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Normandy Thoughts (6 of 10)

I believe it was D-Day or the day after, we were standing in a field in a small group talking, when out of nowhere a piece of shrapnel about 8 inches long and 5 inches wide from some distant bombing or Naval shelling came from out of the sky and fell parallel with Lt. Quade's arm, tore a slit in his jump Jacket sleeve without scratching him, and embedded itself in the ground. It was spooky! It seemed to say that Lt. Quade had a charmed life and nothing could hurt him. His invincibility, however, was short lived; he had about two more days to enjoy the Norman summer.

Also, about the same time we didnít know whether or not the Invasion of France was successful. We had no way of knowing if the beaches were secured or our forces were pushed back into the sea. It was a perfect summer's day with a beautiful blue sky and white puffy clouds scattered about and a constant breeze when directly above us two Army Air Force P-38's with their unmistakable twin fuselages went into a synchronized barrel roll as if to say the sky was ours, and reason followed if they could have the luxury of doing barrel rolls then, the beaches were ours and the Invasion was successful.

Somewhere along the line we picked up more people and two were Officers and two big German Afrika Corps camouflaged trucks, The Lieutenants were one Lt. [Arthur R.] Stevens who I didn't know at all. I think he told me he attended the University of Iowa at the same time as Nile Kinnick, the great field goal kicker whom, I believe, was killed early in the war; and a Lt. John [J.] Daly who was a very personable type. I believe he played football at Manhattan College. Why in the world we tied ourselves down with the two German trucks I'll never know, naturally we had to travel along the road network with the trucks, and in so doing expose ourselves to easy detection.

So it was this beautiful sunny day we were proceeding along a Norman country road, and came across a heavy black communication cable running parallel with the road in the bordering irrigation ditch. Jess [M.] Alley, who I believe was Communications Sgt., said that he thought from its diameter it was probably German Corp communications wire. So we cut a piece of about fifteen feet from the wire - wide enough so it could not be rejoined - and hid it as we walked along. Incidentally, no one rode in the empty trucks except the drivers. We then came across two middle-aged Frenchmen wearing the customary berets, standing in front of a house, and our Colonel engaged them In a makeshift French-English dialogue and they assured us there were no Bosche around - that they (the Germans) had been through, but they all had left.

I was walking at this time with the Command Group, the Colonel, Lt. Quade, and I believe Jess Alley, when the point walking up ahead hit the ground and remained motionless. The Colonel or Lt. Quade told me to go up front and see why the point had hit the ground. As I walked up the road the lead group was laying on both sides of the road in the irrigation ditches. Joe Ganz was laying on my right as I walked between them. I asked him what they saw, and he pointed to the hill in front of us that overlooked the road. Sitting up on the hill wore some shiftless men who appeared to be sunbathing. We all carried a piece of cloth, which I believe was red, to identify ourselves from a distance. I wrapped the cloth around the tip of the barrel of my M-1, and being the only one standing, started walking forward, waving my rifle to the left and right like a banner. There was a farm house on the left side of the road, and as I approached the hill, a rain of machinegun bullets came at me. The sunbathers were German soldiers manning a machinegun covering the road. When they saw the Afrika Corps trucks they assumed our little band were German soldiers, I somehow got behind the farm house without being hit. We must have come upon a German Army perimeter defense because all hell broke loose. The shingles were flying off the farmhouse I was behind and the road was being raked with machinegun bullets.

Being as I walked beyond the point waving my rifle, I found myself in a very lonely position behind that farmhouse. I was all alone and the enemy fire was intensifying. To my rear I heard chickens scurrying and being harassed. I thought I heard a German rifle firing in the same area. Then I heard someone running and hitting the ground. I thought it might be a German, so I timed the next dash toward me with my rifle pointed in his direction. Thank God the runner was Lt. Quade. He asked if there was anyone with me and I told him no. He said we were going to make a run for it.

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