Sergeant Ernest Lavoie

Company A 1st Battalion 22nd Infantry

4th Infantry Division

DOW July 29, 1944

 

 

 

Ernest Lavoie was born in Fall River, Bristol County, Massachusetts in 1925. He was drafted into the Army
on June 10, 1943, at Boston, Massachusetts. He had completed Grammar School, and listed his
civilian occupation as Checkers. He was engaged to be married. His religion was listed as Catholic.

He spent part of his stateside training in Company K, 3rd Battalion, 409th Infantry Regiment, 103rd Infantry Division.

He was an exemplary soldier, attaining the rank of Sergeant in a shorter period of time than was usual in those days.
On July 1, 1944 Ernest Lavoie was promoted on the battlefield in Normandy from Private First Class directly to Sergeant.

Sergeant Ernest Lavoie died of wounds received in action on July 29, 1944, during Operation Cobra,
the breakout from the Normandy hedgerow country, in France. He was nineteen years old.

During the battle in Moyon, France, Sgt. Lavoie was struck in the thigh by shrapnel and was evacuated from
the front lines to the 41st Evacuation Hospital. He died the same day he was wounded on July 29th, 1944.
The cause of his death was a hemorrhage of the femoral artery. His record of casualty was not listed in the
morning reports for Company A until August 11, 1944.

 

 

On 29 July 1944, the 22nd Infantry Regiment was attached to the 2nd Armored Division as part of Task Force Rose.
They were the spearhead of the St. Lo breakout and earned the Presidential Unit Citation for their actions during this operation.

The following narrative describes the events during which SGT Lavoie lost his life:

 

"Interview with officers of 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry, Major Robt B. Latimer, CO,
and Captain Frank B. Reid, CO, Co C, 22nd Inf. on 10 August 1944.



The following events took place in Moyon, France.


On the 29th our tanks tried to get through the town to the south. But German fire knocked one out on the
road to the southeast, another out on the road to the south thus blocking both roads. The Colonel of the
armored force (who was commanding) now decided that since the enemy held such strong positions south of
the town he would withdraw the infantry in order to blast the Germans with an artillery barrage. This
withdrawal was under way when Major Latimer learned of it. Knowing very well what would be the result of
pulling out of the town he conferred with the Colonel and it was decided to reoccupy the ground. However
the Germans had already moved in on the heels of our men. The infantry never succeeded in recovering all
the ground they had given up.


Strong forces of German tanks had now come in just south of the lines in addition to those who were dug in
there. A duel developed between these German tanks and ours with the infantry in between. This was the
worst punishment the battalion has ever taken. We lost very heavily in this whole battle, somewhere around
50% of the assault companies and the greatest part of the loss, I believe, was suffered when we were caught
in the tank duel.


We had actually seen perhaps two dozen German tanks during this battle and apparently there were others. A
prisoner stated that they had eight Panzer companies in this action. They also used a great deal of artillery; I
believe it was the most we have ever encountered. We had quite a few men crack up as a result of the fire they
were under in this battle, and so did the armored forces.



Co A had a platoon on the right flank. A German tank came up the road from the south and fired heavily for
some time on this platoon knocking out all its men but eleven.


Late on the 29th we were relieved at Moyon by the 116th Infantry. Just after all our troops had cleared the
town except Capt. Reid with five men who had stayed to confer with the relieving company commander, the
Germans bombed the town. They had got their own lines as well as the 116th. They had dropped flares over
the American lines but these had drifted back over the Germans which probably caused their bombing error.
We were glad to see that the Germans can make mistakes too.


Co A loaded on tanks and attempted to move out on the road running west. But the Germans had this road
so well entrenched, including tanks dug in, that they were unable to get through. The entire battalion moved
back to the north. On July 30th the battalion was moved to Villebaudon. A heavy and accurate shelling by the
Germans from their hill positions to the east prevented us from moving on the highway. We turned off to the
west and continued down secondary roads to Villebaudon. I had hated to leave Moyon without finishing the
job there. I think we had the Germans groggy from the hammering we had given them and they were just
about ready to give up. But as it was we reached Villebaudon just in the nick of time."

 

 

 

Ernest Lavoie

 

 

 

Sergeant Ernest Lavoie's decorations

Through the dedication and hard work of SGT Ernest Lavoie's great-nephew John Tomawski, who submitted
repeated requests to the Army Review Board on behalf of his great-uncle, the above decorations have been
officially entered into the personnel record of Sergeant Ernest Lavoie, some seventy years after SGT Lavoie
made his ultimate sacrifice in the service of his country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SGT Ernest Lavoie was buried in the temporary American Military Cemetery,
La Cambre Cemetery at Isigny, France in Block AC Row 6 Grave 112.
He was later re-interred in the cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer (originally called
St. Laurent) most likely in the 1947-1949 time period when the temporary
cemeteries were shut down and remains of American dead were relocated
to the permanent cemeteries or returned to the United States.

 

Burial:
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial
Colleville-sur-Mer
Departement du Calvados
Basse-Normandie, France
Plot H Row 8 Grave 25

 

     

The American cemetery
at Normandy.

The grave marker for SGT Ernest Lavoie
has the United States and French flags
in front of it.

Photo courtesy of John Tomawski

 

 

The grave marker for SGT Ernest Lavoie

Photo courtesy of John Tomawski

     

 

 

 

In October 2014, seventy years after the death of Ernest Lavoie, his great-nephew John Tomawski
traveled to France to visit the village where Ernest died. John met with the Mayor of Moyon,
the scene of the battle in which Ernest received his mortal wounds, and visited the cemetery where
Ernest is buried. John had previously secured Ernest's decorations from the Army and placed
them on Ernest's grave marker.

 

 

Newspaper article about the visit of John Tomawski to Moyon in honor of his Great-uncle Ernest Lavoie.
John is seen meeting with the Mayor of Moyon and other dignitaries and receiving an example of sand
from Utah Beach by the Mayor.

Translation of above article:

70 years after, Mister Tomawski has paid tribute to his great-uncle.

Monday 6 October, after several travel adventures, the people of Moyon welcomed John R. Tomawski,
an American who came with his girlfriend from Massachusetts.

Jean-Francois Pignet, the "historian" of Moyon, Adeline Ozenne, who was acting as an interpreter, Mayor
Gilles Beaufils and fifteen people from Moyon attentively looked upon the archival documents brought from
the United States relating the day to day fighting as well as the medals of Sergeant Ernest Lavoie, who was
his great-uncle.

This soldier, who fought with Company A, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, found death in Moyon
on July 29, 1944. John Tomawski was anxious to come to pay tribute to him. He went to see the route
from Mesnil-Herman to Villebaudon, which caused many casualties in 1944, as well as La Denisière
(at which was the crossroads leading to Paris).

Moment of emotion in memory of an American soldier

A ceremony was then held in front of the monument to the Allies, with flag bearers present, musicians
from the band, municipal councilmen and people of Moyon.

After the laying of a wreath and the American, British and French national anthems, John Tomawski
received from the hands of the Mayor the medal of the 70th Anniversary and sand from Utah Beach,
the place where Mister Lavoie landed. This symbol greatly affected Mister Tomawski. The group then
visited the church where photos and blueprints of Moyon from that time and paintings made by American
veterans were on display.

Before going to share the wine of honor and a good meal, Mister Tomawski held a call with his mother
who had remained in the United States to share with her this moment and to find what she wanted to write
in the guestbook. He also received, from the hand of Jean-Francois Pignet, earth from the city of Moyon.

 

 

 

John Tomawski at the grave of Ernest Lavoie with French flag bearers in the background.

 

 

The decorations earned by SGT Ernest Lavoie rest on his grave marker in the American Cemetery in Normandy,
placed there by his great-nephew John Tomawski, seen here next to the grave.

 

 

After further investigation the Army Review Boards Agency determined that
SGT Ernest Lavoie was authorized the Combat Infantryman Badge and the
Bronze Star Medal. In October 2016 John Tomawski returned to the grave of
SGT Lavoie in Normandy and placed those additional decorations on his grave.

 

 

 

 

 

Photos and article from John R. Tomawski
in honor of his Great-Uncle, Ernest Lavoie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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