The Story of a young Frenchman who joined the Troop B
85th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron,
as an Interpreter.


In June 1944, I was 19 years old, I lived in Versailles my parents home,
and was studying in the Paris University for Masters in English language and
literature, as well as a Masters in law. I was one et the members of a
French Resistance Organization, we did our best to collect and send to
London information on enemy movements, Versailles being an important transit
place of German reinforcements towards Normandy in June/July and an escape
road in August. I have neyer heard if our information ever reached a place
where it could be useful!

On August 26th, on the same day as PARIS, VERSAILLES was liberated by the
3rd Army, in an enormous enthusiasm which I will never forget. My group got
assigned to the noble task of arresting collaborators, guarding German
prisoners, and bringing them to a Camp in Paris, truck after truck where we
were standing besides the Krauts, with an angry crowd yelling, spitting,
threatening the full content of the trucks !!!

When you are a young man and you feel that history is happening around
you you are eager to participate in a more glamorous way, and I had a chance
to do so because, by pure accident, I met a school friend on August 28th who
told me that his future brother in law had been hired as interpreter by the
U.S. Amy, that this outfit was looking for a second one, fluent in English.
I expressed a warm interest for the offer, and next day I was interviewed by
two American Officers, who I believe were Lts Lee and Voipond. They accepted
me, I got relieved from my French Amy duties consequent to my enlistment in
the Resistance. On the 29th, we showed them the main features of the over
excited Paris, and on the same evening, the two officers picked us up in our
respective homes, and brought us to the Park of Saint-Cloud which, that
night looked like an enormous Military camp.

We were assigned to a large tent, where a number of G.I.s were sound asleep,
we imitated them very soon.

Next morning, we were woken up by the completely forgotten smell of real
coffee, we got introduced to the members of lst and 2nd Platoons of Troop B.
85th Cavalry. When they heard our names (my pals name was Claude
Delaroche-Vernet), the Officers decided that they were impossible to
pronounce, and decided that we were going to be called MIKE, assigned to
the 2nd Platoon and myself MAC, assigned to the lst.

I was speaking a very acceptable "Limey English", but I learned very
quickly a Military language that no University teaches and a touch of Little
Rock accent, which seems quite appropriate nowadays!

When I first was told that I was going to be an interpreter, I was under the
impression that I was going to join some kind of headquarters, I had no idea
of the dangerous and thrilling events I was going to experience. I had never
had any military training, I had never learnt how to drive a car (nobody had
a car under German occupation), my only contact with firearms had been on
fairgrounds, but I had a certain military background as my father, my
grandfather, and so on for 7 generations had been Regular Army officers in
I was told that I would get a uniform very soon, it was never delivered, but
I looked like a real G.I. after a few days, thanked to the spare equipment
of the numerous casualties. What I got immediatly was an M 1, without any
users guide. I had no dog-tags was on no payroll (Cheap labour), and would
most likely have been executed, had I been captured by the Germans. My pal
and I knew the risk but preferred to ignore it, as we were so exited in

After an early breakfast on August 30th, I was told to sit down, next to the
driver in the front peep and I got the mission to lead the way to SARCELLES,
north suburb of PARIS, where the FRENCH 2ND. Armored (LECLERC) had
stopped. We arrived there by quite an unusual road, under which I
discovered that I was guiding for better or for worse, not only a few cars
as I had thought but a whole COMBAT COMMAND. We took over, and started
Northwards, and liberated village after village, town after town. The
emotion was great, you could read the happiness in people eyes.

I remember some of the places: Le MESNIL-AUBRY, LUZARCHES and when we
arrived half a mile from la Morlaye (South of CHANTILLY a German halftrack
carrying 4 barreled AA 20, suddenly appeared in the middle of the road we
were following, our 3 Armored Cars and light tanks opened fire and destroyed
the half-track. We had noticed that the vehicle was followed by dismounted
enemy soldiers which were invisible to us because of houses. A number of us
walked down a diagonal road, discovered another half-track, and some enemies
one of our tanks hit the half-track and put it on fire, we used our rifles
against the resisting German soldiers, and that is how I had my first war

Nobody had told me that if you fire an M l with both feet parallel, you
will automatically fall backwards and land on your behind, and that is what
happened to me, I was briefly told how to stand, resumed my shooting until
something I thought was a bullet whistled past my ear. I was reassured when
told that it was the clip keeping the ammunition together that had been
expelled. I suppose that lessons under enemy fire are not very frequent.

After the surrender of the surviving enemies, we entered Lamorlaye.

We moved on to CHANTILLY, famous for its horse races, training and breeding,
got some C rations and a few hours sleep in horse stables. Next day, we continued our
advance along the OISE River until we reached CREIL, being the first allied
outfit. A member of the FRENCH Resistance reported to us, showed us a hand
drawn map, indicating precisely where German defenses were located: just on
the other side of the river behind a destroyed bridge. Four of us crawled on
our stomachs down to the bridge, sheltered by the bridge itselt which was
pointing to the sky, we raised carefully our heads and discovered the
announced defense which was another of these 4 barreled AA 20 mm guns, only
100 meters from us, and a few helmets behind it. We crawled back, made our
report, and continue our road to the North leaving the destruction of the
defense to the experts (Sherman tank, I believe).

What followed that day, I am not likely to forget. We entered the forest of
COMPIEGNE by night and advanced well aware that ambushes were probable, and
right we were: 4 or 5 times during that night small groups of retreating
Germans, equipped with machine-guns and rifles, who were able to locate us
by the noise of our engines and tank tracks, would open fire from inside the
woods, whereas we could only detect them after they gave away their position
by shooting. Our firepower was so overwhelming that the fights ended
rapidly leaving some dead, wounded and prisoners on their side an quite a
number of casualties on our side. As we were not equipped to take care of
prisoners, we lined up their weapons and bicycles on the road and let a tank
run over them, and we asked the prisoners firmly and politely to try and
find U.S. Infantry who would be only to pleased to accommodate them.
During one of these ambushes, the driver of my peep got injured, and as I
was unable to drive, the machine-gunner took over the wheel, told me briefly
how a 30 caliber machine-gun was working , telling me "pull the trigger
upwards, the tracers will make you feel like operating a garden hose". I
had the occasion to use it and it seemed to work perfectly.

Later, we passed COMPIEGNE, went further North, I cannot remember the exact
itinerary. I remember us running out of gas for a day. I remember also that
the honor of getting hell from General Oliver who appeared suddenly in his
peep along the OISE at the very moment when a Sergeant and I were shooting
into the river with a LUGER, we had just taken from a German officer. Gen.
Oliver when he heard our embarrassed explanation told us with appropriate
words, that this was no playground, how right he was!

After this episode my memory gets a little confused, especially when it
comes to ascertain the date of each action. I know that we went through
VALENCIENNES, crossed the Southern part of BELGIUM, entered LUXEMBOURG . I
remember having been told (I think it was Cpt. Hayes that the group of 4 or
5 soldiers (inclusive me) were the first allied soldiers to set their feet on German soil.
On September 11th 1944 in the afternoon, we forded the river South-East of VIANDEN,
climbed a steep hill, discovered a few pillboxes, returned to LUXEMBOURG and made our
report. I was therefore very surprised to read in the "PATHS" that the 2nd
Platoon is considered te be the first! A few days later we crossed a bridge
into GERMANY, went out again under heavy artillery fire, went back to the
region of BITBURG where my fellow interpreter, Claude Delaroche-Vernet got
seriously wounded (he still has a slight limp 50 years later) I stayed with
the outfit till the middle of October making myself useful, as my knowledge
of German was not bad, but afer a dull and actionless stay in MONSCHAU where
nothing thrilling happened. I got transferred to D Troop, and
after a week, considering my mission as ended, I asked for and got the
permission to be sent home. Back home after a short stay in the U.S. Civil
Affairs, I went back to the French Army, got a proper training te become a
liaison officer, and was appointed to the British Army, and later to a special
mission in Denmark. When this was finished, in September 1945, I left the
Army with the rank of 1st Lieutenant.

I am sure that my short but intensive experience in the U.S. Army has been
very instructive to me. I started there as a naive untrained student, but at
the end of the adventure, after having been in danger from morning till
night every day, seeing many pals being injured or killed,
suffering from the hard natural elements (heavy rains in daytime and frost
during the night) with permanent wet clothes, sharing K ration, fright,
courage with people from another Continent, who accepted me and my
differences, has certainly contributed a great deal to the building of my

Olaf Tilette de Mautort

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Created May 5, 2003 by Yves J. Bellanger
Updated May 25, 2003