6:04 | When he jumped on D-Day, Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau was way off target, but he finally found his unit in the small town of Varreville. Assigned to clear out a German pillbox near a bridge that was scheduled for demolition, his situation went from bad to worse when the bridge was blown.
Keywords : Dennis Trudeau paratrooper Canadian shrapnel bridge French German pillbox capture interrogate tank pilot D-Day Rennes nurse Prisoner Of War (POW) Operation Overlord Varreville France
His father went north of the border to work for the railroad in Canada, so when war broke out, Dennis Trudeau enlisted in the Canadian Army as soon as he could talk his way in. The seventeen year old went to basic training and then let his parents in on it.
Canadian Army recruit Dennis Trudeau's friend played a trick on him by volunteering him for a special forces unit, so Trudeau returned the favor. Both of them became paratroopers and were soon in England, training hard for the coming assault on the mainland of Europe.
They knew that the time was close. Equipment was being loaded. Then they were bused to a highly secured camp near an air field. Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau had trained hard and now he was told his mission. His targets were in a small town just inland from the Normandy coast and he would be in the first wave.
He could not see anyone else. In the predawn, he gathered up his parachute and began a futile search for his unit and his gear, including his weapon. Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau joined with an American captain he found on the road and they made their way toward the small Normandy town which was his target. Suddenly, there was the ominous whistling of aerial bombs right on top of them.
They were sure Patton would liberate them as he began his push, but the Allied POW's were put in boxcars and sent to Germany before that could happen. Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau describes the long, slow journey, including the strafing by American fighters, the badly needed Red Cross packages they got at the first camp, and the games they tried to play while trading with the guards.
Stalag 4B was a huge camp, with thousands of POW's. Dennis Trudeau was captured just inland from Normandy and when he arrived at the camp for British and Canadian troops, he was put on a work party at a coal mine. The men thought the war would be over by Christmas, but new arrivals told them about Bastogne and dashed their hopes.
The POW's rose before dawn for their work detail, but the German guard said there would be no work that day. Instead they set out on a march toward the American lines. Canadian Paratrooper Dennis Trudeau didn't know it yet, but the Russians were approaching. After the guards abandoned them, the search for friendly forces began. Soon the hungry men would have some food, too much food as it turned out.
After his ordeal in a German POW camp, Canadian Paratrooper Dennis Trudeau returned to his home and his accumulated back pay. A strike ended the civilian job he'd taken, so he went south and enlisted in the US Army, where he went Airborne, of course, and made a career of it.
After 31 days on the open sea in a small boat, 18 men from the USS Quail finally reached safety in Australia. They had scuttled their ship and fled rather than become POW's. But in Australia, their story was not believed and it took some time before they were treated as the heroes they were, especially their skipper, John Morrill. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Tail gunner Roy Dugger was flying out of Henderson Field on Guadalcanal when he was ordered to pack up and get on a transport plane for a destination unknown. All the way back in boot camp, he had taken a test which resulted in orders to leave the Pacific campaign and report for secret training. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
It was a cruel winter leading up to the Battle of the Bulge and Bob Uhl recalls how the Germans dropped propaganda leaflets urging the Americans to surrender and get a warm bed. There were no takers. His unit was south of the battle, keeping pressure on the enemy. When the order came to "straighten out the line," he knew he had to leave his safe foxhole and go to work.
At Texas A&M, Roy Dugger joined ROTC and the Civilian Enlisted Military Training Corp. In the summer of 1942, he went off to camp where the guns were made of rebar and the tank was a pickup truck. More than a little disgusted, he resigned from college and the Army programs and enlisted in the Navy. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
It was an inner voice that kept Willis Brown from harm in the war, something that most would call instinct. He suggests that it it was not that, it was a higher power. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD VALUCKAS)
Will Jasmund was on a train with no idea where he was going. A corporal told the young inductees that they would soon be able to say they had seen Paris. That caused some raised eyebrows but they were soon in the plains of Texas training for an engineer battalion. France would have to wait a bit. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD MCDONALD)
Walter Fleming's first action is the full-scale invasion of Iwo Jima. Over several perilous days, he has many close calls with mortar fire, open-sea collisions, and artillery rounds - all the while evacuating wave after wave of wounded Marines. (This interview made possible with the support of WILLIE NELSON, JR)
Clifford Wilford remembers some of his infantry's encounters as they navigate through the French countryside. While in combat in France, they broke through the main line of German resistance. Continued in Part 2.
Finally back home, Turner Harris could not find a job, so he reenlisted and became a Navy recruiter. After a while, he took a civilian job, but the Navy lured him back in with clandestine work, although he didn't realize that was what it was. He was working for Communications Support Activities, a Naval signal intelligence agency.
His mother didn't mince any words. Fred Moston and his friends were talking on the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor when she told them, "You're all going to die." "She was Irish," he explained. The young draftee stood in a field in North Carolina with about two thousand other men. They were divided, so many for infantry, so many for the artillery, etc. He was in the last group left and he could not believe what he was destined for.
His brother had already been drafted and he gave Will Jasmund this advice about going into the Army, don't get sent to Texas and don't get assigned to the engineers. Never one to agree with his big brother, he wanted both. He was anxious to go, but first he had to break the news to his parents. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD MCDONALD)
Shortly after arriving in France, Bob Uhl found himself near the Maginot Line, feeling out the German defenses. That operation went well, and in his family correspondence Bob tried to always reassure them, but still they could get a sense of the danger he was in from the media of the day. The unit began to receive replacements after suffering losses and these men were suddenly thrust into an unnerving situation without knowing anyone around them.
His unit went ashore at Oran, Algeria and Willis Brown says it was beautiful and exotic. He was good with languages and he tells how he made friends among the locals. He did the same thing when they moved on to Italy. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD VALUCKAS)
He was sent as a replacement into Le Havre where he boarded a train and headed for the front. Medic Fred Moston left the train at a stop, like most of the men. They were looking for wine, he was looking for an outhouse. When he returned, the train was gone. Rescued by a Colonel in a command car, he went into combat that day as a litter bearer.
The Germans were down in a valley and the Americans were up at the top of the hill. From the German perspective, the Americans were setting a trap. On the hill, Bob Seeley didn't want to huddle down in a foxhole and freeze so he kept walking back and forth, trying to keep warm.
In order to avoid civilian casualties during air raids over Italy, Erling Kindem's squadron had specific targets to cause maximum damage to infrastructure with minimal casualties. After operations like these, they underwent extensive briefing to assess how much damage was really done.
After passing through the devastated city of Reims, Bob Uhl couldn't feel much pity for the German citizens. After all, they had started the conflict. After the war in Europe concluded, he felt the same way about the Japanese who had suffered the atomic bomb used on them. His unit was designated to take part in the invasion of Japan, so naturally he has an opinion on whether President Truman did the right thing.