R. B. Lewellen recalls that he was with Lt.
Col. Mendez on a C-47 with the trail number 43-15323 and marked as chalk
number 37 on D-Day. The first one out of the plane was Lt. Col.
Mendez, then his body guard Richard Fritte (per researcher David R.
Berry), 1st Sgt. Raymond Conrad, James R. Hattrick, then Lewellen who
was an acting Corporal for the jump and was to lead a bazooka team,
As a rifleman in the 82nd Airborne
Division, 508th Regiment, Company I, I jumped at 2:27 a.m. on June 6,
1944. As I was coming down, I looked the situation over.
There was a pasture, kind of pie-shaped, with one big tree in the
middle. I aimed for the pasture. I was able to climb the
riser and missed the tree and fell into a low spot. I took off my
chute and put my rifle together. I ran up under the tree and saw
three men coming towards me. I was afraid to shoot, because they
might be Americans, so I challenged them. They muttered something
Taking cover behind my equipment bag that held an 11 pound mine, I
opened fire, swinging right to left. I could see the German on my
left had his rifle on his hip. He fired and hit me in the hand and
the stock of my rifle shattered. With my left hand wrecked and my
right peppered with lead fragments, I ran toward the hedgerow at the far
end of the field.
While I was running, I was shot at probably at least 15 times and
was hit once in the left leg between the hip and the knee. At the
time I thought it was a lot of fire to come from just three men.
Although I gobbled down a few pills, I was unable to effectively treat
my wounds. My arm was too small for the tourniquet and my right
hand was too sore to tighten it on my leg. I was also beginning to
become weak from the loss of blood.
Burrowing under the hedgerow, I spotted some Americans in a
firefight with German troops in a nearby farm house. I decided if
I could get through the hedgerow and get to the road and reach those
GIs, I might find a doctor or a medic. I wiggled halfway through
but was caught on my equipment and couldn’t go either way. Hearing
a German vehicle approach, I forced my way back into the pie-shaped
pasture. Taking only my knife, this time I decided to try the
other side of the field, where I promptly ran into two German soldiers
who took me prisoner.
By this time I was real thirsty, and I asked for a drink. The
Germans told me the water was no good, but one of them offered me a
drink from his canteen. It was milk. I spit it out and lay
back down, convinced I was going to die. Feeling something falling
into my face, I wiped and discovered it was blood, my blood. An
artery in my shattered hand had severed and was spraying into the air.
I showed my captors, and they took me to a trench just on the other side
of the tree where my night in France began. I had almost landed on
top of a trench full of German troops. The Germans I had shot at
must have been going to the trench when they saw me. I assume they
were part of a German roadblock at a nearby crossroad.
The soldiers in the trench took me to a farm house which the
Germans had converted into an aid station. A German doctor there
told me in English that the hand needed to be amputated. They put
me on the floor and eventually gave me a shot to knock me out.
When I awoke, my left hand had been amputated and a rough bandage had
been wrapped around my leg. I was given a quart of weak wine to
slake my thirst. I also drank the quart of wine they had given to
a U.S. Major who had been wounded, although I would regret it during the
long ambulance ride to come.
They placed the Major and me into a converted school bus, along
with two wounded Germans, one I assumed I had shot. We traveled
about 15 hours to a German hospital and was strafed a couple of times
along the way. Once at the hospital, the Major and I were
separated and I never saw him again.
I was evacuated from Normandy as a prisoner, eventually to Germany.
But that is another story.