At 0530 on D+2, LT “Bucky” Buckner of the 175th Inf Rgt, 29th Inf Div, was feeling pretty pleased with himself. Overnight, his patrols had located an undefended route to a chateau which offered a commanding view of his objective, the outskirts of the village of La Cambe, and he’d managed to infiltrate a squad along with the platoon sergeant, SSGT Agerholm, and his Mortar Fire Controller, SGT Gray, in there.
The Americans’ theft of the silverware did not go unnoticed, however. At his forward outpost, Lt. Gruber, a platoon commander with the 352nd Heer Division, roused his sleepy landsers, and a gruppe of infantry with an MG34 MMG in support laid down an impressive hail of lead.
Although poor old PVT Kawolski (why is he always the first to go?) took a round through the head, casualties were fairly light thanks to the thick stone walls of the chateau.
As the fight developed Lt Buckner deployed his platoon in a classic inverted triangle with two squads forward on each flank and a reserve squad in the centre to the rear.
SSGT Agerholm rallied his boys and pretty soon they were giving pretty much as good as they were getting, since the Germans were only protected by twigs. From down the road came the roar of tank engines, and Discord, an M4 Sherman commanded by SGT “Randy” Randall, raced the road and then stopped abruptly.
Randall went all Hollywood, took his shirt off, climbed out of the tank and began firing box after box of .50 cal ammunition at the German infantry behind the hedge.
Perhaps overawed by Randall’s physique, the Germans kept up their grudge match with the squad in the chateau rather than attempting to pick-off Randall. The crew of a PaK 40 became frustrated waiting for a target (the M4 stayed just out of sight) and began firing at an American squad behind some hedges they could see.
Meanwhile, happily ensconced in an upstairs boudoir in the chateau, SGT Gray the forward observer, pressed the talk button on his SCR 536 “Handie Talkie” and called down an aiming shot directly onto the MMG. Also feeling pretty pleased with himself that day, he requested “fire for effect” and the orchard disappeared in a cloud of mortar bombs.
LT Buckner headed over to rally the squad to his left behind the hedges, and decided that it was time to suppress the PaK that was giving his boys a pasting.
SSGT Agerholm thought he knew best, though, and ordered the fire to be centred off to one side of the gun. Another outstanding example of fire direction from SGT Gray (or perhaps force of will from LT Buckner) placed a ranging round directly on top of the gun.
More pain for the Germans. Randall brought his Sherman up closer to the orchard. Suddenly a glancing hit from an 88 sent a splinter into Randall’s left bicep, and a second even more glancing shot made a scratch in the paintwork on the front of the hull. Although the German 88 fire then seemed to slacken, the US mortar barrage went on.
Lt. Gruber rallied the remnants of the troops in the orchard, but the combination of Randall’s .50, a BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle) team in the chateau, and a 60mm mortar was too much for them.
LT Buckner ordered his third squad to take the orchard. As they appeared, a German rifle team (the squad leader and MG team of that gruppe were pinned down by the mortar barrage) opened up on them but they didn’t have time to inflict much damage before they were wiped out. It looked like Gefr. Speiser, on the German left, might be able to rally a MG team, but they too died for the Fatherland.
A second M4 arrived, and as the Americans closed on both flanks of the battered German zug (platoon), Lt. Gruber shouted “Rearwards to final victory!” and led his surviving troops from the battlefield.