My thoughts went back to my mom and sisters and how proud my dad would have been if he had lived to see his son fighting for his country. But we were all higher than kites and there was very little sleep that night. I knew we had a rendezvous point with other ships before we were to head for the French coast. But in my little world. I was occupied with my problems. ln the early morning with just enough light on the horizon to see, we couldn't believe our eyes. We thought we must be dreaming. It was the most incredible sight I had ever seen e hundreds. as far as the eye could see with the limited visibility that we had. We sure as hell weren't going to be alone, that’s for sure! l thought l was at fever pitch before. But now we had to wait our turn to debark, which was a long time coming. waiting and waiting.
It was the afternoon. l don't remember the time. It was about 1300 to 1400 hours (1pm to 2pm). We drew additional ammo belts and grenades. We made sure our packs were set up correctly (for the umpteenth time) with nothing loose hanging out. Once we got to our transport area. the LCl’s started to move toward our ship to start taking off the troops and equipment. The battalions were called one by one. The First and Second Battalions were sent down the heavy rope netting on the side of the ship into the landing crafts. We were the Third Battalion and we were next. They called out “1 Company". That was us.
The goose bumps were racing up and down my body like it was a race course. Make sure all of your hand grenades have the ﬁring pins firmly in them. make sure the safety is on your rifle. and make sure your rifle is slung over your head crossways on your body. Pack straps are tight and the helmet chin strap is tight. With all of the equipment and the Mae West, l must have weighed in at least 200 lbs and l was actually only 138 lbs. l thought to myself, good God! ls this really happening to me? It wasn't any dream, that‘s for sure.
OK, First Platoon, let’s go. Here we were. perched on this rope netting halfway down the ship. The waves were probably about 5 ft. with nothing but the green ocean below us and an LCI that was bobbing like a cork on the water. It would rise up with the waves, slam into the side of the ship, and then slide off as they decreased. The jump master was at the end of the netting with a bullhorn. He yelled:
"When I say jump, do not think about it, do not hesitate, just jump. Do you read me?" Yesss sir!
OK, 1-2-3 jump. I had my heart in my throat, but l didn't hesitate. I jumped and landed with a bunch of other guys in the landing craft. Phew! I think I wet my pants. No. l know l did! Quickly pick yourself up and get out of the way of the next bunch to jump in. Thank God we didn't lose anybody. Once all were in. the LCI turned and went behind our ship and came out in a defined line of departure.
All of the beaches were given code names. Ours was “Fox Green Beach". We were drenched with spray as soon as we started moving and, soon, soaking wet. Before not too long, we started to ship some water. I was not a good sailor on a big ship and this damn thing was considerably smaller. Some guys were swearing and other guys like me were either vomiting or trying not to. I gagged and held it back. But there was a lot of vomit on the ﬂoor and it was hard to stand, but I prayed and held luck my lunch.
It seemed like each thing that happened was another anxiety. Now as we got closer to the shore. I dreaded when the ramp would go down and we had to get out of the landing craft. The large ships were firing over our heads toward the coast and beyond. There was the noise from the firings. the screech of the rockets, and lots of planes in the sky. Holy mother. my stomach was like one big knot.
We were supposed to land at Fox Green Beach at 193O hours, but necessity brought us in at I700 hours on Easy Red Beach (these were code names for different sections of the beach). We could see the beach was littered with equipment and bodies. Enemy artillery was falling the length of the whole beach. All of a sudden our assault craft scraped on something and we came to a stop. I'm thinking. “Now what?" Apparently we were hung up on something - maybe a sandbar, we weren't sure. Capt. Samanchyk was trying to yell to the boatswain to find out what was wrong and to get this thing moving. We felt like sitting ducks out there with the German artillery pounding away. The boatswain got on his radio to get some help to get us off. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity. an assault craft moved over to us and we scrambled over the side into this other craft. An artillery shell exploded and hit an already demolished tank to our left. Everybody ducked down to hopefully escape the flying fragments. The craft then brought us in and dropped the ramp. I plowed into the water and hoped there was no hole to step into. That big Polack wasn’t there to help me this time. With a quick glance I could see guys swarming out of their assault boats onto the beach. I could see a landing craft practically standing on end with the ramp blown off, probably from the assault in the morning.
As we had come in on low (neap) tide, the boatswains had trouble getting in between the obstacles. The Germans had lashed teller mines to poles sunk into the ground and also had placed large pieces of iron. kind of like a giant size jack little kids played with, only these staved in the bottoms of the landing crafts. When we disembarked, somebody yelled. “Incoming”. No shit! You'd have to be deaf, dumb, and blind not to know we were being shelled from German 88's.
Jesus, I was scared! I moved out from the ramp, started for the beach with a lot of other guys, got to the shingle of the beach, soaking wet and sick as a dog. I felt all 200 lbs. of me was slowing me down. I wanted to ﬂop and rest but our non-coins were yelling for us to get our asses moving. We half ran and half walked through the beach area. God. what a mess! Col. Corley was leading us up the bluff. He led us through the one gap that we were able to traverse and he was sending us up two at a time to keep our casualties down. We made our way up the bluff, still hearing machine gun and artillery fire.
While the initial elements of the troops had gotten off the beach, the Germans had been chased out of their bunkers and pill boxes earlier. Some had found their way back and started to fire on us as we were disembarking and climbing the bluff. The engineers had opened up a lane where we could safely climb up the sands to the top of the bluff which was probably about 100 feet high. There were more dead guys laying up there American and German. Hopefully the engineers had laid it out correctly. The Germans had mined all 5 draws (I found out later). When we got to the top of the bluff, I wiped the sweat and salt water from my eyes. My eyes burned from the salt water but that was nothing compared to what lay ahead. We were off the beach but so far as l was concerned. the war was just starting. At the assembly area atop the bluff. about 2300 hours (11:00 pm), all of the Companies (Headquarters - I Co. - K Co. - M company) formed the Battalion.
More to come
Shortly after the German invasion of Poland, beginning World War II in Europe, the 1st Infantry Division, under Major General Walter Short, was moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, on 19 November 1939 where it supported the U.S. Army Infantry School as part of American mobilization preparations. It then moved to the Sabine Parish, Louisiana area on 11 May 1940 to participate in the Louisiana Maneuvers. The division next relocated to Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn on 5 June 1940, where it spent over six months before moving to Fort Devens, Massachusetts, on 4 February 1941. As part of its training that year, the division participated in both Carolina Maneuvers of October and November before returning to Fort Devens, Massachusetts on 6 December 1941.
A day later, on 7 December 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and, four days later, Germany declared war on the United States, thus bringing the United States into the conflict. The division was ordered to Camp Blanding, Florida, as quickly as trains could be gathered and winter weather permitted, and arrived on 21 February 1942. The division, now under Major General Donald C. Cubbison, was there reorganized and refurbished with new equipment, being re-designated as the 1st Infantry Division on 15 May 1942. Within a week, the division was returned to its former post at Fort Benning, Georgia, from where it was expedited on 21 June 1942 to Indiantown Gap Military Reservation for wartime overseas deployment final preparation. The division, now under the command of Major General Terry Allen, a distinguished World War I veteran, departed the New York Port of Embarkation on 1 August 1942, arrived in Beaminster in south-west England about a week later, and departed 22 October 1942 for the combat amphibious assault of North Africa.
As part of II Corps, the division landed in Oran, Algeria on 8 November 1942 as part of Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of French North Africa. Elements of the division then took part in combat at Maktar, Tebourba, Medjez el Bab, the Battle of Kasserine Pass (where American forces were pushed back), and Gafsa. It then led the Allied assault in brutal fighting at El Guettar, Béja, and Mateur. The 1st Infantry Division was in combat in the Tunisian Campaign from 21 January 1943 to 9 May 1943, helping secure Tunisia. The campaign ended just days later, with the surrender of almost 250.000 Axis soldiers. After months of nearly continuous fighting, the division had a short rest before training for the next operation.
In July 1943, the division took part in the Allied invasion of Sicily, codenamed Operation Husky, still under the command of Major General Allen. Lieutenant General George S. Patton, commanding the U.S. Seventh Army, specifically requested the division as part of his forces for the invasion of Sicily. It was still assigned to the II Corps. In Sicily the 1st Division saw heavy action when making amphibious landings opposed by Italian and German tanks at the Battle of Gela. The 1st Division then moved up through the center of Sicily, slogging it out through the mountains along with the 45th Infantry Division. In these mountains, the division saw some of the heaviest fighting in the entire Sicilian campaign at the Battle of Troina; some units losing more than half their strength in assaulting the mountain town. On 7 August 1943, Major General Allen was relieved of his command by Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, then commanding the II Corps. Allen was replaced by Major General Clarence R. Huebner who was, like Allen, a decorated veteran of World War I who had served with the 1st Infantry Division throughout the war.
When that campaign was over, the division returned to England, arriving there on 5 November 1943 to prepare for the eventual invasion of Normandy. The 1st Infantry Division and one regimental combat team from the 29th Infantry Division comprised the first wave of troops that assaulted German Army defenses on Omaha Beach on D-Day. The division had to run 300 yards to get to the bluffs, with some of the division's units suffering 30 percent casualties in the first hour of the assault, and secured Formigny and Caumont in the beachhead by the end of the day. The division followed up the Saint-Lô break-through with an attack on Marigny, 27 July 1944.
The division then drove across France in a continuous offensive. It took large numbers of prisoners during the Battle of the Mons Pocket, and reached the German border at Aachen in September. The division laid siege to Aachen, taking the city after a direct assault on 21 October 1944. The 1st Division then attacked east of Aachen through the Hürtgen Forest, driving to the Ruhr, and was moved to a rear area 7 December 1944 for refitting and rest following 6 months of combat. When the Battle of the Bulge was launched on 16 December 1944, the division was quickly moved to the Ardennes front. Fighting continuously from 17 December 1944 to 28 January 1945, the division helped to blunt and reverse the German offensive. Thereupon, the division, now commanded by Major General Clift Andrus, attacked and again breached the Siegfried Line, fought across the Ruhr, 23 February 1945, and drove on to the Rhine, crossing at the Remagen bridgehead, 15 - 16 March. The division broke out of the bridgehead, took part in the encirclement of the Ruhr Pocket, captured Paderborn, pushed through the Harz Mountains, and was in Czechoslovakia, fighting at Kynšperk nad Ohří, Prameny, and Mnichov (Domažlice District) when the war in Europe ended. Sixteen members of the division were awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II.
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A big THANK YOU to the United States Army Center of Military History for their help in providing the input for these pages. All pages on this website are constantly being refitted with acurate data and texts and it is an ongoing process.