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Normandy
France
The Moselle
The Saar
Ardennes
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Peragimus, "We Accomplish"
A Brief History of the 358th Infantry


France

The Race to Le Mans

The Normandy defense had been cracked, Jerry was broken and running, and the sky was filled with friendly air power as the tanks of the Third Army rolled toward Avranches. The prison-like hedgerows of Normandy were left behind and before them lay the open, rolling terrain of interior France. The ensuing days brought lightning fast maneuvers, and the 358th Infantry became a leading element in the 90th Division's race across France.

On the 2nd of August, the Third Battalion, led by "K" Company, raced to St. Hilaire du Harcourt, captured the town and secured a vital bridge. The First Battalion followed to seize the high ground east of St. Hilaire, while the Second Battalion occupied the town. In the days following, the race continued to the bank of the Mayenne River, where the doughboys stripped for a dip in the cool waters while Engineers repaired a bridge. Then came a long, grueling three day march to the east, to St. Suzanne.

Le Mans Captured

On the 8th of August, the outfit loaded on trucks and hit the road toward Le Mans. Detrucking and moving under the cover of darkness the First and Second Battalions circled northeast of the city. Shortly after daylight on the next day, the Second Battalion utilizing rowboats gathered together by the civilians crossed the Sarthe River northeast of Le Mans. The remainder of the Regiment following closely behind, completed the encirclement of the city, and the resulting capture of Le Mans by other elements of the Division put the 90th farther into France than any other Allied Force. "A" Company alone at one road block northwest of the city surprised and captured, Jesse James style, two large enemy motorized columns. The 358th Infantry was beginning to get revenge for the hard fighting during it's early days in combat.

The Jaws Close

After Le Mans, the division cut north in clouds of dust towards Alencon, following the Second French Armored Division and blocking to the West any effort of the German 7th Army to escape the inevitable and fast closing Falaise trap. No time was lost as the outfit proceeded by foot and motor through Alencon and Sees, and then swung west and attacked through Almeneches and Le Bourg St. Leonard. The First and Second Battalions pushed against bitter resistance through the Foret de Gouffern; while the Third Battalion attacked to seize control of the roads leading northeast from Chambois. The First Battalion captured Bon Memil and pushed west to two more villages, while the Second Battalion after capturing St. Eugenie, moved into Bon Memil.

The Rim of the Bowl

It resembled a bowl with the troops in position around the rim. This was the picture on the 20th of August, 1944 - when all Hell broke loose! The bowl became a valley of death. The Germans, caught helplessly in the trap, ran around crazily, in tanks and on horseback, on every conceivable means of transportation, attempting to escape from the iron jaws. From vantage points along the rim of the bowl, voluminous fire from TD's, tanks, machine guns, and rifles continuously sprayed the valley. Cub airplanes from the Regiment's supporting artillery kept their hawk-eyed vigilance on the melee below - hence the classic remark by one pilot, irritated by the delay in firing, "Quit computin' and start shootin'".

Now and then a temporary truce was called to allow great numbers of beaten Krauts to surrender. One N.C.O. alone accounted for 800. Droves upon droves were herded along roads to Prisoner of War Camps in the rear.

The Third Battalion, at the end of the trap, bore the brunt of several German attempts to break through an escape route north of Chambois. A fierce battle raged, but though outnumbered by far, the Battalion stood its ground.

When the smoke cleared from the valley, there was wreckage and debris strewn for miles and only the charred ruins of those who refused to surrender remained in what was, in reality, a valley of death. As the vaunted Seventh Army was being annihilated in the bloody pocket, there came welcome news that American forces had entered Paris. Upon relief by British Forces in the Falaise gap area, the 358th Infantry assembled north of Sees and awaited further orders.

No Gas

Early in the morning of the 26th of August, 1944, the Division hit the road again and moved eastward one hundred and seventy miles to secure bridgeheads across the Seine River near Fontainbleau. Famous World War I battlefields, Chateau Thierry being the most notable, were fought over again as they continued to advance to secure the bridgehead at Rheims. Lucky "A" Company guarded the bridges of the beautiful city, while the remainder of the Regiment carried out security missions to the east near Warmersville. Due to a severe gasoline shortage the advance bogged down and held up movement until the 5th of September when the Third Battalion moved to the vicinity of Verdun. The remainder of the Regiment followed the next morning. Meanwhile, transport planes flew in large quantities of gas to relieve the critical shortage.

Rout at Mairy

On the following morning the Regiment attacked again to pursue the enemy towards the Moselle River. The situation, however, remained extremely fluid. During the night of the 7th of September, an enemy armored column launched a surprise attack, hit the Division command post near Mont, and then turned toward the First Battalion in the town of Mairy, where heavy fighting ensued. In spite of his formidable armor, the enemy was stopped again; the attack was routed and the force severely beaten. The First Battalion knocked out seven tanks and blew more than forty-eight armored vehicles to kingdom come. Cannon Company accounted for itself in the melee, taking a devastating toll of enemy personnel with the direct fire of it's 105s.

Thionville Captured

The enemy fought a withdrawing action as he was pushed back through Fontoy, Hayange, and Marspich to the Moselle River. To the Second Battalion fell the task of capturing Thionville, an industrial city on the banks of the Moselle. House to house, door to door fighting took place in the town as the enemy was made to relinquish his threshold on the formidable river barrier. Withdrawing during the night, he destroyed the last remaining bridge over the river. On the following day the First Battalion was sent in to mop up the north half of the city and together with the Second cleaned it out to the west bank of the Moselle.

Fort Driant

The Third Battalion was transported south along the Moselle, near the renowned fortress city of Metz, to St. Marie Aux Chenes. They were followed in a few days by the rest of the Regiment. They took up a defensive position opposite the gates of Metz, facing the historic forts of Fort Driant, Jeanne d'Arc and the so-called Verdun group of Forts. This defensive position was maintained throughout the month of October. During the period, some of the men left the muddy banks of the Moselle for a few days to rest and clean up in an improvised rest center at St. Marie aux Chenes. The Paris pass policy was instituted in the Regiment at this time and some fortunate officers and enlisted men visited "Gay Paree" for the first time.

Early morning on the first day of November began an epoch that will long be remembered, it saw the front line battalions slip out from under the eyes of Fort Driant and the other mighty forts to move to a concentration area near Morfontaine, France. Election day in the United States found the 358th Infantry embarking on a momentous military operation - an assault crossing of the Moselle River.

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