Escape & Evasion Report #1107
Pfc Frank E. Bernard
508 Para Inf Regt, 82 AB Division
A group of 54 of us had joined together and were trying to make contact with our unit. We ran into German parachutists and in a nine-hour battle wiped out a company of them for the loss of two killed and two wounded on our side. The Germans then moved up 37 mm and AT guns and fired on us at point blank range. The lieutenant commanding surrendered us.
We were stripped of all of our equipment and all of our personal possessions and taken to a barn. From here the Germans marched us out on a road, and when Allied planes strafed us, I slipped away during the confusion.
After hiding in hedgerows for 24 hours I was again captured by a patrol of S.S. troops but got away again when
Allied planes attacked the column in which I was being marched away.
This time I was loose in fields and woods for two days, but then another company of S.S. troops captured me.
On 19 June I was under guard in a SS bivouac area. My guard fell asleep, and I took his rifle and crept away; but I ran into one of the MG outposts of the bivouac area. In the scuffle that ensured I shot a German lieutenant in the outpost and hid under a woodpile; but I had no chance to get away during the night and was found in my hiding place the next morning.
A sergeant took me over to the body of the lieutenant whom I had shot and told me I’d regret what I had done. Then he ordered me to walk out into the field on which he had his machine gun trained. I had moved only about 15 or 20 feet when the sergeant ran after me and asked me whether I had been blessed that day. I looked at him without saying a word; but he led me off and put me under guard.
I was sent from here to a camp near St. LO. With nine other prisoners from this camp I was taken out to be interrogated. When we would give no information, we were sent to ALENCON. In
ALENCON I was put into a prison cell and told I was to be tried for the murder of an officer. I remained in this cell on a diet of bread and water until 20 July. Then without any explanation I was taken out and set to carrying litters in the hospital and then put into a P/W stockade. There the SBO gave me a map and arranged for me to be assigned to a party which was working on the railway line.
On the second day of my assignment to this detail I made my escape. We were marching to work in single file with three guards at the head and three at the end of the column. Along the line two British prisoners by arrangement doubled up behind me to shield me from the sight of the guards in the rear, and I dropped into a hole at the side of the line. Another prisoner dropped in beside me, an American infantryman whose name I never learned.
We moved off together that evening and the next day a farmer whom we approached gave us civilian clothing.
East of ALENCON we came across a German gasoline dump in the forest. We saw no Germans about, and we therefore set about doing what damage we could. We had worked four hours emptying between 60 and 70 gasoline drums when a German patrol surprised us and opened fire. We immediately separated and made off into the forest in opposite directions. That was the last I saw of my companion.
I got through the forest and into a small valley where I met a Frenchman who as soon as he learned my identity took me to a house where I remained until a French armored division occupied ALENCON. On 13 August I went into the town and reported to the MPs there. The next day one of my
French friends took me to the MP HQ in ALENCON. I was taken from there to a camp in
Rennes, and thence to the advanced HQ of IX Air Force.