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29TH DIVISION - WWII STORIES

 

Kearnie SLINGLUFF

 

29th Infantry Division

175th Infantry Regiment

G Company

We landed in England on October 11th, 1942. We thought we were a pretty tough outfit when we started out, and when we got to England we found out differently. I was a company commander of a rifle company, which is just an ordinary line company. I am going to kick the teeth down the throat of the Air Corps before I am through tonight. I am going to take a rap at the artillery before I am through tonight, and I am going to give you the story of G.I. Joe, because I was one of them.While we were in England during the training there, we learned how to march forty miles in a day; never learned how to like it but we learned how to march forty miles in a day, and keep on going afterward. The training was a little bit severe. We trained on the Dartmoor up around Princetown, the famous prison is there, and at one point our own mortar laid down on my company when it was out front, and I had about four casualties there, just in the training.Later on in the training in 1943 we had some amphibious maneuvers on the Bristol Channel, and there they threw all safety regulations to the wind. We allowed men right from then on to squeeze the trigger of a loaded rifle as long as they couldn't see a man through the sight, and it certainly was a great relief. We turned everything over to the platoon leaders and the men began to learn how to fight there. We did very well on those 1943 maneuvers on the Bristol Channel, and at that time we were notified that we were to be a part of the initial landing force whenever D-Day came around. So that, beginning in October, 1943, we knew what we had coming to us.At that time we were given a free rein as to the men we were to have. We got rid of any men who couldn't stand the gaff, and we got a replacement for him. The One Hundred and Seventy-Fifth Infantry of thirty-two hundred men during our stay in England got rid of fifteen hundred men that we sent to the S.O.S. and got replacements for them because they couldn't take the gaff. We were a pretty cocky outfit by the time we got through doing that. We were just about as cocky as any outfit can get. We could sit and figure it out, and we could think to ourselves, well, there are one hundred and forty million people in the United States. About twelve million of those are in the army. About seventy-five thousand are going to make that initial invasion, and we are it. We were damn proud of it.

Well, springtime came around, as it usually does every year, and in the middle of May we were shoved into what is called a marshaling area, where you go in and the M.P.'s guard the outside, and you don't go out again, and we were told that we were in there for the invasion. When we were well locked in they began to show us maps of just where we were to hit the coast of France. We knew we were to go right in on the Cherbourg Peninsula, and they had perfectly magnificent maps of the whole area that we were to hit. They had aerial photographs, correct photographs, which are about one over fifteen thousand roughly, that is, about four inches to a mile. We had oblique photographs that give you a picture of the terrain, although they are not very accurate as far as maps are concerned. We had pretty good situation maps, one over 63,360. That is one inch to a mile. So that you could get a broad picture of the thing. We also had maps one over five thousand, which is twelve inches to the mile which really gave you a picture of the little area you were to hit yourself.Aside form that they had sponge rubber maps, that showed the whole picture of the terrain, including all the trees. So that although we had never seen the ground, we knew where to hit.The area that was picked out for us was called Omaha Beach in all the orders that came down, and we didn't know at the time that Omaha Beach was going to be anything except another beach. But we saw the terrain there from our maps which showed us that the beach itself went back fairly flat about two to three hundred yards, and then went up sharply in a sand cliff that went about two hundred feet high. It had two draws coming down to the sea in our area. The one at the right went up to a little town called Verville. The one at the left went up just into the fields. My orders for my company were to go up the left-hand draw into the fields, and to a regimental assembly point there where I would get further orders.About June 1st we left this marshaling area. We went to Falmouth Harbor in the Helford River and we went aboard an LST, a ship of three or four thousand tons. The real name is Landing Ship Tanks. Those ships are supposed to berth about one hundred and forty-five men. I was the troop commander on the ship I went on, and I had four hundred and seventy-six on board. You get the idea that maybe it was a little crowded. It was.

We went on about the first of June. Then we pulled out into Falmouth Harbor and anchored. I went into the ward room and there was a big sign that said, "D-Day June 5th." So I knew that beginning roughly at that time life was going to be very uncomfortable and might be very short. But anyway we began to get a little tightened up inside because of it, and there isn't a man who didn't begin to get tightened up inside when he knew it, and then after we had been there for a couple of days the sign was changed to June 6th, and we entightened twenty-four hours worth and then started to tighten up again. The One Hundred and Seventy-Fifth Infantry, contrary to my father's statement, was in the third wave which was to go in on the -- I believe they called it the third tide. The first wave would go on the first tide, the second wave the second tide, and the third wave the third tide, which brought us over into D-Day plus one.So about June 5th we started on down the English coast keeping very close to the British shore, and then on the night of June 6th, June 7th, we headed right straight across the channel towards the Cherbourg Peninsula, and toward Omaha Beach. I woke up on the morning of June 7th after having slept out my shift, and went out and looked at the sky, and listened to the noise and looked and could see the coast of France way over in the distance about twenty-five miles away. I could see one hell of a lot of planes up overhead, and I could hear an awful lot of rumbling off in the distance. All the planes that were used over our heads are called P-38's. They are Lightnings. They are pursuit ships of ours, and they used nothing but P-38's over us because they are very easy to identify. They have the twin tail boom. It is the only fighter plane that has the twin tail boom.

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