Chapter 6 D-DAY —H-HOUR

D-DAY —H-HOUR

The following photo is from the 3rd Division history

LCI south France-1

I don’t know of any landing casualties such as that from our LCI.

The din and noise of the bombardment was deafening for about an hour before H hour –or more. Naval guns fired continuously and all other guns with artillery capability, plus aircraft, poured rounds upon round of shells ahead of us. It softened up the resistance.   There was a resort hotel on our beach and it was pock marked with artillery rounds. It was near but we couldn’t stop of course. There were some civilians in the area. Some of my buddies were offered items of food and drink from the happy civilians. I didn’t get the opportunity to accept offers.

Soon prisoners began to appear in long lines. I recall seeing one German soldier prisoner without pants or under wear. He was bleeding heavily in the scrotum area. There was no time to feel any agony for him or the other prisoners. The war was over for them! They were going to a heaven even if it was to be behind barbed wire.pows so_france

I was almost breathless. My heart was leaping and pounding inside of my chest as I hiked with my heavy load following about 20 feet behind the guy ahead. This is as we were instructed.-(commanded)

I’ll never forget that in front of me I saw a splash of a shell. A quick swish then a loud boom! It left a big black mark on the road not ten feet ahead of me! Amazingly I didn’t get hit with even one piece of shrapnel! The blast was beyond describing! It most likely didn’t help my hearing problem of today. I can still see that blast and splash!

We deposited out ammo somewhere at a designated location.bachus The ammo was now the responsibility of Sgt. Don Bacchus of Vashon Island Washington. He doled out the ammo and kept records. Our platoon marched (ran) in double double time to get inland as far as we could. The motto of the landing was, “NO MORE ANZIOS”–.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D-DAY plus ONE

 

It is now D-day plus one. The 16th of August. A day after hitting the beaches of Southern France, Part of the ‘Soft underbelly’ on Europe as Churchill called it. The landing itself was without the great resistance as on some of the other Beaches in war history. It was as intended to be a surprise. If the enemy had today’s satellites photos it could never have been a ‘sneak attack’. The armada of landing craft would have been easily detected.

It took a month or more to move the landing crafts from the Normandy beach head site so that we could use them. Normandy landing was made on June 6th, two days after we took Rome. The headlines and all the news focused on the Normandy landings and that might have been good strategy for our sake.   South France had heavy Coastal artillery and other defenses. The German army suspected there would be eventually a landing–either in South France or in Jugoslavia.

Our Platoon was almost on the run when we noticed a very tired German soldier in a state of heat exhaustion or feinting illness for sympathy. He was not resisting in the slightest. We didn’t have a reason to hurt him or be ‘tough’ on him. He had shed his side arm but kept his map case close to him and still on his belt. Our curiosity couldn’t keep us from investigating. He had a very large wad of French francs in the map case. I had no idea the money would be of any value so I didn’t demand a ‘share’. Having worthless money gave the GIs a kind of buzz wasting it. I did want the map case which was like new. I still have it. I sent it home at one of our opportune moments. Having ‘franking’ privileges was a plus for us. Of course the prisoner was stripped of anything such as his wrist watch. I took a picture from his map case and I will show you that picture which he carried next to his heart just the same as many of our GIs did who had wives and girlfriends. That particular German should be very happy that he fell into our hands. It was my assignment to accompany him back to someone who had authority to process him as a prisoner.

I sure didn’t need the extra mileage on my already sore feet; we had a lot of travel yet. I finally found an MP and handed him over, then backtracked to catch up to my platoon. It was a ‘double time march”. I didn’t want to be ‘lost’.

We were sweating like the dickens in the August heat. Pounding that road was taking its toll on the soles of your feet. Mine were in good shape from the rigorous hiking we did in our training. I had no blisters. I caught up somewhere to my platoon in the dark. I followed Smitty who had a phosphorous button on the back of his helmet. He was easy to follow. The road was just a dirt road winding up into a hill with brush growing along both sides. We were given breaks of 5 minutes on the hour. I was asleep before I hit the ground. Once I was awakened being dragged by a couple other GIs. They saved me from being run over by artillery tractors passing us and zooming on ahead of us. I still have no idea who to thank for that act in my behalf.

In the morning about 2 or 3:00 am, Captain Horan issued the order to “fall out against the hill side and dig in”. To hell with digging in I thought, I was too tired and I fell asleep in the brush on the hill side. So did the others. I didn’t hear any order to stand guard. We were in enemy territory for sure. We were a long way into and behind the enemy troops. Soon as it was day break, I heard shouting to get up. I saw some upper brass chewing on Captain Horan for ordering the troops to ‘fall out’. Captain Horan had the medics working on his huge blisters. He said to the Brass, “Look at my feet sir, and everyone’s feet are the same”. But not mine, because I made all the training hikes down in Pozzuloi. My feet were calloused.

We were back in a marching formation but not necessarily in step as if on the parade ground but in second gear at least. This is why we had to take ‘speed marches’ and without water. I could see now why we were trained so vigorously for this landing. The slogan was, NO MORE ANZIOS.

Our 1st Prisoner

1st pow so_france

 

35 MILES!

It was said that we made 35 miles the first day and night. We were now inland and near a town named GONFARON –just a small village. We were passing grape yards and other farms and as I said earlier, I saw a hop field for the first time. This was mostly vineyard country.

On the second day we were at a short rest along the road. Mac’s 6×6 weapons carrier caught up to us. We were trying to take on some nourishment from our C rations when we were ordered to “fall in” and report to headquarters on the double. We knew we were to move on following the retreating German army, but this was a bit different than we expected.