T his is a personal timeline of Melvin W. Johnson, the 314th Infantry Regiment, & the 79th Infantry Division. From Iowa to Utah Beach and across France.
10 October 1914
Born Melvin Wallace Johnson to Alpha F. Johnson and Minnie Fay (Schlumbohm) Johnson of Tama, Iowa.
23 May 1923
Mother dies of liver cancer in Omaha, Nebraska. Melvin moves to Perry with his father while Evelyn remains in Atlantic living with Gus above the Atlantic Cafe.
Lived with Alfred and stepmother, Allie in Perry, Iowa. Graduated from Perry High School.
Attended Drake University for one year, majoring in Latin.
Attended Central College in Pella, Iowa. Melvin was on the Debate Team, a reporter for the campus paper, The RAY, a member of the Lambda Epsilon Phi Literary Society, Zeta Sigma Pi and Omicron Zeta.
Meets Dorothy Bishop at a dance.
24 June 1939
Marries Dorothy Bishop.
7 March 1943
Elaine Kathryn Ketchum is born in Sioux City, Iowa.
12 July 1943
Inducted into the United States Army at the Logan, Iowa Courthouse. Reports to Leavenworth, Kansas for processing into the Army.
7 Aug 1943
Temporarily promoted to corporal.
29 Oct 1943
Arrives at Camp Wolters, Texas.
1 Nov 1943
Boot Camp begins at Camp Wolters, Texas, an Infantry Replacement Regiment Training Center.
14 Mar 1944
Arrives Fort Meade, Maryland for processing.
1 Jun 1944
Loading artillery in England prior to the D-Day Invasion.
6 Jun 1944
Allied troops invade Europe.
22 Jun 1944
Melvin first mentions in his letters that he is sleeping in foxholes, indicating indirectly that he is now in France. His letters still indicate that he was with Infantry Company F. While not joining the 314th Infantry Regiment, 79th Infantry Division until June 27th, it appears he is close behind.
26 Jun 1944
The 79th Infantry Division secures the port city of Cherbourg after many days of intense battle.
27 Jun 1944
The 314th Infantry Regiment moves southeast from Cherbourg, across a tributary of the Douve River to capture Hill 121. It is here, that the morning report indicates that Melvin joins the 314th, transferred from the 86th Replacement Battalion APO 873 US Army.
4 Jul 1944
Captured Hill 121. Reached Bolleville by evening.
8 Jul 1944
Captured La Haye du Puits.
9 Jul 1944
Captured Hill 84.
10 Jul 1944
St. Nicolas de Pierre Pont.
11 Jul 1944
12 Jul 1944
19 Jul 1944
26 Jul 1944
The 79th's plans of attack called for the 314th to follow the 28th across the river after the 8th Div. had secured the high ground southeast of Lessay. Driving with an intensity the enemy was powerless to withstand, corps units smashed across the Ay River, and the German rout in Normandy shifted into high gear. Lessay was captured.
28 Jul 1944
Perrier. Three moves on this date.
30 Jul 1944
31 Jul 1944
La Lucerne D'Autremer.
1 Aug 1944
2 Aug 1944
3 Aug 1944
5 Aug 1944
6 Aug 1944
8 Aug 1944
Liberated Le Mans.
10 Aug 1944
11 Aug 1944
12 Aug 1944
13 Aug 1944
La Mele Sur Sarthe.
15 Aug 1944
Neron. The Division stayed in the area of Nogent Le Roi.
19 Aug 1944
A 314th Regimental Task Force pushes into Mantes-Gassicourt, reporting the sector cleared.
20 Aug 1944
The 314th Regiment crosses the River Seine.
21 Aug 1944
24 Aug 1944
The rearrangement of Army boundaries puts XV Corps and the 79th Infantry Division into the First Army.
27 Aug 1944
Fontenay St. Pere.
30 Aug 1944
79th Infantry Division ordered to the Belgian border. In 72 hours they traveled 180 miles to arrive in the assembly area.
31 Aug 1944
1 Sep 1944
2 Sep 1944
Sameon (Belgian border).
9 Sep 1944
Assembled in the Reims area where the 79th Infantry Division learned they were now part of Patton's Third Army.
10 Sep 1944
Assembled in the Joinville area.
12 Sep 1944
The 314th attacks and captures Charmes.
13 Sep 1944
The 1st Battalion of the 314th secures a bridgehead across the Moselle River.
18 Sep 1944
Bing Crosby performs at a USO show. He is only 15 minutes into the show for the 314th Infantry when they have to move out in the direction of Luneville, in the vicinity of Moriviller.
19 Sep 1944
20 Sep 1944
Attacks and clears Gerberville.
21 Sep 1944
29 Sep 1944
Moncel (crossed the Meurthe River). The 79th Division passed to the 7th Army. By this time, the enemy sensed that his last hope rested on the natural barriers of the outer defense perimeter of Germany proper. At his back were the Meurthe River, the Forret de Parroy, the Vosges foothills and the Rhine. Those were to be sites of last-ditch stand. "We climbed fort du Roule and we crossed the Meurthe River," said Lt. Col. Ernest R. Purvis Co. of the 314th. "If we had to do one of the two over, we'd take Fort du Roule every time. Compared with this operation, Fort du Roule was a picnic." The 3rd Bn. made contact with the enemy's Meurthe River line at Frambois where a German force larger than battalion held the river proper and a comparable force was "active reserve" in a wooded strip just beyond the river valley. Emplaced machine guns and dug-in tanks bracketed the river's breast deep fords and blown bridge sites with a murderous action fire. Battalion noncom's even now refer to the Frambois action as " Little D-Day". When the smoke of battle lifted two days later, the Meurthe river line was no more in the wooded strip beyond the 3rd Bn. was mopping up.
1 Oct 1944
By this date, the Division had advanced one-third of the way through the Foret de Parroy.
2 Oct 1944
Vicinity of Luneville.
9 Oct 1944
Forest defenses collapse and all units are able to reach the east edge.
10 Oct 1944
11 Oct 1944
13 Oct 1944
16 Oct 1944
At 0430, 3rd Bn 314th was attacked by a Bn of enemy Infantry supported by 9 tanks. Nearly 50 Germans were captured during this action. 313th and 314th receive heavy artillery and mortar fire. A large enemy column of vehicles, horse-drawn wagons, and foot troops was seen near Montigny. Fire from 749th Tank Batallion artillery claimed 10 vehicles, 2 horse-drawn wagons and injured about 150 troops. One "B" Co. tk put out of action by hitting mines. After dark, ... 313th ... some Germans could be heard a few hundred yards in front ... enemy recovered some of position lost previous day with 4 tanks and Inf "C" Co 2 tks in marsh up to hill.
18 Oct 1944
Captured the high ground east of Embermenil.
23 Oct 1944
Finally relieved after 127 consecutive days of combat. Rested in and around the Luneville/Lamath area.
11 Nov 1944
13 Nov 1944
Hablainville. Against substantially increased resistance and harassing artillery fire, the division launched its drive into the Vosges foothills. Driving in a U-shaped wedge that split the 708th Volksgrenadier Division, bridged on both flanks, the 79th was poised and waiting to exploit the 2nd French Armored Divisions magnificent penetration of the Saverne Pass. Leveling enemy defenses near Blamont and Cirey, it streamed through the pass and fanned across the face of Alsace, enveloping Hagenau and Bischwiller and blasting the first of the concentric defensive positions that constitute the Siegfried line.
14 Nov 1944
The Second Battalion captures Migneville. During this time, the regiment also captured Halloville and the town of Barbas, south of Blamont.
15 Nov 1944
Halloville and Harbouey taken by 314th and 315th. 1st Bn 315th with "C" Co to support 114th in attack. 8 tanks supported advance to take Halloville, ... Harbouey. 3 enemy tanks obs near town. 7 enemy assault guns and 4 AT guns destroyed, 100 Pws. Only 5 tanks left for attack. 100 PWs at Harbouey. 7 enemy Mark IV assault guns and 4 AT guns destroyed by "B" Co. 813 TD Bn knocked out 3 Mark IV tanks, 2 Mark IV tanks, 1 ½ track, 1 self-propelled gun, 2 staff cars.
16 Nov 1944
Private Melvin Johnson mortally wounded. Morning report reads:
16 Nov 1944
Station: Pettonville, 1 mi W
WV2593, Nord de Guerre Zone
37483507 Johnson, Melvin W (504)
Fr dy to trfd SWA 51st Evac Hosp. Drpd
From duty to transferred severely wounded in action 51st Evac Hosp. Dropped from assignment.
WV2593 (modified British system of coordinates) roughly translates to the coordinates below where HQ was located:
Latitude : 48° 31' 58'' N (48.53267 °)
Longitude : 6° 43' 16'' E ( 6.72098 °)
18 Nov 1944
Private Melvin Johnson dies from his wounds. He is later buried at Epinal.
His Final Days
79th Infantry, Ancerville to Fremonville
On 9 November, field orders came down for the 314th Infantry Regiment and the 79th Infantry Division: Take the Saverne Gap in the Vosges Mountains. The Vosges were heavily defended by the Germans who were spread out, staggered, in the old World War One pillboxes and machine gun strong points. The positions were dotted along the mountainside, instead of uniformly deployed at the ridge line. The 7th Army's plans were the smash the line wide open and beat the German defenses to the Saverne Gap to take the city of Strasbourg. XV Corps - the 44th on the left, the 79th on the right, with the 2nd French Armored closing in behind, were dispatched to Sarrebourg on the western side of the Vosges. The 79th's zone ran from Ancerviller to Nitting, five miles northeast of Hattigny.
The 314th's first objective lay north of Harbouey, northeast of Ancerviller. Under cover of darkness with silence and secrecy stressed, on 12 November, the 314th moved to the assault assembly area southwest of Montigny. The situation map showed eleven high point objectives (designated numerically and by terrain markings) along the line between the 314th and 315th positions. Once these eleven points were taken, the 2nd French Armored could roll in and the breakthrough would be underway. 1st BN was assigned Points 1, 2, 3, and 3A, while 2nd BN took Points 4 and 5 - all along one sweeping ridge. B and C/Companies were moved to the slopes of Point 1 late the night of 12 November for a surprise attack at dawn 13 November.
It was common knowledge that German troops loved their comfort, so most were pulled off the line at night and billeted. The rainy conditions turned to snow early 13 November, and the assault troops' stealth paid off as they took Point 1 by 0815. Point 2 wasn't as easy. The troops in B/Co dodged artillery and mortar rounds, as well as anti-tank fire losing one of their support tanks, and eventually had to retreat and regroup. B/Co lost 47 men in the failed advance. The 2nd BN advance met little resistance. F/Co, leading point, took the battalion through the woods, and even though they were hit with small arms fire along the way, they took both Points 4 and 5 by early afternoon. 2nd BN had control of the major road between Domevre and Montigny.
B/Co regrouped and took off at 1410 to secure Point 2. In just under two hours of battle, it was taken. Moving on to secure Points 3 and 3A, 1st BN caught sporadic artillery fire, but reported success at 1700. L/Co was brought up to bridge the gap between the 314th and the 315th's positions. The 315th had yet to make their objective of Ancerviller which left the 314th with no flanking cover. And the enemy's main line still lay ahead.
On 14 November, the 3rd BN moved into the attack at 1115 with a battalion from the 315th to begin securing the next four Points: 6, 7, 8, and 9. Points 6 and 7 were taken, but darkness halted troops for the night. 1st BN sent C/Co to 7A and they drew artillery fire. 2nd BN moved forward to assemble near Point 6 to support 3rd's drive the next day. Once the 315th had advanced to equal points in line with the 314th, 3rd BN jumped off to take Points 8 and 9. The 2nd BN advanced with the 315th to Points 10 and 11. By 1530, 15 November, 2nd BN had F and G/Co occupying Point 10, E/Co at Point 11, and 3rd BNs I/Co held Point 8. The rest of 3rd secured Point 9. Resistance was minimal, but every move was punctuated with mortar and artillery. All eleven points were held by the 79th Division.
At 1620, orders from Division called for a patrol to capture the bridge and crossroads south of Fremonville on the Vesouze River. The same river the 314th had crossed at Marainviller and Croismare on the trek to Foret de Parroy. The orders called for the bridge to be taken at night. The Regiment was to follow the patrols to Fremonville and send a force over to secure Barbas. 1st BN was given the Barbas assignment, while 2nd and 3rd took the Fremonville assault. As the plans were being drawn, the CP was being showered by German artillery. Orders were modified as a patrol reported that Fremonville's bridgehead was intact and defended by a squad of German infantry. The attack was reschedule for the next morning.
At 0840, 16 November, the 2nd BN moved out headed to Fremonville. E/Co took immediate small arms fire and artillery, halting them fast - while G/Co faced artillery coming in from German positions southeast of Blamont. 1st BN headed into the woods south of Barbas, with C/Co on point, and captured 25 Germans at an outpost along the path. Entering Barbas, there were German tanks and infantry held up there, and a squad worked its way house-to-house throughout the town. These troops witnessed four tanks and some 300 German infantry leaving Barbas by the back road to Blamont. B/Co remained in Barbas, while A and C/Companies moved to a position south of Blamont on a ridge line.
By that night, 3rd BN was located between Points 10 and 11 (somewhere in this vicinity, Pvt. Johnson sustained his head injury that would claim his life 2 days later on November 18) - near the main road to Blamont, and 2nd BN a little north of Point 11. 2nd sent out a patrol to the Fremonville bridge, but it was turned back by small arms fire coming from the woods past Point 11. A second patrol was dispatched to find an alternate route around the right side of the woods, but reported back that Germans were on both banks of the Vesouze. 1st BN spent the night lobbing grenades back and forth with the German troops until the enemy got tired of it. 3rd BN was patrolling the woods west of Point 11, and at 0515, 17 November, they moved in.
Two companies of the 3rd BN had made it to the woods by 0800, but were receiving fire from both sides and were quickly pinned down. 2nd BN was supposed to be on the right flank, but had hit heavy resistance along the way. Only E/Co had advanced to the 3rd BNs position. At 0900 in the 1st BN area, the Germans attacked with one tank and squads of infantry to recon A/Company's position. The tank was taken out by a bazooka blast and the ground troops retreated. By the end of the day, 3rd BN and 2nd's E/Co only gained a few hundred yards. The remainder of 2nd BN attempted to advance to 3rd's location, but German artillery held them back.
Early 18 November, the 1st BN withdrew to an assembly area near Halloville after being relieved by the 313th's 2nd BN. At 0700, the 3rd BN moved quickly through the woods, and sent I/Co across an old wooden bridge west of the main bridge. F/Co moved in with tanks forward of E/Company's position, and slammed into the Vesouze at the main bridge area in Fremonville. The bridge had been blown by the Germans during the night. The troops waded across the river forced to leave the armor behind. Another 300 yards through challenging enemy fire lay Fremonville. Almost the entire Company had been stalled in the crossing, but one 12-man patrol pushed on. They finally reached the main road at 1700.
The remainder of the Company moved forward slowly, dodging two Mark IV tanks and enemy infantry on the western side of town. As I/Co moved up to the railroad tracks southwest of Fremonville, the Germans threw all they had at the advancing troops. With no one to support them, I/Co fell back across the river. By nightfall, E/Co moved into western Fremonville to secure the area around the railroad station, and G/Co followed to hold the remainder of the western section of town.
By 1100, 20 November, 2nd BN had removed most of the threat of enemy fire from Fremonville. 1st BN made contact with the 313th at their objectives, and finding no enemy, regrouped for the march four miles to Richeval. The 1st BN and the I&R Platoon took point. The breakthrough to Alsace had begun. The column reached Richeval without incident and swung east to Hattigny.
A/Co topped a hill a half-mile beyond the town, and was peppered with mortar fire. A/Co was ordered to engage as cover for the advancing column. They faced an enemy with no cover as the had none, so it was a small arms battle. Behind the diversion A/Co created by engaging the German infantry, B and C/Companies moved across the field to Hattigny. The Germans held on to Hattigny until after midnight, then torched the town in their retreat. The German's Vesouze line had been shattered at Fremonville, and the withdrawal to the Vosges was fast becoming a rout.