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Baptism Of War-Argentan


The 80th Div. Intelligence report for the 18th of August describes the enemy situation as:


"The city of Argentan and the high ground north of Argentan to Le Bourg St. Leonard was strongly held by the 728th Infantry Regiment of the 116th Panzer Division.  Argentan itself was held by a G.A.F. Battalion and a detachment of about 100 SS troopers.  14-15 Panther tanks and numerous self-propelled 20 mm A.A. guns were also committed to the defense of the city and vicinity.  The enemy defensive position was well protected by minefields and booby-traps and the enemy had had ample time to dig in.  The Forrest of Gouffern, between Argentan and Chambois, provided cover for the enemy supply installations and communication lines."     


From the Headquarters Company diary entry for August 18th:


"Arrived in Medavy at 5:00am.  The Assault Gun Platoon, and Mortar Platoon in action against the enemy.  The Assault Gun Platoon worked with "B" Company in the attack.  The Mortar Platoon worked with the battalion."


The Service Company diary entry for this day reads:


"Arising early this morning, we had breakfast at the kitchen, and prepared for another move.  Lt. Swanin was not in with the gas trucks yet.  About 8:00am, Lt. Muellersman left to try to locate him.  A message came down about 10:00am, ordering the company to make a short jump over to Medavy.  This was accomplished without any trouble.  A large field, outlined with trees was found for a bivouac area.  Lt. Muellersman returned all the way to Villaines looking for Lt. Swanin, and had no luck.  However, returning through Foret d'Ecouves, contact was made, only to find out that Lt. Swanin had found the company by a different route, and was again returning with empty trucks for more gas!


Advance Under Sniper Fire


The gas truck drivers are really spending time on the road.  The long marches and long supply lines are requiring more and more gallons of gasoline, and even longer hours on the road.  We are now approaching a real battle.  The Germans have been contacted.  The 80th, with its attached units, is going to close the Argentan-Falaise Gap.  Artillery fire is incessant, and splits the air with its blasts every minute of every hour.  Our tank companies are supporting the infantry very closely, and some units have already clashed with the enemy.  10 in 1 rations were served today, and issued again for tomorrow.  Both Battalion and Company Maintenance are hard at work, keeping up with vehicle trouble."


The August 18th entry in the S-2 Journal reads:


"Same area.  8:00am-Captain Rees reports in.  The rest of the battalion is located at Mace.  The G-2 Periodic Report was received.  A large body of enemy reported at Vegusts[?].  Enemy at Argentan.  Reported enemy out at 2:00am, 18 August.  Lines between H-158 & H-186.  We have closed the gap, but for a few miles.  1:00pm-"B" Company lost four tanks.  They went through a gate in column, and a 88mm knocked out one tank after another (#1-#4-#3-#2).  [Author's note; These were the tanks of Lt. William B. "Bull" Miller's Third Platoon, acting under the direct orders of General Horace McBride.  The fifth tank, that of Staff Sergeant Frank L. Ream, Jr., was saved by a twist of fate.]


Two hundred German tanks reported at Le Chateau.  Two 88mm guns at the edge of Gouffern Forest, closest to Argentan.  Orne River, off of forest, reported muddy banks and "V" shaped bottom.  Trun reported taken by Canadians.  Germans have elements of the 476th Engineer Battalion, elements of an artillery battalion and 100 SS trains around Alencon.  Observation post in railroad station.  Railroad station fortified.  Mines reported are heavy in the town of Alencon.  3:00pm-Captain Nordstrom, S-2 and driver Pvt. Lorencot were up and led Recon. up to Bayeaux.  They were fired on by 88's and machine guns.  Captain Nordstrom hit by shrapnel.  Shrapnel did not penetrate trousers. 


Intercepted message reports enemy ready to counter-attack between 2:30 and 7:40pm.  Sgt. Olson to Col. Talbot, who was out at front with the Mortar Platoon.  Snipers are active.  Mortar Platoon combating snipers.  Sgt. Olson delivered messages, then back to the advance Command Post.  While in France, our first mail was received at Midnight.  8:00pm-radio watch all night.  Colonel to Regimental Command Post.  The Recon. Patrol went out.  Midnight-weather good.  Morale high."



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