My first recollections of war were as an eighth grader in a small Illinois town 100 miles west of Chicago. By this time - about the year 1936 – I could count on a dime each week to go to the local movie house. Before the main feature, the newsreels were full of a Civil War in Spain, Japan invading China and, in Central Europe, a ridiculous little man with a Charlie Chaplin mustache ranting in German and endlessly reviewing his goose-steeping troops.
After Adolf, the good stuff. There was usually a movie serial followed by the main attraction – perhaps Jimmy Cagney in a gangster flick or a musical with Rogers and Astaire or Dick Powell or Alice Faye. Lots more fun than Hitler. And I recall Armistice Day (later Veterans’ Day) when I was in 6th, 7th and 8th grades at in my little grade school. That was a special time to which to look forward. A patriotic program at school was a usual feature – it was then not a school holiday. The speaker who appeared was always Mr. L.W. Miller, Lee County Superintendent of Schools. Mr. Miller, a dignified old gentleman with a white mustache and white hair, could have been a stand-in for Frank Morgan playing the Wizard of Oz.
He would give a speech of remembrance on the sacrifices of the soldiers who served in the trenches in France in World War I just 16 or 17 years before. The address, all about the war to end wars, elegantly delivered, made us glad our country would never again face such an ordeal.
I was asleep on the daybed on the front porch when my dad woke me this Sunday morning to tell me France and England had declared war on Germany. In my 15 year old wisdom, I knew this wold soon take care of the Nazis and that funny looking little man we had to watch at the moves in every newsreel before the main feature came on.
By this time, I had graduated from high school and was barely into my first year as a college freshman at Illinois Wesleyan University. On the afternoon of December 7th, I was performing in a fraternity chorus at Wesleyan’s Presser Hall. When the concert was over, we learned that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, a place none of us had heard of. It was an unforgettable night of unease at the fraternity house where I was a pledge.
Boy Meets World: I left college before completion of my sophomore year for Scott Field, Illinois, for induction into the US Army. Dick Hewitt, the name by which I had always gone, was left behind. I became Private George R. Hewitt with a serial number I remember to this day. Not only did I have to get used to the US Army, I also had to adjust to the fact that I was now George!
Stationed at Camp Roberts, California, for basic training.
Assigned to the 327th Glider Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The Division had been formed just a year earlier in 1942 at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana.
Sailed from New York City aboard a British ship for an unknown destination. As we hauled our barracks bags on our backs up the gangplank, we could see the burned out and capsized former French liner Normandy ling on its side nest to us a Pier 88.
One day after my twentieth birthday, I landed in Liverpool, England, for overseas duty with the 101st. Shipped to Camp Rhaniket, Tilehurst-Reading, for invasion training. Remained in England
Thus began the big adventure of my life – first time to set foot in another land an this one the one from which my Hewitt grandparents had come, the first time to develop a camaraderie with a truly divers group of guys my own age, the first time to march down an English lane and see hedgerows and flint walls and tiny churches and English pubs, the first time to be inside an English home and know English people. Great experience and I was just wise enough to know it.
It was in one of those English homes not long after our arrival that a particular encounter occurred which still rattles my memory with amusement. Any American soldier interested was invited through the Army chaplains and the local clergy to a get-acquainted meal in the homes of any of their English parishioners will to risk such a venture for the war effort. I went with several other Yanks (as the English called us) to one such home. One of my buddies was Nick, a soldier I now remember only because of that one Sunday afternoon episode. The hostess served us, among other things, leeks. None of us were familiar with this vegetable but Nick soon mastered the situation. He made sure this delicacy was passed around 2 or 3 times and each time he would encourage his countrymen to have more.
“Take another leek, Hewitt,” or “Ingils, you look like you need to take a leek.” Before a decent interval had passed, Nick was at it again. All the Americans were churning inside but managed to keep a proper face. No Yank dared look at a fellow soldier. Obviously this expression – fortunately – was unfamiliar to the English so their decorum was not ruffled. Nick’s nonsense meant nothing to them. However, it is a sure bet that any of the four Americans there that afternoon still remembers the episode – and the panache with which Nick carried it off.
Part of the 82nd Infantry Division was transferred to the 101st Airborne Division 15 August 1942. All equipment and personnel assigned to the regiment were designed to be carried in the Waco CG-4A glider. Although a glider infantry regiment, the majority of the unit landed by sea on Utah Beach in the afternoon of 7 June 1944, because of a shortage of planes to tow its gliders. Some elements did reach shore on D-Day, 6 June, but because of rough seas, beach traffic, and the fact that the paratroopers of the 101st had already achieved many of their objectives, the landing was delayed. The 327th suffered a few casualties going ashore from enemy fire and were strafed by enemy aircraft. Near Ste. Come DuMont (southeast of the village), the 327th was camped right next to German paratroopers, separated by thick hedgerows. German-speaking soldiers in the 327th engaged in taunting the enemy. The 327th took several casualties by enemy mortars. By 8 June, the 327th had entered the front line, largely in reserve of the 506th until crossing the Douve River near Carentan. First and Second Battalions guarded Utah Beachhead's left flank northeast of Carentan. Company C was hit hard by friendly fire mortars while crossing the Douve. Official findings blamed enemy mines. Company B also suffered casualties in the incident.
The 327th suffered heavy casualties while advancing on Carentan via what is now the city Marina from a northeast direction and other casualties approaching Carentan from the east. G Company led the attack on the west bank of the marina canal. A Company of the attached 401st Glider Infantry Regiment was on the east bank of the canal. Concealed German machine guns and mortars inflicted the most casualties. Chaplain Gordon Cosby earned a Silver Star for bravery in the face of the enemy for assisting wounded glider men in front of heavily armed German soldiers. The 327th played a pivotal role with the 501st and 506th of the 101st in taking Carentan. The 327th marched through the town and East to be possibly the first unit of the Utah Beachhead to link up with the Omaha Beachhead around the four-villages area of le Fourchette, le Mesnil, le Rocher and Cotz. It was then directed South between the bulk of the 101st and the 75th Infantry Division of the Omaha Beachhead.
The unit was commanded by Col. George S. Wear through 10 June, when command was turned over to Col. Joseph H. Harper. Although not official, the men of the 327th understood that Wear was replaced because of friendly-fire artillery casualties while crossing the Douve River. Officially, enemy mortars were blamed.
This website is made out of respect for the victims, the civilians and the veterans of WWII. It generates no financial gain what so ever and it is merely a platform to educate the visitor about WWII.
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.