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.
When the advance across North Africa began, the French were fighting with the Germans, recalls Ed LaPorta. That soon changed and the Nazis' other allies, the Italians, had no heart for the fight. It was still a struggle, and as German planes strafed mercilessly, LaPorta went to the aid of a wounded man.
While traveling from the U.S. to China, Touart made many stops in different countries. At one point, they stopped in British West Africa. He describes the area as being full of people with leprosy, and he shares the lessons he learned from them.
In this chilling account Elmer Wisherd describes flying into German territory before encountering heavy gunfire in Holland. After a bullet pierced his plane, he recalls what happened next.
When the guns of the approaching Russians could be heard, the German guards emptied the prison camp and marched the allied prisoners westward across Austria. Clyde Burnette waited in the woods where they were left by the guards until a lone American tank rumbled up.
The Red Cross parcels were supposed to augment the food provided by the Germans but it became the primary food source for the American airmen in Stalag 17B. Clyde Burnette describes how they kept distracted from the hunger, including making some homemade booze from raisins and holding rat races in the barracks. When a prisoner stole food from another, the punishment was harsh and memorable.
The score from the color-coded bullet hits on the target showed he had no hits, until they found out the scorer was color blind, recalls B-24 gunner Clyde Burnette. He was on a model crew, held back to wait on new aircraft, but the men got tired of waiting and volunteered for combat. It got his attention when he was designated a ball turret gunner, yet never saw a ball turret in training, even as he arrived in England.
Two strong memories are recalled by Jack Simpson, coming face to face with General George S. Patton while he reviewed the troops after the war, and coming face to face with brutality and horror as he entered the Dachau concentration camp.
B-24 crew member Clyde Burnette walks us through a typical mission for the airmen stationed in England and flying missions against Nazi targets. It took an incredibly complex ballet of men and machines just to get hundreds and sometimes thousands of aircraft in formation to start the mission.
Mitch Touart describes the simple but accurate Chinese alarm system used for warning fields of enemy air raids. General Chennault claimed to be a master of surprise, but with the noise of a B-25 and the Chinese alarm system, it was difficult to sneak up on a Chinese airfield.
Don Ogden was actually relieved to be in the hands of German guards after months of mistreatment by his Hungarian captors. When he got to the prison camp in Poland, he witnessed a bizarre accident during latrine cleaning and the even more bizarre sight of German guards killing their own.
Charles Smith spent his first Christmas away from home in the snow and ice of the Battle of the Bulge. He "did not think of death. It was almost like going to work." He remembers a scary night left alone on guard duty next to a graveyard.
After the Pearl Harbor attack, Warren Parker became an MP based on where he was standing in line at the induction center. So many men were counted off and sent to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for basic training. Later, in California, the unit built a mock POW camp in the desert, but their "prisoners" never showed up.
What was worse than the German occupation of Czechoslovakia? The Communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, says Barry Malac, who was drummed out of the Czech Army as an enemy of the state. The Nazis were from outside, but these were his own people and it caused him to start planning his escape.
Jonathan Swift describes the numerous layers of clothing he and his squad wore when up in the air. The freezing temperatures at that altitude made using the relief tube nearly impossible. Swift's comrade Bill Bason (a navigator in a different squad) was confronted with a frozen escape hatch when his plane was coming down.
Just a farm boy from Tennessee, Charles Smith thought his basic training was a great experience. As a lefty, he was switched from a carbine to a machine gun because the spent shells kept hitting him in the face. Then, he "did not have to do much aiming."
Lewis Fern recounts his responsibilities as jump master when parachuting into Sicily amongst intense gunfire. They include coordinating with the crew chief, giving instructions to Pilot Brown, preparing his men for the imminent jump, instructing the Assistant Division Commander to jump with them, and regrouping with his men once on the ground.
In 1942, Al Morehouse was in his second year at Purdue University when the Army called and he was off to join the war effort. His training got off to a dubious start when the mess sergeant noticed some food left on his plate.
Mitch Touart describes his relationship with the ground crew and assistance personnel for his plane. He was famous for always wanting to completely top off his fuel, and after a long mission with heavy headwinds blowing on the way back, Touart's precautions proved to be essential.