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.
Bob Uhl was a freshman at Georgia Tech but he was also a soldier on paper, having gone into the Army Reserve in 1943. Eventually, the manpower needs of the infantry caught up to him and he was off to basic training. When he shipped out, his convoy was the first to land in France instead of England.
It was a rough crossing for Lou Mafrice. Not only was he seasick, but a bulkhead door slammed on his hand and took off a bit of finger. When his unit got into combat in France, the commanding general insisted on leading at the front. That cost him. As the Battle of the Bulge loomed, Lou's armored outfit was put under the command of George Patton.
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)
Forbes undergoes extensive training on the road to the European theater, earning his place as a platoon leader. His company trains in England for amphibious landings and strenuous combat. In the weeks leading-up to D-Day, they are moved to a sealed camp to await orders.
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 crew had been split up and B-17 bombardier Dequindre McGlaun was waiting for an assignment. He was sent to the 94th Bomb Group, but when he was grounded with ear problems, his pilot was killed in a crash landing. Once again, he was a wandering bombardier without a crew.
Michael Vernello recalls how it was so cold at the Battle of the Bulge, the ground was frozen and they couldn't dig in. At the end of the war, he met his Russian counterparts in a heavy artillery unit and was very surprised. With four Bronze Stars and many battles behind him, he was one of the first to go home.
Erling Kindem remembers some special treatment he had the fortune of getting while stationed for training in Sioux Falls. After his time there, he transitioned to the hot deserts of Arizona for gunnery school.
William Weston remembers minesweeping and how they would assist American ships navigate through minefields. There were many instances where ships would be hit by a mine and get sunk. He was also in charge of manning the large machine guns during a deployment in the Philippines.
When Willis Brown returned home after his deployment to Africa and Italy, he made full use of his GI benefits. After getting two history degrees, he picked up a degree in education, which served him well in a long teaching career. (This interview made possible with the support of RICHARD VALUCKAS)
While anchored off Iwo Jima, a typhoon pushed the USS Grimes near the shore, near enough to Mount Suribachi that Charles Fallis had to take cover. After dropping wounded troops off in Hawaii, the ship went back to San Francisco, where he had to take cover from an angry hotel manager. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
It was on George Patton's mad dash to bail out the Allied Forces at the Battle of the Bulge, that Fred Moston saw his first jet aircraft. The German prototype made the P-51's look like they were standing still. In Luxembourg, he slept in a royal bed one night and on another night, he was sleeping on the ground in the snow when a German patrol passed right by him.
Dequindre McGlaun volunteered for combat by taking the place of a bombardier who got cold feet. He didn't have to go but he was trained for it and he was tired of beating around the States, waiting for assignments. They got new B-17's to fly to England but, immediately, a problem developed.
The Japanese knew that Okinawa was the last step on the Allied move toward the mainland, so they went all out with suicide attacks. Charles Fallis remembers the kamikaze alerts when he was anchored there. His ship was part of the task force that readied to invade Japan, and then after the surrender, part of the occupation. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
The foxhole was a pretty good thing, if you had time to dig it right and reinforce it, according to Bob Uhl. When he left it, he had to contend with the German 88, a devastating weapon that fired a shell at supersonic speed. It was a multi-purpose weapon, used for anti-aircraft, anti-tank and anti-personnel situations. He managed to dodge that, but a conventional artillery shell sent him to the rear to face an unusual medical situation.
John McGinty well remembers the end of the war in the Pacific. There was a huge "V" formation of warplanes and they had a little party on a tiny island. He thought he had it made with only a point and a half to go to get his discharge, but the Navy had other plans.
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)
January 21st, 1945, John Rodgers and his fellow officers began on the longest forced march of World War II. From Szubin, Poland, they were forced to march over 300 miles in 47 days. It took some time, but General Patton’s forces were able to liberate the prisoners as the war in Europe came to an end.
When Fred Moston returned home from the European Theater, the first thing he did was go looking for his dog. The news was not good. Then he found out his job was gone and, for a while, it was just the local bar with the other veterans, who were suddenly distinct from everyone else. He was successful in college and became a history teacher. His take on the Greatest Generation is that it was someone else.
B-17 bombardier Dequindre McGlaun discusses the change of command in his squadron and how the new commander wanted to get out of headquarters and fly. The bombardier describes the anti-aircraft flashes on the ground as German gunners took aim. "You better get me quick because I am going to get you!"