Document source: After action report 38th Cavalry Recon Squadron (Mechanized), Aug 44 thru April 45, Ike Skelton Combined Arms Research, Digital Library. (Checked and Corrected while processing the file: Doc Snafu)
(September 1, 1944) At 1300, the Squadron less troop B, left its bivouac in the rear of Le Petit Palais in the Champs Elysées, Paris, France, to join the Corps in the drive to the German border. Troop B remained temporarily attached to the T-Force in Paris. for the completion of security missions assigned by that headquarters. The balance of the Squadron marched to a group assembly area in the vicinity of Villeneuve (342861) and remained in position awaiting orders.
(September 2, 1944) The Squadron remained in the assembly area until 1900, during which period training was conducted by Troops A and C in a river crossing, using 1/4 ton trucks and 2 1/2 ton 6X6 truck tarpaulins. Also, Squadron Headquarters sent two officer patrols to forward areas to keep abreast of the road and bridge situation. At 1700, movement orders were issued by the Group Headquarters and the Squadron displaced forward, clearing the IP at Raray at 1900. Troop B was released from its attachment to the T-Force, Paris, and rejoined the Squadron en route at Fontaine. All troops and command posts closed in the new bivouac area one mile north of Cuts (650130) at 2320.
(September 3, 1944) The Squadron remained in bivouac one mile north of Cuts until 1820. Catholic and Protestant church services were conducted at 1400. At 1600, the Squadron was alerted and moved to the vicinity of Cessières-Suzy (883173), closing in the new area at 2200.
(September 4, 1944) The Squadron was assigned the mission of reconnoitering and securing the bridges across the Meuse River between Vireux-Molhain and Fumay, Belgium, inclusive. Orders were issued at 0200 Sept 4, 1944, and at 0530, the Squadron moved to accomplish the mission. The command post was displaced initially to the vicinity of Aubenton, France, (480426) and then located 2 miles north of Rocroi, France, where it remained until after dark. At 1600, a company of infantry, a platoon of medium tanks, and a platoon of tank destroyers were attached to the Squadron to assist in securing the crossings and defending positions on the east side of the Meuse River. Troop A found the bridges at Vireux and Givet destroyed by the enemy but managed to cross the Meuse River with their 2nd platoon, using a ford three miles south of Vireux. All platoons were across by nightfall and forward patrols immediately contacted enemy outposts between Vireux and Hargnies. The troop took two prisoners during the period. Troop B reported the bridge at Fulay blown at 1020B and the second platoon crossed the Meuse River at a ford one mile south of Vireux and continued reconnaissance southeast to Hargnies. The platoon was stopped by a roadblock one mile east of Hargnies which was defended by an undetermined number of enemy riflemen, machine guns, and tanks. All available weapons and flanking parties were employed in an attempt to neutralize the block without success. The enemy attempted a counterattack by sending tanks through the roadblock which was halted by the concentrated fire of the platoon weapons. The situation reached a stalemate with darkness, and the platoon remained in observation.
The first platoon supported by a platoon of assault guns attempted to cross the Meuse River at Haybes using a ferry barge. Prior to crossing, enemy bicycle troops were observed in the vicinity of some buildings on the far shore. The platoon fired upon these with cannon and machine guns, while dismounted men crossed the river in assault boats. The enemy withdrew and the platoon with all its vehicles ferried across the river and secured the crossing, having inflicted eleven casualties and taken 28 prisoners. Elements of the 1/12-IR relieved the first platoon, by protecting the river crossing, and the platoon advanced northeast to Hargnies until halted by another roadblock one mile south of that town at dusk. A dismounted reconnaissance reported the block defended by one AT gun and a group of infantry. Troop C reconnoitered the rear road net in the Squadron zone during the period and remained in Squadron reserve with Troop E and Fox Company. At About 2345, all remaining elements of the Squadron crossed the Meuse River via the newly completed engineer pontoon bridge and bivouacked at Haybes for the night, with Troop B maintaining defensive positions to the east in the vicinity of Hargnies.
(September 5, 1944) The Squadron attacked strong enemy forces defending Hargnies, Troop B advanced east from its positions of the previous night, supported by Troop E, one platoon of medium tanks, and infantry 81-MM mortars. Their attack was met with stubborn resistance from every machine gun and tank fire, supported by artillery. Troop A moved to Vireux, to attack Hargnies from the north. The command post remained initially to Haybes, with an advance command post on the high ground overlooking Hargnies. As the attack developed It became apparent that a force of 300 to 500 German infantry troops occupied Hargnies, supported by at least 4 tanks and some self-propelled guns. The surrounding terrain was heavily wooded, making it impracticable to make a mounted approach, and Troop C was dismounted to reinforce the Troop B attack. Troop C deployed, with two platoons abreast, to the right of Troop B, and closed on the town from the south. Approximately 300 Germans, forced from the town by the Troop E bombardment, broke from the eastern edge of the town, coming into full view of the supporting elements of the attacking troops at a range of about 2500 yards. Intense artillery and Cal .50 BMG fire were brought to bear on these enemy troops, causing a complete rout and inflicting innumerable casualties.
Following this debacle, the enemy was reinforced by SS troops, accompanied by 4 tanks and self-propelled artillery, to defend the town actively and thus cover the retreat of the others. The tank fire delivered by this covering force, although inflicting some casualties, was unsuccessful. Aggressive enemy tank action at this time was halted through the efforts of Capt Rice (CO Troop E), who – by personally observing and directing the fire of his assault guns – forced the enemy tanks to withdraw. Tanks of Fox Company were brought up at this time, and together with elements of Troop B and Troop C, they broke up the counterattack and a tank patrol broke into the town itself, finding it clear. Simultaneously, Troop A, whose attack from the north had been suspended during the artillery bombardment of the town, was ordered to close on the objective. The town, which had been set on fire by the Germans before their retreat was secured and the command post brought forward. Troop A was assigned the mission of regaining contact with the enemy, and pushed on to the east, in spite of approaching darkness. Within fifteen minutes of receiving this order, the first section of the first platoon, commanded by S/Sgt Briglio, had made contact and was held up by a tank outpost in the thick wood two miles east of the town and was engaged with the dismounted enemy on either side of the tank. After a firefight with machine guns and hand grenades, 82 prisoners were taken, including two officers. Due to darkness and the fact that the enemy tank was still in position, the advance was halted for the night. A number of atrocities had been committed by the Germans in Hargnies, in addition to the burning of the town; a number of civilians had been murdered. A total of 86 prisoners were taken by the Squadron during the period. During the night, the 2/12-IR took over the defenses of Hargines, thereby relieving the troops out posting the town.
(September 6, 1944) At daylight, the Squadron advanced in two columns to screen the attack of the 12-IR. The south (White) column reached the Franco-Belgian border at 0741 and found the bridge (909599) destroyed by the enemy. A ford was located and all elements of this column, including the command post, crossed into Belgium. The north (Red) column, commanded by Capt Robert E. Meyer, consisted of Troop C, Fox Company (less two platoons), and one platoon of Troop E. This task force found all crossings of the Houille River between Felenne and Willerzie destroyed, except for a footbridge in the vicinity of (925650). The infantry (left flank column of the 4th Infantry Division) crossed at this point and proceeded to Felenne while the task force was forced to pass through the south sector, crossing into Belgium at (909699), and continued on their mission. During the early hours of the morning, the first platoon of Troop C captured fifteen German infantrymen in the vicinity of (912617) and was left to protect the construction of a heavy Tredway bridge at (931645) by the engineers. The balance of the force proceeded to Bourseigne and Bois Champay without meeting enemy action.
The south (White) column consisting of Troop A, with one platoon of Troop B and one platoon of Fox Company attached, gained contact at (928584) near Willerzie 0920, the enemy force consisting of approximately 200 to 300 infantry and an undetermined number or tanks. As the first platoon was nearing Willerzie, its leading armored car received direct fire from the high-velocity gun (75-MM or 88-MM) and was stopped. S/Sgt Briglio had dismounted to investigate a roadblock just ahead, and upon being fired upon. The remaining car crew got out, but Pvt Warady, who remained in the car to cover S/Sgt Briglio, was killed by the second shot. A halt-track, in backing up to get under cover, hit a Tellermine, and was disabled, with two casualties resulting. It was then discovered that the armored car and several point bantams had passed over six of these mines without touching them.
A Mark VI-1 Tiger was spotted on the high ground east of Willerzie, and the Artillery Field Observator delivered fire on that area within ten minutes. The enemy tank fired two more rounds and retreated into the town of Rienne with its infantry. The attached B Troop platoon was sent around on the north flank of the town, and Troop A entered the town. After re-organization, the B Troop platoon led out toward Rienne, a short distance to the east, on a straight road that was under observation from Rienne. This platoon was stopped by a tank and small arms fire. Self-propelled tank destroyers were brought up and fired on the spot where the tank had been seen, but with no effect. A company of the 12-IR was sent into Rienne from the north, the third platoon Troop A advanced, dismounted directly into the town, and the tank platoon, with the second platoon of Troop A, attacked from the south. The first platoon, with two self-propelled tank destroyers, was to take the southern route and proceed to Gedinne, with a mission of setting up a defense there, and with the hope of trapping the enemy force, particularly the tank or tanks which were holding up the advance. Rienne was found to be clear of the enemy but, when the platoon of Troop B attempted to advance toward Gedinne, it was immediately pinned down. Civilians reported numerous enemy tanks in the woods east of Rienne, and all available AT guns and artillery were brought to bear on the indicated area.
The first platoon, Troop A, and attached tank destroyers had by this time set up to cover the main escape route of the enemy which might have been trapped. However, the enemy had withdrawn east through Gedinne before the force was able to complete its flanking mission. The balance of Troop A (tank platoon reverted to its parent unit at this point) proceeded to Gedinne at 2300, using the south route, and arriving there at 0200. Outposting of that town was completed at about 0400. One Mark IV tank had been abandoned here, burned by its crew. Troop B remained in the Squadron reserve, executing lateral reconnaissance of roads along the main axis. The Squadron command post was advanced to Rienne for the night. Twenty-one prisoners were taken during the period.
(September 7, 1944) Troop A continued on the mission at 0730 toward Haut-Fays (Daverdisse), advancing on three roads. One platoon of Troop B was still attached, plus one platoon of towed AT guns. The first platoon advanced on the main axis, the third to the north, and the second to the south. The second was unable to continue because the road net was very poor. The third was stopped by a heavy roadblock (tree) and the first platoon encountered a defended block (same type) about three miles east of Gedinne. The first was unable to locate the source of the fire in the heavily wooded terrain. One round of tank fire came over their position and later a loud explosion was heard. At this time, a company of infantry was deployed to attack with the first platoon, but as soon as the attack started the Germans withdrew from Haut-Fays leaving another Mark IV tank that they had blown to avoid capture. The Troop assembled at that point and continued on the mission toward Redu. The Troop B platoon was sent up the main road to the north, the first platoon took a southern route with the third leading the second on the main axis.
After considerable difficulty, due to narrow roads, and the infantry already moving, the troop got ahead of a column again. The road from Haut-Fays to Redu was almost impassible being little more than a trail through a heavy forest. The Troop commander and commanding officer of the infantry decided, at Redu, that infantry would stop at Transinne and the troop would move on to Smuid and outpost that village for the night. No resistance was met until the cavalry column was approaching Smuid, where a roadblock was encountered covered by rifle fire. A dismounted patrol determined that the enemy had fled after firing, and Smuid was clear. Troop A moved into the town at 2000 and proceeded to outpost the town. A patrol was ordered out to secure a bridge about 1 1/2 miles to the east against demolitions.
Troop C with attachments, continued to precede the advance of the 1st Battalion, meeting numerous roadblocks defended by small arms fire. Belgian Maquisards rendered valuable assistance to the Troop throughout the day, giving timely and accurate information concerning the retreating Germans. At Vonêche, the third platoon employed an armored car to destroy a German half-track and personnel carrier which approached that town from the north as the platoon entered it from the west. Both enemy vehicles were set on fire by 37-MM high explosive shells, and three enemies were killed. Immediately following this action, while the third platoon was proceeding to Lomprez, the enemy ambushed and captured one of the Troop’s armored cars, using an armored car (M-8) captured from the 102nd Cavalry Squadron some days previously, as a decoy. The second platoon then took the lead and advanced toward Wellin, where the Maquisards reported German vehicles and personnel to be in force. As the Troop approached that town they were met with artillery fire and a plan was to attack in conjunction with the supporting infantry. The enemy withdrew, however, and the Troop pursued forward up to the vicinity of Bure, where contact was regained at a roadblock located at (210860).
The obstacle consisted of a minefield covered by the enemy fire of a heavy caliber. A section of Assault Guns was brought up to form a base of the fire, and Lt Hopkins dismounted his platoon and flanked the enemy position. One enemy vehicle was destroyed which proved to be the armored car captured from the third platoon earlier in the day. Two 1/4 ton trucks were destroyed by enemy fire. Proceeding on to Wavreille, the first platoon encountered a large roadblock of twenty-five trees at (210690), defended by small arms fire. Using their mortars as a base of the fire, the platoon dislodged the enemy by flanking the position and then removed the obstacle. Following this action, the troop moved on into Wavreille and outposted that town for the night. Troop B completed a recon of road nets to the south in the vicinity of Wavreille, outposting that town for the night. The Squadron command post was displaced forward to Transinne, closing in this position with Fox Company and Troop E (fewer attachments) at 2130. The 102nd Cavalry Group command post is also located in Transinne for the night, under the protection of the Squadron.