The 29th Infantry Division [02] From Beachhead to Brittany: The 29th Infantry Division at Brest, August-September 1944 by Joseph Balkoski

The 29th Infantry Division [02] From Beachhead to Brittany: The 29th Infantry Division at Brest, August-September 1944 by Joseph Balkoski

Author:Joseph Balkoski [Balkoski, Joseph]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Battles, Campaigns, Formations, Military History, World War 2
ISBN: 9780811703253
Amazon: 0811703258
Goodreads: 6752079
Publisher: Stackpole Books
Published: 2008-01-01T05:00:00+00:00

If Task Force Sugar had to carry out a vigorous offensive, Rudder’s 2nd Ranger Battalion must bear the primary burden simply because it represented McDaniel’s entire complement of experienced infantry as of August 29. On that date two ad hoc ranger groups, consisting of four companies from the 2nd Ranger Battalion under the command of Captains Otto Masny and Harold Slater—both veterans of the D-Day assault on Pointe du Hoc—moved westward out of the village of Locmaria-Plouzané. The two groups consisted of only about 250 men total, so Masny and Slater advanced cautiously, a prudent course of action given that they had not the slightest idea how many men the enemy had and where they would stand and fight. At about noon on the following day, August 30, Slater’s group seized an important piece of terrain known as Hill 63, defined by an action report as “a very desirable position, as it was the highest ground overlooking the Le Conquet peninsula and served the main blacktop road [N789] leading from Le Conquet to Brest.” From its summit the main object of Task Force Sugar, the enemy’s Graf Spee Battery, was easily visible only three miles to the west.

The German response to the rangers’ seizure of Hill 63, an intense and enduring artillery barrage, was entirely expected, and consequently, as McDaniel’s report later noted somewhat sardonically, “The large amount of [German] artillery in the Le Conquet peninsula had definitely been established.” Private Al Baer of Company D, 2nd Ranger Battalion, corroborated that point when he observed: “Hill 63 was a bitch. We didn’t do much there—just sat on top of the hill and took some pretty rough shelling.”

On the night of September 1, Gerhardt himself was the target of “some pretty rough shelling” when a few of the Graf Spee Battery’s enormous shells landed in the immediate vicinity of the 29th Division command post with a gigantic blast effect triggering ground tremors equal to an earthquake. According to Capt. Robert Minor of the 29th Division’s G-2 (intelligence) shop, the enemy knew the precise location of the headquarters “from information obtained from a captured 29th Division field order,” a security lapse that was certain to cause the general to burst into one of his notorious temper tantrums. Luckily for the war room staff, one of the 11-inch shells failed to explode. Ultimately, Gerhardt ordered some of his ordnance personnel to remove its ballistic cap, paint its nose with the division’s blue-and-gray symbol, and mount it on a wooden pedestal as a war trophy. It can be viewed today in the 29th Division Museum in Baltimore’s Fifth Regiment Armory.


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