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Battle In The Mud


In the meantime, in France, the 702nd Tank Battalion had its own problems.  Retired Colonel Wm. B. "Bull" Miller remembers:


"In clearing out areas in front of us, in very local attacks, nothing larger than two companies of infantry and a company of tanks supporting them were used to get a particular position.  This went on for some time until we reached a position at Ville a Val; here the company was put in position and we did our maintenance.  We were told to be ready to go into attack position on 7 October.  The platoon leaders and sergeants went over to look over the terrain approaching the objective, our attack area.


On 8 October at 6:15 A.M., the attack was launched for Benicourt and Clemery.  We passed an area called 'Four Corners Crossroads'.  We had no artillery support as this was to be a surprise attack.  It was so foggy that the tank commanders couldn't see the end of the tank's cannon barrel.  We managed to spread out in platoon formation on line and managed to maintain contact between tanks only.


It was during this attack that we were going across country that a ground-mount souped-up 75 mm German anti-tank piece fired at my platoon sergeant.  It hit the turret, right in front of the tank commander and it killed Sgt. Saetta ("Pappy" Ream's replacement) immediately.  This was one thing that all tanks in the company had to do; we had to operate our tanks with that commander's cupola hatch open.



It was impossible to see enough terrain and action as necessary to bring your gunner on target by closing the hatch and trying to look through the periscope.  Of those men who were killed, a few of them were killed because their hatch was open.


The attack was a success and we took all objectives before noon.  We lost Capt. Ford.  He was shot as he was trying to help a wounded infantryman.  A sniper fired from a French chateau.  I was with my platoon and we were going through the town of Clemery, cleaning it out with the infantry, when I heard of Capt. Ford's loss.  I reported this through channels to the Battalion Commanding Officer.  Col. Talbot directed me to take over the company, which I did.  They were still having problems with this chateau.


There were Germans in it that would not give up.  The platoon that was firing on it with 75's were not making much headway.  I requested from Battalion Headquarters for one of our 105 mm assault guns, assigned to me, which we did.  We poured several 105mm Howitzer ammo into the chateau, destroying it pretty well and the white flags started coming out the windows, indicating that they wanted to surrender.  We cleared out the area to the Seille River and everything west of the Seille was in 80th Infantry Division hands, up to Clemery.


The next day, the company was ordered to take two hills with the infantry.  We did and joined 'A' and 'C' Companies at Ville a Val and stood by, due to ammo and gas shortages in the Third Army. We stayed here for some time.  Six tanks were put into position to act as Division Artillery.  Artillery was allocated only a certain number of rounds per day in support of its defensive position of the 80th Infantry.  We had no limit for tank ammo, and performed interdicting fire for several days.



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