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29TH DIVISION - WWII STORIES

 

Robert F. CLARK

Second Lieutenant

29th Infantry Division

116th Infantry Regiment

HHC

My father was Robert F. Clark and on D-Day, he was a second lieutenant assigned to HHC of the 116th regimental combat team. That morning, he and his unit were aboard LCI 91 headed for Omaha beach. As they got closer to the beach, they started taking fire from the Germans. The ship hit a mine in the water and was taking on water at the bow. The ships commander backed up and tried to come in stern first but created a larger broadside target for the enemy and the ship was then hit by an "88", and conditions worsened. Now the Coast Guard crew just wanted to get the ship in anyway they could.

Dad told me that a flame-thrower crewman from an engineer unit was hit in the flamethrower tank and the engineer and others near him caught fire from the jellied fuel, and quite unlike the movies, they made no noise, nor was there any screaming, as they stopped off the side of the boat, falling approximately 10 feet into the water below.

The ship had a landing ramp on either side of the bow, and as troops ran down them, they were being killed by small arms fire, and at least one artillery piece hit one of the ramps as well. Dad made it to the water, but had to ditch all of his heavier gear in order to get to the beach. All of the infantrymen had their rifles in plastic bags to protect them from saltwater rust, and the beach was full of abandoned equipment and a lot of dead men from his unit. (Many had the division logo painted on their helmets.)

Dad told me he was easy to spot on the beach as he was the only one he saw that morning wearing a new article of army clothing, later called the "Ike Jacket". Dad stayed on the beach for a long time helping bring injured parties in and prevented others from drowning.

Once off the beach, the first "German" he saw was a Eurasian, and on the way to St Lo, the first "German" tank he ever saw was a black in color captured Sherman tank. Part of dads' duties in the hedgerows was that of scouting, and on one day, he and his enlisted aide had scooted across a roadway and once they threw themselves to the far side of the road and against one of the hedge walls, they heard a noise, and looking up, saw German rifles atop the wall, slightly moving, and the Germans were apparently in company strength. The rifles were all pointing toward where dad and his partner had just come from, so likely, the Germans had just arrived. Dad said the barrels were close enough, they could have reached up and touched them. Later, when they related this story to HQ, some wise guy said "Why didn't you just grab 'em?" Dad told me that morning, he also noticed something about the Germans that served him thruout the war: German soldiers smelled like soap and leather, very distinct.

Later, not sure when it happened, American RCT's were assigned a French officer, to work as liaison with the Americans. French Lieutenant Michael Renee L'Huillier was assigned to HHC/116th and was assigned dad's partner as they roamed all over the battlefronts of France. They provided good intel to the division and wine for the troops, which the locals had no problem revealing to "Mike", a fellow Frenchman.

(by Robert F. Clark Jr)

 

Copyright: Laurent LEFEBVRE