Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

Operation Overlord - A Tosan's Experience

Family, Personal, Tosa Personalities, Veterans

Today is the 64th anniversary of D-Day.

A day noted by the largest invasion armada ever assembled in the history of mankind.  A Tosan happened along shortly thereafter. 

Howard Gaertner arrived on the European continent on June 10, 1944.

Utah Beach - D+4

He had trained with the 78th Division in a weapons company - mostly as a 60mm mortar gunner.  Just before debarking England he was reassigned to the 9th Division, M Company, 3rd Battalion,


47th Infantry Regiment, in a heavy machine gun squad.

As an infantry replacement his MOS didn't carry much weight.

Speaking of weight, the army's .30 caliber water-cooled Browning machine gun was capable of a sustained rate of fire.  The drawback was weight.

In combat the steam can was abandoned in favor of an extra can or two of ammo.  Resourceful GIs figured you could just as easily refill the water jacket by peeing in it.

The 9th isolated the Cotentin Peninsula and captured the important port of Cherbourg.

They wheeled-about and prepared for Operation Cobra - the breakout from Normandy's hedgerow country - The Bocage.

In a prelude to the breakout on July 25th over 3000 U.S. aircraft carpet bombed a designated sector near Saint-Lô.  In one of the war's most stunning examples of fratricide allied troops were pounded by their own air force with errant ordnance. 

The 47th's 3rd battalion HQ was annihilated - hundreds of GIs killed and wounded. 

The 9th advanced - suffering casualties at incredible rates -  yet advanced further than any other division.

Their next major engagement was the Falaise Gap and first contact with British troops.  On or about August 18-19 the Ninth reassembled outside Chartes, France. The battalion was attached to the 3rd Armored Division Combat Command B for support - the final leg of Patton's dash across northern France.

Howard's unit crossed into Belgium on or about September 1st or 2nd - the first Allied force to commence the liberation of Belgium.

On September 3rd the 9th regrouped at Phillipeville, Belgium and prepared to cross the Meuse River on September 5th.  Advancing in assault boats under the cover of darkness - the engineers unwittingly deposited a large number of troops on an island - not on the east bank of the river.

At day-break they were sitting ducks for German mortars and Howard's all-expense-paid, government-arranged tour of northern Europe came to an abrupt halt.  

After being evacuated to the 114th US Army hospital in Kidderminster, England he was subsequently released and reclassified; not to return to the 9th.

He returned home with a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star (with Clusters) and German shrapnel for his troubles.

Dad still lives in Wauwatosa.




Post Script 

In 264 days of combat the 9th Infantry Division suffered:

2,905 KIA

792 missing

868 captured

14,066 wounded

18,631 battle casualties

15,233 non-battle casualties

Percent of T/O strength 240.4

Prisoners of war captured 113,324

They were known as Hitler's Nemesis.


A popular film featured the 9th.  Can anyone name both the title and the actor who played the leading role?

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