John W. Gibson
6th 1944 onward
Dropping into Normandy, France
3rd Battalion Medical Detachment, 506th, 101st Airborne
I was born On Aug. 27, 1921 In Humbolt, SD and
joined the U.S. Army On Sept. 4, 1942 In Tucson, Az. Hetrained At
Toccoa, Ga; Attended Jump School At Ft. Benning, Camp Mackall, Nc
And Tennessee Manoeuvers. I was sent to England in september 1943.
John is still Proud To Have Been A Member Of The 506Th Boxing Team.
He Was Captured At Daybreak On June 6, 1944 Near
Carentan, France, Then Attended To The Wounded Allied Prisoners.
He Was Liberated On August 4 In Rennes, Brittany. The Returned To
England, Jumped Into Holland And Fought For 72 Days. He Then Went
To Mourmelon, France For Replacements And Then To Bastogne, Belgium
By Truck And Trailers. The 101St Airborne Division Arrivedearly
On Dec. 19Th And Relieved A Battered Infantry Force. Placed Near
Foy, Belgium, He Endured Shellings, Blizzard And Frozen Feet. Circled
By German Armored Infantry, He Refused To Surrender. Hereceived
Relentless Enemy Fire Power And Was Shot In The Lung Andliver On
January 9 Near Noville While He Was Patching Wounds Oncapt. Jim
Morton Ofg Co., 506Th. He Was Hospitalized For 11Months.
His Awards Include The Purple Heart, Bronze Star
Medal Witholc And The Good Conduct Medal. His Division Received
Thefrench Croix De Guerre, Dutch Orange Lanyard, Belgiumfourragere,
Eame Theater Ribbon With Three Bronze Stars,Distinguished Unit Badge
(Both France & Belgium) And Thepresidential Unit Citation. He
Was Discharged On December 5, 1945 As A Sergeant. He Is Married
To Pearle Klamm,They Have Four Children: Shari, Marsha, Jim And
Steve. He Owns And Manages The Johnnygibson Barber Shop And Gym
Equipment Company In Tucson, Az
Behind the lines (Excerpt from his memories)
It Was About Midnight On June 5, 1944 When
1 Looked Out The Window Of Our Transport Plane And Saw A Cold But
Beautiful Moon Reflecting Silver On The Channel Below. The Brilliant
Puddle Of Silver Shimmered Along At Water Level And Seemed To Help
Take My Mind From The Dreadful Experience Which Was Just Ahead.
Talking Against The Roar
Of The Motors Was Almost Impossible But I Yelled To My Buddy Beside
Me, "How Do You Feel, Lee"? After Two Attempts
To Make Him Hear, His Answer Came Back, "Better Than I Expected.
How About You"? I Yelled Back The Same Answer He Gave Me But
Inside I Was Fluttering. My Stomach Felt Full Of Butterflies And
My Hands Were Damp And Cold With Sweat. I Thought Of A Million Things
As We Kept Flying Toward The French Coast. I'Ll Never Forget The
Beauty Of That Moon And How It Reminded Me Of The Desert Moon That
Shines So Beautifully Around My Home In Arizona.
There Were Clouds That Night And We Flew Out From
Behind One Only To Sink Behind Another. During Those Moments Between
Clouds The Moon Shown Through The Plane Windows And Lit Up The Inside.
Even Though Blackened With Charcoal, I Noticed The Expressions On
The Troopers' Faces. Some Looked Straight Ahead With Jaws Set Firmly
And With A Serious Expression Covering Their Faces. Others Looked
Sad And Drawn. All Were Deeply Concerned And Anxious. Anxious To
Finish The War And Return Home.
These Men With The Reputation Of Being The Army'S
Most Elite Killers Were Far From Killers At Heart. Unlike The Many
German Reports That American Paratroopers Were Ex Convicts And Murderers
Without Thought For Humanity, The Faces I- Saw There In The Moonlight
Belonged To Men Who Chose To Do A Difficult Job Because Of A Calling
Within Them. Those Men Had Long Ago Proven That No Task Was Too
Difficult. There Was Never A Task Too Difficult To Try. The Feeling
Of Pride For Their Loved Ones And Their Country, Plus Their Longing
To Return Home, Had Built Up Courage Within Them Which Was Not To
The Plane Rocked In The Wind And Fell Below A
Few Feet Only To Regain Itsposition In The Formation. We Flew A
Tight Formation That Night And It Lookedalmost Possible To Step
From One Plane To The Other.
We Changed Course And, As We Made The Turn, I
Could See Planes For What Seemed Like Miles Behind Us Flying There
In The Moonlight. I Knew I Was Seeing Only A Fraction Of The Total
Amount And I Suddenly Realized What An Enormous Undertaking This
Was. I Knew The Whole World Had Waited In Suspense For Months And
Years For This Night To Come. I Couldn'T Help But Feel A Deep Sense
Of Pride In Being Among The First To Spearhead The Invasion Of The
European Continent And Start The Enormous Ball Rolling.
We Flew On And It Was Getting Close To 1 A.M.,
June 6Th, When One Of Theboys Suddenly Yelled, "There She Is,
Boys'", And 1 Knew He Meant We Were Insight Of The Coast Of
France. The Germans Had Spent Four Years Preparing A Defense Against
This Invasionand Were Already Firing At The Leading Planes. We Were
Flying Low As Well Asslow And Such A Tight Formation Gave The Germans
A Prize Target. To Knock Downa Plane Load Of Carefully Trained Parachutists
Must Have Been Considered Quitean Accomplishment By Them.
I Saw A Huge Red Flash And Heard A Plane-Load
Of Men Crash Off To Our Right.To Think Of 18 To 20 Men Striking
The Earth In A Blazing Inferno Is Not A Pleas¬Ant Thought. I
Tried Not To Think About It. We Were To Fly For Nine Minutes Over
Land Before Reaching Our Jump Field.The Red Light By The Door Flashed
On And Our Jump Master Yelled, "Stand Up Andhook Up".
We Jumped To Our Feet And Hurriedly Snapped Our Static Lines To
Thestrong Cable Running Along The Ceiling Of The Plane. The Jump
Master Yelledout Again With A "Sound Off For Equipment Check".
The Answers Came Down Theline: "14 Ok. 13 Ok, 12 Ok",
And Down To Number 1. We Crouched Ready To Jumpand Waited In Suspense
For The Green Light.
The German 20 Mm Machine Guns Pounded Out A Weird
Tune And Their Red Ballsof Fire Licked Up At Us Like Fire From An
Angry Serpent'S Tongue. The Aircracked And Snapped With The Sound
Of Bullets. The Green Light Came On And Out Into A Night Sky Full
Of Red Streaks Weleaped. The First Half Of Our Plane-Load Got Out
Quickly And Then Someone Felldown. Several Seconds Were Lost While
The Man Behind Him Helped Him To His Feet.Several Of Us Thought
Of The Possibility Of The Plane Crashing And Yelled, "Comeon,
The Men Wore Heavy Leg Packs And Literally Dragged
That Heavily Weightedleg To The Door. One By One They Dropped Out
And Finally I Was Watching Thefellow In Front Of Me Struggle For
The Door. With Main Force He Pulled Hisheavy Leg Pack Up Into Place
And Leaned Out Into The Prv)P Blast. He Left Ina Split Second And
I Watched Him Start Down.
Not Being So Heavily Laden As The Others. I Gave
A Strong Leap Out Intospace. The Prop Blast Hit Me And Sent Me Hurtling
Toward The Earth. My Bodyposition Was Poor And I Felt A Hard Opening
Shock, But It Was Welcomed. Fromthen On Until I Hit The Ground,
I Don'T Know What Saved Me From Being Ripped Tothreads By Machine
Gun Slugs. Red Slugs Zipped By On Every Side And 1 Realizedthere
Were Four Others In Between Each Red One.
I Came Swinging Into The Earth Backwards And Landed
First On My Heels Andthen On My Back. I Whipped Out My Trench Knife
And Lay Very Still. Seeing No-One, I Stuck My Knife In The Ground
Beside Me Where I Could Grab It Instantly If Needed, And Began Working
My Way Out Of My Harness. Getting Rid Of My Reservechute And My
"May West" Lifesaver First, I Then Unsnapped The Legstraps
Of My Main Chute. Looking Around Quickly And Seeing Noone, I Unsnapped
My Chest Strapand Worked Myself Free.
On My Hands And Knees, I Looked About And Found
I Had Landed In A Smallfield Only A Few Yards From A French Farmhouse.
Other Than Myself, The Only Sign Of Life Which Could Be Seen Was
A Scared Horse. The Roar Of The Planes And The Banging Of The Guns
Had Made Him Wild With Excitement.
Snorting And Blowing Off Steam Like A Machine,
He Kept Galloping Aimlessly Back And Forth Across The Field. Fearing
He Would Give Away My Position, I Looked About For Means Of Concealment.
Taking Advantage Of The Only Protection In Sight, I Hurriedly Made
My Way To A Stone Wall And Found A Shallow Ditch Running Beside
It. The Wall Was High And Shut Out The View Of The Frenchman'S Backyard.
I Considered Climbing Over, But Fearing The Germans
Would Be Occupying The House, I Quickly Dropped That From My Mind.
Still Breathless And With My Heart Pounding From The Excitement
Of The Jump, I Laid In The Ditch And Tried To Relax. Being A Medic,
I Was Unarmed Except For My Trench Knife And Realized How Important
It Was That I Hook Up With Some Of The Others.
The Planned Signal For Assembly Was A Blast From
A Bugle And The Flash Ofa Blue Flashlight. With The Unexpected Reception
Of Fire We Received, I Knew The Colonel Would Not Risk Giving Away
Our Position. Using Either Signal Wouldhave Been Suicide.
The New Red Cross Arm Band On My Left Arm Seemed
To Shine Like A Neon Lightso I Hurriedly Took It Off And Stuffed
It In My Pocket. The Dirty One On Myright Didn'T Show Up As Plainly
So I Left It On. I Looked Up The Ditch And Along The Wall In Front
Of Me And Saw Nothing.Just To Feel Secure, I Turned Around And Looked
Behind Me. What I Saw Made Myheart Leap To My Throat And 1 Clutched
My Knife Beside Me.
There In The Shadowof The Wall Was The Figure
Of A Man Creeping Along Toward Me. Holding My Knifein One Hand And
The Tin Signai. Cricket In The Other, I Waited Until He Got With
In 15 Feet. I Snapped The Cricket Twice And A Second Later He Snapped
His Inreply And Came Quickly To Me. It Was Lee, Whom I Had Talked
With On The Plane.He Had Jumped Behind Me. "God", I Said,
"You Scared Hell Out Of Me!" He Letme Know The Feeling
Was Mutual. We Whispered A Few Words About Finding The Othersin
The Distance Could Be Heard The Rapid Burp Of The German Machine
Guns, And Inreply Came The Slow Pounding Of The Americans' 30 Caliber.
Orders Were Not Tofire Until Daylight, Which Would Determine Each
Shot Fired As Enemy. "Keep Fromengaging The Enemy", We
Were Told, "Until You Can Assemble As A Unit". No-One
Dreamed Of Receiving Such A Red-Hot Reception. The Reinforced Enemy
Platoon, Which Our Intelligence Said Would Be Roaming Around Our
Jump Field, Turned Outto Be More Like A Division.
Lee Showed Me In The General Direction Where Some
Of The Others Had Landed.We Moved Out Cautiously. Down A Hedgerow
And Under Some Trees, We Found Georgeros1e. He Was Over Joyed To
See Us. In His Words, He Was "Glad As Hell". Rosie Was
An Ex-Football Player And The Biggest And Best Built Man In The
81Mm Mortar Platoon. That Platoon Was Known For Its Strong Men.
Lee Himself, Could Stick His Arms In The Mortar Tubes And Hold Them
Straight Out In A Crucifix Position, With Three Of Us Together,
We Felt A Little More Secure. Not Knowing In Which Direction To
Go, We Kept Still For A Moment And Listened.
John W. Gibson
Shoulderpatch of the 101st Airborne.
The 506th in Carentan, France where John was
Dropping into Holland on the 17th of september
German POW captured near Son.
Check out these wooden shoes!