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WARREN BROWN'S RECOLLECTIONS

Recollections of Warren Brown
Cynthia Brown LaFountain

I’m Warren Brown, a combat veteran from World War II. I joined the Army and volunteered for the parachute troops in October 1942. I joined the newly formed HQ 1stBatallion 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment which was stationed in Camp Blanding, Florida. After 16 weeks of training, we went to Fort Benning, Georgia where I qualified as a Parachutist and now was considered being among the elite in the Army. From there, we went to Camp Mackall, North Carolina training from morning till night. Lots of night training, day and night parachute jumps, and never stopping our physical training, which was mostly running. Everywhere we went, we ran.

On 20th December 1943, our regiment moved to Camp Shanks, New York and prepared to ship overseas. We loaded on the transport ship December 27th and sailed to Northern Ireland arriving in Belfast on January 8, 1944. Here we did more training, mostly at night. On March 10, we arrived in Nottingham, England, and this was to be our base camp. We still continued to train with a few night jumps. On most of these jumps we were scattered all over. We never seemed to land on our jump zones. We all knew that something big was about to happen, and that we would be part of it.

England was bulging at the seams with men and equipment. The end of May 1944, we suddenly got our orders to move to Folkingham Airport where we were sealed in and now waiting for the invasion of France. We spent out time checking our equipment, writing letters, and reading sand table maps of the area we were to land in.

On the night of June 4th, we were suppose to get ready to go, but heavy rain cancelled the invasion for 24 hours. On the night of June 5th,I along with hundreds of other paratroopers, began to load up with our equipment. My equipment for this jump was 2 white phosphate, 2 concussion and 2 fragmentation grenades, food K-rations for 3 days, chocolate Dbars, web belting and a harness to hold a canteen, trench shovel, first aid packet, bayonet, gas mask on left leg, and another first aid kit strapped to my other leg. Over my shoulder, I carried ammunition. My pack in front had clean socks, toilet articles, a 10 lb land mine, a 536 radio with batteries, and blood plasma. I carried my M1 rifle in front of me because it was in back of my reserve parachute. Our parachute jackets and pants had extra large pockets and each of these pockets held different articles. All of our had been impregnated with a chemical in case of a gas attack by the enemy. I was so heavy with equipment I had to be helped into the plane as well as most of the other troopers.

We left the airfield at about 10:30pm on June 5th. We circled over England as our C-47 joined hundreds of other planes and finally got into formation and headed for Normandy. I was the number 2 jumper, which means I’d be sitting next to the open door. What I was about to witness was beyond belief. I could see thousands of ships sitting in the English Channel. My thought was If I fell from the plane now, I’d never hit the water because of so many ships. We flew between the Jersey and Guernsey Islands and then on to France. I could see small towns on fire, and as we continued on to our drop zone, we flew into very intense fire. It was a sky full of tracer bullets, anti aircraft, 20M.M.-88s, and machine gun fire. I could see some planes being hit and some planes going down. As our plane was being fired on, our Lt. (Jump Master) said, “Stand up and hook up! Close up and stand in the door!” Our plane was being hit by machine gun fire in the left engine and up the center of the plane floor. Just as the green light went on, the Lt. who jumped first hollered, You’re jumping into water! Our stick left the plane in just a few seconds as we jumped from about 500 feet. I was one of 4 to land safely in a small field at about 2:15 on the morning on June 6th. It took me until dawn to get off this small field. I had to cut myself from my parachute harness because I had to lay flat on the ground as machine guns fired above me from a corner of the field. This field had large poles in the ground to hinder the gliders that were to arrive later on in the day.

At dawn, I joined up with 2 other troopers and tried to call my Company Commander and a 1st SGT on my 536 radio. No answer. I found out later that both had been killed on the drop. We 3 later joined about 25 other troopers, and began to move from this area trying to get to our objective which was a couple of miles away. We were going down a small dirt road and crossing over into another section of hedgerows. Just as it was my turn to go, I noticed a German truck coming up the road. I called my friend, and he came up with a bazooka and we both jumped out in front of the truck and blew it up. As the enemy scattered from the truck, we shot as many as we could. We stayed in one field for 5 days fighting the Germans as they came up the dirt road trying to get to the beaches. We lost several of our group in that area. We finally linked up with our regiment and continued to fight until July 4, which was our last day of combat. It had been 33 days of continuous action without relief. On July 15, the 508th, or what was left of it, was loaded onto 2 LSTs and returned to England. Of the 2,056 men who jumped on D-day, 918 returned to Wollaton Park. From my platoon of 42 troopers, we came back with 12. It was quite sad to go back into your tent and read the names of your friends over their bunks. My tent held 6, and only 2 came back.

We were given new replacements and began another series of training. On Sunday September 17, 1944, our parachute unit jumped about 65 miles behind German lines near Nigmegan, Holland. It was a daylight jump, and again, I sat near the door and could see everything taking place. Our mission was to help capture and secure the bridge over the Waal River near Nigmegan. We fought in several areas; Berg en Dal, Beek Devil’s Hill, Grroesbeek Wyler, Nigmegan, Den Heuvel’s Woods, and Voxhill. The fighting in this area was not as heavy as it was in Normandy because many of the enemy were retreating. We left Holland around 11 November, and went to Sissone, France to a camp for a rest and to replace those we lost in Holland.

On 17 December, Field Marshall Von Runsteat ordered a tremendous counterattack through Ardennes using his best divisions. I moved into this area by truck. It was mass confusion. Forty men standing in open trucks moving through freezing cold and snow, not knowing where we were going, and using roads that were also being used by the enemy. This would be our toughest campaign yet. My 1stBatallion was on a ridge, and our orders were to hold at all costs, but to withdraw at 9pm. We had been street fighting and house to house fighting all day. On Christmas Eve we withdrew from this position and moved several miles to the rear. The Battle of the Bulge was now fading out. We went on the offensive, and by the end of March, my fighting days were over. We returned to an airfield in France for a possible jump to liberate our POW camps, but the jump did not materialize, so for me, the war was over.

The 508th Parachute Infantry Division was honored to be the guards for General Eisenhower’s Headquarters in Frankfurt. I was separated from the service in November 1945. I was one of 6 left from my platoon when we started together in October 1942.

My ribbons are:

E.T.O. with 4 battle stars and bronze arrow head
Good Conduct
Purple Heart
Parachute Wings with 2 battle stars
Combat Infantry Badge
Bronze Star Medal
Victory Medal
President Unit Citation
Belgium Fourragére
French Fourragére
Netherlands Citation (this citation has only been awarded to the 82nd AB)

[Transcribed from Warren's hand-written notes by Nancy Gooding]
 

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