August 26, 1955
|AUGUST 26, 1955
Rescue From Normandy Canal in 1944 Remembered Now by Panther
It happened 11 years ago, a strange
rescue, during the Normandy operation in a water filled canal and more
recently, the renewed acquaintance of the two people involved after not
seeing one another for over 10 years.
SFC William Hayes, then a member of the 508th Parachute Combat Team, and
later a member of the 505th AIR, was one of those two persons and had
begun his part of the Normandy operation, eight days before when
detailed briefings and table operations were in high gear in Nottingham,
During the days that followed, the unceasing activity kept each
individual of the team on the move, readying equipment for the big
day—June 5, 1944.
The day came sooner than some wanted it to and the long shuffle to the
airfield began under cover of darkness, elements of the command on the
airfield for the flight due to become airborne at one minute past 11:00.
Loading on the C-47s with combat equipment was a job within itself, each
man struggling up the flimsy ladders to be swallowed up seemingly in the
one opening ol the huge bird.
Sgt. Hayes was the number five man in the stick and as the plane took
off from the runway, he could see the land slowly fade in the distance.
Jumpmaster of his plane was General Roy Lindquist,, then Colonel and
Commander of the 508th.
As the C-47s approached the coast of Europe, flak was encountered but
the formation continued towards its destination without suffering any
Jump Into Normandy
Approximately six minutes from the coastline and 12 miles behind
enemy lines, the airborne assault began with Gen. Lindquist leading the
way. It was 1:01 a. m. in the morning when the team descended on a land
that was previously flooded to deny its use to all intruders.
Upon landing, Hayes became entangled in his 'chute and was forced to use
his trench knife before freeing himself from the predicament. Rising to
his feet, he gathered his equipment together and made a dash across the
field to a canal, where he joined other members of the 508th.
IN THE SKY
recovery teams of the '05 working on DZ Sicily last Friday
after the big jump were suddenly surprised when a T-10
parachute "ghosted out" on them.
A gust of wind filled the canopy of the 'chute, which a few
minutes before had been collapsed on the DZ, and successive
updrafts kept it aloft for nearly 40 minutes as it soared to
a height of approximately 1.200 feet.
When the freak air currents subsided, the runway 'chute
floated into the trees at the edge of the DZ and was
Once with the group, a decision was made to move to higher ground
and the column moved out, Sgt. Hayes bringing up the rear.As he
moved out, he suddenly heard a scuffling sound in the muddy canal
and investigating found it to be the operations of¬ficer of the
regiment, water log¬ged and covered with muck and grime of the
Helping the officer out of the watery trap, the two moved for¬ward
and joined the larger group which had moved further up the canal. In
the days and nights of action that followed, the opera¬tions officer
and his rescuer from a possible drowning became separated.
After successful completion of the Normandy campaign, the com¬bat
team began preparations for the jump into Holland, and from there,
fought through France, Bel¬gium, and finally Germany. Ser¬ving with
the 504th AIR for a short time in Berlin, Sgt. Hayes returned to the
States in 1945 and was discharged, only to rejoin the service a few
Serving with the 505th for the majority of that time since rejoining
the Army, Sgt. Hayes, now a platoon sergeant in Co. A, was recently
surprised on the Panther parade field when he came face to face with
the officer he had pulled from a canal in Normandy 11 years before.
Times had changed things for the one-time operations officer of the
508th PCT, but he still remembered the "good Samaritan" of the
Normandy campaign, even though he is now Colonel Otho Holmes,
Regimental Commander of the 505th AIR.