LANDING IN FRANCE

My pal, Elton (left),and me.  I never saw him again,  after we left Sausage Camp in England.

My pal, Elton (left),and me. I never saw him again, after we left Sausage Camp in England.

The English Channel

Spring 1944

Our “A” detachment was aboard an LST (Landing Ship Tank) and during the night  we crossed the English Channel for Omaha beach on the French Normandy Coast.

We arrived in the early morning and what a sight it was! I saw literally hundreds of ships: all sizes and types. Some were warships, but the majority carried troops, equipment and supplies. As I watched the scene, I had to think that this was “the greatest show on earth.”

The beach held activity everywhere.  Some soldiers offloaded boxes, barrels, bags and equipment on the beach.   Others loaded cases and containers onto waiting trucks, headed for the front. More soldiers guarded hundreds of German prisoners who sat on a hillside. All the while, thousands of troops disembarked and wounded GIs waited to board LSTs returning to England.

            We had arrived near low tide. Once we were all off, the ship would rise with the high tide and float away.

Sometime after we anchored, a “combat engineer” came forward on a small bulldozer and pushed beach sand toward the ship which was still about one hundred fifty feet from the shore. Once a sort of runway was made, sailors opened the clam-like bow and winched down the steel ramp.

Since I was the last vehicle aboard the ship, I was first to leave. Even though sand had been piled up for us, I drove through several feet of water as I led our parade off the ship. The officer with me had a map and directed me to follow the line of vehicles and troops already heading up a hill.

Once over that rise, I saw the fields had signs: “Actung Minen” –Beware Mines. I drove along until I found one cleared of the explosives. I  parked the Jeep and removed the waterproofing.

Our front line–where     fighting was active–was about twenty miles inland, near St. Lo.

My destination was about five miles short of there. As we drove through the seaside town of Sante-Mere-Eglise, the officer spotted an inn.  He pointed and said, “Park near the back of that.”

We walked in and he ordered a few bottles of wine and beer. I thought, “What a way to invade a country!”

 While we were enjoying our drinks, a young “char femme” (cleaning woman) approached our table. On her hands and knees, she began   wiping the floor under and around our table.  It was obvious to me that she was listening to our conversation.

I thought of the church off Broadway in New York and decided, “She’s a spy!”

And she was.  Later, I read in the troop newspaper, “The Stars and Stripes,” that she had been arrested and executed.

 

Le (Dec. ‘13) adds, “Not all French were our friends. I learned soon enough that many enemies did not wear German uniforms.”

Ships lining Omaha Beach

Ships lining Omaha Beach

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