D-Day through St. Lo Breakout

At Marston Bigot we only were given dehydrated foods, powdered eggs, orange marmalade, Spam and bread that crumbled easily, dessert was a pan cake that forgot to rise, sometimes we had lamb or goat meat stew it tasted awful but it did have some vegetables in it.. So during this stay at Marston Bigot we were under intense training going to the rifle range at least five times by truck as it was several miles away and underwent rigorous physical training. We had one lieutenant who was our exercise officer and he was a little blond headed thin, short officer that wore coveralls and we called him Superman, he practically run us to death. No matter where we went to do any training we always had to police the area, in other words clean up the area that we used during this exercise or training. We always picked up the shell casings and they were recycled by someone, we were told.

Time was going fast the big day was coming, we did not know what part we would have in the invasion of France. We were told one time we would be assigned to a combat unit before D-Day and also told that we would be replacements for those that were killed or wounded in the invasion. That we would not take part in the initial D-Day landing.

On the morning of 6 June 1944 we were out doing our training and we could hear noise that sounded like a lot of airplanes in the sky, we looked up but did not see any , but we knew that they were coming and then they started flying overhead 100's of them some pulling gliders then others were bombers heading southeast. There were some clouds but they were scattered. This was it, the invasion of France was underway. We had been put on alert about ten days previously, and told not to be off the grounds under any circumstances, so we stayed close, no more taking a chance to go to a local dance or pub. We understood that we would all go over the channel together then be split up after we were in France to go to different combat units as replacements.

On 12 June 1944 we loaded into army trucks and moved to the south coast of England, the next morning we loaded on landing craft before dawn there was a heavy mist almost rain and real damp and chilly, The channel was rough some men got seasick but we were all combat ready we had all our gear with us. The landing craft rammed into the beach at about 10:30 on the morning of 13 June 1944. Our landing craft had passed coming in what looked like a string of sinking ships or ships that were already sunk with parts of them protruding from the water,. they were in kind of a line, forming a breakwater not far from shore. The sight of these ships all dismantled and sunk did not look good and we noticed everything seemed to be in disarray on the beach. We waded ashore on a beach called Omaha Beach. They were still undergoing strafing attacks from the Germans, but we had balloons hanging in the air to keep them from coming in to low, but they could still drop bombs from higher up, and they were doing that as we landed. There were blown up vehicles, graves were being put in and bodies were still being buried when we landed, it was not a good sight.

All we could see was mass destruction everywhere all up and down the beach. Some of the soldiers already there yelled to us things like you'll be sorry and where have you been.. We formed a line and gradually worked our way up to the top of the bluff overlooking Omaha beach, by that time it was close to getting dark and we were told to dig in. This was the hardest foxhole that I ever dug, it was almost like cement real hard ground, some gave up and did not get down that deep, my buddy and me worked a little longer an we both were just able to lie down flat in the one we dug, it was a two man foxhole.

It was cold at night and damp and very noisy, we spending our first night in a combat situation. On one side we could look out and see the water in the English channel and on the other side large shelled out areas of land, it look like a huge hilly area with large craters all over where shells had landed. There were many burned or destroyed vehicles sitting all over back up and a little over the beach embankment. That night there was high level strafing and bombing by the Germans and gunfire from the planes, it was like a lot fireworks going on. The strafing was at a higher altitude and could not cover much ground because of the balloons. Another thing was that our planes were confronting them and driving them off..

The next morning we carried our duffel bags back about a thousand feet or more, then loaded them on a truck, we kept our full field pack and rifles, the trucks would meet us later. We walked now for three days off and on at a slow pace, to reach a marshaling area. Then we would be assigned to a combat unit, they would split us up. Ending up in different units, we would not see each other again, some would stay together, very few would. Along the way we encountered a few French farmers looking us over and we were given drink of wine by one French farmer, he was very nice and glad to see us, first we made him take a drink of the wine to be sure it was alright to drink. The farmer was cutting hay with a homemade cutting device by hand and it was fairly warm as it was in the afternoon. We did run across a few Germans soldiers that had been killed and as of now had not been picked up, we did not know it but this was just a small preview of the things that were in store for us in the days ahead

We already were seeing hedge rows, we had heard a lot about them in our training, they used these to divide their fields and also along the roadways. A hedgerow which were built 2500 or 3000 years ago, is a mound of dirt with hedge growth on top or bushes of some sort, about five foot to maybe ten or twelve feet at times, you could look over in most cases, you would have to spread the hedges in some cases and look out over the mound of dirt. The hedgerows had cut outs for vehicles to go through and for the farmer to drive their livestock through. In combat you could not go looking for these cutouts.

The hedgerows were almost impassable for our tanks and other vehicles. You could cut a little bay or indention into the hedgerow to fit you body into, you used this position if you were to be stalled for any period of time this would also protect you from shells exploding on either side of you but not to your rear. This would leave the rear part of your body exposed. This was not a place that you would call a protected area as much as a foxhole, in a foxhole the shell almost has to make a direct hit. A shell hitting very close to a foxhole will sometimes kill from the concussion. Anytime that you exposed any part of your body you were asking for it. Even foxholes with out tops made out of sand bags or any wood or other material were very risky when air burst were coming in as the burst an a little above ground zero and could be adjusted to different heights by the enemy. We will be having more about this later in this writing.