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For weeks the allied High Command had hurled a continuous stream of devastating land, sea and air blows at the Nazi defenders of Normandy. Bit by bit, the enemy's defense hat [had] crumbled before the slashing onslaught. And now, with the breakthrough at Saint Lo four days old, the inevitable sledgehammer blow - the "Sunday Punch" - was unleashed in the form of mighty American Armored columns that spread out like giant claws to tear the heart out of crack Nazi Divisions already in full fight [flight] from this new avalanche of steel.

Phantom-like, the Super SIXTH appeared out of nowhere to become a part of General George S. Patton's new Third Army. Distributing its tremendous power over its assigned sector of that Army's zone of operations, elements of the Division attacked in Combat Command groups, our Battalion operating under Combat Command "B", commanded by Colonel George W. Read, who subsequently attained the rank of Brigadier General.

Early on the morning of July 29, 1944 the Battailon moved out of bivouac to embark on its first Combat Mission that of taking the City of Cranville on the west shore of the Contentin Peninsula. Moving swiftly, the long serpent-like column followed a route of march that took it through the smouldering ruins of bomb and shell shattered towns, among them La Haye du Puit, leveled in the course of earlier attacks. Grim and silent, the yet to be tried troops betrayed no emotion as the vast scenes of destruction unfolded before their eyes. Wrecked German equipment that littered the highway and an occasional Nazi corpse sprawled grotesquely in a roadside ditch brought only cold impassive stares from the men of our Battalion who were now on the very threshold of actual combat. At any moment, a well concealed and crafty enemy could be expected to open fire on the advancing column. Already, the whine of scattered sniper fire had sounded an omnious warning as men and vehicles passed through Annoville and Lingreville, tiny villages along the route to our destination.

The rays of a hot mid-summer sun cut through the clouds of dust raised by snorting tanks and half tracks as the column drew closer to Brehal. Leading the Advance Guard, Lieutenant Colonel Wall cautiously observed the approaches to the town, alert for the tell-tale sign that would reveal the enemy's presence and his position.

Suddenly the crash of machine gun fire broke out, followed seconds later by the whine and thud of anti-tank shells whose bursts sprayed dirt against the armor plated sides of the point vehicles. The reaction of our troops was automatic. With not the slightest sign of confusion, Company "B", Commanded by Captain Robert Haber, dismounted, and in a matter of minutes had deployed, then surged forward in the first attack launched by the 50th Armored Infantry Battalion against the Nazi. Companies "A" and "C", commanded by Captain Alfred Newman and Ist [1st] Lieutenant Alfred M. Brown respectively, proceeded on the march, circling East and West of Brehal, and, accompanied by a platoon of tanks, continued to move in the direction of the original objective.

The savage fury of "B" Company's assault quickly overcame Brehal's outer defenses, which consisted of several cleverly sited machine gun positions. These were promptly destroyed by deadly bazooka fire, permitting entry into the town itself. Pressing the attack beyond the town, a group led by Ist [1st] Lieutenant William A. Johnson came upon a German ammunition truck, and, suspecting a booby trap, "B" Company's Executive Officer ordered that it be set in motion. As the vehicle rolled slowly down a short incline the men took cover. Moments later a terrific roar and a blinding flash confirmed a wise apprasial. Company "C" meanwhile had reached and occupied Sartilly, meeting scattered resistance which was quickly overcome. Company "A", on the other hand, encountered somewhat stronger opposition in the advance toward Granville. In its operations that Company took approximately three hundred prisoners and, unable to dispose of them, it was decided to postpone the attack on Granville until the following morning. As dusk descended, that Company moved off the highway and closed in bivouac for the night.



This demolished German "88" bears mute testimony to the effectiveness of
the Battalion's fire power. It was such a weapon as this that was destroyed
near Dinan, France by a Bazooka Team led by Captain Robert Haber,
Commanding "B" Co.

Utilizing the postponement to review the plan of attack scheduled for dawn, Captain Newman and his Platoon Leaders were interrupted by Staff Sergeant Dick who, unaware that his Company had ended its part in the day's operations, entered the City, of Granville with his maintenance half track. Finding it unoccupied by either of the opposing forces, he withdrew and retraced his route, eventually locating his Company's bivouac area. Sergeant Dick's report eliminated any further consideration of Granville as an objective.

Thus ended the first day of combat for our Battalion, which hat [had] opened its first attack shortly before noon on that day. The power of our thrusts had brought three towns under control of the 50th Armored Infantry Battalion. Excellent communication was maintained through the entire period, which not only permitted rapid changes in deployment when necessary but enabled prompt and efficient re-supply to be effected through Service Company, commanded by Captain Robert S. Blackwood, working in close cooperation with Captain James R. Mc Nab, at that time Battalion S-4.

Our losses during the initial contact with the enemy were extremely light, consisting of a single light tank, with personnel casualties neither serious nor numerous. The enemy on the other hand, lost a total of four of his potent "88's" in and around Brehal alone. Our fire took a heavy toll in Nazi casualties, many resulting from the highly accurate mortar fire brought upon them by Lt. William J. Holt's Mortar Platoon from Headquarters Company, then Commanded by Ist [1st] Lieutenant James G. Lail. If there had ever been any doubt of the oft-reported Nazi policy of abandoning their personnel casualties, such doubts were dispelled on this first day of combat when our own Medics treated many enemy wounded who today owe their lives to a people whom they hoped to destroy.

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Last updated: November 11, 2007