5:19 | Asked whether the shrapnel that hit him was from German or American ordnance, Charles Shepherd just laughs. In combat, he says, it doesn't make a difference. A chance meeting years later gave him a little insight into what happened. Evacuated to England, he faced new difficulties, like trying to get into the officer's club at the hospital.
Keywords : Charles Shepherd artillery German 121st Infantry Regiment George Wright mortar shell fragment self-propelled gun hedgerow England DC-3 hospital Fairford Milwaukee WI officers club patient
Charles Shepherd started with ROTC because of the uniforms. There was a depression on and it was free clothing. The newly commissioned Lieutenant shipped out from Boston on June 6, 1944, arriving in Normandy as a replacement. He talked his way into the 121st Infantry Regiment, his father's outfit in World War 1.
They were green replacements in hedgerow country. Their first night there, one of them died when he went outside to answer the call of nature. No one knew him and he knew no one. Charles Shepherd recalls that sad first night at the front, where the hedgerows presented a unique battle environment.
Charles Shepherd was near Saint-Lo during the massive bombing campaign over that city. The men in his rifle platoon were baffled when strips of aluminum began falling around them and they hustled to gather them up. Later they learned what they were and how they were no danger. As they moved out, meeting no resistance, they advanced and dug in seven times in one day.
The French woman was talking and pointing to her barn. Three German soldiers were in there and they surrendered to Charles Shepherd and his platoon. Some of the German soldiers in the area were Asians captured at the Russian Front fighting for the Russian Army. The Germans pressed them into service as occupation troops in France.
They moved through a lot of small towns in France and Charles Shepherd reveals how you could tell what phase of the battle the town was in by the size of the rubble. They were pestered by German planes and instructed not to shoot at them. At one point he made eye contact with a German pilot flying low in a valley and he knows he could have shot him down.
In the fighting around the French coastal town of Saint-Malo, Charles Shepherd was constantly dodging artillery shells. At one point he was between his own mortar platoon and a German self-propelled gun. Everyone was firing and he took a shell fragment in his hand. For the moment, there was no evacuation and no morphine. They were surrounded.
Evacuated to England, Charles Shepherd had to undergo three operations on his hand. The third one was only necessary because the doctors bungled the second. Before he went back to his unit, he had to lead enlisted men in physical rehabilitation and then endure Christmas and New Year's Eve at a resort hotel.
Recovered from his wound, Charles Shepherd's first stop was the Fontainebleau Palace. He then rejoined his unit in the Hurtgen Forest, where the trees were devastated from the furious artillery barrages during the fighting there. They occupied a trench where they fought snow and ice more than Germans.
Moving towards Cologne, Charles Shepherd's unit had to pull back when a German 88mm gun knocked out their tanks and scattered the soldiers. He was in charge of the company for three days when the company commander was wounded. When the new captain arrived, he did not win any popularity contests.
When a soldier put a round through his hand while cleaning his .45, the company commander had a fit, accusing him of intentionally doing it. Charles Shepherd , the man's platoon leader, said no, it misfired, trying to defuse the situation. Later on in another town, during a briefing in a German cellar, the same company commander picked up a grease gun and, guess what?
Charles Shepherd sent one of his men to the rear with a captured German. He didn't return for a long time and, when he did, the explanation gave him pause. After a 72 hour pass to Paris, where the girls were glad to see him, his unit advanced to Bonn, where they occupied the Ford Motor Works. Scouts had reported a water tank and everyone was anticipating showers, but, situation normal.
Crossing the Rhine at Remagen, Charles Shepherd's unit advanced on the town of Siegen. They encountered a German flakwagen, a tracked, anti-aircraft vehicle which the enemy had lowered to fire at the Americans on the ground. The standoff lasted overnight.
Before they moved out for the day, platoon leader Charles Shepherd made a startling prediction to his men. As they advanced, he broke with protocol and moved to the front of the column. Soon, they were under German fire and ordered to pull back to make way for an artillery barrage. He started a peel-back maneuver to get everyone back to shelter in a ditch, but when it was his turn, there was no one left to cover him. This action led to him receiving the Silver Star, which he describes in another clip.
The second time he was wounded, Charles Shepherd returned very quickly to his unit. He got lost driving around in Germany and then, suddenly, the war in Europe was over. Masses of German soldiers were surrendering to the Americans to avoid Russian captivity. Soon, the division was back in the States for a 30 day leave and then, the Pacific.
Charles Shepherd needed five points to be discharged at the end of the war. He pointed out to his commander that the decoration he had been recommended for was worth five points. All he had to do was round up some of the guys to confirm the story. This led to him receiving the Silver Star for a previous action.
All leave was cancelled. The D-Day operation was imminent, but British Army nurse Hannah Deutch and her Canadian husband managed an intimate rendezvous in London. Shortly after that, she came up sick. She couldn't be pregnant, could she? After all, leave was cancelled. Soon she was sick again, seasick on a difficult Atlantic crossing to Canada to be with her in-laws.
Robert James was propped up against a bulkhead, going in and out of consciousness. The kamikaze had destroyed the starboard gun mounts and there were many dead and wounded. He was grateful when someone gave him some morphine to ease the pain from multiple shrapnel wounds. This was the beginning of a painful journey to healing. Part 2 of 2.
He bunked with regular B-17 crew members, but Bill Livingstone was a gunnery instructor who was there to keep skills sharp. He was also there to substitute for any crew member who was not able to fly. His very first mission turned out to be a memorable one. Part 1 of 5.
Hannah Deutch had two inseparable friends when she was growing up in Dusseldorf. One made it through the Holocaust and one didn't. All of her family except she and her mother also perished. It all started when one of her non-Jewish schoolmates said she could not play with Hannah anymore.
Wes Ruth was eating breakfast when he saw the planes coming in. He thought they were ours until the bombs started falling. As he drove frantically to his hangar on Ford Island, he saw the USS Arizona hit. The Japanese had made their move. As a photo-recon pilot, he was dispatched as soon as the attacks ended to search for the enemy fleet.
On his first raid in North Africa, reconnaissance platoon leader John Souther captured a hundred Germans with no losses to his own unit. His job in the 1st Armored Division was to be out in front with his eyes open, and he was doing just that when a huge amount of enemy was spotted. Rommel's big push had begun.
Hannah Deutch got engaged to a Canadian soldier and right away, there was no end to the people who wanted to help with the wedding. The Jewish refugee was a British Army nurse in London and her wedding was staged in posh style by English benefactors.
Bill Adair may have been the luckiest man in the Bataan Death march. With a commandeered ambulance full of casualties, he threaded his way through the ordeal thanks to luck and guile. At the end, though, there was a camp waiting for him just like all the rest. Part 2 of 2.
B-24 flight engineer Bill Toombs was over Germany when bad went to worse. One engine was shot out. Then an 88 round went right through the number four wing tank. It didn't blow up the plane, but they lost all the fuel for that engine, so now they had two engines out. They made a desperate run for Brussels, which had been liberated.
Hannah Deutch's father served in the German Army during WWI. He would not live long enough to see the tragedy that befell his Jewish family, having died in a flu epidemic in 1929. She and her mother were living with her grandparents in Bochum, where the schools were excellent. She was very good at learning languages.
When he had to bail out, Jim Wicker was literally sucked from the cockpit when he released the canopy because of his high rate of speed. He was just a hundred miles inland a few days after D-Day and the Germans caught him almost immediately. As he sat in solitary confinement waiting for interrogation, he was comforted by his faith.
Bill Garrison was standing in a chow line when a man up the line suddenly dropped, shot dead by a sniper. That was only one hazard at the air fields in China; the others being Japanese air raids and infiltrators. (This interview made possible with the support of COL ROBERT W. RUST, USMCR (ret.) in honor of LtGen Lawrence Snowden & LtGen George Christmas.)
Hannah Deutch was a teenager when the Kindertransport rescue effort became her means of escape from Germany. England was taking in thousands of Jewish children and she got her papers in order and left. Right away, as the oldest one in the large group, she became the leader on the journey.
Near the end of the war, the food supply in Holland had been disrupted and there was widespread hunger. Henk Duinhoven was lucky to be in the countryside, where gardens had been harvested. When he heard the sound of Canadian tanks, he knew that liberation was finally at hand.
Bill Adair was suffering from the effects of a concussion when the battle for the Philippines came to an end for him. Along with thousands of others, he was forced to surrender and was facing the prospect of joining what would become known as the Bataan Death March. Then fate intervened in the form of an ambulance without a driver. Part 1 of 2.
They were welcomed with open arms. 150 Jewish children arrived in England, including sixteen year old Hannah Deutch, who had been a substitute mother to the younger ones on the journey. She passed all the exams she needed to work as a nurse, but there was one little problem. No English. She remedied that right away.
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
John Souther was on reconnaissance patrol when he nosed his halftrack up over the edge of the gully in the Tunisian desert. A round from a German 88 immediately tore through the engine compartment, but left him unhurt. They paid mightily for that shot. With his radio, he began spotting artillery on their position, under fire the entire time. He was awarded the Silver Star for this action.
Robert James was in the shower aboard ship when the alarm went off. He scrambled to his gun mount to man the 20 mm gun and then the threat became apparent. Kamikazes had broken through the air cover and were headed for the convoy. He heard some firing from another gun and turned around just in time to see a horrifying sight. Part 1 of 2.
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
British Army nurse Hannah Deutch was stationed right next to Buckingham Palace when the place was bombed out. They were cheered by a visit from Winston Churchill. She was a Jewish refugee from Germany and was a regular at the Jewish Forces Club. That was where she met a very special Canadian.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
In London, when it was cold, you huddled close to the fireplace and talked. German Jewish refugee Hannah Deutch was now a British Army nurse and she had befriended another young woman who was in the group sitting around the fireplace. All of a sudden, her friend made a startling declaration, "I hate the Jews."