40th Battalion movements – Northwest France

This mine detector crew is demonstrating what they do before going to work on or around telephone poles in France – July 1944

On the 10th of July 1944, the battalion began work from the First Army Test Station 99 at St. Come-du-Mont to Carentan, to link with a partially existing St. Come-du-Mont Periers line.  Job 276 was a two arm twenty pin open wire line from First Army Test Station 99 to Chef-du-Pont and one arm ten pin open wire French poles along a railroad right of way.

That day, the Battalion suffered its first casualties. Two members of the Battalion Headquarters Personnel Section, Tec Sergeant William H Johnson, and Private First Class Edward L Foster, were injured by shrapnel when PFC. Foster picked up an unexploded German fuse in the field adjacent to the bivouac site. Tec Sergeant Johnson received wounds on the right hand and right hip, while PFC. Foster was wounded in the chest, neither seriously.



Surveying the Carantan Canal - 40th Battalion

Surveying the Carantan Canal – 40th Battalion

On Friday, Company “B” also sent two teams to the Carentan Canal Crossing on the First Array – St. Come-du-Mont Lead. The ten existing circuits of open wire were replaced by submarine spiral, four cable thus enabling LSTs to move up the canal to Carentazi, This cable was later replaced by open wire on fifty foot poles to allow clearance for LSTs.


“Losses in Action:
23 July 1944: Tec 4 Lancelot A Hiley, Company “A”, 40th Signal Construction Battalion, received shrapnel wound in leg from 88 mm Shell while working on a telephone pole near Marigny, Normandy, France, resulting in loss of leg, six inches below the knee.” – taken from the Battalion record Dossier submitted 1945 to the First United States Army

Company A began work 19 July 1944, on First United States Army Signal Service job number 502, continuing on from where the 57th Signal Construction Battalion left off. This line extended from Lison Test Station south toward Marigny, which, at that date, was still in enemy hands, Construction of this line was to proceed as far south toward the front line as practicable,and on Sunday, 25 July 1944, it was felt this point had been reached.


A captured German 88 Gun

At about 1500, a pattern of German 88 millimeter shells fell within 50 yards of the line, knocking four linemen off of poles, and injuring one seriously in the leg with shrapnel. The concussion from the shells also tore down wire that had been strung. Construction of this line was temporarily stopped, pending forward movement of the front line.

On 24 July 1944, three teams from Company B, 40th Signal Construction Battalion, were again at work on the Carentan Canal Crossing. The Submarine Cable laid previously was now being replaced by open wire on fifty  foot poles. The job presented many difficult problems, among which were splicing 55 and 20 foot poles to gain the necessary height and pulling the twenty wires across the canal so as not to interfere with river traffic. This job was completed Thursday, 25 July. During this period the remaining eight teams of Co B recovered Spiral Four Cable from Bayeur to Formigny, and St. Mere Eglise to St. Come-du-Mont.

Company “A” did not resume work on First United States Army Signal Service job number 502 until Thursday 27 July 1944. The first part of the week was spent in repairing minor damages to the line caused by enemy shelling on the 23rd of July and in recovering spiral four cable from Lison Test to Le-Molay along railroad right of way.


40th Linesmen at work

On the 26th of July, First United States Army began its push South West towards Marigny and Coutances, and on Friday 29 July, Co “B” joined Company “A” on job number 502. It was on this date that the survey teams of Company Bn captured four German prisoners in the Marigny area, these the first prisoners taken by the Battalion.

Battalion Headquarters, Headquarters Company, and Co “B”, on Friday 28 July, moved to about a mile southwest of St. Jean-de-Daye, but the army’s advance was so rapid Headquarters moved southwest of Carentilly.

The Seventh and Nineteenth Corps, First United States Army advanced so rapidly in the succeeding days that it was impossible to keep up with them with open wire. The 40th battalion’s last job for First United States Army was the linking the New First Army command post at Canisy to the Seventh Corps with spiral four cable.


The 12th Army Group Insignia

On 1 August the Third United States Army, under the command of Lieutenant General George S Patton, began operations on the western Flank of the Carentan Peninsula in the vicinity of Coutance.

General Omar Bradley – by the end of the war he commanded 1.3 million men, the largest body of American soldiers ever to serve under a single U.S. field commander.

On this same date, Twelfth United States Army Group, under the command of Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, became tactical, operating to the rear with Third United Spates Army on the right flank along the west Coast of the Peninsula and First United States Army on the left side below Marigny.

Lieutenant General Clinton Hodges succeeded Lt. General Bradley to Command First United States Army. The 40th Signal Construction Battalion was on this date relieved from attachment to First United States Army and reverted back to its assignment to Twelfth United States Army Group. The 57th Signal Construction Company was relieved of attachment to the 40th Signal Construction Battalion.

Major Hilton D McNeal, commanding the 40th, was promoted to the Grade of Lt. Colonel.

The first job for Twelfth Army Group was to link at St. Saveur-de-Landelin with First United States Army at Canisy. The 40th Signal Construction Battalion built half of this line, 10 circuits open wire, starting from Canisy and meeting the 459th Signal Construction Battalion about four miles west of Marigny. This job was completed on 4 August 1944. The remainder of the week was spent cleaning and surveying equipment and resting.

This bottleneck was the target for daily enemy bombing, especially the roads and railroad bridges. On Tuesday night 8 August, a heavy concentration of bombs were dropped along the road South of Pontaubault and north of St. James, along which our line was being constructed, and about 2 miles from our bivouac area.


A Sad Sack Cartoon with my Father’s comments: “So typical of us back in Normandy”

The Germans managed to knock our thirteen spans of wire and four poles. On this same night, the convoy bringing equipment from the North to Camp was strafed along this road, but there were no casualties. This heavy bombing was part of a strong concentrated attack of the Germans to drive from Mortain to Avranches and cut the US Forces below Avranches off from all supplies. The Seventh Army was thrown back with heavy losses, but fighting continued over the town of Mortain.

The Battalion, following the forward movement of the United States Armies, on 7 August 1944, moved south to Bouceel, France, 4 miles Northwest of Saint James, and began surveying the same day on an eleven mile double arm 10 circuit lead from south of Avranches to Saint James, utilizing existing French and German poles to a great extent. This line, both in terrain and tactical situation, simulated very closely the first line built by the Battalion across the Carentan marsh lands. The line was across the lowland near the mouth of the Selune river below Avranches. This area was a bottleneck, being but 30 miles wide from the enemy lines to the sea.

Through this narrow strip flowed all the supplies for the Third United States Army and that part of the First United States Army below the Selune river. By the 8th of August, the Third United States Army had driven far south of the city of Avranches and swung west through Rennes and onto Brest, cutting the Brest Peninsula. Third Army Headquarters moved that week to about 6 miles South of St. James. On our drive to the south and Southwest, the district around Avranches remained a bottle neck. The German Seventh Army still held the town of Mortain, only 30 miles east of Avranches.


A happy French greeter of the Allies

The line was completed on Friday,11 August without further incident, and the succeeding day was spent in servicing equipment, resting, and dressing up the line. During this week, Third United States Army Headquarters moved south to Saint-Ouën-des-Toits, a distance of about 49 miles. Open wire had been started down in that direction the proceeding week by other construction outfits, but it was doubted if the line could be completed by the 14th, the day which had been set.

On the 13th of August the 40th moved down West of Saint-Ouën-des-Toits in the vicinity of Clennont, for the purpose of being on hand if needed. Battalion Headquarters was located in the orchard behind the ruins of St. Bernard’s Monastery, built in about the 12th century. On the 14th, Company “A” laid spiral four cable from Saint-Ouën-des-Toits to Third Array Headquarters, three miles East of Saint-Ouën-des-Toits. Third Army moved again on the 15th near Le Mans, about 50 miles to the southeast, so again the 40th packed up and started down the road after them.

The Battalion bivouacked in the yard and adjoining woods of a small Chateau 1 mile northwest of the village of Argentre, which was about 2 miles north of the job. This job was started on the 16th of August and finished three days later on the 19th. On the 20th of August, both “A” and “B” Company worked on a one day job laying spiral four cable around Twelfth Army Group Headquarters by elements of the Fifteenth, were being destroyed in the pocket fashioned for them by the allies between Falaise and Argentan, some 50 miles to the North.


40th Battalion Movements – August 1944

On the 24th of August, the Battalion moved 125 miles east to a woods about 6 miles southeast of Chartres. The situation had become so fluid that it was about impossible for Twelfth Army Group Wire construction troops to keep open wire up to the Armies. Radio link was for a time the only-means of voice communication being used. This Battalion was then engaged in linking the Twelfth Army Group radio station and transmitter with spiral four cable for voice high frequency circuits and later in linking Group TAC with the Third United States Army at Pithiviers, Loiret, with spiral four cable, a distance of about fifty  miles.


Sad Sack cartoon about Paris – My Father’s comments underneath read: “Thank Goodness that we beat the MPs to Paris – Sad Sack would have been less fortunate”









The City of Paris was liberated on the 25th of August, just one month after the Normandy Breakthrough, Troops and supplies were moving on to the city in a never ceasing flow. The 40th moved 20 miles Northeast to Ablis, Seine on the 27th and to Bois D’Arcy, Seine, 5 miles north west of Versailles on the 29th, the latter location as a bivouac from which to work in constructing an open wire line around the southeast of Paris, from Camp Sartory, Versailles, to La Ferte, a distance of about 45 miles. The Battalion began at the Versailles end of the line and on the 6th of September moved to the eastern terminus near La Ferte to complete the last portion of the line.


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Troop Movements

9 July 44 to 28 July 44 – St. Come du Mont, France
28 July 44 to 30 July 44 – St. Jean de Daye, France
30 July 44 to 7 Aug 44 – Carantilly, France
7 Aug 44 to 13 Aug 44 – Bouceel, France
13 Aug 44 to 15 Aug 44 – Clermont,France
15 Aug 44 to 24 Aug 44 – Argentre, France
24 Aug 44 to 27 Aug 44 – Chartres, France
27 Aug 44 to 29 Aug 44 – Ablis, France
29 Aug 44 to 6 Sept 44 – Bois D’Arcy, Seine, France
6 Sept 44 to 13 Sept 44 – Jouarre, France
13 Sept 44 to 21 Sept 44 – Verdun, France
21 Sept 44 to 3 Oct 44 – Longuyon, France