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Up Kennedy (2) Kennedy (3)

HARRY J. KENNEDY (Hq Hq)
This personal story written by Harry Kennedy has been faithfully reproduced in his own words maintaining his spelling and grammar.  Harry was a native-born German and although he had nearly mastered English there are a few forgivable mistakes to be seen.  To present the story in any other fashion would be to change the face of Hans Jakob Kahn, AKA Harry Jacob Kennedy.

A second story follows which describes Harry's quick thinking on a similar patrol in Holland a few months later.

Pvt. Harry J. Kennedy
A.S.N. 32885602
Regt, Hq. Co.,
508th. Parachute Inf. Regt.,
A.P. O. 230 c/o U. S. Army

- A NIGHT PATROL IN NORMANDY, FRANCE -

One evening Cpl. Fred W. Robbins, A.S.N. 11052466, and myself were called to our Capt, of the Regt. Intelligence Section, Capt. John A. Breen, A.S.N. O-1295656. Just as it happened before we were to go on a reconnaissance night patrol. Seven other men went along as a protection in case that we should run into any trouble behind the German lines.
For about two hours we made preparations for this patrol. We selected our routes for entering and leaving the enemy's lines. Areal-photography [sic] and maps of all kinds were at our disposition.

We left our Command Post at approximately ten o'clock in the evening so that we could reach our outposts before darkness broke in. On the way to the different outposts we stopped in at another regiment's Command Post. This, in order to obtain all the information we possible could get. Even the smallest change in the enemy's position could mean success of defeat and death for all of us. It could change the pre-arranged route and actions of our patrol or even call it off.

At about midnight we left our outpost and moved slowly towards the lines of the enemy. We had a half moon which is in a way of assistance and then again at the less called moment it can mean the end. Everything is just a matter of luck. Everything was quiet. Not even small arm fire could be heard and that is unusual. In a way It was hard to believe that there was a war on and we were right in it. An uncertain feeling came over us. After passing two hedgerows we knew that we were in the German lines since at that particular place the American and German lines ran very close. Every hedgerow, bush or even tree may be hiding a German machine gun. We knew from past experience that the enemy had a very good chance to detect us long before we know of his whereabout. We were moving and at night, when everything is still, a movement can be noticed immediately. The enemy is dug in and does not make any noise. He is hidden in the shadow. No matter how well a patrol is trained it is impossible to move without making any noise. They only help there is to cover up for the noise is the rustling of the trees or the firing of friendly or enemy's artillery.

One of our scout walked in front of me. We were the first two men of our patrol. I kept myself constantly ready to talk back to any German who may challenge us. This, in order to win a few precious seconds in which we either can withdraw or take tactical positions if we have to fight our way out of it. We proceeded another five fields before our column stopped. It took about two hours to move through these seven fields; and they were very small fields. All of a sudden the man ahead of me noticed a German soldier standing behind a small pushcart. However, he did not notice us. Since we try to avoid firing at night on a reconnaissance patrol, we moved quietly one field back and outflanked that German. We know that Germans never stay alone at night. So there must be another German somewheres. We all were ready for immediate action. Our tommy-guns were ready to deal with anybody and anything.

We passed some more fields and hedgerows. All of a sudden a German soldier, in perfect English, asked: "Where are you going, fellows?" He then turned around and spoke in German language to two of his commerades who were laying in a slit-trench, probably half asleep. Our patrol immediately withdrew into another field. We were very tense and keen as never before. After a few seconds - which seemed to be hours - we moved ahead again, and again outflanking this German position too.

After those two experiences our Imagination started to play tricks on us. We were very jumpy. Every tree looked like a German. Each move of a leave sounded like the immediate crack of machine gun fire going off. But everything became peaceful again and this made us very nerves. We moved ahead again. Slower than before. Five steps in a crutched position took thirty minutes or more.

The first man ahead of me just started to move across another hedgerow. We were somewhat located in a corner of two hedgerows comming together. I was standing about 15 feet away from the corner and started to cut in. The men behind me were standing half crouched and completely outlined by the silvery moon which just came out of the clouds. We all were perfect targets, but these chances we have to take. All of a sudden a German hollered one word in German. Since it came so unexpectedly I couldn't understand what he said, but I know it was In German. He could see all of us. We didn't move because a wrong move might cause the German to open up with a full automatic weapon. Germans had in all their position full automatic weapons. If they would open up we could not run for cover since we were only a few feet away from the German position. It would have been fatal to us. I could feel my heart beat and even hear it. I acted rather in an automatic way. I said in perfect German: "Yes, what is the matter? Everything is all right!" I said it in an authorizing manner which the Germans respect. Just what made me speak right away and ask a question I don't know. But what was next to come? The next few seconds, if not split-seconds were to be the answer as to our very existing, or in plain words whether we were to be dead or alive. A machine gun fired at such a close ranch and with such little distribution can cut a man a part in no time. My mind was working fast. I thought of a million different things at the same time. I tried to recall whether all members of the patrol were informed that I knew German and would use it if the situation would call for it. Would my own men fire at me? And this has happened to me at various occasions. I realized that it was too dark for the men behind me, although they were only a few feet in back of me, and that a clear identification would be impossible now or in any fight. Everything seemed to be hours. But it didn't take more than a minute. The German soldier looked at us and turned away. We immediately turned away and withdrew. I spotted in the meantime two light machine guns set up next to each other. Their fire if used, would be murder.

We moved very fast going backwards. We didn't talk. It was getting late and daylight was showing itself. With daylight we can not work. We only get discovered much earlier. So we walked very fast, almost running, back to our line. We used the same route without meeting any opposition. By the time the sun came up we were back again at our Regimental Command Post. We all were very tiered, just as if we worked at hard labor for 24 hours. We were tiered to a point where couldn't sleep. Our nerves were on edges. We didn't talk at all a cause one wrong word and a fight would start between us. We all knew we were jumpy. We left each other alone and that was the best as experience has taught us.

We accomplished our mission which was to find out some of the German positions. It was just a general patrol, nothing special. We did find out some position of infantry nature which can mean everything to us infantry men in an attack. No one went 'hay-wire' inspite of the critical situation we were in at times. It was not the only time that I talked to a German soldier in combat who was not our prisoner.

A member of the patrol came over to me later on and thanked me for - as he said - acting so quickly and maybe saving us from plenty of discomfort. This 'thank you' meant more to me than the highest award on earth. - - -

- END-
 

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