I completed basic training at Camp Clairborne,
LA from there to camp Shanango, PA from there to Orangeberg, NY
(beside Hudson River about 18 miles from NYC).
I boarded Queen Mary in NYC, landed in Glasgow,
Scotland during the first week of June 1943. Assigned to headquarters
of a service and supply outfit in the Midlands quartered in a castle
like building near Grantham and about five miles from a small town
called Retford, not far from Birmingham. As a PFC I drove the "brass"
from Hqts to various 8th Air Force bases over East Anglia. About
the last of April 1944 we were sent to Southern England (South Hampton)
to board an LST and were told we were an element of the 9th Air
Force in support of ground troups. The outfit was the 819th Aviation
We boarded on the 5th of June and on the 6th of
June (D-Day) we dropped anchor about five miles off the coast of
France at about 2 or 3 o'clock in the evening, off Utah Beach. There
were two landing zones (Red) and (Green) Beach. Our first casualty
we saw was a Navy sailor. We started unloading heavy equipment bulldozers,
graders, and loaded trucks on to an LCT. But due to rough sea the
chain snapped losing the bulldozer but the operator jumped clear.
The remainder of us were put on a Higgins Boat sometime around 11:00
o'clock on the 6th of June. I don't remember whether it was Red
or Green Beach which we landed on. The sailor drove the boat as
close in as possible and we were told to get off, that he was not
going to take us back. He was navagating by black out light flashed
from the beach. For all we knew we were in the middle of the Atlantic,
It took a little prodding to get us off the boat.
By that time I had been promoted to a Corporal
and was told that I was a squad leader and to become a bazooka team
with a SGT. Neither one of us had any experience with such a weapon.
One of the guys had told us how to load the weapon with little instruction
on how to fire the weapon. Reluctantly the SGT said hold the gun
and I will jump. To our surprise the water was only waist deep.
As we got closer to shore I suddenly went under, probably stepping
in a shell hole but managed to come out OK. After getting ashore
we found a hole had been blown in a concrete wall that we could
access the beach easily. After a short time we were straffed by
a fighter and in hitting the ditch I rammed the barrel of my M1
in the bank, completely stopping the barrel with mud. If I had fired
the weapon it probably would have exploded.
After marching another 45 minutes of so we passed
a burning Sherman tank. However we did not know if there were occupants
in the tank or not. In another 30 or 40 minutes I stumbled over
a body which turned out to be a German soldier. We marched until
daylight, "digging in" at an apple orchard at two unpaved
crossroads. On the opposite corner from our position there was a
farm house and in the front yard lay three dead Germans and one
American 82nd Air Borne trooper. In the house we noticed that there
were plates still on a dining table where they had been eating beans.
Off the dining room was a toilet and on the commode there was a
nude German that had been shot.
While we guarded this cross road the remainder
of the outfit was constructing an emergency landing strip. Initially,
the emergency landing strips were earth surfaced by simply using
a bulldozer and grader to level hedge rows to form a make shift
runway approximatley 2,000 or 2,500 feet. As we progressed more
advanced landing strips were built by laying steel matting or wire
mesh making a more stable surface for our fighter bombers (P47 Thunderbolt).
The air craft would shuttle bomb from these strips located sometimes
as close as one and one half to two miles from the front lines.
Several sorties could be made each day by the same plane and pilot.
As the front line began moving more swiftly our
mission became somewhat easier since it involved mostly rennovation
of existing Luffwaffe bases. We renovated as far as I know the only
P61 Black-Widow night fighter base on the continent, arriving in
late July 1944, near Cherbourg. The last base we rennovated was
an ME 262 jet fighter base in August '44 at Giebelstadt, GR. I believe
it was 8 miles from Wurzburg and 20 miles from Hiedleberg. Personnel
from the 8th and 9th Air Force filled the Luffwaffe barracks which
was real nice compared to a fox hole.
We shipped out based on the point system to Marseille
(France)for shipment home aboard a victory ship named the USS Rollings
Victory, arriving in Newport News, VA about 1 Dec '45 and discharged
15 Dec 1945, Ft McPherson, GA. Our outfit received a Presidential
Distinguished Unit Citation for construction of the first US Army
Air Force emergency landing strip per General Order #203, 9th Army
Air Force. This strip was located I believe near a place called
"La lLande, (France)".