After my six months near Birmingham England in a replacement camp, Just before June 6th 1944, we started moving from camp to camp. We were issued all new equipment and rations,along with candy bars cigarettes and a book on how get along with the French people. We boarded a ship for the trip across the channel. I don't remember how long it took, but we were just off the coast. I remember looking at all the ships loaded with men and everything it takes to make war. Many Navel ships were firing their large guns to support the landing troops a few miles inland. Some large shells were landing close and not so close to the battle ships. The day was clear but there was the smell of smoke and gun powder. We had to wait for the landing craft to come aside.
Several at a time we went over the rail and down the net to the landing craft, rising and falling, some times hitting the side of the ship and then heaving several feet away. We had to time our jump as to the raising or falling of the landing craft. There were Navy personnel shouting what to do and helping to catch the ones that misguided their jump. Of course at this time we were all loaded down with all the equipment and full field pack.
Then we had to wait until the craft was full. Finally we started the trip to shore, it seemed we were ten miles out, but it was probably a mile. I think the day was June 9th, so there was not large shells fired directly at us, but they were still landing all around. We came ashore on Omaha Beach with the First Division on our left and the 29th Division on our right. I saw bodies lined up and every kind of equipment littering the beach.
Just to our left was a small section with barbed wire around it with aprox twenty German prisoners. I had just turned 19 at the time and remembering thinking ' you lucky bastards, the war is over for you and it's just starting for me ' .
As a group of replacements, we moved ahead in small groups, each going to different units as needed. II finally ended up for a day at the 3rd battalion aid station. The next morning I was led to the front line to become the first aid man for M Company, a heavy machine gun unit. The front had just liberated the town of Trevieres and the medic I replaced had been captured the day before.
My combat started shortly after I landed. Our regiment was on one hedgerow and the Germans were on the next, aprox 100-150 feet. I had just dug my foxhole and trying to remember just where I was and what I was getting into, who the men were I had just met, and most of all, what was expected of me.
Darkness had settled in and I tried to get some sleep but there was a lot of things going on in my head. I felt all alone and knew that the enemy was very close.
All was quiet for a while and then there were shots fired on my left front, then every one opened up and bullets were flying everywhere. The firing didn't last long and then down the line came the fearful call MEDIC. I followed along the line until I came to the spot. I was told that we had sent a patrol of three men out to see if the Germans were pulling out.In the middle of the field they were discovered and the fire fight started. Two of the men made it back but the third was hit and needed help.
All was quiet except for the wounded man calling for his mother. I went over the hedgerow and crawled to the man. It was to dark to treat him there so I got him up and with his arm over my shoulder, carried him back over the hedgerow. There with help and under a couple rain coats and a flash light was able to care for him. The Germans respected the medics and didn't fire at us.
After all this and I went to walk back to my foxhole, my legs were shaking so bad that I could hardly walk. Then things were quiet all night and I could only reflect what was in my near future.
I did finally sleep as all was quiet. The next morning we were awake early,and after a K ration breakfast, the lead scouts were advancing and soon, the company, platoon by platoon. Machine gun nests at each corner had to be wiped out first and then we found that they had retreated to the next hedgerow. This became quite common as for several days our advance continued.
I didn't have many wounded to care for, because each platoon had their own first aid man. Our heavy weapons company had two sections, one section was attached to each of the two rifle companies. The riffle companies had four platoons. That meant eight first aid men plus me, nine for the battalion when in attack.
The attack went on day after day with many wounded, but in the section I was in I don't remember any serious ones. About this time, the First Division was relieved by a British outfit.I remember them moving in. One of them told me it was The Royal Alster Riffles. But with his brogue, I thought he said "They all lost their riffles ", I said "thats ridiculous, how could you all lose your riffles. This brought a grin from him and he repeated himself very slowly so I could understand.
Shortly after that, while in attack, I had a very sobering experience. One of our men stepped on a bouncing betty mine. When I cut back his trousers I found that all was gone between his legs. As usual I kept telling him that he would be O K while applying the sulfa powder, applying a pressure bandage and giving him the penicillin tablets and a shot of morphine.
At first the pain hadn't set in and when he found out what happened, he said " my wife's going to hate me " . We called for a litter and I had to move on I was getting too far behind our troops. While trying to catch up I found a wounded German, with a gun shot wound through the right shoulder. I had quite a time with him, he didn't want me to touch him, I think he thought I would finnish him off. I did uncover the wound and put on the sulfa powder and a bandage.
When I took out the morphine he started to fight me. I just put my hand in front of his face, shock my head no, and pointed to the red cross on my arms and helmet, then he let me give him the shot. This held me up longer and when I advanced to find our men, I couldn't see anyone, You can't imagine how ALONE I was.
At some point during this time, we were pulled out of line for a couple days. We had a shower and some clean clothes and a chance to attend church. During the past weeks I had become a real believer and decided I should be baptized. It took place in an apple orchard in Normandy.
Remember each and every sacrifice, made for your freedom!
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