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Document Source: After Action Report, 747th Tank Battalion, 29th Infantry Division, June 1944 to April 1945
Headquarters, 29th Infantry Division, APO 29, US Army, August 4, 1944.
To: The Adjutant General, War Department, Washington 25, DC
Through: Commanding General XIX Corps, APO 270, US Army
Forwarded in compliance with letter, Headquarters, First United States Army, file 319.1, subject: Action Against Enemy, Report After/After Action Report, dated July 13, 1944, and letter, Headquarters, XIX Corps, same subject and file, dated August 4, 1944.
For the Commanding General
Robert A. Archer, Jr
Lt Col, A.G.D.,
CAPTURE OF ST. LO
1. From July 1 to July 10, 1944, the battalion was in division reserve in the vicinity of Saint-Jean-de-Savigny and was not committed in action.
2. On July 11, 1944, Able Company with Assault Gun Platoon attached, moved into an assembly area at 556-667, 1 mile south of Couvain to support the 116th Infantry Regiment. The Assault Gun Platoon, from a position about 500 yards north of the assembly area, fired several missions on the order of the 116th Infantry Regiment. Two missions were fired on Saint-André-de-l’Epine; one in the vicinity of Martinville, and two at target of opportunity.
3. Able Company launched their attack in support of the infantry at 0600. They were deployed on either side of the highway. The tank, infantry, and engineer teams moved from hedgerow to hedgerow under extremely heavy artillery fire. The advance was made against stiff enemy infantry rifles and machine gun fire. Able Company and the Assault Gun Platoon were relieved on July 12 and returned to the battalion bivouac area.
4. Baker Company was attached to the 175th Infantry Regiment and ordered to the assembly area vacated by Able Company. On July 12 and 13, Baker Company was in contact with the enemy, sustaining slight losses in personnel and vehicles. They inflicted some damage on German vehicles and guns encountered. Baker Company was relieved on July 12 and returned to the battalion bivouac area.
5. Charlie Company moved from the battalion bivouac area at 2000 hours on July 14 to join the 1/115th Infantry Regiment in the vicinity of the Brétel Wood. At 1600 hours, July 15, 1944, the attack was launched from La Luzerne. Progress was slow, but steady, under extremely heavy artillery and mortar fire, and determined resistance from enemy machine guns and small arms fire. As darkness approached and the infantry was preparing to dig in, Charlie Company was relieved from their attachment and returned to their assembly area under cover of darkness. On the morning of July 16, Charlie Company returned to the battalion bivouac area.
6. The battalion, (- Charlie Company), was attached to the 116th Infantry Regiment on July 14. At 0130 hours on July 15, the battalion, (- Charlie Company), moved into an assembly area 500 meters south of La Monnerie. The attack was launched at 0600 hours, July 15, with “Able and Baker Companies abreast. Progress was slow due to extremely heavy artillery and mortar fire. Heavy casualties were suffered by the infantry and tank personnel. A few vehicles were knocked out by enemy AT, Panzerfaust, and Panzerscherk fire. The battalion (- Charlie Company), was detached at 2200 hours and returned to the battalion bivouac area.
7. The 1st Platoon of Charlie Company was attached to Combat Team C of the 29th Infantry Division for the occupation of St Lô. They moved from the bivouac area at 1237 hours July 18, to an area south of Couvains. The attack and occupation were accomplished with no Loss of vehicles or personnel, under heavy artillery fire. The tanks were used to outpost the city. They knocked out several AT guns and repelled a counterattack from their positions. After the occupation of the city, the tanks needed gas and ammunition, and 1 half-track was sent in to deliver it. The half-track came under artillery fire and 1 man was killed, another wounded. After 36 hours of occupation, the 1st Platoon was relieved and returned to the battalion bivouac area at 0200 hours on July 20.
8. Enemy forces, consisting of the 8.Fallschirmjarger-Regiment of the 3.Fallschirmjaeger-Division, elements of the 343.Engineer-Battalion of the 897.Grenadier-Regiment and 898.Grenadier-Regiment (266.Infantry-Division), elements of the 30.Schnell-Brigade, remnants of the 914., 915., and 916.Grenadier-Regiments, and 1 battalion of the 275.Infantry-Division has been encountered during this period. These were supported by 2 battalions of 150-MM Howitzers, 1 battery of 7.62-CM (Russian) guns, 3 batteries of 88-MM Self Propelled, dual-purpose guns, and elements of Assault Gun units, having 75-MM Self Propelled and 88-MM Sell Propelled Guns.
9. The exact number of enemy casualties is undetermined. A conservative estimate lists: 3 officers captured, 9 wounded, and 3 killed. 79 enlisted men were also captured, 520 wounded and 262 killed. All captured personnel were turned over to infantry units.
10. On our side, as a result of this action, 12 enlisted men were killed, and 2 officers and 20 enlisted men were wounded.
11. As a result of this action, 3 officers and 4 enlisted men were awarded the Silver Star. 6 officers and 42 enlisted men were awarded the Bronze Star.
12. Due to the hedgerows, it was found necessary to develop some devices to get through the hedgerows more quickly. To accomplish this, a device, consisting of two prongs, made of 6-1/4″ iron pipe by 4-1/21 long, .1’8 welded to the final drive housing. The tank punched holes in the hedgerow with the prongs and then the engineers would move up with 2 prepared TNT charges and run them into the holes. The resulting explosion would blow a hole large enough for the tanks to move through.
13. The principle lesson learned was that tanks can not attack along the raids in this hedgerow country due to the ability of the enemy to set up Panzerfaust, Panzerschreck, and other AT defenses along the hedgerow. To move through hedgerows and sunken roads, the infantry must be ahead of the tanks to
eliminate all the AT weapons.
REST AND TRAINING PERIOD
1. From July 20 to July 28, the battalion was in the division reserve, and this period of time was utilized for training purposes. All replacements were given familiarization firing with their individual arms. Each of the tank companies was sent out with the infantry to practice tank-infantry tactics against hedgerow obstacles. A general reorganization was accomplished, necessitated by the War Department Letter, which reduced the number of basics in the battalion. Men were transferred from one company to another within the battalion to bring each company up to its new T&O strength.
2. In the practice conducted behind the lines to give tanks and infantry an opportunity to work together and learn each other’s weaknesses and capabilities, the prong was found to be a slow method of breaking hedgerow. To speed the advance up, the Greendozer was developed, which knifed through the hedgerow and eliminated to a great degree, the employment of engineer and TNT. The dozer developed is constructed of railroad rails, welded to the final drift housing. It has a cutting edge made by welding and angle iron onto the horizontal railroad rail, which is a total of 4″ wider than the tank.
3. In future training programs, a tank battalion should be an integral part of an infantry division at its activation. This would enable both units to learn the utilization and capabilities of each other. The teamwork thus established, would be invaluable for future operations.
ADVANCE TO MOYEN
1. The battalion in the division reserve moved from Saint-Jean-de-Savigny south of Saint-Lô, to a position 1.5 miles south of Saint-Samson-de-Bonfossé. The battalion was not committed and remained in bivouac until July 31. While in bivouac, there was sporadic artillery fire falling in the area, and two air bombardments. As a result of these occurrences, 1 enlisted man was killed, 3 wounded, and thirteen 13 were sent to an evacuation hospital because of combat exhaustion. At 0600 on July 31, the battalion moved to an area 1 mile south of Le Mesnil-Herman.
2. During this phase, 1 enlisted man was killed, and 3 enlisted men were wounded.
During these three phases, the commanding officer of the organization was Stuart G. Fries, 0-19827, Lt Col, Infantry
1. 1/Lt Edward L. Gross, 01014171, US Army, for gallantry in action against the enemy in Normandy, France, received the Silver Star on July 16. During an artillery barrage, 1/Lt Gross saw a shell burst near the outpost which was observing for the five tanks under his command. With complete disregard for his own safety, 1/Lt Gross went forward and administrated first aid where needed and helped to evacuate a litter case. Sometime later, 1/Lt Gross stopped some infantrymen who were beginning to retreat before a German attack. He reorganized them, moved up his tanks, and told them that together they would resist the enemy thrusts as long as there was a man or a gun left. The cool courage and inspirational leadership displayed by 1/Lt Gross reflect great credit upon himself and the Military Service.
2. Pvt Jesse W. Howell, 31514221, Infantry, US Army, for meritorious achievement in military operations against the enemy on July 13, 1944, in Normandy, France, received the Bronze Star (Posthumously). Pvt Howell was too assistant driver in a tank that was hit by enemy AT fire. After the order to abandon had been given, Pvt Howell and the driver went back into the tank to rescue the assistant gunner who had been wounded. Upon completing this successfully, Pvt Howell was dismounting and an enemy mortar shell struck him, causing instantaneous death.