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.
He was seasick the first two weeks, but it went away and he was never bothered by it again. Charles Fallis was on the USS Grimes, a troop transport that ferried troops to Iwo Jima, and then picked up the wounded for evacuation. When a severely wounded Marine died, he witnessed a burial at sea, something he will never forget. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
He went home on a 30 day furlough and never went back to Europe. Bob Seeley's leave was extended, his back problem tied him up for five months, and he was shuffled around to different bases until he wound up in Maine. Rather than face the cold, he resorted to drastic measures, reenlistment.
When a collision causes their ship to spill meat into the sea, Walter Fleming sees an opportunity to catch the hungry fish swarming around them. Fleming shares this and more stories of food-related fortunes. (This interview made possible with the support of WILLIE NELSON, JR)
It was a new experimental branch of the Army, infantry in gliders. Bob Seeley loved to fly and had a private pilot license, so it was an exciting assignment for him. He reveals how he survived all the crashes and how he wound up at jump school without going to Fort Benning.
Although his contact with the enemy is limited, Nelson's time aboard the Corregidor is rife with hazards. He witnesses the loss of many great pilots attempting to operate under the rigors of war. (This interview made possible with the support of DALE GREGORY)
Robert Purdy describes the intensely political climate during the Great Depression, which had many people embracing leftist ideals. He worked in a tool and die shop preparing for engineering school, and along with his brother Harry, an accomplished writer, began to put those ideals into action. Interview donated by Margot Smith. Part 2 of 6.
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)
Just before his 18th birthday, Erling Kindem enlists in the Army Air Corps. He remembers some of the physical challenges that he found as he headed to Missouri for basic training. After thinking that he would
Once in England, Bob Seeley's glider unit began training in British gliders, with tragic results for the first aloft. At the Battle of the Bulge, his 30 caliber machine gun was overmatched by the German tanks, but he found a way to disable them. His unit suffered tremendous losses, including all the officers in the first day.
During a break from his college education, Robert Purdy and his two brothers became increasingly angry about the Nazi aggression in Europe. After Pearl Harbor, all three enlisted in the Air Corps together. He received his wings as a fighter pilot, but losses in the bomber groups required that he move into B-24's. Interview donated by Margot Smith. Part 3 of 6.
Following VJ Day, Nelson's ship heads back to the US with a boatload of marines - braving stormy seas on the way. Their passage through the Panama Canal is a tight fit, and they're forced to make modifications to the ship. (This interview made possible with the support of DALE GREGORY)
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.
Some of the men on the USS Grimes went ashore at Nagasaki, after they delivered occupation troops there. Charles Fallis was on duty, so he missed out on that. One thing he did not miss out on was getting reacquainted with the girls back home once he got there. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
One man from the unit would get a thirty day furlough with travel back to the United States. The honor fell to Bob Seeley, who was one of the few in his unit to survive the Battle of the Bulge. He reveals why he moved back when General Eisenhower was greeting soldiers in Le Havre and why his accommodations on the crossing back to England were first rate.
When Combat Engineer Will Jasmund reached the Rhine, it was at the Remagen bridge. When it fell, he was on the German side and had to be ferried back across to rejoin his unit. The urgency had eased to the point that he was able to nap under a jeep on a warm day. Someone then kicked his foot and told him the best news he could ever hear. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD MCDONALD)
It was total blackout. Newly arrived in England, Will Jasmund was led through the darkness to a mess hall for the worst meal yet, powdered eggs and terrible coffee. Quartered on the grounds of a castle, his engineering battalion prepared for the coming invasion. They knew it was on when the aircraft activity became constant, with damaged planes coming in and going right out again. Finally the word came, it was their turn. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD MCDONALD)
After being captured, John Rodgers met an old friend at the camp where he was being held. While being brought back to Rome by his captors, Rodgers was able to buy some sustenance for himself and his friends that kept them going as they were transferred to Poland. (Part 1)
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)
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)
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.