The night they crossed the river at Echternach. Artificial moonlight. And a great artillery barrage cracking down on the ramparts of the Siegfried Line. Above the swollen Sauer, flashes of flame lit the sky for miles. 30,000 rounds to help the Doughs storming the heights. And from a position just outside the little town of Osweiler, Cannon 385th was in on the big show. For the 385th Cannoneers it was one of the most memorable nights in the ETO.
From zero hour until dawn they loaded and fired, working knee deep in mud, covered with it from head to foot by morning. With the ground soggy from a Spring thaw, the guns mired deep into the goo, or slid clear out of their gun pits like headstrong colts. Cussing the dark and the mud, the crews worked with tears in their eyes because they couldn't fire fast enough.
Support of the crossing at Echternach was the Company's first big mission. And after the crossing was made, Cannon continued the support, firing at troop concentrations, tanks. and other targets of opportunity.
First gun positions in the Fatherland were immediately above Echternach, and it was here that 3 Cannon men won Bronze Stars: 1st Lt. William Hinkley, Cpl. Arnold Cohen, and Pfc. Royal Rothe. While manning an artillery forward observation post in pillbox, they were isolated, but held their position and continued to direct artillery fire while under artillery and mortar shelling. They also gave first aid to wounded riflemen, and held the box until the line was restored in that particular sector.
Throughout the first half of the campaign. Cannon worked in close conjunction with the 335th FA Bn, where the Company came to be know as "Dog" Battery, and earned the healthy respect of the artillerymen.
When the rat race East of Homberg developed, Cannon changed its tactics to suit the situation, attacking one two gun platoon to each attacking Rifle Battalion. It was an arrangement which worked well, the cannons moving directly behind the rifle troops as they assaulted the towns. Sometimes the cannons even got out in front of the Doughboys. Nothing in the books said it couldn't be done, and April was a month when all the books were tossed overboard. .
In the drive from Echternach to Zwickau, Cannon fired over 8,000 rounds, and occupied more than a hundred gun positions. And also did its share of rounding up PW's and keeping the civilians in line. A "bastard" outfit, half infantry and half artillery, Cannon developed fully both facets of its character. Through VE day, the company was commanded by Capt. Henry G. Stone (present S-2) who has been succeeded by 1st Lt. John P. Gardner Jr.
There was even a time when Cannon was called to adjust fire on two lone Krauts digging a fox-hole. Some FO's idea of an afternoon's sport. Cannon adjusted and the Krauts went up in smoke. Precision firing, and when called for, Cannon dished it out.
1st Lt. John P. Gardner, Jr.
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