SECOND UNITED STATES CAVALRY – A HISTORY
Compiled, edited and published by Historical Section, Second Cavalry Association
Maj. A. L. Lambert and Cpt. G. B. Layton, 2d Cavalry
10 – 11 October 1944
The 42d Squadron was dug in on the high ground north of the canal (Marne au Rhin) just west of Bures (map 29a), along the line of an old railroad track bed. Then came the order to prepare to move up. The Squadron was directed to attack east to secure Coincourt (map 29a)(map OHW) and Parroy (map 29a)(map OHW). The Troop Commanders of A and C Troops were briefed at Squadron Headquarters on 10 October and returned to their CP’s to dispatch patrols to reconnoiter the two towns.
Captain Andrews sent a patrol under Lt. Cattlet to the high ground just west of Coincourt and the patrol carried wire for a field phone, so that communications from the proposed base of fire to the supporting assault guns and artillery would be established prior to the attack.
In the C Troop sector to the south Captain Harris dispatched two patrols, one to the north and one to the south of the Etang de Bures.
The patrols from both Troops left after dark on the night of 10 October, as the attack was scheduled to jump off at 0430 the following morning. At Squadron arrangements were made for 10 minute artillery barrages in Battalion concentrations just before the jump off. The assault gun troop was to fire in direct support on call. To further coordinate the attack the Squadron Executive accompanied A Troop and the S-3 accompanied C Troop.
At 0400 with the men from the patrols as guides, A and C Troops, totaling six dismounted platoons, started moving up from their old positions through the mud and rain in the pitch black night.
Lt. Hueffner’s platoon of C Troop was given the mission of attacking south of the Etang where the patrol under Sgt. Meredith had reported two MG nests and an AT gun position in the orchard before Parroy.
The remainder of the Troop was to take the high ground northwest of town then the high ground northeast of town, rendering the Kraut AT and MG positions untenable in the first case and completely dominating the town from the second objective.
At Bures there was a temporary halt as NCO’s checked their squads, the flank guards, and location of their automatic weapons. It was sloppy there and the town had that dead smell that comes from being under weeks of shelling. Parroy will be just like this, we thought.
Then we pushed on, bypassing the marsh that is called a lake on the map. As we reached the wooded fringe on the far side we crossed one of A Troop’s platoons moving up on Coincourt. Now the ground started to rise and we noticed that the visibility was improving, so we hurried along reluctant to have our movements observed. Our combat boots made sucking sounds in the goo of the ploughed fields, while great clumps of mud clung to the sides and the soles.
At the top of the rise each man flopped into the mud as the line of squad columns closed up to one firing line. The machine gunners busied themselves getting their guns set up. We could see our first objective 150 yards away across a little gully. Just then the whistle of our own artillery was heard overhead, medium stuff, coming in bunches. It was awfully close; seemed to just skim the hill we were on. Already Captain Harris had dispatched two scouts from each platoon and they sprinted down into the gully by leaps and bounds, while the base of fire watched every bush on the next hill, with fingers on their triggers.
For a while there was no sound but our own artillery. The Captain waved the whole line forward as the scouts disappeared over the top of the hill. Only an NCO with a section of MG’s was left in the supporting position.
As we hit the bottom of the gully machine gun and rifle fire cut loose – some fellows dropped. It was kind of faint; it was the A Troop attack going home. We pushed up the hill. A machine gun opened up on our right 300 yards away. That was Heuffner’s platoon, who really opened up and combed the orchard to our right front. The scouts who had now reached the edge of town opened up with Tommy guns, then waited.
The right flank platoon above the orchard was ordered to dig in. There were hundreds of Kraut trenches and dugouts there, all vacant. Meanwhile the left flank platoon extended to the left, and moving by bounds in squad rushes, rapidly gained the high ground north and east of town as the Kraut artillery started coming in. The holes Jerry had left came in handy! We could hear the rattle of small arms in the town of Parroy to our rear, but no one got out the two roads from the rear of town – alive. We later learned from prisoners taken by Heuffner’s platoon – when clearing out the town, that the greater part of an Engineer Company had pulled back just before our attack, warned by the artillery preparation.
A trooper from Heuffner’s platoon, when asked what he remembered of the operations said, “It was wet as hell!”, then went on to bemoan the untimely demise of “Big Bertha“, a Kraut 75mm AT gun that C Troop had picked up nearly a month before back near Haraucourt. One section adopted it and had daily gun drill, maintenance, and dry run destruction of material.
Actually it had only been fired a few times against the Germans, just to get it zeroed in. The Parroy attack was going to be it’s big test. We had an AT gun duel lined up with the Kraut gun in the orchard. Just as the prime mover (1/4 ton truck) was moving the gun into position off the road leading into Parroy it hit a mine. The two men in the jeep, Sperulli and Baroni, claim they heard the mine going off so they parted. Apparently a very effective anti-AT mine measure as the only injury was the driver getting his face scratched as he high dived into some bushes. The front part of the jeep, including the engine, landed 50 yards away, but the rear was held down by “Big Bertha”. I think it was Meredith that lovingly applied the nitro that cut off the old girl’s nose and put her out of commission.
In the Troop A sector the luck was bad. Major Bill Potts hit a mine in Bures and it killed Muzzey and Hagan. Embleton’s driver was killed by another mine as he was coming up to help them.