Horace L. Sanders
Le 284e bataillon d’infanterie
’Utah Beach à Fontainebleau
via Étampes et Maisse
     Nous citons ici largement le journal du 284e bataillon dartillerie de campagne de larmée des États-Unis dAmérique, unité de la troisième armée du Général Patton, tel quil a été rédigé bien après les événements par Horace L. Sanders, lieutenant-colonel à lépoque des faits. Le 22 août 1945, à 15 km d’Étampes, ce bataillon apprend dune Française que la ville vient dêtre libérée. Deux jours plus tard il pénètre lui-même dans Étampes où il voit des traces des combats. Ensuite il oblique, via Maisse, vers Fontainebleau, en direction de lAllemagne et de la victoire finale.
Helpmate Ready

The After Action Reports of the 284th Field Artillery Battalion during World War II 

     Dedicated to those brave comrades who accompanied us to the far shores and who gave their lives that the principles of free peoples might continue to live.


     As a lieutenant colonel of Field Artillery in 1944, it was my great privilege to be assigned to command the 284th Field Artillery Battalion through the period of travel to Europe and combat across Germany. Never in my experience, have I worked with a group of men who gave so unstintingly of their energies, and in some case of their lives, to provide the infantry in front of them with ready and accurate artillery fire. There is no way of estimating the number of infantrymen who returned to this country after the war as a direct result of the fire which the 284th Field Artillery Battalion so accurately laid down in front of them. That the battalion did perform its mission with valor and gallantry is attested by the fine commendations received from some of the hard-fighting units which the battalion supported. I consider that I was honored in the fact that I was permitted to command this unit throughout the trying days of 1944 and 1945. The fondest memories of my career will ever remain those days of association with the men of Helpmate.

Horace L. Sanders
Colonel, Artillery
United States Army.

[…] [p.1]

Chapter 1
The Birth of the 284th Field Artillery Battalion

     The 284th Field Artillery Battalion was formally activated on 25 June, 1943, at Camp Rucker, Alabama.



Chapter 8
From Normandy Beaches to the Moselle

     As the ships of the convoy bearing the battalion slipped into the immense artificial harbor off the coast of Normandy, officers and men were impressed with the tremendous number of ships concentrated along that short stretch of coast. Boats — hundreds of them — as far as the eye could reach, all were there for one identical purpose. All of them were not on the surface, however. Scattered about in the roadstead were hulks of ships which had been brought from England and sunk to form the artificial harbor and others which had not survived the initial days of fighting. The ships bearing the battalion anchored just off Utah Beach, the beach made famous by the men who had died there sixty-eight days earlier gaining a foothold upon the continent of Europe. Indications of the fierce fighting which had taken place on the beach and along its exits were easily seen from the ships anchored offshore.
     Early in the morning of 14 August, lighters and LCTs (Landing craft, tank) moved in alongside the Wolcott to take off the load of men and equipment. The men went over the side on landing nets, and crawled down into the waiting craft. The trucks went over the side in slings lowered from the booms of the ship. Lighters and the LCTs then made the trip in to the beach where they unloaded across the beach, lighters using small steel piers and the LCTs running up onto the beach and opening their doors to disgorge their cargo of men and vehicles. From the beach, the batteries were led to assigned assembly areas south of the beach exits.

     Not so fortunate were the other two ships carrying the battalion. By the time that the lighters were ready to work the other ships, a storm had come up, making the seas too rough for the small craft to come alongside the Victory ships. High seas continued until the 17th of August when lightering was resumed and the rest of the battalion came ashore.

     The first night that the entire battalion spent ashore in France was spent in the assembly area just in rear of Utah Beach, not far from the town of Ste. Mere Eglise, made famous by the airborne soldiers of the D-day invasion. Here, the men of the batteries saw the first evidence of the power of the landmines used by the enemy. In the center of one of the battery areas was the hulk
[p.32] of an American ammunition truck which had run across a Teller mine, and had been destroyed. That night, few men slept; the newness of being in the combat zone was too strong. Later, the men of the 284th were to become accustomed to sleeping through anything but a direct hit; however, on those first few nights, not many men slept well. Because of the fact that they were all awake, practically every man of the battalion received his first introduction to “Bedcheck Charlie” that night. Bedcheck Charlie was a Nazi plane which made almost a nightly reconnaissance over the American lines, looking for targets. He flew high overhead, watching for a light to show on the ground but, needless to say, light discipline was excellent.

     On 18 August, the battalion moved from the transient assembly area to the forward staging area in the vicinity of Landivy. On this march, the battalion passed through the area of the famous Saint Lo Breakthrough. The roads through the town of Carentan were still impassable and it was necessary to detour the town. The destruction had been terrific and repairs had not yet been made. Coutance, Granville and Avranches were similarly damaged. Buildings had been knocked down into the streets and cattle wandered aimlessly through the outskirts of the towns. The villagers were standing along the sides of the roads watching the American troops pouring forward toward the battle.

     The roads were dusty and goggles made little or no difference. Men and equipment were covered by a deep film of dust before the column had progressed five miles. Shortly after noon, the battalion closed in the assembly area south of Landivy and settled down to await orders. While in the assembly area, the men had their first glimpse of the enemy they had come to destroy; several thousand prisoners of war passed the bivouac on their way to the POW camps. It was also in this area that the non-coms and the officers saw for the first time positions which had been occupied by an artillery battalion in combat. All of them were taken on a tour of a battalion area which had been occupied by the 915th Field Artillery Battalion of the 90th Infantry Division during the days immediately following the Saint Lo Breakthrough.

Through the Outpost Lines and Back

     On the afternoon of the 19th of August, orders were received which were to start the battalion off on what was probably the oddest introduction to combat experienced by an artillery battalion during the war. The events set in motion by these orders were to take up the next forty hours or so, and were to bring the battalion closer to actual close combat than it was to experience as a unit through the rest of combat in Europe.

     About three o’clock, Colonel Sanders and Captain Sparra were called back to the assembly area headquarters to receive the orders for the battalion. They returned in a short time and the Colonel immediately called for the battery commanders. It was at that meeting that he issued his first combat order of the war. The essence of the instructions were that the Colonel and Captain Sparra were to leave at once to report to the command post of the XX Corps Artillery which was located in Chartres. The battalion, under command
[p.33] of the Battalion Executive, Major Williams, would march at 0600, 20 August, preceded by a route-marking party, to a rendezvous point near Courville, a town about fifteen miles west of Chartres. There the Colonel would meet the battalion with definite orders as to positions and missions. The 284th Field Artillery Battalion was out to catch up with the swiftly-moving war.

     Colonel Sanders, Captain Sparra, Sergeant Alloway and Corporal Hunter left in the Colonel’s command car as soon as the orders had been given. Their experience that evening was interesting and gave them their first encounter with the “fog of war”’. The orders required the Colonel to report to the XX Corps Artillery CP in the city of Chartres. However, nightfall caught them just short of Courville, still fifteen miles from Chartres, and the Colonel decided to stop off at the first CP they came to and stay there for the night, rather than go dashing about in the combat zone after dark. The did encounter a CP (command post) guard on the road and turned in to find out what unit was going to play host to them that night. Imagine their surprise to learn that they had accidentally stumbled onto the XX Corps Artillery CP and that, if they had gone on to Chartres, they would have found themselves right in the middle of the hot fight then going on for that city.

     The next morning, after getting their orders, the Colonel and Captain Sparra left XX Corps Artillery CP and went in search of the CP of the 193rd Field Artillery Group to which the battalion was now attached. This CP they located near a small village called Gasville, just northeast of Chartres. There, the Colonel received orders to the effect that he was to meet the battalion and lead it to an assembly area near Gasville. However, the Group Commander stressed the fact that the group was then under orders to displace to the east and, if the Group Commander did not meet the Colonel at the crossroad in Gasville when the battalion arrived, the 284th was to march through a succession of towns which the Group Commander designated until it caught up with the group. The Colonel then left to go to meet the battalion at Courville as had been previously arranged.

     Meanwhile, the battalion had departed the assembly area at Landivy as scheduled and had marched steadily across France. Meals had been eaten “on the fly”, K-rations washed down with cider, which the French farm people had tossed into the trucks as the column went down the road. At about 1700, the column closed on the route-marking party which the Colonel had met and stopped. A new marker party was quickly assembled and the column started on for the Gasville assembly area. Upon arriving at the Gasville crossroad, no representative of the group was there to meet the battalion so the Battalion Commander ordered a thirty minute halt to eat another K-ration and to distribute new maps inasmuch as the battalion had marched completely off the maps which had been issued in Normandy.

     The battalion reconnaissance party, including battery parties, left immediately ahead of the battalion column and traveling at thirty miles an hour while the battalion marched at twenty, gained a considerable distance on the main column. As the 284th moved eastward along the designated route, interesting sights of battle greeted the newcomers. Off to the right of the road, the men of
[p.34] the 284th watched some American tanks engage in a spirited fight with a small German unit in some woods. Then the tank fight was behind the battalion and the numbers of American soldiers became fewer and fewer. The welcome from the French became more and more hysterical as the numbers of American soldiers decreased. The 284th did not realize it but it was off on a “liberation spree”. As one town after another gave the battalion a tearful welcome, the Colonel became more and more concerned about the situation. Something had to be wrong. The definite orders had been to march along the specified route until met by the group; to turn back, was to risk having the unit branded as afraid of its shadow on its first day on the battlefield; to go forward, was to run the risk of a disaster. Finally, the Colonel decided that one more town was all that the battalion would pass though without gaining more definite information. In that next town, Captain MacPartland located a Frenchwoman who could speak English and she was interrogated to find out where the Germans were.

     She was delighted to give us information about the enemy whom she hoped we would drive out of France that very night. As a matter of fact, she could almost point out the enemy to the Colonel. He learned from her that the German forces had withdrawn from that town to the next town, Etampes, fifteen kilometres away (nine short American miles). There, the enemy had a force estimated to be two Panzer Grenadier Regiments. More disturbing, however, was the fact that a heavy patrol, reinforced by tanks and self-propelled 88’s would be along at any minute.

     Things moved fast after that. The Colonel ordered Battery “A” to put two guns into action immediately to cover a turn-around by the battalion. The column looped out into a field and started its way westward with no qualms about turning its back on the enemy. That was no place for a brand new artillery outfit which was merely trying to find the war. Just after completing the turn-around maneuver, a messenger from group arrived and told the Colonel that the 284th was to return to the American lines and stay behind the infantry thereafter. The Colonel’s “horse-drawn artillery vocabulary” came into full play as he told the group staff officer what he thought of the group staff. The battalion moved out at a brisk pace, heading for those outpost lines which were twenty-five miles away. The poor French people could not understand what had happened; they had been liberated and now they were being “de-liberated” and all by the same soldiers.

     Just as darkness fell, it began to rain; it rained as only French skies can rain. Visibility was reduced to slightly more than the radiator of the vehicles and the rate of march was cut to a snail’s pace. The Colonel led the column, hoping that he could get the vehicles in through the outpost line without having a trigger-happy infantryman decide to shoot first and challenge later. In the storm, the Colonel lost radio contact with the battalion but continued on until he reached the Gasville area. Then, to his utter chagrin and complete disgust, he found that all that he had behind him was the battalion reconnaissance and battery reconnaissance parties. With the coming of the storm, and the increase in tension on the drivers, the fatigue of the long march made itself felt. Major Williams, realizing that soon there might be a number of vehicles go into the [p.35] ditch, decided to pull the column off the road and spend the night. A field was selected east of Santeuil and the battalion went into “hedgehog” defensive positions. Next morning, at daybreak, the battalion started westward to rejoin the American forces. At Santeuil, the major put the battalion into defensive firing positions and the battalion sat down to wait for the war to catch up with them.

     Shortly after daylight on the 21st of August, the advance guard of the 11th Infantry began its advance to the east from the area of Chartres. After a march of several miles, during which the advance guard carefully sought out the enemy and was alert to any possible ambush, the surprised infantrymen discovered the 284th casually awaiting their arrival. It has been reliably reported that there were many expression of profane disgust by the doughboys who were later to become the favorites of the men of the battalion. Certain wits of the 284th promptly coined a new descriptive name for the unit, and some mail went out from the batteries with return addresses indicating that the writers were members of the “284th Artillery-Reconnaissance Battalion.”

     So ended the first two days of action by the battalion.

     The subject of names for the battalion now turns to the official name which the 284th was to bear throughout the war and one which became the watch-word of every man who was ever carried on the rolls of the battalion. Upon arrival in Normandy, the new Third Army Signal Operating Instructions was distributed. From it, it was learned that the telephone code name for the 284th was “Helpmate.” The basic intent of telephone code names was to provide a semi-secret phonetic means of quickly identifying unit in telephone conversation. They had no relation to the mission of the unit; for example, XX Corps Artillery Headquarters was “Coffee”, the 5th Infantry Division was “Dynamite”, the 19th Field Artillery Battalion was “Dreamer”, and the 204th Field Artillery Group Headquarters was “Highpockets.” However, through the accident of Fate, the 284th was assigned a code name which typified the normal mission of a corps light artillery battalion and it came to signify the attitude and reputation of the 284th Field Artillery Battalion. From the firing of the first round, it became a matter of pride that the cry “Helpmate Ready” must lead all others as artillery battalions reported ready to fire a TOT (time on target) mission. From the first days of combat, the expression “Helpmate Ready” was to signify the willingness of the officers and men of the 284th to assume any burden and to undertake any task, however dangerous, in order to hasten the end of the war.

Montereau, Chateau Thierry, Verdun and Gorze

     After recovering from its unorthodox introduction to the battlefield, the battalion joined the column of the 193rd Field Artillery Group. On the evening of the 21st, firing positions were occupied just west of Sanville. No rounds were fired from these positions but a wild night wondering what was causing all of the indiscriminate carbine fire in the area of the 282nd Field Artillery Battalion, which was in position alongside the 284th. It was learned in the morning that the men of the 282nd had spent the night in combat with shadows. From that
[p.36] experience, the men of the 284th took another valuable lesson  — that indiscriminate firing by trigger — happy artillerymen would win no battles.

     Late the next day, the battalion moved to
Maisse, closing in an assembly area at 0045 hours, 23 August. On the move to Maisse, the column marched through the city of Etampes. At the outskirts of the city, all personnel saw the debris of battle, the wrecked vehicles, blood-soaked bandages, and for the first time, the German midget remote-controlled tank which carried only explosives and was directed toward the American positions where it was exploded by remote control. Here was seen indications of what the battalion would have run into two nights earlier if Lady Luck had not called off the excursion of the battalion beyond the American outpost line. From Maisse, the battalion moved to firing positions in the vicinity of Macherin, closing in the new area at approximately 2050 hours on the 23rd. So far, the battalion had tried mightily to get into the fight, but had not fired a round and had not as yet been fired upon. Those conditions were soon to change, however.

     During the late afternoon of 24 August, the Battalion Commander, with the Battery Commanders, left the Macherin area to report to the 5th Infantry Division Artillery command post for orders. Instructions were obtained to the effect that the battalion was to reinforce the fires of the 46th Field Artillery Battalion which was the combat-team partner of the 10th Infantry regiment. The 10th Infantry was to attack across the Seine River at Montereau in order to open the way for the eastward drive of the Third Army in this particular sector. By the time that the reconnaissance party had arrived at the command post of the 46th Field Artillery Battalion, dusk had already fallen. Survey parties of the 46th, however, had already extended survey control into the general area which the battalion was to occupy. By the time that the Colonel had received enough information to start the reconnaissance for battery positions, night had arrived. The battery commanders had their first experience in organizing a combat position in complete darkness. It was a new, and entirely different, experience to huddle under a raincoat with a hooded flashlight to study maps and determine where each installation of batteries would go. This time it was a far greater enemy facing the offcers and men of the battalion than the umpires who had checked on light discipline in the maneuver area. By midnight, all of the preliminary work in the position area had been completed and the reconnaissance parties awaited the arrival of the firing batteries.

     At 0300 on the 25th, the batteries began their march from the Macherin area. The movement of the column was smoothly handled and finally, the waiting guides was trucks rolling ghostlike out of the moonlit fog. Fortunately, a full moon shown upon the fog and made it fairly easy to march along the narrow, winding French roads. By early morning, an hour or so before daylight, the 284th was in position for its first action of the war. From the vicinity of the village of Villecerf, the battalion was to fire only some 60 rounds at the enemy but it was the start. The first firing was the signal for most of the men in the battalion to hit their slit trenches; it was to be some little time before everyone was to be able to tell whether a round was “incoming mail” or was on the way out. However, despite the initial nervousness, the men of the battalion
[p.37] established in the modest engagement the meaning of the report “Helpmate Ready.”

     It was here that the battalion took its first losses. Lieutenant Leon L. Lambach, the forward observer of Battery “A” was severely wounded and his assistant, Sergeant Vincent Manno, was slightly wounded. Lieutenant Lambach was evacuated to England and never did rejoin the battalion. Sergeant Manno was evacuated to the rear but returned later and eventually earned the Bronze Star for meritorious service and added an Oak Leaf cluster to his Purple Heart. On the 25th of August, the battalion was relieved from attachment to the 193rd FA Group and was attached to the 5th Infantry Division. This was to be the beginning of a close association with the Red Diamond Division and one which was to end with the officers and men of the battalion feeling that they were an integral part of the division. Under the guidance of the 5th Division Artillery, the battalion was soon to receive its real baptism of fire and before its attachment was terminated, it was to be rated on of the best battalions in the XX Corps Artillery. However, such developments were still far in the future, and the battalion turned its hand to the mission of reinforcing the fires of the organic battalions of the 5th Infantry Division wherever needed.

     Immediately upon begin attached to the division, orders were received to march to the vicinity of Fontainbleu to join the 19th Field Artillery Battalion in support of the 11th Infantry regiment. The battalion crossed the Seine River at the northern outskirts of Fontainbleu and took up firing positions just east of the river. Here 70 rounds were fired in support of a flank attack upon the city of Paris. From the position area, many were the glances sent northward, as the men of the battalion tried in vain to see some portion of the skyline of the famous city which they were by-passing.



1 July to 13th July 1944 - at sea HMS Dominion Monarch   
14 July to 10 August, 1944 - Abergavenny, Wales   
12 August to 14 August, 1944 - SS Mark Hopkins   
16 August to 17 August, 1944 - Utah Beach, France   
18 August to 19 August, 1944 - Landivy, France   
20 August, 1944 - Santeuil, France   
21 August, 1944 - Sanville, France   
22 August, 1944 - Maisse, France   
23 & 24 August, 1944 - Macherin, France   
25 August, 1944 - Hericy, France   
26 August, 1944 - Montereau, France (first firing)   
27 August, 1944 - Nangis, France   
28 August, 1944 - Chateau Thierry, France   
29 August, 1944 - Pontavert, France   
30 August, 1944 - Taissy, France   
31 August, 1944 - Regret, France   
1 September, 1944 - Verdun, France (bombed first time)   
2 September, 1944 - Fort du Rozellier, France   
3 & 4 September, 1944 - Ronvoux, France   
5 & 6 September, 1944 - St. Hillaire, France   
7 September, 1944 - Buxieres, France   
8 to 17 September, 1944 - Gorze, France   
18 to 29 September, 1944 - la Lobe (near Arry) , France   
30 September to 21 October, 1944 - Gorze, France   
22 October to 14 November, 1944 - la Lobe (near Arry), France   
15 to 23 November, 1944 - Coin-les-Cuvry, France   
24 November, 1944 - Servigny-les-Raville, France   
25 & 26 November, 1944 - Halling, France   
27 & 28 November, 1944 - Dalem, France   
29 November to 3 December, 1944 - Berweiler, France   
4 to 21 December, 1944 - Pikard, Germany   
22 December,1944 to 27 January, 1945 - Apach, France   
28 January to 20 February, 1945 - Besch, Germany   
21 to 25 February, 1945 - Freudenburg, Germany   
26 February, 1945 - Hamm, Germany   
27 February to 14 March, 1945 - Serrig, Germany   
15 March, 1945 - Gramith, Germany   
16 March, 1945 - Britten, Germany   
17 March, 1945 - Bachen, Germany   
18 March, 1945 - Gudesweiler, Germany   
19 March, 1945 - Kusel, Germany   
20 March, 1945 - Mehlingen, Germany   
21 to 23 March, 1945 - Ungstein, Germany   
24 & 25 March, 1945 - Kronenberg, Germany   
26 March, 1945 - Horrweiler, Germany   
27 March, 1945 - Gonsenheim, Germany   
28 March, 1945 - Mombach, Germany   
29 to 31 March, 1945 - Erbenheim, Germany    
1 & 2 April, 1945 - Dissen, Germany   
3 April, 1945 - Rosengarten, Germany   
4 April, 1945 - Dornberg, Germany   
5 April, 1945 - Niedervellmar, Germany   
6 & 7 April, 1945 - Guxhagen, Germany   
8 April, 1945 - Kammerbach, Germany   
9 April, 1945 - Bad Sooden, Germany   
10 April, 1945 - Hausen, Germany   
11 to 14 April, 1945 - Walschleben, Germany   
15 to 20 April, 1945 - Eisenberg, Germany   
21 April, 1945 - Diepersdorf, Germany   
22 April, 1945 -  Neumarkt, Germany   
23 April, 1945 - Schwarze, Germany   
24 April, 1945 - Endorf, Germany   
25 to 28 April, 1945 - Saxburg, Germany   
29 April, 1945 - Peising, Germany   
30 April, 1945 - Forst, Germany   
1 May, 1945 - Geratsberg, Germany   
2 May, 1945 - Gangkofen, Germany    
3 May, 1945 - Kirchberg, Germany   
4 to 12 May, 1945 - Burghol, Germany  (End of War)   
13 to 16 May, 1945 - Ebenhausen, Germany   
17 May to 5 June, 1945 - Welluch, Germany   
6 June, 1945 - Munich, Germany   
Source:, en ligne en 2003.


     Horace L. SANDERS (général de brigade retraité de l’Armée étatsunienne, lieutenant-colonel en 1944), «Helpmate Ready, the After Action Reports of the 284th Field Artillery Battalion during World War II» [témoignage édité par Ronni & Jerri Polson et publié par Roy A. Roeser], in 284th Field Artillery Battalion. World War II Third Army. Official Site [“This unit was part of General Patton's Third Army and supported many infantry units in northern France, Rhine area and invasion of southern Germany.”],, 14 juin 2001 (en ligne en 2003), pp. 31-37 pour ce qui concerne strictement Étampes.
Autres sources
     Gaston BEAU, «La libération d’Étampes. Notes», in Étampes. Bulletin Municipal (1er semestre 1975), pp. 7-8. Dont une saisie par le Corpus Étampois, 2003. 

     P. H. de MENIBUS, «La libération d’Étampes. Un récit», in Étampes. Bulletin Municipal (1er semestre 1975), p. 8. Dont une saisie par le Corpus Étampois, 2003. 
     Bernard GINESTE [éd.], «Paroisse Saint-Gilles: Liste des victimes du bombardement d’Étampes du 10 juin 1944», in Corpus Étampois,, 2003. 
     Bernard GINESTE [éd.], «Robert Rameau: Étampes bombardé (7 clichés du 11 juin 1944)», in Corpus Étampois,, 2003. 
     Samuel J. LEWIS, «Reconnaissance: Fighting on the Upper Seine River, August 1944», in Roger J. SPILLER [éd.], Combined Arms Battle Since 1939, Ft. Leavenworth (Kansas, USA), Army Command and General Staff College Press, 1992, pp. 213-219. Dont une citation in-extenso dans la page, en ligne en 2003, reprise par
le Corpus Étampois, 2003.

G.T. KELLEY, John HAGGERTY, Ray INGHAM, «Bombardement d’Étampes-Mondésir (Journaux de guerre des 532e, 533e et 535e escadrons de bombardiers, 1er août 1944)», in Corpus Étampois,, 2003. 
Toute critique, toute correction ou toute information seront les bienvenues.
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