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Operation Landonvillers

Soldier standing near a sign outside of a building

A phony MP from Operation Viersen. Photo courtesy of the National Archives.

The covering of the movement of the 95th Infantry Division from XX Corps to VIII Corps Zone was the objective of this operation. The division was scheduled to move January 28th-29th.

As its mission, 23rd Hq. had the contract to play the role of the 95th in the Landonvillers vicinity, northeast of Metz.

On the XX Corps military front, action was relatively quiet. The Germans were on the defensive. The 26th Infantry Division moved from III Corps to relieve the 95th, which then proceeded to a reserve position in the VIII Corps. These movements took place January 28th-29th and both divisions moved without markings.

Lt. Aliapoulos and his third platoon started the problem off for the 406th when they moved out of Briey to their job of subbing for the 1st platoon Co “A” 320 Engineers. They formed part of combat team 377 commanded by Major Raggio, who had his Hq. in the village Varise.

The next day, January 29th, the second platoon hit the road for Les Etang where they assumed the role of 1st platoon Co “B” 320 Engineers connected with combat team 378. Lt. Col. Schroeder was the commander.

Not to be outdone, Hq. and the 1st platoons departed Briey at 1030 hours the same day. They followed a circuitous route to the hamlet of Cheuey. Before leaving, orders were given that panels would be displayed immediately after crossing the Moselle. American planes were very active on the other side of the river and would attack any convoy not properly marked.

The Moselle was crossed and out came the panels. Now the convoy was safe from attack from the American plans. But this panel department didn’t go for Jerry.

Fifteen minutes after the river was crossed, a plane that most took for a P51 came zooming out of the sky and gave the traffic on the road a going over, and with machine gun bullets, no less.

The quick thinkers realized right away that it was no longer a P51 but a Messerschmidt 109, and those babies were not on our side.

Fortunately, the traffic moving against the 23rd’s convoy received most of the fire. In 23rd’s group, only one vehicle, a signal peep, was hit and that did little damage to the vehicle and none to the personnel.

The whole affair happened so fast that it was over before most of the men knew what was happening. However, as the convoy passed the smoking vehicles on the opposite side of the road, it was evident that the German had run up a good score.

In the middle of the afternoon, Hq. and the first platoon pulled into the tiny village of Chevey. Here, Lt. Kelker was installed as Lt. Col. James I. Crowther, commander of the 320 Engineers. Lt. George Daly took up his duties as Provost Marshall and the next day set up traffic control posts.

The scene set for German consumption was that of the 95th Divisional Hq. at Landonvillers, combat team 377 at Varise, combat team 378 located in the village of Les Etang, while combat team 379 was at Pauge. Other integral parts of the division were stationed at Retonfey and Boin-sur-Nied.

Traffic from these various places was soon circulating all over the countryside. T/5 Norman Poris was hardly on his T. C. P. when some 95th M. P.s pulled up along side of him. They inquired if he had seen a half track. Authoritatively, they told him that his track still had its bumper markings on and that its occupants wore patches when strict orders had been given that all divisional identification marks were to be removed from the vehicles and personnel.

Sammy Kaye’s former drummer man quickly pointed out a direction and told the military police that the track had gone thataway. So eager were the M. P.s in their chase that they took off without even noticing the shoulder patch on Poris’s pointing arm!

Once again headquarters requested some 406th men to furnish its security. The first platoon supplied this guard of honor, and also sent along Sgt. Harold Anderson who worked with Major Bridges.

At Les Etang on the second night some real shooting took place. Sgt. Lynch and his squad were quartered very comfortably in a room and a half of the second floor of one of the requisitioned buildings. It was a very nice room with a huge fireplace which made the room very comfy indeed.

To insure their comfort throughout the night, the men of Lynch built a roaring fire just prior to bedding down. The heat and the day’s tough going soon put everyone in dreamland. The fire continued to burn merrily. In fact, it go so merry that it split the concrete flooring and started to lick at the stringers under the floor. The fire liked their taste and traveled right along them to the corner of the room where the good sergeant had his M1 stack with the cartridge lying by the butt.

Someone gave Lynch a shove and he awoke to find the room full of smoke. Babe Settars and Morris Barone were swatting the various fires with anything that was handy. Lifting his head, Elmer saw a beautiful flame in the corner, right at his feet. Right there and then, he proved that it wasn’t necessary to unzip a bed roll, for he zoomed right out of it and made for his cartridge belt with Barone’s highly prized pillow.

Too late, too late was Elmer, the flame had reached the bullets and they started to wing all over the room. Everyone hit the floor and continued to fight the fire and attempt to get at the exploding belt. At last, someone threw it out the window.

With this menace out of the house, the squad went to work on the fire. Staggering around the smoke-filled room they finally managed to get it under control, but it was necessary to rip up a good portion of the floor before the conflagration was ended. ‘Twas a hot time in Les Etang that night!

During the fourth day of the problem, Col. Schroeder took the fire fighting second platoon and the Heater away from Operation Landonvillers and set out for another job.

For five days the countryside around Landonvillers was lousy with 95th Div. troops and traffic, but on the sixth day the various deceptive units left their respective villages and moved, with the exception of HQ., to the village of Retonfey. The next day, Feb. 2nd, 1945, the operation came to an end and the trucks started back to Briey, arriving there at 1400 hours.

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