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Normandy Thoughts (5 of 10)

One night as we were moving we came across a whole column of Germans; there must have been hundreds of them. There were trucks and tanks and column after column of soldiers with all their personal equipment rattling and their bob-nail boots hitting the road. They made some racket!

Soon it was morning again and I had the 1st Scout position, and for a 2nd Scout I had a Tech. Sgt. named Joe Ganz [no known name match]. I believe he was from Headquarters Co, of our Battalion. The fields that we were crossing weren't too deep and they were bordered by huge hedgerows.

At times I would be two hedgerows in front of my 2nd Scout. Then it happened — I walked across this field, about two-thirds of the way, on a beautiful sunny early afternoon, and without a modicum of warning someone right in front of me behind the next hedgerow opened up with a Schmizer [Schmeisser] sub-machinegun right at me. I have often thought of that happening, and one of my regrets is that I did not have it on film. I started to run a broken field that in my mind would have made Tommy Harmon or Red Grange look like old men [even] in their prime; five yards right, two yards left, three right, six left, etc. All the while the machinegun bullets were snapping all around me. There was a wide white plank swing gate in the right rear, corner of the field. In full stride with my rifle held stiff arm over my head, I made one leap head first and went sailing through the air, just skimmed the top plank, and landed in a heap on the other side. After that we tried an alternate route.

Another time it was early morning and we were all in a heavily wooded area resting. I think we might have been there during the night and stayed until morning. Everyone was just sitting around half dozing. It was a relaxed atmosphere. The Colonel and Lt. Quade decided to send a patrol out to try and find other paratroopers who were lost like us, and, or some equipment bundles that were dropped by chute the night of the Invasion, which might have contained automatic weapons, mortars, radios, food, etc. Lt. Quade asked me if I wanted to go on the patrol with him, which I considered an honor, considering all the Sergeants and other Non-Commissioned officers that were in the group.

Well, three of us started out — Lt. Quade, Pasodas [Pesados] and myself. It was a very bright sunny morning, and every field we crossed took us further arid further from our group. I, started to get anxious, wondering if we would ever find our way back. Then we came to a field with several equipment bundles lying on the ground. A road was very close to the field, and for a section of about twenty feet there was no vegetation between the road and the field. Each was in full unobstructive [sic] view of the other. We were opening a bundle and it was, mostly machine gun ammunition in canvas belts. I remember telling Lt. Quade that though we didn't have a machinegun we could take the belts and use the bullets In our M-1s if we got surrounded and ran out of ammo.

The three of us were in the kneeling position over the opened bundle, when up the road walked two French women with laundry baskets on their heads, wearing wooden shoes (Dutch type), in an animated conversation. They walked past the opening on the road, looked us square in the face, and I half expected a warm smile or a thrown kiss. Instead they broke out in a gallop with their wooden shoes hitting the road like horses hooves and screaming at the top of their lungs, “Amerikans, Amerikans”, etc. With friends like that we didn't need any enemies, So again we had to move fast to avoid the alerted Germans who would be on our position in moments,

We made it back to our group in the woods with the help of Lt. Quade's compass reading expertise. We just about sat down when the Colonel suggested that a mortar that was firing in our vicinity might be Lt. Beaver's Mortar Platoon from Hdq. Co. of our Battalion. The mortar shells were not landing anywhere nearby; they were firing at some remote target. Well, I was told by the Colonel to take someone with me and find out if it was friend or foe. I took Sgt. Ganz [Philip Gantz], and his sentiment, as was most of the people, was that it had to be a German Mortar Co. It was firing with impunity being there was no small arms fire attacking it. So, on we crept through the woods until we came to a road, and the mortar was on the other side. We couldn't see it, but it was in heavy woods about 30 yds. away. I motioned to Ganz that we would cross the road, and he, with some justification, was a little reluctant, he said something to the effect that it had to be German, and if we crossed the road we'd get into a fire fight, probably get killed, and might probably violate the integrity of our fighting group, but "I" was the one the Colonel told to find out who was firing the mortar, and I wasn't going back unless I knew positively that it wasn't ours, even if I got killed trying. Just at the moment I was about to cross the road, two German soldiers came walking down the road from our left, pushing two flatbed wheel barrows filled with mortar shells and talking a blue streak. Undoubtedly, the timing of their arrival was perfect; it confirmed the mortar was German without giving our position away, or our getting involved in a one sided fire fight.

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