The Brest military situation was that the Germans held a strongly fortified position surrounding the city. U. S. troops were engaged in driving in the enemy outposts and developing the Germans’ lines. The defenders were capable of delivering gunfire on any of the American positions.
The objective selected for 23rd Hq. was to bluff the Supermen into surrendering the city by showing an overwhelming force besieging it.
On August 20th, the first and second platoons left Le Fremondre as part of Task Force “A” under the command of Lt. Col. Snee. Since the C. C. A. of the 6th Armored was composed of elements principally not armored, the first mission of the task force “A” was to simulate a combat command being brought up from Lorient to augment the 6th Armored.
Task Force “A” was two rainy days enroute to their assemble area one mile north of Lesneven on the Brest Peninsula. On the way the men enjoyed the lush wet scenery and the sight of Sgt. Hutchinson and Pfcs Nichols and Nenezian swizzing through the downpour on borrowed motorcycles.
In the meantime, C. C. A. of the 6th Armored departed for Lorient leaving one tank company and two cavalry reconnaissance “troops” in the Brest area.
Once in Lesneven, little time was lost in getting the operation underway. After one night in the area, 190 E. M. were broken off from task force “A” and formed into task force “X” under the command of Capt. Oscar Seale. Lt. Robinson and the second and the third squads of his platoon made up part of the “X”’s forces. These second platoon men moved out of the Leseven bivouac at 1210 hours August 23 and were followed by the rest of T. F. “X” at 1440 hours.
T. F. “X” proceeded to an assembly area near the village of Kerlin. Here the men were told that “X” was going to work with Co. “D” of the 709th Tank Bn. They were to expand the tank company to represent the 15th Tank Bn. Of the 6th Armored Division. This blown up Tank Battalion was supposed to be attached to the 2nd Infantry Division.
For this group, the mission was, by the use of signal, sonic and visual means, to cause the enemy to believe that a tank battalion was moving into an assembly area and then into attack positions in the sector of the 9th Infantry Regiment.
While exploring the vicinity of the assembly area, prior to the nights operations, the men of the second platoon found a field which contained the wrecks of fifteen half-tracks. Nearby infantry men related that the tracks had been bivouaced in this hedgerow one very foggy night. The Germans taking advantage of the fog had infiltrated about five bazooka men into the area and when, at dawn, the fog lifted, they destroyed the tracks in place. It was a sorry scene.
Although the bumpers were marked and the patches on, the erection of the dummies had to wait until dusk. At 2200 hours work on the installations commenced. The 406 men provided the security for the rubber items and the heavens provided a deluge of rain.
To complete the deception, Heater began its song of battle at 2300 hours. The tune was one of a tank battalion moving into an assembly area. The serenade lasted until 0015 hours Aug. 24th. So that night, Jerry was treated to the display of a battalion of tanks real and rubber with appropriate noises.
On hand that night, to see how things were going, was Capt. Rebh. During the playing of the sonic records, the Captain decided to venture near the front in order to judge how well the sound effects were coming over. He had his peep driver, T/5 Milton (Punchy) Feldman take him part of the way and then, thought it was best to continue on foot. So he left Punchy with the jeep and started off.
The night was dark and rainy. There was poor Milton miles away from Brooklyn with no one to talk to. He wasn’t quite homesick but he did feel lonely. Finally he struck up a conversation with some nearby infantry men. It was a very nice little cat but a little one sided.
Milty talked and talked and asked so damn many questions that the dough foots became suspicious of “Punch O’Toole.” T/5 Milton Feldman became the 406th first P. W.; captured by the American Army!
They took Feldman in to see their C. O. who asked him a lot of questions he couldn’t answer. So they carted him down to regimental intelligence where he was grilled further. Finally, some one was contacted who knew the score about 23rd’s operations and Talky Feldman was released.
In the meantime, what about the Captain? When he returned and found his driver missing, he was so concerned that he hopped into his peep and drove off. Later when Feldman related the indignities he had suffered, the Captain soothed his feelings with a big horse laugh.
When the bits of deceit were considered expended in the assembly area, task force “X” moved, in the week hours of the morning, to the attack sector.
This was the second phase of the deceptive plan. The area of attack was right behind the lines. Dummies were once more set up and during the night of August 24th, the “sonic” played in three tank companies. This concert was held but three hundred yards from Jerry’s front door. There was little chance of the enemy not hearing the armored serenade.
That the Germans had lent their eyes and ears to the role played by task force “X” was evident the next day. At 25 August 1300, a scheduled American attack commenced on the German positions. The tanks of Co. “D” 709th Tank Bn., “X”’s partner in deception, moved forward to the line of departure. Before they could reach the departure point, five tanks were knocked out, put out of action by anti-tank guns that the enemy had brought into position to counter the strength shown by Task Force “X”!
This regrettable confirmation of the effectiveness of “X”’s mission was caused by the inability of those commanding the sector to appreciate the situation that had been produced by the deception unit.
S-2 of the 9th Infantry Regiment reported 20 to 50 additional enemy gun positions and credited their appearance to the work of the task force. Yet, the tanks were sent right down the alley against this reinforced line.
During the opening hours of the attack, the bivouac area was not neglected by the enemy. His artillery shelled the bivouac intermittently until 2200 hours. However, with the attack underway, the problem was called and no one was hanging around just for laughs.
With the problem finished, the second platoon men loaded their trucks and were about to glide away when it was discovered that two of their old guard were missing. The absentees were Sgt. Hutchinson and Pfc. Charles Gorman. Questioning by Lt. Robinson brought forth the fact that the proximity had stirred the two gladiators so that they had taken off to join the infantry.
The company was sent on to Lesneven while the Lieutenant remained behind with his peep to scour the sector for his two men.
When the urge of strife overcame Hutchinson and Gorman, they decided their best course was to walk in the direction of the front until they met some outfit that needed stalwart recruits.
So off they started, and walked and walked but found no infantry outfits to offer their services to. Finally they came up to an artillery O. P. It was manned by a Capt. who was assisted by a young French lad. The two warriors poured forth their story to the American officer and received the dull but sound advice to return to their company.
As a consolation, the Capt. Phoned in the position of an 88 and had his artillery knock it out while the two men were there.
They were on their way back to the “attack bivouac” area when Lt. Robinson picked them up and brought them back to Leseven where the A. R.s were discussed with the two men.