Remembrance of Combat in Normandy

Guy Charland
©2003, Colin Charland, Chad Charland, and Claire Ashford


Remembrance of Combat in Normandy
Guy Charland
©2003, Colin Charland, Chad Charland, and Claire Ashford


Guy Charland: patriot, artist/illustrator, poet, warrior, and friend. The words you will read here are the unvarnished remembrances of a rare man (though he’d be the last to claim it

so); a man whose experiences marked him for life with the distinction of one of France’s highest military awards for valor, with victory over the enemies of freedom in Europe during the crucible of the largest land invasion of the Second World War and the following fight across France that sealed the Nazis’ fate in the west, and with three wounds in his body and a continual storm of memories in is mind as proof of his payment. As you read the blunt and direct words of his heart, strive to put yourself in his boots. Try to remember with him what it is like to be so scared you can’t recall where you are, what it’s like to fight so long and continually that you literally fall asleep from exhaustion in the middle of a street by street firefight, what it is like to be hit by an enemy’s bullets in your flesh and the flesh of your friends. Try to remember what the impact of that fighting is like on a man’s spirit, when the memories of it come flooding in when you’re alone at night in cold, sweating heartpounding floods of sights and sounds so real you can feel their impact on you … over and over and over again. And if you can remember, then you will have shared some little part of what it’s like to be a soldier. And when it’s over, you will have managed something else, something you may not see quickly but that will remain with you and should never be allowed to die: some little part of the unimaginable debt that you and I, and our children, and their children after them owe to these men and women. The generation who beat back the tide of Axis tyranny did not ask for that job; they did not ask to go from high school football stadiums to foxholes all over this earth to confront dedicated enemies who sought their lives head on … but they did it. They did it so well, even at such a great cost, that you and I could sit here in safety and in freedom … and remember with them what it is like to be a soldier.

Remembrance of Combat in Normandy
Guy Charland
©2003, Colin Charland, Chad Charland, and Claire Ashford

Chapter 1 Boarding the troop ship SS DOMINION MONARCH, Port of Embarkation New York City, March 3, 1944

Goodbye and farewell New York City, U.S.A., and the Charland family. Bound for destiny and glory – Ha! The time is 4:00 in the morning of Tuesday, March 3, 1944. The place is New York Harbor. Our British cargo ship – the "luxurious" troop ship "Dominion Monarch" – slips out of New York Bay to join her convoy somewhere out in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean destined for God knows where – the Mediterranean area, Italy maybe? Or

else the United Kingdom? Bets were made. All of us who picked England, of course, won. I made $50 on that deal and I ain’t no gambler, but for some reason or other I won this one. Fifty dollars and nowhere to spend it. If we were lucky on this trip and not torpedoed by a Kraut sub, I’d spend it in the United Kingdom. In the port of embarkation in New York, we boarded the ship in total secrecy at night. No lights, no noise or fanfare. Sometime later we were allowed up on deck and to our shock, we were in the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by other ships in a convoy. As we looked out to sea, we could see faintly the lights of the port of New York City far off on the horizon. I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. God knows when I would see New York City again and the Statue of Liberty with that upraised torch. God knows, maybe never. I fought the tears. Nineteen years old and here I was going to fight a war wherever that was. I only hoped that I’d do my duty as a good soldier and not fail myself or my pals and the Regiment. I had volunteered to join this man’s army. I felt I got my wish good or bad. Now it felt like sink or swim (a little humor here). I would need all the humor I could get in the next couple of years. In such a situation as this in the world, I felt there was more deadly business and suffering than humor. I don’t think there were many of our guys my age group in the company that felt like this until they were hit with it – the grim reality. A lot of us in "G" Co. were going to be casualties, I knew. I wonder if I’ll be one of them. One couldn’t help but have this sick feeling. The trick now was to rise up above all this or you would "flip." Think of something else – girls, that’s it – girls – new girls – England – what fun we’re going to have – leave the old girls in the States for new and fresh ones overseas. Maybe the war wouldn’t be so grim and bad after all. Thinking like this, a young kid kind of buried the seriousness of it all for a while. It made the whole event somewhat numb and distant. We would awaken soon enough. As I remember, the first couple of days were a bit rough, weather wise. I did see some whales out at sea for the first time in my life. It was quite an experience. Maybe they’d join the convoy. There were quite a few of them. We were also surrounded by quite a few other ships. I had some field glasses so I began to focus on them. To our left was a freighter with all kinds of cargo on its deck; it looked liked vehicles of all types and some artillery pieces. In front of it was a oil tanker. Behind us was a small carrier with aircraft on it and an ammo ship, a couple of other oil tankers and a number of destroyers and corvettes to offer protection. I was hoping we wouldn’t have to use them and would get to England intact. I sure would have hated to be attacked and have our ship sunk before getting a chance to fight the Germans on land. What an unlucky end that would be, not to mention drowning or being food for hungry sharks. Most of the days on board ship were spent in reading, playing poker, just gazing at the ocean and shooting dice. No one that I knew got seasick. The ship voyage wasn’t too bad;

I saw a few dolphins leaping along with the ship which was fun to watch. Next day we spotted the wreckage of a ship that probably had been sunk. Boxes, wood crates, deck chairs and an oil slick covered quite an area of the sea. This created a lot of misgivings and concern. We all were more than impatient to get to the U.K. We had the excitement of seeing the destroyers cutting in and out of the ships, watching for subs. The naval gun crews had some gun firing exercises with twin 40 mm Bofors on the gun mounts and other powerful weapons called "Pom Poms"; they sounded real rapid fire. My pal and I hoped a few German planes would show up for this reception. We got a number of U–Boat alerts; several at night indicating that we were being followed by a U–Boat pack. The ship’s sirens would go off and we all had to put on those oversized life saver vests called Mae Wests and line up on deck, just in case of a torpedo attack. But thank God, we got through it okay. I didn’t relish thrashing around in that cold ocean water, especially at night, to drown or be eaten by a happy, hungry shark. Anyway, the fact that no ships in the convoy were attacked is a miracle. Another incident happened a few miles off the Irish coast. We were visited by two Focke–Wulf "Condors," four-engine commerce raiders on a "welcome committee." These planes were used to attack transport ships. They were stationed at the French Atlantic coast for that purpose. We were on deck when the sirens started in and the Navy gun crew jumped to the 40 mm gun mounts and started shooting as they approached. They came in between the ship lanes a few feet from the sea waves. They were close enough to see the pilots in the planes and gun turrets. This was my first view of enemy aircraft. Instead of being scared, I was really excited and amazed to see my first action. Bill and I were both very excited at all this danger. Boy! What a show! We didn’t realize how bad it could be. When both the planes reached the end of the convoy, they started up for altitude and then to head back again. Some of the Bofors 40 mms hit one of the aircraft in the wing, tearing it off. The other got a blast in the engine which started to smoke. The one with the torn-off wing crashed into the sea. The men cheered. The other decided this was enough and headed back to its base in France. We hoped he wouldn’t make it back. His engines were smoking badly. He was under intensive fire all the way by every ship and the escort of destroyers and corvettes. We saw them fishing the survivor out of the drink. So that was the excitement for the day for me and Bill and pretty sure the others. Two or three days later, we pulled into Liverpool and then went by train to our base camp at Kidderminster near Chepstowe Castle, Wales, at a place called Kinlet Hall, a large baronial estate turned over to the U.S. Army for a camp. From there we went into extensive and intensive training and maneuvers for the big day when we would prepare to do mortal battle with "the dirty satanic Kraut." Bill and I were itching to mix it up. Our training was really hard and took a lot out of us, but it

really conditioned and toughened us up. I’ll swear Wales is full of hills, just right for forced marches, a 25-mile hike with a sixty pound backpack and all the rest of the gear. You talk about feeling bushed and beat! Running up and down those mounds would tax the strongest man, I’d wager. The U.S. Army really knew where to establish a training camp. In our activity, we learned how to make booby traps (that was fun to do). Me and some others would set pranks with them but no one got hurt, Just scared to death. Also, they taught us how to neutralize mines. That was a real challenge, but was a very good thing to know in combat situations. This together with hand–to–hand fighting, bayonet, rifle range, mock battles, etc. was our schedule. We were sometimes too fagged out to go on pass. That’s how severe the training was. If I did this today, they’d bury me. Those Welsh hills are not little ones; they are huge and it rained just about every day. At the end of May of the year 1944, we left our camp at Kinlet Hall and embarked by train to our new camp called Camp Race Track, which it was in peace time, near the port of Cardiff in Wales, for further training for the impending invasion. All passes and leaves were cancelled – for how long, we didn’t know. I felt like I was in prison. The Army as usual didn’t tell us anything. We learned of things through the rumor mill which most of the time was in error, but sensational. It gave you something to pass the time of day. One rumor had it we were going to invade Norway or Holland. The guys who said these things were probably guys who didn’t know where these places were anyway. We, most of us smart guys, said France; others said they were canceling the whole thing and were going back to the States. That one brought a lot of laughs. No letters could be written home or anywhere. I imagined how the folks felt when they didn’t hear from the members of the family. It must have been a terrible strain. I know my mother and the others of the family must have been worried sick with fear. My mom didn’t get news from me until the middle of June at the height of the Campaign. In fact, she heard first from the War Department that her son was wounded in combat then later she heard from me. The camp at the racetrack was heavily guarded by the military police. So you see, no one could slip out without being seen and if they did, they’d get shot in the bargain by the MPs. Most of the time was spent in playing cards, shooting dice, reading, and in my case, drawing pictures – being an artist – and brushing up on my native language, French. The platoon leader, Lt. Brotherton, established me as company interpreter. The only one in the company of what, 150 men, who could speak and read French. Well, I had one advantage. While here we had courses in orientation and visualization, German combat tactics, aircraft recognition and spotting, and of course, artillery, tanks and other Allied and German vehicles, maps and reading the compass, first aid, mines and booby traps, etc. So all this got rid of the boredom and being I was good at building aircraft models and had an interest in enemy and allied planes, I was made company spotter.

I asked the Lieutenant if by inheriting these two exalted positions, I would get an NCO grade. "I’ll bring it up to the CO" he said and laughed. I just mentioned it as a joke. Lt. H. Brotherton was a hell of a good leader. I always got along with him. He was a pretty brave man as well. He survived the war but died later on due to illness. He was from Texas. He promised to visit me after this war was over in New York City, but I never saw him again after that. It is a very sad thing that in war and especially in times of danger, you always lose men you valued as friends and had a lot of respect and affection for that you’ll never forget. There is an ancient Arabic or Saracen saying that "Affection and respect for a friend and a horse is eternal, but for a woman is temporary." A lot of people would deny this, but I read this once in a history of the Crusades. A woman would call this chauvinistic, of course. Finally, the day we were all awaiting with a lot of anxiety and apprehension arrived. 2nd Battalion got all the companies together and announced we were all going to break up camp and ship out to the POE of Cardiff, Wales, in preparation to launch the long awaited invasion of Europe on the Cotentin Peninsula, Normandy, France. We would leave Cardiff on the SS Explorer, a converted freighter, go down the Severn River out to sea, around Lands End and then into the English Channel where we would arrive at the point of getting into the landing craft with other units and follow up to the main invasion which would end at Normandy at Utah Beach, what a weird name, which would be on D– Day on June 6th. Our division, the 90th, together with other units and support groups would land on or about D+1 or 2 at Utah. We were the follow–up group and were expected to arrive on or about the 7th or 8th. We would embark on the ship on June 1st to allow us enough time to get there as the invasion was in progress. So this is it. We expected it sooner or later, but the news left some of us in some rude awakening. Some of us were apprehensive and nervous and others were really elated, though most of us were glad to finally come to grips with the damned Germans and get the job done as soon as possible. We were all confident of the outcome and then wondered what it would be like and how many of us would get wounded or worse still – killed. Everyone was lost in their own feelings. It was near lunch time and I had lost my appetite, but I remember smoking a lot. It was the old cliche again: Hurry up and wait. I thought this had to be the biggest event in my life and maybe a short one at that. After the anticipated announcement, Bill and I and the others of "G" Company headed back to our barracks or Quonset huts made of corrugated steel sides with windows which reminded me of the Iroquois Indian Long House back in New York State during the early colonial days, except the Indian huts were made of wood and birch bark for the sides. I wonder why this piece of American Indian trivia came to my mind. Funny the things you think about which didn’t make any difference one way or the other – just a passing thought. We ate lunch and then checked our equipment and last minute details and waited for the time, days maybe, when we would finally leave "jolly old England" for the serious

matters ahead. Someone started to sing "There’ll be Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover," a popular war song when war broke out in 1939, and the old World War I song by Irving Berlin "Over There," "Don’t Fence Me in," even the Marine Hymn and other songs. Many of us felt a little affected by it and somewhat sad. Then someone sang "Oh, How I Hate to Get up in the Morning" and everybody laughed. Most everyone seemed lost in contemplation. I asked myself, looking around, just how many of us would be around the next few days – maybe not even me or Bill. I thought how short life is. It would be D–Day for a lot of us. I tried to shake the thought from my mind. I stretched out in my bunk and slowly fell asleep, a restless dead sleep. On the morning of June 1st, we finally received the orders to pack up our gear, rifles, grenades, machine guns, etc. We were finally moving out to the port of Cardiff, Wales. Everybody piled into the train which would take us to our destination and the ship that eventually would get us to the war zone and the beachhead landing at Utah. Everyone was excited and nervous, except for some iron-nerved guys, who were overjoyed with the news. I’m wondering how many of those overjoyed guys would change their tune when they heard those German guns and their reception committee. It amused the hell out of me. They sounded like a bunch of overjoyed kids going to a football game or high school dance. We finally boarded the train and off to the POE, Cardiff. We finally got there, disembarked and lined up at the pier where the American troop ship SS Explorer, a converted freighter, was waiting for us. This was the big day for us all. It wasn’t a bad looking ship as ships go. It had big gun emplacements on the side armed with 40 mm Bofors and guns they call Pom-Poms which looked like six-barreled guns which fired one round after another in succession. They were manned by U.S. Navy personnel. People waved at us as we prepared to get aboard through a big opening on the side of the ship with a gangway leading in. We filed into the ship two by two with all our gear, rifles, ammo, light machine guns, etc. I felt like a pack mule. It seemed forever for everyone to get on Noah’s Ark. Besides men, they took on some trucks, light artillery pieces and some light tanks, and supplies of all sorts in crates, etc. We were in the hold of the ship and then assigned to bunks. Each company had their own area. No sooner had we loaded than we started out to sea. Later on, we were allowed on deck. The view was unforgettable. We were in the Irish sea, but it might as well be the North Atlantic as far as we knew. We could see the English coastline disappear from view. We had picked up some other ships in the convoy. There were American and British destroyers going in and out of the ship lanes on the lookout for U–Boats but none showed up. That night I was so damned tired out, I lay down and slipped off to sleep. I woke up later and Bill and I went up on deck. It was pitch black. We couldn’t see a thing except for vague shapes of ships and the phosphorous spray leaping up in the waves. Every once in a while, we could see signal lights flickering off and on. I kept thinking if you were

only lucky to fall overboard, they’d never find you. Bill said, "You’re so damned right. Let’s go below deck. We can’t see anything anyway." On June 6th, I woke up in the morning with a radio turned to "Armed Forces Radio" giving the latest news of the Normandy Invasion and Lord Haw–Haw, the British traitor from Berlin. There was some good and bad news. The Fourth Division had made a successful landing at Utah Beach with minimum loses. The 82nd Airborne and the 101st and Glider Troops had air landed before D–Day to make way for the seaborne landings to follow on June 6th. The bad and ugly news was at a landing place called "Omaha," where our forces, the 1st Division and 29th, had a tough time and were bogged down at the beach landing. Casualties were very heavy. What’s going to happen when it’s our turn to land at Utah? I hoped to God we make it and I wondered with anxiety what was happening to our airborne forces inland. All in all, everything was tense. On June 3rd or 4th, we got into our Mae Wests (life preservers) and had a fire drill. Then with full gear, we practiced going over the rail of the ship and descended the rope hemp ladders just as if we were climbing down into the landing crafts. We were getting used to doing it in preparation for the actual landing, so everyone knew what to expect. It gave me a weird and scary feeling going over the side of the ship with the seas going up and down and wetting my legs in the channel. We practiced this every day till we got to the actual landing area. We had to wear our Mae Wests at all times until we got there. This so far was uneventful. No U–Boat attacks, but I have a feeling we were being tracked. How could they miss a target this large, and no appearance of the powerful Luftwaffe. I kept thinking of the German Condor raid on our convoy during our trip to England back in March. I’m sure glad they forgot to show up or couldn’t. I looked up into the skies. I had binoculars so I focused in on them – they looked like British Sunderlands and PBYs. What a beautiful sight, those planes were. Especially the Sunderlands painted a sky blue bottom and off white. Well, we sure had our "lookouts" for us. Being an aircraft buff, I wished I were up in one of those planes instead of a member of the "Queen of Battle" or an infantryman, which was the lowest of the low "cannon fodder" and the "expendibles." Ha! I told Bill while looking at the planes, "There go the specialists, the falcons of the air." Bill looked at me and said, "You’re not satisfied with anything. You found a home in the infantry." "Yeah," I said, in a tone of sarcasm.

Remembrance of Combat in Normandy
Guy Charland
©2003, Colin Charland, Chad Charland, and Claire Ashford

Chapter 2 The Greatest Show on Earth

June 4th. Bill and I and others from the 2nd platoon were on deck and spotted some whales in the distant water. What a sight, and also a school of porpoises or dolphins racing along at top speed. Some said jokingly, "Wonder if they’re going to the invasion with us as support." Everyone got a laugh and "At the rate they’re going, they’ll be there before us. Watch out Krauts. Here’s our secret weapon." We could hear big gunfire far, far off in the distance. "It won’t be long now," said Bill. Far off on the horizon, it looked like a hazy smoke. I wondered if that gunfire could be the advent or preliminary to the big show. We had fire drill again and also the going over the rail drill till we knew it blindfolded. I forgot to mention the meals – not too bad. The prisoners had a hearty meal. Glad we were on an American ship – good enough to go for seconds. We watched the Navy gun crews practice with their Bofurs and Pom-Poms. It made you deaf. With time on my hands, I tried to envision making a landing on the beach – what it would be like, running through the surf, sandy beach and sand dunes while trying to dodge the enemy gunfire. It filled me with fearful dread and foreboding. I went to see our Chaplain for spiritual guidance and security. The spiritual part helped but the security – no. One of our men said, "What are we sure of in this world – death and taxes and Normandy." I couldn’t argue about that and another corny saying, "What do you want to do – live forever?" If I ever heard that once, I heard it a million times. It ceased to be funny, being kicked around like an old football. The guy who said that had a hurt look on his kisser as he looked at me. I guess he thought he had said something profound. June 5. The noise appears to be closer and louder. Getting closer to the appointed date, June 6th – D Day. This morning when we got up on deck the channel water was on the rough side, but no one got seasick. Too concerned about what lay ahead. It would be a cloudy day with a fine misty rain. The gunfire seemed a little louder and closer now. We could see air activity but it was staying up in the sky and we could see the distant smoke on the horizon and sometimes flashes in the sky. I thought of a song called "Them There 90th Division Blues" – "Well you can hear my knees knocking and you think I’m scared, I guess. But that ain’t nothin' but pure patriotism that makes me shake like that. Man, I’ve got them there 90th Division Blues." Translated, Texas-Oklahoma "Tough Ombres." I was thinking how tough are we? Can

we live up to the title? I was beginning to feel not too tough – maybe later on. I gave a sigh. As I spoke to the men, I found all of us had forgotten our native states and our nationalities. We were all one bunch of GIs together with one objective – to kick hell out of the damned Germans and their divine bone–headed leader, Herr Adolph, the paper hanging son-of-a-bitch who got us into this damned situation. We were expected to arrive on June 7th, early on Thursday morning, and would lay off Utah Beach where we were to await our turn to board the landing craft from the SS Explorer and move on to Utah as scheduled follow-up units to the 4th Division who landed on D–Day. The 9th Division was to follow after us. I am not sure, but I believe June 6, D–Day, fell on Wednesday. On June 6th, we were still approaching the landing site. We were still within proximity of the English coast in the channel heading for the invasion area. As I stated, we were expected to arrive sometime early Thursday morning and to be ready to move in the landing craft for the Normandy beach. We were minus one regiment, the 359th, which was attached to the 4th Division to land on D–Day. We were on the SS Explorer making headway toward the landing area. We could hear the noise of heavy conflict. Guns from the battleships and cruisers distinctly could be heard and we knew the invasion was under way. We could see a lot of aircraft moving to and fro. We did see a fleet of gliders being towed across the sky by the C–47s to landings in Normandy. More were already inland. We picked up more ships – cargo ships, freighters, oilers, tankers, and warships of various descriptions. I never saw so many ships jammed with combat men. This would have to be the largest concentration of ships in history. God knows what they have at the beachheads and we are just a part of it. We are still having safety drills, calisthenics and are preparing to climb into landing crafts. By the end of the day, we are too tired out for anything except hitting the bunks and a chance finally to get the hell off the ship. I’ve seen enough water to hold me a lifetime. I hope no U–Boats show up. I never understood to this day why we never met up with enemy subs. They would have had a field day. We kept listening to Armed Forces Radio. Not much change in what was going on with the 29th Division, still stuck on Omaha, and that idiot traitor, Lord Haw Haw. Must be a bloody mess. We hope Utah will be a hell of a lot better. Getting stymied on a crowded beach was not my cup of tea. Besides, I hate tea. June 7th, Utah Beach. The roar of aircraft and artillery woke me up. Bill and I jumped out of our bunks. The platoon sergeant yelled, "We’re here, finally! Let’s see what’s going on." We all headed for the steps to get up on deck to see the big invasion. What we saw you wouldn’t believe. Ships looked like they were in the thousands all over the channel. We couldn’t see the horizon for the ships, large and small. We saw the battlewagon, the Texas, the Nevada, another battleship, some cruisers, some British support, all blasting away with their big guns at German defenses and positions – the planes like a shuttle service, fighters, bombers. I never saw so many. Being a spotter,

there were P–51s, P–47s, Grumman "Avengers" hitting blockhouses, casements, and pillboxes with torpedoes coming in low level to their targets. With my binoculars I saw A20s and B–26s. I think they had everything flying here including some British planes, Spitfires, Beaufighters, Typhoons, etc. We were anchored in position, everyone was in the act, but no orders yet. We were told to wait our turn to go in. The excitement we felt was at a fevered pitch. I said to Bill, "This has to be the Greatest Show on Earth." We must have been watching this panorama of fantastic fiery activity for about half an hour. The greatest invasion in history and despite the horror of war, I was damned proud to be a part of it, at least right now. The serious business was just ahead for us when we would board those landing crafts and head out for Hell’s acre. God be with us. We all heard Mass: Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, and I guess, even atheists. It didn’t matter this day of all days. We had our chaplain saying Mass. I have forgotten his name, a real brave guy. Everyone liked him. One of our guys in the squad said, "When this damned mess is over, I’m going to become a Catholic." It brought on a chorus of laughter, but he looked real serious. For the last couple of days, the weather was cloudy and downcast. A slight drizzle was falling which made for a depressive day on top of everything. I said to Bill, "It wasn’t meant for the sun to shine. It would be inappropriate for it to show itself." We gave agreement to that. After some time, we went down below deck to our bunks. Everyone had breakfast in the dining hall, but I believe no one ate, but drank coffee and the weeds were out. After that, we got our equipment in order, checked to see if we had everything was okay, and made last minute preparations, and waiting. The old Army expression "Hurry up and wait" was what we were told. The suspense was murderous, like waiting to see the dentist. We did hear that the ship, the Susan B. Anthony, that carried one of our regiments, the 359th, struck a mine on D–Day and sank, but no lives were lost and they had to make their way to the beach with just their rifles as everything else had gone down with the ship. With this awful waiting, everyone was on edge. It felt like a wire being stretched to its breaking point. Intensive German fire kept coming in. I believed I aged a lot. Some of the gunfire was shaking the ship. Things were falling down on the deck. Bill said laughingly, "Guy, we’re the Tough Ombres. Let’s see how tough we’ll be." I said, "I wouldn’t touch that statement with a ten foot pole," and we shared a grim laugh. It has always been a puzzle to me how one can find something funny in a damned serious situation. It seems to keep your morale or spirits up if anything. We had no choice. I said to Bill, "The Saints preserve us," an old Irish saying. A troopship in an invasion can be a damned lonely ship. Down below deck, you sit and sweat and tremble some with dry mouth and throat as the time gets nearer for the big

move. Nobody says anything because there is nothing to say. You look around at your comrades and the dread feeling hits you and you wonder who will be dead soon. Will it be that tough looking Pfc., Ortiz, from Texas, the BAR man checking his Browning automatic rifle and counting his ammo clips, or the squad Sgt, Olson, checking his M-1 carbine, or Robinson from Montana, stretched out in his upper bunk reading his Bible and praying out loud, or LaTour, the French Canuck from Quebec, Canada, next to me reading a paperback? Who will be dead soon? Rafferty, the Irishman from Boston seriously thinking with his head in his hands or Johnston from some town in Texas playing a tune on his harmonica and he was good with it. These names of my pals came back to me. I hope I’m not boring the reader. Bill McDermott from Larksville, Pa., my best pal and comrade in arms, who will die in action in July, and me, the New York City Dead End kid, the prankster, by way of Montreal, Canada. These are just a few of us warriors (apologies to Shakespeare) "for the working day" of "G" Company, 357th, with the motto "Semper Alerta," always alert – we had better be. MacKenzie from Kentucky, the Scot we called him, from "G" Company was killed in action as he stepped into the surf from the landing craft. He never had the chance to fire his M-1, never made it to the sand dunes. All this way to die in the surf – a bloody shame, I hope not in vain, and Bertoli from Jersey City – the first one wounded as he stepped off into the surf. It's funny – made the landing at Utah, got wounded, and back to England – all in one day. How lucky can one get? He never saw combat again I heard tell. From now on he could hear of the 90th’s progress through Armed Forces Radio. He never returned to "G" Company. While the SS Explorer lay anchored off Utah Beach, we were waiting for orders for our time to leave the ship and assault the beach. Needless to say, there was quite a lot of activity going on again. Again, I was amazed and flabbergasted at all the ships of all sorts. I never knew we had all this powerful force in the Channel. With all this power, there was no way we could fail; even if the Luftwaffe with their fierce gunfire did show up, they never would have stopped this armada and the landing – not in a thousand years. I couldn’t help but feel that the Allies had pulled off the biggest bluff in history. The stupid Germans still felt it was a feint and that the real assault would be in the area of Calais. Well, let them believe it, all to our credit and cleverness over Kraut arrogance. I will now attempt to relate my feelings at the moment when very soon we would come to grips with the Germans. It was a long time ago, but I still can recall how I felt on that memorable day. It still makes me shudder and get dryness in my mouth and throat whenever I think of it. The feeling hits you like a swelling inside of a huge ball of fear, hits you socking at your guts, hammering and hammering – God, the suspense is murderous. Death is standing next to me, my unwanted partner. Maybe this is it for me – oblivion. All this combat training for this day. Maybe all for nothing if I should die before getting at my enemy. My life seemed to be flashing before my eyes. They say before someone is to die, they experience this feeling; if it’s to be, let me die quickly. Don’t let me suffer needlessly, or if wounded, be a living vegetable or maimed where death would be preferable.

Suddenly, I came back to reality. The sergeant came to tell us to get our gear ready and prepare to get off the ship and into the landing craft. "This is it, Bill. God be with us. Let’s stick together, Pal." We go up on deck in single file and line up along the ship’s rail. I notice how cold the rail is. We stand three files deep. Bill and I are in the first file and first over the side. I look down at the LCVP (Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel). It is bobbing up and down in the Channel banging against the sides of the ship making dull sounds, with the Navy guys looking up at us. I get the feeling it’s fifty feet down into the craft, so far down. We had with us at the time a number of airborne soldiers, I guess from the 82nd or 101st. The only reason I figured out that they were going with us to land on the beach is that they had been injured in some training exercise and were not in shape to jump, so they were assigned to us for seaborne landing. These troops expressed a lot of fear climbing over the ship’s rail and down the rope ladders. They were trained to jump out of a C-47. This time they were going off a ship in a landing craft new to them. They were scared as hell. We had to guide and help them down. Some of them froze up on the ropes and we had to force them down. There was nothing to it really. We were all loaded down with our packs, rifles, and machine guns. I felt I weighed a ton. It was difficult as hell descending down to the craft. I was afraid of getting hung up in those hemp ropes. I finally got down low enough to let go of the ropes and drop onto the steel deck with a crash but intact. When we were all loaded up, we pulled away from the ship and said goodbye to the SS Explorer and headed out to the beach with the rest of the U.S. Infantry. As we proceeded, a few German shells hit the water near us sending up geysers of water into the air and getting us all soaked. One shell shook the hell out of the landing craft and I thought we would capsize. We were drawing a lot of fire, hoping we wouldn’t get a direct hit. As we approached the shore, we hit a couple of sandbars that jarred the hell out of us and the LCVP. I was too concerned to get seasick. Everyone was jostled around like sardines with all our equipment. I told Bill it was ridiculous our being all bunched up like this. We were all joking a little, trying to keep our morale and courage up for what lay ahead. The trip felt like forever, hoping we’d make it without getting blown away into oblivion. We hit another sandbar and came to a sudden stop. Then the gate started to open, letting light in bit by bit. Everyone was getting ready to make a quick exit out of the craft as the gate dropped. I noticed right away we had not hit the beach. As a matter of act, it was quite a way from us and we had to wade ashore in waist high water the final distance. We struggled our way slowly toward land, all of us loaded down with weapons. We moved as fast as we could, holding our rifles over our heads. Claude Mitchell in my

squad was jumping up and down like a schoolboy yelling "Whoopee, just like Coney Island!" I yelled at him, "You’ve never been to Coney Island." "Okay," he said, "Atlantic City in Jersey." Mitchell was a short guy, I think the shortest guy in the squad. His M-1 was almost as tall as he was. When he jumped into the water, he went in over his head and we had to pull him up sputtering like a drowned cat. "You’ll drown before you get to the beach," said Bill. (Poor Claude, he was KIA later on.) We all were in a hell of a hurry, but try running in surf, loaded down. It’s impossible. As we struggled on, there was all kinds of debris in the water, mangled and smashed vehicles of all kinds, half–tracks, tanks, weapons carriers or 1/4 tons, with dead occupants. I had to push one poor bastard face down in the tide out of my way. It was so tragic. There were quite a few unfortunate GIs in the swirling surf that didn’t quite make it. As I looked at them I pictured myself in the same way, but lady fortune was with me or I should say, my guardian angel. Bullets were striking near me. It gave me a sick and desolate feeling, a macabre scene, a nightmare. Machine gun and other fire was hitting the area around us. Why a lot of us didn’t get hit is a miracle. We were doing our damnedest to stay alive. I finally got to the beach and we started to move inland through the soggy sand, and again, it was hard as hell trying to go uphill through those damned sand dunes. It was just as hard going through sand as in the surf. Your feet kept slipping and you would get nowhere with all this equipment we were carrying. I was tempted to shed this junk. We jumped behind sand dunes and waited to reach the causeway leading over the flooded area, like salt marshes, so I figured the worst part was over. We were all soaking wet which made our clothes heavier and going up the road was hard moving. The whole area was inundated, flooded. We are still catching stray slugs and mortar fire. To make things worse, we reached the entrance to the causeway which would end up at Ste. Marie Du Mont. It would be the first town we would enter since leaving the beach. Ste. Marie Du Mont had supposedly been captured by the airborne guys of the 82nd including the causeway leading to the town, but someone forgot to notify the Germans of this for as we ran across it, we began to catch sporadic and heavy fire from the other end of the causeway. What the hell was going on? Things got to be in a state of confusion for our company. Was the causeway secured or not? Apparently, the causeway had been secured but the Germans got it back in a counterattack, but of course, unknown to us at the time until we moved into it. Voices cried out, "Let’s get the f------ hell over the causeway," so off we ran despite the vicious gunfire. As we moved forward, we hugged the sides of the wall on both sides of the pathway trying to dodge the Kraut bullets directed at us.. We could hear the rounds rip and zip by us. Men got hit. We could not stop but had to keep going, the faster the better, right into

the hail of fire. Several men fell in front of me, but luckily they missed me. As we made the exit, the Germans fled. We managed to kill some of them as they retreated in a hurry together with their field pieces and machine guns. I fired at them but don’t think I hit anyone. So ended the battle of the causeway and into Ste. Marie Du Mont. The area was inundated together with existing salt marshes. There was no other way across the marshes than by the causeway. The Germans, unluckily for them, had failed to blow it up to their chagrin and sorrow. This was my baptism of fire as far as I’m concerned and Bill’s too, and of course "G" Company, we engaged the enemy for the first time and won out. We earned the title of "Tough Ombres" and I’ll add the other title "Second to None." These titles sound corny and like bravado to the layman and the guy who never was in battle and faced death and has no understanding or comprehension of what it’s like to be in this type of situation facing death, but that’s how it was. You really have to feel how it is to understand the horror in battle, but despite this, there was a certain pride with it that you survived to talk about it. Since having landed and our first engagement with the Germans at the causeway, our work was now cut out for the 357th. We met Mr. Hun for the first time. This is all I remember at this point of the story. From notes I kept and my memory, I remembered quite a lot. This was the first step in our objective to crush the German war machine. I have more to relate but this is the first part of the long battle and I knew there would be more hard fighting and losses before it would all end, and despite the suffering and sacrifice, I would not exchange any of these events for anything in the world. It was the most important and cherished experience of my life. It was one of the greatest military events in history and I was a part of it. Although I wouldn’t want to do it over again. One time is enough and the main thing is, I was alive. We entered Ste Marie and were cheered to no end by the people and kept going on to the outskirts.

Chapter 3 Battle at a small town and orchard

A meeting was held on our way to attack a small town held by the Germans by the lieutenant and about seventeen of us and the platoon leader said, "Hell, there's plenty of us to take over this town. That's what we came here for – to kill Krauts and from the looks of things, there's a lot of them to be killed." "What's the plan?" one of us asked. The lieutenant answered: "A direct assault and the sooner the better, let's go." He jumped up and started running toward the group of houses, yelling as he went. We all leaped and followed him. We spread out and fired as we ran through the fields and apple orchards, and right up to the houses. I saw my first German running through the trees at an angle to our right flank. I stopped, took a good sight on him and squeezed the trigger. The rifle bucked against my shoulder. I don't remember hearing the shot or the recoil, but the German spun sideways and fell face first out of sight in the grass. Another Kraut stepped around the comer of a building, and stood there looking down at the spot where the first soldier fell. I had a good straight-on shot at him and fired and he too fell backward, not to rise. Scratch two Huns. Fighting was at a fevered pitch now. All around, men were running between buildings, through yards and over fences. Four soldiers ran at a gate in a hedge surrounding a house and almost immediately, there came a long ripping burst of a Kraut machine gun. The four Americans died in a weed-choked front yard. Automatically, other soldiers shunned the yard but moved on the double on all fours down the hedges on either side until they were in throwing distance of the house and grenaded it. One soldier leapt through a side window, fired several rounds from his M-1, and stepped to the front door and motioned that it was all clear. Running through the open gateway, past the dead and into the house, I saw a German machine gun, a lot of empty shells and a couple of boxes of ammo under the window to the left of the door. No Germans or bodies were in the house. Evidently they had cleared out when the first grenades hit, leaving their guns behind. The soldier who went through the window said they went out the back way just as he entered. He fired at them but none of them went down. We left the house and rejoined the others in clearing out the remaining houses. There were a lot of them. German soldiers were pulling out of town by the back way and disappearing into the fields and woods surrounding the town. German dead were scattered about in the houses, ditches and fields. I don't know how many I hit. The ones that fell when I fired were down for good. After occupying the German positions, we wondered why they had given them up so easily, for the walls were all of stone, two feet thick, with rifle openings to fire out from. Over 200 Germans had vacated their positions, leaving behind about 40 dead and about 75 prisoners. Four of our men were dead. One of our guys could speak German and he questioned the prisoners as to why their comrades had pulled out. They said that when we came at them, yelling, hollering and

shooting across the open fields, they figured a whole division was directed right at them and never dreamed that only 17 or so men armed with rifles and grenades would attack over 200 well-armed soldiers in stone fortifications. The bluff had worked. The early morning march and the capture of the town had taken only a few hours. I felt hungry, having had no breakfast as yet, so Bill and I each broke up a K-Rations box marked "breakfast." The chopped pork and egg yolks tasted like hell as usual. After finishing, we lit cigarettes and leaned against the road bank to enjoy the warm sun. A bullet cracked between us. Our reactions were getting faster and we both hit the bottom of the ditch at the same time. "There he is!" yelled Bill. "I see him. He just ran behind that orchard and is heading toward the houses at the right." We were staring over the ridge again, but I didn't see him right away so we waited and watched the place. Then a little further to the right, I saw someone moving. It was another Kraut. Easing my rifle up, it was an easy shot. I saw the dust fly from his jacket as I squeezed the trigger and he dropped down. There were more out there than the two of us figured on because just then a machine gun opened up and raked the brush around us and as if that were a signal, the whole world seemed to explode in flames and bullets were flying so thick, it seemed you could reach up and grab a handful of bullets out of the air. All the soldiers were firing now and some of the ones closer to the road were lobbing grenades as fast as they could on the other side. It became a pitched battle with only a narrow blacktop road separating the two forces. Actions became furious – firing at fleeing shapes, crawling to different positions and firing, reloading and firing again and again. The Germans were in the ditch on one side of the road while we were in the opposite ditch on the other side. A distance of not more than 30 yards separated us at times. Just as I slipped my rifle through the foliage to fire, I could see the muzzle flashes from the enemy rifles at they fired at us. The Germans usually dropped back into the ditch while working the bolt of their Mauser rifles, but we could always get off one to three shots at them to their one before ducking back down. They used smokeless powder and were difficult to locate, whereas our weapons gave out clouds of smoke that gave our positions away and kept us moving to keep from getting our heads blown away. There was very little wind and the smoke clung close around us. The smell of smoke burned deep in our nostrils, leaving the I backs of our throats and the roofs of our mouths dry, along with an acrid taste. The firing died down and stopped as the enemy withdrew, leaving us to count our losses again and close up the gaps in our lines left by dead soldiers. Things became fairly quiet with only occasional sniping going on from both sides. Bill and I lay on the grass smoking our cigarettes and watching the artillery shells drop first in one field. then the other. It was strange in a way. The Germans had a fortress here from which a few men

could hold off an army, a few men had taken it and now were holding them off even though they outnumbered us almost 15 to 1. The rest of the day passed easily and we joined our positions. We started piling cobblestones across the end of the ditch. Bill joined in and we had built a wall about three feet high across the end of the ditch next to a road. Night came and several men crawled into the ditch behind Bill and me to give support in case Germans tried to come into town on the road. We had a rocket launcher to add firepower. Just when night was at its darkest, a shadow appeared above us and started spraying up and down the ditch with a machine gun (burp gun). We couldn't see him at first. He just stood there, a vague shape. There was nothing we could do but lie flat in the ditch for the brief seconds it took him to empty his magazine. While he was snapping another in place, some of the men fired in his direction and he took off. The shooting really started hot and heavy. One Kraut crept up to the other side of the road, lined himself up with the ditch we were in and opened fire. Bill lobbed a grenade in his direction. The firing stopped with the blast. Not one of the shots got past the stones we had piled up at the opening end of the ditch. A few minutes of work had saves our asses. Grenades were bouncing like crazy with small arms fire going back and forth at a fast rate for a few minutes. The firing gradually slowed down. The Germans pulled out and the filing quit altogether. Bill called down to see if anyone was hurt and crawled back down the ditch but everyone seemed okay. It was a miracle. No one was hurt although there were plenty of bullets zipping around us. We hadn't done too badly, though. We had dispersed over 150 Germans, captured a town, taken 75 prisoners, killed at least that many more and now commanded the high ground. I thanked the Good Lord we were alive after all the f------ fighting. With scouts out and our lieutenant in command, we started out in the direction of Ste. Marie sur Glane. Just before we got to the crossroads, two machine guns opened up and small arms fire raked us. But luck was with us and no one was hit. Everyone scrambled for the safety of the foxholes and houses. The Krauts had the road out of town blocked. Several times, soldiers tried to break through, but each time were driven back under a withering hail of fire. Finally, two men took the prisoners out of the stables, lined them up on the road in a column of twos and marched them down the hill toward the machine guns. They were hoping the enemy wouldn't fire on their own, but it didn't make any difference to the Germans and they opened up, shooting holes in their own men in trying to kill the Americans. The prisoners started screaming "Nicht Schiessen" (don't shoot). The POWs attempted to escape, so we opened up on them too. The poor bastards were caught in a crossfire and when the shooting stopped, they were all dead. One of the soldiers ran straight at the machine gun closest to the road. His action scared the German gunner because, although he fired a steady burst at the oncoming soldier, he never did touch him. He covered the distance, leaped over the gun and slashed the German's throat with his trench knife. Then with a quick left jab, he knocked the

other Kraut backwards. With both of these Krauts dead, the men on the other guns tried to make a break, but were cut down before they could run away. On the march, we passed through a section that had been blasted to rubble. I don't know whether it was from bombing or shelling. The trees were shredded stumps with some smoke or ground fog going through them. The ground was plowed up into loose dirt with large craters scattered all over the area. The whole scene reminded me of some page out of "HELL" by Dante. A deathly silence hung over the place like a heavy pall. The shuffling sound of our boots along the hard surface of the highway sounded loud. I thought to myself that this must be the home of death itself with the devil looking on. On we went, passing through Benouville and St. Martin De Monts, sometimes getting hit pretty heavy by Kraut shellfire. Amfreville fell behind us, then a small cluster of houses with no name. At Font Hebert, we made a turn and headed through a place that had swamps on either side of the road. We saw a Sherman tank bogged down in the swamp. Then we saw three American burned-out tanks and one still smoking Panther tank to the left and farther ahead blown apart by shell fire and dead Germans around. Someone said, "I hope we have enough Shermans to last through the war. So many have been hit." Gunfire sounded from up ahead and we could make out the tall steeple of a church which was in the center of town. The area was full of casualties – a veritable graveyard. Just before we reached our objective, someone shouted "Let's go" and we automatically picked up our stead and started moving at a familiar pace. We passed a road sign marked Ste. Claire and saw soldiers crouched in doorways and laying in gutters along the road. Firing was coming in from the other end of the street as well as going out from this end. But we kept on with a steady run until one of the soldiers yelled to us that all of the town wasn't taken yet. The Huns opened fire on us and we returned fire, shooting from the hip as we ran, but didn't hit any of them as far as I could see. A man in front of me went down and rolled into the ditch dead. A chance shot. We kept on the run going like hell right through town. On the outskirts, we came across several American soldiers sprawled dead along the roadside and although we didn't stop to examine them closely, I did see that they were lying face up. A dreadful feeling came over me and again I wished I were somewhere else. For they had their throats cut open leaving nothing but bloody, gaping wounds. Lying there next to each other, shoulder to shoulder, made this seem like a pure murder, not war. Hatred and rage welled up in me – "The "Godless bastards," I uttered. "I'll see about this. One turn deserves another." Once clear of the village, we had pretty good going until we ran into some 357th guys from 3rd Battalion who teamed up with two Sherman tanks and were mopping up some Germans in the fields on either side of the road. We joined with them in firing at the enemy in the ditches ahead, but they were too well dug in to get hit with rifle fire. The turret on one of the tanks opened and the tank commander said he would flush them out for us. He maneuvered his tank so that one tread was on the road and the other in the ditch. Then he started moving ahead at a slow pace. When he reached the enemy, several of them tried running out across the road, but were cut down by our rifle and BAR fire.

Four of those who stayed in the ditch were crushed under the tread of the tank. This was too much for the rest of them and they all ran at once, heading across the field and across the road. We fired full blast at them. None of them made it to safety. The way was clear now and we started out once more and went right to the outskirts of town. Men were lined head-to-toe in the ditches and a non-com yelled for us to get down, that the Kraut mortars had the place zeroed in and were raising hell with the troops up and down the road. One man was dead in the ditch and another lay on his back in the middle of the road. There was nothing anyone could do but feel sorry for him. He lay there with eyes staring at the clear blue sky while his throat moved as though he were trying to breathe, but just couldn't get the air into his lungs. He stayed that way for a moment, then returned to a relaxed position. I watched him for a while and thought to myself this was a hell of a way to die. Word passed back down the line to get ready for an attack on the town. We jumped off on command from the head of the column. While lying there, we talked to the other men who had already been fighting for possession of this place. They had had a pretty rough time of it. It seems that the town had been taken once by elements of the 358th, who slammed through and headed for Beaumont. Enemy troops had counterattacked from the sides after the 358th had passed through and were now pouring fire at us. Fire got heavier and heavier. Men that were scattered through the fields on our right started running forward. Men in the ditches ahead of us rose up, looked over their shoulders, and yelled "Let's go" and waved us on as they started forward. It was mass confusion having to watch everything at once. The attack snowballed. Soon men were everywhere; all heading for the buildings ahead. I didn't recognize anyone. I didn't attach myself to any one squad, but went along with what seemed to be the largest flow of troops. Gaining the town, we worked our way to the left toward the hedgerows to take up positions against another counterattack. Large groups of German prisoners' were being herded onto the main road and back the way we had come. We were deployed with other men far out to the left flank. The sun was shining brightly and I was damned tired. Again, men shouted and started forward and although I wasn't sure which way was forward anymore, I went along with them shouting and crashing through hedges. In field after field, we were fired on by burp guns and slammed by mortar fire, but we could not make physical contact with the Krauts. We fired into hedges where we thought they would be as we ran. The Germans lay in the heavy hedges firing at us as we charged them. Then they faded away to rear positions as we neared the hedge they were firing from, leaving behind only their dead and wounded. Heavy firing and fighting sounded to our right in the direction of a town. Artillery screamed far overhead and from the sounds, they were large shells, heading deep into enemy territory. We traveled for what seemed to be miles through thickets, hedges and fields until we finally came on a large group of men deployed in skirmish lines facing another town. These men weren't moving, just spread out in the open as though waiting for something to happen. The men I was with melted into their lines as though they belonged.

I lay next to a sergeant who asked me what outfit I was with and seemed sort of surprised when I told him G Company 357th. To our right, two officers, one with a radio, were talking and studying a map. A lone two-story brick house had been standing quite a way ahead of us and a little to our right. Now it was nothing but a pile of rubble. The accuracy of that artillery was frightening. The barrage continued for what seemed to be about half an hour, working the hedges and the Kraut gun emplacements. Some of it landed in our own lines killing several men, wounding others. Then the shelling lifted and again, we attacked. Swinging to our right, crossing hedges and fields, we came onto a road, then turned left and went into town under heavy fire. The Germans counterattacked with their infantry and by sheer numbers forced us back. But we slammed back with ferocity and gained part of the town. Next came in the infamous S.S. which forced us to withdraw. But the men recovered quickly and again we retook half the town. Then came the shock, enemy infantry charged in and after bitter fighting, the town again was in German hands. We found out from a few prisoners taken in the withdrawal that the infantry was made up of Azerbaijanis who had sided with the Germans. The roads, fields and town were littered with dead from both sides. We lay in the ditches and hedges hot, tired, dirty, sweaty and thirsty. What I wouldn't give then for one cup of cold dirty water. Then the order came and we were in another wild charging melee, yelling at the top of our voices. Glancing to the right I could see other troops scattered through the fields and making their way over the hedgerows which grew close to the edge of town. On we went, running down the street and straight into the heavy fire of the enemy. Then we were amongst them and door to door fighting started, house by house, room by room. We shot and grenaded our way through the houses and streets. Entering one house on the run, I found myself in a room. A stairway on the right led to a second floor. A door on my left opened to another large room. I swung into the room on the left just as I spotted a Kraut with a burp gun entering the room. The German must have gotten down the stairs when I entered the room on the left and just before I left the house, I swung my M-1 around and caught him in the face with several shots. When we finally got time to breathe it was on the far side of town. The remnants of the Georgians or Circassians, they were all alike to me, had withdrawn to the surrounding fields and hedgerows and were regrouping so the rest of us followed, figuring the main body of Germans were in that direction. Somehow, Bill and I got separated again in the scramble and I joined three other men carrying a .30 caliber air–cooled machine gun. One was carrying the machine gun on a tripod with half a belt of ammo wrapped loosely around the barrel and ready to fire. All of them carried boxes of ammo at the same time, so my offer to carry the load was accepted right away. One man was in the front with the gun with another carrying the back two legs of the tripod and loaded with ammo. We started out across the hedgerows into Indian country. Brush grew so thick around the edge of the fields that in crawling through it and over the hedges, we soon found that

the four of us were crossing a field with no sign of any men around. Firing was going on all around us and we were hot, sweaty and dog tired. We had run until I thought we were all going to collapse at one time. A machine gun blasted at us from our right flank in long ripping burps, typical of German machine guns, showering us with hot lead and leaves. We dropped right where we were as though we were dead. The Krauts blasted at us again and I could hear the rounds slamming into the ground around us. Then one man jumped up and ran the last few steps to a hedgerow and disappeared into a hole. He yelled for us to join him and another and I jumped into the hole after him. We lay there waiting for them to attack, but nothing happened and we could see nothing in the underbrush to shoot at. One soldier took the lead again and stepped boldly into the open. He had a lot of guts to step out like that in front of a hidden machine gun and walked around the middle of the field trying to draw fire on himself. It must have been a lone Kraut who fired on us, then took off, because there were no more shots. So ended this fiasco which, in my point of view, accomplished nothing except a bunch of our guys got killed uselessly and all of us were still in the dark.

Chapter 4 But for the Grace of God

JUNE 8, 1944. This was a Monday and an overcast day. We were in a column marching down a blacktop after having had a bitter battle with some Krauts a while ago that we forced out of a small village and retreated. We suffered minor casualties, but we managed to kill several of them and counted about ten or more dead Germans, all from small arms fire. After the fight, we captured two officers and some NCOs and privates. We set up a guard for them and the rest of the company marched off to the next confrontation which wasn't long in arriving. (I forgot during this melee, we had one casualty.) One guy from another platoon tripped over a tree stump into a muddy ditch and dislocated his shoulder. Boy, was he happy. He was evacuated by jeep to the beach and then to a hospital and a nice clean bed in England. I hope he had ugly nurses. I should be so lucky. He returned to us a few weeks later and was jubilant about it. I told him, "Now you had your little rest and R&R chasing English chicks. Welcome back to the war." I'm sorry to say the poor bastard got killed in the battle in the Maginot Line sector. I'm not using the word "bastard" in a mean or derogatory manner. We were all "bastards" in one way or another. We used it as meaning someone unfortunate or a real tough soldier, or maybe a term of endearment. As I previously mentioned, we were in a column of ducks down this blacktop road when all hell burst loose. It sounded like all the small arms in the German army tore into us. There was a mad dive into the roadside ditches alongside the blacktop.

We couldn't see any of the enemy except for this hellish fire and the infernal noise. We were pinned down. Every time someone attempted to get out or look up, there was instant fire, what felt like a thousand small arm weapons. Thank God, they didn't have mortars, although this was lethal enough. We had to lay there and take it. Some of us died instantly or from wounds with no medical help.. We could hear the injured crying out for help but we could not do anything to aid them. Suddenly, we heard new sounds – artillery shells, "outgoing" mail from our side – Hooray – right into our tormentors on the damn German side. Now the shoe was on the enemy's foot. Thank God for the 105s or 155s. I didn't care what they were. They saved our hides from disaster in the nick of time. We all jumped out of the ditches and started on a lope down the road. Except for sporadic fire, the intense fire we were subjected to had lessened considerably. Those big guns had done their job. I'll never say anything against the artillery again. We got to the end of the trail which ended at a crossroad. We crossed over to our left and into a field and orchard, what was left of it. What met my eyes was staggering; it was just covered with dead and dying Germans in all kinds of positions. The devastation was awful. Huge craters all over the place left by those awesome guns. Fires had erupted here and there, together with the heavy acrid smell of burning oil and vegetation and vehicles. The air being humid made it even worse and unbearable. I had a choking sensation and my eyes burned and teared. We hurriedly moved on across the field to a hedgerow, where we crossed over into the next field which also had been visited by our big guns with the same deadly effect, but not as severe. There were a large number of dead Krauts here also. It appeared by the way they were lying they were trying to escape the deadly wrath of our gun fire, but didn't make it to safety – one good thing, it ended up as a black day for the Krauts. After giving us one hell of a beating, we gave it back to them twofold. To me it looked like we had kicked the hell out of a division. It was a consolation to me and made me feel good. No livestock had been killed; horses, cattle, goats, sheep, etc. – only the damned Germans; I didn't feel sorry for them. Having always been a strong animal lover to this day, I had a lot of compassion for them. The innocent animals had been spared. It's strange – something like these animals surviving gave me a good feeling. (I should see a shrink about this, shouldn't I?) The Army would have sent me to a psycho hospital for battle fatigue. I might have escaped combat duty if they had known this. Well, so much for lost opportunities. Next time, I'll get caught talking to a goat and they'll send me away. Had another hell of a battle early one morning a few days later at a badly destroyed town that was being fanatically defended by a large force of German troops and some tanks. As I had written, the town itself was badly demolished which made it a veritable fortress. With all the blown up houses, the debris and rubble laying about made it difficult as hell to drive the enemy out. Casualties on both sides were considerable. It was a nasty, bloody fight, and the noise of the MGs and rifles was deafening. It was a delaying action on the part of the Germans so the main elements could make a quick exit. It seemed to take forever to break their stubborn defensive positions and capture what was left of the town. I'll say one thing: That they did a hell of a job, holding us off, during

this hotly contested battle. I shot two Germans as they tried to escape from a burning house. They took me by surprise as they came out of the house in front of me. Both of them never saw me or what hit them. For their sake, they didn't suffer. There was an awful lot of small arms fire. The air was filled with the sharp cracks of rifles and clatter of machine guns and dodging bullets was a common activity – the name of the game. I consider it a miracle that I came out unscathed, not so for a lot of us. It was all over for many of us and the Germans. The Germans took the heaviest casualties. We killed about 150 and about 100 wounded, so I was told, and took many prisoners. I was informed that we had about three hundred killed, missing and wounded. Later, all or practically all the missing were accounted 'for, mostly wounded. All considered we came off the better but with us any killed is unfortunate even though we lost less. We lost 10 replacements killed in my company and 12 wounded. The whole scrap felt like no end. It actually lasted about an hour and a half, more or less. It felt like it lasted days. As I sat there thinking, boy, this damn war is not over by a long shot and it was going to be like this day after day, week after week, etc., till one day, it will be all over, and if I and my pals aren't killed, it'll be a miracle, and we would all leave it to the Almighty. War made me very fatalistic, religious, fear of the unknown. How I was going to get it; how badly injured would I be – the more I thought of all this and its possibilities, the more anxious and panic stricken I became. I had to force myself to control my awful fear and anxiety and keep myself under control and not break down after a bloody battle. All these symptoms and feelings are let loose on you, more so with others. I began looking for my pal and others that survived. Doing this helped me to keep my composure – and I prayed a lot and tried to build up my courage with divine help. Battle is a deadly game with definite results. Many times I thought I would wake up and all this horror was just a bad dream; no such luck. Other strong feelings – I had a premonition that I would never see home, family or friends again. Somewhere, someplace in this battlefield was an unchanging end to my life as the saying: "A bullet somewhere has my name on it." The odds were against me surviving. When you have that scary feeling day after day, it is most difficult to live with, even if you have strong religious beliefs. It caused a lot of soldiers to have mental breakdowns. I did, but it did not occur until the danger and combat ended, and it all rolled in on me. I had flashbacks, severe anxiety, nightmares, depression, etc. to the present time. I forgot who said this, maybe Keats the English poet, "there but by the grace of God go I." A good example of "flipping your mind" was this. One day, a few replacements arrived to our company. Most of them were real young, out of high school, 17 or 18 years old. Never been in battle. Today or the next day they would be men – after their "baptism of fire." Well, they were being assigned to different platoons in our company when all of a sudden, the Germans fired a couple of mortar rounds at us, with sporadic sniper fire. One or two of these young GIs jumped up and started to scream, cry – in complete loss of control. Not one of them had been struck by a bullet or shell fragment; they just went to pieces and had to be rounded up by the medics and taken out of the battle area to a first aid station. For them, the war was over (I don't know if they were lucky or not). They might have suffered severe traumatic injury. I did not blame them, that was their limit. It

sometimes didn't take much to become a mental casualty and yet some soldiers went through the whole thing without being hurt and again it was just a matter of time when it would build up, even to the strongest, and that was that. Every soldier had his limit. In those days of WWII, it was called "battle exhaustion," "combat breakdown," but now we have a more intellectual title for it – PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Sounds like a Bachelor of Science degree, born of the Vietnam fiasco. A really bad military affair with more good men destroyed for no damned good reason. After our regiment landed on the Normandy beach, some time later, and fighting our way inland against strong and determined resistance, we had the opportunity to occupy a chateau. I had the good luck to sleep in one of the rooms of which there were many. This large building, at one time, must have belonged to some people of means in more peaceful times. The appearance of the interior merits some description for those people who are still in doubt as to the savagery of the bestiality the Krauts were capable of attaining. The fine drawing room was a veritable dung heap, the beautiful curtains were torn, the small billiard table lay upside down in the middle of the room, a litter of rotting food covered the floor, the fine furniture was all smashed, the chairs were broken, the easy chairs had their stuffing torn out of them and the glass of the cabinets were broken. One could see that all the small objects and artistic pieces had been carried off and everything else was methodically broken up, fine linens trimmed with lace were soiled with excrement, excrement was everywhere, in the bath, on the sheets, on the floor. They had vomited on the beds and urinated on the walls, broken bottles of red wine were spilled on the costly carpets, obscene designs and drawings were traced in charcoal on the wallpaper together with filthy inscriptions. I have stated enough of the degrading traces left by a contemptible enemy which would have shamed Attila the Hun. I have exaggerated nothing; if anything, I have understated the truth. And this is the nation that was to rule the world of culture and civilization. May it stand forever as a tribute that is reduced to its true level, which is below that of a sub-human, so is this horror we are facing and fighting. The German idea of waging war would make Genghis Khan an amateur. They deserved the infamous label of "the Hun" called by the British soldiers in World War I, so it still is in World War II, a continuation of German arrogance and false superior philosophy and complete disregard for anything gentle and humane, these then were the "20th Century Barbarians." We passed through Amfreville. It was a nice place in more peaceful times. It had quite a history in the Medieval era. While trotting along a dusty dirt road, we passed a few shot-up and abandoned farmhouses and wrecked German vehicles with the usual dead bodies lying about in the different ways they had been killed and parts of bodies. Those dead along the road looked like they had been surprised and strafed by Allied attack planes. These Germans never had a chance to get away or into the safety of the ditches or nearby orchards. A lot of them were killed while in their trucks or attempting to get away from them. God, I was glad it was the Krauts and not us. German aircraft hardly ever showed up at all. Thank the Lord we had supremacy of the skies. Our planes were there, needed or not – a great consolation. Now I'm sure how the Germans felt when they were on the receiving end of these aerial assaults when they were having a holiday in the earlier years of the war in '39, '40 and '41. Like I told a POW, "How does it feel now that

you're getting the hell kicked out of you by our planes? Ain't it fun, now, isn't it?" He looked at me with hurt feeling and my arrogance scared the hell out of him. I thought of pals of mine that were not around anymore and felt like shooting him and the rest of the bastards we had collared in a bunch. They must have seen it in my eyes by the way they huddled. They looked so pathetic and pitiful, not the typical superman I had read and heard about. I had nothing but contempt and hatred toward them. Fifty years later, I still feel the same, have not forgotten or forgiven. I guess I'll take it to my lonely grave. So be it! Sometimes I shock my Christian friends and acquaintances. They feel I have an unChristian and a pagan philosophy and attitude and that I should forgive. Well, they are allowed their beliefs. Many of these so–called proclaimed Christians are un-Christian in other matters a lot worse than mine. So let God decide. I'm not sorry for the Germans I killed and the ones I'm not sure of. That's one reason why I enlisted in the Army – to fight for my country and the Allied cause against this German ideology to subjugate the world. This also includes the Japanese aggression. Little did I know then that there would be another ideology to replace them. I got ahead of myself in this narration. As I had previously written, I was wounded at the tail-end of June or so. The first time by a sniper located in the upper floor of this house located in a small Norman village we had entered, the enemy having left the place some time before. The town itself was not too badly torn up. There was a limited amount of dwellings: a church, a few stores demolished, with a few snipers left behind to harass us. This was a common German practice, and also, the usual devil's devices – booby traps which caused a number of casualties in our regiment. At times it was carelessness which caused a lot of damage. If you stayed on the alert for these devilish things, it cut down on getting maimed or killed. We have been on the move through this small village, going down the main street through the heart of town and toward the center of the place which always seemed to have a monument or fountain of sorts. It seems all these villages had these centers with a lot of houses and stores built around it. I remember seeing a little park with benches and foliage and small bushes in different spots. We halted for a short break before advancing on and I was so tired. I hadn't slept in two days. I was dead on my feet and I welcomed the halt for a few minutes. We were all spread out waiting for the signal to move up. It was just enough time for me to doze off, which I found out, to my dismay, was a bad mistake. When I awoke, everybody was gone. I was terrified to death. Where had everyone gone? What direction had they gone? There I was in the middle of this place near the village square without the slightest move to make. Then I heard a lot of firing going on and it was hard to judge in what direction it was coming from. I was completely confused and began to feel possibly the worst thing – panic. It can kill. I tried to calm down and decide what to do – go back or try to move ahead and rejoin my company? There were four streets leading away from the square but which one to take? So I got up and made a dash toward one of the streets I guessed they took, hoping it was the right one. I was halfway across when I heard the sharp crack of a rifle and felt something

hitting me with a sharp sting in the arm or hand. At the same time the impact knocked me down and landed me on the pavement on my chest. I had been struck sideways. I was still clutching my rifle with my right finger on the trigger under me. My left hand was holding onto the forward part of the weapon, the small of the stock, so that my body lay right on top of everything. My helmet was still on my head with the visor on the cement pavement, so I could see in front of me to the left side. I didn't move. I heard distant footsteps coming toward me from the right side from one of the houses I had seen when crossing the street. I was very scared and very alert in my situation. I felt no pain but a numbness hi my right hand and forearm. I couldn't tell how badly I was injured, but at least I was alive for a while. I had the strong feeling that this was my last time on this earth. It felt like an eternity, laying there. I felt the feeling of clamminess and a tingling sensation. The steps got closer and stopped right next to me. It was a bright sunny day and as I lay there looking ahead, the enemy cast a shadow and I looked, so I knew where he stood. I held my breath. Suddenly, he kicked me in the hip. I still didn't move despite the pain. I expected him to put a bullet into me. This is it, I thought, but thank God, he didn't shoot. He moved away from me. I could hear his steps receding back to where he had come, so quickly, I took a chance, got up and fired hi the direction I figured him to be. I guessed right. It happened so fast he didn't know what happened. I fired and struck him in the back and he went down without a sound. At the same time, I bolted down the rest of the street to a corner of a building where I crouched and looked back at him. He was lying in the street motionless – scratch one less sniper. Then the horrible thought hit me. It was a close call, Lord, wasn't it? I couldn't believe that had happened to me and I had survived. His mistake in not shooting me was my life saver. Unknown to me there was more to come very shortly. After this, I took off to find an aid station. I retreated back the way we had come. I came to a place along the road to rest and took out a cigarette. When I did, I felt a very sharp pain in my right hand. It came to me that I had been hit, but the rifle shot had numbed my hand. I didn't feel a thing and could hardly move my fingers. At least, thank God, at the time I could move my trigger finger, but I could barely move it now. My thumb was the only thing I could move. My hand had swelled up like a baseball mitt. I saw where his bullet had struck right below the little finger above the wrist. Hardly any blood came out. It went in the front of my hand and it came out the back. I couldn't even use my first aid kit to dress it. In fact the bullet, when it went through my hand, even penetrated through the small of the stock of my rifle, the part I held when hit. It's a wonder that it hadn't shattered my hand. The pain I expected hadn't started yet. What I was afraid of was shock and panic before I could reach an aid station. I still had a lot of ground to cover with, I'm sure, more snipers. I wasn't out of the woods yet.

I thought – Boy, what a mess I've gotten myself into. I said a lot of prayers to God and a few Saints, mostly military. After getting out of that damned village, it was urgent for me to reach the aid station. I trotted down the blacktop along a ditch adjacent to a lengthy hedgerow, of which Normandy is famous for, in this case, for me infamous because the Krauts used these to their advantage. So, mustering up courage, I watched my hand swell. If any Kraut showed up, my trigger finger could still function. I started down along the ditch instead of on the road. Less conspicuous this way. After running low a ways down the ditch, I came to the end of the hedgerow. At the end was a wide wood gate, partially opened, with a dirt path. Entering a field from the main road, I looked around the gate into the field and saw a group of farmhouses and some livestock, cows and sheep grazing, but could see no humans about. If there were, they may have left to return later on when a lot of the fighting died down. Well, I got up and entered the field. I felt so tired and had a wounded hand that started to pain with some spasms, but at this stage of the game, I didn't care. If I located the aid station, I would consider it a miracle. I did not think I'd make it to one; I had the feeling of real and complete desertion. But something made me push on. I couldn't give up now. I had a strange feeling of getting light headed and giddy. The nasty thought crossed my mind of some French farmer finding my dead body in some field or orchard. That horrible feeling seemed to jolt me into reality which gave me the impulse to move along quicker. Crossing the field, I finally made it to the farmhouse and into a courtyard entrance. It was a typical Norman farm with granite stone walls and iron entrance gate, similar to the other farmstead with the cantankerous bull we had had a battle over with the Krauts. But this time, I didn't see a bull. I entered the house which was quite large with a large fireplace and hearth. I found the sink and being thirsty as hell, I drank a lot of water and filled my canteen. That had a good refreshing effect. It renewed to help me think clearer. I didn't realize how thirsty I was. I looked at my poor hand which now started to bleed. This gave me the energy or adrenalin, whatever, to get to that aid station. While filling my canteen, I thought I heard something – voices, approaching the house. I looked out the window and saw a group of figures coming toward the direction of the house. As they got a bit closer, it turned out to be Germans – five of them that I could see, maybe more. What am I going to do now. Don't panic. Keep calm (or as they say now, don't lose your cool) or you're dead – five against one. Not good odds. This is where I wish I had a Tommy gun. With one quick blast, I'd get 'em all. They were quite a bit bunched up. Easy targets, but I didn't know if I could get them all with my M-1. My best bet was to get the hell out of there without being seen. That was the problem. Quickly I ran out the back the way I had entered through the courtyard. I saw my way out when I had come into the courtyard. I had noticed a large hay wagon with high sides. With a fast leap, I jumped into the wagon to hide and hoped if they came into the courtyard and passed the wagon, they would not look in it. I was very lucky. My guardian

angel came to my aid. They came out. I could hear them with those hob-nailed boots on the cobblestones, laughing and talking. As I was not familiar with Kraut talk, I couldn't tell what they said. Anyhow, they passed out of the courtyard and the Lord knows where they went – another close shave. I waited a good while before I got out of the wagon and got the hell out of that damn place. I headed in the direction I was originally going. I entered another field and fruit orchard. I was hungry so I grabbed a couple of apples off a tree and started on my way, with the usual cig hanging from my lips. I still had a few packs of Pall Malls to get me through. My right hand was hurting like hell now. Hurt or not, I still had to use it. I knew I had some broken bones. That much I knew. Another thing that scared me was mines. I hadn't thought of that until a moment ago. I had skirted along the ditch. The chances of mines there was not likely, at least, that's what I told myself. You kind of became fatalistic in these situations and prayed like hell. So far all the prayers I said seemed to pay off. I finally got to the end of the field with nothing happening. I searched for an opening in the hedge which was on the top of the embankment, of course, with the usual drainage ditch below it. Somehow I found an opening in the hedge, got up the embankment with difficulty and pulled myself up with my shot-up hand. Oh God, it hurt. Anyhow, I got over it and dropped down into the ditch on the other side and stopped to catch my breath. I looked over the ditch to the field. It looked clear except for a demolished German sixwheeled personnel tractor carrier and a couple of Jagd (hunter) Panther tanks, still smoking. I could smell the burning oil flowing my way, the victim of an air assault. I got the feeling I'd make it providing there would be no more obstacles. I had enough of this for the day, but it was not to be. The devil was against me, an ally of the Germans. As I started to make that final run to the other side of the field, there was a hedge running the length of my run; as I moved along, suddenly a Kraut stepped on the embankment of the hedge. I saw him first. He was looking to the right. I put on some speed to pass him and gain the end of the field to a ditch past the destroyed vehicles. Why I didn't fire at him has been an enigma to me. I could have killed him. He turned around with an astonished look on his face. I'll never forget it, with his mouth open, he watched me run like a fox by him. In high school, I had been on the track team; half- mile runner. I never broke a run record then, but I guarantee I made a new record now. But I didn't get to the ditch untouched. He regained his wits. He had a machine pistol (Schmeiser) slung over his shoulder. By the time he shot a burst, I got to the ditch and made a mad dive into it as he fired the first burst and missed. But on the second, he struck me in the right rear thigh. I felt the sting and burning sensation, but thank God, it didn't strike any bone. I lay in the ditch and moved my leg. It was okay. I discovered the ditch was one mess of muddy and stinking water. On top of that, there was the corpse of a Kraut soldier I had landed on and he was not in good shape – pretty well mangled up. I was just covered with bloody gore. It made me retch. God knows how long he had been laying there. His whole face was discolored. It was a purplish black color. I still can see it. I was in severe stress,

anxiety and damn pain. I could have screamed. So without waiting a minute more, I crept along the muddy ditch until I got to a point where I got behind my enemy. I looked over the top and there he was. He had dropped into the face of the embankment looking in the direction I had jumped into the ditch. I raised my rifle. I didn't even take aim. I placed it right in the direction he was lying. I don't know how many shots I fired but I put him out of this life. He'd never shoot anyone any more and with this, I became hysterical and began laughing like I had heard a good joke, like a hunter – the best shot I had made. I saw the bullets pucker up his jacket and put a hole in his helmet. I crawled out and went over to him to take a look. I thought he moved so I placed a couple more rounds into him. He was a bloody mess and I was ecstatically joyful. I think shock was setting in or had already set in. Earlier I felt dizzy as hell. Anyway, I crossed into the next field at a dog trot, still clutching my rifle. As I proceeded along, I looked ahead to the next hedge and to my horror, there was a figure directly in front lying down. At this distance, I didn't know for sure if it was another German or one of our guys. As I got closer to him, I thought "three strikes, you're out," but to my welcomed relief, it was a signal corpsman laying telephone line. I reached him and just collapsed in front of him. I told him what had happened to me and when I saw him, I felt sure he was a German and he thought likewise, and it was do or die – my last time on earth. He treated my hand wound and it was a mess. By looking at it, I couldn't tell if I would lose my hand or if gangrene had set in. He directed me to a field aid station about half a mile down the road. I thanked him no end for helping me. We wished each other luck and I was on my way. I got to the aid station. There were casualties all over the place and in part of the yard were some GIs who hadn't made it. After this terrible ordeal, I finally reached help. I just collapsed from sheer exhaustion. Despite the pain, I fell asleep thanking God I was alive. Anybody going though tins ordeal must believe in a Supreme Being watching over you, so I believed. These front line doctors are something else. In my estimation, they were the top and also the nurses. This one doctor woke me up and helped me to the operating table. He kept calling me son. I looked so young he asked my age. I told him I was twenty but he said I looked so much younger, like seventeen. I told him he flattered me, but I really was twenty. He operated on my hand. It was badly hurt, but I would not lose its use. I was a walking wounded. They put me in a jeep with other badly wounded men on stretchers. I sat in front with the driver with my M-1 to protect us on the drive to the evacuation field hospital to put me on a sea-going jeep to a hospital ship bound for Southampton, England.

Chapter 5 Back From the Hospital

The ocean–going jeep was loaded with wounded on stretchers so they put me on the bow of the jeep with three Kraut soldiers. I complained to the driver, "Do I have to sit up here with these bastards?" The guy said "Yeah, there's no room for you with the stretcher wounded." As we started off the beach (Utah) toward the hospital ship, I sat there in the front with the Germans. I gave them a real cold menacing stare. I turned to the driver and asked what would happen if I pushed these SOBs into the channel? It would be good riddance. The driver got real concerned and upset by my remark and told his assistant driver to watch this "demented infantryman" because by the looks of him, he'll do it. So he made me sit in his lap. There was a look of relief on the faces of the three Germans and hateful scowls from me. Believe me, I would have done it. I wouldn't care if they had courtmartialed me or not. I did it and I'm glad. After what I had gone through, it would have been "frosting on the cake." After what these atrocity committing bastards did to us, our allies and innocent civilians, it would be justifiable homicide. From the U.S. Navy hospital in Southampton, I was transferred to the 7th Gen. Army Hospital in Lincoln, England, which was near Robin Hood's old haunts in Sherwood forest outside of Nottingham. They patched me up and said to me that I was a valuable, experienced soldier and that they needed men like that. So, with the flowery compliments, they sent me back to Normandy in time for the great St. Lo breakthrough. They could have kept the compliments and assigned me to a rear echelon job to do illustration combat pictures for the war effort and "Stars and Stripes" newspaper with the Signal Corps, but they didn't see it my way. They said at the 10th Replacement Center at Lichfield that they knew a good infantryman when they saw one. That was a busy place where they sent all the unfortunate GIs back to combat. To this day, I still have bad memories of the 10th and the sadistic non-coms and officers that ran that infamous rat hole. They were all rear echelon f-----s and had never seen combat or fired a gun in anger. They really were a sorry, cowardly bunch. It was their job to be careless, antagonistic, unfeeling towards the combat soldiers they were sending back to the hell of Normandy and other campaigns and feeding the "devil's grindstone." They were no better than the damned Shutz Staffle, the dreaded Waffen "SS," so you see, we all had our military American reprobates too. What amused me, to say the least, they all wore the "Good Conduct Medal" – what a laugh, these bastards qualifying for the Good Conduct Medal. They were so unscrupulous, they didn't care who received it. I bet they even gave it to military criminals or members of the Guard House group for the great job they were doing. Those damned shitheads. When I left the 7th Gen. in June of '44 and the short stay at the 10th Replacement, I went by train to Southampton, England, where a bunch of us loaded on a ship bound for Cherbourg, which by now was in American hands. From there all of us or most of us

went back to our old outfits. My hand wound had healed up okay. For me it was back to the "Fighting 90th," "Tough Ombres," the 357th and my old "G" Company – just in time for the big push and breakout at St. Lo. I was glad to see them again, or what was left of "G" Company. A lot of the old hands were gone. I located Bill and we greeted and hugged each other. I was so glad he had not been killed. But he had some close calls. A warm cloudy summer day in early June, we were in action with some German troops. They opened up on us with a withering small arms fire. We had walked into an ambush by how many enemy – we had no idea. It seemed every tree, bush, or wooded area was alive with rifle and machine gun fire. It was hot and deadly for all of us. The casualties were pretty heavy. I could hear the cries of the wounded and frantic calls for aid from the men, and the ones who didn't utter a sound – the dead. I could hear the bullets zipping over my head and clipping the branches and leaves of the trees around me. I heard and saw some of the bullets hitting the ground near me with dull thuds. I tried to get into a good hiding position, and make myself as small a target as I could and try to shoot some of my tormentors, but could not see anyone. I could only hear a lot of noise of rifle and machine gun fire and could not tell which direction the firing was coming from. Bill and I tried to make ourselves small targets. Firing seemed to be everywhere. I expected to be hit any second. As I think about it, I wonder how I got through this hell in one piece. As I looked around I spotted a small farmhouse a few hundred yards to my right across a dirt road. I jumped up from my shelter and made a run as fast as I could, hoping I would get to the house before I'd get cut down by all this fierce gunfire. This was, no doubt, one of the fastest runs I have ever made, including my time as a track runner in high school. I don't know if the Germans saw me or not. I didn't stop to notice, but just before I got there, I drew fire from a machine gun emplacement, which thank God, missed me. Now I was in a bad spot. They knew I was in the house and had me pinned down and every time I showed myself, they opened fire. Either I would have to try to get them or wait for nightfall when I could make my escape. I was too scared and impatient to wait, so I attempted to see if I could get rid of them and get away. It was a big risk. It was the only way out as I could see. I did have, besides my rifle, one grenade that I discovered in my ammo bag. If I could only get near enough to them to use the grenade without being seen. The house was situated in a bad place, with very little concealment. What I had thought was a secure place turned out to be a "job hazard" – very bad for one's health. To this day, I don't know what possessed me to do this crazy thing instead of waiting for it to get dark and take the chance to get the hell out of there. I am, by nature, no hero, but I had made up my mind to eliminate them, wipe 'em out. Two less Krauts was an incentive. Anyhow, they were trying their damnedest to kill me. So after crawling around and making short runs from one corner to another, I got near enough to them to heave the grenade into their little pile of rubble emplacement. I was very lucky that they had not spotted me, but I felt I had a 50–50 chance of getting to them. They were looking straight ahead when I pulled the pin and threw the grenade into them. I remember yelling "Here's

one for 'der Fuhrer' " just as they looked up at me with surprise written all over their faces. It went off and blew them and the MG away. Scratch two Jerries. When the smoke cleared, I crept up to their position and saw they were both stone dead. I didn't bother to check them out. A grenade sure does make a messy job. In a way, I felt sorry, but they tried awfully hard to kill me. Anyhow they did not suffer much. I finally made my way through the wreckage of this village and found some of my buddies from the company. As far as I know, no one I knew had been killed or wounded, which was a miracle, considering the heat and fierceness of the fight. I knew before long, there'd be more of the same. "C'est la vie." To add to the depression and anxiety of the day, the sky was gray and cloudy with a fine drizzle of rain to make matters worse. Some of us felt it was a bad omen of bad things to come and we found it out to be true. There was not much optimism amongst us except for the possibility of a "million dollar wound" – just serious (minor) enough to get me out of here and I know there were others that felt the same, even our officers. The rain continued all that day and night so we were pretty well soaked like drowned cats and morale was at a low, perfect for a mental casualty. We could hear the distant booming of the big guns and an occasional crack of German rifle fire, a sniper or snipers someplace. It was difficult to figure out where they were. Sometimes they would find their mark and you would hear a cry of pain or worse, no cry at all. I lived with terrible feelings in my gut; that I'd be at the receiving end of the next one. I felt a kind of resignation. If so, so be it. As the Arabs say, "Kismet" – but it still scared the hell out of you. I went on night patrol to bring in a prisoner for interrogation. The 2nd squad of the 3rd platoon was selected for this evening's escapades which included yours truly. We found our man, who happened to be washing himself in a nearby creek. We came upon him by accident. We surprised him. He heard and saw us and attempted to grab his rifle, but staring at three menacing bayonets quickly changed his mind about offering resistance and he came with us quietly. I never, in the whole war, captured an enemy so easily – just a routine patrol. Ha! He didn't seem too upset about his capture – what the hell – the war was over for him. I'm quite sure that Intelligence found him an agreeable prisoner ready to talk and he did speak English. Like a true New Yorker, it struck me. I asked where he had learned English. I was right. He had gone to school in New York City, the dirty f----g bastard. I had rights to shoot him. Imagine that – a "Yankee Speaking Hun."

Chapter 6 An Unpleasant and Unfortunate Incident

Early July '44 during a lull in the fighting, we happened to be near one of our artillery units, the 345th Field Artillery, which was busy throwing shells into the German positions with one hell of a racket; we were impressed by the cool and efficient way they handled those big guns – 105s – and I believe the Krauts were impressed too to their terror. Later that day when we moved out, we saw the results of their accurate firing, what a hell of a mess – dead Germans and smashed vehicles all over the area; the carnage was complete. What was awful and weird was the uncanny silence in this "field of death," and with all this was the cheerful chirping of birds; it felt unreal, a fantasy of death and destruction and birds singing, someone said jokingly – vultures. Everywhere we went across the fields from one hedgerow after another, the arbor was strewn with the results of that awesome barrage. I didn't see one live German. If there were any wounded, we didn't see any. Whoever said the artillery was the "Devil's Own" was right. I know how the enemy must have felt under this incessant bombardment; we went through the same dreadful experience ourselves when they hit us with those damn 88s, so we just paid them back in coin. The bastards. This was going to be one hell of a long bloody war and with no end in sight, the grieving horrible thought of continuous combat day after day was enough to make you "flip" your marbles – "go loony" as the British would say and a hell of a lot did; mental casualties can kill an army. I passed a very moving and vivid sight today at a crossroad – a roadside shrine of the "crucified Christ" gazing on us with those sad eyes as we passed Him by – it drew tears from my eyes. He knew our thoughts truly. Since the end of the war long ago, I still recall that incident like yesterday. I have many such memories to crowd a lifetime. Every soldier who went through that war as a combat soldier, was affected in one way or another by those events, especially fighting and its effects on heart and soul. An unpleasant and unfortunate incident of the death of two priests happened during an advance across hedgerow country some time after the Utah landing. We had had some severe fighting the past few days with a large number of casualties. Fortunately, more of the Krauts than us. In our advance, we approached a school of sorts which turned out to be a seminary for priests and brothers. Things not being sacred to the Huns, they had taken over and occupied this seminary with the purpose of defending it against American forces moving ahead, and it had to be us who had the privilege of shooting up the place and driving them out if it was possible. An attempt was made by our company CO to contact the Germans and to try to persuade them to leave the place intact (under a flag of truce), so the innocent priests and nuns would not become casualties. We would allow the Germans to leave unmolested by us. It was not insisted that they surrender – although it was brought up. They didn't buy it. I didn't think they would and neither would they vacate the seminary, a very old 18th

century building. The Germans proposed that the priests and nuns would be permitted to leave the battle area and they would defend the place against us. So that is how it ended – so much for chivalry. The priests left in a couple of hours and no fighting broke out which was a rare thing these last two or three weeks. So the truce was honored. After that ended, all hell burst loose. Business as usual as the old saying goes. The death of the two French priests was a sad occurrence. It pains me to recount it, but this is part of the story and memory. There was considerable rifle and MG fire going on interspersed with some mortar action. As we approached the main building at a side entrance, there was a wrought iron fence all around the building with a side gate. I strayed from my company and platoon and lost contact with my pal Bill and was by myself. I ran along the fence to a clump of shrubbery which lined a good part of the fence that provided good cover and concealment. I hid alongside some bushes and a few small trees and spent some time observing a corner of the building where there was a door. I had a good view and was in good position to see any German movement out of the building. It was getting dusk. Shadows were beginning to form, especially from the tree orchards and it became hard to make out for sure anyone coming out of the building. As I watched, I made up my mind that any movement coming from that place and I would respond with my rifle. Even with bad visibility, I couldn't miss any Krauts making a break. There was a hell of a racket going on with all that small arms fire – a real symphony of noise. It was enough to make you stone deaf. As I watched, suddenly the door opened and two figures ran out. At that moment, I opened up and fired several shots in succession. The two figures were silhouetted in front of the open door. I couldn't miss. Both figures dropped at almost the same time. After they fell, I discovered that in the excitement, I had emptied my rifle and hurriedly put another clip into the M-1and kept firing into the open door, stopping anyone else from coming out. I stopped firing, got up and ran down the fence line to the open gate. I stopped at the entrance for a few seconds, then ran across the open grounds to the cobblestone path to the end of the building, which had the open door where I had shot the two figures, and jumped behind a big tree a few yards from the door. I could see through the haze the two crumpled shapes on the path. There was still a lot of firing going on. It would die down a little then flare up again. From the start of this action, I saw no one. Everything must be going on toward the other side. I figured if anyone came around this side, I'd have a field day. I had enough rounds and grenades. I'd see them before they'd see me and if things got too hot, I could get away easily. While crouching behind that big tree, I saw some of our guys coming up the other side of the seminary building and shooting as they came and breaking into the building at various places of entrance. They were attempting to kill and flush out the defenders. The Germans were firing from the windows. The small arms noise was deafening. As I crouched next to the tree, no other people came out of the doorway and I was just as

happy. I was so tired despite all the noise and activity, I could have fallen asleep right there where I leaned against the tree and that could have been dangerous. Then I thought of the two figures sprawled out on the path in front of me that a short time ago I had shot. I got up, ran over to have a look and to my horror and shock, the figures were not Kraut soldiers, but Catholic priests. By a terrible error, I had shot down two innocent people thinking they were the enemy. I was in disbelief. For a moment, it staggered me. I forgot all about the war and what I was doing at the time. I thought I was seeing things and it was my imagination, but as I looked again, it was true as hell. I will not dwell on this tragedy any longer as it still haunts me to this day, but it's part of this narration. It was not my fault, but it still pains me. As they say, "the fortunes of war," but I still retain the guilt and question "why?" After about two hours of severe fighting, the Krauts were driven out of the seminary with heavy casualties – mostly theirs – and the priests and sisters returned to their damaged buildings and through the goodness of their hearts, administered medical and spiritual assistance to us and the enemy, the very people who caused their pain and suffering to begin with. It would have been difficult for me to do that. I never believed in turning the other cheek or worse, forgiving my enemy, and after going through the battle, I still feel the same – even more so. People I have met are shocked by my philosophy. I don't forget or forgive. They say it is un-Christian to feel that way. As the Arab saying goes, "So be it." My God understands. Those two poor Catholic priests came back to haunt my mind. My anger reigned supreme. Bill gave me a lot of much-needed support. When advancing across one field to another through the hedgerows, we came across many dead troops, German and American, laying around haphazardly in all kinds of positions. The worst ones were the dismembered bodies scattered about – arms, legs, heads, entrails, etc., everything imaginable. These were the worst sights to come in contact with. As you can guess, many of them because of their condition were completely unidentifiable and along with this picture was the unbearable and obscene stench that stretched all over the area. Hollywood, take note. It permeated your nostrils, body, even your clothes absorbed the horrible rot. It took forever to get rid of it. It caused you to vomit – even thinking about it made you wretch and sick. The same scene happening in winter with the cold air and snow would make these odors became somewhat subdued and somewhat more bearable, in opposite to this particular incident during the summer heat such as in June, July and August where decomposition is more prevalent. So the severe cold of winter has its good side. Of course, until the spring thaws come around, the severe cold atmosphere makes things appear sterile and odorless.

Chapter 7 After the Battle

A small arms battle is bad enough for any infantryman, but the aftermath is in many respects worse with the silence and the cries and groans of the wounded in pain and the dying. That in itself is a great inducement of cracking up under the stress and not being able to cope with the scene and the gnawing at your mind that it could be you lying out there. The very thought put me into deep depression, anxiety, and severe fright and fear, dry mouth and sick to the guts. It took all my moral strength not to break down and keep my courage up. Surprisingly, a great many of the regiment kept up their mental fortitude despite the terror and we all prayed for the Almighty to be with us. What caused me the most anxiety and fear was the feeling of the breaking point – every one of us had his limit. It could put you into a state of shock, which can kill as much as a bullet or shell fragment. As I look back on it, I'm surprised I sustained my mental stress as long as I did. The empty feeling in the gut put you in a morbid state of futility – a kind of fatalistic hopelessness pervaded and a hatred against the enemy that was responsible for the state of things, and you were hoping that the damn Krauts felt the same which was some small consolation. The loss of your comrades caused terrible anguish and revenge was foremost to make them pay for your loss and pain. No quarter was the name of the game. Back to the war: Sometime later after the seminary fiasco, I gave first aid to a large handsome dog at a typical Norman cluster of farmhouses with a large granite stone barn and a cobblestone courtyard. The poor dog had been the victim of a Kraut artillery attack wounding him in the shoulder with a piece of shrapnel that could have killed him. I called the dog and took care of his wound with my first aid kit, cleaned it with water from my canteen, put sulfur powder on it and then a bandage over it. I have always been an animal lover since I was a child. It made me feel good to take care of one of God's lesser creatures – an innocent bystander. He showed his love and appreciation to me by licking my face and hand. It made me cry. On my way out of the farm area, I came across a wounded Kraut. I passed him by. He didn't deserve my attention. This narration or memoir is not meant to be pleasant or heroic. It is written by me as I saw it and felt it, as cruel and heartless as it more often occurred, by a common ordinary combat infantryman there to do a job with dedication to a cause and the guys I fought with. I was not forced to join the Army. I willingly quit high school and enlisted at 18 years – volunteered to get into this war and kill my enemy, the Krauts, for their aggressions to rule the world. I felt I was born or destined to this mission and to make a career of soldiering from early boyhood. I was fascinated with this vocation, to become a soldier, a professional soldier in the U.S. Army or foreign countries – Canada, Britain, France, etc. But to my sadness and disappointment, it didn't happen except for a short time as a U.S. soldier in WW II for four years. I guess it was not to be – fate. I had the God-given talent to draw and be an artist. I remember the first things I drew were soldiers and battle scenes as a young boy. My mother thought I was going to be

another Napoleon or Richard the Lion Heart – two heroes I admired. Anyhow, I feel I have been born into this world at the wrong time. I should have been around when the profession of being a soldier was an honorable and admirable thing to do. General Patton thought he had had a previous life as a soldier during the Roman Empire days and in Napoleon's army. Maybe I had also at some time in my previous life (who knows). As I was growing up and going to grade school, my favorite subject was the study of history. I was fascinated by it and got excellent grades. I hated mathematics and most of the time, I failed it. Finally, I just passed it in order to graduate from grade school and I was just as happy. I cared less about math, but history and geography were something else. Again, I always got good marks and again, it went along with my ambition to be a soldier. During that time, I was in love with the French Foreign Legion, especially books like "Beau Geste" and other tales of the Legion. These influenced me and I always had the hope I would become a Legionnaire someday. I would see any movie about the Foreign Legion and back in the late Thirties and Forties it was still exciting for people to see these exploits. All these things happened when I was in my early teens, 13, 14, 15 and 16 years of age and up until the day I joined up with the U.S. Army in October of 1942 when I became 18. I was so happy when the United States got into the war against the "Nips and Krauts." Now my chance had come to kick the hell out of the Axis, mainly the "Huns" – now I felt I would amount to something and make my family and friends proud. There were some people we knew, some so-called friends of mine, who were not idealistic like I was and would tell me to "grow up – you are not realistic," and other such tripe. They felt I had no ambition and could "amount to nothing." I would tell them they were entitled to their own opinion and to keep it to themselves. "You don't tell me what to do." The day the Japs attacked the U.S. at Pearl Harbor, my high school pal and I were leaving church on Sunday and going home. We heard the great news from the radio of a taxi cab on a street corner. We leapt for joy. We were ready to join up but we were too young by one year. We were unhappy about that. I waited until October '42 to enlist. The Army was for me. My school friend joined the Navy and went to the Pacific theater. He also survived the war.

Chapter 8 A Humorous Incident

During the Normandy Campaign, there was a very humorous incident that occurred. On our way back from a patrol one hot day in June, there were seven or eight of us from the 2nd platoon. Nothing of note or unusual had happened. As we crossed this field, there were several cows that had met a bad end from artillery action and had been lying in the hot June sun for a few days so you can imagine the shape that most of them were in. We were in a column of ducks with me bringing up the rear, very quietly making our way back when an ugly and sadistic thought struck me. I always had the ability for playing pranks, sometimes with funny but disastrous results. This was one of those times. I had my bayonet on my rifle and as we were about to pass by this bloated cow with its legs sticking up in the air (remember I was the last one in the column), I wondered what would happen if I poked my bayonet into this carcass. The best way to find out was to do it. We were all pretty close to the cow, when with my rifle and bayonet, I stabbed the cow. You can imagine what the results were. There was a dull sounding explosion like puncturing a gas bag together with the foulest smelling odor that existed in this world ever. I couldn't possibly describe it. It was so loathsome, a putrilage of the vilest form. Everyone except for me was hit right smack in the kisser and upper body with the rotting contents of this cadaver. The odor was so bad that I think even the Germans felt it was a gas attack. As this occurred, I leapt backward to avoid being hit with this foul mess. You can imagine what kind of catastrophe this caused among the first seven guys in the platoon. All of them were hit and covered all over in gore. There was a kind of silence afterward, along with surprise and shock to the victims. Of course, they never knew how it happened. I never told them. They couldn't understand how come I escaped the brunt of this disaster. Looking at them retching and running trying to escape but it was too late, I laughed so much I was developing cramps and spasms. Up to now this had to be the worst thing that happened to them since the invasion. Every time I tell this tale, it brings loads of laughter and revulsion. This is what you would call a real gross and dirty story and I never told them I was the author of this atrocity. They would have killed me for sure and they would have reported me as killed in action (KIA).

Chapter 9 Raging Bull

While engaged in a fight with the Germans, I temporarily strayed from my platoon and got lost in a forested area. I could hear heavy small arms fire all around me, but saw no one from my platoon. It was hard to determine in which direction it was occurring. (Again, I'm lost.) I was afraid to move for fear of being picked off by some Kraut sniper because I knew a lot of them were around in the trees or outlying houses and barns. What was scary and unnerving was – where were they? Well, I skulked around the surrounding hedges and shrubs which were plentiful, hoping none of them would see me, and I would try to contact my platoon or for that matter, any of our guys or anyone else. There were some Airborne soldiers around. Maybe I'd meet some of them. It was starting to get a little dark and I was getting more jittery and apprehensive. Being alone like this was no joke. I was hoping to God I wouldn't bump into a bunch of Germans. That would be just my luck. I could see myself up against a battalion of Krauts – me and my lowly M-1. Suddenly to my left, the ground erupted by shell fire, from whose side I didn't know. Then shells began crashing down all over the place with me in the middle, and what was worse, a lot of tree bursts. I wished I wasn't in these woods will all that shrapnel flying around. I was so scared I couldn't move. I felt immobilized. I just hugged the ground in a small ditch by some bushes and fallen trees. It was some protection except for a direct hit, and that would be the early end to my life. So I just lay there. It would have been suicide to move out. I had to sweat it out. Suddenly, the barrage lifted except for some sporadic small arms fire and the staccato of machine guns. It sounded like Kraut fire. Their MGs had a faster rate of firepower than our light .30s. That didn't make me feel too good, but at least this terrible artillery fire let up. I was wet all over with sweat. My clothes were soaking and besides this, I had pissed in my pants. I knew I shouldn't have had that last drink from my canteen. I was still shaking from fright. I must have smoked about six or eight cigarettes during that time, and I kept saying "Dear God, stay with me," besides invoking all the help I could of the Saints, Joan of Arc, St. Paul, etc. With all of this I became a confirmed complete chain smoker. You would be surprised at how much smoking helped to keep me calm, even though it was a deception. When I ran out of cigs – watch out. I even searched dead bodies, ours or Krauts, for butts. I kept away from German cigs. They were terrible. Those damn things would kill you. That thought made me laugh, what with all their other stuff they had to kill with. Getting back to the scene at hand, there I was, all alone, except for this small arms fire, though not as intense as earlier. I started on my way not knowing where I was going or what lay ahead, hoping to see my pals.

Going through a hedgerow into another field, there, laying in different positions in death, were a large number of Germans who were killed during that heavy artillery fire. Some of the corpses were terribly mutilated and dismembered: arms, legs, heads, entrails and other body parts that I could not identify and in this hot June sun, it wouldn't take long before all those bodies would start to stink in this terrible heat. It all took on the look of a horrible massacre – the field of death. I felt like being in a state of unreality and disbelief of what I was seeing. It all appeared so insane and looked like an obscenity of me worst kind – a scene from "Dante's Inferno". I would see a lot of this kind of horror before this war would come to an end, if I wasn't killed in the meantime. I've got to get the hell out of this place of death. I crossed into the next field and it was a repetition of the last one. Getting into a fight was a hell of a lot better than this nightmare. I finally reached a well-paved road, but I didn't know which direction to go. Boy, was I completely lost, just standing there deciding what to do, in which direction to travel. I heard an aircraft engine. I looked up to the sky and saw four or five two-engined aircraft. I had binoculars. I pulled them out and focused on the planes. They were ours and looked like B–26 Marauders with invasion stripes on them heading north by my compass. My Boy Scout knowledge came to my aid. One plane had a smoking engine bringing up the rear. It had been hit, so I figured if they were headed north, they must be heading back from a raid, so my best bet was to travel in a northern direction. Logically, they must be heading back to their base. (I hoped I had made the right choice). As I trotted down the road, I ran into some guys of the 101st Airborne Division. They apparently saw me and as I approached them, they were in concealment. Then two of them jumped out in front of me. I almost had a heart attack and damn near crapped in my drawers from fright. They were glider men. I was white as a sheet and fear was written all over my face. When they saw me and the way I looked, they broke out laughing and offered me a cigarette. I had to sit down. I was all shook up. "Why did you bastards do that to me?" It was not my idea of a joke. The horrible thought hit me – if they had been Krauts, I would have had more holes in me than Swiss cheese. After they apologized for having scared the hell out of me, I asked their Lieutenant if he or others had seen any members of the 90th Division. They told me they have other soldiers of other outfits, but were not sure who they were. I asked if I could join them till I located my company. They said they could use another rifleman and would be glad if I joined them – but the pay was the same, so everyone got a laugh. No special favors. We stepped along single file at eight-foot intervals along a blacktop going uphill. We saw the wreckage of several vehicles. I especially took notice of a large Royal Tiger tank half out of a ditch. It was still smoking from a hit in the engine area. I could smell the odor of burning oil and burnt metal. Some dead Germans laying around looked like some of the crew that tried to escape and had been cut down. I looked up at the gun turret with

a Kraut hanging half out of the opening or hatch. I took special notice as his head was half severed with his eyes staring upward and mouth open with a large stream of blood flowing from his throat. I had a fixed gaze at him. As I looked at it while moving along, I stumbled over a piece of junk and nearly fell down, but caught myself. I had a vision of this horrid scene for some time. It's uncanny how something like this sticks in your mind and becomes difficult to shake off till you see something else to take its place. There was also evidence of strafing by fighter bombers – British or American; there was torn-up pavement, uprooted trees, blown houses, dead Germans and Americans, etc. Complete ruin and desolation. You could sense the presence of death in the air. I had the urge to escape from this carnage as quickly as possible. We reached the top of the road which wound around to the left right into this lifeless village, or so it appeared. A smoky haze or mist hung in the air. As we approached the base of the road entering the village, we were met with a fierce blast of small arms fire which made all of us leap into the ditches on both sides of the road. None of the troops died on the spot or were killed as they jumped into the ditch for cover. I almost got it. Several rounds hit the ground in front of me and some slugs hit my helmet and knocked me flat. I almost met my maker but providence saved me. As I fell into the ditch, a trooper behind me got it and he never made the ditch, but as he got hit, his body fell on top of me. He was hit with a volley right in the face and head. He never knew what hit him. His face and part of his head was literally torn away leaving a bloody unrecognizable mess. His helmet was thrown to one side with part of his brain inside. Part of him was spattered all over me and my uniform. The thought I had was "Jesus, it could have been me." We lay there together and I finally tried to crawl from under him. He was pretty heavy, but I managed to move out. I was covered with gore. A medic rushed up to me and figured I had been hit. "No," I said to him. "I'm okay. I got spattered by this trooper who had been done in." As I stooped with the medic, I retched and vomited. Everything I had eaten came up. I managed to say a prayer for his soul. The battle for the village was going on hot and heavy. The troopers I joined up with must have amounted to at the start about 40 or so odd men before the day's battle ended with casualties. Must have been over half killed and wounded by the looks of things. There were more of them than us. It took us more than a day or two to capture this worthless damn town. I wish I never had gotten involved with this battle and these troopers; I didn't know anyone. I was looking for a way out to get away and find my platoon and my pals. Wherever they were, they were probably wondering what the hell happened to me. I could see the damned Army sending a telegram, "Your son is missing in action." The thought of it threw me into a state of depression. At a signal from the lieutenant, we all got up and in a rush we all advanced into the entrance to the town in the face of this Kraut rifle fire. I don't see how we all escaped getting hit by this intense fire. I believe there were two or three casualties. I joined up with two other troopers. We kicked in the door of the first house we came across firing our weapons and we heaved a couple of grenades into the shattered windows. We heard

screams of some of the Huns that were inside when the grenades exploded. We rushed into the door where we were confronted by three Krauts standing by the rear door in the kitchen. They were armed with rifles. We were glad they didn't have any burp guns (Schmeiser machine pistols) or we would have been killed. We caught them in a moment of surprise. They fired at us but their shots went wild. Before they could reload, I fired, hitting one in the cheek that spun him around, knocking him over a table. Another made a run for the rear door and got hit in the shoulder and he dropped. Everything happened so fast but it felt like an hour. There were more than three, but at first, that's all I saw. One soldier that entered with me accounted for two others but was winged by one of them in the leg, but not seriously. The second Kraut I hit threw up his arms yelling "Kamerad" (I give up), but in the heat of the engagement his sudden movement made me think he was going to shoot at me and I fired two shots into his body. He shuddered once and lay still. I jumped over him and ran out the rear of the house into a large courtyard, together with the three other troopers who were with me in the house including the fellow with the leg wound. Some of the Germans ran into this large barn which had some cows and horses in it. There was one hell of a donnybrook with rifle fire, yells. horses neighing, chickens running around cackling madly. If it wasn't so serious, it would have been a comedy. Later on when it was all over, we all laughed over it. One good thing, there were no casualties among the animals. In fact, one Kraut ran into a bull who proceeded to knock him down and trample and hurt him pretty bad. We all agreed to reward the bull with the Silver Star for his aggressive action. That bull was browned off at everyone and I didn't blame him. He created more fear of him than the Krauts. We counted our losses but no one was killed. We did have four wounded but not seriously. We accounted for as far as we could see about fourteen dead Germans and a few wounded. The rest had fled but I don't know how many of them there were. The main thing I wanted most was water. God, I was thirsty. We did find a well and I filled up my canteen. In our own group, we had about 30 or so of the 101st guys. We had three wounded and two men killed. We buried them. It was so sad. I didn't know them but I cried and said some prayers. I looked at them and thought one of those men could have been me. Every time I did see any of our men dead, I pictured myself with them. I never saw myself wounded, always fatal. I never felt optimistic. After this furious battle, we regrouped our forces outside the village. We had had a tough time of it but thank God, we won out – at least for now. We all merited a muchneeded rest. We all looked for a spot to lie down. I still didn't know where the hell I was. I wanted so desperately to locate my buddies wherever they were. I thought for a moment to leave these men of the 101st and strike out alone to locate my comrades of "G" Company. Fighting is tough enough, but if at least I was with the men I knew, especially my pal Bill McDermott, I wouldn't feel so lonely and abandoned. If I got killed, at least I'd be with my company. There's a big difference.

So, with that thought in mind, I'd pull out the first chance I got and notify the lieutenant of my intention. There wasn't much difference between the 101st Airborne and the 90th except for the fact that they jump out of C-47s and we don't. Once they are on the ground, we're all the same, but there's nothing like being with your own kind. Loyalty is a damn strong bond amongst soldiers. That's why I had to take off on my own for parts unknown. I tried to find the officer, Lt. Anderson, but found out he had been killed in the assault. So I made up my mind to take off first chance I got. They'd never miss me anyhow. Most didn't even know my name. I was getting ready to leave when we were hit with an artillery barrage. No doubt a counterattack. This would have to happen. I guess I was destined not to get out of here. Well, at least not now. Shells came in by the dozens. The air was filled with thousands of pieces of death-dealing shrieking shrapnel clipping the branches and leaves together with chunks of rock and dirt. It felt and sounded like a book I read once in high school – Dante's Inferno. The ground shuddered and shook after each detonation which was one after another. It felt just like the place I got shelled in earlier that morning or was it the other morning. But this felt even worse. It felt like they were using more and bigger guns. I got up and ran for cover to one of the small buildings. It was better than staying out here in the open catching all this German garbage. So here I was, alone again. I kept wondering how my company and platoon were doing. I entertained the hope that most of the company was intact. I tried to be optimistic, but you know in a war, any war, even this one, it's a hard thing to do or think (I think if I live through this mess, I am going to become a philosopher and teach in some big university. The topics would be "How to avoid minefields," "How to stay away from snipers," "What type of soil makes the best foxholes" and include types of European soil to make them in. You may laugh at this but these thoughts ran through my mind. Funny, the things you think about when you are scared, even corny jokes become funny and other things. If I live through this – an example – "I will never talk back to my parents" or "I will treat policemen with respect" and "I will attend Mass at church every Sunday and not use the name of God in vain," etc. As I crouched there looking through a busted window, I wondered what to do next. There was a lot of hot action and other activity coming from the beat-up houses in my front, but I was not too anxious to leave my hiding place to jump into the fire. For one thing, I did not know who was who. With my luck, I would probably have jumped into a German company and the idea was not the least appealing. I really would have felt stupid. But I had to do something. The idea of surrendering came to me but that would have been more stupid then the other thought. I said to myself, I enlisted in this war to rid the world of Krauts and if I gave up I'd be defeating my purpose. These escapades are taken from notes I kept and from searching into my memory like opening a door. It all comes out. I sometimes find it hard to find where I laid my car keys or my eyeglasses, but something that occurred 40 or 50 years ago, I remember. So from my hiding place in that house, I ran out the front door, crouched at the entrance and made tracks back to the barn where we had the last fight and the bull who kicked the hell out of the Kraut rifleman. I

got up and ran as fast as I could and covered the distance from the house to the barn in record time without being shot at. I was so scared and ran so fast, they probably couldn't hit a moving target. Well, I like to think they couldn't. I entered the barn and found it pretty much shot up but still standing. Those stone walls could sure take a beating. I was all out of breath from that run and sat down on a bale of hay, when I heard a sound near me coming from the other side of a partition which probably held a horse in a stall. I quietly checked my M-1 and slowly made my way toward the stall where I heard the sound. As I got to the stall, I cautiously looked round and was startled to see that same bull that attacked and stomped the German soldier earlier. Needless to say, I was I surprised to see him there and still alive. He calmly stared at me while he chewed on some hay. I thought about getting gored by a bull. I just stood there in a sweat hoping he wouldn't attack. I didn't want to startle him. I slowly moved away from the stall and retreated. As I went back further I saw two dead Germans who had been manning a machine gun. They both were pretty well mangled up and the machine gun was a twisted jumbled mass of wreckage. It looked like they had been hit by shell fire, but no shell fire fell on us. Then at that moment, the bull came out into the open looking at me. I knew that this massacre was caused by this very same bull we had encountered earlier that stomped that Kraut to death. I better get the hell out of here before he had ideas about me as one of his victims, Kraut or otherwise. Well anyhow, better safe than sorry. I believe he was mad at everybody. I thought about the owners and what had happened to them, but like most of these large farm areas, everyone had evacuated the places and would come back later to see what was left. I did see some farms that were untouched and the occupants were still there with the livestock. The Germans took everything they could, even some of the people. What happened to them is anybody's guess. There were a number of collaborators and some did not have much choice but to cooperate or else. But a lot fought back and helped us a great deal with information and sabotage activities with the FFI (Free French of the Interior). There was one incident where the FFI attacked a German detachment and liberated a couple hundred GIs, so they were of invaluable service to us. But the biggest thing on my mind right now was to locate my company. God knows where they were. I'm probably listed as missing. This was, I think, quite some time after the beach landing. Right now, I didn't even know what the hell day it was. After leaving the barn and farm area, I walked down this dusty dirt road. I could not locate the blacktop road we had been on. Again this tinge of fear hit me. I lost all sense of direction and I had lost contact with the Airborne guys I had been with. I had a compass, but that was of little use to me right now. The one thing that came to me was to head back to that village where we had had that first encounter when I joined up with that trooper bunch. I figured this was my best choice. At least I knew I had a better chance to locate those Airborne troops. I knew the general direction of the village so I backtracked down the dirt road and into the woods and toward the farm area. I finally came to the hedgerows and the field with

the dead Krauts laying around. Nothing had changed. I got to the entrance to the town where we had had that heated battle and got to that group of houses and barns. Then I saw the bull again. He was chewing grass and he saw me, but we didn't exchange any words and I kept moving across the field. I think I did wave to him in recognition and kept going (a little humor here). In a few minutes, I began to hear sounds of gunfire, so I knew I was on the right course (I kept saying to myself). As I ran ahead keeping low, I came to a ditch adjacent to a hedgerow. I found an opening and crept and crawled through it into a field and down into a ditch right on top of two dead Germans who were in pretty bad shape. It looked like they were victims of heavy machine gun fire and were stinking like hell. With that I knew I was back in the war. The small arms fire was consistent and getting heavier in the direction I was moving. If I contacted any troops, I had the fear that they might be Germans, considering the luck I had been having lately. As I moved along the ditch in the direction of the firing, I was praying to God they were on my side or their side, whatever. As I jogged along the ditch to the end of the hedgerow, I realized there was one good thing. I had gotten this far without being spotted by any snipers. They must have been busy elsewhere. The noise had been fierce. The small arms fire seemed to be coming from all over the area. I leaned up against an embankment and peered through the hedgerow and saw some soldiers moving about but couldn't tell who they were and there were dead bodies laying about from some previous engagement. There was the usual torn up vegetation and fallen trees, etc. smashed vehicles, some German personnel carriers, a demolished jeep that had been hit by artillery fire, two dead Americans inside, one hanging over a light .30 MG and one other man laying a few feet away with one leg and arm missing – an unpleasant sight. After seeing so much of this violence and carnage, I was convinced I'd never see the good old U.S.A. and my parents again. I know I've no doubt repeated this many times in this narrative or saga, whatever, it bothered me continually and 50 years later, it is still hard for me to believe I'm still around and survived it all, except for a few wounds, physical and mental. It is even harder for me to believe that there were soldiers who never as much as got a scratch and had more combat time than me. Next to them, I'm a novice or amateur. I've talked to guys who were in a dozen campaigns and all sorts of invasions and were never wounded or psycho cases. Hell, I have a close pal from Alabama who is deceased now since the war, who was in the North African Campaign, Sicily, Normandy, the air landing in Holland, the Rheinland Campaign and the Battle of the Bulge and was never a casualty. He died of old age and heart trouble. He was a paratrooper, 82nd Airborne. I told him I'm ashamed to tell you I was in that war and have only three campaigns under my belt, but we both had seen enough. I said to him that he led a charmed life and the Good Lord had a good part in it and he had earned his time in hell – it's true it was hell on earth and no one knows it better than me. I had more than my share of close calls, etc, but my time hadn't come up – shot at and missed and shot at and hit. It comes down to the old "law of averages."

Getting back to whom I was gazing at through the hedge. I decided to crawl around and try to identify them. I ran along the ditch to a small elevation and went up to the top. When I looked, it turned out to be an American artillery unit. Now I had the problem of trying to contact them without being mistaken for a Kraut and shot. It would be just my luck. I rustled up some courage, threw both hands up in the air with my helmet on my M-1 rifle on one hand and walked down the hill holding my breath. As I got to the base of the hill, I had not been spotted yet. I yelled out "Hey Guys! Don't shoot. I belong to the 90th Division, 357 Infantry. Don't shoot." At that point, they heard me and brought their weapons up in a menacing fashion. I was praying to God there were no trigger-happy ones among them. I kept shouting "Don't shoot – I'm one of you." They lowered their rifles, but I kept my hands up. This was the longest walk I ever had the horror of walking. It felt like an eternity, expecting any moment to be cut down. When I got close to them, one of them said, "You can lower your arms. We know you are on our side." With that I let out a sigh of relief and asked for a cigarette as I had run out. This sergeant gave me a couple of packs. He asked me my outfit and I told him the 90th Division and asked if he had seen them and if so, whereabout? "The 90th Division – yes, a pretty good distance from here. I saw them about two or three days ago. We had been in some pretty hot action up around a place called St. Sevier or something like that. We were giving them some fire support for a while and had driven the Germans out as far as I know. They are still around there or near it. We were ordered this way for another mission. Don't know where, just waiting for orders." He asked me how come I got over here and I told him what had happened to me up until now, having got lost from my Company a couple of days past. They had a battery of 105s and a battalion of anti-tank outfits out of the 7 Corps. The anti–tank boys had shot up a detachment of German Panzers earlier that morning comprising a number of Panthers and motorized artillery vehicles plus some SS infantry men. A tank destroyer, incidentally, had tracks and armored sides like a regular tank but is completely open at the top with a 105 mm gun. This gives the crew a clear view of the enemy targets, but of course, no overhead protection. A great thing about the war was its 105 or 155 mm gun, the only ones we had capable of knocking out the fearsome "Tiger" and its six or eight inches of armor plate. Our Sherman and those 105s could handle the Mark V Panther tank or other light or medium armored tanks, but was no match for the Tiger and Tiger Royal. The TD was indispensable for us especially against gun emplacements and machine gun sites. It also had been used against infantry formations to good effect, as well as concrete bunkers and pill boxes and barbed wire entanglements. I said, "I guess you boys got the better of the argument."

The sergeant replied, "Yeah, well we got some welcomed help from some of the flyboys in P-47s and R.A.F. Typhoons. We had a number of casualties, but we gave more than we got. The Krauts left a lot of dead SS and a few of their tanks. For once, we got the better of them." The sergeant's name was Donald Frazier and he was born in Aberdeen, Scotland. He was about 22 or 23 and had joined the Army before Pearl Harbor and went to a heavy artillery unit. He spent a year in the Pacific and transferred to England in time for the Normandy Landing at Utah Beach D+3 in 1944. His home was New York City. Unknown to. me, we were neighbors. We both lived in Manhattan, within a few blocks of each other. He went to a different high school. He spent one year at Fordham University majoring in history and was unmarried. We had a lot in common. A man after my own heart. We became real friends, even though it was a short meeting – small world. I was with him and his outfit for a short time. One day I decided to pull up my traces and start again to look for my own Company. I told him I was going to try to make it, God willing. He wished me luck and I thanked him for his friendship. Maybe we'd be lucky enough to get through this damn war and meet again in N.Y.C. and celebrate with a couple of beers. But sadly, I never saw him again. I have always hoped he got through it okay. I tried locating him at the end of the war but was not successful. When I took leave of Frazier and his artillery boys, I again tried to get back to the 357th wherever they were. Since losing them days ago, they probably gave up on me, either killed or captured or met some French girl and was shacking up till the war ended, or as the Army says "for the duration." (It seems in this narration that I was always getting lost.) It seems that way – a one man army. I finally caught up to my outfit after being lost for three days and nights. I located my company. Sure was glad to see my buddies and the 2nd platoon. Those were the longest days of absence I ever had to live through – like a bad dream; nightmare is more like it. By the looks of things, I had seen more action than the 357th did in those days I was away. I sure missed Bill. The regiment had seen a lot of artillery fire and patrols against the Krauts, but not much more. Things were fairly static but big events were taking shape as far as something big being planned. My squad and I were happier than hell to see each other. Bill had had misgivings and premonitions that something bad happened to me, but had some optimism that I'd show up. As it turned out, I had worried about him also, hoping everything was okay and no damn German had terminated his life. Though he said he had had a couple of narrow escapes, especially one night when he went out on night time patrol to gather information. On the way back he ran into an ambush. There were only eight of our guys in the mission. Two got wounded and four killed who were replacements. The wounds of the two were slight. They never got much information; just an expensive waste of time – the way a lot of patrols amounted to most of the time. If you survive a patrol, especially in daylight, you can consider yourself lucky. Nighttime patrols are a little different. You have a false security of it being dark. It has its disadvantages. You could very likely step on a mine or contact a booby trap. Germans were very good at that, deadly efficient. The other feeling I would get when it was dark was that I can see them but they can't see me, a false feeling, but I tried to look at it

different. When you get down to bare facts, daylight or nighttime patrols were bad news. I and a lot of others could do without them. You could call it a "necessary evil."
Chapter 10 A Souvenir

The next story was how I acquired a German Swastika Nazi flag. It was during a big battle to capture this small city. I don't remember the name but it was during our advance through Normandy and it doesn't matter. The German infantry was putting on a pretty stiff defense. It was a very hot day and humid as hell and the smell of dead bodies didn't make things any easier, mingled with the smoke and burning oil of destroyed vehicles of all sorts and exploding ammunition which made things pretty dangerous. We were advancing in spread-out formation up this city street lined with tall trees along the way with a number of three- and four-story houses on the opposite side, none of them too damaged. There were the usual last stand snipers in some of the buildings taking pot shots at us. We could hear the slugs hitting the pavement and hitting the trees, snapping the branches. What was so maddening was we couldn't spot them, let alone see them, but despite this harassment, we still had to push on. We suffered a certain amount of casualties I know. I came under fire making my way up the street but lucky for me, I didn't get hit. The fire was heavy. I'm glad they didn't have machine guns at the time or casualties would have been worse. Anyhow, in our advance, we came to the end of the street. As this happened, some guys in companies "H" and "I" were sent out to try and flush out and kill these damn snipers. They succeeded in killing a number of them, about eight or nine of these tormentors. I'm glad they got that assignment and left "G" company alone. When we got to the end of the street, we crossed over to the next street ahead and again started to advance at nine-foot intervals between each man. Bunched up men make good targets. We came to a place up the street where there was a city hall or some municipal building of sorts on the other side of the street. We were still sustaining German machine gun and rifle fire which kept us ducking and hiding behind trees along the way and firing at them at the same time. I hit some I think but am unable to say how many. I knew we gave as much as we took. It looked as if we were getting the better of the argument. Then we all came to a halt along a ditch with intervals of trees for protection. It was at that point, along with my buddy, Bill, we spotted this municipal building with a large Nazi flag hanging down from a small balcony about one story up. I got real excited when I saw that German flag fluttering in the breeze big as day. Before I joined up for the war, I used to see movies and news reels showing that damned flag and swore when I went to fight, I was going to get one of them and a German luger, God help me.

Here was my longed-for wish and ambition. I said to my friend, "I want that flag, so help me, and I don't care how many Germans are shooting at us." Bill said to me "Have you lost your senses? You'll get killed doing a brainless thing like that." I replied, "Like hell. I'm going to get that flag. Give me some cover." So I jumped up from the ditch and took off like a greyhound across the street. I don't know if the Germans saw me or not. I didn't give it any thought. I jumped up halfway up the wall, grabbed hold of the end of the flag, yanked it down and took off back to the ditch with my prize and threw myself behind a tree next to Bill. "I got it. I didn't think I'd make it but I did." "You were damned lucky to get away with that stunt without getting your fool head shot off," said Bill. "I admit it was a foolish and stupid thing, but I can say I'm alive," I replied. But I got me a Nazi flag, which, by the way, I still have at home for a souvenir, which was gotten the hard way. I'm glad to say I didn't have to buy one. It's still as fresh and clean as the day I got it, never been washed – an ugly but a proud memory of an exciting day. After the event and I had gotten back to my position, I felt something wet on my backside and leg. I was shocked to discover that my water canteen had been hit. A great big hole was in it and all the water had run out. So they did hit me but thank God, it was my canteen. Bill said with humor, "You're lucky it was only your canteen that got it. While we are together, don't dare pull another dumb stunt like that. It ain't worth your life." In fact, one of our NCOs ran up to me and said, "I saw you run across the street and grab that flag and run back under fire. At first I thought you were attacking the Krauts' position single handed." I replied, "Are you nuts? I could have gotten killed doing something as foolish as that." And the sergeant said, "But going to get a Nazi flag under fire was a different thing?" We all laughed over it. I thought about it later and had second thoughts about my foolish stunt but getting away with it was worth the deadly effort. Once in a while after the incident Bill would look at me and say, "You and that damned kraut flag," and shake his head and would kind of grin. "Only you would do a foolhardy thing like that and get away with it."

Chapter 11 Pickett's Charge During one of our advancements in Normandy after the great St. Lo breakout, we unfortunately got ourselves surrounded by enemy forces – a couple of German infantry regiments, one I believe was the German 6th Airborne, a sizable force. We fortunately were on a high point of ground with a great amount of trees and shrubs. We had pretty good cover against any attacker up a sharp incline. What was bad about it is we were susceptible to extensive mortar fire, which I was in mortal dread of and I wasn't the only one. Foxholes are not killing proof. One falls in your hole and "that's all she wrote." How we got ourselves surrounded is a puzzle to me. Anyhow, that was the predicament and what we could do for our defense was try to break out of it. The bad thing was we were outnumbered ; at least three to one. We were told wonderful news. We heard from the Lieutenant that an airstrike was called for. That was welcomed news. Everybody's morale rose. We waited with impatience and anxiety. I know I did anyway. As we dug in, firing broke out all over the hill. It was fierce. We also opened file but from my position, I could see no targets to shoot at. They were pretty well hidden, scattered along the low part of the hill in the heavy growth of tree clumps and brush and in the gullies. Some of the platoons had 60 mm mortars who opened up on them. We had the advantage of height at least, where the mortar would be more effective. The fighting and firing continued until nightfall and it slowly tapered off to some degree. I have heard through the rumor factory that the Germans attempted to persuade us to surrender but it came to nothing, so we fought it out. During the early morning darkness, we could hear some activity going on in the enemy lines. They opened up on us with scattered mortar fire, but no one got hit. We were lucky as hell with this so far. Our guys responded by sending a few mortar rounds down on them. It was a hell of a noise for about a half hour – a mortar duel – then it stopped abruptly. A few of our men were wounded, mostly the new replacements. How bad they were, I didn't know. They were mostly among the heavy weapons and the third platoon. Soon everything became suddenly and oppressively quiet. Again, something was up. We knew and could tell there was more activity. Soon we heard them coming up the sides of the hill in front and to our left. Then we spotted some of the "feld grau" Germans advancing up toward us, running and halting behind bushes and spread out. At a signal we all opened up at them with everything we had – rifles, Browning Automatic Rifle, carbines, grenades and mortars. Well, they, fortunately for us, got the worst of it. They were met by a withering fire from us. My M-1

became so hot, the front hand stock started to burn and smoke. I poured water from my canteen onto the front of the rifle to cool it off. That's how fast I was firing off shots. In the assault, I picked off three of them within a few feet of where I lay next to a large tree. I'm glad my rifle didn't misfire. It sometimes happened after brisk firing. The next thing I remember is that we stopped them cold and they retreated down the hill while we still fired on them to hurry them up on the way down. The Germans lost quite a lot of men in this assault. Soon after, we heard the unmistakable sounds of planes approaching. It was our air support we had called for earlier. It couldn't have happened any sooner – fighter planes. I could see they were Typhoons and P-47s madder than hornets. They just peeled off and tore into those Germans with small bombs and machine guns. Then they'd pull up a ways and come hurtling back again. Everybody was yelling and cheering like hell with a few chosen words. "Give 'em holy hell flyboys" and "Wipe the dirty Kraut bastards away," which they just about did. After this strafing, the planes left, wagging their wings for us. No planes were lost and they did the job in great fashion and with enthusiasm. God bless the Army and the Air Force. Between us and the Air Force, we just about destroyed the attacking troops. They had stopped way short of their objective to get at us at the top of the hill, and thanks to the aircraft, it was one hell of a fight; I thought sure we would be overrun and we'd all get captured or worse. But thanks to the fighterbombers, they saved the day. Thank God, now we can get the hell off this damned hill. We started down and saw all kinds of damage and dead Germans, torn-up terrain, small trees, bushes and whole stands of trees. A good part of the destruction was by the fighter planes and we accounted for a hell of a lot of Huns by our rifles, machine guns and the mortars. That Kraut outfit would need a hell of a lot of replacements. It was a bloody and costly experience for them. Our side did not come off too bad, mostly wounded of about thirty or forty casualties, not counting the killed. To show how close to the top of the hill they came in their advance, they left quite a few dead about five to seven feet from where we were entrenched. There were two Germans quite close to me that I had not seen. So much was going on. There was one about four feet away from me behind a couple of small trees and I saw him at the last minute. So you can see how intense and ferocious the fighting was. None of them succeeded in coming over on us. It reminded me of a U.S. Civil War encounter like Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. Prisoners we captured said they feared the aircraft. Worst of all they were really mad that the Luftwaffe never made an appearance. We had the mastery of the skies. The Germans' General Rommel was attacked and severely wounded during the battle by a British Spitfire that strafed his vehicle, I believe, in July somewhere. He was fortunate he wasn't killed outright. One interesting sidelight or comment – I passed through a town in Normandy by the name of Port D'Hebert. This place was where my mother's ancestors came from to settle in New France in North America in the 17th century in one of Champlain's exploration trips up the St. Laurence river to establish a trading post named Mount Royal, later

named Montreal as it is now called. It was on the site of a Huron Indian village called "Hochelaga." Quite a few Frenchmen married Huron Indian women after being baptized Christians. After marching on a way, we stopped to rest, eat our rations and set up defensive positions and outposts to watch for any German patrols and infiltrations. So far, everything was quiet except for the occasional firing of large field guns from the battleships off the beach areas. We had the great feeling of security as our aircraft flew back and forth over us, like a shuttle service, P-47s, P-38s, Spitfires, Beaufighters and Mustangs. I feel sorry for I the Hun planes wandering into this area, Luftwaffe "Kaput." A story went around about the enemy. "They're either at your throat or at your feet," and "the only good German is a dead German." We all got a good laugh about the sayings. Germany never learned to profit from its errors. In World War I, they got their lumps and in this war were getting their lumps again, even more so, and like one of our guys said, "Start another war and we'll give you some more lumps." A Kraut soldier asked what is a lump and he tapped him on the skull with his rifle. "That's what we call a lump," leaving the German rubbing his head. He got the message. Chapter 12 Those 88s We had a few poets in our platoon. One poem was composed on a WWI song "Inky Dinky Parley Vous." It went: The 357 will win the war, Parley-Vous, The 357 Will win the war, Parley-Vous, The 357 will win the war So what's the rest of the Army for? Inky Dinky Parley-Vous! We'll shoot the Heinies one by one, Parley-Vous, We'll shoot the Heinies one by one, Parley-Vous, We'll shoot the Heinies one by one Won't we have a lot of fun, Inky Dinky Parley-Vous! The other was a parody on a fearsome German artillery piece called an 88, the caliber of the gun. One of the best artillery guns at the front, so we composed a ditty in honor of it. This was a takeoff on an old popular song called "Those Wedding Bells are Breaking Up the Old Gang of Mine," of the 1930s or earlier: "Can't you hear those guns a-shootin' Can't you hear them cannons roar, Those 88s are busting up That old gang of mine." (And boy, did they.) Also, there was a story that circulated around here in Normandy. As we heard it, there was a German soldier with a great tenor voice. During a lull in the fighting in the Sicilian or Italian campaign, he would serenade the American troops of the 5th Army several nights in a row with a rendition of "Lili Marlene," a famous German marching song. One or two nights they didn't hear him any more. One day a prisoner was captured and some of the soldiers asked him, "Hey, what happened to the German tenor with the great voice singing Lili Marlene? We haven't heard him anymore."

The German replied, "Oh him. Ya, he was signing vun night und von of your soldiers shot him in ze throat." So the GI said, "I guess that ended his singing career." The German replied, "Ya, und it killed him alzo." There was one funny story that happened to my pal Bill and I during one of those rare times in combat when nothing was going on. We stopped near some trees across from a group of houses for a quick smoke. As we sat there smoking, a Kraut soldier ran across the street from one house to another just a few feet away from us. I grabbed up my M-1 and Bill picked his up. We pointed them at him and neither of us fired. We had him dead to rights. He was a goner. We looked at each other and I said, "Why in hell didn't you shoot, you silly ass?" He responded, "Well, damn, why didn't you?" Then I said, "We sure screwed that one up. You know that damned Kraut owes his life to us." With that, we laughed like hell. Bill said, "We shouldn't laugh too soon; we may very well end up getting killed by that bastard." It sobered up us a bit. We decided we better keep a watch, but we never saw him again. Maybe he got nailed. Another strange story that occurred one sunny day was while we were lined along a roadside ditch. We exchanged shots with Germans on the other side of the dirt road. Looking up the road I could see a procession of some sort and a lone figure in front. As it got closer to me, I could see it was a Catholic priest with a long crucifix staff. He was wearing a white surplice flanked by two altar boys in black cassocks leading two beautiful coal black draft horses with silver trapping and bridles with two black and white Ostrich feathers on their heads. The horses were magnificent, coal black, as I stated, with white socks. The thing I remember about the horses is that they had their heads bowed low. They seemed to be aware of the solemnity of the occasion. They were hauling a hearse, all black with silver trim. The driver was dressed in black with a Napoleonic black hat and plume. Following the hearse was apparently a wife and family dressed all in black. The women wore black veils and they were followed by friends of the deceased. It created a real impression on me and a reverence for what I was seeing. All fighting had ceased between us and the Germans. It was a very solemn and reverent occasion. I completely forgot the war. How unreal and ironic this was. Something like this simple funeral procession to let the dead go by for a moment made the war cease – until it had gone by, then it was business as usual.

On thing I vividly remember: As the priest passed by me, he cast a sad gaze right at me that seemed to look right into my soul as if to ask why this killing and war continues. It does not please our Lord. It caused me to dwell on his gaze and what he seemed to say. Bill came over to me. He too was silent and had the same feelings I had. We didn't say much to each other. Breaking the silence, I said to Bill, "I'd love to have a funeral like that, with two black horses and my parish priest leading it, and all my friends walking behind me giving one a sense of importance." We both laughed. "You're irreverent," he said. I discovered to my shock and despair I was out of coffin nails (cigarettes), so I began right away making plans to get some somewhere. I wasn't long in my looking around in finding some. I saw some dead soldiers nearby. I ran over to them hoping that they had been smokers. (You have to excuse me, they were Americans) and they had cigarettes. One guy had about eight packs, so I politely took them in short order. I said, "Forgive me pals; I hope you don't mind. It's even my brand, Pall Malls." Bill shook his head. "You'd die without butts." I heartily agreed. Now I could get on with the war. I said to Bill, "Don't act pious and sassy with me. You smoke as bad as I do. Do you want a couple of packs?" He greedily grabbed them. Speaking of smoking, even that could be dangerous. In striking a lighter, the spark could give your position away to a sharp-sighted sniper and especially at night, it was even more deadly. So we learned to cover the old Zippo by hand or low to the ground. You learned a lot of things quickly in life and death situations in combat. Speaking of lighters, Zippos or Ronsons, these were nicknames given to our old Sherman tanks because they were so inflammable and that German artillery gun, the infamous 88 mm which could shatter any American or ally with no problem. The Tigers all carried 88s as their prime heavy gun. I believe the last year of the war we developed a gun of 90 mm which was better or equal to the 88. During the earlier part of the Normandy campaign, the British had a great gun which was as good as the 88. I believe it was a 76 or 78 pounder but it was not used like the German 88. It's too bad because it might have made a great contribution to allied armor as a tank destroyer. It was used mostly for anti-aircraft until later when it was used for ground work. Then a lot of Tigers and Royals were blown away. Chapter 13 The Hornets' Nest Orders came down from battalion headquarters for a general assault against German units, armor and infantry, guarding a number of ammo dumps and a supply center near the small town of St. Andre bordering on a small river (I've forgotten the name). Our Company Commander had a meeting with the platoon leaders who in turn told us through the non-coms of our part in attempting to assault and destroy this important objective. Our platoon leader was pretty thorough in explaining what our (the second platoon)

mission was in this battle and especially what "G" Company's responsibility was. It was to be an early morning attack (early darkness) to strategic areas before battalion artillery opened up with a concentrated barrage on the Krauts to soften them up a bit to help our advance (we hoped). Maybe we could achieve the objective with minimum casualties. I told Bill, "Well, that's reassuring news." Then we were told that we were to be held in reserve. (That was even better.) It appeared that 1st battalion 357th would do the initial attack with 3rd battalion attacking on the right flank with us (2nd battalion) to follow up with further support if needed. The 358th and 359th were involved with this battle, but that's all we knew. We also were told we might have air support before the artillery opened up. What a show this was going to be. Bill and I called this mission by our own name, "Hellzapoppin' ", unofficially of course. Anyhow, it sounded good. We were all ready for the fireworks to spring on the Germans unless they knew about it already, then the surprise was out the window. The day was moderately quiet except for some sporadic shots being exchanged here and there. Preparations were in the works for the early morning advance to closer positions to the German ammo dump and other sites. All movement was to be as quiet as possible, very tactical. No lights and whispers only. A funny thought hit me. What if someone took a violent fit of sneezing or coughing. I can just see it now. What a mess that would create. I tried to forget about that. What I am glad of is that the Luftwaffe wasn't around to spot this activity of surprise attack. Thank the Lord. I related this thought to Bill and he agreed. Boy, that sure would have been the end of that battalion operation. We dug our entrenchments and foxholes and tried to cover them up with branches, logs and leaves in case the Hun decided to knock a few of us off, but as darkness began to fall, everything got more or less quiet except for the fireflies and crickets who made a hell of a racket. Then a breeze came up and it went through the trees shaking the leaves. I hoped it wasn't going to rain, though the stars were out, but weather can change. We hadn't had any rain lately, just hot and humid weather. It was so quiet I had an eerie feeling and felt a slight chill. I lit a reefer covered by my helmet. It seemed to reassure me. Funny how smoking a cig would calm you down somewhat. Bill and I talked a bit but were on the watch for enemy patrols. I decided to get some shuteye but felt too jittery so I just lay there thinking about home mainly and then about the attack to be launched at daybreak. I wished it would get here and then, at the same time, that the Germans would decide to pull out. Fat chance. Both of us had bad feelings about the whole thing. Something might go wrong. We stayed awake. Then we saw dawn just showing on the horizon. Both of us were real tense and jittery. It wouldn't be long now before hell would erupt all along the line. We heard a sound. It was the platoon sergeant checking things. "Everything okay?" We said yeah. We were just nervous as hell for the big gun to go boom. The Sarge reassured us that everything would turn out all right when the time came to move out fast. We kind

of answered with a sick "Yeah, sure." I kept checking my M-1 and the grenades. I looked at the pig sticker on the rifle (bayonet) as security. It's funny, I remembered the Krauts seldom had their bayonets on their Mausers, and I wondered why. For some odd reason, that made me feel good. They didn't like bayonet fighting. The sky was getting clearer. I looked for Bill. "Stay close, pal." He kind of gave me a smile and waved. I had just started to change position when suddenly the whole sky lit up in flashes like lightning. The earth blew up and shook like a giant quake. Then the shattering, angry sound of the big artillery and screaming shells like out of hell, the terrible sound was enough to shatter your ear drums. One series after another of huge detonations and explosions. The sky was all lit up. It felt like the end of the world. I was never so damned scared in all my damned life. I called on God Almighty to help us – mixed feelings. I hope they kill all those damned Kraut bastards, wipe 'em out. Bill and I just huddled there in our holes with frazzled nerves. We must have smoked 50 cigarettes between curses and prayers, my curses and Bill's prayers. It was just one unbelievable fantastic nerve shattering outpouring from the depths of hell with all the devils and demons let loose. I couldn't help but feel that a lot of the guys suffered concussions being so close to this hellish and demonic symphony. To this day, anytime I go through a thunder and lightning flashing sky of a rainstorm, it still gets me nervous and uptight, waiting for the shrapnel to get me. It always bothers me. It's so related to gunfire. I dread a thunderstorm. I guess after going through so much artillery and bombs from D–Day to the end of my combat days, it has left its deadly impression in my mind. I'm a type of person who's easily impressed and it doesn't take much, even people dropping things on the floor makes me jump five feet in the air and look for shelter. It's funny after all these years to still have these feelings. Suddenly, it became deadly still. The barrage had lifted. We raised ourselves up and looked around. Suddenly, we heard a faint growling noise in the air – aircraft. You could hear the sound get louder. We looked up and back at the sky. Here they come – the fighter bombers. I recognized them. Bill said, "What are they? I hope ours." There were P-47s, 1 Typhoons and twin-engined planes, P-70s and A-20s, I think. I'm not clear. It looked like hordes of them. They were one beautiful sight. Talk about low level, the tree branches shook. One P-47 came so close I could see the pilot in his cockpit looking at us. We waved. I'll bet when the Krauts saw this awesome sight after all that artillery barrage, they thought the end had finally come for them. I couldn't see after all this carnage that any enemy would be left alive and with all that ammunition blowing up, it must have been a living hell for them I'm damned sure. The planes kept coming in droves. It looked like a field day for the Air Force. We were all ready to move into German territory. We thought it would be less costly to us since the aircraft had done their part in destroying the biggest part of their army. We couldn't see how anything could have survived all this destruction, but Bill and I felt we couldn't be too sure. We had situations like this before and stepped into a hornet's nest and suffered a lot of casualties. We did not expect all the debris, blown up terrain, stone walls, etc., which improved their defenses 100 percent. There was still life in the beast, as we were about to find out. Well, at least we were in reserve and the 1st Battalion

would be the first to find out and get first blood. I'm glad we weren't the guys to move into the hornet's nest first. Maybe the other battalion could finish the Krauts off and they wouldn't need us, and then again, there were the other two regiments, the 358th and 359th. We also had some armored units but I don't know who and anti-tank guys also to deliver that extra punch. As the hours moved along, I got feeling this was going to be one hell of a scrap. At this time we could hear a lot of firing going on, mortars, MGs, BARs, even small light artillery added to it. We could hear huge explosions with large billows of black smoke filling the sky over the enemy position. Must have been a good part of all the ammunition collection being blasted away. There must have been a lot of them blown up. The sky was lit up with flashes and began getting black with soot and smoke. We could smell the sharp acrid odor drifting in on us causing my eyes to tear and bum, even though we were quite a way down from the action. While sitting there, we saw a number of M-4s (Sherman tanks) roll by heading into the battle and also some M-10s with the big 105s mounted on them. It looked like everybody and his brother was in on this. It was midway through the morning and we still didn't know what the situation was or how the battle was going. We still didn't get any orders. Well, at least we didn't have any snipers taking pot shots at us. That was a relief. The firefight seemed too intense and still we waited. It was getting on my nerves. I must have smoked a dozen weeds. Next thing, the platoon leader and sergeant came running up. "Let's go, let's move out on the double. Straight ahead, gang." It sure came as a surprise. So I grab my M-1. I yell at Bill, "Looks like this is it. Watch out that the Krauts don't get you in the ass," with a laugh. Now was "get scared time." We jumped over some fallen timber and tree stumps, being careful not to trip, watching where we ran and ahead at the same time. Already, I was panting carrying this load of rifle, grenades, and ammo bag, etc. It was no picnic. As we ran we saw evidence of the shelling and strafing – dead Germans all over. We didn't have much chance to see anything else. Though the destruction was visible, Bill and I ran now at a gentle trot behind the others of "G" company. Then we came to a halt in this wooded area. There was still considerable firing and a lot of noise in our direct front. We hadn't see any live Germans yet. Then I was startled by a rabbit that darted in front of me. I damned well jumped out of my skin. I felt my heart jump like a triphammer. Bill saw the rabbit and laughed like hell at me. Told me I had combat fatigue. After a short break, we heard "Let's go!" and off we went for a few hundred yards, stopped and dug in. All this time, we could hear gunfire and a fierce battle going on. Orders were we stay here until called on to join the battle. "We'll stand ready here if and when we're needed" said the platoon sergeant. "We are in reserve right now." Some time later the main battle ended with the defeat of the Kraut forces and destruction of the ammo base and other supplies, we were told by the commanding officer of our company. We could still hear artillery bombardment of the German strongpoints which still resisted. We were told our mission or assignment now would be to follow up the 358th sector and what is commonly known as "mopping up." This could

be a very hazardous project. When the enemy would get the worst end of it and give up the battle and start to retreat, they would always leave behind pockets of resistance and booby traps if they had time. So "mopping up" always proved to be deadly. So this was our part in this battle – clear the area and corral prisoners of war, if any, pick up wounded left behind. We arrived at this small river and started to cross to the other side, a few hundred yards, with our rifles over our heads because the water was waist high. My platoon was in the middle when shots rang out and three replacements were hit, two fatally. I tried like hell to get over as quick as I could. I could see slugs hitting the water in front of me. Luckily, I reached the safety of the embankment without mishap such as getting shot or drowned. We got into the area where the Germans had been fighting, where the heavy shelling struck, and the heavy strafing by the fighter bombers. God, what carnage and annihilation we viewed, like a horror story. German dead covered large areas and near dead which our medics attended to. As I said the shelling had been thorough and successful. Their vehicles of all descriptions lay in twisted, contorted shapes. Some wreckage could not be identified. Fires were all over the area. You could tell that death paid a visit here. We finally met up with those left-behind German defenses. Now we had our work cut out. Machine gun fire came in all directions at us. I can't see how I or Bill or anyone else wasn't hit. The fire came from improvised positions completely hidden and from a cluster of small houses nearby. We had moved into a hedgehog of resistance points. We hit the ground and tried to recover from our surprise. We should have known and been more cautious. In our hurry to close in, a few guys became casualties. Most of them from behind me and Bill. It was plain they were expecting us. While lying there in a ground depression with a few bushes, I was trying to detect where the fire was coming from at us or anywhere else. I finally spotted what appeared to be a couple or three Germans a stone's throw away to my left behind a cluster of twisted steel beams and other junk. I could see the flash of their weapons and some slugs hitting the overhead trees. As a matter of fact, striking the rocks and ground in our front. It was not impossible for us to throw a couple of pineapples (grenades) at them with a lot of luck provided we lived long enough. They spotted us all right. Their firing kept us low down. Just as our luck began running out, help came just in time. A few of our guys spotted them and assaulted their positions and killed all three. You talk of just in time! We waved to them our thanks. We got up and headed for those groups of houses we had seen earlier. We caught up to the guys who had saved our asses. They were from "H" company moving up with us. Their Sergeant grinned at us. "Compliments of "H" company." I found out his name was Sgt. Norris from Georgia. We spread out and headed to the houses with rifles firing from the hip hoping to scare the Krauts into giving up mingled with all kinds of rebel yells and cuss words. It seemed to work as three Germans came out with their hands up and to our horror, were shot down by their own men. I couldn't believe they did this. The name Hun is right. The other Germans in this one house were firing at us but didn't hit any of our guys. I guess we were moving too fast and zig-zagging or else there were gunshots. We

broke into the house and three or four Germans turned and fled out the back door, with Bill and I and a couple of others at their heels. Two turned around to shoot back and missed but were cut down. I think I shot one. I'm hot sure. We were all firing. The other Kraut cried "Kamerad," surrender in German, and one of our guys drove his bayonet into one's chest. While this had been going on, there was firing and yelling all around these houses. The action was fierce and heated. It had started to rain. Skies were very gray looking with occasional lightning flashes. We move on but saw no more Germans. All resistance appeared to have stopped. We gathered up a large number of prisoners. The enemy seemed pretty discouraged and sullen by their looks. In our part of it all, fighting stopped except for some fighting in other company areas. We were told they were still resisting in the 1st Battalion (A, B, and C Companies) part of the enemy positions and that there was some sporadic combat in other areas outside of 2nd Battalion's (G. H, and I Companies) advance. For all purposes, the conflict to destroy the enemy emplacements and ammo dumps was successful and finally ceased. I was all f-----g spent out. I fell down and propped up against a tree and emptied my water canteen. Other things occurred in this battle which I don't remember. Some vaguely. But I do know it had started to rain again, but at least, thank God, this day or two finally ended. I found my pal in one of the demolished houses drinking some wine he found and part of a loaf of bread. "Here," he said as he handed me the bottle. "I saved some for you. It's on the house. No charge." We both sat down at a table that was still intact with more than welcome relief. We had earned it. What a god awful time. Later we got the casualty count. 1st Battalion suffered the most with 3rd Battalion not far behind. Our losses in killed and wounded were much less, but even one loss is tragic. The reason being that we had been in reserve so did not see as much of the battle or the fighting as the others did. We did not go untouched, however. We had quite a number killed, but mostly wounded. The replacements were more heavily hit in all units. "G" Company had seven killed but none of the older guys of the Company. By old guys, I mean the original members from the Camp Barkley, Texas days. We had a number of wounded but none fatally, thank the Lord, or as Bill the Irishman would say, "Thanks be to God." Now let's have some more of "Le vin Rouge" or red wine in French in his anglicized English. The area which had those ammunition dumps and material for equipment and vehicle repair was just destroyed and all but turned into a twisted junk yard. It had not been well camouflaged from the air recon. It was discovered by recon units on the ground also which were ignored by the German ground units. They figured they were pretty well protected and unnoticed much to their sorrow. Chapter 14 Somewhere in July '44 While laying stretched out in an apple orchard one morning early, I looked up and saw a figure of a soldier heading towards us. Turned out to be a paratrooper, and he appeared

to have a stomach wound. As he got near to us, he asked for the aid station; he had received his wound by a German who had pitched a grenade at him that exploded with some of the pieces hitting him in the stomach area, but he killed his attacker. His wound was pretty serious and he was holding his guts in from coming out. He must have been in pain, but didn't show it; shock hadn't set in yet. He sat down and asked for a cigarette. I gave him one and gave him the pack. We directed him to the first aid station and offered to help him there, but he thanked us and said he'd make it okay and hoped he wouldn't meet any more snipers; there were quite a few of them around lately. We wished him good luck with a few prayers. To this day, I still wonder if he made it to the aid station and didn't die on the way. This trooper had a lot of courage and determination. Judging by him, we figured these 82nd troopers were a tough bunch. He was 19 years old, same as us, although I felt a hell of a lot older than that. You grow up fast in battle. This war was no kid stuff – no place for the faint hearts and squeamish. Some short time after the incident, while by myself, I broke down and cried for him and all the others I had seen, some were my close pals. I'd see a hell of a lot more before this damned lousy war would come to an end. I wondered if there was a white marble cross for me while on this journey – during all this fighting. I always had visions of it. I wondered how I was going to die and what condition I would be in when they finally would find me – if they did, or parts of me, all of these thoughts were enough to crack you up. All this I remarked to Bill, who felt likewise. One soldier in our squad said one day: "Hey! You guys, hold on to your rifles if you live long enough for when the war finally ends and when we get home and have to shoot the 4Fs and draft dodgers that stole our jobs, wives and girlfriends from us while we went to fight and defend the U.S.A. and them from damned Hitler Germans and the Japs." It struck us funny, although the thought remained. Maybe it was true, but being home was the farthest thought from my mind; keeping alive and in one piece and sane was foremost, plus killing all the damned Krauts we could find and there'd be a lot of them S.S., Wehrmacht, Hitler Youth, Gestapo, etc. ... fellow travelers f-----g bastards in my best French. As old "Blood and Guts" Patton said, "The more of these German bastards we send to Hell, the quicker we all get home." Chapter 15 A Weird, Unnerving Incident in Hedgerow Country in Late June '44 We had laid up at a partially destroyed cluster of houses of a farm in Normandy about daybreak when a sight suggesting hallucination met our eyes. Some ten or so Germans were there in the courtyard – dead, mowed down by what seemed to have been strafing or intensive mortar and machine gun fire – but in such a natural attitude that but for their pale and waxy color, one could have thought them alive. One was standing holding to a bush, his hands grasping the branches; his face showed his terror. He seemed in the act of yelling. His eyes were dilated with fear. A shell fragment had pierced his chest. Another was on his knees propped against a wall under cover of which he had sought refuge from the murderous fire. I approached to see where

his wound was and it took me a moment to discover it, so intact was the corpse. I saw at last that he had had the whole side of his skull carried away and hollowed out as if by a surgical instrument. His tongue and eyes were kept in place by a filament of flesh. His helmet had rolled over to one side. An officer appeared to be resting on some hay; his head thrown back looking at the farmhouse. All their eyes fixed us with a terrifying immobility with a look of such acute terror that the men of the squad turned away as if afraid of sharing it and not one of us dared touch the equipment of the enemy which would have tempted us in any other circumstance. Blood was spattered all over. There were canteens and mess kits, unit badges, rifles, sidearms, belt buckles, dear to the heart of soldiers who would have picked them up for souvenirs. We hurriedly walked away quietly. We had seen incidents like this before but for some unknown to us reason, it shook all of us up – each in a different way. This scene still has a vivid haunting feeling as if it had happened yesterday. During my combat experience, I have a number of times seen soldiers killed and left in frozen positions in the act of doing something. It resembled a wax museum of sorts, but foremost the silence was deathly. A heavy pall hung all over. It was going to be a very long and bloody war and I hoped, with God's help, I'd make it home alive, and if I were wounded, I fervently hoped not badly. I dreaded being maimed and crippled for life – I think that would have been worse than being struck dead. At least I wouldn't have to suffer the rest of my life and be a drag on my family and others. There would be a lot of white crosses across France and Germany to final victory against the damned Germans who brought Europe and the world to the brink of disaster. It would take a long time to recover even after the war ended – those millions of lives. It took two wars to teach Germany a lesson and also that Americans were not decadent and pushovers. We paid a heavy price, but for the enemy the price was more costly. As I look back in retrospect, I am glad and proud to have been a combat soldier despite the pain, physical and mental, and the trauma that came with it and I fought with a bunch of great guys with the famed 90th Infantry Division, 357th Regiment; some of the best men I would ever have had the pleasure of serving with in battle against a fanatical and tough and cruel foe, and showed them once and for all that the American soldier was tougher and braver than they in a just cause. I lost some good pals and my closest buddy who was killed in action in '44. They were painful loses for me, but that was the price we had to pay to end the war. I wonder a lot why I came through and that I hadn't been killed like the others, and I believe all the soldiers had the same feeling as I, in "G" Company. Bill did not merit death. He was too fine a comrade. To this day, I still miss him. He died in action without the chance to live out his life. From time to time, I send a floral arrangement to his grave at St. Laurent Sur Mer overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy. It's the least I can do for a good loyal friend. Someday we'll meet again and discuss old battle stories again, maybe over a few beers at the Hall of Warriors and Heroes if God permits

Chapter 16 Near Metz In the Great War, while serving in the 90th Division of our great, illustrious Commander General George Patton, we fought in the area and vicinity of Metz in Lorraine, a beautiful province sullied by German occupation from 1940 to 1945 and so many times in history. As a child in grade school and high school, I had read much of the history of AlsaceLorraine and all the blood that was shed there (mainly French blood). With all the destruction and desecration of the region, it is still a most beautiful part of France. I never knew the day or time that I would serve in the U.S. Army in that very place I had read so much about, let alone be a part of the fighting there – strange and coincidental, the Events that happened to me. I believe St. Jean D'Arc was born there in Lorraine, but I may be wrong. Fighting there had been severe and vicious and the weather did not help to make things easier. For all of us, it was miserable, wet and damn cold. It was in the months of October and November of '44 in the Maginot line of defenses which was held by the Germans and groups of Officer Training Corps, plus some fanatical SS units firmly entrenched in their line of fortification, and it was our duty, our mission, to dislodge them. The weather was very inclement, cold and raining, together with sleet. Depressive to say the least. Fighting was constant and consistent with many patrols and small arms skirmishing many times at close quarters. There were many casualties for both us and Krauts. I was luckier than some, although I got banged up a lot and later wounded and nearly killed. I was constantly wet and miserable. I don't think I saw the sunshine once. I was awarded the French Croix De Guerre in that area of combat. How I prayed to be wounded lightly to get the hell out of this God forsaken place. A kind of hopelessness pervaded among us, but we fought on and how we cursed the damn Germans for the war and the whole damn mess and how we were going to make them damn well pay in blood. I killed a few of these bastards before they finally got me. I had no regrets or remorse – apathy you'd call it. Although, I've got to thank them for it; they succeeded in finally getting me out of there – if you want to consider getting wounded as a gift. Considering getting it didn't hurt too much, it was worth it. After that, I never fought again – I never returned to the front lines – I had had it. Not many of the old original troopers left anyway. And, as far as I was concerned, as the Germans would say "For you the war is over" and I thank God and good Ste Jeanne D'Arc for protecting me from getting killed. This is the farthest I fought in France – to Lorraine. It is said that if we had gotten Metz earlier, there would not have been a Battle of the Bulge. After a time in the hospital recuperating in England, I was placed non-combatant which didn't displease me at all. I spent most of the time as a POW guard over the Heinies at Compeign, the 16th Replacement Depot, before coming home in 1945 – and then they got me involved in handling displaced persons and that was some tough job. It was made real tough because

of the language barriers. I speak French, but most of the DPs (displaced persons) spoke Polish, Lithuanian, Czech, Yugoslav, etc., but no English and very little French, so communicating was damn near impossible. A real thankless difficult job. Chapter 17 Christmas Eve 1944 Remembered, at Compeign, France, on Military Police and POW Guard Duty The last serious German assault erupted in Belgium during the winter of December 1944, Christmas Eve, in a desperate attempt to destroy the American and British forces, and attempt to win the war for Germany. It was a complete surprise. It would be a "Christmas Gift" for Adolph. Compeign was a famous city. It was the place where Joan of Arc was captured by the English in the Hundred Years War. We were stationed in the path of the German advance; how lucky can one be? Out of all the Christmases I remember, this is the one that stays in my mind always. As I said, I was with a Military Police unit stationed there. It became our job to patrol the area around the city for possible German infiltration by paratroopers and enemy units sent in to cause disruption and sabotage important military sites. Also, we had a prisoner of war compound with about 3,000 or 4,000 German POWs and we knew one of their top objectives was to capture this camp and turn all those POWs loose. Needless to say, it was a pretty nasty and scary situation and we were only a small unit of about less than 80 men in the path of a possible German advance (talk about the Alamo). Thank God, it never happened. We all would have been overrun for a fact, killed or taken prisoner. Anyhow, myself and another soldier were sent out on patrol for any possible sign of enemy activity. It was snowing and bitter cold. I'd say like about in the low twenties, but we were pretty well dressed with warm U.S. Navy parkas, fur lined head gear, gloves and arctic boots, plus weapons, and we prayed that nothing would happen. We arrived at this very old Catholic church called St. Jacques built around the 14th century and still standing despite wars and other calamities. The church was crowded with parishioners celebrating midnight mass and we exchanged greetings with them. This church was also famous in that Joan of Arc heard Mass and had communion there hours before she was captured by the English during the Hundred Years War outside the walls. We were standing there by the church entrance. Holy Mass was being celebrated and we could hear the congregation singing hymns, the same ones we used to hear back home. We both shed a few tears. The wind was swirling the snow and gently hitting our faces, but we did not mind. I guess it was appropriate, a real "White Christmas" like the song we still sing during the holidays, and this was so long ago, but I still remember it with fondness. A great Christmas feeling was felt by us and the people despite a terrible war with no sign of ending soon. People still believed in the "Prince of Peace." Who would end the conflict in victory? My pal said to me, "You know, it's a puzzle and ironic. Here we are standing by a church on Christmas Eve and there are young brave American

and allied soldiers dying tonight up at the front lines." I felt the same way. He expressed it so well with deep sadness and we said both sides should have declared a truce of some kind, considering the Birth of Christ. But, there again, we were dealing with a godless unreligious enemy who held it as a pagan festival. The night of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was uneventful. The German forces later never got to us and that, we felt, was a great Christmas present. Chapter 18 Comments on and Assessment of the German Soldier I had a deep understanding (not admiration) of the enemy. He was, in most cases, resourceful and strictly obedient to orders to a fault. The officers and NCOs were unquestionable leaders. Their orders were to be obeyed and followed with no questions asked. I don't believe that self reliance was one of their strong points or assets, as compared to the American, British, Canadians, French, Belgians or Norwegian, etc. The Germans were expert and resourceful at laying mines and booby traps. They were methodical at it and ingenious so you had to be very careful and cautious where you moved around, including any buildings, barns, vehicles of all sorts, and their own dead bodies would be booby trapped, so if you moved them, you took a risk that they would explode, which could maim or kill you. A lot of guys became casualties looking for war prizes (souvenirs). In being careless, the Germans never understood why we disliked and held them in distain and low esteem. One of my youngest son's friends once asked me, "What was the most terrible and bloody battle you were in?" I replied: "All of them." By the look on his face, this was not the answer he expected of me. He had wanted me to be more specific. I said, "I am being specific. When you are in danger of losing your life, it's all the same. Battle is Battle as far as a soldier is concerned, whether it is a squad or regimental fight, it's all the same, the quick and the dead." Your life was in danger as a combat soldier at all times. I read this epitaph: "In the cemeteries of courage, all the crosses bear the same color." This article had all to do with the war, and it left such an impression I am compelled to write about it. I had a most bizarre and tranquil dream a time past. I was stepping into a beautiful and wonderful landscape painting – the whole vista in front of me. The terrain was a most vivid green, the like of which I have never seen with the exception of parts of Wales, England, and the Normandy landscape in France. The grass was soft and lush and evenly cut as far as I could see. This bright green kept my attention and all the stand of trees were extremely tall, seemingly oaks, and I could not help but be amazed how straight

they were, in perfect order, interspersed with all kinds of shrubs and hedges resembling groves and orchards of the Normandy country landscape. The dream was so real and intense I could feel the ground I walked on – nearby was a vast lake with lily pads and cattails – an unknown land forgotten by time. Like a highly polished mirror, not a ripple could I see. The air was motionless with a note of utter silence, not a sound, and as I said, not the slightest wind or breeze; very tranquil and peaceful. I felt a sense of sadness when I awakened and a feeling of regret at losing it. I actually had the sensation of having been there before. Maybe I did slip into another time zone or dimension – who knows? I did see one living thing, an echelon of geese flying high in the blue sky. Many times since the incident, I can still visualize it and very clear. Many times when I get distressed, I get a longing to go back to it. One time during bio-feedback, I had a short recollection of that very dream, while at spinal rehab. I don't remember if I told John, my counselor, about it. I have had such dreams of fantasy as this since that terrible conflict long ago. I had another most astounding and bizarre dream. It left such a vivid impression on me that I thought I would write it down. I am an avid animal and bird lover. As a matter of fact, all forms of wildlife: snakes, lizards, etc., even tarantulas. It was not like the usual nightmare I suffer with. This dream or vision was so uncanny and bizarre as I mentioned. I was in this – what looked like a field, heavily wooded – everything, the grass, the trees, were a vivid green. The sky was cloudless, but the color was something else – a kind of bright bluish gray above and on the horizon it was a reddish glow with yellow streaks, mixed with an angry looking gray. I had never seen such a sky before, especially the horizon. Even now it is fresh in my mind. As I stood there gazing, there was no breeze and a deathly stillness pervaded. Suddenly, a giant bird landed on my shoulder and gripping my shoulder just sat there. It happened so quickly, I didn't have time to stir, let alone drop to the ground to escape attack. At least that's what I thought was its intention, but it did not harm me. Having some knowledge of birds, it looked like a hawk, but a large hawk. I never saw one this big. It just sat on my shoulder, flapped its wings and looked at me. It had a benign look, not a fierce look like most birds of prey have. I thought sure it was going to tear me up. Instead, it nestled up to the side of my neck as if seeking my attention or friendship. I didn't try to drive or shake him away. Then I awoke. After a few moments, I lay there unable to go back to sleep. A kind of loneliness and sadness descended on me like I had lost a special friend. I thought of the hawk for some time and finally fell asleep. I forgot to describe the bird. He was, as I said, a large kind of dark reddish and brown. A similar color plumage to that of a species of hawk called the Harris Hawk of the Southwest USA. When he flapped his wings, they were a large span and powerful. I could feel the power of those wings. I'm glad his intentions were friendly. One thing I remember, he had a bright yellow beak and claws. But the thing I remember most was his eyes – piercing, luminous, but without malice. The pupil was a dark color, almost black and a yellowish white outer part of the eye. A gaze that still

lingers in my mind; a kind of questioning look that I cannot describe or fathom, not a lethal gaze. I have the feeling that he was trying to tell me something. Now I'll never know unless in the near future there might be another revelation to me. Maybe some day in the near or far future, I'll see that bird of prey again. I do not have many dreams like that; most of them are violent, combat, fighting at odds, re-creations of actual battles that I was involved in, fraught with danger, scenes of horror and terror-ridden – some so fantastic, it is hard to describe in words, although while at the VA hospital, I did or was able to illustrate some pictures of them. While searching around for possible snipers, the area was being shelled by German heavy artillery – a big fight was going on. Suddenly, a shell blew up near the house and I fell through the floor amid plaster, wooden beams, and the floor I was standing on. I fell on top of a table, bounced off that to the floor. Then I woke up in a sweat and scared. Nightmares are just about a daily occurrence. Most of them are combat related. I've had and been in more battles and skirmishes in nightmares than actual fights I had been in during the war. In these dreams, I see people I knew, as well as soldier pals and some who died in the war. Sometimes I talk in my sleep in these battles. Pat, my wife, has, many times, awakened me while having them. These dreams are very frightening as they are very real. I sometimes wake up cursing, crying and just plain shaking in fear. Some have a lot of fantasy, weird and bazaar occurrences, tragedy mixed with humor, as if I actually traveled into another dimension. At times I dread going to sleep. It's like stepping into another land of horror and weird bizarre macabre incidents. With a little humor, I managed to survive them all. I have had these recurrent nightmares ever since World War II. I never was able to overcome the trauma and flashbacks of daily conflict and all those gallant men that never came home; the ones we left behind in countless graves. That's why I can still recount those battle experiences, with vivid memory and able to put down in writing the terrible events I went through. I cannot keep all measure of it. The impact it inflicts, the trauma is long lived. Memories I'll take to my final rest locked up or I would break down if I did, so I am thankful I have a release to illustrate them in words or drawings, or in talking about it, especially with other combat ex-soldiers, to those who have the ability to visualize and understand to a great degree what it does to a person, not only physically, but to the mind. You really have to go through battle, to feel the full measure of it. The impact it inflicts, the trauma is long lived 'til I go to Valhalla – as warriors go. Memories I'll take to my resting place. There are gifted people who are able to live these events with me outside of combat soldiers who have strong visual powers. Death, especially in battle, has a distinct odor – real and very personal. It gets into your nostrils, mouth, in your very clothes. The smell of bleeding trees, shrubs and grass, burning oil, metal, ammunition, rotting and burning bodies – all of these things are part of a battle, but not many people ever think of the manifestations. Much different than

watching a Hollywood movie on D–Day or any other battle for that matter. Even today, I hate mowing the lawn as the smell of cut grass makes me sick. The odor reminds me of all the trees in orchards and woods that were destroyed and torn apart by shrapnel from artillery shells. Also, the very ground with its grass gave off a sickening sweet smell – the odor of death. As I said, even today, 40+ years later, it is still in my nasal passages – the images of those terrible days still linger. Some people do not understand this feeling. Well, they were not there. I have had personal contact with all of this and it still lives with me. And I hope my children or any other children will not have to go through this experience like I did. It can affect your life Chapter 19 June and July: Further Combat Exploits in the Normandy Campaign This happened during a route march approaching a small town, Ste Claire Du Mont, a good part of which was destroyed. During more peaceful times, it was a quaint village, which was evident despite the severe damage. Many of its dwellings were in partial or total ruin. There was a small church which was almost intact. The tall church steeple with the cross on it showed no scars of war, a miracle. We passed a farmer with a horse cart. Passing by, the old man waved and smiled a sad smile. Even the poor horse looked pensive with his head lowered. He had a straw hat on his head with holes cut out for his ears. It caused me to smile a little. The day was sunny; birds sang in the trees. All I could hear was our boots crunching on the road as we hurried along and the equipment on our uniforms gave off a sad and tingling sound as we plodded along. I wondered when our next skirmish or battle would break loose, and the quiet reverie I was enjoying would come to an end. I figured sooner or later we would catch up with our foes and we could again be engaged in a bloody fight. All hell would break loose or worse yet, we would walk into a Kraut ambush as had happened before. How long would this accursed war drag on? "Back in the States by '58" was the current saying and I had no cause to disbelieve it. I would probably be dead long before that time arrived. I was so tired, pissed off and depressed, besides being scared as hell all of the time, living on borrowed time. I thought as we were marching along – for this, I was brought into the world? I was ashamed when this thought hit me. My mother and father were responsible for this damned situation. I wished they had never had me. I was lost in my stupid angry mood. I felt every day I aged 50 years. By the time I get home, my folks won't recognize me. I'll be too damned old to do anything. Here I was, laying my life on the line for the future generations to enjoy at my expense. Some pile of crap that was and the future generations would care less what I had done for them. We had made it easy for them and they wouldn't have to go through what we had in the old war. It suddenly passed through my mind that if this war dragged on too much longer, all of my family would be dead and gone.

We came to a sudden halt and back to reality. We sat down on both sides of the road and took a short break. I took out my smokes for a few quick drags. It really felt good. I could have slept right then and there, and stayed until the whole damned, idiotic mess was over with. I thought, what the hell am I doing thinking like this? I enlisted in this war. I asked for this – to go and be a soldier and fight and kill Germans. That was the whole damned cause for this war. I felt like a coward and that I had let myself and my pals down. They were in this bloody mess too, to rid the world of a psychopathic idiot and his Nazi stooges, his followers and also those slant-eyed bucktoothed Japs, the Sons of Heaven who thought they could make the Pacific a Jap lake. Suddenly we began attracting fire from up ahead. We dispersed to both sides of the road with sudden quickness. The replacements were learning fast. Their reflexes were nimble. They didn't stand there frozen, not knowing what to do. They had learned to stay alive fast or be carrion for the crows and worms. On the march, Lt. Brotherton singled out Bill and me to go ahead and check the road. "Be careful," he said. "Try to keep a low profile." "That's easy for you to say," I replied, grinning grimly. We both ran low along both sides of the ditch trying to be as small a target as possible. I would have been the size of a mouse if possible. I was aware of someone else joining us. Jameson, with his Thompson sub–machine gun came up behind me. We might need all the help we could get. We would have fire power in case we ran into trouble. (I have always wanted one of those tommy guns. It reminded me of Machine Gun Kelly and Al Capone, etc, in those gangster movies we used to see as kids.) That tommy gun was as good any day as that German Schmeisser, that infamous burp gun. It was called that because of the sound it made and the rate of fire. We moved along cautiously until we came to a large foot bridge across a dried-up creek which ended in a clearing, a large open field with a number of barn dwellings and a couple of barns, but no movement of any sort that we could see of the enemy or vehicles. So where the hell did the burst of fire come from? It looked like they disappeared into thin air. I raised my arm to signal a halt. Jameson came up to me. "What's up?" "I don't know," I answered. "I've got a damn scary and uneasy feeling about this whole thing." We waited for the platoon sergeant and lieutenant to catch up to us to look at the terrain ahead and decide what to do. If we moved ahead into the field, we might be walking into a trap and caught out in the open, we'd be cut down like wheat. So we decided to spread out on each side of the road and wait for nightfall which was not too long in coming.

We spread ourselves along the hedgerows and dug in. From our positions, we looked over the hedgerow but could see nothing. I had the feeling that trouble was ahead in that cluster of houses. For now, everything was quiet. The suspense of waiting was almost unbearable. I wished something would happen to break up the suspense. I didn't have too long to wait. All at once, shell fire came streaking over us and exploded some distance behind our position. The air was filled with shrieking sounds like a legion of demons out of hell. I felt the air currents and the heat of overhead projectiles streaking past us. The ground shook like an earthquake gone mad. The detonations and fearful sounds were deafening. The firing was without letup, but thank God, so far they were falling way off their intended target – us. They had overshot our position. If so, we were safe for a while. It seems they miscalculated. The shelling continued. I looked behind me and saw billows of smoke and fires had broken out in wooded areas behind us. I was glad as hell we weren't there. I looked ahead and to my complete surprise, a wave of field gray figures started to advance toward us. My mouth and throat went brick dry and I felt clammy all over. A battle was about to erupt. All I could tell is that they thought they had struck us with those big guns and made a fatal error. I thanked God for that. On they advanced. We were told to hold our fire until ordered to open up. What a field day – a real infantryman field day. It reminded me of reading stories of Gettysburg and Fredricksburg. What a surprise we had in store for them. As I think of it now, it was just like those battles in our Civil War, history repeating itself. I looked for my pal and together we patiently waited in our positions. The Kraut artillery had let up and all became an eerie silence which filled us with fear. I could hear my heavy breathing. I began to tremble. My throat felt like I swallowed sand. I was glad I had urinated. At least I wouldn't be fighting with wet drawers or worse. I had the fear and anxiety you could have cut with a knife. While hordes of Germans advanced, a thousand thoughts flashed in my mind – fear of death. If wounded, how bad? Would my rifle misfire? Would we be in close combat? God help us. Would we stop them? I was sweating like Niagara Falls, a cold clammy feeling. Would I see my parents and friends again? Would Bill make it? I could sense a bayonet going into my chest. God, I had all I could do not to run like hell away from here, but I looked at Bill and knew he felt as I did. I grabbed his arm. "Let's face it together, pal." "Okay," he said. "Yeah, let's give 'em hell." They got closer. You could see the buttons on their uniforms and those coal scuttle helmets, their steady walk spread out. In my fear, I saw thousands of them all at the same time. God, I hope I don't miss, this wave of "feldgrau." One has to be in a desperate position like this to know how it feels to stare death in the face, a battle to live or die. You can't fully describe it to one who never was in a bloody fight. They only see battles

in the movies which is a hell of a lot different. There are no John Waynes here friend! The only people who will leave this battle are the ones that will live and the ones that will die. They are getting closer. Still no order to open fire. My patience is wearing thin. I had all I could do to refrain from shooting. I had fear like you never felt fear. I gripped my faithful M-1 with the old toad sticker on the muzzle. I was wound up like a clock spring which gave me pain. A field gray figure loomed up in front of me, still no order. "God damn bastards, fire for God's sake!" I yell out. The order finally is cried out. I fire, I don't know how many times at my enemy and he dropped a few feet from me and lay still. I rose to my knees firing as fast as I could squeeze the trigger. I don't know how many I hit and they kept coming. My rifle clips jumped out empty. I quickly reloaded and started shooting again. The noise was hellish. The acrid smell of gunpowder. I heard the sound of voices screaming, cursing, sound of the wounded and dying men, us and them but mostly the Germans. We were pretty well in a secured position with hedgerows, shrubs and trees for protection. We opened with our 60 mm mortars, creating gaps in their ranks, not to mention the light .30s sweeping away at them. Their losses were frightful. I couldn't believe I was in this fierce battle. As I fired, I could see the dead piling up. It was a horrible and terrible massacre we were inflicting on them. Some of our guys were getting hit also, but I didn't think our losses would be greater than theirs. As far as I could see, the Germans so far had not broken through. I was amazed that they launched their attach without tank support. I'm glad they didn't have armor. We wouldn't be having it this easy. We didn't have tanks either. They had been directing artillery fire at us, but it had not been too effective. They also threw a few mortar shells but none hit in our area. In retrospect, I believe they had a poorly conducted attack, which was unusual for the Germans. They would always plan their tactics effectively and efficiently. I remember this battle vividly. At one point there was some close-in fighting, but we managed to drive them back with considerable losses. This was an infantryman's battle. I had originally thought that we had been alone, but other companies of the 2nd Battalion were involved in the attack. Our situation was hot and heavy, but not as bad as in H and I Companies where the near breakthrough attempt I mentioned was. G Company was managing to hold okay. The weather was hot and humid to add to the fight. There was a lull. in the battle but shortly they attacked again, advancing up a slight rise in the terrain. We wondered where all the Krauts were coming from. They were attempting to overwhelm us with superior numbers (As I think about it, it felt like we were fighting Russians instead). In these attacks, I did recognize SS elements. Their elite troops, well, they died like the Wehrmacht, no exceptions.

This is all I can remember of this battle. It dragged on for the rest of the day with no letup and into the night. Some of our Sherman M4s and tank destroyers came up to us in the early morning hours with much-needed help that ended this hard-fought bloody slug fest. We moved out of our positions with what was left of the damned Germans retreating before us and in a hurry. The M4s took off after them in fast fashion firing as they went. The field was literally covered with dead, parts of bodies, wounded and dying. I felt sorry for them in a way, but what the hell, they started the damned war and it's about time we paid them back – double. As we moved out, there were about six or eight dead Germans a few feet from where Bill and I had dug in. "Too damned close," Bill said. He got no argument from me. We considered ourselves lucky not to have gotten a scratch. We looked at some of the enemy dead that we hit. We didn't take any souvenirs. There was one dead soldier out of the ones I got. He was a big guy, over 6 feet, not an SS man. I knew I shot him about four or five times until he finally dropped. That about scared the living hell out of me. I'm glad the others weren't like him. I thought I'm just twenty years old with all these horrible experiences. It gave me food for thought. I had never killed anyone before, at least not this many. I thought about all I had gone through in disbelief like it was all one big nightmare and I would suddenly wake up. For that one moment I felt good, then grim reality. As I write, a saying comes to me used by the author Ernest Hemingway from the poet Keats, I believe. "Ask not for whom the bells toll – the bells toll for thee." Chapter 20 Unsung Heroes One of the things that I saw early in the Normandy campaign which left a deep impression was a specific atrocity of four men of the 82nd Airborne lying next to each other face down. Their hands were tied behind them and their heads blown off by rifle fire – a deliberate murder committed by unfeeling, merciless criminals. I would address them as soldiers. They were not animals. I wouldn't insult them. These bastards were subhuman. This scene burned in my mind, and I vowed then and there I would kill all of the bastards I could and if that is not the Christian way, then so be it. When I saw this, it tore me apart and I cried like hell. I didn't know these guys. It made no difference to me. It was a foul lowdown criminal act. I know that in the heat of combat, bad things occur, but this atrocity was not done in the heat of combat, it was thought out deliberately and premeditated. The Krauts did a lot of this kind of thing in their run through Europe. Bill and I saw a lot of atrocities of this nature committed by the enemy to terrorize the people in spreading this "Kulture." The German Army conducted the same kind of terror warfare as in World War I. Apparently, it was a matter of national policy to wage unrestricted warfare.

We found that many German soldiers would booby trap their dead soldiers and in other cases, even their wounded. I never heard of us or any of our allies doing this kind of thing. We spoke to German POWs about this method of waging war and they quickly said that they never did. It was American and allied lies, despite evidence. We were, in their eyes, the bad guys, the villains. I told them how mean we could get if we cared to, but that would be lowering ourselves to their level. Following is another unknowing and harrowing experience that happened to us in Normandy during a lull in the activity. My pal and I and a couple of other guys decided to go souvenir hunting. We took off across a field to a small town which was shot up, but not too badly. The village probably had a population of 200 or so. While in the village, we met a few people who were nice to us and they hoped we had driven the Boche off for good. We replied that we hoped so, but in war you never are sure of anything. I did most of the "parley vouz" as the others knew no French except for a few curse words and worse. We had to be on our guard for any possible surprises and keep our eyes open for anti-personnel mines and the evil booby traps which the Krauts were experts at. Even when nothing is going on, you can still end up dead. Well, we came to this large house about three stories high. We went in and checked everything out. Maybe the Germans were in too much of a hurry to leave and left this place alone, or so we hoped. Some of us went to the top floor looking around and the other fellows were downstairs emptying some Calvados, wine and cognac bottles they found in one of the closets and also some cheese and bread which made a big hit. At least we had found a place to get a good meal. Anything was better than those damned "C" rations. There was even enough for the guys to bring back to the platoon. I knew this would go over big. They found a small cart, loaded it up and dragged it back to the area. Speaking of Calvados, the national drink in Normandy is a fiery golden looking applejack. It's made from fermented apples and boy, it's good, but will raise the hair on your head and let you breathe fire. It kind of burns going down and let me say this, they really know how to make that stuff. It's pretty expensive to buy in the States and it's only made in Calvados in Normandy. If you have a bad cold and nasal blockage, this will really get rid of it. It was also good for athlete's foot, really. Anyhow, back at the house the rest of them headed back to Jack Archer's Company, Bill, I and another guy from Texas stayed in the house looking around on the top floor. We were busy looking around when we heard some sounds from outside some place. I went to the window, looked and to my horror, I spotted a Kraut tank, two in fact. They looked like PZK 3s or 4s Panthers coming down a road into the village, together with a number of infantrymen.

I almost panicked but managed to keep somewhat calm. What the hell to do? I called Bill and Jack over to take a look. It was too late to run down all those stairs and not be spotted leaving the house, so we decided to stay where we were. We had no choice. We'd have a fight on our hands if they came upstairs. We weren't going to start this one unless forced to, so we remained quiet, and I mean quiet. I was hoping and praying they wouldn't come to this house. I could hear my heart beat. I thought, "What a revolting dilemma we have gotten ourselves into." "Souvenir hunting, eh? You and your bright ideas," said Bill. I couldn't think of anything to say to change the situation so I said, "Well, things could be worse," with a sick grin. We peeked out the two windows. The infantrymen were heading to the house. "Oh, great," I thought. We held on and stayed quiet. As we sat and waited, we heard the first of the Germans enter the house. They were laughing and talking, completely ignorant of the occupants on the top floor. From my count, I figured there were about five of them. The only thing in our favor was the element of surprise if they came upstairs. Bill said nervously, "Don't forget the two damned tanks out there. We have them to contend with if the fighting starts. Well, we've got the pineapples (grenades) if these jokers try to come up here. We can get them with these and worry about the tanks later." Jack said, "What about the other Germans outside?" I had forgotten about them. Pray to God they decided not to come up here, then nobody would get killed. "What will happen if they come up the stairs?" Bill replied. "They'll meet a wall of fire with a grenade shower. Let's be alert." "Don't worry, I haven't been this alert since D-day." Time felt like it was dragging. It seemed like those Germans were going to stay forever. Damn, they were leaving at last. Now we could breathe a little easier. We heard them go out the door. "They probably finished off the cognac. They sounded like a jovial bunch," said Archer. We looked out the window and they set off to where the tanks were. It's funny. Those two tanks stayed there all the time, didn't move a bit. We could see the tank commander outside his turret. Some of the tank crew were in the bushes probably to relieve themselves.

I wondered what the hell was up their sleeves. It seemed strange for them to come down here for no obvious reason and leave. Well, I'm glad nothing drastic happened for our sake. We looked at them and for a moment the temptation to shoot them hit us. They were all together by the tanks. We could have gotten them all, but those tanks kind of gave us second thoughts and we decided to not do anything. We might have been lucky, but on the other hand, enough said. Bill said, "If those SOB tanks weren't there, we could have got them all. Bad luck for us - good luck for them." A few nights later, while the company was dug in in a large orchard awaiting orders for the next move, we all were in for a good rest which was a great relief. We had been in some pretty heavy and lively fighting for some time without much of a break or letup. We had to fight for every inch of ground or hedgerow and it had been a bloody and deadly business. We gained ground, but at a price. We suffered quite a lot of casualties, especially among the new guys. Some of these replacements never had a chance. It is a cruel thing for me to say, but better them than us old timers and I don't mean agewise, more battle wise. It hurt me more when one of us vets got hit than the new fellows. We older guys in the company were a close-knit bunch. Maybe that's why we survived taking all things in. Some of those poor young replacements had only two or three weeks' training. That is not enough time to get seasoned or qualified soldiers. I felt real sorry for those kids. At least I had a couple of years' training under my belt. It did some good. I thought I had a better chance of staying alive. Well, as I said we were parked in this orchard when the lieutenant came to us and said, "I need two men to go out on outpost guard to keep a sharp watch to see if any Kraut patrols are trying to infiltrate our position. Who will volunteer?" Lt. Brotherton smiled as he said this. He looked over at me. I saw this and tried to look the other way and became busy lighting up a cig trying to avoid his gaze. He must have read my mind because suddenly he said, "Charland." "Sir!" I replied looking surprised and appearing not to understand him. "You know what I said soldier." He was still smiling, as I said, he was a hell of a nice guy.

"Okay," I said. "I'll volunteer." "You're a good soldier, Charland." "Yeah, yeah," I said. "You say that to all the girls" and I added, "You'll miss me when I'm gone, Sir. There's a law of averages to this outpost business and I feel my number is coming up." "You'll be okay. I'm sending two guys to keep you company up on that small rise of ground with those tree clumps around. I'll let you know how good a friend I am, I'll let you choose who you want to go with you." I looked over at Bill. He gave me a sick look. He knew I wanted my best pal. The other guy was this tough Polack from Pittsburgh, a coal miner, tough as nails and besides, he had a tommy gun, Hank Cieply. Hank looked at me and said, "Thanks pal. With friends like you, who needs enemies?" but he gave a big laugh anyhow, so I said, "Here we are, the three musketeers." "Remind me to hide your damn Pall Malls," Hank threw back at me. Bill added, "Shut up, Charland. Hanging around you is bad news," and he finished with, "You're still my best pal and you couldn't do without me anyway. You need me for protection." I said, "We are pals to the end and this is the end." "You're breaking my heart," replied Bill. There always comes a time to an infantryman or ground pounder when a bit of humor, or horseplay, keeps up the morale of the outfit. Yea! The Infantry. Without us guys you can can't run a war. Whoever said the infantry was the "Queen of Battles" was righter than hell. That hill was quite a few hundred yards from "G" Company's rest area, away from the protection of the hedgerow and wooded cow pasture. From the top of the hill, we had a pretty commanding view of the surrounding countryside. We could see pretty far all around. During daylight hours, we couldn't miss anything trying to get by us. What we had to worry about was when darkness would settle in, so we had to keep a sharper lookout for possible German patrols in darkness. It appeared that our hearing became more acute, at least I felt it to be so. We were aware of the slightest noise or movement of an enemy. We could not smoke for fear of giving away our position. That just about killed me as much as I liked to smoke. We talked in whispers. Also, we had a pistol that we could fire in the air in the event of German patrols trying to infiltrate our lines of defense. What it

would do when we fired one off was that a flare would bathe the whole area like daylight, exposing any enemy soldiers moving in. It was a great weapon to have for this kind of operation and this would warn us of what was happening that would enable us to take proper measures. We were up there about an hour, and so far, nothing was happening. Everything was quiet except for occasional small arms fire in some other area, maybe the short sound of a machine pistol (burp gun). The Germans would use the burp gun for signaling from one place to another. At times you could hear some big gun fired with a low muffled sound and flashes in the sky like lightning. All of this to let you know there was a war in progress. As we sat there with our ears tuned, we were all aware of some small sounds from the base of the hill. Then it stopped for a few minutes and then it happened again, then it stopped. "If this sound starts up again, let's fire the flare gun and see what the hell is going on down below us in that open field, or wherever it is, so we can warn the men if a Kraut unit is coming through and we can catch them with their pants down, so to speak." With the area all exposed with the light, we could cut them down before they could do anything. There -- that sound again. We fired the pistol and waited for a few seconds. Then it exploded. The whole field became bathed in a green light exposing this big German patrol trying to get inside the Company position. We were all ready for them. Everybody opened fire, including us on the hill, and before the light died out, we wiped out the whole damned Kraut patrol. We didn't lose one man. Early in the morning we moved into the field. The place was just littered with dead Germans. We counted about 18 or so of the enemy, a sizable bunch. Most of them had automatic weapons, so they really planned on doing a lot of damage. After this fracas, the Lieutenant congratulated us on our quick thinking and alertness which could have been a disaster for "G" Company if we hadn't been wary of something and acted on it. I said, "Isn't the motto of the 357th "Siempre Alerta? I guess we all lived up to it." I told Lt. Brotherton as long as we saved "G" Company's asses, how about a commendation for our trouble? He said he'd see what he could do. Maybe he did but nothing came of it. So we were the "unsung heroes." Chapter 21 A Painful Task

One of the worst assignments I ever had the misfortune of attending to was one time after a fierce fight, myself and some other guys of "G" Company had to go out to the battlefield and collect the dog tags (identification tags that soldiers wore around their necks on a piece of cord or necklace) and give them to the CO. This collections of tags was then sent to the nearest medical station so that the next of kin could be notified of their death in combat. It was the saddest and most traumatic thing I had to do. Some of the soldiers were so badly shot up and at times, it became quite a gruesome and horrible thing to remove the tags from a badly torn up object that was once a human being. It just made me sick to the core to keep at it. Someone had to do this sad and thankless job. I had strong mixed feelings that kept my eyes in tears. Even fellows I didn't even know was bad enough but coming across a soldier that you knew or one in your company -- that had to be the crowning misery doing this dirty job. I could not continue and I had to drop out with overwhelming grief. Can the reader of this particular event comprehend the awful feeling one has in performing this obscene assignment? There are no proper words to describe it. This description is the best I can do. If you can visualize in your mind's eye, I'm sure you can get a general impression. This awful duty still comes back many times since to haunt me harshly. Life in battle becomes such an expendable and cheap object, it doesn't matter how few or how many that die on the field of battle to what purpose, even when it is necessary. We came along this dirt road with high hedges on both sides interspersed with tall trees. Ditches ran along the sides of the road littered with all type of debris -- newspapers, broken rifles, ammo clips and occasional cadavers, mostly German soldiers and some civilians. Most of them were in a state of decay. Mixed with the June heat and dirt was the smell of rotting flesh. Outside of that, the daylight shone and there was a bright blue sky, and even some birds were singing. The whole scene was macabre or unreal. Something out of the surrealistic paintings of Salvador Dali or some other painters. As we approached a bend in the road (we were marching double file), after turning the bend, we came to a scene that was macabre to say the least. The road on both sides was littered with wreckage of all kinds, smashed up German trucks, light vehicles of all descriptions, trailers, horses and wagons, the usual dead bodies which seemed like hundreds as we moved along. Many of the vehicles were still smoking. Some were still on fire and smoldering and a thick smoky pall hovered on the road and in he ditches. A pungent and sweet smell. Soldiers in gray green uniforms or fieldgrau were sprawled out along the way hanging out of tank turrets. A bunch of bodies in an eight-wheeled tracked personnel carrier were dismembered in all kinds of positions. It looked like the convoy had been surprised by a lot of fighter bombers, P47s and Typhoons. Some Germans sat upright, black in color and unidentifiable as human beings, some having been turned into human torches only hours before.

There were a lot of tanks, a large number of PZKW IVs and Tigers 5s or 6s and some giant Royal Tigers. These fighter bombers must have attacked this convoy some hours before we got there for we had seen formations of aircraft, P47s, Typhoons, Spitfires, Beaufighters, and I think A-20 Havocs. Being a spotter, Lt. Brotherton asked me if I could identify the aircraft that struck. They must have used every aircraft they had for this mess. God help the Krauts. When they struck, they left nothing but a jumbled pile of twisted, mangled, smoking ruin. What a junkyard and so many dead Germans. Kind of made me feel sorry for them, but as I said to Bill and others in the squad, "But damn it all, they started this whole damn war to begin with." Added to this inferno and dreadful scene were whole units of bedraggled and sad looking Germans filing in a makeshift prisoner of war cage just off the road near a small village, guarded by combat military MPs. All day long they came, hands on top of their heads, eyes glazed from the horror of the fighter attack. They were herded in by a few grimy GIs or came in on their own holding white flags. Some of them tank troopers, some SS and ordinary Wehrmacht infantry. As we moved along, almost every vehicle was smashed and burned, riddled with machine gun and cannon holes and ripped by rockets. Looking around, I saw two deep black kettles, one full of spaghetti and another containing two big hams. This lay amid the litter of a kitchen truck. Near the trucks were some dead bodies, maybe cooks or chefs caught while they were preparing the meal when these allied aerial visitors showed up. There were helmets, rifles, ammo, boxes and shell craters everywhere, overcoats, boots, personal things, notebooks, wallets, and cartridge belts. While I thought of it, I picked up one of those hams in one of the pots and stuck it grease and all into my empty gas mask pack. We would all get a good meal with that ham. With all this mess, we came across quite a number of Krauts wandering aimlessly around or lying down in a complete daze and shocked. Some were badly wounded and crying in pain. This together with German curses and oaths. It was complete carnage. Medical people were giving first aid to them. There were also some German medics. All I can say is that I'm glad it wasn't us that got clobbered. While all this was going on, we had, amid this ungodly scene, halted for a rest. You would have to see this to believe it. Hollywood couldn't have depicted this; no one would have believed it. As I sat there on a blown-up truck tire, we saw a bunch of Germans from a field next to us making their way toward us, stumbling and weaving about, dazed and seemingly not knowing where they were or what hit them, some wounded and some helping others. They were coming in to surrender. Some of them had weapons. The officers had side

arms which were taken from them. I was too late to get mine. I thought, Oh well, I'll have other opportunities. We directed them down the road to the POW enclosures. They marched away docilely with arms still upraised, moving like stunned robots. There were still some of the enemy resisting. We could hear concentrations of fire off and on, but this finally subsided to a few random shots. So went the day. It's going to be a long war. I figured we still had a long way to go in France before we got to Germany unless they surrendered first, which was unlikely. While walking along, I said, "Well, another day and we survived." "Yeah," Bill replied. "From one day to the next if we're lucky." "You got a girl back home?" I asked Bill. He said, "Yeah, but she probably gave up on ever seeing me again. She's probably going around with a 4F guy or a damned draft dodger." I said, "Or maybe a dirty 80 year old man -- hell, no danger there, Bill." He said "You never know about those old bastards. How about you? You got a gal friend?" "Not now," I said. "I got a Dear John letter from her back in England before the big invasion. Besides, there's a lot of fish in the ocean. Maybe I'll grab me one of the French ooh-la-la broads when I have the time and settle down in Paris or New York City." Chapter 22 And So It Goes The next few days were pretty hectic. We were in a number of scraps, but events are kind of hazy and not too clear. I have other notes and will have to go through them. As I think back, a number of incidents come slowly back to me. Better write them down before my mind goes blank. So many things happened that I can't remember them all. It's a wonder I've recalled what I have already. Well, someday, somebody will read all of this stuff as just another "war tale." You read one, you read 'em all. You know how that goes. It's like a baseball game. Who won the World Series in 1938? Do you know? Bill said the Brooklyn Dodgers and I said "You're full of shit" and laughed. It's like the old saying, there are a thousand stories in this war and this is one of them. War is war. Only the uniforms and weapons change, but the killing is the same and death holds unlimited domain over all and is uncontested.

Future generations will read about World War II -- its battles, its political implications and meanings, the destruction and havoc and the deaths, and will be in the same class with my generation when we read about World War I and those GIs and their exploits and results. Those soldiers were our heroes and so it goes. Kind of sad because each generation does not learn or profit from each previous war. They make the same mistakes over and over. The people do not learn a thing. This present generation, the product of us guys in World War II, hasn't learned a thing. The scenario is unchanged, inhabited by crackpots, bleeding hearts, know nothings who get to be tyrants, dictators, profiteers and reprobates of years yet to come and ending with a new bloody war to save mankind from another Hitlerite or other two bit idiot tyrants flexing their muscles and saber rattling with some new damned fool ideology with the same deluded and ignorant followers. A brave and heroic last stand was taken by a lone 82nd paratrooper we came upon lying upright in a ditch sitting against an embankment with his M-1 rifle at his side, pointing at a number of dead Germans across the dirt road, seemingly not looking dead at all, his open eyes staring ahead at his enemies hanging over their 88mm artillery piece and others in other positions lying about the gun frozen in death. By the looks of the scene, it was like there was one hell of a skirmish. Empty M-1 ammo clips lay all around him. We figured out this lone paratrooper accidentally stumbled against this artillery gun crew and a hell of a battle ensued with the trooper killing the whole damned German gun crew. I don't think this little fracas lasted a long time. This guy fought a one-man battle. There were no other troopers around. We counted seven or eight dead Germans. I don't think the enemy had the chance to shoot back. As they say, he had the drop on them. He looked like a young guy about nineteen years of age. It made a deep impression on us. This one lone soldier wiping out a gun crew that probably would have killed a lot of us guys. We all gave him a salute and left the scene. Funny thing, we couldn't find a single wound on him. He didn't look dead at all. His face showed a calmness not usually associated with a soldier who met sudden death. Near him, I spotted a pack of cigs, but for some reason I did not take them, out of respect I guess. I don't know. Last night I occupied an L-shaped foxhole and slept in it all night. When I awoke in the morning I was horrified to death to find a German soldier on the other side of the L shape, unknown to me at the time. I was in the company of a dead German all night. Lucky for me. Some of the most bizarre and strange things occur in battle. Before finding out he was dead, I very slowly crept up behind him and nudged him with my bayonet. He fell over to the side still clutching his rifle and dead as a mackerel. It still unnerved me. I sat there and stared at him as if I expected him to get up any moment. He looked twenty or so and what kept my gaze was, he wore an Iron Cross medal on his uniform. I could have taken it but I left it alone. No doubt another soldier picked it up. I had bad feelings

about frisking dead bodies. Souvenirs laying about were okay. That didn't bother me. I would have images or a dream of this Kraut coming back to haunt me to reclaim his medal. I told this to Bill and he said I was superstitious. I said, "Call it what you will. I leave the dead alone." I witnessed a gun duel between three Sherman M-4s with some Tiger tanks that attempted to break through our line in this wooded area. We had a couple of tank destroyers who knocked out two Tigers within a few minutes. Both burst into flames. It looked like they were hit from the rear in the gas tanks which was bad news for them. The tank destroyers had come to the aid of the M-4s who were having a bad time of it. One of the Shermans was hit in the tank wheel tread, disabling it, but it kept firing away at the Germans anyhow. We were on a high point of ground and had a grandstand seat to witness this terrific fight. It was like watching a group of iron monsters in a deadly battle. One of the M-4s managed to move around to the left side of one of the Tigers and blew the turret off the enemy tank, a lucky shot. So far three Germans were shot up and one disabled M-4. The other Tigers called it a day and retreated. They had had enough. Most of the time the Tigers came off better in a battle with the Shermans. We heard Shermans were called "Ronsons" because they were so inflammable. I believe that the Shermans did okay against the Panther tanks PZK Ills or IVs, but not too well against those 60-ton Tiger monsters, unless hit in a vital spot. Our tank destroyers were more successful against them. They used M-10s a lot with good results or those other armed vehicles called Priests. I believe they had 105s, but that German 88 was one of the best heavy guns in the war. We called them "Whiz Bangs." They were used as dual purpose, anti-tank, personnel and anti-aircraft, but despite their awesome and deadly power, we destroyed a lot of them. The one thing about the Sherman that saved a lot of them was their maneuverability and speed and that was a great asset when you don't have the armor and firepower. After the sharp deadly battle, the Germans never launched another attack which was okay by me. I'd say that that tank affair lasted close to an hour, although it felt longer, but what was as bad was the hellish noise. It made your ears ring. Now I know why those tankers wore those ear-covering helmets. I wonder how many of those tankers developed hearing problems after the war Chapter 23 Whistling (bullets) in the Graveyard During our excursion across France, I finally got myself a Thompson sub-machine gun with a full clip of ammo and a couple of extra clips of 60 rounds each. I picked it up in a

destroyed Jeep in a ditch. It had run over a mine, so you can figure out how badly demolished it was. I could not see any occupants. They must have been picked up by the medics, but anyhow, I felt real happy and fortunate in getting their firearm. With my M-1 rifle, a .45 caliber Colt auto, and grenades, I was a walking arsenal. The disadvantage was all this weight I was lugging around. I was even thinking how I could ship it back to the States, but it didn't happen. I did get the chance to use it in a couple of scraps. Boy, what a weapon, it never jammed once even with mud and dirt on it. At one point, I was ready to throw away the M-1 and keep the Tommy. Saw several formations of Liberators and B-17s heading over us to drop their eggs on the Germans. As we watched these pass, we yelled "Give the damn Germans hell," which by the number of them flying over us, they no doubt did. We saw a lot of air activity. All of it ours. Sometimes we did see Kraut planes, but they left us alone. Guess they knew better. One day as I looked up with my binocs, I witnessed a beautiful dog fight between some P-47s and a mixture of FW-190s and ME-109s. They were mixing it up all over the sky. I could see their contrails all over the place. I saw three Germans coming down with smoking trails and saw one blow up in a blinding flash. No survivor in that one. Then it ended. No planes could be seen. It looked like they had literally disappeared. It didn't look like any of ours got shot down. That was exciting to watch. Next the skies were empty like it had never happened. At one time, one German recon plane came over us in a field where we were eating our "C" rations. We never heard him until he flew over us. It was one of those Henschel HS126 high wing monoplanes with fixed landing gear. I'll tell you I don't know if he ever made it back to his field. Everybody and his brother was firing at him. I don't think he made it through that curtain of fire. He probably got shot to pieces. During the campaign in Normandy from D-Day on, I saw a lot of American, British and Canadian aircraft and other allied planes, S-20 Havocs, B-26 Marauders, B-25 Mitchels, B-17s and B-24s, Spitfires, Typhoons, Beaufighters, Mosquitos, Mustang P-51s and P-38 Lightwings. After much fighting they finally sent us back to the rear for a long and much welcomed rest, with showers, hot food, fresh uniforms, boots, etc. It felt great to be able to write home again. The rest and silence from the front lines was like a dream although we welcomed it after all those weeks in battle. It took us no time to get used to it. We were near an RAF field one day. We took a walk over there to meet those RAF pilots who helped us so much and look over their aircraft which happened to be Typhoons and some Spits. I don't remember the wing or squadron number, but they really made us feel welcome and we were given their favorite drink -- tea. I'm not a tea drinker,

but I must say they know how to make it. Their coffee is not as good as we make it. They were glad to show us their fierce looking Typhoons and the classy looking Spitfires. Boy, those Typhoons are huge and real menacing and powerful. They have a top horsepower engine and a high speed of over 400+. As a tank buster, it can't be beat and against railroad trains, ammo dumps, gun emplacements -- you name it. It is an efficient ground staffer and fighter bomber. It just does everything. It's even a good match for the German FW-190 or 109 and comparable to our monster Thunderbolt P-47. The German POWs expressed a lot of fear and respect for these two formidable aircraft. They had a real dread of them with good reason. The day came when we got all our new gear and prepared to return to the business at hand, back to the battle, and try to end this damned war. The rest had spoiled all of us. It would be hard as hell for me to dig foxholes again. We all mounted the trucks and the engines were revved up and at a signal, we pulled out for the front. Nothing eventful happened on our trip. We finally came up to a lot of troops marching along, apparently going where we were headed. MPs were at the crossroads directing traffic. It looked like Times Square back in New York City on a Saturday night. A lot of dirt and dust. My throat and mouth were as dry as sandpaper. It got into your nose, eyes and ears and everybody was coughing up a storm. We were being jostled in the trucks that were hitting every crater and pothole that was possible to drive into. Finally, the convoy came to a halt and everybody was ordered to get out of the trucks. We had finally arrived at our destination, wherever that was. Everyone was milling around like lost sheep trying to get into some semblance of order and formation. After a quick roll call to see if we were all there, we moved out in two lines along this blacktop road and away from all the unbearable noise and confusion. War was a godsend. As we marched along, a whole column of tanks and assault guns streamed between our column and sped on ahead with a lot of noise and the usual cloud of soot and billows of dust which fell all over us like a blanket. I yelled at Bill, "Gas warfare." With the usual sound of marching feet, all else was quiet. I wondered as I trudged along what was going to happen next and of course, where in the world were we going. In most instances, the officer and non-com never told us anything until something occurred. It made me feel that they were keeping any and all information to themselves on purpose and keeping us guys in the dark or the blind following the blind.

I said to Bill, "Don't these damned hikes remind you of a bunch of sheep following a bunch of shepherds?" and Bill retorted with, "Leading us to the slaughter house at the Chicago stockyards." As grim as this sounded, it caused me to laugh up a storm. You know it kind of felt like that's what it resembled come to think of it. Some terrible unbelievable sights were among the many atrocities committed by the Germans against civilians who were unfortunate to die by these cruel, merciless Krauts. Maybe not all the Germans performed these evil deeds but it was hard for me to believe that not all of them did. As far as I was concerned, they were all guilty under God. Proof of this is all documented by what they did in the first World War and construed by the German government as national policy. They did the same thing in World War II. We went through a village and saw a large number of old men, women, young boys and little children murdered and cut down by retreating soldiers in cold blood against a stone wall of a church and in the street, the area was covered with blood and gore. We looked at this horrible scene with shock, revulsion and complete disbelief. We wondered what the hell had all these people done to merit being killed like this and this was not by a bombing of planes or artillery. This was perpetrated by ordinary soldiers probably in retaliation and downright revenge for having gotten the worst in a battle or an allied fighter attack and to put fear into the French people. They did this type of atrocity to all the countries of Europe. Seeing all this made it very difficult for me to feel sorry or forgiving toward the Germans, let alone forget what they did. I knew a lot of innocent civilians got killed which excludes willful and premeditated murder on both sides, but in the case of Nazi Germany, this was part of national policy and that explains it being done by Nazis and non-Nazis alike -- a brainwashed people. There were a number of villages in which the Germans had left a rearguard to hold up our advance and some of these troops were the most cruel and vile beasts that they had in their ranks and not SS ones either. They were placed there to hold up and impede the advance of our soldiers. They were the ones who committed the atrocities to frighten the civilians. We had official orders not to take any prisoners of these bastards. If captured by us, they were to simply be done away with, no pity offered. We were doing "house cleaning" operations; at one time we captured about five of these German devils in this small village while moving in and out of some of the demolished houses. In this particular village, the church was fairly intact. I remember with clarity seeing a small cemetery right near the church grounds. As we got nearer to the houses, we began receiving small arms fire from the windows. Some of us attempted to skirt around to the side of the house. So far, no one had been hit. To get to the house, we had to move into the cemetery in our direction of approach.

Some of the tombstones offered some protection from rifle fire as some of us moved into the graveyard. Bill and I sought protection behind of the numerous tombstones. He said to me with morbid humor, "If one of us gets killed, we're in the right place." Yeah, how appropriate to die in a graveyard. Can't beat that. We talked to keep up our courage. We moved from one tombstone to another and fired at the windows in the house. Suddenly from out of nowhere, some officer came running up. "Come on men, let's go. Follow me. We'll drive out the bastards." I looked at him and at Bill. "Who the hell is that?" "I never saw him before," cried Bill. "He's not from our company." I figured he was some mad man eager to get killed or be a hero. We didn't move. The man was waving a pistol and screaming "Let's go!" Next thing I knew, he was dropped by some gunfire and was dead. I never found out who the demented guy was. This graveyard was an awful place full of shell holes. The horrible part was some of those poor people who had been buried, God knows when, were all or half way out of their coffins which were blown out of the graves. Some were very badly decomposed or part skeleton. The stench was terrible and this was a horrible, nightmarish experience. Looking at this macabre sight was enough to make us forget the battle. We got up and ran the hell out of this terrible place. I might get killed but it was better than staying here. We got out of there in a hurry and ran into a small wooded area, away from the cemetery, but still within gunshot of the house. This spot at least was better than where we were. I thought about how much of a mistake it was to have entered that damned graveyard. Even today, looking at a cemetery gives me flashbacks and mixed emotions. It's very strange to me that a lot of battles I was in started or ended in a graveyard. I guess, everything considered, you might call it an appropriate place to be in a fight. Chapter 24 I Get Captured We left on a daylight recon patrol and were taken captive by a German patrol in late June or early July 1944. We were on the patrol to obtain any information we could and maybe a prisoner or two. We in the 2nd platoon were given the joyful task of this jaunt into Hun territory. I remember very clearly the day being bright sunshine and a clear blue sky – the birds were chirping. Who would have thought there was a deadly war on? There were a lot of days like that in late June that everything seemed at peace. We enjoyed it while it lasted, for the next instant, all hell would erupt and back to the deadly business of killing.

Our squad was comprised of seven or eight. I was at the head with our platoon leader and the squad sergeant. I was considered valuable as I spoke French and I was the official interpreter, though with no increase in rank. I was an added advantage to get any info from the French inhabitants we might meet along the way if they were friendly to. Sometimes talking broke the ice. (My buddy, Bill, missed going on this little jaunt. I wonder how he got out of going.) This countryside of Normandy abounds in small and large farms, orchards, and horse and cattle ranches. It's a beautiful province with fruit and vegetable of all kinds, and was also known for its dairy products. They have a great drink, a kind of apple cider (apple jack in the U.S.) called Calvados, strong enough to knock you on your ass and it doesn't take much. I think it's the national drink of Normandy. Getting back to the patrol, we took off early in the morning just before the sun came up, traveling light with rifles, carbines, two Thompsons and a supply of pineapples (grenades). I had an M-1 and a Smith & Wesson revolver, a .45 caliber that I had picked up some time ago – a pistol was great in case you ran into your enemy quite suddenly – and of course the formidable toad sticker, the bayonet, which I hoped I wouldn't have to use. The objective was to cross a couple of fields and over a foot bridge and a small creek to scout and reconnoiter the area of this small village with a large wooded or small forest of trees and shrubbery. We had received news from intelligence that the village was empty of any enemy troops. Then again, you never know. We'd find out soon enough. This particular area had been fought over before and taken and retaken a couple of times during some German attacks by members of the 82nd Airborne. We all felt quite apprehensive and nervous as we had on a number of occasions. The intelligence was not up to snuff lately and we caught a lot of hell. On some of these recon trips, a place was put down as safe and it turned out to be one hell of a donnybrook. The Germans were artists at camouflage. Anyhow, we all got across the footbridge to this dirt road and into another hedgerow-lined field. We came to a ditch which ran into what is called a sunken road. A sunken road resembles a tunnel of overgrown vines and small trees with the branches of the trees and vines growing over an arc to join with foliage on the other side, forming a tunnel. Those things did not grow like this overnight or in months, but are natural growth, years and years old. Hardly any sun penetrated these tunnels. The foliage was very thick. You could barely see the end or exit, so you just entered and made your way through until you came to the end, whenever that was. We knew this would take us pretty close to the village without being spotted, so we got together and started in. It felt real cool but humid and very close with not too much air. We didn't have to crouch. We could stand straight up and walk through. Sometimes the farmers used to drive their cows through these

sunken roads. Nothing grew here because of the lack of sunlight, nothing but dirt and dust. We finally came to the exit at the edge of this dirt road a ways off from the village. In single file, we crossed the road to the entrance of the town. We gathered in a group to decide what to do next. So far, we had seen nothing of the Germans. Maybe it was empty as claimed, but I had my doubts. So off we went in single file. We didn't see one single inhabitant. It looked like a ghost town and was not badly shot up. Going up the street, I came to a house, kicked open the door and went in. The place was empty. I was in the kitchen and dining area. There was a table with a couple of bottles of wine, a loaf of bread and a large piece of cheese, so I took time for a break. I called everybody in for lunch. We all put our weapons on a table or against the wall and sat down to eat. This was great but we were in for a hell of a big surprise. As we sat there enjoying this feast, we became aware of sudden visitors. There in the doorway were three or four of the most menacing looking Krauts I ever saw. They leveled their rifles at us and we all raised our arms. Talk about getting caught with your pants down. That was us. We were disarmed and marched outside the house. This was some shock to us as well as damned humiliating. I blamed myself entirely for this. If it had not happened, we wouldn't have been captured. Well, that's what one gets for being careless and stupid. I should have known better. Well, I guess that's the fortunes of war. I hoped to hell they were not going to shoot us. The thought scared the hell out of me. They marched us single file up the street. Looks like the Germans sent out a patrol also, only we were the ones that got caught. They marched us out of town and over a small bridge to their bivouac area. We were not mistreated, but one of bastards hit me in the back with his rifle butt for not moving fast enough. I had not understood his order. What the hell; I don't speak German. I cussed him out in my best New York insults. "You dumb Kraut bastard. I hope I see you again sometime, you shit-eating creep," but he only laughed. He didn't understand English. I think even today, I'd recognize him and I'd pay him back double. Anyhow, as we moved along, I began making plans to escape. I studied everything around me, the bridge, the creek, the little apple orchard, everything in sight, the demolished house. I was pretty sure I'd be successful in getting away. You're pretty cocksure at twenty years of age. I made it known to Chandler. He said to count him in. At the first opportunity, we'd try it.

We entered this field with a number of farmhouses with a big stone wall, some buildings and stalls for livestock with a cobblestone courtyard. It appeared pretty much intact, which was unusual in a battle zone. We could see a number of German officers and some troops walking about and some staff cars and a car that looked somewhat like a civilian Volkswagen. There appeared to be a quite sizable enemy force, several companies, and I also saw some panzers (tanks). This is one patrol I wished we hadn't gone on. We were made to stand in a group in the center of the field with a guard. A lot of soldiers were milling around staring at us, making comments and obscene gestures. They were chased away by the guard. An officer came toward us and he spoke fluent English. He would be interrogating us. I gathered he gave orders to the guard and marched us into the courtyard where we were made to sit. The officer spoke to a couple of guards and then stepped into one of the large houses, apparently the HQ. Some soldiers appeared with some food for us and a bucket of water. So far the treatment was okay, but still I was uneasy and apprehensive. We were forbidden to talk to each other. Three Krauts came up to us with a machine gun which looked like the typical MG 42, set it up and trained it on us. The terrible thought came to me that they were going to gun us down, it would be just like the bastards. We just sat there in mortal fear and sweated it out. I lost my appetite. I said a few prayers I knew from Catholic grade school in times of danger and pleaded to my savior to protect and guide me and my comrades and hoped he was in a good mood. Those damned Germans did not look in too good a mood. I recognized them as the same ones we had come across and beat hell out of, so I don't think they were receptive to us. We had no marks or ID on us and no division patches. I could not tell if these bastards were SS or Wehrmacht. No doubt, a mixed batch. You can recognize the insignia of the SS and the Eagle bade on their left upper sleeve or is it the right? I forgot. A sergeant came to us, singled one of us out and took him to the house where the Wehrmacht officer had entered. No doubt the interrogation was in the process of beginning. I was hoping none of us would divulge anything to him. We had heard they tried to force prisoners to talk by mistreatment or worse still – torture – by some of our intelligence forces. I had a chance. Quietly I let them know that "mum's the word." Don't tell them anything. (Mum was a deodorant we bought in the PX to smell pretty). Keep it under your arm. The reason I thought they'd torture us is we saw some plainclothes creeps walking around the area, the dreaded Gestapo. The same guys we used to see in Bogart Hollywood war movies back in England. We'd tell them rank, name and serial number, nothing else. Finally, I was next. I was ushered in. The officer sat in a chair at a table with a bottle of wine and glasses. From the corner of my eye, I noticed one of these Gestapo characters sitting by himself in a comer smoking a cigarette in one of those holders that rich people

back in New York used. Kind of a status symbol. I also noticed he held his cigarette in an odd way, like the Europeans do. The officer pointed to a chair to sit down in front of him. The Gestapo character looked to me like bad news, a real wicked person. He gave me one of those cold stares which reminded me of a dead mackerel. The officer introduced himself as Hauptmann Karl Kremsdorf (a captain in our army). I was very agitated and angry at the same time. He asked me my name. I told him. "Your name is French, are you?" I replied, "Yes, I am." He said, "You were born in France?" "No," I replied. "Montreal, Canada." "The French in Canada hate and despise the English, don't they?" "No, they don't. We have differences, but we get along, especially when at war against you Germans. We all pull together." He did not answer that. While this was going on, that Gestapo joker still kept staring at me. I wished he would find something to do and depart. The Hauptmann noticed my looking at the Gestapo man and said, "He is a member of the Secret Police, the Gestapo. His name is Gerhardt Shmidt. Pay no attention. They frequently visit our troops at the front." Even today, I hate the name Schmidt or Smith. It's the same to me – someone evil. (I thought to myself, the quicker I try to escape, the better, especially with those SS troops and these Gestapo bastards – evil personified. One has to be in this dreadful situation to understand. I was scared as well as determined. I don't know why they interrogated us. We had nothing to tell them that would be of use to them or anything that they didn't know already. The Hauptmann asked me questions and all I said was my rank, name and serial number and he didn't question me again. The Gestapo guy never spoke a word, just sat there giving me this cold, evil icy stare. He did look like the typical Gestapo person I saw in the movies when I was in high school – trench coat, wide brimmed hat, cigarette holder and a sadistic look. He finally got up and left. I gave a sigh of relief. I asked the Hauptmann what he wanted and I was told he showed up at all POW interrogations. I said he looked none to friendly. The officer replied, "He's not. He's very rigid and cruel against the enemies of the Third Reich, military or civilian." He fits the picture. "He's got the right job," I broke in. The Hauptmann spoke a very good English as he had spent a number of years in the U.S., primarily in New York City in the Yorkville district of the city where a large number of German-Americans resided which was logical. When war broke out in Europe in 1939, he returned to Germany where he held a commission in the Wehrmacht and

joined up with this division of infantry taking part in the invasion of Poland. After this, he was in the Norwegian Campaign and the invasion of Belgium and France and the British invasion of France at Dunkirk. From there to the Belkrau Campaign in Yugoslavia and Greece. All this he freely told me. I guess he was trying to impress me with his military experience. He was living in New York City at the same time I was attending grade school at a Catholic school located in the Yorkville area. I was 15 or so years old. I told him I might have passed him in the street not knowing that one day I would meet and be a war prisoner of his. The next unbelievable thing, he knew the proprietor of a German beer hall called Hans Jaeger's near the grade school I attended. The beer hall owner's son was in my class at school. How coincidental and uncanny can something be? The kid's name was Hans Yeager. It felt like a small world. It was too close for me, and again, Kremsdorf was familiar with the school, St. Ignatius, and knew where it was located and he knew some German people who attended Mass there, probably people I even knew. This whole thing was too bazaar for me and the Hauptmann to believe. But it was true, none the less. Being a prisoner, it had all the marks of being like old home week. It was too astounding. I at times wonder what happened to this German Captain. He seemed like a decent sort, but still I had misgivings. I still would like to have seen him after the war to get his reaction to our escape, if he was still alive. I remember some of the conversation I had with Kremsdorf during the interrogation beside him finding out we both lived in New York City at the same time in the 1930s before he returned to Germany. He knew the neighborhood I lived in and the church I went to. We spoke a lot about our living in New York, especially my upbringing before I went into the army. I remember the told me, "Well, the war is over for you. After Germany wins the war, you will be returned to your family. You'll be alive. You and your comrades will be sent from here to one of our POW camps in Germany until our victory is achieved very shortly." I dreaded to hear those words. My world fell apart. I'll never see home again. As I sat there I vowed I'd escape by hook or by crook with the rest of the guys or by myself. I replied to his reference that Germany would win and drive us and the British back into the Channel with "Sir," being polite, "what makes you think the Germans will drive us out? We are in Normandy to stay and you'll have one hell of a time trying to push us out." He was taken back by my brazen remark. The stared at me and said I was a very brash and impudent young man. I said, "Yeah, well, the good sisters at St. Ignatius told me that a long time ago and my parents have also." He looked at me and said, "No doubt the Jesuits at St. Ignatius knew you as well as your parents. You Americans are unruly and bold, but I admit you are good soldiers."

When he finished, I said, "Thank you, Sir," and a guard entered and took me back to my buddies. I did salute him which he returned. I said to him in passing, "We are not unruly." I realized I had been foolhardy and bold to tell him my feelings. I should have been more humble, but I'm glad I spoke the way I felt anyway. On the first day of captivity, we were taken to the field where we had been before and sat in a group and waited. We noticed a lot of activity with the Germans. It looked like they were preparing something. We were told by a sergeant that they were waiting for the truck to take us back to the Stalag. I asked the sergeant where they taking us. He replied in typical German English, "Shut up Ami." That's what they called Americans – Amis or Amerikaner. We ate and slept right there in the open field. They gave us blankets and escorted us to the latrines and a place to wash up. Next morning they put us on labor duty. I took notice of the weapons and equipment they had without appearing obvious and determined about how many men they had. They were a pretty big bunch and had vehicles, tanks, armored cars, personnel carriers, etc. I only wished our company or regiment knew about this. I had to escape tonight if everything went okay. I mentioned this to the sergeant and the others. After some arguing, we decided to try tonight which looked like a good time. They placed one guard over us. I don't believe they thought we would try an attempt to escape, so much the better. It was late in the afternoon. One of the men in the group was not feeling well so we decided to cancel tonight's escape and would wait until the next night to try. It would give us time to make a plan and hope our pal was off the sick list. They still kept us in this field but later moved us over near a medium sized shed which we later found out held farming equipment – pitchforks, shovels, spades and some sickles, some bales of straw, etc. So far, it had been two or three days since our capture and I was sure we were listed as missing. While sitting there, I reached in my cartridge belt for a pack of cigs, "Lucky Strike." Most cartridge belts held M-1 ammo clips but in my case, I split mine up with cigarette packs and M-1 clips. Cigarettes fit just right in the cartridge pockets. The guard over us saw me and I thought he wanted a cigarette, so I offered him one and to my shock and anger, he took the whole pack from my hand. I forgot myself, jumped up to protest and demand he give me back the cigarettes. Instead of that, he gave me a rifle butt stroke on the side of my neck and shoulder, which of course knocked me down in a heap. I cursed him up and down, but he only laughed. Then the blow began to hurt. It cut my jaw at the same time. He's one bastard I'd long remember. I finally got my cigarettes back. I spotted a non-com and asked if I could see Kremsdorf. He took me to him and I told him about the incident with the guard. He called the guard into the house and dressed him up and down for striking me and cussed him out and made the guard give them back to me. He then apologized for the guard's bad behavior. The Hauptmann even had the unit's medic take care of my injury. (My mouth had bled quite a bit). This attention and concern by this enemy Kremsdorf really surprised the hell out of me. I never thought a German

soldier (officer) had that much compassion and justice toward an enemy. I thought, here's one German I had respect for and hoped he would make it through the war. I hate to admit it, but we never saw that guard again. They put a new one in his place. One of our guys said, "After what he did, they either shot him or sent his ass to the Russian front and besides, it's a wonder they didn't shoot you for creating a commotion." When the guard moved away some distance, we discussed how we were going to pull this off. I had suggested it so they kind of listened to my idea. I felt like a sergeant with no stripes. I asked Sergeant Arnex if he had an idea. "No, I don't," he said, "go ahead." It's been so long, it's a wonder I remember as much as I have related, even the plan. It began to rain a little. We called the guard and asked if we could stay in the shed. He agreed. We went in and sat down. The guard stayed outside. We looked over our surroundings and I was right – all farming articles. Then to our amazement and joy, there was a back door – unlocked. The guard, by the way, had locked the front door. Apparently he didn't know there was a back door. Boy, this was good luck. An escape route made to order. It was almost too good to be true. Now to decide quickly how to get the hell out of here. One thing we had to get rid of was the guard, but how? We decided to get the guard inside and put him permanently out of this world, hide the body in the hay bales and get out the back door. That night we waited until they changed guards. We knew they went on two hour guard shifts before being relieved. Nailing the guard and dispatching him had to be done quickly and without any outcry or other noise and out of the shed and away before they discovered we had escaped. We could cover a lot of distance. The plan sounded good. All we needed now was a lot of luck and God's help. So we waited it out. Soon we heard them come to relieve the guard. They opened the door to check us and closed it with the new guard. It was early in the morning, about one or two. We waited till the other guard left, then we knocked on the door in pretense of talking to him. As he came in, he was jumped on and pinned to the ground and strangled. That done, we hid the body in those bales of hay. It would take tune for them to find him. We took his rifle and quickly darted out the back door to total darkness. We met no interference. We got to the dirt road which was away from the houses where Hauptmann Kremsdorf and his staff were and where the greater part of the soldiers were encamped. So far, so good. Now our work was cut out for us. We all wished each other luck, shook hands and all went our own way. I felt terrified and prayed we'd all make it through this war, the scariest and most hazardous time of my life. I knew I had to be alert and keep my wits and not make a mistake. I'm glad I could speak French. It was going to pay off. My adrenaline was making my heart pound. I would try to cover as much ground as I could by night and hide during daylight to avoid detection. I imagined how a convict escaping from Sing Sing would go about this. The main thing was that I got away. It felt like a game but a deadly one.

I had one perilous and close call in going down this dirt road. Before I knew it, I heard a muffled sound. I passed right by a squad of Germans traveling the opposite course. No one stopped me or asked questions. It was so dark you could just make out their shapes. I was suddenly petrified and in cold fear. I kept going and finally they passed me. Talk about close calls, so close I could have touched them. I kept walking fast, expecting any moment to catch a slug in my back. Ahead I saw light from some houses. I had reached the town we had gone through. So far, so good. I reached the small bridge we crossed over, so I had covered quite a lot of ground in a short space of time. During my run, I found a Colt .45 which I stuck in my belt. I had a rifle and an M-1 which I discarded because it was clumsy and would get in the way in case of trouble, especially if I had to run through any wooded area. I also picked up a trench knife, one of those World War I knives with the brass knuckles on it, not that I intended to use it in any close encounter if I could help it. I did pretty good learning how to use a combat knife in the training in the States, but that's a different matter in a real hand to hand fracas. Now if I could only acquire some pineapples. Those things could be very useful and lethal in a tight squeeze. As I moved ahead I spotted the bridge we had crossed. I hid in some undergrowth and shrubs a few yards from the bridge. The moon was bright and I could make it out pretty good. It was starting, to get a little light on the horizon and pretty soon the sun would begin to rise. I'd better find a place to hide. They must have found out we got away by now and the body of the dead German some hours ago. I. bet they were surprised, and especially Herr – Hauptmann Kremsdorf and that jerk Gestapo idiot. I'll bet he swallowed his cigarette holder when they told him and sent the whole Kraut shebang and the guards to the Russian front or had them shot for being "Dumkopfs and dunderheads." Kremsdorf was probably in a state of shock. He'll be lucky if they don't ship his ass to the Eastern front. I had to laugh about that. Well, I wasn't out of the woods yet. I left my hiding spot and made a bee line to the bridge. So far, no sign of Germans. The only thing I saw was a couple of cows munching grass. I had found a grenade bag sometime after escaping and I had put in some apples, some plums and a chunk of cheese. I did have a few packs of butter which the Germans failed to find on me. So as far as food went, I had no problem. I descended the embankment to a shallow creek and decided to hole up under the bridge and found a flat space right under the bridge boards. It was kind of tight, but safe from the enemy. I could hear any Germans crossing the bridge from where I was. I would try to get some shuteye. I was dog tired. Tomorrow would be another harrowing day. I hoped the Good Lord would sustain me. Maybe he'll send St. Joan of Arc to help me through. The sound of voices woke me up from a restless sleep. The voices sounded close to my hiding place. The Germans were still hunting the fields and woods for us. I was wondering whether the others escaped okay or were captured. I had a dread that some of

us wouldn't make it. The sounds of the hunters were getting closer to where I was. I could hear them walking on the bridge. Little did they know how close I was to them. I sure was glad I found this spot. The proximity of them standing over me was a scary sensation. Then I heard them descending into the creekbed. I saw them walking about checking the surrounding bushes and undergrowth, but never checking where I lay hidden. Fear seized me and increased my anxiety. Sweat poured off me, partly from the cramped space and shortness of fresh air. Finally, they left. I breathed a sign of relief. I still had to stick it out till nightfall when I could leave for another day of keeping my wits and trying to stay one step ahead of the enemy. I felt I had turned into a mole. I ate some of the apples and plums and waited. When the Army said hurry up and wait, it wasn't kidding and it sure as hell applied here. It finally got dark enough to move away. I slid into the creekbed. There were still some water holes and I was damn thirsty, so like a wild animal, I crept to the water hole to quench my thirst. I hadn't had a drink since I had left my captors and didn't realize I was thirsty. Now I felt better. I crawled up the embankment and lay there a few minutes looking around and trying to decide what I would do next. It was dark but I could still make out objects and saw a small patch of trees. I made my way quietly to them. I stopped and listened for sounds. Everything was quite except the sound of crickets. The moon was bright. This would improve my vision and help me spot any danger. I saw a dirt road. It stood out in the moonlight like a white path. I was startled by a rabbit that scurried across my path a couple of feet away. It just about gave me heart failure. My nerves were really on edge. It took me a couple of minutes to calm down. I said to myself, "Damned hare, don't you know there's a war on?" This caused me to chuckle a little. Slowing, I ran low through the trees until I came to the edge of the woods a few feet from the road. I crossed the road and saw some houses nearby. They seemed to be like the ones we had passed when the Krauts captured us. When I escaped, I tried to remember certain landmarks we had passed like the bridge and houses and some of the wooded areas and other sites. This made it a lot easier on my trip to get back to my outfit. To my amazement, I came to the house where we had been taken captive. I must have taken a short cut and didn't realize it. What a stoke of luck and I still hadn't seen any Germans. I entered the house. All the wine bottles, bread and cheese were gone. The Krauts who captured us must have hauled them off. They did leave a small piece of bread, half of which had been eaten, so I finished the rest of it and left the house. Now to find that damned sunken road we had come through along this dirt road. But try as I might, I didn't have any luck in locating it. Well, at least I was gong in the right direction so far. Well, I can't waste all this time in trying to find it. I did remember about how far the house was from the road, so I started out across the field, heading away from the house. I got through a hedgerow into another clearing and spotted a house with the lights on. As I

lay there in the ditch, I had a decision to make. I spoke French. Should I go up to the house, knock on the door and take a chance he'd help me or bypass the place? I decided, what the hell, I'll try. So mustering up my courage, off I went. I just hoped to God he wasn't a German sympathizer. If he was, I sure as hell would found out tout suite (right away). In desperation, I quickly ran up to the house and stared – frozen – at the door. I knocked and stood back so I would not scare the person. I had my hand on my pistol just in case it was a Kraut. A voice from inside asked who was there. I answered in my best French, "Je suis un soldat Americain. Je me suis echappe des Allemands. Aidez–moi s'll vous plait," which translated means "I'm an American soldier escaped from the Germans. Please help me." He motioned for me to come in quickly. He had heard that some American soldiers had escaped and were running round loose in the vicinity. German patrols were everywhere combing large areas searching for us. We were to be shot on sight. I had figured as much. I thank God this Frenchman took me in, but now both of us were in danger. Well, at least I had a place of refuge until it was safe enough for me to take off again. I was terribly concerned about the others of my comrades arid hoped things were going okay for them. This gentlemen asked if I was hungry and I told him I wasn't before, but I was now, but most of all I was thirsty. My throat felt like the inside of a dried-out pipe. He gave me a glass of water and I drank and drank. I was so thirsty. We talked. Some of my French was better than others, but I do not remember much about the conversation. So it was that I decided that I'd hide here, then as soon as darkness fell, I would leave. I tell you I sure welcomed the rest and safety. I was sure the Germans would come visiting. I told him and he said he had a safe place in the wine cellar. I looked around the house. He pulled a table away and a rug and there was a trap door leading into the cellar. I sure would not have guessed it. If a patrol came around, into the cellar I'd go. I had a good meal and milk. We talked some. I remember him saying my French was very good. He figured I was born in France and said I had a Norman accent. I told him I was born in Montreal, Canada where as a kid I spoke French and later in the States I learned English. He replied laughingly "You have returned to the land of your ancestors." I answered, "You know, that's true, but I never thought of it." Canada was settled predominantly by the French and Breton people in the 1600s through the early French explorers. So, late that night, I went into the cellar where a bed was prepared for me and a pitcher of water and even a bottle of Calvados (a type of Apple Jack) which seemed to rejuvenate my spirits. I slept like a bear.

I woke up with sounds upstairs like someone was banging on the door. Sure enough, it was a German patrol out looking for us. I heard them come in and the sounds of voices. I could barely make it out, but the lead officer or non-com asked the man if he knew of any American prisoners moving around. If he harbored any of them and did not report sighting them to him or other units, necessary measures would be taken against him and his family in the name of the Third Reich. Little did they know how near I was to them. It made me shiver. After they left, I decided I had better go because if they were here once, they'd be back and we'd all be in hot water. I stayed at the house that whole day waiting for nightfall. He hated to see me leave and gave me a fond embrace and we had a tearful scene with his family. While I prepared to leave, he told me I would be on the right track to the American lines. He told me of the bridge which I knew. He said they post guards there so be careful. The sad thing about this is that I never saw him or his family again. When I left, he gave me a rosary, so with final farewells, I left in the dead of night and made my way across his orchard and field into a hedge without any incident. At one time, I spied a number of German soldiers moving down the path near me. I remained in some shrubbery until they passed and moved on. I could hear my heart beating fast. I thought about being so close to getting away and getting caught. It scared the hell out of me. Despite this I was determined to make it, do or die, as the old saying went. This daring attempt at escape made me a clear thinker. The slightest error on my part would be my last or an unforeseen situation I could not get out of. I knew the consequence of my adventure. So far I had outwitted the enemy. If I survive, this ordeal will be one of the greatest achievements or gambles of my life. I must not give up hope. I must have gone off course since leaving the house. The surroundings did not look familiar. I felt apprehensive. I saw no more of the German patrols. Maybe they had given up on catching us. I forgot all about time. I kept going till I arrived at a small stream. I had to get to the other side somehow. There was a high embankment on the opposite side. Maybe over there were friendly forces. I had the feeling my trip was damned near ended and even then, I was not completely sure. It was now or never. I slowly entered the stream which had a slight flow to it and some holes which fell into waist-high water. I tripped over a number of stones. I came to a large boulder in the middle of the stream which offered some protection on one side. I got up and quickly ran the rest of the way to the shore. I gave a sigh of relief. Something told me I had finally made it out of enemy territory. I scrambled up the embankment to dry ground. Soon after starting out, I heard the voice, "Halt."

I froze. Was this American or German? The word halt sounds a lot like the German sound. I yelled "Don't shoot. I'm an escaped American from the Germans. Don't shoot, damn it." I was summoned forward. It was still not too dark and I could make them out. One voice said "If it's a Kraut, he speaks pretty good English. Keep your hands up." "Okay," I said, "they're up." They approached me with their weapons aimed. I was scared to death and sweating like the devil. I was glad they were not trigger happy. They called an officer who later verified who I was to regimental and my company. I stayed with them. They were an engineering outfit. I ate and then lay down and slept like a drugged man. My ordeal was at an end. So ends the narration of a narrow and wild escape. It's a miracle I got away with it. I was worried how the other guys had fared. Next morning I got on one of their company weapons carriers and was taken to the area where my old company was in position. Most everyone got back all right, except for one man who was unaccounted for. We never saw him again and guessed he was recaptured and shot as the Germans had said they would do or else killed outright while fighting capture. I was glad to see them all and my pal, Bill. We recounted our adventures and all were glad to see each other, not injured or wounded. We all had been listed as missing in action. I was happy to see Bill again. I said to him, "You missed all the fun." He said, "No way." We told the CO and Intelligence of our ordeal and gave them the information we had. We all agreed that they should award me a special citation and medal for getting us all captured by the Germans. I'm lucky I wasn't shot. I wasn't the practical joker in the company for nothing. I'll always remember this event and, I'm sure, so will the others, as long as we live. Since the end of the war the friends of my sons, Chad and Colin, want me to relate this escape and it has become kind of a ritual in our family. I think they all know it by heart. They tell me this story is better than the war movies they've seen. I tell them it was very hair-raising and hazardous. They all say they didn't think they would have had the courage and nerve to escape. All battles are terrible and some more so than others. Casualties are fearful. Combat can last a few minutes to hours or days. Some are a stalemate in which neither side gives in, but there is always a decision – be destroyed, surrender or retreat. So goes the days upon days. Many became mental casualties after being maimed with permanent injuries. Some lost their minds and became like vegetables. Others took months or years to recuperate. Mental wounds are as bad as physical ones. I know. I was stricken with both injuries. A soldier has his limits of endurance. Sooner or later it will take a heavy toll. Some of the worst aspects of combat are to see your men, especially your pals, get killed or fatally wounded. In battle, the

things that scared and bothered me most were mines and booby traps and also the deadly snipers. You never knew where they were until you located them and then it was too late. In times of a lull in battle, besides bringing boredom, was the fearful thinking of what was going to happen next. Too much horrible time to think. When you were in battle, you didn't have time to dwell on things. You were too busy fighting and staying alive and watching out for yourself or your pals or killing your next German. We were told the more Krauts we killed, the quicker we would go home and I must admit, that was the truth. Every bit helps which made for a pretty lively and deadly affair for the hunters and the hunted, and so goes the days into weeks, the weeks into months to the final end. I remember before the war in 1939, there was a film, "All Quiet on the Western Front." It made a lasting impression on me. I was in grade school at that time and about 15 years old, and six years later, I was in a world war. I remember a saying by Rudyard Kipling, a favorite author of mine, "A man who has a sneaking desire to live has a poor chance against one who is indifferent whether he kills you or you kill him." You never know how you are going to react in down and out combat. Something inside you makes you want to live. You have the urge to run and hide, but something else stronger makes you keep on fighting and hope you survive. There is a narrow line between cowardice and bravery. I asked a soldier one time who had won the Silver Star what he had done to merit it. "You really want to know?" he asked. "Yeah, I do." "Don't tell anybody but I was scared and ran the wrong way. I thought, from the Germans, but instead I ran into a bunch of Krauts and had to fight my way out and afterwards they gave me a medal. Of course, I didn't tell them my true intentions. I was actually trying to get the hell out of there." So who is a coward and who ain't? What he told me made me feel good, being a hero and not trying to be one. I thought any animal, including man, will fight like hell and to the death if need be if he is cornered with no route of escape. My loyal pal, Bill, and I had many conversations about valor, bravery and hiding or running away from battle. We had come to no real answer. We admitted we had no idea what we would do. We figured out what would keep us fighting. Loyalty was always a strong point. The following story was very unnerving to me. As I ran up the side of a hill surrounded by shrubbery and a few trees, I turned the corner and right in front of me, laying flat on his back with his arms stretched out lay a soldier. I saw no sign of a wound though I knew he was dead. We were moving up this hill in intervals between each other. I saw this soldier and I had to stop near him. As I gazed at his face, I noticed a very peaceful serene look. He was just staring into space and as I looked at him, a strange feeling came over me, an almost spiritual type of feeling. I really don't know how to describe it. I was spellbound and struck by his gaze. The feeling he was conveying to me (and this is not an illusion or hallucination) with his outstretched arms and legs and his head turned to look me in the eye was of the crucified Christ. He had the same sad look as famous paintings I have seen

of his ordeal. I was transfixed in looking at him. His peaceful gaze held me. I was oblivious to anything around me, the war, the fighting, etc. I finally regained my composure and I remember all I could say was "I'm so sorry, friend." With a last look, I rose up and moved on. I even looked back to see if he was still there. That brief moment had left an impression on me, something mystical. I mentioned this episode to Bill and he became very quiet and pensive like he knew what I had felt. It seemed to confirm my belief in a supreme being. It could not be otherwise. I will relate a funny incident. We were pinned down by enemy fire. You didn't dare move a finger without being noticed, a very unhealthy and hazardous situation and to break up the fear and monotony, I said to Bill, "My mother told me there'd be days like this." He looked at me with such a terrified look. Looking at him I burst into hysterical laughter (no doubt a nervous reaction). I said to Bill, "Is your life insurance paid up? I hope you put me down as your beneficiary." Right after that the gunfire lifted and Bill said to me, "How the hell could you have been so humorous at a time like that? You must have ice water in your arteries." I replied, "Don't you say that. I crapped in my pants. Do you have an extra pair of shorts?" He broke into spasms of laughter which I didn't share. This is about an incident which almost cost me my life. While searching through the houses, I entered a room. Unnoticed by me, a German came into the same room. He saw me first and brought his rifle up before I could fire at him. He opened up with his Mauser and it misfired. He stared in disbelief and so did I. I recovered my wits and shot him once through the chest knocking him to the floor. He did not move. I sat down in a chair in disbelief and thanked God that his rifle misfired or else I would not be here telling this story. I left the room scared as hell. This is one of the little surprises one comes up against in battle. Some have unexpected endings, like this one. I have such vivid memories of these battles, I was asked why I didn't try to illustrate some. I have done this and it has proved to be very traumatic. In most cases, even this recounting of combat incidents has brought a lot of strong and painful feelings at at times, has made me cry. So clear and vivid are they, but I write them down anyway. It's a way of releasing tension the fighting has brought and impressed on me for life. I still see faces of the men who were my comrades and even those men I did not know, even the Germans, but they don't bother me as much. They were my enemies and I tried to kill them if I could. I have no regrets, remorse or whatever towards them. After all they started the whole bloody mess and carnage. Even today, I could never shake hands with any German soldier of World War II no matter how long ago. Time does not heal all wounds and if I'm to bear this pain and anger forever till I die, then so be it. I still feel right before the Supreme Being. He understands. People were not created by God to be abused, tortured or massacred or ill treated and such. People who commit these crimes do not merit forgiveness and most of

all by me. Those reprobates that do that also mistreat animals who at times have shown more gratefulness, compassion and gentleness than so-called man – God's brightest creature, only because he can express himself by speech and with a so-called "soul," but so do animals. I scandalized and shocked a person one day when I said, "Satan created the world when God was looking the other way." It's not without its merits; I';m getting away from this narration which should be confined to combat experiences, so I'll try to stick to that, but sometimes, I get carried away with incidentals or maybe in my case, it's all bound up together in one lump sum. I still like and enjoy watching war documentary films, not the Hollywood variety, which is only half truths, and by people who were never a combat soldier or by people who were never caught up in a shooting war. As I'm watching war films, I relive my own experiences and have a good understanding of what's taking place and what a soldier has gone through and the trauma. We were walking along this highway one day. You sometimes get involved in useless talk just to pass the time and I said to Bill, "You'll miss me if something happens to me." He replied with a grin, "Whoever told you that was shell shocked. I'd be glad to get rid of you." I said, "You lie like a rug. You know you'd miss the hell out of me." After some time, he said seriously, "You know, I think I would miss you. It would be like losing my shadow." "Likewise," I said and we kept up the pace with nothing happening – so far. Someone said, "Let's have a song," and everybody broke into "It's a Long Way to Tipperary," a British tune but everyone knew it and a parody of the same, "That's the Wrong Way to Tickle Mary," which was somewhat risque – the lighter side of a dismal war where every day could be your last. During a short break, I said to Bill, "How long do you think the war will last?" Bill said, "Maybe we might not live long enough to see the end." I replied, "Guys like us are too mean not to see the end." Bill didn't answer. He seemed to be lost in his thoughts and then he said, "What did you say?" I said, "Ah, it's not worth repeating." The signal for the end of the break came and so we started our trek again. Let's see what the Germans are up to or going to be up to. As we went along, we saw a number of dead Germans on the road and along the ditch. I tried not to look at them. It was ugly and depressing. Some looked so young, even younger than us, and others looked old. Some

looked like store dummies that were discarded. Some looked like they were cut to pieces and suffered untold agony before they died. We even saw some crows feasting on the corpses. Well, everything has to eat. As I had that grim thought, I started to laugh. Bill looked back and said, "What the hell's so funny?" I said, "You wouldn't believe me if I told you." "Try me." "Jim Crow having a feast." He had a puzzled look. He then spotted the crows, looked back and said, "You have a weird and ghastly humor." "Well, it's a ghastly war. What do you want?" Later we stopped to eat our lousy Army "C" rations. I opened a can of beans and franks. I asked Bill, "What have you got?" "Meat and vegetable stew, but I'm not hungry." "How come?" I asked. "I'm thinking about those crows you damn well showed me." "Oh, is that all? You don't want yours? I'll eat it." Well, this terrible war had a funny side to it. This one fellow Hagwood by name from North Carolina said, "When I get to Germany, I'm going to shack up with every Kraut broad I can find, young or old." To that someone else said, "You don't care who you sleep with, do you? Any port in a storm." Another said, "Hell, after the Ruskies get done with them, there'll be nothing left worthwhile to lay with." Going our way through the woods and shrubs, we heard a sound ahead of us. We cautiously crept ahead through the foliage for fear of an ambush. We came to the edge of a clearing. We looked up into the trees and spotted a pilot hung up in his chute a few feet from the ground. We went toward him. He then spotted us. We discovered he was a British RAF pilot shot down while he was on a recon patrol with another fellow flyer flying Spitfires. He said he had hung there for a good part of the day but could not free himself. He was grateful to us for finding him. He first thought we were Germans scouting for him. When his plane go hit he was forced to bail out and landed in these trees. The Germans he knew were looking for him somewhere in the area of the crash site. His fellow pilot kept flying around to locate his whereabouts. Hanging there he heard machine gun fire, no doubt from his friend after the German search party for he saw the Spit flying around. He thought maybe he had driven them off.

We cut him down from his chute and took him away from the woods back to our company. We all decided to try and catch the Kraut search party. He knew the vicinity of where his plane crashed. The pilot was sent back to the rear to get back to his squadron. He thanked us for finding and rescuing him. Otherwise, he would have been captured and sent to a POW camp. He said due to us Yanks, he'd get another chance at the Huns and he asked our regiment's name. One good turn deserved another. His squadron would help us out anytime we needed them. He told us his squadron number but I have forgotten it. I still don't remember his name. A hell of a nice guy and very grateful to us. He wished us good luck and good hunting. Chapter 25 Bill Saves My Life Late in June or the beginning of July we received a number of replacements right out of the States, "band new cannon fodder." Most of them as the expression goes "full of piss and vinegar" or a more polite form, "gung ho," "Sgt Alvin York," etc. Boy, would they get a damned rude awakening. They were sorted out to the various companies and we got a few. Some knew it all, but a lot were deathly scared and were willing to listen to the "Old Timers" like me and Bill anyway. After a couple of days, the Heinies decided to introduce our "Greenhorns" to the art of war with one hell of an artillery barrage which lasted like forever. A few shells hurtled over us with God awful shrieks and it still scared the hell out of us vets. This was a royal welcome to the war and the shells screamed over four of these replacements. They immediately hit the ground, covering their heads with their hands and crying something awful. I was standing near them and said, "What the hell are you guys ducking for? These ones you heard are harmless. They've already passed by." They looked at me in disbelief and as a mad man. "It's the ones you don't hear you should worry about. Those are the ones that will get us." "How do you know all this?" they asked. "We've been up here so damned long, we're used to these cannon balls being thrown at us. They sound like they're falling on you, but they've passed by." I don't think they were convinced. Well, experience is a better teacher. One night there was a God awful rainstorm with lots of lighting and thunder. The sound of thunder and lightning was very similar to an artillery barrage and almost as loud. It had us all ducking from fear it was an actual shelling. That's how alike they were. Today, though the war is so distant, it still makes me jump and shake something awful, the same terrible symptoms with great relief when I realize it is just a thunder storm. But boy, it sounds real. If you had ever been under an actual artillery barrage, you'd know what I mean. These celestial occurrences still get my attention and fright. My old pal, Bill, God love him, we had some good and bad times together and shared all kinds of danger. We also had a lot of

laughter from Ft. Dix, New Jersey, to Normandy's battle grounds. I can't say enough for him – a damned good partner. He personally saved my life two or three times that I can remember. Thanks to him, I'm around and alive. The first time – I recollect clearly, we were going through this deserted small Norman town. The name doesn't matter. We were walking along in single file adjacent to some group of houses. Bill and I were the last two in the square. We were at about five or six foot intervals. We had learned earlier not to bunch up. You can understand why. When you are bunched up, you can get more men killed or wounded. As I said, I was in front of Bill. I remember passing by a door to a house. Unknown to me, an enemy sniper leaned out with his rifle intent on putting me out of commission. Bill, being behind me, saw him and yelled at me, "Watch out!" At the same time he shot the German, hitting him in the back and he fell out the door onto the sidewalk. This happened so fast, it took me completely by surprise. When the shot rang out, by instinct, I dropped to the ground. As the German soldier fell, I looked up at Bill and asked in fright, "What the hell happened?" "The bastard almost killed you." "Damn, you saved my life. Thank God you saw him in time. I don't know how to repay you for your quick thinking." "I'll just charge you a week's pay." Bill laughed as he helped me up. We caught up with the rest. This taught me a lesson – to be more alert. Seeing that German meant there were a lot of snipers around. You have to be on your toes against things like this. One error could be your last in situations like this. You had to be on guard. There were a lot of things besides snipers. There were mines, boobytraps, walking into ambushes, sudden mortar attacks, etc. So there were a lot of things that could kill or maim you and I forgot, being taken prisoner. We were making our way along when I heard something from this house. Cautiously, I stood next to the door, kicked it open with my rifle and to my amazement, saw two little French kids – a little boy and girl about four or five years old huddled behind a table in what looked like the kitchen. They were frightened at seeing me and started to cry. They thought I was going to harm them. I stepped in and spoke to them in French and told them not to be afraid. I was an American soldier. I saw then that they were no longer afraid. Their eyes lit up when I spoke to them in French and they came to me. I gave them some candy and gum and right away, I became their friend. They told me their parents were taken away by the Germans some time ago. There had been a big fight and the Germans left the town taking the parents with them. They couldn't tell me why and then they started to cry. After I spoke to them again, they stopped crying. I then had the problem of trying to find someone in our troops to take care of them. Luckily, I saw one our ambulances nearby and spoke to the medics and asked if they could take care of the children. They said they'd take them to a medical detachment to the rear. I thanked them. I gave the kids the rest of my candy bars and gum. That seemed to cheer them up. I must have made a big hit with them. They wanted to go with me. I told them I had to go to fight in the war against those big bad Boche (Germans) and they could not go with me. I

then walked away. I looked back and they were waving to me. It kind of choked me up. I caught up with the squad and Bill said, "What the hell happened to you?" I told him of my finding these two little French kids in one of those houses. Bill said, "You're lucky there wasn't a sniper in the house." "Yeah, well, I took a chance and everything came out okay. That was my Boy Scout good deed for the day." Bill said, "For that we'll give you a merit badge." I said, "See that, Bill. I'm not that bad a guy. I even like kids." During a battle in this same engagement, we were fired upon by some Germans holed up in these houses who were trying to hold our advance. The day was very clear and warm. Bill, myself and two companions had the honor of searching them out. We were not elated to carry out this mission. There is nothing pleasant in the least in house cleaning. It is deadly work. Casualties can be high. We headed toward two of the buildings. We finally reached the houses and were fired upon by the defenders. A battle of this sort can be at the point of a bayonet and hand to hand which I was deathly afraid of. Of course, the Germans could always toss in the towel and surrender, which would be okay by me. We went through this type of deadly work before and always knew what it entailed. Sometimes being careful and cautious wasn't enough. This was largely a game of chance. If we suspected someone inside, we usually threw a grenade in first, that being the safest way to make sure. Then we'd go in and if there was an enemy, it would be us who shot first unless the grenade had gotten him or them. If the place was empty, consider yourself lucky and if the grenade did it's job. Bill and I tossed a grenade or two into the house, waited a few seconds and jumped in, rifles ready. We went quickly into one of the rooms. The place was clean. We went out the back door into the yard and then ran to the next house, keeping low. We heard sounds indicating there were occupants in this one. I looked into the corner of the window. I dropped my head and indicated to Bill with my hand showing two fingers, two Krauts with machine guns were at the left corner window. We quickly moved to the back door. Lucky for us, the back door was open. The two victims did not see us. We jumped in firing our rifles with several rounds. They turned toward us as we fired. They never had a chance. They died almost at once. We did not take souvenirs as they had Luger pistols on their belts. We did destroy the machine guns so it would be useless and left at a trot down the street. I thought later I should have taken those pistols. Oh well, there'd be other times. Chapter 26 A Typical Battle DESCRIPTION OF ONE TYPICAL BATTLE. Our company advanced in extended order, Bill and I at the tail end, but in reach of each other. In front was a group of M4s (Shermans). I don't know which was the most disconcerting, the sniper fire from the front or the fire from the tanks in our rear. The tanks moved through and about 500 yards to

our front came under fire from the damned 88 mm guns. I saw at least four of them blow up, followed by the machine gunning of the crews trying to escape. We spent a most uncomfortable time under fire from snipers who had tied themselves up in the poplar trees about. Some accurate retaliation fire left a lot hanging. After dark we were placed among some really thick hedgerows and told to dig in. As dawn was breaking, the sentry pointed out some men about 100 yards to our left to our right front. We came under mortar fire, shell and machine gun blasts and Kraut infantry advancing. Crouching in our shallow holes, we answered with rifle and B.A.R. fire and the infantry ran out of the field onto a hidden sunken road. They tried repeatedly to get at us but we drove them back. A little later I heard a creaking tank. My heart sank and my nerves were frazzled. A Tiger stopped at a gap in the hedge about 150 yards away. The tank fired several shells into the bank behind our ditch, then moved on and engaged the section on our right. This was not my idea of a healthy situation. Bill crawled to where I was. He said to me, seriously, "Misery loves company." He got no reply. I could hear screams coming from that direction. The tank then moved away and after a while, we were attacked by the infantry. I fired my rifle and we got them back into the sunken road. During this skirmish, our two company snipers killed a machine gunner and a man with a grenade thrower creeping along the ditch toward my company. In the sunken road, I spotted a large group of dead Krauts. The shelling began again. You could tell they were the infamous 88. It was like hell let loose. I had to take a leak. I went into the hedgerow and saw an infantryman who said, "Keep down, there's a sniper in the tree. Hold your water. I'll get 'em." He did. One shot and the sniper dropped like a rock. As I looked over the hedge, I saw around a hundred Heinies, some sitting, some lying, but all were stone dead. I asked the infantryman about them and he said, "We have to make good our losses" and he never batted an eye. Once I was in a trench unit. A corporal whose name escapes me was there. I had just finished my first two hours guard near dawn and gave him a nudge. He was fast asleep and put his head just over the top. A sniper put a burst of fire right across his face and his nose and mouth shot all over me. I had bloody clothes on for a full week afterward until I could change. I saw where the tracer bullets came from and let go with my rifle. Nothing fell from the tree. It was checked out and a sniper had fastened himself to a branch so that he could use both hands. He was dead. Suddenly we were in a savage fight. We opened up with machine guns, B.A.R.s and rifles. I swung my rifle to the right. I was staring into the face of a blond SS bastard. He was on his belly, facing me. Our eyes locked. I squeezed the trigger. A split second after he raised himself on his elbows, the rifle slug caught him just below the throat. The impact lifted his body and he hung in the air for an instant. He was still staring straight in my face. A pool of blood was forming on the ground under his chest. He was dying. I think about him sometimes. The continued German defense of the area and suburbs over which every bridge had been blown meant that the through routes were still inaccessible. The town had lost a great portion of its civilian population, its men, women and children. Parts of decaying bodies could be seen protruding from the rubble and everywhere the air was foul with the stench of rotting flesh. Engineers were trying to make it at least passable to move through. Normandy was

a place where everything was dead. Bodies all over the place and the stench of death. It was like living on the moon, all bomb craters. We lived in foxholes or slit trenches. We lived like moles and frightened rabbits. At certain times we had to stand up, stick our rifles and bayonets out in front and advance. The Germans would then rain shells and mortars and half the battalion would get killed and wounded, always reduced in numbers, and no way to get out of it. Makeshift graves were everywhere. The pioneer guys even started making white crosses ready for us. Before attacks, you could see the ambulances (meat wagons) lining up ready and my guts would turn over. I remember a corn field. Everyone would suddenly disappear when the shelling started. The orchards full of apples were death traps, always a target for mortars. Everyone admitted saying a prayer. Just press yourself more into the ground, fists clenched, and pray. That was the only answer to shell fire, yet one would still stand up and run toward the German line without a thought of small arms. The first six weeks, all the sick and wounded went back to England -- anything to get out of the war. I wondered if I'd be that lucky. Chapter 27 One Memorable Morning JULY 1944: TWO UNFORGETTABLE INCIDENTS OCCURRING TO ME IN ONE MEMORABLE MORNING: During our advance through hedgerow country we came to a dreadful and hellish view of a destroyed German personnel carrier. The six-wheeled vehicle on tank treads carried German Infantry into a battle area. This particular vehicle had received a near direct hit by large caliber artillery, probably a 105 mm. Needless to say, it was an awful description of death at its worst. The vehicle had apparently caught fire and the destruction was complete and horrible. Most of the infantrymen were still in their sitting position inside the vehicle but all were dead as hell and very badly burnt and unrecognizable. The ones that got thrown clear were in no better condition. I saw them and tried not to look at the tragedy. The stench was burned flesh, smelling like badly burned bacon mixed with molten metal, jellied rubber oil and gasoline fumes so you can imagine how awful the picture of this deathly vision presented to the viewer. I have seen much of these gruesome incidents and never got used to it, I always put myself as being one of the victims of this god awful carnage. Despite the horror I went to get a closer look. I couldn't believe how unrecognizable a human form could be turned into charred remains. I don't know why I did this but I touched one of these unfortunate soldier's arms and it just fell apart, crumbled into ash. I then threw up. German or not, what a hell of a way to leave the world; no one would be able to identify any of these unfortunate soldiers. The report would read,'' deceased but unidentified." As far as I could see there were about thirty infantrymen not counting the driver and assistant that unluckily perished in this inferno in the front seat. I hurriedly rushed away

from this evil scene. One thing struck me odd: All the burnt bodies looked the same; with some turned lo ashes, there'd be hardly anything left to put into a grave. For a moment I had a feeling of sorrow for the bastards, I had a mental picture of someone finding me in that awful state. I thought of the different ways of death one could receive in this terrible war, bayoneted, stepping on a mine or booby trap, get blown apart by shell fire, machine gunned into chopped meat, burnt alive to a crisp, have your brains blown out by a rifle bullet, the list goes on. All the lovely ways you can meet your maker, Hollywood would never duplicate in those John Wayne, Errol Flynn war films. If Hollywood could produce movies like that, they wouldn't find any customers. But then again, they wouldn't have the usual weirdo and unfeeling gore people enjoy seeing. I've seen soldiers drool when they killed a kraut, there's all kinds and maybe I could be accused of this type of behavior, also. I'm not excluding yours truly. After a few of these bloody encounters you sometimes get acclimated to it and it has a habit to come back and haunt you. One way or another, justified or not. A perfect example follows. ... I attempted to give a wounded German soldier a drink of water from my canteen; his damned gratitude was his attempt to kill me, lurching for me with his pistol. Luckily for me, I caught the action in time and blew his brains out with one shot at point blank range. His brains, parts of his skull and blood shot out all over me. Completely drenched, it even got into my mouth. It happened so fast, even before I realized how close I came to getting killed. My alertness and reflexes saved me. I did not realize I was covered with his gore. When my awareness returned, I threw up my guts, needless to say it created a lot of trauma, which I still have flashbacks of. I do remember saying, "If you hadn't tried that you'd be alive, you damned dumb bastard!" I was really in a state of utter stress and anxiety, I felt I had slipped into a state of unreality and it took me awhile to recover. I even forgot where the hell I was. I had slipped away in a feeling of nothingness. I developed the attitude that you can't trust anybody in this son of a bitch kraut war. All of this I've recounted occurred in one lousy morning in July of '44. It was on Sunday, "Church Day." I was an inch away from entering the state of insanity. Each day repeats itself. Contrary to the saying death does not take a holiday. ... In war one is filled with dread and resignation. When would I receive that bullet, shell fragment, bayonet or whatever? Being scared to death daily in war is an accepted fact, you just kept moving on from one field of hedgerows to the next and to the next encounter against the damned f____g enemy. And if I was to die then please God let me take some of the f___g sons of bitches with me! And not die in vain. The damned lousy thing of all this is you most times never see your S.O.B. enemy. I remember a time we assaulted some German positions in this wooded field. They were deeply dug in and it was one hell of a battle and they resisted like the demons and all I could hear was this god awful dreadful noise, like all the devils were let loose at once. The voices and gunfire was frightful. I was by myself moving through this heavy undergrowth and bushes, bullets spattering the trees all around, it's a miracle I was not struck down and killed, I had no time to be scared, just the f___g urge to get it over with. I came across this young German trying to move away. When I came upon him by surprise he spotted me and he made an attempt to bring his rifle up to shoot. I came into him so fast I drove my bayonet right up to the hilt in his stomach. I had a hard time extricating the bayonet out of his stomach. He was down on the ground, screaming. I still could not pull my bayonet out so I fired my weapon into his body. He literally burst

open and even with that he refused to die. I fired again and with the blast I pulled my bayonet out of his body. With that he lay still. I was amazed how long it took him to die; with that I ran like hell through the woods and brush, yelling. I was running along with the others and looking for Bill, I was praying he had not gotten hit. We finally spotted each other. We didn't say anything, it was no time for talking. Everyone was yelling and pushing through the German defenses, casualties were running high, and krauts were yelling "Kamarad!" and throwing up their arms in surrender. I could see other German soldiers offering resistance and shooting at us, it was one hell of a scrape. I saw one kraut drawing a bead at Bill or me, but Bill saw him first and dropped him. One less opponent as we ran through the German positions. Resistance appeared to collapse as whole groups of enemy troops threw down their weapons and cried, "Kamarad!" Even the officers came out to surrender. I breathed a sigh of relief, I was just plain bushed out. This assault seemed to last forever, I said to myself. I'm too old for this kind of crap. I don't know how many Germans we killed, but we captured a big bunch of them. I wondered how we had come out of this. I'm pretty sure we had a lot of our guys hit, nobody could have charged through that area of hell without getting hit, except for the lucky ones like me and Bill, and some other guys I recognized form "G" company. After driving the enemy out we fell to the ground, all out of breath. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my cigs and lit up one and took a real long drag; blowing out a smoky sigh of relief I looked around at Bill. We suffered a lot of stress and great anxiety. Many of us got through unscathed. It took an awful long time to calm down from this trauma assault we all had gone through. I heard that some of the men had mental breakdowns from their ordeal, and at the same time we all had great elation in kicking the shit out of the damned krauts and kicking ol' Hitler in the balls. General George S. Patton would have been proud as hell of the 357th. Bill and I got together for a few words of worldly wisdom. "Well, how did you enjoy the festivities, you damned old Irish bastard?" I inquired. "Well, I was not going to use that kind of crude uncouth language, like one would expect from a French-Canadian reprobate from New York City!" Bill replied. "But it was fun while it lasted," I added. We were both lying like hell. "Until you showed up!" Bill said. Despite the joking we were both scared as hell to death and considered ourselves extremely fortunate to be still alive. "Thanks be to God," Bill often remarked with his old Irish accent. Any Irish Catholic I knew used this favorite saying. I think both of Bill's parents came from Ireland but I know he was born in Pennsylvania. I told him once, "You are more like a lower east side dead end kid from New York City." "Bite your tongue!" he replied. I grinned at him, adding, "The truth hurts, don't it, ha-ha!"

This damned war, justified as it was ... I don't wonder the trauma I suffered severely from its devilish and deadly effects it had on my life and even after the war came to an end, the same war in my mind continued on, never giving me much chance to escape it. I'm still in inner conflict. I said to someone, "If I visit Europe and Normandy again, this time I will have to pay to come." He had a perfect answer to my statement, remarking, " It's true, you'll be paying in money, but you paid the first time you went ... with blood." I looked at him and added, "You know, I had never thought of it that way at the commerce of the government." A fellow soldier in my regiment said with a lot of truth, talking about hell, "After all this fighting, we've earned our hell on Earth." He wasn't far from wrong. I hear talk of the MIA's in Viet Nam which is a terrible and unfortunate thing for our brave guys. But in World War II the figure of the missing soldiers was in the thousands, tripling the amount who will never be accounted for at the U.S. Military Cemetery in Normandy overlooking Omaha Beach. As far as being wounded, I would rather die in battle than lose my sight or have my arms and legs shot away. Doomed to an existence of a useless, disfigured monstrosity. I would rather die or shoot myself. Although it would be morally wrong, I would not relish a life where I would be sneered and jeered at and made fun of the rest of my life ... no way Elway. I saw a lot of the unfortunate soldiers that being killed in battle would have been a more merciful and more honorable way. That's the way I feel about it. Bill and I talked about this at intervals and he concurred. Marching along the debris-ridden dirt road at wide intervals it made a difficult target to catch enemy artillery shells. All along the route were many German and American vehicles of all descriptions in various positions of destruction, some completely engulfed in flame and oily smoke together with their occupants who were caught in it and didn't escape death. Some of these soldiers were badly burnt, and unrecognizable or heaps of ashes which were once living beings. The smell of burnt flesh, burning oil and the acrid smell of mangled steel from demolished tanks and self-propelled guns invaded your senses and caused a lot of nausea. The heat of this mess was so intense in certain places. The terrible work of artillery and strafing by fighter-bombers like A-20's, A-26's, Spitfires, P-47's, Typhoons and P-38's was vividly apparent. These aircraft devastated and pulverized these German vehicles and personnel. I'm sure glad we had them with us. The Germans captured were in mortal fear of these planes; I wonder how they felt being paid back after all the times they caused carnage against us and our allies when they were winning. They sang a different tune during the fighting, there were whole German units surrendering when the flyboys hit them. I tell you we owe a lot of thanks to the U.S. Air Force and R.A.F. for the valued welcome help in ending the damned war and giving us timely assistance in combat situations. They sure helped to lower our casualties. I never had a bad word for those guys. Another German weapon used early during the invasion was the six-barreled mortar on a carriage called "nebelwerfers." When they fired this infernal thing it gave an unearthly

wailing sound like all the freight trains in the world were hurtling through the air. The first time after the invasion we heard these things I looked at Bill and said, "What the god-damned hell was that?" Bill replied, "I sure as hell don't know but it's scaring daylight out of me!" He wasn't alone. It was a real psychological weapon which was meant to terrorize you, it was known as "moaning minnie," and it sure succeeded. The Germans used them all through the Normandy Campaign. One time we captured some of these weapons and used them on the Germans, I'm sure as hell they got a shock. The damned krauts didn't like anything better than to scare and try to terrorize us and the civilians. In that way it was a real nasty weapon. We found German soldiers using our weapons against us and vice versa. For the longest time I carried one of their weapons called a "burp" gun, a Schmeiser auto machine pistol. I really enjoyed using this weapon against them, as a submachine gun it was pretty good. I wish I could have gotten it home. The damned Germans were good at scaring the shit out of you, such as the "moaning minnie" and other devilish means of destruction. Booby traps made not so much to kill but to maim, requiring several guys to render first aid and take you to an aid station. The psychology of that is if you're dead, you don't need any care, but if you are wounded, you weaken your manpower by taking care of you, if you get the idea. The German soldiers were deathly afraid of the bayonet. So showing the fear encouraged us to put them on our rifles making them feel that we liked bayonet work, which was false, but we didn't tell the krauts that. My experience with German POWs was that I found them to be very gullible and would believe most anything you told them. I had a lot of fun with that! As an example, one German asked me what I did before getting into the army. I asked him, "You've heard of Al Capone, the Mafia and John Dillinger the bank robber?" He said, "Ya, I know of them." I figured this was going to be fun. I remarked, "Yeah? I knew them personally and had been accepted into the gang. We robbed banks and shot a few people for fun if they got in my way. We made a lot of money and we weren't caught!" As I told him this I had a cig hanging at the corner of my mouth and my helmet posed at cocky angle. The German and his companions just about crapped in their pants, they believed me. Anytime they spotted me they avoided me, it soon got around to the other POWs. I had the reputation as a tough American gangster from New York City and Chicago, a friend of Al Capone. After hearing this they classified me as a "verdant S.S. Soldier". Just as bad as an American gangster. Most of the POWs thought all GIs were gangsters, cowboys or Indians, real unsavory characters. After telling this I laughed so hard I got cramps. Bill and some other men came over to see why I was laughing so hard. I told Bill and the other guys what I told those Germans, they all cracked up. One guy grinned as he said to me, "You're giving the Americans a bad name! I'm not surprised, knowing you're telling those dumb gullible Germans a story like that. I only wish I had been here when you told them."

Bill said laughingly, "If any of those POWs are alive today they all probably remember that episode about Al Capone and Dillinger." An awful lot of krauts believed that the American GIs were actually gangsters, baseball players, cowboys ... typically soft and lousy soldiers, lazy band players, well they sure found out in a damned short hurry we were different than that and we were as good damned soldiers if not better than they were. We took a lot of starch out of them. And their F___G arrogance and superman shit, we sure as hell proved that to the lousy bastards. There was a saying, "Krauts were at your throat or at your feet." A true statement. Chapter 28 Death Roams at Will A DESCRIPTION OF THE HORRIBLE AFTERMATH OF A BATTLEFIELD. For the benefit of anyone reading this narration of war, I will attempt to illustrate, in words, what a battlefield looks like after all the carnage and killing has subsided and a short space of peace has emerged -- till the next bloody battle occurs. Maybe in this very place if the Germans decide to launch a counterattack, one that would add frosting on the cake, so to speak. A little grim humor from an infantry man who has been in numerous battles, great and small, and minor skirmishes. I witnessed a lot of ugly and sad sights of numerous casualties of dead and dying soldiers, us and them. And it is an unforgettable and long lasting image to remember for the rest of one's life, and I being a victim of living to see this horror, Hollywood could never duplicate in a hundred years a description of an actual battlefield, it would be too much of a nightmare or a show in Dante's "Inferno." To this day I suffer regenerated images of this horrible experience, filled with numerous flashbacks and nightmares in which I relive the whole thing over and over again though it's been fifty years ago. These images are quite realistic and vivid. This leaves a deep impression when you have to go out and look for your wounded comrades and report the dead. It's extremely sad and a traumatic feeling; most of the bodies are not pretty to see. We'd be accompanied by soldiers from Graves Registration to retrieve these bodies and parts of bodies picked up whole or in mattress covers (body bags) and loaded on trucks and taken to a collection station for if possible burial sites. What war had was the awful "stink" or stench of death that had been laying about for a few days in various cases of decomposition, especially in the summer heat and humidity. It didn't take long for a corpse to have changes, physical alterations. I never knew in my life how grotesque and horrible dead bodies could look, in shape and color, etc. Many bodies had a bluish color and rotting flesh appeared like melted wax, some even turned black. The maggots and worms were busy at their work. It was truly sickening work even to the strongest soldiers who were used to the horror of dead soldiers. I puked a hundred times; even thinking about it made me retch till my stomach hurt but despite this gory job

it had to done. I'd rather be in a battle than this activity. There are no more words I can use to really describe this. The reader can get a general idea of revulsion but it's not the same as seeing it first hand, or being in an actual firefight with all its killing. One particular mission we were on, we came upon an American soldier whose body had bloated up to twice his size ... the buttons on his shirt had popped off. We had to pick him up and place him on a stretcher. How we dreaded this. His flesh had turned black like charcoal, his mouth was wide open and the flies were all over him and us. The stench was something else. I was wearing a gauze mask over my mouth and could still smell the stench like you've never experienced a "stink" before. We attempted to lift him but he was heavy, being so bloated with fluids and blood. As soon as we moved him the blood ran out of his mouth, nose and ears. When we realized this we could not go on and we moved off to some other poor bastard. We could only take so much. I felt so sorry for that guy that I cried for him. I thought of his wife, or mother, children, whoever he belonged to. In looking back at him, the dreadful thing struck me, that soldier could have been me, merciful Lord, I could not shake this from my mind. There were so many bodies including the enemy. It was almost impossible to reclaim all of them but the job was done which took days rounding them up from distances all around. We collected bodies from ditches, hedgerows, orchards, wooded areas, in the rubble of destroyed houses, etc. After helping out in this thankless and gory job we drifted back to the Company area about half a mile away where we could wash up and take a much needed rest; it was so quiet you never knew there was a war going on. About some time later we moved out cross country to whatever lay ahead. In the meantime we enjoyed some peace and quiet, we heard the distant sounds of aircraft, looked up and saw hundreds of planes up in the sky. Four-engined bombers, B-17s or "Liberators" on their way to hit the Heinies. We also saw what looked like an escort of fighters, recognized some of them as P-38 "Lightnings" with their twin tails. On our march we came close to a town with a sign saying "Charleville." Quiet as a tomb, we could see some destruction but outside of that nothing more than a few civilians standing about waving American and French flags and waving to us. I remember giving some kids candy and gum for which they were thankful and delighted. I also gave some older folks some of my "C" rations. They could use it. Some woman gave me a kiss and a hug which caught me by surprise. They sure were happy to see us, it made me depressed and glad at the same time, at least we liberated another town from the damned Germans. One day this damned war will end. But I asked myself when? I'll probably die of old age or a German bullet before then. When Bill saw that woman kiss me, he said, "Who was that, an old girlfriend?" I replied, "How did you know?" We both laughed. So at times there was a light side to the "world nightmare" of death and decimation. There are a lot of these narratives that are somewhat hazy and having happened so long ago that I have brief lingering memories of. It's just as well that I don't remember a lot of it. What I do remember makes up for what is dimmed by time. Combat is repetitive. Get killed or wounded, taken POW or missing in action, or blown away with nothing of you left, or in parts like a cut up chicken. Today even a butcher at work cutting meat makes

me cringe and depressed. This might sound strange to some but that's what I relate, or even cutting grass has the smell of death. So long ago most people are not affected by what happened so long ago. Most people are not affected by that which they were not participants in. To experience deadly combat, this horror of life versus death, some of the worst magnitude imaginable. A good description of battle, death roams at will over the battle area and even after the bloody carnage ends, temporarily and then on to the next confrontation -- killed or be killed. When you have to live every minute of the day and night like this; no wonder the mind and spirit cracks, even the strongest have limits of endurance. As one British soldier said about it, "It's either death, wounded or the looney house." How true it is. I went through both except getting myself killed, so considering everything, I'm lucky to God to have survived. Do you know that of all the millions we had in the Armed Forces, only some few thousand actually laid their life on the line in dreadful combat? Not all servicemen saw action in the land, sea or air. So we survivors are "the few" that Churchill commented about during the Battle of Britain, till the war ended in 1945 and many white crosses all over the war zones. The Americans, British, Canadians and our other loyal allies. Well after all this, back to the conflict. This combat narrative of experiences started on June 7, 1944, D + 2 and subsequent campaigns and battles to the end of my combat career at the end of October, 1944, in the Lorraine Campaign. This was in and around Metz and the Maginot line fortifications. After that I became non-combatant, from being wounded in action again, but enough to keep the brass from sending me back for further fighting. Later in December, the infamous Battle of the Bulge broke out and I missed it with no regrets I'll tell you. I had given all I could give, that was it. I felt at his point that my luck would run out. I had reached my limit. I sometimes get the feeling that I am jumping around from one event or thing after another. It's hard to keep these happenings in strict order. Some things I remember clearly and others not at all or hazy and dim so I have to carve or claw as possible in relating these countless incidents. I do not remember some names too clearly or dates, towns and cities. I remember these faces more than the names, except guys from the company or platoon that I was close to. Even the damned Germans, the interrogating Captain, Herr Hauptman Karl Krensdorf, who held me POW for a short time back in the early weeks of hedgerow fighting in Normandy. And two or three of the kraut guard we had ... Emile, Erik and Klaus or Ludwig, I forgot. Even the damned Gestapo jerk that sat in on the interrogation with us, his name was Heinrich Lindemann, a real evil sadistic looking Nazi bastard. I hoped somebody would have done him in, he deserved a long due award. After leaving Charleville and the emotional reception we received from the townspeople we moved on to whatever was in store, which wouldn't be long. We had the krauts on the run but they were still capable of violent defense and resistance. I wished to God they would give up -- but fat chance. I told Bill I guess we'll have to kill more of them before they surrender. Little did I know it would last another bloody year with a great loss of our soldiers. It helped my sagging moral when laying there in position, I told Bill, "Take care of yourself, don't do anything stupid or rash."

He looked at me and said, "Likewise!" I still had a cig in my mouth, taking deep drags. I thought, "Thank God I got a lot of cigs." A false sense of security, I admit, but it was better than nothing. I checked my M-1 rifle and I had enough rounds, made sure my bayonet was secure, it gave me something to do. It helped to keep calm . I was sweating like a pig! It was real salty, my eyes got irritated. I wish something would happen, anything instead of this dreadful suspense. How many Germans were there, how many tanks if any? Suddenly I heard a roar of aircraft overhead. I looked up and what a beautiful sight! A whole bunch of A-20 "Havocs" and P-38s. It looked like hundreds of these death dealing birds coming over us right at the damned krauts. "Give 'em Hell!" we yelled, then our artillery joined in, what a racket it was, deafening, steel messengers of death came hurtling over us into the kraut positions. Maybe we wouldn't have to fight after all, but that was wishful thinking. We got the word to move out, we spread out and prepared for the dirty work before us. A cold terror gripped me. "Watch yourself!" I was talking to myself for moral support. I spotted Bill and we joined up. "Shoot at anything that moves!" What scared me most was hoping we didn't have any close combat, hand to hand fighting; that did not appeal to me at all. The thing I knew was the Germans must feel the same way, hoping there wasn't any SS among them. I had nothing but fear and mortal hatred of them. Operation Cobra was all around La Haye du Puits, Perier, Foret de Mont Castre, a swamp filled with small hills, heavy foliage and forested areas with machine guns, mortars and God awful weapons. We had been briefed about this operation and fanatical German units with powerful resistance was expected. This despite the air strafing and artillery, it would be the bloody infantry to battle it out. This would be one hell of a battle, I had a strong feeling of depression and painful anxiety clutching at my gut. As we made our way through the wooded, water-filled terrain, German fire opened up against us all along the front. The air was filled with death dealing fire. How I missed getting hit is a miracle. We just kept running and clinging from tree to tree and heavy undergrowth. I thought later it felt like the Battle of the Wilderness or Shiloh of the Civil War where thousands died. This damn battle was identical to that Civil War combat, only with more diversified weapons. We would take a short stand and then jump off again behind any cover we could get to. We still didn't see anything of the enemy. Than the mortars began to fire and I prayed, "God, get me through this!" I could see Bill slightly in front of me and I caught up to his position. We jumped behind a small rise in the ground with a lot of underbrush and vines. It looked like a water soaked marsh and we were soaking wet and bushed out. We lay there taking a look around up ahead and up in the trees for snipers ... so far, so good. Although we had sustained some casualties, the charge was pressed on. I wondered how many of "G" Company had suffered. I didn't see anyone hit, but there must have been some and this war was just beginning. Fire had broken out at various places, probably caused by the strafing and artillery. We spotted a lot of dead and wounded Germans. Our artillery was still going strong; we were

just following behind what they call a rolling barrage. Our planes were still shooting the hell out of-the kraut positions and gun emplacements. I was hoping they hadn't laid any mines around. Sgt. Wilson came up to us and asked if we were all right. "So far, so good," we answered. I inquired, "Had we received any casualties?" He said that a number of young replacements had been hit, but no more men we knew. He had run up against a machine gun emplacement and blown it away with some replacement who joined in and wiped out another bunch of krauts. Bill and I hadn't seen anyone as yet. But I knew we'd run up against some before it was all over, which we would find out soon enough. We took hold of our rifles and scampered ahead, dodging behind undergrowth and small bushes and trees, trying to make ourselves small moving targets. It's hard to hit someone who keeps moving fast, at least some of the time unless you're swept away by traversing machine gun blasts, which we met a lot of but so far, so good. We felt so damned scared; I took stock of everything around, careful not to step into an ambush. We finally stopped by a small stand of trees. The ground was all soaked in swampy water with a mist all around, which made it damn hard to move or see any Germans. The view ahead became very hazy and misty, but there was small arms fire all around with an occasional mortar blast from the enemy, but none, thank God, exploded near us. We could hear the shrapnel flying around in the air hitting trees and clipping branches, some falling on us but we were unhurt. We left our positions and crept along a few yards when we heard sounds to our direct front. We moved up with four or five other guys from our company who joined us. We spread out as we pushed along, dragging our rifles and grenades; we had a B.A.R. (Browning Automatic Rifle) man along. By the look of things there were kraut emplacements ahead of us but how many we didn't know yet; I hoped to hell we wouldn't be spotted, surprise was on our side, so far. I looked back and saw several of our men come up running low to join us. "We can use all the help we could get," I thought to myself. I was so tense I couldn't hear my muscles creak and sweat poured out me like a waterfall. I was so terrified I could hear my teeth chattering. The intense desire to get it over with was almost unbearable, and also hoping they'd leave (what a joke)! I knew we all had to make it quick come what may, but maybe this would be my last time on earth, but something told me we'd win out, maybe my Guardian Angel. I just hoped we weren't outnumbered, then, if not, I'd rather not think about it. Very soon the platoon leader and Sgt. Wilson came down the line and decided upon a signal we should get up and rush them, firing as we went. First we had to check them out and their defenses. We were told that we had been reinforced with "H" Company and some others; we had a couple of mortars who would initiate the assault together with some B.A.R.s, for that extra punch. We crept forward through the mass of undergrowth and vines, like a jungle. The sunlight was very dim much to our advantage, it felt damp and hot as we inched along, plenty of mosquitoes harassing us. Everyone was completely drenched and no breeze at all, it reminded me of the South Pacific War movies I saw back. home. Like New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, the mosquitoes and flies drove us crazy and this humidity. I

thought, "This is France? This jungle and marshy place?" All this made things that much more difficult. Visibility was very bad and several hours had passed since we had entered this hellish humidity-ridden terrain. You could almost use a machete to clean the way. I told Bill and the others to stick close or we'd get lost in this green hell. Bill said grimly in fun, "All we need is the Japs!" It forced me to snicker a little. Those damned krauts must be in solid position. I was deathly afraid we'd end up in hand to hand combat or bayonet work. How I wished I were someone else. Bill said to me, "You watch for me and I'll watch for you, take care!" "Don't worry, I will." I replied, trembling some and breathing heavy. A lot of fear for what lay ahead. I wasn't alone, we all felt this oppressive feeling. It was enough to crack your mind. The time had come, "zero hour" of World War I. "This is it," Bill said. The signals were given by hand, no noise was permitted. Our tactical movement advanced, we made our difficult way through this jungle and marsh, tripping over vines, but no one could believe the July heat and humidity was this fierce. It made me wish we'd get in range, anything was better than this. Sloshing through muck and slime, and foul smelling aromas. Sometimes we were sinking up to our waist; I was afraid we'd drown before confronting the damned Germans. We finally came to the edge on a rise in the ground. And there they were! I never saw so many krauts collected in one area with a couple of small hills surrounding there position for protection. Luckily we came up behind them and their defensive positions. It looked like a couple of hundred of them as we could determine, not counting the two small rises or hills. Just as we were going to assault them we were halted. Artillery had been called up to make things a little easier. Air recon had spotted a lot of emplacements that had not been discovered. We were all informed not to move out till ordered to do so. There were, as we could see, a lot of machine gun emplacements and obstacles like wire and pit-falls and defensive protection. They were in strong defensive positions. Knowing the krauts, there were anti- personnel mines scattered about, but where they were was something else. We heard mortar fire was ordered to blow away the mines. What the big guns missed were to become targets for the tanks that showed up with flailers to blow up some of the mines. I'm pretty sure the krauts knew we were going to attack but not from which direction, they seemed to be watching. Our forces were in their rear positions -- and as yet, undiscovered. I think the terrain was too congested and heavy for them to send our patrols and scouts. At least this obstacle was in our favor. All at once we began to hear the roar of the big guns. The air filled with the devilish shrill of shells landing on the German positions. What scared me, a lot of them detonated a few feet from us, we had to shut our ears because of the God awful noise of exploding shells and the mortars soon joined in, so you can imagine how it sounded, enough to burst your eardrums and give you one violent headache the rest of your life. To me, being so close to the enemy it sounded worse than the barrage at St. Lo during the breakout. This

barrage must have lasted over an hour. I thought to myself, "No krauts could live through this carnage." I hoped when we got the sign to move in there would be more dead Germans than live ones. Sometimes you're in for a rude surprise and a nasty bloody fight would greet you. There was still enough opposition for a battle. After the barrage the aircraft came in for their part in the devastation. Fighter-bombers of all sorts dove in and hit anything in sight, including objects of suspicion. P-47's, P-51's even, Typhoons of the R.A.F. joined in. I believe everyone was in on this massacre. Those damned planes were wonderful to watch. What a field day they were having. The Germans didn't have an anti-aircraft gun which proved to be their deadly error. The final assault should be somewhat easier but we are still going to have a lot of losses. There will still be enough of the krauts to cause us trouble. The planes and artillery can only do so much. It's us infantry soldiers that will have to finish it, as an old saying went ... "It's the infantry that wins the war." Suddenly, after all the air activity and artillery, we got the word to move out. At that moment I forgot my fear temporarily, and started running towards the enemy. My mind was too busy concentrating on what I was doing. At the same time, our machine guns, B.A.R.s and rifle grenades and mortars began their offensives. Everyone was running and yelling and firing their weapons at the same time. I could tell the surprise assault caught them off guard, some started to retreat and run back. Others began firing back from their gun emplacements. The air was thick with slugs ripping overhead, some hitting targets. So far, I wasn't hit. I kept dodging from one tree or foliage growth to another. I stopped to catch my breath and I looked for Bill, but I didn't see him. I hoped he was doing OK. The dreadful thought occurred to me that he was wounded or worse, killed. As I lay behind some cover in a ditch, I spotted him and yelled, "Hey! Bill! Over here!" He then saw me and ran like hell towards me and leapt into the ditch with slugs hitting the ground around him and tearing into the trees, scattering bark and wood splinters like shrapnel, which could be lethal. Some Germans nearly spotted us and raked the area in front of us with a deadly swath of fire, kicking up dirt, stones and tree branches. A dreadful fear gripped me, too much time to think. My gut felt empty and hurt, I just felt all washed out. I could have stayed here and slept, despite the war all over. I don't think anyone would have missed me, not my platoon. Maybe they would've considered me a casualty. We were pinned down with the kraut machine gun zeroing in on our position. We had to decide what to do. "I almost forgot, I got grenades! How stupid of me. We'll fix their asses!" I said. "I know about where they are. Bill, you cover me with rounds from your rifle. At the same time I'll lob the grenades into their position! I can reach them, maybe I'll get two grenades off in short order. Right after that, lets jump out and finish them off, if they're alive! At least we'll get the jump on 'em." Bill agreed, adding, "It's worth a try but be careful and quick, damn it!" Bill opened up at them with his M-1 to keep their heads down. At the same time I leapt, pulling the pins on both grenades and let go, then I charged down following the

dreadful detonation. Flash and smoke! There was no sign of movement, so I yelled, "Let's go first!" as we ran to their emplacement. The grenades did the job. But for insurance, we emptied our rifles into them. I got scared, my heart was beating like a trip hammer. We both sat down and laughed in hysterics while a general battle war was raging against the German positions. We got up and ran ahead; the area was loaded with German corpses from our aircraft strafing and the artillery barrage. The guys from both G and H Companies had experienced a real bloody day. As we continued our advance, some guys from the other units caught up to us, and they had gotten some of their men killed and wounded in isolated skirmishes. A lot of replacements were casualties. It was a deadly war for them to gain experience in. Three or four men from "G" Company were with us, I forget their names. I remember one was Sgt Wilson. We were both glad he had survived. But the battle wasn't over yet, there was still a lot of enemy about the area. The bombardment and artillery didn't get them all as we had figured. But they did take a heavy toll and we were thankful, for that made our job easier. We all agreed that if they had tanks, we would have been in a hell of a mess. I said that we heard the treads of a tank, "Oh no, they're bringing up the Panzers! Are we prepared for this?" Two of these tanks turned out to be M-4's, "Shermans". We breathed a sigh of relief. That episode had about scared us to death. After all we had gone through ... as we all lay there under the cover of underbrush and shrubs, we heard sounds and yells directly in front of our position. Sgt. Wilson grabbed his binoculars and gazed. It was a German counterattack, more fighting for us as their vague forms took shape. The kraut soldiers were advancing towards us well within range. "They are in for a real shock," I thought. "Load up your rifles and wait until they are closer, but wait till I open up. Everybody join in! We should kill the whole F___G bunch of the bastards! Pick your targets, there's enough to go around!" So we waited impatiently until they moved in closer. It felt like hours. The suspense was fierce. It was all I could do not to open fire but I held on till Sgt. Wilson opened up. "We should get most of them with the first volley." Before anything happened, we heard the sounds of tanks on our right flank. Behind us, our tanks showed up. I almost forgot about that. Thank God they showed up! The tanks began firing their cannons on the advancing Germans. All hell broke loose! Within just a few seconds I heard Sgt. Wilson yell, "Fire at will!" and we all began firing like hell. The noise was deafening. It looked like one hell of a lethal fire on the enemy. The German Infantry fell by the dozen. Between the 75's of the Shermans and our rifles and machine guns it was too much for them to oppose. A lot of the enemy that had not gotten hit started to fall back. Now it was just a matter of time. Some of the attacking krauts got pretty close but we cut them down in short order. I spotted some SS bastards among them. Those are the Germans we hated most of all. The infamous Waffen SS indicated to me that the F___G bastards were the last ones left to fight in the kraut army. It's not the first time we showed the damned SS they weren't king shit! They could be beaten! We always had orders from our C.O. and Company Officers ... No SS prisoners! And we didn't take any if we could help it! There was still some hot and heavy fighting. There were more of them than we thought. I just burned out my rifle. The shooting was so intense. Two or three krauts came up pretty close to me and Bill. They came no closer, I remember I shot two of them

within a couple of feet and that was too close! Bill and some other soldiers accounted for a few more of them. What Germans weren't hit began to retreat. It was just about all over, the tanks kept firing at the remainder of the survivors of which there were still plenty. They had enough and we did, too. We were sure glad it ended in our favor. Until the tanks arrived I wasn't sure of the outcome. We had a number of men wounded but no one killed. The thing I was happiest about was that hand to hand and bayonet fighting was avoided. Although some of those forward German elements came pretty close to using this type of warfare. I'm glad I didn't run out of ammo at that time. As I think about it now I didn't have many rounds left. I know by personal experience with close in fighting and dread it with horror and I never was in favor of this type of combat. And I always hoped it was not that common an occurrence but at times it was unavoidable and could not be helped, especially in clearing out opposition in houses or other buildings sometimes called "House Cleaning Operations." I always dreaded that type of fighting. You never knew who or how many were there or behind the door, waiting to kill you. The strong possibility of booby traps existed, which the Germans excelled at, they were masters at this type of dirty work, including mines. They even booby trapped their wounded and dead! Shows you what kind of bastards we were dealing with. There were many times like this previous battle. We were attacking heavily defended enemy emplacements and other defenses. I have a real fear and terror visualizing it and I'm actually getting in personal contact with the enemy -- hand to hand. It didn't always go to the strongest. There was a lot of quick reflexes and agile soldiers. Not all were in top physical strength. And, of course, "good luck" and an overflow of adrenaline helped. After the battle ended we all organized and started our advance across the battle site to count our losses and take a much needed rest until movement to the next objective. I think it was going to get worse before it got better and my thought and Bill's thoughts were correct. I told Bill we were lucky to God to live through another fracas until it would end in total German defeat. Bill replied, "Yeah, when? We kill a lot of Germans and destroy their tanks, artillery and aircraft but they always have the means to replace it with fresh equipment!" "They are a fanatical and tenacious brutal bunch, I'll grant them that!" I remarked. "God willing we'll get through it alive," Bill added, "But before that time comes, we'll get a lot more losses, POWs and wounded." "The men like you and me left in the Company and a few others are all that is left from our original Company. It's just about an all new "G" Company now ... Not many of us old original guys left," Bill observed and I reluctantly agreed. "You know, it almost seems like yesterday we were all together in Texas, the California desert and Fort Dix. Now we are practically all gone." Bill said. "I guess we never thought there would be a day of reckoning. It's not the same old Company G," I replied.

"Well, there's me and you," and we sort of laughed but not in joy. We could be the next ones on the list. We both were resigned to that. "You were born in Pennsylvania and I was born in Canada, brought to New York City and we are ending our earthly lives in France, kind of funny in a way," I remarked. "And tragic at the same time. What will all the girls do if we don't make it back?" Bill added, "Yeah, it's their loss!" And we got a laugh about it. "It's seldom that there was any laughter at all since D-day," I remarked. "It's not a laughing matter," Bill replied. Chapter 29 After the Killing I was wounded once already in the early stages of the Normandy Campaign and was returned to combat and what was left of the original "G" Company. Sad to say it was cut down quite a bit with some killed and wounded and the ones who being wounded, never returned. I was happy for them, so far I have survived but have a feeling I will never see my family or good ol' NYC again and the Statue of Liberty. There's a law of averages and this is what I felt back in June of 1944. I felt this from the first time I landed on Normandy Beach, known to us as Utah Beach, until the last time in combat in October '44. A short time after this vicious battle members of the Graves Registration arrived with their trucks and ambulances to pick up the dead soldiers from both sides. They will have some terrible job in store for them which they should be used to, since the days of the beach landings in early June. Normandy is clogged with numerous grave sites with complete bodies and numerous parts of bodies, blown apart by small arms, mines and the big guns from both sides. Identifying them will be a time consuming job, if they're lucky, and a stinking one to boot, especially in hot weather where decomposition is swift. I believe that the worst part of a battlefield is after the killing is over. I tell you the truth. It takes a special breed to be with the Graves Registration Unit. Those guys following the war will probably be morticians, embalmers or funeral directors. This is their "on-the-job" training. A little grim humor here. I mentioned earlier I had strong feelings of not surviving this war. Bill and I discussed this, he entertained the same hairraising feelings of not getting back home alive. I guess most of us had the same awesome feelings. What bothered me and Bill most was how we would get killed or badly wounded, that scared us most of all. Bill jokingly said, "I don't mind dying so much or laying in the grave so long."

I looked at him and said, "You might not end up in a grave! Just a grease spot, especially from one of those f-----g mortars or German 88's!" Bill added, "Let's talk about something else, it's getting spooky." "You know. Bill, you've been such a good loyal pal that if I had a clean pair of good socks, I'd give 'em to you! How do you like that?" "Oh yeah? You're a damned good liar, too!" Bill laughed as he said it. Let me tell the reader about the combat narratives of the area we were fighting in called Normandy. A very beautiful and ancient province of France, many wars were fought here against the Viking raiders, The Hundred Year War, and other internal battles between the Nobility and the Kings. More or less, all through French history up until the Normandy Beach assault. We found the province well suited for close combat due to the farmland, hedgerows, orchards, wooded areas, swamps or marshes, creeks and rivers, etc. All these varieties of terrain made for ideal warfare tactics. It reminded me of the FrenchIndian conflict for the mastery of earlier North America by the French and their Indian allies against the forces of the British in the 1600s to France's defeat in 1759-60, the American Revolution and the Indian wars. I remember reading the history of these wars and New France by the American historian Frances Parkman, the first and foremost writer of this period. I also enjoyed the fictional work of James Fenimore Cooper, such as "The Leatherstocking Tales," "Last of the Mohicans," "Deerslayer," and "Drums Along the Mohawk," which kids in my generation learned and read about. The terrain of the province of Normandy proved to be bad tank country but an infantry and artillery battleground. This was mostly an infantryman's nightmare. As an example, you could be on one side of a hedgerow and Germans on the other side, and neither would know the presence of the other. This area was infested with hidden machine gun emplacements, mines, booby traps and hundreds of German snipers high up in the trees. We encountered small hamlets and villages ideal for defensive warfare, so it was a green hell, a nightmare. These areas were excellent for surprise attacks and ambushes, instant death by a sniper. A quiet sunny day was misleading for an infantry soldier, unwary of the danger. The foreboding loomed ahead of something about to erupt. And all hell would break loose by the bullet from a well hidden foe. So the German in the occupation had a lot of time to fortify himself in the preparation of an ambush. The inevitable conflict gave the Germans an advantage over us. This will give the general reader an idea of the region that I was fighting in. Both deadly and beautiful, a death-ridden land where war had been waged throughout the ages. This province had been a witness to battles between the English and the French for domination up until the French and German Antagonism in deadly warfare in later generations reaching the beginning of World War II in 1939 until 1945. I have included pages of this Normandy warfare from a history of the 90th Division of which I was a member, to give the reader a good idea of the battle conditions. I have written about my part in it. The Normandy Campaign was my "baptism of fire." The later Campaign of Northern France and Lorraine added to my bloody and deadly experience, adding stress and constant danger to the horror of combat.

While looking for water to fill my canteen, Bill and the others came to a dirt road leading to a cluster of farm dwellings, surrounded by a large granite wall. When I turned the corner to the entrance of the cobblestone courtyard, I saw a grim and obscene site. A number of American soldiers, I forget how many, apparently had been taken prisoner and lined up against the wall and shot to death, murdered is more like it. It made me retch and cry. My anger and grief were beyond words. I stood for a moment, spellbound by this atrocity. I was hoping some were still alive but all the soldiers were dead and mutilated. It looked like it had been committed a couple of hours ago in their fast retreat. This is the handiwork of the cultured Huns we had to deal with. No humanity or compassion. I hoped to hell they met their just reward after this outrageous crime. This war without compassion and demonic cruelty was the truth. This was the German mentality and "kulture" to inferior nationalities. I sure as hell will remember this scene of wanton cruelty. I made a vow ... that this atrocity will be avenged. I am, by nature, a decent soldier, but no more. At times I understand that Canadian, British and other allies got the same treatment. I saw numerous civilians, old men, women and children and sick cripples murdered in cold blood, not just by the SS either. The regular Wehrmacht also committed atrocities on a large scale, bringing harm to innocent people. These bastards were not animals but sub-human perhaps is the right title. It's an insult to animals, I hope we devastate and destroy the whole damned nation when we finally invade this accursed Germany. The Russians and the Poles will show them their wrath. What the damn Germans inflicted on Europe during WW I and WW II would make Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane look amateur. The Krauts had it down to a science. They all had that race superiority and overall arrogance and a cruel streak toward other nations. The Germans showed no compassion and cried that the Americans and the British were the barbarians picking on the poor Germans. What a joke, a sick joke! Maybe I'm wrong in my feelings but I cannot forgive or condone the barbarians! Christians say I should forgive my enemies -- not by a long shot. I've seen too much. I've seen enough of these brutalities and atrocities. In this man's war, it's bad enough to destroy your enemy in justifiable combat without killing innocent civilians and POWs. Violence brings out the worst in soldiers. I am guilty of a number of things, which in most cases, I'm truly sorry for. Such is war. One time I found a chaplain with a cross on his helmet beside two dead GIs. He attempted, I guess, to give them their last rites and some damned German shot all three of them. It's a lovely war. An example of how close combat can be follows. We were dug in inside an orchard awaiting further orders. At about 10 to 11 o'clock at night we heard the sound of tanks approaching to our front. The word came up that enemy tanks on a recon patrol were rolling by and were expected to come through our positions. We were told not to fire, to remain in our foxholes so not to give away our positions. This was one very scary experience. Our anti-tank force would deal with them, we hoped, with the 105 mm guns. I hoped they would destroy them. I hoped to God I wouldn't get crushed by one them while in my hole. I said my prayers. They stopped for a few minutes and soon started out again. It felt like ages waiting for the awful anxiety and suspense to pass. I had a frantic motion to get up and run but stayed in my hole. The tanks came closer and finally crashed through the trees and undergrowth, rumbling through our position. One came clattering

so close to me I could have touched it. It was terrifying as they proceeded through. Soon enough the enemy tanks crashed into our tank destroyers and were dealt with. All of them were hit, there were six or seven Panther tanks. Mark Ill's or IV's. When those anti-tank guns erupted it sounded like all hell broke loose. The noise was damned hellish. Within seconds the enemy tanks were engulfed in flames, no Germans escaped, and we didn't see anyone. When we left our dugouts, the entire area was in flames, the heat worse and nearly unbearable. All of us moved out of the area to the next field and dug in or hid along the ditches in the orchard. Here we waited, again, for the next God knows what. This was July, hot and humid, in more ways than one. A lot of firefights, attacks and counterattacks. The 8th Air Force and the RAF had a very busy time, thank God for the fly boys. The Krauts must have had stiff necks from looking up. A lot of their movement took place at night where the fighter-bombers couldn't spot them to Hell, so we had a lot of infantry fights, patrols and ambushes.
Chapter 30 Gone Are the Days ... I almost became a casualty, again, in July of '44 in the vicinity of the Seves River. The morning was humid, hot and a fine drizzle drenched everybody. Everyone felt miserable and depressed and most of us were on edge. My throat and mouth were brick dry despite my drinking water from my canteen. I could tell my anxiety was fierce for what lay ahead. Another attack against Germans, no doubt. Heavily defended and death dealing positions to contend with. We were situated in a small wooded area and remained behind our defenses of brushes, ditches and hedges. I kept looking around, especially at the trees for the feared and hated snipers. I hated those damn sneaky Hun snipers! But they were efficient death merchants. The terrain was hilly and forested with the occasional marshes with plenty of fog and mist. This made for a real spooky landscape, like those horror films with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi I used to see at the local movie theater. An artillery barrage was called for on the Kraut lines. The shells from our 105's and 155's were screaming over us by the score. We could hear some 81 mm mortars joining in, too. The ground literally shook like a quake. I thought how glad I was that they weren't falling on us. God knows we got our share of the German heavy stuff and it's something you don't want to experience. We called it the "devil's invention." That shrapnel can really tear a person up, sometimes with nothing left of human beings. I've seen foxholes and slit trenches just ripped apart by those hellish weapons, leaving nothing left of the troops. Some of the worst artillery were the ones with time fuses set to detonate above you, which threw all those chunks of red hot shards down upon you. We avoided wooded areas or near trees that when the shells exploded, hurled all the shrapnel and wood splinters causing terrible wounds. I remember one time we spotted the German infantry moving into a wooded field or forest and we opened up on them with our heavy guns. The results were beyond description. We could hear the shells falling in on them and the screams of agony from wounded and dying soldiers. I tried to shut out the sounds by covering my ears but without success. We wiped out several companies of Kraut infantry. Better them than us. Following the barrage we advanced into the forest where there was no opposition that I know of. The exception was minor small arms fire but that's all, we didn't lose a man. We began moving out from behind our shelter. The moment of truth had arrived. Bill and I hoped our artillery had done a bang-up job, which would make it easier for us. The air was filled with shells hurtling over us towards enemy positions. Our advance continued behind the so-called rolling barrage, hoping to hell there wouldn't be any short rounds. The short ones are the projectiles that fail to hit the

enemy and fall on your position. Today they call it "friendly fire." I wonder who thought of that stupid remark. Far from being "friendly," we were so close you could hear the red hot slug zip overhead as we moved out. Once the artillery lifted we'd see how many survived and what we would have to fight; so far we could see a lot of dead and dying Krauts. Then, suddenly, small arms fire broke out in our front. Through the crack of rifles and machine guns I could see some of our men go down. We didn't get them all. Those surviving soldiers were going to give us holy hell. I could see as we ran forward, yelling and screaming curses and battle cries, some of the Germans firing at us. We pushed back the enemy, avoiding their bullets. During the assault I was struck with awe that none of us had been hit. I could hear and see the German bullets tearing into the trees and spitting up dirt in front of me. Our advance continued, we dodged behind some cover and took aim at the enemy. I remember hitting two Germans who went down and didn't move. There were a lot of Germans I could see but they seemed to be abandoning the fight, firing as they retreated. I was panting like a dog and running out of steam. I quickly developed a mad thirst but couldn't take time for a swig of the canteen. Too busy keeping alive. My adrenaline was running high, I could see Bill to my right. Thank God, he was still alive! Bill and I ran up a little path until we reached a rise or small hill. As we reached the crest we surprised an enemy machine gun position with three men inside. Their backs were to us and when they spun around we emptied our rifles into them. One of them fired back at me, his bullet just zipped by my head. I quickly dropped him with several rounds. One soldier attempted to flee running up an embankment with the machine gun but Bill caught him with a round. I quickly reloaded my rifle just as two krauts came out of the undergrowth, having heard the firefight. Bill and I killed them both. I quickly said to Bill, "That's enough excitement for me!" Bill said, "Yeah, five or six less Germans to worry about." After that arduous incident we just sat down, surrounded by dead Germans, collecting our wind, happy to have survived. There was still a lot of fighting as the high rate of gunfire, grenades and mortars continued. I couldn't help but gaze at the dead krauts and be thankful it wasn't one of us. I said to Bill, "I'm getting too old for this type of activity." I wished to God this God damned war would end. How little did we know how much of this fighting was left. A couple of more years. The thought depressed me. I felt I was reaching my limit of energy and courage. There must be a limit that one can reach. After a short rest we got up and moved on for what was left of the battle and what else lay ahead. At least so far we were in one piece. We were trying to locate "G" Company. I hated to think of the casualties, if any. Maybe the other guys came out OK. We had already lost some of the original guys, I wondered how many of our old guys will still be alive when this unholy mess ends. I tried not to think of it. I knew we would lose some of our guys from "G" Company, but somehow I was hoping we would all escape the "Grim Reaper" and all survive this conflict. And live to talk about it later over a few beers, but I was just fooling myself. My worst fears were confirmed. We lost three men killed in action. Lawson, Hilton and O'Brien were from the original company. Seven wounded included Corlett, Ramsey (the Scot). We called Ramsey and Cormier the French-Canadians from Rhode Island. I forget the others. Ramsey apparently lost a leg and Corlett lost an eye. The thought hit me how many more of the old gang would become future casualties. I tried to bury it from my mind. You hate to lose any of the men, especially your old friends, the guys you lived and trained with and fought like hell with. An infantry man has a chancy job. We are called the "Infantry, the Queen of Battle." All this warfare, good and bad, for better or worse, it's the infantry that leads the way, and I'm proud I was one of them. These things may sound corny or square to some, but nevertheless it's all true. Some of these stories I relate sound incredible but did, in fact happen to me. I didn't minimize anything. I told it as it happened. You'd be surprised and shocked what a combat soldier can do when you are young. As you age, you slow down a lot, your reflexes and endurance change. If I had to do what I did as a combat soldier now I'd never make it. Most of the men in my company were older than me. I was 18 years old in 1942 and left the Army at age 23 in 1946. A lot of my buddies were

in their late 20s or 30s. Some were in their 40s. Most of those men who survived the fighting have now passed into old age, reaching the late 70s or early 80s. I always picture these men as they were back in '42 - '45. No one thinks of getting older. I myself am 69 going on 70. And I'm one of the youngest of the old. I'll probably be one of the last of the surviving members from "G" Company, 357th Infantry. It sometimes appears to me that I have been in many phases of life. It amuses me. People tell me, despite my injuries and illnesses, that I will probably outlive everyone. I don't know if that is good or bad. Hell, with everything I've gone through and all the unfortunate things which happened to me, I wonder how come I survived this long. "Luck of the Irish" except I'm not Irish, just a hard-boiled French-Canuck with Scots and Irish connections. I'm inflicted with combat injuries, both mental and physical. All had an adverse effect on my life. The experiences I went through changed me a lot. My general outlook since age 18 has been affected by this war. I learned fast and grew up quickly, more so than perhaps the average kids my age. I had a lot of ups and downs in my early years which had a dramatic effect on my life and brought on a great deal of depression. And the war. I had a tougher upbringing than my present children. In my youth, maturity had a different meaning. I had a lot of rebellion and aggression stored up in me. And a certain hardness. Life was at times most difficult to endure, both at home and at school. For the younger part of my life the Army was my family and I felt a tremendous loss when I was discharged. Then I had to be reborn to a new way of life. It was scary and foreign to me. I found it most difficult to adjust and acclimate. It came slowly. Things were happening to me, spiritually and mentally. I could not understand what was happening to me. I became distrustful and wary. I became fond of animals, dogs, etc. I showed affection toward animals and they took to me. Most people did not or could care less about my attitude. I was tossed off as being another unorientated veteran. My mother, father, sister and brother supported me. I was uneducated and unfeeling. I still retain some of these unwanted detrimental feelings. My interests were varied and classical. Art, writing about my love of nature, animals, archeology, history, music and military affairs became the focus of my awareness. I tried to relive the last years of my life, 1942-1946. Adjustment was hard. I had a strong feeling of loss and guilt. The war influenced me a great deal. That life was not a bowl of cherries became apparent. I remember my mother telling me this as I grew up. I believed the majority of people had feelings of ingratitude towards veterans. A "So what?" attitude and short memories. And so it went ... but I'm not bitter about the war and proud of what I believed was my duty. I believe that serving my country in time of war as a volunteer was the most important and satisfying phase of my life. Knowing first hand what human beings are capable of doing in unfeeling actions and deliberate cruelty against good and honest people and other creatures. The destruction of culture and the livelihood of other nations, all the great knowledge and talent that should have been passed on for future generations was unmercifully destroyed forever. I saw and met a number of poor unfortunate inmates of some of the deadly German camps. The survivors haunt me to this day. One man I spoke to was a gifted heart surgeon in Germany. Another an electrical engineer from Denmark. Another a math scientist. The first two I mentioned were Jews, the others were Christians, the victims who had no profession, suffered most as "undesirables" and sent to slave labor camps or murdered. Maybe they were shot, or sent to the gas chambers. There was one day I'll never forget. Like many others in this bloody conflict, it was a warm day with a cool breeze as we lay there along a ditch adjacent to an orchard with heavy shrubs. We were taking a break, smoking a cigarette, when suddenly we heard a rush of air and a God awful shriek overhead. I started to rise to my feet with other men in the squad when we heard this huge thud and the ground erupted in a blinding flash. All sorts of debris was flying around, tearing up the trees and spewing rocks. With that blast I was flung up into the air and thrown a few feet onto the ground with a huge impact. I was temporarily stunned and unable to move. It came to my mind, "What the hell struck or hit us?" I was conscious of bleeding badly in my mouth, a salty thick taste which frightened me. I heard screams and groans from the others. A German mortar

projectile had struck just a few yards away. The concussion blew over our position. Most of us were laying around, dazed, unable to move. I thought every bone in my body was broken, it had happened so quickly. I couldn't get orientated and an awful pain gripped my insides. Am I dying? I looked up and some of my pals were not moving. The thought came to me that most of us had been killed! There was a hazy mist all around and an acrid stench in the air. I noticed the grass was on fire. I managed to get up and stagger to my feet. I was covered with blood but I couldn't tell how or if I had been cut up or injured. My head and body hurt like hell. I thought sure I was hurt bad. Quickly I looked for Bill. He was standing nearby, walking around dazed, his rifle in his hands. We both cried out, "Are you OK?" We were so glad we survived the shelling, we went to check out the others who were doing likewise. The enormity of the blast did not strike us right away. We were in a complete daze following the explosion. There was only one shell that blasted us and we were damn lucky we weren't all killed. In looking around the area we found some casualties, wounded from the shrapnel. We also found some soldiers who were killed, replacements who were with us for only several weeks. Maybe they never fired a shot. "Boy!" I remarked to Bill. "There's nothing safe in this war, just out of the blue! Damn it was close. God must have made them drop a bad shot!" Someone else added, "Today is Sunday, a day of rest ... nothing is sacred, even in war!" What a hell of a war this is. "Up here it don't matter," I replied. "Let's get out of here before they send over another shell for good measure." Mortar fire is deadly frightening. Upon exploding it scatters much of its shrapnel at ground level or just above. You can always tell mortar fire is coming by the sound the projectile makes when it leaves the tube. We all dreaded it, but then I dreaded all of it. And the mines! Boy! You had to be on your guard with those things. The Germans laid a lot of mines in their fields. They were there long enough to do a good job against the Allies. We lost quite a few men to the damned mines and booby traps. You couldn't be cautious enough. And still being careful was not a safeguard. The only non-lethal mines to the infantry were the ones meant for vehicles and tanks, because only they were heavy enough to set them off. The Germans employed a dirty trick against anti-tank patrols. Occasionally the Germans would put a mine into a foxhole and then one of our guys would jump into the hole during combat and, goodbye pal, nothing. A deadly joke. As I jogged along I thought, "If it's my time to be killed, let it be quick. None of this lingering on". Men who were killed outright were the lucky ones. So were the million dollar wounds. I saw these guys that were badly hit and still alive, decimated and in ungodly pain. Nothing could be done for them. Some were missing parts of their bodies and still clinging to life. You can't comprehend it but there it is, until he expires which could be hours. Some wounded that were not attended to immediately received aid too late and didn't survive anyway. This scared me the most, or any of us in fact, or the poor bastards that burned alive in a tank hit by shell fire. Trapped and no way to save them from the horror of being burned alive. The God awful screams coming out of the demolished vehicle, all this was enough to flip your mind. As it is, I suffered a lot of physical injuries so in the long run most of us soldiers suffered some effects of that war. With all the trauma present, the constant dodging of death and horror, I can consider myself luckier than some. And I don't regret having done my part making history. But am I damn glad I came out of it alive? It did, however, have a profound traumatic effect on my life, causing me to grow up before my time. I have arrived at a point in this narration of exploits and personal incidents of mortal combat to the person or persons who read these actual happenings of the fighting I was involved in. A retrospect of feelings, fear and hatred, acts of honorable deeds and dishonor, a mixture of

rashness, compassion, heroics, feelings of unreality, murderous intent, etc. As a child, I was infatuated with anything military. Being a soldier or airman was the highest achievement for me. A call to glory, adventure, dedication to patriotism bordering on a religion. I still have the same feelings although subdued. War and soldiering ain't what it used to be, the romance is kind of lost to much modernization. It's not an honorable dirty business. Now it's a refined scientific business where close in fighting is minimized. I think WW I and II, Korea and Viet Nam were the last of the old time conflicts. Gone are the days of two men or armies who went at it with swords and lances. Now you have progress to a multitude of ways to kill someone. The old heroic warfare is obsolete. I will attempt to tell the reader of some the most terrifying and frightening things I felt in combat, not necessarily in exact order. Artillery always scared the hell out of me. Besides killing you outright it could inflict a serious wound. And still leave you alive, barely. I remember under an intensive German artillery barrage, of which I was lucky to survive, but it terrorized me so badly that I fell into an uncontrollable state of fear. A fear that made me cry incoherently and pray out loud, looking for a way to escape possible death but had to sweat it out. How I feared and hated artillery! Machine gun fire was also devastating and deadly. It could chop you up into chopped meat or cut you in half. I had a guy in my Company have his face shot away and would have been better off dead. Sniper war was something else. You could expect them to show up anytime. These guys were the supreme experts at killing. There are no bad snipers, only those too anxious and miss, lucky for you! It happened to me once. A sniper shot at me and the bullet struck a tree about an inch from my head. I thought to myself, "How could he have missed me?" but he must have been off that day, by rights I should have been killed. As an example, how one lived from day to day, never a dull moment. Beyond the regular dose of rifle fire and ambushes, which scared the hell out of you, the antipersonnel mines posed as a deadly threat, too. You only have to step on one of those and that's all she wrote! One would be better off dead than to survive a mine explosion. Imagine your legs torn off, your body mangled to hell ... the horror of it terrorizes me. Another lovely method of death was encountered while crossing a stream or river with all your equipment to weigh you down in case you lost your footing or stepped in beyond your head. Consider the danger involved in having a building collapse on you during shell fire. How about being crushed to death by a rolling tank? These are some of the wonderful ways you can come to a bad end in war. Sometimes soldiers engaged in hand-to-hand combat. Although rare, it was sometimes encountered during a general assault on a defensive position. If you weren't cut down by small arms fire or the Germans surrendered or were overrun, then this type of warfare was possible, but not favorable. We didn't worry about enemy aircraft as we had air superiority of the air and the krauts had to worry about that! How they were scared to death of our fighter- bombers who were patrolling the skies almost daily like birds of prey. P-47's, Mustangs, P-38's and the Spitfires, Typhoons, Mosquitoes and A-20s, etc. The list goes on. Both the U.S. Air Force and the RAF had a field day against German ground movement. The Germans dared only to move out at night, and even that was dangerous. I always had the dread feeling I wouldn't see the end of the war. That somewhere in France stood a wooden cross waiting for me. This was where my life would find its end. I could see my mom and sister placing flowers on my grave and me as a ghost witnessing this final gesture. If only I hadn't been there when that sniper fired or that I had missed that mine. It still makes me shudder. The only consolation I would have is that I took some krauts with me for company. Combat is an existence of anxiety, fear and suspense which in itself can cause you to go to the funny farm, sooner or later. Sometimes guys make it all the way, but as I found out later, after the war, the whole thing catches up with you. The memories, the pain of living through the horror of combat, the killing and the carnage of the whole sordid heart breaking experience. It's bound to

have an adverse effect on you if you have any sensitivity at all. Even the strongest flipped their senses. Tough guys who you think nothing could affect them might be the first ones to break under the stress and strain. I developed combat fatigue or battle exhaustion after I got wounded and it all came to a head. That I still suffer with grief today means it will probably last an eternity. I will always see men dying horribly at my feet, friends of mine, including those from back home. The cruelty and the barbarism and continual slaughter and carnage envelops my consciousness. The decimation of my company to a surviving few original members, the heroism I've seen and the morbid incidents, the innocent people slain and the poor animals hurt and destroyed... The next installment which takes place in August, September and ends at the end of October 1944 at Metz and along other places in the Maginot Line area in the Lorraine Campaign. Here we served next to Patton's Third Army where my combat days came to an end. (Unfortunately, this is where Guy Charland's unfinished memoir ends, except for some poetry which will be posted soon.)

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