6:30 | 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.
Keywords : Dennis Trudeau paratrooper Canadian tracers France hedgerow Clicker French German shrapnel friendly fire Kenneth Smith D-Day 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.
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.
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.
There was a German observation post in a church steeple and every time Bob Uhl's unit tried to move, mortars and artillery pounded them. It was a pretty church and they hated to destroy it, but it had to be done. After conventional artillery failed to take it out, a new weapon was called up. After that, he was disturbed when World War I tactics came into play.
Guy Whidden parachuted into Sainte-Mere-Eglise and as soon as he was on the ground, an equipment bundle landing at the same time hit him in the head and knocked him out. He was too dazed to find his "Cricket" to signal friendlies and this nearly got him shot. He hooked up with another Airborne unit because his own was nowhere to be found. It was absolute chaos and there were bullets flying everywhere.
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.
It was a huge convoy to England and almost everyone on the troop ship was seasick. Jack Myers did not get sick but he had gone up on deck as the ship sailed from New York harbor in the middle of the night and that made him a little apprehensive. His first big battle was at Antwerp, where he had to intervene when his squad leader went a little crazy.
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.
It wasn't easy at the Siegfried Line, says Jack Myers. There were tough pillboxes and bunkers, but he was a gunner on a tank destroyer and he could put a three inch shell right through the gun portals. The Germans had much better tanks, but the American armor was endless, a massive force that could not be stopped. Especially once they got the new 90 mm gun. Mr. Meyers also describes a Christmas Eve incident that shows the human side of war.
The German tanks and guns were far superior to the weaponry of the Americans, says Lou Mafrice of the 13th Armored Division. It was the bombing of their factories that became the deciding factor in the war. While on a reconnaissance mission at the Austrian border, he was startled to see a large mass of soldiers coming straight for him and his driver.
It took a long time to get to England. The ship Guy Whidden had boarded was damaged, so he took a detour to Newfoundland. Finally, a new ship was brought, a British ship, complete with British food, of course. No one wanted to be in the bottom hold, which was knee deep with water.
If you treated your Navy hat with salt water, you could roll it up in a really sharp way that also let you show off your Pompadour. That was how John McGinty hit the streets of Long Beach, but it wasn't long before the Shore Patrol noted his breach of grooming regulations.
A week before D-Day, Paratrooper Guy Whidden's unit moved to a fenced in camp near the coast. The orders were shoot to kill anyone leaving. The food was good, too good if you really thought about it. On the day, he was sickened by the tobacco smoke and the stench on the plane over the Channel. It would be a relief to jump and get away from it.
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.
As Clifford Wilford's infantry diverts past Paris, they encountered a few additional obstacles that they had to overcome. Wilford had to drive a Jeep across an open battlefield while his commander mapped out the locations of German artillery stations, risking fire from incoming mortar shells.
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.
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.
At the Rhine, one of the 44th Infantry Division's units directed the first ground fire across the river into Germany. German resistance stiffened at that point because they were now defending the Fatherland. He recounts an operation to capture a bridge at Heidelberg and another incident which cured him of a strange phobia.
Pushing on after Normandy, Guy Whidden was in the Netherlands and surrounded by Germans. His unit took a pounding from mortars and shrapnel from a round hit his leg. As he treated himself, the barrage continued to take lives around him. Crawling from the field to a ditch, he was noticed and picked up by an officer who carried him to safety.
He decided he would rather ride than walk, so Turner Harris volunteered for the Navy in 1942. His journey started out rough in an open rail car with cinders blowing on him. After basic training, he was sent to radio school and eventually assigned to the USS New Orleans, a heavy cruiser.
It was a pre-dawn mission and Jack Myers was a little nervous about going out ahead of the lines in the big tank destroyer, but that went OK. It was when they got back that things got scary. Soon after that, they were redeployed by rail through Southern France and into Southern Germany where they picked up a little fresh pork.