4:47 | The Germans had the best artillery and tanks, but the Americans had the best small arms and were too stupid to quit, says Art Staymates who had reached the top of the bluffs at Omaha Beach. Then there were the hedgerows, which were a whole new challenge. He was never comfortable among the French, but the Belgians were wonderful.
Keywords : Art Staymates D-Day Omaha Beach Normandy Tiger Tank hedgerow sleep C-ration K-ration cigarette France French German Belgium Belgian
He knew he would be going in the service, so Art Staymates asked a friend who became a recruiter how he could get in the Air Corps. Ask for the infantry, he was told, because everybody asks for the Air Corps. Do well and they will transfer you. So he tried that.
It ws great soft duty. After his infantry training, Art Staymates was sent to train Air Force recruits and medics in small arms. His unit deployed in the meantime, so after a queasy Atlantic crossing, he became a replacement in the 1st Division and started training for the Normandy invasion. Not so soft.
As the landing craft neared Omaha Beach, fear gripped many of the men, but Art Staymates was determined to get ashore. Seeing that the boat was being strafed, he took them over the side instead of lowering the ramp in the face of the fire. The water was deep, and heavy packs weighed the men down. And once you could keep your head above water, there were the bullets.
Once you were off the boat and managed not to drown, there were 300 yards of beach to get across with heavy machine gun fire. Ships were pounding the bluffs above and the 101st Airborne dropped in behind them. Art Staymates made it from the water almost to the top of the hill when he ran up against a tangle of barbed wire. (Caution: Graphic Content)
France was tough, but Belgium was totally different. Art Staymates trusted the Belgians so he accepted the food offered by an old woman. It was the best thing he had ever tasted. They helped the Americans in other ways and their gratitude lasted down through the generations, as Art would discover years later.
The 1st Division had thousands of casualties in the frigid cold at the Ardennes and in the Hurtgen Forest. After 171 days on the front line, Art Staymates headed to the rear for some hot food and a shower and a trip to Paris. He got the first two, then a little problem came up at Bastogne.
The war was over and the men piled into the trucks. Art Staymates asked the driver if they were going to Bremerhaven. That's where the ships were. No such luck. The 1st Division was to train replacements and prepare for Japan, but three companies were selected for a special task in Nuremberg.
As the commander of the guards at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, Art Staymates got to know the notorious prisoners including Hermann Goring. On his first day in the assignment, Goring tested his resolve.
After he posted his guards every morning at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, Art Staymates would often travel through the town in his jeep. One day he saw a sign for a cafe and was curious because there really wasn't much food available to the civilians anywhere. What he found inside made the whole war worth it.
B-17 gunner Nicholas Sawicke's first mission was to hit some submarine pens on the French coast. As the missions moved across France and then into Germany, fighter escort became harder to come by. The airmen had to face the anti-aircraft fire and the German fighters with their own firepower.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
John Hancock describes the experience of torpedoes hitting his ship at the Battle of Midway. Though it was close to sinking, the abandon ship process was orderly because of all the drilling. He didn't even know he had shrapnel wounds and a collapsed lung until after he was rescued from the water.
Nicholas Sawicke was from a tiny rural community and when he was old enough for high school, it was sports that gave him the discipline to succeed. When the draft came after Pearl Harbor, his test scores put him in the Air Corps.
John Hancock outlines his trajectory through Navy flight school and the different aircraft he progressed through on his way to being a fighter pilot. When he got back to the war, he flew the Grumman F6F Hellcat from the deck of a brand new carrier.
On his last mission, B-17 gunner Nicholas Sawicke was a little more anxious than usual, but it ended without incident. His tour was relatively early in the war and, when he returned, this made him a subject of much curiosity in the local newspapers.
John Hancock got used to life aboard the carrier Yorktown as she cruised from Norfolk to San Diego. He was a latecomer to the crew so he had a hammock instead of a bunk. Once the ship got to the Pacific, its planes joined in the first retaliatory strike against the Japanese in the Marshall and Gilbert Islands.
After successfully landing his glider during Operation Varsity, George Theis discharged his cargo of four men and a jeep. As he threaded his way to his designated command post location, he met a general and captured two Germans.
The men of the 306th Bomb Group crossed the Atlantic on the RMS Queen Elizabeth and settled into a hastily constructed base in the English countryside. Right away, gunner Nicholas Sawicke did not like the place or the food.
Nicholas Sawicke was a lucky man. The B-17 gunner finished the required missions without any aircraft he was on suffering a mishap. His pilot, who was out for a few missions, had to stay on longer than the gunner to finish his tour. He was not so lucky.