Task Force “Y”
When the second and third squads of the second platoon departed Lesneven as part of Task Force “X,” they left behind Sgt. Bill Jordan and his first squad. Bill and his men were not left for long. At 1900 hours, August 23rd, they were on their way as part of T. F. “Y” under the command of Lt. Col. Mayo.
The mission of “Y” was to draw enemy fire away from the 37th F. A. Bn. (105 Howitzer direct support Bn.) by the use of flash devices in a dummy position.
To perform this mission, the task force set up its dummy flash battalion on Hill 103 near the town of [redacted]. This position was approximately 1200 meters in front of the real artillery. The dummy position occupied the mask of the 37th F. A.
Flashing commenced that night, Aug. 23rd, and resumed at nightfall of August 24th. It was hoped that the Germans would spot the position as a battalion to be counter when the scheduled attack began. To make the flashing more realistic, the flares were synchronized with the fire of the real artillery.
To the 406 men went the assignment of guarding the flash positions. To accomplish this, they deployed themselves further down the face of Hill 103 in front of the deceptive devices. From their posts, they had an excellent view of many enemy positions.
One large concrete pill box provided a fine show for the men. Located in the valley below them, it was safe from the fire of the 37 F. A. but under constant fire from another battalion. However, the shells bounced off it like “BB”s off a Sherman.
Apparently the pill box was an uncomfortable but safe place to be. Suddenly the artillery ceased, and there filed through the first squad positions a section of combat engineers, working their way toward the pill box! These pioneer soldiers were loaded down with flame throwers and satchel charges.
Before the eyes of the 406 men, these engineers put on a demonstration surpassing any training film. First it was infiltration, then came the fire and movement, tongues of angry flame spurted toward the slits in the box followed by the lighting movements of the demolition men. In a few minutes, the heretofore impregnable pill box was a mass of smoking ruins. A man had a right to be proud of the engineers.
Saturday, August 25th, found the men wondering if all the flashing had been in vain. “H” hour was 1300 hours and the attack jumped off on time. The minutes passed and the men waited. Twenty nine minutes sped by and all was quiet and then the thirtieth minute brought the answer. All hell seemed to be hurtling through the air, as the Wehrmacht pumped eight 16” shells into an area 200 meters sound west of the flash positions.
Before leaving the Lesneven assembly area, Cpl. John Cattani had remarked, “They gave me a ticket for this war, but it looks like my seat is in the rear balcony.” Crouching in a fox hole during the shelling, he grumbled, “Lord, they didn’t have to put that seat on the stage!”
After the barrage was over, the men crawled out of their holes and examined the shelled sector. Fragments as large as a man’s forearm were found. That sort of stuff could hurt a guy.
The Germans’ method of plotting an enemy artillery position by noting its flash and report accounted for the barrage missing its target. The reports of the task force belonged to another battery.
Just to show they really meant business, the Germans pounded ten more shells into the same sector at 0900 hours August 26th. The mission was accomplished and T. F. “Y” did not stay for any further acknowledgements but returned to Lesneven.