ACTION AT NANCY
(Being a recountal of the actions of the 150th Engineer C Battalion around Nancy, France in September, October, November, In W.W. 2, 1944.)
    On this 41st annual reunion some of you old 150ers may be Interested in re-living some of the unit's experiences. Action around Nancy, France is chosen because all units were Involved and bivouaced close together as we spent several weeks waiting for gasoline stocks to be replaced. 
    It started on or about 7 September 1944 when we were assigned to help 7th Armor of XX, Corps, Third Army work on Fort Driant of the Maginot Line. A day or so into it, XII Corps became operational and in the middle of the night we got orders transferring us into it. Word had just been recieved also from our Group Commander, Col Chester Rowland that "Terrible Tom" Tandy, the Corps engineer had just fired him and was gunning for the battallon commander next.
    With two companies working on the Fort, at Jarny, we cranked up the other two and moved out, with no didling around sending messengers to the two in action to back off and follow us.
    Some may recall that about three months later, after Fort Driant fell, we recieved word that the bodies of two of our missing men (of four killed among 14 casualties) had been recovered from No Man's land, after several months of inaccessability while the Fort was being overcome. 
    Proceeding on to Crevechamps. South of Nancy, the mission was a night assault crossing of the Muerthe River, a branch of the Moselle, over a wide flood plain with little cover. Some of us spent the whole next day behind trees or folds in the ground with Krauts remaining and shooting from the far side.
    That night was more successful, to include a floating bridge and next morning a walk into the broad exposed plain of the far bank showed a number of our dead with bayonoted rifles stuck in the ground to help Graves Registration locate them.
    Next day Nancy was being circled and we got orders to prepare to bridge the Moselle in town. A slightly after dawn drive through the fairly good sized city showed a complete ghost town, not a soul stirring, all in cellars fearing a devastating artillery barrage from the across the river Krauts.
    However, they apparently decided to bug out, word got around and a drive back through a few hours later found the people out in mass celebrating. An interesting contrast.
    The next day, or perhaps the same, found some of us in an outlying village with tanks firing on some of the fleeing Germans. When the celebration started one of the first actions was to set up a barber chair in the middle of the town square. A group of men was charging into various nearby residences, grabbing hold of some highly resistance screaming women, plopping them into the chair and cutting off the hair. They were punishing the schatsies that had been collaborating with the hated Germans.
    We then proceeded to Champeneaux Forest, a few miles East of Nancy as resistance in the swampy Alsace-Lorraine stiffened. There was much effort in widening and keeping the low-lands roads open, removal of mines and out posting some gaps in the line as infantrymen, all in incessant rain. The 29th (Yankee Division) I think, was either coming in or going out, I've forgotten which. Here, while clearing a minefield our Sergeant George Cassidy got caught in a minefield.
    Here, too one of the missions was to elevate the levees of the Sielle River ( a trickle) to thwart any counter attack. It was in preparation of blowing up some lake dams upstream to flood the river for a barrier. When the dams were blown the water rose, oh, may be a foot and a half. Hardly a barrier but then you can't win them all.
    Then came an order for the attack, 4th Armored Div. to lead. A coordinating conference gathered in a nearby dug-in tent with a Springfield, Mass. boy, L/C Creighton Abrams, later Chief of Staff, USA running the show. 
    "Well, here's the attack plan. We uncoil at 4 tomorrow morning, C.C. B on our right, hit Chateau Salins at 7:00. By dark of the second day we'll be against the Rhine, in two weeks Berlin" To a naive boy like me the thought was "Wow, Now this is the way to wrap up a War." 
    It didn't quite work out that way. The tanks did get close to Chateau Salins but the Krauts were waiting there in strength. Everything came to a screeching halt and the momentum forced us on a hill top, good O.P but bad position overlooking the action at the village of Fresne-en-Saulnois. The Hq settled into a stone-walled cemetary while everybody dug deep, 
    This, incidentally was one of the few recognizable spots, with the stumps still remaining of the trees we cut down to avoid leaf activated artillery bursts, while on our September 1984 revisiting tour.
    Here, too, is where Carl Frybeck caught a shell in his fox-hole.
    The wind blew and the stuff flew all that day as we watched, pinned down. Among the tank and artillery fires an occasional flight of "Jubo's", P 47's were seen circling just above the flak from the German 88's, apparently, building up courage. Then in line, straight into them, through the flak. Later a German 88 gunner was observed in place, charred and fricaseed by Napalm with finger on trigger.
    During the day, and in defiance of the unpleasantry a townsman in his common dress, jodphurs and high rubber boots, was seen replacing the village entry sign, The German occupiers for the last four or five years had re-titled many of the village, this one to Homburg-bi-Saulnois as part of the Germanization of this long contested border area. It had created a lot of confusion in our efforts to get around to find that what should have been town X was found to be Y. This peasant, apparently of French leanings was showing his colors, and delight, by posting the old names on the village markers. Often wondered what happened to him after we were forced to evacuate and let the Germans back in.
    The gasoline shortage that forced the withdrawal had not only become critical, there just wasn't any. We found out the hard way.
    The battalion commander, with typical tunnel vision figured there must be some fault in the supply system. WOJY Walsh, our superior supply hustler, was called in. `Walsh, I want you to take two trucks, go all the way, if necessary to Cherbourg and I don't want to see you back here without gasoline."
    "Yessir."
    A week later Sgt Churchill came in and reported. "Sorrys, Sir No gas. We had to steal enough to get back."
    "Where's Walsh?" 
    "Well, He went into the last source, after stopping off at all the others, in the theater Supply Office at Cherbourg. Told me to stand by."
    "When he didn't show up after several hours I went looking for him. Looked for two days, everywhere. He was nowhere to be found." 
    "Had he been drinking?" 
    "Can't say for sure. Don't think so." Covering for him.
    There was much pressure from the Adjutant, who was responsible for paper accounting for all bodies, He had to do his duty.
    "O.K. Declare him Missing In Action"  Known to be an untruth.
    He reported in after about six weeks and it was suspected after a drying out spell.
    "Goddam, Colonel Reagan, I just heard I was declared M.I.A.. You are a real friend. "- and stayed off the grog for a couple of weeks.
    While stalled in the Champeneaus Forest, we got an occasional visit to nearby Nancy to enjoy the very welcome showers and the Red Cross mobile morale units as well as a performance by Marlene Dietriech playing her musical show.
    Here we heard of one of General Patton's antics. Spotting an M. P. posting "off Limits" signs on some of the houses of pleasure he is reported to have told him, "By God, my men have fought and shed blood for this town and you just damn well better take those G. D. signs down. 
    Also while here Tony Gignette spotted a scrounged electric generator serving our neighboring 204th Engr Bn, Hq. When caught crawling along in the night stretching a line intended to make a connection to serve our Hq. he stuttered. "Oh. Sir, I was jus, looking for my watch, It come off somewhere around here just before dark."
    Another Patton encounter came on a little later after we got rolling againg I think at Bleisbruck, near Sarreguimines. Joe Calve was out In the middle of a flood plain filling a crater while in his armored dozer cab. Looking back he was shocked to see the regal presence approaching in the midst of small arms fire. Stopping, Patton crawled up on the tracks. Said "God dammit, you engineers do a helluva job. How are your officers treating you." With a positive answer, he strolldd back to his jeep. That was before Calve got a battlefield commission.
    When we started rolling again in early November we got asslgned to 4th Armored, each company to a Combat Command. We learna quick but bitter lesson on armored tactics with each command striking out on its own with no concern over rear security.
    First when Capt Anderson was sent back to get some much needed new maps, he wandered into enemy territory on returns was Grabbed by the Krauts but his jeep was picked up two days later loaded with them characters. He remained their guests and suffered mightily for the remainder of the war.
    About the same time, Sgt Lukens was returning from Nancy with a truck load of spare parts. He, with a few others was also picked up.
    The worst loss was a threequarter ton truck hauling in some highly valued mail. The truck and mail, less edibles in packages turned up in an over run cellar a few months later.
    Among others, two vivid memories remain. One attacked town, possibly Dieuze had a hold-out sniper giving a lot of trouble. When finally subdued, he was found dead with a tied up U.S.Major alongside him shot in the head.
    Another was the sight of an Ass't Division commander (B.G.) frantically unraveling traffic at a critical road junction. It appeared to be the basis for a sequence in recent movie on Patton with him as the director.
    When gasoline finally arrived we started working our way along the SAAR River, bridging it several times in the face of the Siegfried Line until Patton called us to help out on the Bulge bit.
    Some may recall that we pulled straight back, did a 90 degree turn and rolled four trucks abreast on two lane roads up to the delightful Luxembourg (But not at the time.) Snow, ice, slush, flooding rivers, and unfriendly flak from the Siegfried was our lot for several weeks. 
               Thats all. 
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