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One of the stories in Ralph "Zig" Boroughs' new book, "The Devil's Tale," is that of Joe Shirley. Boroughs said he talked to the Clemson resident when he was in Ninety Six [South Carolina] a few years ago for a family reunion.

Shirley was a paratrooper who was shot in the shoulder and captured by the Germans during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. Eventually, he ended up in a German hospital in Cherbourg, France.

The hospital was beginning to run out of supplies and, during the invasion, shells started to land near the building.

An American glider pilot who could speak German helped to gain the confidence of the captors and told the Germans if they let him go he would tell the American forces where the hospital was so they would stop shelling it.

The Germans agreed and Shirley asked the pilot to take and mail a letter to Shirley's mother. His letter arrived at the home of Shirley's mother in Augusta, Ga., several weeks later.

In his letter, Shirley tells his mother that his group was commanded to join another American unit not far from where they landed.

"I was preparing to move out, while covering the withdrawal of the others, when I got a bullet through the left shoulder, which spun me around and sat me down in my foxhole," wrote Shirley.

The hospital in which Shirley was staying was liberated on June 27, 1944, according to Boroughs' book.
Boroughs also relates another story about Shirley. According to "The Devil's Tale," prior to his jump, Shirley stood in the doorway of the plane and could tell from the geographical features exactly where he was.

Following the jump, 30 paratroopers assembled in the area with Shirley. The commanding officer was about to send out scouts to find out where they were by looking at road signs.

Boroughs says in his book that Shirley told the commanding officer he knew exactly where they were.
The colonel disregarded Shirley's advice and sent out the scouts anyway.


[source: The Index Journal, Greenwood, SC. Page B1, June 5, 1994]

Jumpmaster Notes:

Ninety Six, South Carolina is a very small town about 60 miles (96 kilometers) south of Greenville and 70 miles (112 kilometers) NW of Columbia which is the state capital.

Established early in the 18th century, it's name came from the mistaken belief that it was 96 miles to the nearest Cherokee settlement of Keowee. The National Park Service operates the Ninety Six National Historic Site at the site of the original settlement.


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