With another month of training under their belts, the 406 men were once more itching for combat. Headquarters responded with a deep scratch, shipping them out at 1115 hours on March 11 to Brettnach, France for an operation in the Saar basin. XX Corps was preparing an attack to pocket the German forces in the area bounded by the Saar, Moselle, and Rhine rivers, the main effort to be between Trier and Saarburg. Staff officers of 23rd Hq were consulted for advice on deceptive measures to conceal the location of this drive. It was decided that a built-up would be made in the Bouzonville-Saarlautern area by representing the 80th Inf. Div. to the rear of the 65th Inv. Div. (instead of its real division behind and to the right flank of the 26th Inf. Div. – see map). To add to the deception, the 65th Division Artillery was to open up a real barrage on the morning of the attack, supplemented by dummy artillery pieces and flash simulators supplied by 23rd.
The 3rd platoon closed in on Filstroff, France at 1600 hours, representing elements of the 317th Inf Regt commanded by Lt. Col. Simenson. The 2nd platoon was assigned to the 318th Inf Regt in the charge of Maj. Raggio. Hq and the 1st platoon (minus the MP’s) arrived in Brettnach at 1445 to simulate the 305th Engr C Bn. The MP headquarters was at Hestroff with the Special Troops, but the men of course were immediately posted on the local TCP’s [traffic control points]. Trucks with appropriate markings were sent on circular routes throughout the operational area. Traffic regulation at water and supply DP’s was also maintained.
The principal enemy activity had been in the northern part of the corps zone where the 6th SS Mountain Div which had first appeared on that front on March 5, was assisting the 2nd Mountain Div in an attempted counterattack. The XX Corps build up had been concealed so well, however, that by the end of the operation enemy pressure had decreased and the 6th SS Mountain Div was reported to be moving elements northward along the Moselle River. The rest of the corps front was subjected to normal patrolling and harassing fire from medium and heavy calibre guns aimed mainly at front line troops and forward supply installations.
At 1500 hours on March 12, the 2nd platoon arrived in Altrier to provide security for Heater as they played in a battalion of tanks along the west bank of the Saar. By 1713 hours, Lt. Robinson was able to announce that the ground two miles north of Saarlautern was secure. The sonic unit played in three medium tank companies, starting at 1800 and closing at 1900 hours.
The dummy artillery that was installed at Pickard, Germany did not receive any counter battery fire, but there was a noticeable increase in enemy harassing and interdiction fire. If see, the pieces certainly should have fooled the Jerries since Pvt. Wilczinski attests that the dummy he was guarding tricked an expert. According to Willie the Barber, a jeep stopped alongside his gun, which was dug in a few yards off a main road. The vehicle’s occupants were arguing whether the rubber gun was a 105 or a 155. Finally, one GI hopped out of the jeep and walked over to Willie.
“Hey fellow!” he said, “do me a favor and tell my buddy what kind of a gun you got there? I used to be in the artillery, but he won’t believe that it’s a 105.”
“Any fool should be able to tell that it’s a 105,” Willie obligingly told him.
Whether or not the dummy installations were the cause cannot be determined, but some particularly heavy enemy fire was received in this area. Capt. Wells (CO of 23rd Hq Co) and Sgt. George Peddle from the Signal Co. were killed nearby, and 15 casualties were suffered on March 15 as a withdrawal was being initiated. For heroic and efficient treatment of the wounded while under fire himself, Pvt. J. Goldberg of the medical detachment was commended by the Corps surgeon and subsequently awarded the Bronze Star.
During the night of 12-13 March, 23rd Hq Sp Trs faded from the area. The next morning the 80th Inf Div attacked as planned. Only light resistance was received, demonstrating that the operation was a complete tactical success.
In spite of the efficient manner in which the personnel of 23rd Hq carried out their assigned mission, it was felt that the organization was not administratively set up to perform its tasks at maximum efficiency. The new T/O & T/E proposals which had been submitted to SHAEF in February were again pressed, but reorganization, always just about to take place, was destined to remain merely a dream of glory in the minds of the staff.