E Pluribus Unum - Out of Many, One

An Insight into General Searby and Dave’s Account

of The Battle of Mousson Hill.

(Oral history August 2006)

Crossing France as part of the 3rd Army under General Patton:

…the General [Searby] used to go on reconnaissance so we’d get in the Jeep – he had to see the lay of the land so he could determine in advance where we were going to set up the artillery. So the three of us, the driver, the General, and … I used to sit in the back. We had a 50 caliber machine gun. And we’d go riding up to where the infantry was. In some cases we rode up and got ahead of the infantry. And the General, who was a very capable man, but he had a lousy sense of direction sometimes. And we’d go up a road and I’d say, General we’re on the wrong [unclear]. No! No! No!  I said, we’re ahead of the troops – and then we went over the top of a hill and there was a German tank there with 8 or 10 guys sitting around. He saw and I saw we were only about 75 yards away. So I took the machine gun and started firing at them. And they thought they were being attacked by a division so they held up their arms and they surrendered. So we turned around and we escorted the tank back with the prisoners to the front. But we had several other incidents where we were in the wrong place – and he was that kind of a guy.

The General’s need to get out in front with the troops and scout sites for the FA placed the two of them across the Moselle River on September 12, 1944.

We got on the other side and they established a circumference there so right away the General said we got to go over there. Ah approximately ½ mile back from the river there was a high hill like a small mountain called Mt. Mousson. There had been a castle up at the top and it was the only high piece of ground around there and it was about a half a mile past the river. And the infantry was making an assault on the hill. The General wanted to get up there because from there you could see miles in every direction. So he says, “We’ll go up with the infantry.”  I says, General we don’t have a rifle, we don’t have any guns. I had a 45 caliber pistol they gave you. He says, “That’s okay, we won’t need them.” So we went up with the infantry. Along the way I picked up a rifle from some soldier that was killed. We got up to the top and there was an area up there of approximately 3 acres. There was a wall approximately uh 46” high that had been the foundation of the castle years ago.  So it was just the entire top of the hill almost was walled in. There was 100 or 110 infantry men when we got up to the top and there was a Lieutenant of the infantry and there was supposed to be a forward observer for the artillery, but he never showed up. We never did find whether he got killed or whether he just got …couldn’t make it. So, once we got up there, it was like being in an airplane. You could see all the different troops, you could see their tanks, you could see their troops, you could see everything. So the General said, “Come on we gotta start firing.” So he was picking out the targets and I was giving the coordinates to the guns .. .you know the map coordinates – farthest – farthest, and we destroyed maybe 20 – 25 tanks that got set on fire and we got [caused] a lot of casualties because of the infantry and stuff. But then they counter attacked from the north and the south and they cut us off. They got in between us and the river. All we had up there was 100 men.  So we couldn’t get back. So they forced our troops down there back across the river.  So we were up there 3 days and what I did, I took every possible approach to the top of the mountain … there was one road coming up where the tanks would go. Where there were ravines where troops would come up, I fired a single gun until I hit the ravine … left, right, forward, back … and then I gave it a position like #1 and they [FA across the River] took the coordinates from about 12 areas where they [the Germans] could access the hill. So we had 12 targets – so as soon as somebody would hear troops coming they’d tell me if it was this particular hill I would tell [radio] …target so and so… 5 round, 3 rounds depending on how many people there were. Then we were able to protect…and we had to be careful ‘cause if they got close to the top and the round was higher it would come and hit us…come over the top. We were there firing and were able to maintain our position [So were you in contact with the guns….?] We had radio [Back of the line you could command that fire?] Yeah by radio and uh we could command the fire to the guns.  And of course, on the other side of the river they wanted to know what the hell was going on.  So then, the 2nd day, a tank got up to the top.  We knocked the wheels off it, but it was still above the parapet and they were firing their machine guns at us. So Searby he got frustrated and said, “I’m gonna get that son of a bitch!” and he took a rifle….we were down behind the wall…..and he stands up like he was shootin’ targets and he aims at the guy and a machine gun just literally cut him in half. He was dead before he dropped down beside me to the ground. So that left me in charge of the artillery up there and in the meantime I was firing and when I saw troops I would fire 2 or 3 battalions….12-14-24 guns….I fired one round and made sure I hit the target and then all the other guns are lined up and they are all…when you put the guns, they are not all in a row…they are spaced separate. Well the General was killed instantly and I was the contact with the HQ of the artillery on the other side of the river and I tried to let ‘em know what happened.  Course they told us you are not supposed to reveal information over the telephone or the radio because they will pick it up. So I said, He [Searby] is sick. “Who the hell is this?” I said this is his [Searby’s] little helper. (laughs) It just stuck in my mind that I shouldn’t mention the name. So finally they got the Div. Asst. Commander who was a pretty good guy, he was an older man and I spoke to him and he understood…and he said…you know…  He gave me all the help I could have. So we kept firing from time to time and then, the following day, we had a large group of tanks coming up.  I had 5 or 6 battalions concentrated to fire on them because you are…. [These are German tanks coming….Static?] So somebody at the other end said, “You’re wasting a lot of shots,” he says, “for Christ’s sake we’re low on ammunition.”  I said…. This is what he tells me over the phone… I said, I don’t know who you are but you’re full of crap. I said, Just fire what I asked you to fire and don’t give me any argument. And it turned out later that the guy that I was talking to was a Division Commander. So anyway, late that day, they were able to reinstate their position and they broke through and got up to the top and relieved us and we came back and I was pretty well exhausted because I was up almost continuously. So soon as I got back, I took some, went and took some (unclear) …hell they inquired about it and I told them and then I went to sleep.  When I woke up they handed me a first lieutenant’s bars and told me I had made a battlefield promotion and I was a first lieutenant so that was that.