Stand up and hook
up! The silence was broken and we jumped up and snapped our hooks on to
Then the sergeant
called, "KEEP YOUR HAND ON THE D-RING WHEN YOU LEAVE THE PLANE. Sound off
Check, I shouted.
"17 O.K.," the next
man shouted, "16 O.K.," the countdown continued until 1 O.K.
"STAND IN THE
DOOR", my heart was pounding and I [said] a prayer to myself.
I shouted "WHAT
TIME IS IT?" It was 02.30, although I don’t know who answered.I
don’t know why I asked for the time, but I suppose it relieved the
I felt I was all
alone, and continued to pray.
The first man held
his position in the doorway and we all shuffled up tightly and kept the
pressure on him until we heard, "ARE YOU READY?"
All together we
With the roar of the engines in my ears I was out the door and into the
silence of the night. I realized I had made the jump into darkness.
As the chute popped
open my head snapped forward and my feet came up, my helmet was pushed
slightly over my face. The jolt of the opening of the chute made
everything a reality. I looked up at my chute to make sure it was o.k.,
and then looked down and couldn’t see anything but blackness.
I unfastened the
main belt, unsnapped my reserve and let it drop to the ground. I opened
the chest strap, now all I had to do on the ground was remove the leg
straps and I would be free from my parachute.
For a few seconds
on the way down, I looked and saw red and green flares. The brightness of
tracers flying through into the sky and the firing of machine guns seemed
to be all around me. I thought [it was] just like the 4th of
Looking up at the
chute and then down at my feet, I had the shock of my life. I plunged into
My heart was
pounding and my thoughts were running a mile a minute.
"How deep is the
"Can I get free of
"Am I too heavy?"
"Will the weight
keep on the bottom?"
I hit the water in
a standing position, and when my feet touched the bottom I was slightly
forward.I straightened and kicked up for air. The water was not as deep as
I expected so I held my breath and tried to stand. The water was just
above my nose.
Quickly I stood on
my toes and gasped for another gulp of air. My heart was beating so
rapidly that I thought it would burst. I pleaded, "OH GOD, PLEASE DON’T
LET ME DROWN."
Below the water I
went and tried to remove the leg straps. They were to tight and wouldn’t
Needing more air I
jumped up, and as soon as my head was above water I began splashing
around. I started to pray, standing on my toes with my head barely above
the water, my heart was beating faster.
After a few seconds
I calmed down and decided to cut the straps.
"GOD, MY ONLY
CHANCE IS THE KNIFE, PLEASE LET IT BE THERE."
Going down in to
the water again, I felt for my right boot.
YES, THE KNIFE IS
STILL THERE!" I slipped my hand through the loop and tightly gripped
the handle. With a fast upward motion I removed the knife from the sheath.
Quickly I jumped up
for more air and stood still for a while thinking now I have a chance.
Holding the knife
tighter as I went below the water, I slipped it between my leg and the
strap, working back and forth in an upward motion, nothing happened.
In a panic I came
up for another breath of air and thought my heart would burst from fright.
I wanted to scream for help but knew that could make matters worse.
I told myself I
must think, think why I cant cut the strap. My knife is razor sharp.
As I was gasping
for air I kept saying Hail Mary’s. It seemed an eternity before I realized
I had the blade upside down.
"THAT’S IT, I, M
USING THE BACK OF THE BLADE!" I touched the sharp edge and made sure
it was in an upright position.
Taking another gulp
of air, I went down again to cut the leg straps. With a few pulls of the
knife on each strap I was finally free from my chute.
Getting rid of the
chute calmed me down a little, but the weight of the musette bag and a
land mine was still holding me down. With a few rapid strokes of the knife
I cut loose the land mine. Then I unfastened the straps of the musette bag
and let it fall.
I adjusted the
rifle and bandoleers of ammo into a more comfortable position. Then I cut
away the gas mask and removed the hand grenades from my leg pockets and
put them into the lower jacket pockets. Reaching up I unfastened the
chinstrap of the helmet and let it fall into the water.
another deep breath, I bent down to retrieve the musette bag. Except for
the wool cap, the entire contents were disposed of, and the bag was then
thrown over my head to hang behind me.
I became conscious
of the rifle and machine gun fire in the distance and I was gripped by
fear.All the training I had received had not prepared me for a landing
like this – in the water. The equipment I carried was heavy, and I was
terrified I would drown because of it. I hesitated to move for fear of
walking into deeper water.
I needed to find a
spot where the water was a little lower so I could get off my toes and
rest. Moving slowly, inch by inch the water became shallower. When it was
chest high I stopped and rested, trying to decide which way to go.
My eyes strained to
see a landmark but I could see nothing in the darkness.
I was cold and
began to shiver.
We had been told at
the briefings to go in the direction of the next plane coming in if we
were separated from the squad. Suppose there are no more planes – then
what should I do?
The water seemed to
be getting colder now. My shivering got worse and my teeth were
I must keep moving
then I wouldn’t feel the cold so much.
The water was now
at waist level and I believe I was walking to higher ground. I kept moving
but the water became deeper. I turned and returned to the waist high
In the distance to
my left I could hear the sound of airplane engines coming in my direction
and getting louder. All hell broke loose as rifles and machine guns began
firing and I watched the tracers flying into the air.
Suddenly there was
a huge burst of orange flame coming from both engines of a plane. As the
plane came down it sounded like the scream of human beings about to die.
I could not believe
what was happening. I just stood still, seeing, hearing.
Suddenly I realized
the plane was heading straight for me, in a ball of flames and screeching
for help. As fast as could I moved to the right, trying to get out of its
"OH MY GOD, ITS
BANKING TOWARDS ME!"
In a panic I tried
to run the other way. The flames lit up the darkness and with screaming
engines the plane crashed.
It was dark again
and became very quiet.
As I stood shaking
in the cold water I wondered if the troopers had bailed out before the
crash. I’ll head in that direction and maybe I will join up with some of
I have to get out
of this water before daylight; if I’m spotted by the Germans they’ll use
me for target practice. I was still shoulder high water and was pushing my
way through some reeds.
"No I couldn’t be!"
"Did I hear a
Pushing the reeds
away as I walked, I heard the password, FLASH; I recognised the voice to
be Dale Cables. Pushing the reeds from side to side, my right arm hit
against a hard object and I heard the click of a trigger.
FLASH, again while he cocked the bolt of his weapon and put a round in the
chamber. Immediately I replied, THUNDER, he recognised my voice and
proceeded to give me hell for not answering the first time.
His rifle was a few
inch’s from my face.