I completed basic training at Camp Clairborne, LA from there to camp Shanango, PA from there to Orangeberg, NY (beside Hudson River about 18 miles from NYC). I boarded Queen Mary in NYC, landed in Glasgow, Scotland during the first week of June 1943. Assigned to headquarters of a service and supply outfit in the Midlands quartered in a castle like building near Grantham and about five miles from a small town called Retford, not far from Birmingham. As a PFC I drove the "brass" from Hqts to various 8th Air Force bases over East Anglia. About the last of April 1944 we were sent to Southern England (South Hampton) to board an LST and were told we were an element of the 9th Air Force in support of ground troups. The outfit was the 819th Aviation Engineers.
We boarded on the 5th of June and on the 6th of June (D-Day) we dropped anchor about five miles off the coast of France at about 2 or 3 o'clock in the evening, off Utah Beach. There were two landing zones (Red) and (Green) Beach. Our first casualty we saw was a Navy sailor. We started unloading heavy equipment bulldozers, graders, and loaded trucks on to an LCT. But due to rough sea the chain snapped losing the bulldozer but the operator jumped clear. The remainder of us were put on a Higgins Boat sometime around 11:00 o'clock on the 6th of June. I don't remember whether it was Red or Green Beach which we landed on. The sailor drove the boat as close in as possible and we were told to get off, that he was not going to take us back. He was navagating by black out light flashed from the beach. For all we knew we were in the middle of the Atlantic, It took a little prodding to get us off the boat.
By that time I had been promoted to a Corporal and was told that I was a squad leader and to become a bazooka team with a SGT. Neither one of us had any experience with such a weapon. One of the guys had told us how to load the weapon with little instruction on how to fire the weapon. Reluctantly the SGT said hold the gun and I will jump. To our surprise the water was only waist deep. As we got closer to shore I suddenly went under, probably stepping in a shell hole but managed to come out OK. After getting ashore we found a hole had been blown in a concrete wall that we could access the beach easily. After a short time we were straffed by a fighter and in hitting the ditch I rammed the barrel of my M1 in the bank, completely stopping the barrel with mud. If I had fired the weapon it probably would have exploded.
After marching another 45 minutes of so we passed a burning Sherman tank. However we did not know if there were occupants in the tank or not. In another 30 or 40 minutes I stumbled over a body which turned out to be a German soldier. We marched until daylight, "digging in" at an apple orchard at two unpaved crossroads. On the opposite corner from our position there was a farm house and in the front yard lay three dead Germans and one American 82nd Air Borne trooper. In the house we noticed that there were plates still on a dining table where they had been eating beans. Off the dining room was a toilet and on the commode there was a nude German that had been shot.
While we guarded this cross road the remainder of the outfit was constructing an emergency landing strip. Initially, the emergency landing strips were earth surfaced by simply using a bulldozer and grader to level hedge rows to form a make shift runway approximatley 2,000 or 2,500 feet. As we progressed more advanced landing strips were built by laying steel matting or wire mesh making a more stable surface for our fighter bombers (P47 Thunderbolt). The air craft would shuttle bomb from these strips located sometimes as close as one and one half to two miles from the front lines. Several sorties could be made each day by the same plane and pilot.
As the front line began moving more swiftly our mission became somewhat easier since it involved mostly rennovation of existing Luffwaffe bases. We renovated as far as I know the only P61 Black-Widow night fighter base on the continent, arriving in late July 1944, near Cherbourg. The last base we rennovated was an ME 262 jet fighter base in August '44 at Giebelstadt, GR. I believe it was 8 miles from Wurzburg and 20 miles from Hiedleberg. Personnel from the 8th and 9th Air Force filled the Luffwaffe barracks which was real nice compared to a fox hole.
We shipped out based on the point system to Marseille (France)for shipment home aboard a victory ship named the USS Rollings Victory, arriving in Newport News, VA about 1 Dec '45 and discharged 15 Dec 1945, Ft McPherson, GA. Our outfit received a Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation for construction of the first US Army Air Force emergency landing strip per General Order #203, 9th Army Air Force. This strip was located I believe near a place called "La lLande, (France)".
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