I was captured on the 10th of August 1944 near Mayanne, France on an early morning 4 man patrol into the enemy lines. When we started out on the patrol, I was the point. Pvt. G. was the man behind me, Lt. S. was next, then behind him was the radioman, PFC P. PFC P. was also the "get-away" man. The job of the "get-away" man was to get back to report to his unit in the event of enemy contact. He had the radio which, I believe, got shot up.
As we moved into the low ground, it got real foggy and we couldn't see more than five or six feet in advance. We couldn't hear any noise. Nothing seemed to be moving. We were going very cautiously down the road. I had no idea of it, but from about three feet off the ground, up maybe two or three feet, you could see for miles underneath the fog. We were walking along, arriving at a cross road position where a patrol from the night before reported they had been down there and back without drawing any fire, there was no sound, so I assumed I was perfectly safe. We were going further.
We were going to take the radio and direct our firing on the enemy with the radio. We had a backpack 300 radio on P's back. We were to take the radio and get behind the lines or in the lines, where we could direct the fire on them.
About the time I knew I was getting close to the crossroad, I heard what I thought was a truck starting up. I thought, "What happened?" The next thing I knew, I was in a ditch on the right hand side of the road. I didn't hurt especially, but felt like I had been hit by a sledgehammer. I thought, "Did that damn truck run me down? No, that truck didn't run me down, I've been shot!"
I looked down in front of the fatigue jacket I was wearing. It had a small hole in it. I thought, "Well there's no future up here, I'm going back and find out if it isn't a little bit better back where the other people are". I turned over in the ditch; I was lying on my back and faced the way I wanted to crawl out. I started to crawl and got to a culvert. I started to go through the culvert. I could get my head and part of one shoulder in pretty good but the other shoulder wouldn't go.
At this time, I knew I only had one chance, that was to get above ground and stay just as low as I could. I had just started to crawl out of it, still had my knees on the ground when somebody hit me in the back with another sledgehammer. I laid there. I was out. I absolutely didn't know which end was up. When I came to, it looked like I was looking at a forest of tall trees, just beyond my eyes. When I focused my eyes a little better, I realized I was looking at blades of grass.
I raised up and figured, "Well, if they're going to, they'll shoot me again". There was a German soldier standing right above me. He said "Comrade". Believe it or not, I thought "Boy, I'll be a comrade with you or anyone right now. The patrol had not done any more firing at this point. The Lieutenant yelled at me that we would withdraw. I told him I couldn't withdraw, I had been shot and the enemy had a gun on me. At the same time, a fire fight started out in the middle of the road between the man who was holding the 9 Millimeter Schmeiser machine pistol on me and G.G. lost. They killed him but the man who had the pistol on me was shot through the hip. This made the Germans withdraw with me and the wounded German. The Lt. and P. managed to get back to the Company and report the events of the patrol.
The Germans took me back. We were just beyond the cross roads on an intersecting road and they had me lie on the reverse slope of a ditch. They brought my M-1 rifle back and it was completely shattered. The stock had been hit by, maybe five or six bullets. It was completely smashed. A German brought it up to me and I took the clip out. I didn't want any accidents; it would still shoot.
A small civilian car drove up, (not much bigger than the Volkswagens of the 1940's or 1950's) flying the Red Cross flag. We were transported in and on this small vehicle. We had an aid man who was an Austrian, who rode on the fender to watch for aircraft; a driver, who was Russian; me, an American in the front seat; and the wounded German soldier in the back seat. He was in terrible pain with that bullet through the hips. This put four nationalities in this one little vehicle which I thought was kind of amusing at the time that it happened. We rode that car through our artillery which was shelling the road junction. They were shelling two areas, the road junction and another area a little further up. We rode through that road junction and I thought, "Oh boy! This would be terrible to get killed with my own artillery out here."
We made it through and they took me to a German Aid Station. The Germans laid me down on a stretcher and put it right in line with the German soldiers. When it came my turn, they moved me onto the table and took two bullets out of my left side that had entered through the front. They didn't know about the bullet in my left shoulder, so didn't remove it. I guess they sewed me up. I can't remember. I don't know if they used a pain killer or not. I am sure they didn't need any because my wounds were too recent. I was still in shock.
They moved me out on the cement, on a stretcher among the German soldiers. I happened to look over and saw a Frenchman, giving me a sign of "V" for Victory. I gave him a very weak "V" back. I was so tired, hurt so much and was so sick. The only way I would have attempted to leave the German Army at that time would have been if they came over and carried the stretcher out. So I just laid there wishing time would go by so whatever was going to happen would happen.
They gave us some German rations, a cigar, a big chunk of chocolate and a small package of cigarettes. This was the rations for a German soldier who was wounded on the line. I tried to eat that chocolate because I was awfully hungry. I hadn't had anything to eat that morning and this was later in the afternoon. I was bleeding internally a little bit from the punctured lung. The chocolate and the blood made such a terrible taste in my mouth. I'm a real chocolate lover, but I couldn't eat that chocolate, so I left it laying on my chest. I left my cigar and cigarettes laying on my chest too.
Finally they picked up my stretcher and put me in the ambulance. I must have had some kind of dope because I was going in and out. They put me in as top man which has one advantage, you're not going to get bled or urinated on as you go down the road. The real disadvantage is if they pull a good strike with aircraft, you're going to be the one who gets killed, because you're right up there on top. No aircraft attacked us, it was late evening and it was dark by the time we got on the road. In the very early morning, we arrived in Paris, France.
That's quite a drive from Mayanne to Paris, especially when you've got enemy aircraft to worry about. Early in the morning, before it was even daylight, they unloaded the ambulance and laid my stretcher down on the first floor. When they had room, they moved me on the elevator and took me up to the fourth floor in Hospital Ortslazarett de la Pitie, Boulevard de Hospital. This was a small German hospital at this time. There were prisoners of all nationalities, British, Canadian, American, African, it didn't matter what you were, if you were wounded around Paris, you came to this hospital.
Most of the people that were here were badly wounded back in Caen. There were a lot of tankers that got burned real bad. I knew one Canadian, who every time they took the dressings off his hands, another part of his finger would go with it. He would laugh about it. He had been putting up with it for quite some time. He knew he probably wasn't going to live very long, so he wasn't too worried.
He had a good bed to sleep on and I was on a cot where I couldn't sleep because when I lay down I would plug up with some kind of liquid. When I sat up I could breathe. So I was sitting with my back to the wall and he finally said "Yank, I have to lay down, that cot is probably as comfortable, or more comfortable, as my bed, so will you trade with me?" That was the best thing that ever happened to me because I could sit up in that bed and be a heck of a lot more comfortable.
The last time I saw this Canadian soldier, they were packing him out to put him on the train. At the same time, I was being marched out to the train because I was ambulatory. I don't know what ever happened to him but he was a fine soldier for my money. I was wounded on the 10th of August 1944 and about the 13th of August, my lung must have sealed itself because I started to breathe while lying flat on my back. About the third day, after I got into the hospital, the Germans came around wanting us to go on the radio and let our parents know we were okay. They would let this radio be played through the Red Cross. Of course, everybody voted this down. Nobody wanted to go on the radio. We knew this was propaganda value for the German Army.
They brought pencil and paper around so we all sat down to compose letters home, hoping they would reach home. We were allowed one piece of paper. We put our address on the envelope. We wrote what we wanted to say, which was only telling our parents that we were okay; we were in the hospitals doing fine.
These letters were not sent by the Germans. My letter was later sent on home by the American nurses who had occupied our hospital after the Germans were driven out of Paris and the American's took over Hospital de la Pitie. My Mother received this letter, which I wrote as a prisoner of war, but the envelope was addressed in a lady's handwriting, probably one of the nurses. We still retain this letter. It is in one of our albums.
At this point, I started standing up, walking around and looking for a possible way to leave the German Army. I didn't like their rations and I liked the idea of going into Germany and having the possibility of our aircraft shooting us up on the way even less. I wanted to go back to the American Army.
Up there, the only way I could see out was down a drain pipe and that didn't seem very securely fastened. I was four flights up with a drain pipe to slide down and it not a very safe thing, especially when there were German soldiers down below going by on patrol every three or four minutes. So I had to give it up.
On the 17th of August, they decided they would move us out to Germany. They moved us on buses down to the railroad station. We had three cars full of wounded soldiers, part of us were ambulatory and part of us were on stretchers. That night they crammed us into box cars.
Remember each and every sacrifice, made for your freedom!
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