Letters from the Front, Part 7
Once the breakout from the bocage was achieved, the 3rd Armored Division and the 391st Armored Field Artillery Battalion raced forward. They penetrated deeper and deeper into enemy territory, bypassing pockets of resistance and leaving them for following units to mop up. Several times, they fought off attempts by the Germans to counterattack, and they often found themselves surrounded and cut off from the trailing units. Artillery units of the 391st were forced to stop their advance and defend themselves. But every time, the enemy was forced back or other units managed to break through to them.
The 3rd Armored Division was being called the Spearhead Division because it was always leading the charge. And the tip of that spearhead was the 391st. Out in front, identifying and calling in the artillery fire were the forward observers. Corporal Dillon Summers was driving one of them, Lieutenant Forston.
Throughout the rest of July and August, the unit surged forward, seldom slowing or stopping. An opportunity seemed to be opening itself for the total defeat of the fleeing German 7th Army. They might be able to trap the Germans in a pincer movement, with one arm being the British army and the other the 3rd Armored Division, at Falaise, where a gap through which the enemy was desperately racing to escape was slowly closing. On Friday, August 18, the 3rd Armored Division met the "tea drinkers," and the Falaise Gap was closed. The 391st was relieved and began a period of rest and maintenance. Both the guns and the men needed that time badly. They had been fighting without respite for four weeks.
But they were soon back in the race across France and into Belgium, which they entered on September 2. The fighting continued through the areas around Mons, Namur, Verviers, and Eupen. The 391st lobbed artillery rounds across the border against defensive positions in Germany. On the 12th, they entered Germany and faced the formidable Siegfried Line, where they encountered strong opposition.
It was during this fighting on September 15 that the FO tank Dillon was driving took a direct hit in the fuel tank and burned rapidly. The 391st unit history states, "Only one man, the driver T/5 Summers, was in the tank at the time and he managed to escape with only burns on the face. Sergeant Pierce was lightly wounded by shrapnel at this same time. Both men remained on duty."
The 391st halted operations while the infantry mopped up in the surrounding area. It was during this apparent lull that Dillon wrote the following letter, dated September 20, to his family, and mentioned having heard that one of them had dreamed of him.
Just a line to say hello & say I am well & OK. hope every one there is like wise Your last letter dated Sept 4th was glad to hear from you all, also got one from Hazel. I will get time soon I hope an write Jean & Hazel again. tell them hello & press on in School. they are doing Very good I think.
Very glad everyone likes the new pastor. Does [illegible] & family ever come out? Did You go to the shower of Clara?
What is old Bice doing now and is Edd & Leon here with me. . so where am I? that's another question. I am seeing a lot of the world any how.
Dreaming of me coming home was a nice dream, But You are getting ahead on Your dreaming.
Well so long for now. I am still getting the paper but it is kindly old.
Love & best wishes to all.
If he had waited a few more days to write, he would have had big news to tell them. On September 25, Brigadier General Maurice Rose, commander of the 3rd Armored Division, visited the 391st and presented some medals, including a Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster to Technician Fifth Grade Dillon C. Summers. (The Oak Leaf Cluster indicates that it was his second Bronze Star, but I have never been able to determine when or for what it was awarded.) His FO, 1 Lieutenant Forston, also was awarded a Bronze Star. I do not have any letter from Dillon in which he mentioned having received the medal although he had alluded in an earlier letter than he had been recommended for the award. I do not know if that recommendation was for the first or the second Bronze Star.