Task Force “Nan”
The second platoon commanded by Lt. Thomas Robinson was attached to a task force known as “Nan” which was under the command of Capt. O. M. Seale. This task force left the Sartilly bivouac behind at 0635 hours Aug. 10th. The convoy headed for the town of Laval with an engineer jeep out in front as the “point.” 1020 hours found the convoy assembled in a field just east of Laval. At this assemble point, breakfast was served, the bumper markings uncovered, shoulder patches sewed on, and the men called together for a briefing.
At the briefing, the men were told that the mission of “Nan” was to simulate a march of one combat team of the 80th Infantry Division from an assembly position east of Laval toward Brest. Deception was to be accomplished by the use of special effects and radio.
The phantom combat team rolled out of this area at 1115 hours and started in the direction of Brest. Rate of march was that of an actual division and the signal units sent out appropriate messages for the German’s consumption.
At 1410 hours, the movement of the convoy was interrupted when a bicycle riding Frenchman stopped Capt. Seale and informed him that there were two snipers in the woods that lined the road ahead. Immediately, the convoy was halted, the men dispersed, and Capt. Seale and Lt. Robinson surged into the woods with Sgt. Hutchinson, Pfc. Gorman, Pvt. Nenezian at their heels.
The party split in two and scoured the woods but the pair of Germans had apparently fled before such overwhelming force. However, the elusive Jerries did have the satisfaction of holding up a major portion of a division!
With this threat overcome, the convoy started on its way again and proceeded without further incident until 2100 hours when it pulled into bivouac in the vicinity of Rennes. This site, about 300 yds. from the little town of Pace was selected as the spot from which to disseminate the deception. From here the radios kept sending their beguiling messages and the personnel was sent into the towns of Pace and St. Gilles to spread “atmosphere.”
August 11th found the atmospheric spreading 406th men laying it on all over the place. To one and all, they proclaimed that the rest of the 80th Division was expected “tout suite” and that they were Brest bound.
All the activities of G. I.s on the loose were indulged in. Some of the men found an old swimming hole and gave it a fling. “Can’t be Bested” Hutchinson matched his aquatic prowess against a Frenchman who claimed to be an ex. Olympic contender. Needless to say the “frog” was no match for the second platoon’s armament expert.
It was possible to spread deception galore without stepping outside the bivouac area. With the arrival of the first vehicles, the crowds started gathering. They brought wine, cider and eggs for the brave Americans who more than welcomed these additions to their 10 and 1 menu.
Things were going just fine when that “rumor” appeared again. This time, the report, that arrived at 1850 11 August, stated that there were five Germans that visited two different farm houses after dark each evening. Once in the houses, the Huns ate their fill, bedded down for the night and made off before dawn. Capt. Seale immediately decided to wait until after dark at which time it would be possible to catch the enemy with his forks up or his pants down.
The plan of attack settled, the Capt. Fitted himself and Pfc. Charles Gorman out at M. P.s and departed for Rennes. In this largest of Brittany’s cities, the pair spread the word about the impending arrival of the whole of the 80th Division. The Captain spread it on for the American Military Police stationed there, while the French civilians were informed of the coming attraction by Frenchy Gorman.
Then the two vociferous M. P.s returned in time to join the attack on the suspected houses. Capt. Seale took charge of one raiding party while the other was lead by Lt. Robinson. The lieutenant was accompanied by Cpl. Lou Bruno, Pfc. Nicholas Minutola, Pvt. Barone, Cpl. Pat Capizzi, and Pfc. “Babe” Settar. When the vicinity of the house was reached, the men began surrounding it, creeping and crawling in their best jungle tactics.
The house encircled, the attack began. Lt. Robinson and “Babe” Settar dashed to the front door and sternly inquired if there were Germans within. Although the “patron” pleaded ignorance of the charge, the Lt. decided it was best to search the premises.
With their arms at ready port, the two soldiers examined all the lower chambers. They then rushed upstairs and burst into a room which had the door suspiciously closed. Their entrance was greeted by a chorus of feminine squeals as three nightie clad damsels jumped out of bed and confronted the two warriors. For a moment the two searchers just stared while the girls let loose a French barrage of whatever maidens say under such circumstances. The situation was tense and then “Robbie”, ever a man with the ladies, calmly turned to Settars and cooly asked him, “How do you say pardon me in French?” After the “Babe” supplied him with the correct phrase, he turned, with complete aplomb, and bowing graciously said “Excuseay me.” Turning sharply, he staggered into Settars, bounced off the door jamb and stumbled from the room.
Slowly, slowly, Settars followed him from the room, never taking his eyes off the three lovelies - - - “you never could tell, but then, that bed would hardly hold a fourth.” - - - - - -
That house thoroughly deactivated, Lt. Robinson and his men started back for the camp with everyone commenting on what “they” would have done with the gals.
Halfway back, the frustrated raiding party met Capt. Seale and his men. An invitation to join in this other raid was eagerly accepted. The captain’s party contained the cream of the non-coms headed by Sgts. Toth, Price and Jordan.
At the new objective, an encircling movement was once more employed. At “M” minute, Capt. Seale and an escort boldly strode forth. The French were waiting for them. All their inquiries were greeted with good natured laughter. - - - “The Americans were so droll.” - - - -
The two parties fell back to their strategically prepared bivouac and the rest of the night of Aug. 11-12 was marred only by extremely heavy air activity. There was no evidence, however, that any of the planes were reconnoitering the area.
Bright and early the next morning, the men of the 406th sallied forth on their atmospheric mission. Capt. Seale and Pfc. Gorman headed for Rennes in their guise of M. P.s The two men were no sooner in the city when they were approached by a Frenchman who breathlessly told them that an “S. S.” soldier was hiding in a certain barber shop. Not wanting to risk the chance of being compromised, the Captain kept watch on the shop while Gorman sought out the Corps M. P.
With the case of the S. S. safe in the hands of the local military constabulary, Capt. Seale and Pvt. Gorman resumed their mission. They found that one of the most noticeable and impressive methods was to walk into a café, tell the G. I.s therein that it was off limits and to finish their drinks and scram. To show their fellow soldiers that they were really good guys at heart, the pair usually had a couple of snorts while waiting for the boys to finish their drinks.
After visiting nine or ten cafes, the pair entered one of unusual interest. While there were no Americans in this bouvette, the proprietor had a good looking daughter who also had a friend. It was immediately apparent to both soldiers that the two beauties would be the ideal tools through which to disseminate 80th propaganda. One could tell at a glance that they had many friends, that they had no enemies.
So after a few drinks, the two shrewd Americans decided to go into conference with the belles. Of course, the quartet had to go upstairs to special conference rooms. There they really laid it on for the girls who eagerly absorbed everything.
When this job was done, Capt. Seale thought that they had done enough “spreading” for the day. Returning to the camp, the Captain received the news that the problem had been called at 1205 hours. However, activities were allowed to continue for the rest of the day.
Around midnight, Capt. Seale awoke Lt. Robinson and told him to arouse his men and have them remove their patches and bumper stickers. At 130350 [sic – sometime on the 10th] Aug., the task force known as “Nan” started back for Le Fremondre.