entered service in September 1942 from Sacramento, CA. He had
moved to Sacramento from Ashley, North Dakota, after graduating
from high school. Pvt. Hess was inducted into the service at the
Monterey Presidio, California. Private Hess volunteered for
Paratrooper training after hearing a speech from the
Paratrooper/recruiter. Sgt. Hess found the training at Camp
Blanding in Florida to be very challenging but worth the efforts
when he received his jump Boots and Wings. He felt special and
knew he was among special men.
from North Dakota, he was prepared for the work ahead of him. He
would need every bit of farm boy strength and resolution for the
coming seventeen months. On 6 June 1944, Sgt. Hess jumped into
Normandy and landed in the flooded waters on the west side of
the Merderet River. He was one of the lucky troopers who escaped
drowning. Cutting himself free of the parachute and some
equipment, Sgt. Hess climbed out of the water and over the hedge
row and soon found his assistant and best friend Cpl. Bill Swint
with a group of 40 to 50 men from different regiments of the
82nd and 101st Airborne Division. After a time, this group ran
into a medical outfit. Hess noticed the Colonel in charge had a
broken leg. Asked what they could do to help, most of this group
was told to search the area for troopers that might be hung up
in the trees. Sgt. Hess states that they found no troopers in
the trees. On the second night, while with this group, he
believes near Ste. Mere Eglise, a C-47 crashed within 500 yards
of their foxhole. They were concerned that the fire from the
C-47 would attract the enemy, so they stay on alert all night,
but nothing much happened. On the third day, he and other 508th
troopers left this group to find their own. Sgt. Hess now
believes it took them a week to hook up with their regiment.
remembers a German 88 shooting down the street in a flat
trajectory in the Chef du Pont area. He and Swint had to cross
over to a cafe between the rounds of the 88. There was cider in
the cafe that had to be taken. Their First Sergeant, Marcel
Wenzel, was killed by a sniper, 9 June, 1944 near Picauville.
1944, the attack on Hill 131 near Les Bois de Limors commenced.
The troopers' mission was to charge through an open fieid, up
the fortified hili and dislodge the entrenched enemy. This was a
day when many friends were lost to the 508th. Sgt. Hess
remembers seeing Col. Mendez running out and cannot remember the
and the others could hear the German who was shot moaning and
crying throughout the remainder of the siege which was
approximately four and a half hours.
the loft, Sgt. Hess, positioned by a window, could see below the
window two SS soldiers with a machine gun arguing, probably on
how to deploy the gun. At some point, they left undetected. At
some point Sgt Hess' squad which was still in its hole manning
their position was told to fall back to a new position Hodge and
Lindsey informed Bill Swint of the fall back order, Swint said
he would not leave without finding Sgt. Hess and knowing of his
situation. Swint stayed in his position and did not see Hess
until after the reinforcements of F and I Cos. had retaken the
noise died down, Sgt. Hess was ordered by the Lieutenant to go
down stairs and check the situation. Hess replied that maybe the
Lt. should go down stairs and check it out. Before a decision
was made who would go downstairs, the reinforcements could be
heard entering downstairs. A mighty sight this was. Hess went to
see if the German who was moaning all night was still alive. He
did find a German laying under a dead cow, not knowing if this
was the same German. He checked to see if he was dead, he was.
He removed a camera, a bayonet, and a few other articles from
the German, which he still has today. He immediately checked the
well being of his squad members, sadly to find that Pfc Robert
Lindsey was killed while pulling back. John Hodge was wounded at
the same time.
ended about 0430. 100 SS soldiers, Hitler's Elite, were found
lying in all configurations of death. Sgt. Al Hess and his
friend Sgt. Bill Swint fought all the way to Germany and
occupation duty. Sgt. Alfred Hess returned state side and was
once again united with his lovely bride, Fronia Hess, in
December 1945. The 508th parachute Regiment group has reunions
throughout the United States every year. This enables the
troopers to share the esprit de corps they so deeply cherish.
The stories get better with each passing reunion.