I enlisted into the paratroops and was send to Toccoa, Georgia where the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment was being organized. This was the first regiment ever to train as a regiment so we all started out in the same pace and time. Out training was basic physical with daily obstacle course, Judo and other forms of hand to hand combat. We ran a mountain that was about three and one half miles high and down again. We did the every day except Sunday and sometime then when we goofed up. After several months we marched from Camp Toccoa to Atlanta and then was trucked to Fort Benning where we had more physical training and mock jumps from a plane and practiced landing on a pulley that carried us to the ground.
We then practiced going up a two hundred and fifty foot tower in a opened chute and was dropped sometimes vertical and sometimes horizontal. This was done many times. We double-time every place we went. We learned to pack our own chutes and the jumped the five times to get our wings. From there we went on maneuvers in several camps and then to Camp Shanks at New York where we boarded a boat and sailed to England. I was stationed at the Sir Wills estate in Hungerford. More training and jumps until we were sent to the marshlands grounds where we were isolated no one could come in or out.
We boarded the planes ready to go and it was called off because of the bad weather but the next day we were back on the planes and took off for Normandy, France. When we got near the coast line the enemy fire started and we could hear the shells and ack-ack going through the fuselage it had a pinging sound. I jumped into Normandy at about 2 AM on June 6 and landed near St. Come Du Mont. Enemy fire could be heard going through the chute. I hit hard and climbed out of my chute looking for any companions. I reached down to see what was the matter, I had blood on both knees, it felt sticky so I put a bandage over both on the outside of my jump suit and kept on going. It didn't take long for me to realize that someone was shooting at me.
I didn't understand this as I couldn't see anyone until I looked down and seen the white edge of the bandage showing. I immediately dropped my pants after removing the bandages and put them over the knees, still too dark to see any damage. I pulled my pants back up and then realized the it would be very interesting if I was put down then with my pants down. I found a comrade that was a Pathfinder that had a broken leg. I set it as best I could and wrapped him up in his chute and then ran into a German that had been hit pretty hard and tended to him and when I was almost done I looked up and there was another German holding his gun on me. The man that I was tending to said something in German and he turned away and left. The hair on the back of my neck was standing upright. Two other occasions similar to that occurred before daylight came.
I ran into some of our outfit and made forward movement with Colonel Sink and several others. We set up a regimental aid station in a church in St. Come du Mont and treated wounded until we moved up into Carentan. There were many wounded and as General Eisenhower said they anticipated 82% casualties, we didn’t miss it by far. We took Carentan after a bloody battle and was taken off the line and returned to England to get ready for the next jump. We returned to England after Normandy and started to resupply all of our needs including recruiting most anyone that would jump from a plane five times to fill our loses in Normandy. Some of the men that were wounded and had been in the hospital went AWOL and came back to the 506 and Col. Sink was put to task having them removed from the AWOL status to on duty in the 506.
Discipline was at a low and the order came out that a jeep would be going through the compound with an officer, personnel and driver. Anyone who failed to salute the officer was given a summary on the spot. First Sgt. Miller was put to the task by an officer and was about to be given a summary but he requested a general court marshall. He was and old time career mad and a personal friend of the Colonel Sink it was dismissed and there was no more jeep touring the compound. We where ordered into the airport marshaling area and boarded the planes to go in again. We were ordered off and was told the planes were needed to haul fuel to General Patton in France.
Orders came to get ready and back to the marshalling area to be briefed on a jump into Holland under the command up General Sir Bernard Montgomery. We boarded the planes and were off to Eindhoven, Holland . This time it was a day light jump. It was a beautiful day, hardly a cloud in the sky. We jumped into machine fire and landed in a huge open farmland. The field was covered in parachutes. We hurried out of our chute and ran to the area assigned to us. We dug foxholes and got in them. To this day the foxholes are still there and shrapnel can still be found.
The good Dutch people were out with fresh milk from their spring house passing it out as we went by filling our canteens cups. This was the first fresh milk in over a year. Then the honeymoon was over. The 506th moved toward Eindhoven and captured the town after a surprising man to man, house to house, street to street combat. The local Dutch people were out in force and helped dig out the hideaway German soldiers and not for them many of us would have been injured or killed. It was good to have a little break as our wounded count was less than in Normandy .
The activity picked up as we moved north to aid in the action in the ‘Bridge to Far'. We set up an aid station in a school. Major Kent ordered me to put a white bed sheet with a red cross painted with mercurochrome on the roof. Within minutes there was an explosion. We hit the floor then another explosion hit. A German shell almost hit the center of the cross came through the roof out the other side and partially exploded in the court yard. I was so close I picked up the shell and burnt my hands. It was still hot from the friction through the air and roof. How lucky can a man get? What would have happened to me if that shell had not been a partial dud? It took me three minutes to take down the Red Cross sign. We expected to see General Montgomery come through with his tanks but he failed to show up on schedule, this resulted in a fight all the way up to the Arnhem and Nijmegen bridges. We moved up to the island in Arnhem under fire the Germans who had the high ground and we had the low ground. Life became a little better when a jam factory provided us with some nice treats. Strange things happen during a war. In Holland not too far from the Jam factory we were pinned down for several days and I had run out of food. English ration so I found a few apples partially rotten and some onions in a garden they tasted like steak I was so hungry.
We came back to a rest area and then hauled by trucks into Bastogne where we were surrounded by German tanks and infantry. It was recorded that this was the coldest that winter that was ever recorded. Fox holes were almost impossible to dig as you shovel hit the ground and bounced back. The tiny moisture in the air froze and it was so light it floated to the ground and looked like tiny diamonds in the air.
There were many casualties not only by enemy fire but from the cold which many developed frozen toes and fingers. In our aid station the dead were piled up like woodpiles one on top of the other. I gave plasma as fast as two aid men could mix it and as long as our supplies lasted. I raided the medical unit that was there and secured all IV material that was in their warehouse to be used until that also was almost diminished. When we heard that three German's was coming into the Hdqrs we were ordered to move the dead to the cemetery. So the Germans would not see them. Our aide station was only 100 yards from General McCauliffe so we had a good view for the procession. Only the extreme cold could account for the saving of many lives of the wounded as it appeared to stop infections.
When the Germans ran out of fuel the battle started to move back into Germany. We were not removed from the line and continued to chase the Germans until relieved. We then moved toward Austria and on the way liberated a German concentrationcamp near Lewisburg. What an awful sight. The people in the town claimed they knew nothing about it. They soon found out about when they was ordered into the camp and made to help with the prisoners alive and dead. From there we went to Berchtesgaden and up the mountain and took Hitler's Eagles Nest and liberated Goering's stolen art collection and of course the liquor cave.
The war ended soon after that and I with enough points was on my way to a ship bound for home when the surrender came.I was awarded all the medals that the 506 received plus the Purple Heart and three Bronze stars.
Paul R. Miller