By July 24th, the 406th had gathered together all its component parts and ensconced itself in the Normandy apple orchards near Mandeville (366.7-182.0). The first and second platoons pitched camp in fields adjacent to the veteran third.
While engaged in setting up house, the newcomers were regaled with the various combat tip and experiences of S/Sgt. Tuttle and his seasoned men. The raw troops eagerly absorbed these tales along with the pertinent phrases “Avez-vous des oeufs?” and “--- coushez avec?”
Mandeville bivouac was typical Normandy terrain with its small fields filled with cider apple trees and divided by the now famous hedgerows and ditches. Here too, springing from the hedgerows, were the tall, thin trees with all but their top branches trimmed off so that they resembled crooked palms snaking their way skyward. Grotesque were the silhouettes that they formed against the midnight sky.
With the new home in order, the company settled down to a schedule conforming with the new situation. The program consisted of orientation, French lessons, hikes, C.O.D. and athletics. Morning orientation, with occasional combat tips were graphically given and never failed to hold the attention of the men.
When day was done, beaucoup des hommes visited the nearby villages to test their newly acquired French. Often the bilingual visitors returned with eggs and cider. Des oeufs were relished by all but the cider came in for much vilification, to many it was neither wine nor water.
The company water point had the lure of a popular spa. Many of the newcomers at first thought it was because of the fine waters or the ice cold showers. Pfc. Johnny Krasko’s crack about “Old Bats” cause a flood of understanding among the men. The proximity of the beaches to the Mandeville bivouac was hard hard on the gentle sleepers. Never a night past but that the world’s greatest concentration of ack-ack didn’t turn loose at some enemy plane. The whistling of shrapnel as it fell to earth was not conducive to slumber.
Barber Wilczanski often swore that spent shrapnel struck his tent during the night. Absence of fragments plus the overhanging apple trees placed the blame on some fallen fruit.
France sent the combat spirit surging through the blood of Sgt. Joe Bober, company clerk, and he had himself detached to Hq. company. There he never faltered in the face of the fiercest “circular” onslaught and justly wears his three campaign stars with the utmost pride. With Joe gone, Pfc. Vito Gilberti assumed a key place in the triumvirate of the 406 chair born command and succeeded to the title of number one “unimpeachable source.”
It was at Mandeville that the famous dry run of 23rd Hq. took place. One bright morning, a tentative alert was given to all outfits in 23rd. Noon meal was no sooner finished when the first platoon was told that they must be loaded and cross the I.P. in one hour. A proportional share of the 603rd and Signal Company also received the same instructions.
At the appointed time the first platoon rolled out of the bivouac area and swung past the I. P. where they were duly noted by Colonel Reeder. However, the alerted portions of the 603rd and Signal were late and the good Colonel took them to task for their tardiness. Upon crossing the I. P., Lt. George Daly was told that the whole affair was a dry run and that his command had passed the test with high honors. So in a few minutes, the platoon was back in the bivouac area amid the plaudits of the second and third platoons. The 406th had done well: “Old George” had delivered the goods.
Next day word was passed down from Colonel Reeder that the dry run had been given to see how proficient the units were in moving out. The men were told that it was the last dry run order that would be issued and that from now on all orders would be the “real thing.”