1st Airborne Task Force, 16th August 1944

The 2nd Parachute Brigade, 16th August 1944


The 550th Glider Infantry Battalion arrived on LZ-O at 18:45 on the 15th August, and although the landing had been precarious, costing them 8 dead and 20 injured, they were nevertheless assembled and ready for action within 45 minutes. At 20:00, their commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Sachs, received orders from Brigadier-General Frederick to carry out a night attack on Le Muy, and he requested and was granted the artillery support of the 64th Airlanding Light Battery.


At 02:30, "A" and "C" Companies crossed the River Nartuby to the North of Le Muy via the bridge held by the 4th Parachute Battalion. As they were advancing on the town, they were pinned down by several very-well sited machine-guns, firing from stone buildings on the outskirts. Caught in open ground, with their every movement highlighted by flares, followed by the complete darkness of a New Moon which shielded the enemy positions from view, the Battalion could make no progress at all, and so Brigadier-General Frederick ordered them to retire North of the river and resume the attack in the morning.


The night passed quietly, with the Le Muy garrison making no attempt to counter-attack or break-out of the town, except for a group of nine who, presumably recognising the futility of their position, made an unofficial exit during the morning only to be picked up by a patrol from "B" Company, 6th Parachute Battalion. Later in the day, that Battalion's "C" Company sent a four-man patrol to the South-West of the town, and returned with an impressive receipt for the 60 prisoners, 6 anti-tank guns and 2 staff cars which they had acquired on the way and handed over to the Americans.


The Second Assault


At 10:45 on the 16th August, "B" and "C" Companies of the 550th Glider Infantry Battalion recrossed the Nartuby, but this time via a ford some 300 yards to the West of the bridge, which they hoped would enable them to outflank the German positions covering the main road. While this was going on, a 6-pounder gun of "A" Troop, 300th Airlanding Anti-Tank Battery was brought forward to deal with one of the houses which had held up the attack overnight. It was not known if it was still occupied, but certainly no resistance came from the building once the gun had fired 4 armour piercing shells into it, followed by 21 rounds of high explosive. By 11:45, the 550th Glider Infantry Battalion was safely across the River and had started to fight its way into the outskirts.


Shortly before the attack began, two French civilians informed "C" Company, 4th Parachute Battalion, that there were a significant number of Germans in Le Muy who wished to surrender. Captain Mortimer and Private Cairns volunteered to go into the town where they met a German Captain, who stated that he would only order his men to lay down their arms if the Americans broke off the attack and he received a written assurance of safe conduct. Mortimer explained that he did not have the authority to do this and so the German officer said he would fight on, declaring that he had plenty of men and ammunition. These he may have had in abundance, but as Mortimer and Cairns made their way back it was clear that the same could not be said of morale. Several German soldiers asked what the outcome of their meeting had been, and on hearing the news they were visibly disgusted and threw down their arms, saying that they would not fire a shot but wait to be taken prisoner by the Americans.


Some nevertheless resisted, but there was no great determination to it. The 550th Glider Infantry Battalion made swift progress through Le Muy, with fighting patrols quickly clearing away any pockets of resistance they encountered, and before long groups of up to 30 Germans started to surrender at a time. Due to the rapidity of their advance and the close nature of the fighting, no fire support was requested from either the 64th Airlanding Light Battery or "A" Company, 2nd Chemical Mortar Battalion; even the 550th's own mortars only fired twice at enemy strong points. Hostilities ceased at 14:45, with 500 prisoners being taken at a cost of 1 dead and 15 wounded.


While the fighting was still going on, two platoons of "A" Company, 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion attempted to secure a foothold in the southern outskirts of Le Muy, but were held up by strong opposition. This was overcome at 14:00 thanks to the intervention of a platoon of the 191st Tank Battalion, who had been ordered forward by the 45th Infantry Division. The paratroopers and their new friends then pressed into the town, and once the fighting was over they advanced with the tanks along the Le Muy - Frejus road to make contact with the leading elements of the 36th Infantry Division, who were coming to the relief of the 1st Airborne Task Force.