After breaking out of the Normandy beach head in June 1944, Brittany was targeted because of its naval bases at Lorient, St. Nazaire and Brest. U-boats and surface raiders had used these bases, despite a bombing campaign by the RAF, and the Germans had launched 'Operation Cerberus' from Brest in 1942. So their capture would have ended any concerns that the Allies might have had about their potential further use. They would also prove very useful to the Allies as they needed as many ports as they could to land the vast amount of supplies their men needed.
The 6th Armored Division was relieved by the 94th at Lorient and St. Nazaire in Brittany where they contained the Germans from 10 September 1944 to 10 December 1944. For the first 106 days of combat, the 94th was involved in a holding action around St Nazaire and Lorient called "the forgotten front." There were submarine bases in the pocket with more than 25,000 or more German troops and Kriegsmarine (Naval Troops) - bypassed by the allied armies as they swept through France in their race toward Germany. The pocket - though cut off - was nonetheless dangerous. The actions of that 106-day period consisted of reconnaissance and combat patrols rather than large-scale assaults. Most of the combat occurred in an area around the Brest-Nantes Canal West of Blain and Bouvron called the "Spider" - formed by ten roads that radiated out from a hub.
The next several months the 94th would continue its containment action against the Germans in the Lorient-St Nazaire pockets. General Maloney mindful of his duties and frustrated at his orders not to engage the enemy in an offensive action decide on another course of action. He decide to commit the division piecemeal by indoctrinating them through patrolling. By sending out small patrols to encounter the enemy the 94th would receive the combat training it needed for future offensive operations.
Several of the patrols came under intense enemy fire and the GI’s of the 94th were learning their trade first hand. One such patrol occurred on October 2nd. K Company 301st ran into an enemy ambush and the entire patrol was wounded, killed or captured. Other patrols were more fortunate as some of the greatest acts of bravery were recorded in the 94th’s entire history of the war.
On October 3, 1944 2nd battalion 301st a routine patrol penetrated the line approximately one mile. The patrol was brought under heavy machine gun fire from an enemy strongpoint. PFC Herbert Austin disregarding his own safety charged at the machine gun nest over open ground. Upon reaching the site he fired his Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) several times killing all five Germans at the nest. His fearless action allowed the patrol to continue its assigned mission. For his actions he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
Through out the rest of October and November numerous patrols took place as the GI’s from the 94th continued their mission of keeping the Germans penned in.
The 94th continued its monotonous routine of patrols and artillery barrages of the enemy’s lines of defense. General Maloney realizing that the combat effectiveness and the morale of his men were slipping away by remaining on a static front repeatedly requested to transfer his division or permission to launch small scale attacks on the enemy’s vulnerable positions. His requests were repeatedly denied, and he was ordered to continue his mission of holding the enemy in its position. On December 7-8 General Maloney was given permission to attempt and isolated the two pockets even further by splitting them apart. A force consisting of the 3rd battalion 301st, the regimental anti-tank company and a company of the 319th engineers was assigned the task of clearing the Germans from the Quiberon Peninsula. Field artillery support was provided by the 390th After an artillery barrage that lasted for ten minutes the attack began at 0833. The engineers worked all night to clear the mines from the area. Using flamethrowers and antitank gunfire two companies managed to reduce the strongpoint of nine pillboxes and capture over 50 prisoners. The Americans losses were two dead and four wounded.
This would be the only coordinated action the 94th would have in Brittany. On December 16th the Germans started their Ardennes offensive and things would change for the 94th.