition until the 2nd was held up at 0940 by a dug-in Tank Destroyer position south of la Fortier. The Battalion knocked out this resistance at 1115 and moved on. The advance was again held up at 1225 by machine gun and mortar fire south of Hel Gohier, and by tanks east of that point. The enemy tanks were driven out by our own tank battalion at 1320, and shortly after 1400 the 2nd Battalion pushed through to la Tabourie.
The 3rd Battalion in the meantime was receiving heavy mortar and scattered time fire, and increased enemy resistance held up the Regiment's advance late in the afternoon. At that time, contact was made with the 2nd and 3rd Battalions of the 116th Infantry (29th Division), closing our exposed flank to the right. No action other than patrolling was reported after darkness on this day.
Casualties in the Regiment for the first three days of August were six killed, 48 wounded, and one missing on the first; ten killed, 77 wounded, and three missing on the second; and three killed, 20 wounded, and five missing of the third. 2nd Lt. Frank I. Gonzales, of Company I, was killed on the second. While leading his platoon in a flanking action on an enemy strong point he was cut down by the fire of an enemy ambush. Lieutenant Gonzales had distinguished himself during the first week of combat as a platoon sergeant and had been given the Regiment's first battlefield commission in recognition of his performance at that time.
Few prisoners were being taken as the Germans fought their delaying action. On August 1 there were eight captured, and only three on each the 2nd and 3rd. The prisoners taken were predominately Nazis, in comparison with the Poles, Czechs, and Austrians captured north of St. Lo. Some of them maintained their belief that Germany would win the war, and their faith in Hitler remained unshaken. Claims that "total war" was to be waged on the Allies soon, and that pilotless planes were to be used on the front lines, were expressed by the prisoners, some of them members of the Hitler Youth.
The attack jumped off at 0630 on August 4, with the 2nd Battalion on the right and the 1st Battalion, which had been brought up from across the Vire River, attacking on the left. The 3rd Battalion, after being passed by the 1st, reported to Regimental reserve. The weather was again clear, but the roads remained slightly muddy.
Light scattered resistance was encountered at 0830, and enemy minefields were reported south of Beaumesnil and extending west, which caused some trouble. The 2nd Battalion pushed across the stream south of Beaumesnil, and were reported on the new objective at 1000. The 1st Battalion, after overcoming mortar and machine gun fire, reached the objective at 1447. Thereupon, Task Force S ceased to operate as such, and all units comprising it reverted to their former status. During the remainder of the day the 137th Infantry secured and patrolled the area. All elements of the Division continued to reach their objective during the day, and a review of the operations showed that in four days the Division had advanced almost the entire distance from St. Lo to Vire.
At this time the 134th Infantry continued to operate on the left of the 137th, with the 29th Division on the right. Reports showed nine killed, 96 wounded, and 25 missing in action, but many of these were, no doubt, casualties which had occurred during previous days and had not yet been reported. No prisoners were taken on the 4th. More information was now being obtained from French civilians than formerly, and their attitude was generally more cooperative. On August 5, the Regiment moved into an assembly area north of Beaumesnil and prepared to move by motor to a distant area upon order of the Division Commander. Enemy aircraft was reported during the night, and mines left behind by the Germans resulted in light casualties. One enemy prisoner was taken on the 5th.
On August 6 the Regiment remained in the same area and awaited further orders. Casualties for 5 - 6 August were one killed on the 5th, two wounded on the 5th, six missing on the 5th, and two missing on the 6th. A resume of casualties incurred to date, before leaving the St. Lo - Vire area, would show: In the battle of St. Lo, from 10 July to 19 July, 106 were reported killed, 592 wounded, and 32 missing in action. Additional casualties during the continued operation of the area taken, up to 30 July, and delayed reports of earlier casualties, together with information gained from various sources, boosted these figures to 145 killed, and 704 wounded, while those missing were reduced to six. One officer remained missing in action. Eleven officers had been killed, and 29 wounded, of whom four had already been returned to duty.
After beginning the attack south of St. Lo, operating as Task Force S with the XIX Corps in the drive through Tessy toward Vire, the Regiment lost 30 killed, 260 wounded, and 34 missing from 31 July to 4 August. Scattered casualties during the continued occupation of this area brought the total to 31 killed, 262 wounded, and 42 missing in action before leaving this sector. Among those killed were three officers, while six officers had been wounded and two were missing. 21 prisoners had been taken. Since arriving in France the 137th Infantry had suffered 1,183 casualties, consisting of 177 killed, 946 wounded, and 40 missing in action. Many of the wounded had returned to duty, and these and new replacements totaled 826.
The 137th Infantrymen were now battle-seasoned. In one brief month of combat they had learned more than in the years of training. They had learned to use concealment and cover, the terrible price of bunching, to keep moving forward if under mortar and artillery fire, that there is no respite from the enemy until the objective is gained.
The war had moved on. Civilians were no longer sullen. Cider and eggs were plentiful. Kitchens were moved up into the company areas and an army mess never tasted so good before. Haircuts were in order; beards became a fad. Kraut pistols and bayonets dangled from the belts in lieu of the superfluous equipment shed after the first hour of combat. Platoon and squad actions were argued and refought.
With Patton's army slashing the retreating Germans to bits, the men of the 137th were seething with anxiety to get with him. On the afternoon of August 6, the Regiment was suddenly alerted to move. At 1750 they were en route to the vicinity of St. Hilare, in the Brittany Peninsula where the Regiment with the 35th Division passed from First Army to Third Army control. Normandy was behind.
PHOT0GRAPHS and Maps - Chapter 2
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