Tragedy Brehal
30 July, 1944

 

The morning of the 30th july Colonel Georg Read’s CCB was passed through the bridgehead and was put in lead of the Division. Leading the combat command was Captain Donald. L. Tilleman’s B Troop, 86th Cavelry Reconnaissaince Squadron, support by Captain Walter C. Smith’s light tank from D-company, 69th Tank Battalion.

In BREHAL, around a corner from the first buildings, they ran into a roadblock. Smith, who was at het point, pulled back his two tanks to permit P-47’s to attack the obstacle. After tactical air made about a dozen strafing passes, Smith advanced and rammed the roadblock opening a passage. At about the same time the advance guard, A-Company, 50th Armored Infantry Battalion, halted after receiving sporadic mortar and light artillery fire and dismounted from its half-tracks outside the town. The infantry was ordered to take BREHAL before the armor passed the town.

Meanwhile Smith and his two M5’s rolled down the main street, pausing long enough to throw a few rounds from their 37mm guns into the steeple and wooden doors of the town’s church where they thought the enemy fire was originating. A month later Colonel Stanton, from Middleton’s staff, recalled that when CCB was going through BREHAL “there was a tremendous amount of firing beause they thought there was a sniper in the church steeple. Actually they killed the French bellringer who was op there tolling for victory.

 

Roger Laubel had climbed the church tower to ring the bell in honour of his comrade. Down below, an American soldier saw a flash of a face peering from the tower, a favorites hiding-place for German snipers who had killed many Allied soldiers from such vantage-points.  The startled GI shouted: 'Sniper!' and a hail of instinctive gunfire was directed at the tower. Roger Laubel was hit mortally in the neck by just one bullet. As he fell, he clutched the bell, which tolled just once for  his friend. They lie close beside each other in the tiny cemetery on the lane to the coast in sight of Jersey.

Bréhal and the French did not forget the Jerseyman. His name is carved, among those of other resistance fighters, on the war memorial at St Lô. After the war his family attended a memorial service in the village, and the villagers still remember him. Now there is a fitting memorial in the Island of his birth.

After the incident, Tilleman’s cavalry devised the habit of dropping a trooper off to handle the town’s bellringer because they found an a number of occasions that the bells started ringing as the forward elements came abreast of the churh and the Germans responded with previously registered artillery fire.

By 1325 BREHAL was taken and the command group of CCB moved into the town square.


Vehicles of the 6th AD move through Brehal on their way south to Avranches

 

 

France—As American and Allied forces watch from trucks at the side of the road, civilians of Brehal, France, bring in German equipment left behind by the rapidly retreating Nazis. Little boy rides the barrel of a light infantry cannon being rolled through the town.
 
 
Two GI's are killed in action
 

Bréhal was liberated on the 30th of July 1944 during operation Cobra by the US 3rd Army under General Grow. Arthur Muthig was from from Florence, Alabama and Berlin Fenton from West Union, Ohio. They were serving in the 86th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron Mechanized.

Technician 4th Grade Arthur D. Muthig and Private Berlin A. Furton soldiers of the 6th Armored Division, died in the Brehal region during Patton’s push into the area.