I enlisted the army at Fort Mc Phearson, Georgia in November 1942 at age 18 and went directly into the airborne which was forming in Camp Toccoa, Georgia. I was assigned to company D 501st regiment and remained with this company throughout the war until wounded on jan 3, 1945 in the battle of the bulge and was sent to a hospital in Paris for 4 weeks, then returned to my unit. Soon after that I was sent back to the states to Ft Benning Parachute jump school as a jump instructor where I remained until being discharged on the point system in Oct 1945.
I enlisted on the same day I saw a John Wayne movie which made me think I could jump right into the service and end the conflict shortly. OH, the enthusiasm of youth! My memory is short about many details of the three engagements of D day Normandy (France), operation Market Garden (Holland) and the Battle of the Bulge (Belgium), due mostly to the fact, I think, that I just put most of it out of my mind because I did not want to remember.
Late in the afternoon of June 5 we were taken to the airfield, where we were assigned to an aircraft. We had been in a guarded barb wire encampment outside of the airfield for two weeks then. We had not been allowed outside the barb wire the whole time, because of security measures. There were between fourteen and twenty soldiers in every aircraft. General Eisenhower had walked through the aircraft's when we were installed, before take off. I was thrilled to have that great General wish me good luck. He spoke with as many troopers as possible.
We took off at dusk. There were so many aircraft, it was incredible. The aircraft of three airborne divisions were circling Great Britain in stacks, before we were all assembled. As we were dropping in France, there were still aircraft in England that were taking off. It was dark and as we approached the French peninsula the German ack ack became ferocious. The planes broke their formations trying to dodge the ack ack. My plane banked sharply and I was thrown to the back of the plane. When it was my turn to jump, the plane banked again an I slit out the door and felt the jerk of the suspension line as it pulled my chute out of it's backpack.
When I landed I discovered to my surprise that I had landed in a canal in a swamp. With a rifle, ammo and a heavy radio strapped to my leg, it was quite a struggle to reach solid ground. The incident in the plane had caused me to be a couple minutes behind the last jumper, so when I landed there were no friendly forces to be seen. I had some contact with the enemy before I was able to contact a small friendly force at dawn. The group I was in consisted of men from various units. We had more contact with the enemy and were able to do some damage at the end of the first day. Three days later we were able to reach our own lines, where we could get assembled back in our original groups.
On the early morning of D-day I landed in a canal with all my equipment including a large radio strapped to one leg, almost drowned and I suppose that radio is still in that canal-did not see anyone until about daylight when a german soldier parted the shrubbery on a hedgerow and was almost in my face-I was so startled I did not raise my rifle and the german at about the same time turned and ran in a separate direction just as I did.. I have often wondered if he,like me, was looking for fellow soldiers. I eventually came upon LTC ewell and a group of troopers.
Combat was tough in all three of these major operation. I avoided frozen feet in Bastogne because I never removed my boots. It was an honor to serve with one of the finest units in WW2 and I salute all of you, especially those we left in graves on foreign soil.
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