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JOHN D. BOONE - D-DAY EXPERIENCES
The following is the transcript of an audio tape created by John Boone and forwarded to author Stephan Ambrose.
4850 NE Neotsu Dr.
Neotsu, OR 97364

My name is John D. Boone. I am at 4850 NE Neotsu Dr. in Neotsu, Oregon.

I was born September 7th, 1920 in Tillamook, Oregon. Joined the Army on October 15th of 1942 and was assigned to the 508th Parachute Infantry, which later became attached to the 82nd Airborne.

At the time of the invasion of Normandy, I was a Staff Sergeant, and on my discharge in early January of 1946, I was a First Lieutenant.

I had prayed that war would last long enough for me to get my licks. I didn't think that it could end without my help, and I was very disappointed when the 508th I found was at Camp Blanding, Florida, and I didn't see a sign of an airplane, and I thought I should be assigned to parachute school right off the bat. But this didn't happen.

At any rate, we arrived overseas in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in early January of 1944, January 9th, I believe. We were stationed at Cromore, an Irish estate, near Port Stewart, Port Rush, and coleraine, I remember the small towns. And we were there until March 10th when they moved us to Nottingham, England where we were bivouacked at Wollaton Park in a tent city. We were there until three or four days before D-Day and we'd returned there until relieved in Normandy.

I'm sure we were at an airfield five days before our D-Day departure. Although four actually seems more reasonable.

During our stay at the airfield, the sand table sessions were quite frequent and thorough. It would appear our objectives would be easily secured without too much trouble, or even easier. As a matter of fact, they had us so convinced that when we were issued our rations, most everyone ate all the good rations before we even left England, and this was rather not the thing to do, but we were fairly convinced that this operation was not going to be all that rough.

Other than sand tables and strategy sessions, our time was spent playing softball, eating, writing letters, resting and watching movies. And we were housed in large hangers where we were cotted down. Of course, the cancellation of our invasion came as a shock and a disappointment, but coming early in the day as we did the day before D-Day or two days at that time, I recall it caused not too much confusion.

We knew the invasion was close at hand at any rate. We knew it was going to happen.

Faces blackened and bodies loaded to the hilt, our company formation was called before our departure to the planes to leave around 22 or 2300 hours. Our company commander, Captain Gerard A. Ruddy, talked to us and presented a well thought out speech. We were prepared, he said, and it was up to us to use that preparation and ingenuity to take care of the Germans. In his talk, he said among other things, he would rather die than have to bury one of his men.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, he did not have to face the sadness of a burial since he, himself, was killed on D-Day. In conclusion, he said "Sergeant Boone, come up here and sing us a song." I went up there as commanded and sang Stout Hearted Men. After that, it was "Give them hell, men!" And we were dismissed to go to our planes.

Incidentally, I have been attending reunions of the 508th from 1977, and no one in my company has ever mentioned my singing. One year, however, a man from A Company asked if I were the one that sang that night. He had to be the better part of a block away, I don't know the quality of the song, but for him to hear, the volume must have been set on high.

Our flight departure was routine except for when we were preparing to load the planes, here comes a one star general to shake hands with the boys and wish them good luck, because most of us knew this general, but the Air Force personnel were very shook up. It turned out this man was a PFC in our company who'd been an orderly for the Colonel of the regiment on the way over and had in the cleaning of his quarters or what, I don't know, but he picked up a pair of stars that the Colonel was required to carry for overseas duty to have as next rank insignia on hand. So, one of the Air Corp guys, after this had happened, he says "Holy Toledo, I thought we had young generals in the Air Force, but I've never seen a General that young!" Of course, this General was probably about nineteen years old, so it was quite a shock, it was a humorous incident at the time.

And so, we took off, and we were flying in circles for some time as more and more planes got off the ground and formed up. When all of those involved were airborne, we headed out over the channel on which was the greatest number of ships I have ever seen and then some. Seeing all that strength and manpower moving along with us proved most heartening to me. This armada plus a star filled sky made this night even more unforgettable than it already was.

As jump master in my plane, I had a most clear view of all this out the open door near which I stood almost the entire flight. Soon, we were seeing lots of fires burning in the distance. Along with this, there were flashes of high explosives going, ack-ack coming, tracers all over the place, headed in every conceivable direction, including ours. And at that moment, I thought about the prayers I'd sent up about "Get me in the war to help settle it" and I wished that they hadn't been answered. I thought, `I wish I weren't here right now.'

As several tracers went past the plane, I thought of those unseen rounds and I was thoroughly scared. I'm sure none of us have ever experienced such an awesome display of fire power that greeted our arrival. There was no breaking in for us. Boy, I'll tell you, right from the friendly confines of England, we were immediately baptized into war.

When we neared our drop zone and the red light flashed on, I'm sure we were flying higher and faster than scheduled. I'm also certain Air Corp men were sharing the same fear and apprehension we were experiencing. It seemed just prior to the green light, we dove and leveled just as the green light flashed on. I'm sure that C-47 was then moving faster than it was ever intended to fly. Either the speed or the weight we personally carried gave me the stiffest opening shock I ever had when that chute snapped open.

I was armed with a Thompson sub-machine gun, which was strapped under my field pack. When my chute opened, the Tommy gun flew up, and the butt of the stock hit me hard just under the lip of my helmet in the right temple area. I was completely stunned. I thought "My God! I've been hit, and I haven't even gotten into combat yet!" I honestly thought the war was over for me.

Like so many others, I came down in a field more like the meadow which was partially enclosed by hedgerows. The grass was dry and almost waist high. As I lay there trying to get out of my chute, the slight breeze would cause the grass the rustle and I just knew at any moment I would be attempting to dodge a German bayonet. I allayed this fear with some logic, as they were traversing the area across this meadow with machine gun fire which would not allow anyone to stand up, whether friend or foe, without being hit. Having a much better idea of what was needed for a submachine gun in the way of ammunition, I tripled the amount called for in this instance, 1500 rounds rather than five hundred. I want to tell you, that's heavy ammunition, and it sure played the heck with me.

This was in my field bag, which was hanging below my waist. I squirmed into a kneeling position to avoid the machine gun fire and flipped the bag over my head. The ammo was so heavy, it pulled me down to the ground again on my back and pretty well entangled me in the lines of my parachute. I again had to disentangle myself, which seemed to be an endless effort. It took an hour and a half for me to contact another trooper, and it turned out to be the fellow who followed me out of our plane.

During my time alone, I tried to find reason for what we were doing here in France, and what was happening. People trying to kill one another didn't make too much sense, if any.

At about this time, another flight of planes came in to drop their paratroopers. One of the planes was hit by ground fire, burst into flames, and crashed. This really shook me up. I was furious that this happened to my buddies, and it wiped away all my sense of justice and fair play, which finds no place in war. From then on, it was them or me, and it didn't matter and "me" was going to be around, if at all possible.

After finding Lawrence Fitzpatrick of Dubois, Pennsylvania (he's the fellow that jumped behind me), we tried to find others to no avail.

We did find a house where we decided we should ask where the Germans were from the people living there. Having had high school French, I thought I could handle this query. I rapped, the door opened, and I said "Ou" and the door slammed in my face. So much for that. We wearily wandered trying to locate our equipment bundle. We had no success in this. I had seen it when I jumped out of the plane, but when my Tommy gun cracked me in the head, I lost track of it.

It was getting on towards daybreak, and the firing of weapons was rather sporadic. We then heard some sustained firing quite close and moved in on it. We found several other members of our platoon. They had knocked out a German observation post. Several of the Germans had been killed, and our boys were using their bodies (the krauts) for bayonet practice. This really shook me up, it was really appalling to see what was happening. It was though these men had put.....I don't know how to explain it. They put a...well anyway, our men had been loosed, and they had actually gone bezerk. They looked it. When I hollered at them to knock it off, they immediately stopped. I just felt for a few brief moments, their minds had slipped. They were not themselves. Not a bit. They appeared to me to have just gone mad for a short time. But the immediately snapped out of it.

Before we left this spot, daylight had definitely established. From the observation action, others were attracted, and we soon had thirty or forty men all in good shape and we started to travel north to the highway connecting Chef DuPont and Etienville.

While crossing this road, as I recall, a couple of German weapons carriers came down the road. I was the last man in the column and was able to fire on the two vehicles with good effect. From the screaming and hollering, I know some of the Germans were hit, and the second vehicle crashed into the ditch.

Apparently this noise brought us to the attention of another group of troopers headed by Captain Jonathan Adams of A Company. We joined this group.

Resuming our push to Hill 30, we were soon hit by some heavy resistance. One of my closest buddies was at the head of our column and was one of the first casualties in our group. I later learned by a burst of machine gun fire.

After this encounter, we pulled back slightly, into a field surrounded by hedgerows and we dug in a prepared to defend ourselves. It turned into a rather quiet time, as we waited, and apparently the Germans did the same, no one knowing what was there and what we were faced with on either side. We were all aware of their presence as their armor and trucks could be heard very clearly from the nearby road.

Towards dusk, I decided I was not going to leave my buddy' body out there in No Man's Land. I decided to go out and bring him back, so we could at least give him somewhat of a decent burial. I went over the hedgerow into the next field of the same nature, and I made my way along the hedgerow towards the spot where he was reported killed. After a couple of hundred yards, I noticed a farm shed across the field from me. I suppose this was a shelter for cattle. I noticed someone in this shed waving at me, sitting inside, leaning against one of the walls. It turned out to be one of our troopers who had been wounded, and he was unable to move.

In view of this, or this bit of change in my plans, after all, I couldn't help my buddy, but I might be able to help this fellow.

So, I went over to the shed, I got the trooper up over my shoulders and I carried him back to our area, where he could be given medical attention. By this time, darkness was coming on, and necessary security measures had to be taken. We all looked forward, hopefully, to a little sleep, and the food that would be dropped to us the next day, neither of which happened. It had truly been a long day.

And now, here's a postscript for Mr. Ambrose. I just want to tell you, Stephen, I went through quite a trauma here doing this, and I appreciate the opportunity to do it. One thing I failed to mention, that I was the Platoon Sergeant of a Light Machine Gun Platoon of HQ Company, 1st Battalion of the 508th. That's where I was when this all occurred. The incident of bringing this fellow trooper back, they cited me for that. I was awarded a Bronze Star for that little thing. The incident of the firing that we made on these two weapon carriers, and according to the 508th's history was quite effective and I guess did considerable damage.

I don't know what you need, if I can ever be of any assistance to you, I think this is a wonderful project that you're involved with, and if I can shed any light on anything, if you feel like I might be able to, I'd be very happy to try to do it and comply with any request you might have. I know that there's just an awful, awful lot of experiences that have happened on this particular day, and of course, they're all very precious to each individual. In my own case, I hesitate to bring them up because the whole was very....I don't know...very tough on me, and I know a lot of others. But it's something that should be told, and so hopefully, it will be, and I hope others have all shared what they have to tell you about this particular day.

So I want to say thank you again, and like I say, if I can be of any help, feel free to call me.

Thanks again. Goodbye.

One more thing, Stephen, if you want to use any of this, feel free to edit or do whatever you have to do with it, and it will be fine with me.

So, adios. Thanks again.

[end of tape 10-21-92 mga    corrections made 11-9-92 mga]

... it is possible that the transcription was done by Moira Ambrose using her mother's maiden name of Galligan as her middle initial.

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