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OPERATION COBRA 2012

Posted by John Thomas on Monday, 29 October 2012 in Uncategorized

  OPERATION COBRA 2012 AFTER ACTION REPORT

1st I.D.  departed Bradenton enroute to Alabama on Friday night, around 11P.M. The truck bed was full of gear for the weekend: field stove, cots, bazooka crate, two ammo crates, rifles, food, water, and miscellaneous gear. The plan was for Cpl Wallin and I to travel north on I-75 to the Ocala area where we would pick up PFC. Don Dickey. We coordinated this rendezvous with Don and worked it out so well that he was only waiting in the truck stop parking lot for about five minutes. After loading Don's gear, we were off again, north bound. As we traveled thru the night, we talked and planned and schemed what we would do at Cobra. Then as the night turned to morning, Bill fell asleep. I thought Don was asleep in the back seat, but he claimed he lay awake the rest of the trip. I wish I had known that because I was so tired, I'd of let him drive. Thru the night, I stopped at a few rest stops and got gas at an all night gas station in a remote area. It's amazing that characters you see out in these remote areas at this time of night. I probably looked odd to them in the WW2 uniform and they left me alone. The road got the best of me and I had to stop at approx. 0430. I slept for about a half hour, then on the road again.

We pulled into Florala at about 0630 hours and were directed into the Allied encamptment to unload our gear. We greeted Major Derscheimer and several members of the 9th I.D., 5th Rangers, and 2nd Rangers. We set up a small encampment outside of the GP Medium tent that consisted of our various crated gear. Our soft gear and cots we set up inside the tent in preperation for tonight. Breakfast was being served out of the mess tent. We were running late but got our mess kits unpacked in time for some grits...all that was left. It was very good. We put on our combat gear and set up Bill's newly acquired M-1 Garand with its blank firing adaptor. Then we went to register and look over the items that some of the other reenactors had for sale. I ended up buying an original WW2 era 50 cal. ammo crate, 50 cal. ammo can, and a dummy grenade to be worn on our webbed gear. (The ammo crate will be used to set the camp stove crate on top of to give it some needed height, and the will provide storage for gallons of water and other items needed for the stove that are non-ww2 in appearance.) After this we walked back into camp and prepared to move out into the field.

At approx. 0900 we loaded into two and a half ton trucks, half tracks, armored cars, and tanks and moved into the field. After about 10 minutes of traveling we dismounted and began our march. We traveled thru the countryside and moved thru the french town, uninhabited by the Germans. We continued thru the town and were crossing thru a hedgerow when the Germans opened fire on our column. It was sporadic sniper harassing fire coming from the brush and we quickly organized suppression fire and moved our column thru the hedgerow, with no losses. 1st I.D. then received an order from Lt. Howell to remain behind and eliminate the Germans in the brush. We spent the next hour moving thru the brush with no contact, but using this opportunity to work on our tactical movements. The field we moved thru was a cotton field. The air was very cool, about 60 degrees, and the skies were parially overcast. It was also a great opportunity to talk between ourselves, learning more about Don, and he learning more about us. (Don Dickey is not new to historical miltary reenacting but he is new to our unit. Were proud and honored to have him as a member.) As we reached the edge of the field, another unit that was moving parallel to us (6th Cavalry Infantry) made contact with the Germans who had been retreating thru the wood line. When the shooting started, we hustled thru the cotton field, taking cover and firing when able. I took an opportunty to fire the bazooka on the remaining German squad while they fired on a U.S. gun jeep that had come to our support down an adjacent dirt road. One bazooka rocket finished them off, and they removed their helmets and left the woods.

We rejoined the rest of the column but then became involved in a prolonged see saw battle with 3 to 4 Germans in a heavily wooded area. After taking several wounds, we sat down on a dirt road that was about 4 feet below the woods. We drank from our canteens and ate some breakfast bars. After a bit we watched the M36 Jackson Tank Destroyer and a Fast Armored Tractor cross a very soft ploughed field and engage some Germans in a forest area about 600 feet from us. Not wanting to miss any action, Bill, Don, and I trugded off to join them. At about the time Bill and I got halfway across the field, the German fighter appeared overhead. I'd like to say he just wounded us, but I think our reenacting military careers ended in the field. None the worse for wear, we struggled the rest of the way across the field, and came face to face with the entrenched Germans. The one square inch of us that the fighter did'nt shoot, they did with rifle, machine gun, and panzershreck fire. Well, we spoke with them for awhile and discussed ways of making the bazooka appear as if it was firing. They were using a method we had tried with model rocket engines, and were as un-impressed as we were. Eventually, we moved along to assist the Armored Tractor try to break out of the road these same Germans had them pinned down on. We tried flanking thru the woods, and became involved in a brutal prolonged battle with these entreched Germans. At some point during this time, Bill ended up taking out about six Germans in a trench. Good work Bill!

We struggled thru this for a long time, finally emerging from the woods, crossing the field, and taking a break against the dirt road below the other woods. As we discussed our next move, we heard the unmistakable sound of an approaching German tank. The Germans had at least two armored cars, a halftrack, and a captured T-34 Tank pressed into the service of the Panzer Korps. I'm no expert, but even though we could'nt see it yet, I knew the sound of that T-34 "Tiger". It was decided that I would hide in the bushes with the bazooka alongside the road while Bill and Don would hide in the bushes about thirty feet behind me alongside this same road. Once I disabled the tank, they would hose it down with heavy 30.06 rifle fire. The road was made of hard clay, and the heavy steel tracks of the T-34 clanked as it rolled closer. You could hear the deepness of its heavy engine as it struggled to push the steel monster up the road. There was no doubt in my mind that we would either kill this tank or it would kill us. (I know it's not real...but I work very hard at pretending. It's something that I have become good at in this life...) I waited, waited....then I saw the end of the tanks long 85mm cannon. I stepped from the bush onto the road in front of the tank and fired one rocket at it. The tank driver stopped...he knew they were dead, even though the tank commander protested. I saw several German infantry riding the sides of the tank, and knew Bill and Don would soon be sending lead their way. I also saw an armored car right behind the tank, now stopped dead in the road...the armored car could'nt go around the tank into the field because he'd get stuck in the soft dirt.I pivoted back into the brush against the dirt wall of the forest above and reloaded another rocket. Meanwhile, Bill and Don were blasting away at the German infantry on top of the burning and smoking detroyed tank.(Remember...good at pretending...) I pivoted back into the road, sprinted alongside the tank, and fired one more rocket at the armored car. BAVOOM!....Night Night Termite. Well, like I said, the German Commander protested the kills, stating that they were on their way somewhere. I said okay, sorry, (that we killed you guys) and bid them farewell. We relished the moment, then relaxed against edge of the road, telling each other how great this most recent action was for our Unit.

After a short time, we watched as the American tanks charged across the ploughed field at the Germans entrenched in the woods. As we watched, the rest of the American force emerged from the woods north of us and charged across the field...Finally the major attack had begun. We joined the attack, running across the field, opening fire on the Germans who were dug in. As the German positions were over-run by the combined weight of the armor and the combined infantry units, the fighting became close-in. I took a grievous wound from "Vern", a long time German reenactor, and removed my helmet. I watched Don and Bill and the rest of the infantry clean out the rest of the German infantry. The battle ended with lots of posed photos being taken with the "dead" Germans and their equipment. We hiked back towards the encampment, ending the days' battling around 1400 hours.

Back at the camp, I brewed a pot of coffee and boiled some water for Bill's tea. Don began cleaning his rifle, and after he was done, Bill and I followed suit. The coffee/tea was great and we sat at our encampment discussing the days' actions and mistakes. It was nice to sit and relax. A short time passed and we were summoned to Major Derscheimers' tent for a de-briefing. After this it was chow time: Roast chicken, baked beans, green beans, bread, and tea. The meal was so good...there was extra chicken...I had three.

After the meal, myself and a Sergeant from the 2nd Rangers were summoned to see Major Derscheimer. It had been decided that a night attack would be necessary on the village, which had been occupied by the Germans. Plans were loosely made and we were to be trucked to the field at 1930 hours. I was given a large parachute flare to fire off when we neared the village to signal the attack.

Bill, Don, and I readied ourselves for the attack and spent time talking by the various camp fires around the encampment. When the jump off time came, we loaded up on trucks and jeeps to head into the field. After about a twenty minute drive thru the cold night air, we got to within a half mile of the village, where we then dis-embarked. The night had partial clouds and the moon shown bright when it was visible. We marched along the edge of the woods leading to the village, the 6th Cavalry leading the column. Major Derscheimer pulled his jeep up to the edge of the woods where it was'nt visible to the town, advising me that when the attack moved in, he would be in the gun jeeps to our left, warning us that in the dark not to get in front of the jeeps. He advised me to make sure the attack did'nt bog down and to lead it in. As we closed in on the town, the Germans saw our shadows and opened fire while we were still 500 feet out. Everyone went to ground. I called out for them to watch their eyes and discharged the parachute flare. It took off like the rocket that it was, illuminating the night sky over the town. The flare burst its parachute and floated over the town, casting a red glow over its German inhabitants. I stood and yelled move in, but several of the young and aggressive 6th Cavalry soldiers needed no encouragement. We ran the remaining 500 feet, firing our weapons at the German defenders. The gun jeeps sped alongside us in the darkness and their 30 cal. machine guns added to the light and noise of the attack. The village was over run by the American soldiers after a 5 to 10 minute battle. A final mop up eliminated any German survivors and the battle ended with the blaring horn of a mal-functioning gun jeep. After a wire was cut, everyone, German and American discussed the fantastic battle. This was definitely the highlight of the event.

We walked a ways back to the encampment before a truck picked us up for the rest of the journey back. Once back we got ourselves in our respective cots. (Important note!) I was fairly warm and brought extra blankets for Bill and Don. The night passed fairly quickly. Upon rising in the morning, I boiled water for the three of us to wash our faces, we brushed our teeth, and had a great breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, spam, grits and bread. It was awesome. I then pulled our truck around and we loaded our gear, said our goodbyes and began the long journey home.

I would rate this event as a perfect 10. Just the right amount of action, great unit participation, accurate uniforms and vehicles and setting, and of course the opportunity to fight the Axis with the other fine members of the 1st Infantry Division Reenactment Group!  

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