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NORMANDY EXPERIENCES

Sgt. Hess 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.

 Being 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. 

Sgt. Hess 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. 

On 3/July 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 others.

Sgt. Hess 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.

While in 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 area. 

After 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. 

The siege 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.

Sgt. Alfred Hess Mortar Sqd., 3rd Pit. G Co., 3rd Bn. 508th P.I.R. 82nd A/B.

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