|29TH DIVISION - WWII STORIES|
29th Infantry Division
115th Infantry Regiment
We were billeted with English troops in Bodmin. The people of England were always very hospitable. In England we were always welcomed into their homes and served tea. We would bring candy to them, which was scarce because of the lack of sugar. The candy was certainly appreciated unlike the Americans who would gulp down a bar of candy; the English would cut off a small piece and save the rest. When we weren’t visiting families we would visit a pub. All their spirits would be consumed in about 45 minutes and the party would be over. Then it would be back to the barracks. I had one pass to London where I was to meet my brother who was In the Air Force near Norwich, England. I had little money to on pass but fortunately I made enough the night before at a card game, which I had never played before but was very lucky. En route by train, we were held up because of bombing at cities around us. I got to London but never did get to see my brother. I was billeted at the Hans Crescent Hotel in London and saw little of my bed. We were out all night enjoying ourselves away from military restrictions. There were a few air raids during my stay (48 hours) but they were not nearby.
As D-Day neared our restrictions increased. Along with preparations, water proofing vehicles, equipment and even wallets. I hesitate to tell you how we waterproofed them or our rifles. This was all done in a marshalling area near Plymouth. About ten days or perhaps two weeks before D-Day the English people in that area could not go out nor could we. During that time we were taught alternate duties like radio, map readings, etc. We would have meetings in a tent where there was a sand table model of the beaches, Utah, Omaha, Juno and Sword. We would also review the sectors of each beach (Dog Red, Dog Green and Dog White). When Colonel Eugene Slappey finished his instructions to us he gave us a final thought to keep I mind. He said, "Most of you men are not coming back". Not very encouraging but we went about our tasks anyway. Most were leisurely until I noticed an unusual group at the far end of our area. They had a lot of shovels and other earth digging equipment. When I inquired as to their purpose I was told they were gravediggers (Again not encouraging). Suddenly, it was time to move out. We boarded trucks and headed to Plymouth. There among much confusion we boarded LST 496 on June 5th from Plymouth. I guess we went north along the coast of England and then made a turn toward France. I don’t know how far across the English Channel we went before we turned back to Plymouthdue to inclement weather. There was a lot of seasickness among the troops. One German bomber bombed us that night in Plymouth. I don't know what damage he caused but I'm sure he had no idea what was below him. It was a routine bombing run.
On June 6th we were on our way again. The channel was still rough and the coast of Francewas visible. As we approached all hell broke out. We couldn’t approach our designated area, Dog Green, since we were on an LST. They knew we had heavy equipment and they made sure we were not welcomed. Whoever was in command of that ship decided to try other beaches. I think we tried all including Dog Red, Green and White. We got close enough to pick up wounded then would back off for awhile and go into the beach again. About that time the wounded would start yelling "No! No!" They could feel the motion of the vessel returning. On the LST they made makeshift operating equipment and obviously due to the lack of anesthetics there was a lot of screaming to help the wounded. As we neared again under fire out comes a load of German prisoners. The channel was choppy, their small boat was weaving and they attached the ropes from the davits to hoist them. Evidently with the choppy channel waters one end of their ropes on the davit became undone and spilled prisoners into the channel. A few were saved. We could not land D-Day during the night but those on shore were wishing they were on board and that on board were wishing they were on shore. That night in total darkness we were strafed and bombed. Our LST was hit. I might add that it sounded like you were in a metal bathtub and a bunch of large rocks were hitting it. Suddenly, a ball of fire exploded above us and cheers went up to no avail. The anti air craft were hitting balloons. As dawn appeared, we were ready to land. As we were about to disembark a loud crash was heard. The LST has elevators that lower heavy equipment to the lower level and opening doors. The elevator had malfunctioned and crashed to the floor of the LST and killed three of ours.
When I landed on the beach it was covered with bodies. Most were not covered and some had boxes over them while others looked to be covered with Indian blankets, which I thought to be strange. Still others were in pieces. At about that time we were all separated. We lost our gun (not small arms) and were complete chaos. I was in a rifle company and I was the radioman. I also did wire repair and layed wire. On the beach we went up the well-protected bluffs. One officer told us to make sure you step in the same footsteps as the man in front of you because of the mines. If you didn’t you would end up like the people lying around you. When I got to the top of the bluff the machine gun blasts, mortar and small arms became abundant. As we were pinned down at first I did what I was taught which was to take your bayonet and probe for the mines. I did that for about 30 seconds but there was no time for that. You want to lie as flat as you can and as soon as you could. When I got up and exploded my head to fire over the hedgerows the guy next to me said, "Don’t do that!" Look at these dead guys around you. It’s a funny thing but he was firing by holding his gun over hedgerow without seeing the enemy. Stupid but safe. That ended when the Germans counterattacked. While we were pinned down up on the bluff, I noticed something unusual about a German soldier. His armored vehicle was flared open like a tin can. His leg lay next to me and it had on long underwear. I could still see the channel behind me. Progress was slow and bloody. It would be three days before I would get any sleep. No shower for three weeks. I had run out of food the third day and existed on my "D" bar.
Copyright: Laurent Lefebvre