Operation Cobra: How the 82nd Recon Battalion Led the Charge From Normandy

Watching over the reconnaissance scouts were a number of nimble but completely unarmed spotter aircraft flown by pilots assigned to the 2nd Armored Division Artillery. Flying out ahead of the armored column, these “Maytag Messerschmitts” (one nickname for the lightweight liaison planes) could both provide early warning to ground commanders and request immediate close air support in the form of P-47 Thunderbolts from U.S. IX Tactical Fighter Command. Air liaison officers riding with the 82nd Recon were also in contact with these flights of fighter-bombers, standing by to destroy the deadliest targets.

Traffic congestion, made worse by heavily cratered roadways, initially slowed the attack force’s progress. Once past Canisy, though, the column picked up speed. The first objective: Quibou, one and a half miles distant.

Just outside that tiny hamlet, Company A encountered the Panzer Lehr Division. Here, 16-year-old radioman Private William A. “Chicken” Nawrocki’s jeep took a wrong turn

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