I was the
last man to jump from my stick over Normandy on the night of 5/6 June
I landed in an
open field among some cows. I shed my parachute and quickly found
two or three other men from the 508.
I asked Chick
Miller to help me read a map. We used a flashlight under a raincoat
to study the map, but we could not get our bearings.
We saw a farmhouse
with a faint light inside. We decided to seek information from the people
at the farm.
I banged on the
door until a frightened elderly couple timidly opened the door just
enough to peep at the paratroopers outside.
"JE SUIS AMERICAIN!"
I [said] in French, which was effective enough to calm the fears of
the startled French people. We were invited inside.
Using sign language,
we learned that we were near the town of Picauville and our host were
M. and Mmm Le Compte. The Le Compte's served us bread and wine as we
sat around the dining table planning our route.
As a parting
gesture I gave my paratroop wings to Madam Le Compte as a remembrance
of our stay. We left the farm and continued on our journey and to find
other members of our Company and Battalion.
came, we came upon a bullet-riddled German staff car rammed up against
a stone wall and two dead Germans in the road.
One of the dead
was General Wilhelm Falley, Commanding officer of the 91st
Division, who had been killed earlier by Lt. Malcolm Brannen.
the car, I found a package which contained a large Swastika flag, the
flag which flew over General Falley's HQ.
were heard so we hid behind a stone wall and waited. The footsteps were
those of other lost American paratroopers, so we joined up with these
At this time
the group was led by Lt. Bodak, who had calculated that we had dropped
in the midst of the German 91st Division.
Later in the
day, we ran into heavy German resistance. We heard a German shouting
One of our guys
translated the German into English; "YOU HAVE THREE MINUTES TO SURRENDER
OR WE WILL SWEEP THE DITCH FROM BOTH ENDS, AND THERE WILL BE NO CHANCE
OF ANYONE SURVIVING."
Lt. Bodak gave
the order to surrender, but a few of us slipped through a hedgerow and
fled towards a barn.
As we entered
the barn, three German Soldiers were trying to get out of the same door.
We grabbed the German Soldiers and pulled them back inside. We had them
While the prisoners
were being guarded, I slipped away alone to another part of the barn.
I pulled up a
loose floorboard and stuffed my package which contained General Falley's
command post flag, replaced the floorboard and covered it with straw.
With our German
prisoners as insurance, we left the barn safely. After travelling a
few hundred yards, we came face to face with a German Tank, which fired
its big gun at us. A shell exploded just behind our group, wounding
One of the prisoners
although bleeding from his wounds jumped up and waved cease-fire gestures
to the tank commander. The insurance paid off, the tank commander decided
to take prisoners rather than kill us.
After being taken
prisoner, we walked several miles to a chateau where there were about
250 prisoners, American, British and Canadian.
The next day
we were loaded onto 20 unmarked German trucks with canvas covers. The
trucks moved out on a main highway towards St Lo.
About noon Allied
planes strafed the convoy killing 30-40 men, many from the 508.
I decided to
make my first escape attempt, which was the first of three unsuccessful
attempts. On my fourth escape attempt I was aided by Dr E. Enzinger,
a German doctor in the P.O.W. hospital in Rennes.
My family had
moved from Germany to America when I was 7 years old, so I could speak
German. I was selected to interpret for the German Doctor.
Dr Enzinger told
me that General Patton’s tanks were near.
I had been given
a pass by the doctor to run errands to the hospital annex. On my next
trip to the annex, I waited until dark and slipped out of the compound.
Two days later I made contact with American troops under the command
of General Patton.
had a drink of Johnny Walker Whiskey with me, and then sent me on my
way towards Utah Beach in a jeep driven by
Major F. J. Cibulka
(see below image for an affidavit signed by the Majoe).
On my way to
Utah Beach, I asked the Major to stop by the barn where I had hidden
General Falley's flag. I found my prized souvenir where I had left it.
In 1969 I visited
Normandy and donated the flag to the Ste Mere Eglise Airborne Museum.
During the trip,
Dr Pierre Honriet who was host to me whilst in Normandy helped me find
the Le Compte farm where I had landed on D-Day. We found the farm and
Madam Le Compte introduced us to her invalid mother.
With all of us
around her bed, she pointed to her bedroom dresser. Her daughter opened
the drawer and took out a little box.
Inside were my
jump wings with my initials J.W.S. scratched on the back.
Then I knew that
this was the place I had landed on June 6th, 1944.