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1944 Entries

July to September 1944

two men with papers in front of tent 1944

Bill Blass and Bob Tompkins in July, 1944. Courtesy:  Robert Tompkins Collection, Ghost Army Legacy Project Archive

July 1 First mission about 2000 yds from front lines

July 4 Returned to base camp. Mission accomplished. Heard one plane shot down about 2 A.M. on first mission.

July 5 - 6 Moved to new base camp 2 Miles south of Treviers (Mandeville)

July 14 Saw first enemy aircraft shot down P. 51 with German pilot.

July 17 On or about 17th, first alarm of gas (false of course)

July 22 Residue [term for the balance of our outfit] with Willy. [Bill Blass]

July 25 Tues. While playing softball saw largest raid on front lines ever attempted. 1500 heavies and 1500 fighters. Saw two columns of smoke indicating two planes lost.  [Bombing of St. Lo in preparation for the breakthrough in Normandy.]

July 28 Reconnaisance trip - Treviers, Isigny, Coventon, Le Haye, De Puits - turned back on road to Lessey. Too jammed. Returned by vicinity of St. Lo - 95 miles. Heaviest AA barrage seen yet about 11:30 and about 4 A.M. in morning got up and slept under truck [because shrapnel was raining down from anti-aircraft fire].

July 30 (On Guard) 8:30 A.M. Lancasters [British four-engine strategic bombers] roar overhead. Hundreds headed due south.

Aug. 2 U.S.0. Not so hot!

Aug. 3 Move 6 mi. on Coutance - Germans left on the run about five or six days ago.
Equipment, lines, roads - dead cattle numerous. Towns shot to hell. Houses
Houses here and there.

Aug. 3 Leave Camp at Trevieres for new camp south of here between Priers and St. Lo about six miles north of Coutances

Aug. 5 PATTON arrived Brest 2 hours ago.

Aug. 6 Reconnaisance to Coutances, Tourville and Agon. Coutance in rubble. Had calvadose [apple or pear brandy from Normandy] in Tourville and Agon (hotel). Were told hotel keeper pro-German. Took 9 snapshots. Saw first French armored division roaring up with our equipment.

Aug. 7 Reconnaisance for 70th Division. Supposed to land at Omaha Beach.

August 9 Leaving any hour now to simulate Armored strength on Brittany Pen. [peninsula] while actually 6th Armored Division leaves this area to attempt a large scale trap of German 7th Army.

Aug. 9 Only A Co. C Co. and Signal Corps and 406 moved out tonight for Assemb. area about 1/2 miles from Avranches. Took Lt. Gray down after chow with stencil men. Saw German horsedrawn carts littering the roads, 88's and tanks. Saw [Mount] St. Michel in distance. Had to drive in pitch dark all the way back. Had a flat about 7 miles out of Coutance. German prisoners rolled by us by the truck-loads. Coutance looked like a ghost town. Back about 1:30 A.M.

Aug. 12 Heavy raid on; Sounded like Forts [B-17 bombers] went overhead this morning. Outfits return - captured several Jerries. Col. Schrader missing. Reconnaisance being organized to look for him.

Aug. 13 Col. Schrader found. Messages failed to get through. Problem [term for mission] reported a big success. Reports from German radio report 2nd Armored Div. on Brittany Pen. [peninsula] (aren't we the devils!)

Aug. 16 Bombers continue to drone overhead. Just counted 102 Mitchells [North American B-25 medium bombers] headed for that 10 mi. gap: Trap should be completely closed by tonight.

Aug. 20 Pulling out on problem - location Brest. Mop up job. Don't expect to return to this area. News today; we're now in outskirts of Paris (Coutance - Dol. 74 mi.) 20,000 Jerries [actually 10,000] trapped in Brest. [Jerries was a slang term for Germans]

Aug. 20-Sun. Saw headless cow hanging from a 30 ft. tree on hill in Coutance - must have been a hell of a blast. On our way to simulate artillery fire on Brest - still a hell of a lot of Germans to be cleaned up out there. Pass I.P. [initial point] at 1:30 P.M. Bivouac in vicinity of Dol. [a bivouac is a temporary camp without tents or cover]

[Aug. 21-25 we were simulating 2nd Armored Division for 2 days, 3 nights, with dummy Sherman tanks et. al., on perimeter of Brest. Germans observed us from church tower about 1000 yards away.]

Aug 21. Dol to 10 mi. north of Brest (164 mi) Pulled out 8:10 A. M. 158 mi. vicinity of Lesneven - about 10 - 15 miles north of Brest. Drove most of the way with top and windshield down in driving rain. Would give my right arm to be able to sit in front of a cozy fire with my little darling in my arms. Oh! Adolph, you son of a bitch. I feel like a frozen drowned rat.
Aug. 23. Bivouac to front. Left here 2:30 P.M. arrived 1200 yards from front lines. about 3:30 Have dug in tonight with set-up. 2 Minutes ago one of our artillery observation planes was hovering overhead. All of a sudden German AA opened. Three shells exploded - plane dropped off to left, flew back out of range. Looks like it will get hotter before it's over.

Aug 24 Maintained items - tore them down at 9 P.M. Moved up 500 yards to new area and set up 10 tanks. Willy and I set up our tent with our feet sticking out in the pouring down rain and passed out about 3;00 A.M.

Aug. 25 Fireworks start. Artillery raising hell - stood on hedgerow and watched the whole show. Saw shells landing about 400 yards in front of us. Could hear machine guns, rifles, mortars, etc. Saw time firing - saw 4 thunderbolts strafing with rockets. They roared over our heads and then dove into the thick of it. Havocs came over and bombed. Couple of mortar shells came our way. Landed about 50 yards behind us. Whole front line is one screen of smoke. 20 -1/2 trucks burned to shit by German Patrol in our area night before last. Pulling out at 10 P.M. tonight to return to bivouac area. Looks like the battle of Brest is over for us. Thank God! I'm dead tired.

Aug 25 Leave front after tough 3 days, to bivouac area.

Aug 26 Sat. Getting everything straightened out today. Will start our drive to Chartres early tomorrow morning. Just beginning to realize how vulnerable we were the last three days as stories came in from various sources. Heavies giving hell to Brest today.

Aug. 27. Sun Lesneven to Rennes. Left Lesneven (super trip) 9:00 P.M. Thursday morning Rennes Arrived five Km from Rennes about 6 o'clock - Beautiful estate.

Aug.28 Rennes to Torce near St. Suzanne. Leaving 9.9) o'clock for Chartres this morning. Arrived just east of St. Suzanne near Ville of Torce- supposedly liberated by Reeder, last Sunday. Crowds wave and cheer and throw flowers.

Aug 29-30 Spent night in bivouac. Got drunk for first time since England night of 28th. Ray and I held each other up. Back to camp.

Aug. 31 Torce to Mouny near Sens just about 50 miles E SE of Paris. Bivouac in woods. Left Torce on 225 mi. trip E of Paris to Mouny. Drove all the way. Tired, dirty, no water to wash with. Bivouaced in woods, Went through Chartres, La Loupe, Fontenbleau, Port Su Sanne, etc. Things seem more civilized. People seem very well dressed. Heard Yanks are in Belgium, Luxembourg, and Patton nearing border of Germany.

Sept. 1 Waiting. No one knows what's up. (While on move no mail service. That's all I worry about)

Sept. 2 Awakened at 1;60 A.M. Thompson and I have to take his truck on convoy for gas. Left at 6 this morning. Destination Cherbourg. Came by way of Argentan where German 7th was trapped. Just one mass of Bomb craters. Just missed going through Paris again. Traveled 245 miles to Q.M. [Quarter Master] Gasoline Dump. Giving up three or four truckloads. The rest of us will go on to the beach tomorrow. Insigny our destination.

Sept. 3 Sun. Awoke at 8. Did a little sketch of a nearby farmhouse. Heard the Sunday school choir singing in a small church nearby. Thought of my little darling.

Sketch of farmhouse

This is the sketch Tompkins mentions in the September 3 diary entry. Courtesy Anne S.K.Brown Military Collection, Brown University.

Sept. 4 Start drive for Mouny at 8:00 Via Chartre, Fountainbleu, Port Sur Yonne, etc. Arrived in Camp 10 P.M. Monday nite 280 Miles. 640 Miles round trip.
Sept. 5 Stay here indefinitely. Rumors we go to Versailles. Also "We sail on Nov. 23 for States". Sounds too good. ( IT WAS)

Sept. 7 Mouny to St. Germaine - six miles from Versailles and about 10 or 12 miles from center of Paris. Stucco barracks. Camp des Loges. What a set-up!. Leavy Mouny - St. Germaine 5 mi. from Versailles 8-9 miles from Eiffel Tower and Gay Paree. Left 3:00 P.M. for Torce. Pick up Dummies. Arrived 10:30

Sept. 8 Loaded. Went to Chateau Dun.

Sept. 9 Returned to St. Germaine. Everyone gay. Wonderful quarters, tennis courts, stadium, swimming pool. Intend to do some shopping tonite. Spent evening in St. Germaine. Bought perfume. Saw Chat 14 - Visited a couple of dives and drank champagne in very nice outdoor cafe.

Sept. 10 Sun. Left in truck and entered Gay Paree for first time. Truck parked in front of Notre Dame Cathedral and we went inside and then walked around in the department store section. Then walked up Champs Elysees to Arc De Triumph. Took pictures. Two Frenchmen offered to show us around town. Drank beer in open air cafe on the Avenue and met Mr. Ross. Returned to truck by way of Place De La Concorde across Seine to left bank and walked down to N.D. Little 16 yr old girl presented me with her own personal key to the city.

Sept. 11 St. Germaine for the evening. Had champagne, by the way, while working in the motor pool this afternoon. Bought mom a charm bracelet with all the coat of arms on it.

Sept. 12 Versaille - palace, etc.

Sept.14 Loges to Chalons - Bivouac over nite. Left Loges 4 P.M. on rush alert. 120 Mi. Bivouac E. of Chalons at 1 A.M. Drove black-out for 3 1/2 hours. Eyes puffing.

Sept. 15 Chalons — Bettembourg - Begins mission —- 248 mi. from Paris to Bettembourg. Left 8 A.M. through Verdun into Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Great ovation. Arrive Bettembourg about 6 mi. from city of Luxembourg. 12 mi. to German border. Front lines about 2 miles to east. Might go on mission tonight Everybody has a cold. Feel shitty. (248 miles total) We're the only outfit on this part of front except for 1 Cavalry Squadron spread very thinly. No one knows where front is.

Sept. 16 Sat. Last night moved up about 1 1/2 miles and pulled into heavy woods about 3 o'cl. Tanks moving all around us. Woke early. Sewed on patches. Set up tanks. Built fires simulating armored infantry battalion. Truck goes out every hour into village on atmosphere. Drank a quart of beer with a German family in Bettembourg. Spoke with woman who had been to New York and Chicago.

Sept. 17 Sun. German soldier in civilian clothes gave himself up this morning, and Seckel interrogated him. Says Germany is in a miserable state.

Sept. 18 Reports say Germans have withdrawn on Moselle River. Setting up tank obstacles, German 15th has left Metz to oppose us. It seems the 603rd has been given credit for pushing Nazis completely out of Luxembourg. Reports say we are a terrific success.

Sept. 21 Still continue to maintain fires and general activity. Mail truck came in last night. Only one letter from Babe but it boosted my spirits as always. Heinie [slang term for German soldiers] patrol reported about three or four miles away. Platoon of 406 went out to look for them. Civilians seem to be getting too anxious about our set-up. We should have moved out a couple of days ago, but attack seems imminent so I guess we have orders to remain until it begins. I have exactly one week left on my prediction. Another problem immediately after this is now rumored. Went into Luxembourg this afternoon for about an hour and 15 minutes. Had hot shower and managed to get some odds and ends and a glass of beer. Beautiful city.

Sept. 22 Fri Moving out! Outfit moves back about 10 miles to Uckange to make room for 83rd to move in. Platoon moved out with rest of Company this evening at 5 P.M. Basharage 8 - 10 miles to rear. Lt. Gray and I remained to check fires and signs. Slept at Mercy-Cort. (O1d 23rd C.P.) Out water Point was sniped at and a couple of the wires cut according to report. Three Infantry Divisions have also been opposing us. New problem commences.

Sept. 23 Sat. Lt. Gray and 1 leave to join platoon at Bascharage. Rained early this morning. Arrived at Company area at 8:30 A.M. Saw collaborators being marched to work by Luxembourgers at point of rifles this morning.

Sept. 25 Into barracks. Seminary in Luxembourg. 4:15 leave woods for quarters in a Seminary in Luxembourg. Thank God, we'll be dry and able to sleep in beds. Arrived in outskirts of Luxembourg at about 5:45. Beautiful huge building "B" Co. residing. 1 Squadron to room on top floor. What a haul with equipment trying to get lights fixed. Great commotion. Jerries pulled all the fixtures out. Bastards! Hope to hell we stay here until it's all over!

Sept. 27 Have the hives. Oh my, Christ, do I itch. Too many green plums I guess. Stored dummies in former Nazi auditorium. Large plaster gilt eagle with swastika on stage. Rumors now wild again - such as sailing for home Oct. 15th. Looks like my prediction was all off.

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