Task Force “Oboe”
Lt. William Aliapoulis’s combat third platoon was attached to task force “Oboe” under the command of Lt. Col. Schroeder. The three officers and sixty two E. M. comprising the task force crossed the Sartilly I. P. at 0635 hours August 10th. The convoy headed for an assembly area at Le Mans, proceeding in approach march formation with the Lieutenant’s jeep in the lead. Enroute the column was subjected to small arms fire directed at Col. Schroeder’s jeep. Neither the Colonel or his guard Pvt. Singley spotted the snipers and since it was only sporadic fire, the convoy did not stop. At 1400 hours, the task force reached its destination near Le Mans. Needles and paint brushes were brought out and the patches and bumper markings of the 90th Infantry Division were affixed.
In his briefing, Col. Schroeder told the men that Oboe’s mission was to portray one combat team of the 90th Division, with attached 155 artilllery, in a march toward Lorient. The enemy was to be deceived by the use of special effects and simulated radio traffic.
Pvts. Julius Pastor and Wayne Hardman were uniformed as M. P.s and placed in the town of Laval where they made a great ado about directing the convoy as it doubled back through the town and headed out toward Lorient.
Without a single map, the convoy crossed the Le Mans I. P. at 1430, 10 August. The radios no sooner started operating when the Germans began jamming. As a result of this, it was impossible to communicate with headquarters.
All day and into the night the convoy whirled away the miles. Finally, the trucks came to rest, close to midnight, in a soccer field in the outskirts of Rennes. At this late hour, Oboe still was jammed out of communications and minus any map.
It seemed to the men that their heads had hardly touched the ground, when the order came to pull out. Day was just breaking when the convoy headed out again at 0430 hours August 11th. Before departing, Col. Schroeder had assembled his command and told them that they were without maps or communication, and he had decided to push ahead for want of something better to do. He explained that the country ahead was loaded with Jerries and asked that they be especially alert.
So it was with this “poop” swishing in their helmets, that the men rode on toward Lorient. The column had gone but four miles when heavy fog brought road visibility down to ceiling zero. This caused a two hour halt during which time the men ate their breakfast and guarded the trucks from surprise attack. The fog lifted at 0630 hours and Oboe resumed its journey.
In the town of Ploermel, Lt. Aliapoulis made contact with the F. F. I. These patriotic men of France aided the Lieutenant immeasurably in directing the convoy to its operational site outside the city of Baud, approximately sixteen miles from Lorient.
As the convoy halted in the vicinity of Baud, a radio message was finally received from headquarters. The message ordered the task force to halt wherever it was and to tell Hqs. its coordinates.
In replying, the Colonel forget to check his message for coordinance letters. The answer was no sooner sent than radio contact was again lost and there was no opportunity to supplement the coordinance with the necessary letters.
After sending his position, Colonel Schroeder moved his task force one mile further to a high defensive position. A patrol was immediately organized and sent out to learn the military situation immediately to the front. Lt. Aliapoulis’s peep led the way, followed by S/Sgt. Tuttle in a second peep with a two and one half ton squad truck, containing half a squad, bringing up the rear.
A forty-five minute ride brought the patrol to the last outpost of the 4th Armored Division. A lieutenant and his men who were manning the outpost, were overjoyed to see the men of the 90th Infantry Division. – “At last the infantry had come to relieve them!” – Lt. Aliapoulis explained that for the present the 90th men were on a special job and as yet, had received no orders to relieve anyone.
In exchange for this sad news, he was told that the action on this sector consisted of shelling, and skirmishes with Germans who were hiding out in the woods.
Deciding to obtain further information themselves, the patrol continued a mile further toward Lorient, until a crossroad was reached. They were now a mile and a half from Lorient, as far as the patrol was authorized to go, and so, it was decided to spread out and have a look-see.
As security, Pfc. DiAngelo was posted about a hundred yards down the right road while Cpl. Beaver and Pvt. Stykes took up a similar position on the left road. S/Sgt. Tuttle, then, rode his peep down the right road to the town of Hellebout and Cpl. Gerado took the lieutenant’s peep along the left road to the town of Pnt Scorff.
Cpl. Gerado had no sooner arrived in the town of Pont Scorff when his peep was surrounded by F. F. I. asking for reinforcements. They explained that the Germans were making small nightly raids on the neighborhood farm houses and that the French were too weak to handle the situation.
This information was sped back to Lt. Aliapoulis who replaced Gerado in the peep and dashed back to confer with the French. He told the French major a tale similar to the one that he had fabricated for the men of the 4th Armored. From the French, the lieutenant obtained additional information about the local military situation.
When both peeps had returned to the crossroads, the information was put on paper and given to Sgt. Cogan to bring back to Colonel Schroeder. The rest of the patrol remain in the vicinity of the intersecting roads until 1400 hours.
On his trip back with the report, Sgt. Marty Cogan was accompanied by Pfc. Hy. Nitzberg, in a peep driven by Pfc. Harry Oliveira. The couriers encountered great difficulties in finding their way back without the aid of a map. Intuition and Ollie’s good driving brought them back.
While the patrol was engaged in seeking out information about the front, stories kept coming into the Colonel’s C. P. about small predatory bands of Germans that were operating in the immediate vicinity. So when Lt. Aliapoulis returned with his patrol, orders were given to send out another one to gather first hand knowledge on this Jerry bands and to take the necessary measures against any resistance encountered.
S/Sgt. Wendle Tuttle was placed in charge of this new patrol and took with him T/5 Lou. Fowler, Cpl. Louis Bever and Pvts. Reuss, Thompson and Foley. The group had a very interesting walk. In all the patrol covered about eight miles of territory, thoroughly questioning everyone they encountered, including a few F. F. I. men.
They listened to the many native tales concerning the Boche, collected an ample quantity of eggs and more than ample nectar. But always, the Germans manage to be somewhere else when they arrived on the scene.
In the evening hours, the men staggered into the C. P., reported their findings, and declared the area now cleared of the enemy.
Some months later, S/Sgt Wendle Tuttle was awarded a Bronze Star for meritorious and heroic achievement plus keen judgement and flawless leadership in conduction of the two patrols for the task force “Oboe.”
The deception seemed to be going fine but there was still no contact with 23rd Hq. at 1700 hours when Colonel sent for Sgt. Cogan. He told the Sgt. That he was going to send him back to locate 23rd. The exact location of headquarters wasn’t known but Cogan was to go back to the vicinity of Sartilly. If he made contact, he was to give “Oboe’s” location and return with food, gas and instructions. The Colonel, also, added that it was his intention to start back to Sartilly the next day, August 13th, if no word was received to the contrary.
For transportation, Cogan had a peep with Pfc. Oliveira driving and Hy Nitzberg as guard. Further security was provided by an addition four men, Cpl. Kyryluk, Pfcs DeAngelo, Kooi, and Swulich who round in a squad truck driven by [unknown].
At 1800 hours the party took off. The truck was to accompany the peep only to Rennes. From there, the peep was to go on alone and ride until Sartilly was reached. If 23rd was not found on the way, the instructions were to rest until 0600 hours and then continue the search for three more hours. At the end of this time, if the search was still futile, the Sgt. Was to turn about and pick up the task force on its way back.
To insure himself against being left high and dry without food, water or gas, the Colonel gave Sgt. Fitzgerald a squad truck driven by T/5 Harry Siegel. Their mission was to obtain food from the 4th Armored Q. M. at Vannes. “Fitz” left at 1800 hours for a city he had never heard of, without a map and without proper authority to draw from the Q. M. depot.
After much questioning of natives in his Army book French, the third platoon’s weapon sergeant finally reached Vannes. He then had to give a song and dance to Q. M. guys who couldn’t understand why he wasn’t drawing from the 90th Inf. Q. M.
They finally broke down and gave him two days “K” rations, four hundred miles of gas and some water. Of course, the good sergeant managed a few “extras” unbeknown to the Q. M. boys. At 0030 August 13th, Sgt. Fitzgerald brought home the bacon.
What about Cogan and his gang? Well, although they didn’t notice it. Lady Luck rode in their peep. Not only did the Sgt. Get his party to Rennes sans maps, but while traveling through the city, he spotted Major Hopper who was looking for the lost task force. Halting the Major, the Sgt. Gave him Colonel Schroeder’s location, and both the peep and the squad truck were able to stay in Rennes that night.
For his work in getting the “word” through, Sgt. Martin Cogan was subsequently awarded the “Certificate of Merit.”
The next morning, Major Hooper informed the Colonel that operation Brittany had ended at 1205 hours August 12th. And so, task force “Oboe” started on its way back to Le Fremonde. It had traveled 602 miles without the aid of maps through hostile country. For his superior work in leading the mapless convoy and his efforts in contacting the F. F. I., Lt. William Aliapoulis received a Bronze Star.