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79th Infantry Division - Saverne Gap: Captain Raymond Harvey

Posted by Pierre Fallet on Dec 13, 2022 11:20:06 AM

During the Saverne Gap battle it was the entire 79th Infantry Division which had been used, all of the elements without any exceptions. Indeed, while the 314th Infantry Regiment was fighting for villages of Hameau d’Ancerviller and Barbas, its brother in arms, 315th was next to it, on its right fighting for Halloville.

The plan required the utilization of all elements of the 1st Battalion. It was “A” Company which had to lead the battle and to do the main effort by jumping off from their bivouac area at 0800am on November 15th, 1944, on orders from Lieutenant-Colonel Ivan L. Call. 1st Platoon leading the attack would have to make a diversionary attack from the southwest of the town, to clean out enemy positions in the area. If those positions were real, they could cause serious damage.

Halloville as Barbas and all of villages in the area were in a valley surrounded by hills. At the south of Halloville there is Hill 331, which was an obstacle for the 1st Battalion as it would be coming from that direction. To seize the hill, “A” Company would have to go around from the west, to enter the town by the south at the main crossroad, to place a roadblock on the road running from Halloville to Nonhigny while “C” Company would be doing an attack from the east. As for “B” Company, men would be in reserve and would follow “A” Company. 

Sketch1 Map

At 0600am on the 15th, Captain Raymond Harvey commanding “A” Company was informed that “C” Company was not ready to move, became impatient, called Lieutenant-Colonel Call to let him know about this little inconvenience but more so that he would not be waiting for the others and that they would have to keep up with him no matter what. Permission was granted and “A” Company jumped off alone.

To assault Hill 331, Captain Harvey wanted to split up his 2nd and 3rd Platoons, one would be sent to the left and the other to the right of the crest of the hill, however he changed his mind and thought it would be a better idea to keep strengths unified for the main effort.

As planned 1st Platoon commanding by 2nd Lieutenant Robert D. Kellett moved out, it had the purpose to draw enemy fire so enemy positions could be spotted. Commander of the company thought that Germans had a strongpoint set up, made of machine guns on the road coming from Ancerviller until its connection with the road leading toward Hill 331. An orchard on the right side of the road was also might be turned into an enemy position as it was a very well open field.

2nd Lieutenant Kellett had to open fire and to hold the enemy off at those two locations if need be. The expected crossroad was vanished but some fire was received from an enemy tank, who was might be in town. Under tank fire, men of 2nd Lieutenant Kellett reached the orchard at 0845am and used it as a cover for about fifteen minutes.

(Note: Enemy tank fired 20 rounds in twenty-minutes.)

Fifteen minute later, the order to move out from the orchard was finally given and 1st Platoon reached the clearing between them and the woods at the south of Halloville. 50 yards were made when the first small arm fire was received from the woods in front of them. It is unusual for an officer to have his men without any cover but it was the first time that 2nd Lieutenant Kellett was in combat. Despite the lacking of battle experience, he didn’t miss courage. By leaving the orchard he ordered his men to move in a sing file, in squad formation with scouts in front. His men were not very confident during this movement and did not want to move forward as their Lieutenant was far away from them and found himself under enemy fire as the platoon.

It was also the first time in combat for Technical 5 Guy L. Taylor, under enemy fire, he found himself in command of his squad and abandoned the idea of pressing in toward the enemy position. He gave the order to open fire on the wood to cover their own progression, by doing so he was successful in going around the wood by the west but the platoon was almost on the run. Technical 5 Taylor saw seven or eight Germans in the wood but didn’t know if one of them has been wounded or not.

Sketch2 Map

On the run, yes, but 1st Platoon was now in the outskirts of Halloville at the south and joined the “Y” shape crossroad. Upon reaching the center of the town, an enemy 30mm machine gun opened fire wounding one man.

(Note: During his interview Technical 5 Taylor stated that he saw the 30mm machine gun moving from a large barn on the right side behind the “Y” shape crossroad).

On his left flank, so on the left side of the road leading to Halloville, men from “B” Company were approaching and all of the sudden Technical 5 Taylor yelled on them because they didn’t see the machine gun at the crossroad but mostly the four assault guns which could cause a lot of damage.

The leading squad took care of that enemy position and went on the bend out of the town on the road leading to Nonhigny with the Headquarters Section of the company. In the meantime, a bazooka team was dealing with an enemy 88mm Tank Destroyer but didn’t succeed in knocking it out at the northeast. It got stuck in a stream bed and its occupants escaped in the direction of Harbouey.

Captain Harvey who led the 2nd Platoon had also some difficulties by moving around Hill 331, he wanted to use the trail leading directly in town on a top of the hill but once there he was held up by two Mark IV Tanks which showed up with guns oriented to the west. Those tanks took position between the town and Hill 331 and fired on 2nd Lieutenant Kellett.

Being an obstacle, on Captain’s orders everyone from the 2nd Platoon charged down the hill toward the tanks and the village with everything men had. This was successful as tank crews abandoning their vehicles, started to withdraw toward Halloville but didn’t have the time as they were all shot down.

Sketch3 Map

Once in town, Captain Harvey knew his company was too disorganized to proceed farther as he was himself without the support of the other companies. He decided to go back to the “Y” shape crossroad and found out that “B” Company was held up by a machine gun, might be the same one holding up Technical 5 Taylor.

Angry, Captain shouted with all the strength he had in his voice: “Hell, there is no guns down here”. Fight’s up front”. He was angry as it could have been possible for “B” Company to swing around the village and to push forward the north to take position over there while Technical 5 Taylor was dealing with that machine gun.

During all this time, “A” Company made its way through the town passing between it and Hill 331, several prisoners were made and were now under the supervision of Headquarters Section. Technical 5 Taylor had two casualties by that time. A runner delivered him a message from Captain Harvey: “Regroup with your platoon and the rest of the company at the north”.

While “A” Company was taking position at the north, “B” Company came in town by meeting little or no active resistance.

The defense of Hill 331 was given to Lieutenant Robert H. Potter, from the 813th Tank Destroyer Battalion, commanding two platoons of seven M-18 Tank Destroyers. His tanks went around the hill to the south and up the hill off the southeast corner of the Halloville.

There is no proof, but it seemed Lieutenant Potter is responsible of the destruction of several enemy vehicles and guns in town while supporting the advance of Captain Harvey’s company. 

(Note: Four assault guns set up at the "Y" shape crossroad were might be destroyed by Lieutenant Potter's tanks.)

With his tanks, he did cut off the withdrawal of many enemy soldiers and vehicles, as they fled in the direction of Harbouey toward the Barbas – Nonhigny road.

“A” Company which made the main effort during Halloville action lost half his men. It jumped off with eight-one men and once the town under control forty of them were casualties. The enemy force defending Halloville was about four-hundred men from the 1st Battalion of the 708th Volksgrenadier Division, it is estimated that two-hundred of them have been killed or wounded during the battle, and one-hundred and forty were made prisoners.

A lot of equipment was also taken or destroyed as follows: Six assaults guns - Two Mark IV Tanks - 150mm gun - 88mm gun - Three trucks - Four drawn 75mm guns - Command car - Troop carrier.

Captain Raymond Harvey

Captain Raymond HarveyCaptain Raymond Harvey with his Medal of Honor for his actions during the Korean War.

During the Second World War, Captain Harvey was decorated several times, earning two Silver Stars, Distinguished Service Cross, two Bronze Stars and two Purple Hearts. Once WWII over, he joined the Army's Organized Reserve, and returned to active duty in 1948. In the 50's he served with the 7th Infantry Division in Korea. Commanding "C" Company of the 1st Battalion of the 17th Infantry Regiment of the 7th Infantry Division on March 9th, 1950, precisely during the battle of Taemi-dong, his mission was to lead the attack against Hill 1232.

Being pinned down by mortar and machine gun fire, he charged up the hill, tossed grenades into a pillbox, killing enemy soldiers inside, moving up to the next enemy trench, got five with his M1 Carbine and silenced out another machine gun position while he had a bullet in a chest. Wounded he refused medical care, unable to move forward his men finished the job and Hill 1232 had been taken. 

On July 5th, 1951, Captain Harvey would be presented the Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman. 

Medal of Honor Citation

Captain Harvey, Company C, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action. When his company was pinned down by a barrage of automatic-weapons fire from numerous well-entrenched emplacements, imperiling accomplishment of its mission, Captain Harvey braved a hail of fire and exploding grenades to advance to the first enemy machine-gun nest, killing its crew with grenades. Rushing to the edge of the next emplacement, he killed its crew with carbine fire. He then moved the 1st Platoon forward until it was again halted by a curtain of automatic fire from well-fortified hostile positions. Disregarding the hail of fire, he personally charged and neutralized a third emplacement. Miraculously escaping death from intense crossfire, Captain Harvey continued to lead the assault. Spotting an enemy pillbox well-camouflaged by logs, he moved close enough to sweep the emplacement with carbine fire and throw grenades through the openings, annihilating its five occupants. Though wounded he then turned to order the company forward, and, suffering agonizing pain, he continued to direct the reduction of the remaining hostile positions, refusing evacuation until assured that the mission would be accomplished. Captain Harvey's valorous and intrepid actions served as an inspiration to his company, reflecting the utmost glory upon himself and upholding the heroic traditions of the military service.

Written by Pierre Fallet - Normandy American Heroes.

Topics: WWII 79th Infantry Division, Medal of Honor recipient, Medal of Honor, France, Alsace

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