LHG's History...
Soldier:
Company Commander Lynn H. Guilloud
Date: Leading up to June 6th 1944
Location: Uncle Red, Utah Beach, Normandy, France
Unit: 991st Engineer Treadway Bridge Company

I was born March 14, 1921, in a three room house on a 62 _ acre farm 1_ miles Northeast of Pottsboro, Texas. Pottsboro is about 75 miles north of Dallas near the Oklahoma border. My early years were spent on the farm doing the many chores that were expected of a boy in that era. After graduation from Denison High School in 1938, I entered Texas A & M College and received a degree in Mechanical Engineering four years later. I took four years of ROTC in college. For six weeks in the summer of 1941, I attended ROTC camp at Camp Bullis west of San Antonio. Bullis was a dry, hot, snake-infested place but it helped to toughen us for things to come. ROTC training included the use of rifles, but in 1940 all of our 1903 Springfields were taken from us without explanation. Later we were told that the British lost a lot of equipment at Dunkirk and our rifles were used as replacements.

GOODBYE TO ENGLAND
General Bradley said that only 2% casualties were expected on D-Day and it was worth that chance to see the big show. What he didn’t say was that the 2% would come from the first few ashore. One officer and 27 seven enlisted men of my company were to remain in England for several days. Lt. Shook was in charge of this group. They were considered non-essential for a period of time. This so called residue included all the mess personnel, all but two of the supply personnel, and the administrative personnel. We were required to take sufficient boxed meals called 10-in-1 with us to operate without a mess truck. Each case of 10-in-1 would feed 10 men for one day. Impregnated clothing had been issued before leaving the states which we were to wear to protect against a gas attack. So called “invasion money” was issued. This was money that could be used in France at the PX. This was a joke to us because we never saw a PX. Vehicles were waterproofed and we left for the “hards” for loading onto the landing craft. Hards were areas where concrete had been poured to allow vehicles to back directly onto the LCTs. Because of the large number of vehicles and their size, 21 LCTs were required for my company. We took with us 36 large Brockway bridge trucks, both of the 3/8 cubic yard truck mounted cranes, four 105 cubic foot per minute truck mounted air compressors, eight 2 ton 6x6 trucks, five jeeps, one wrecker, two 25’ power boats, and one armored half track. Eleven vehicles were left behind. We were blessed with good sergeants and they took over on boats where there was no officer. My control of the company was lost until we assembled inland from Utah Beach on June 6th. I was on LCT #200 which was 100’ long with 3 diesel engines.

All of our trucks were 50% overloaded and the extra material consisted of pierced steel planking for fighter aircraft runways, food, ammunition, etc. One of the first priorities upon landing was to deliver the extra material to predesignated dumps in Normandy so we would be ready for our primary mission of building bridges. One officer, Lt. Straub, and 3 enlisted men - Sgt. Cone, Cpl. Komiensky, & Pvt. Dickenson were to go ashore with the second wave of Infantry to reconnoiter for blown bridges inland from the beach on roads Code named U5 & T7. The enlisted men were issued bicycles so the Germans, seeing them from a distance, would think they were Frenchmen. The bicycles were swamped in the surf and never made it to land. Dickenson said later that they took a ribbing from the infantrymen about the bicycles. This was a complicated operation and we were to keep written notes to a minimum and for those we did take, guard them with our life. As I heard many times, “it could be your life.” All instructions were repeated many times and verbal tests given to assure that every man knew his assignment and what to expect - of course, none of us knew everything that would confront us. One thing I remember vividly was that airborne troops would be on the ground before us and “they are not the enemy.”

THE ENGLISH CHANNEL, June 2nd to June 6th, 1944
My LCT was manned by a British crew as many of them were. These were the same boats and same crew as we had trained with at Slapton Sands. After the vehicles were lashed down, the British officer and I made an inspection tour. Some of the men had started a dice game using the invasion money that had been issued. The British officer stared at the money, pointed at it, and said “what is that?” I then realized that he was not aware that this trip was the real thing. This was disturbing since I thought he would have been schooled in all aspects of the plan. After all, he had to get us to the beach. Somehow he did get instruction through his command channels and did a great job.

We sailed out of the Dart River into the choppy English Channel on June 2nd at 1600 hours and formed up with many other craft. At this time, we still did not know when D-Day was scheduled but assumed it was very soon. LCTs (Landing Craft Tanks) are flat bottomed boats with ramps on the front that drop for vehicles to exit the boat. Flat bottom boats do not ride well in choppy water. The channel was rough and many men got seasick, but again I escaped this problem as I had on the Queen Mary some five months before. For two days, we sailed the channel along with many others. At 1730 hours on June 4th, a command craft came alongside and reported that the landing had been postponed one day. I believe they said 24 hours and thirty minutes, so we assumed D-Day was supposed to be the 5th but was now scheduled for the 6th. We slept very little because of the rough water, the anxiety, and the lack of any place to spread a bedroll. Large warships appeared on the horizon on the 5th and they were a welcome sight. One of them was the Battleship Texas. Two Cruisers of the US Navy patrolled either side of us.

D-DAY, June 6th, 1944
Streams of planes passed overhead during the early morning hours. The battleships and cruisers started firing over our heads toward the beach. The 16” shells from the battleships sounded like boxcars passing over and at times the shells could be seen. My landing wave was circling several hundred yards off shore and at the appropriate time, formed a line parallel to the beach, made a 90 degree left turn and headed toward land. Smoke was rising from the beach and artillery shells began landing among our wave of boats about 400 yards offshore. They hit some of the craft but missed us by as much 15 to 20 yards. Destroyers were sailing rapidly near & parallel to the beach. Rockets in large numbers were fired from their decks. Above us, the sky was dark with allied planes.

And what were my thoughts that morning? They were as you might expect: Am I up to this, I can’t show too much fear in front of the men, I hope my family doesn’t know where I am, will I ever see home again, now what am I supposed to do the moment I get ashore? I wondered if any of the craft that was hit was ours. One of the men said “I don’t believe we are welcome here.” My scheduled landing was 0930 hours and my watch showed 0936 when the ramp dropped onto the sands of the Uncle Red area of Utah Beach. The half-track was on my boat and I had orders to ride it off the ship. It was no protection from anything but small arms fire but, the Colonel wanted me alive for a little while. Francis Hebert edged the vehicle off the ramp into about three feet of water and onto the dry sand. I observed two vehicles from other craft driving into water and disappearing into shell craters formed by the exploding shells from the Navy vessels. Water had filled the crater so they could not be seen. I jumped from the half-track looking for our reconnaissance unit and found them a short time later. The enemy had flooded the area inland from the beach by opening gates to dams on the Douve River. This was what we expected and was the primary reason for my company being included in the invasion force. A bridge on a road, Code named U-5, had been destroyed by the enemy and would prevent vehicles moving inland.

The sea wall in my area had not been blown and the Infantry was crying for antitank guns. We picked up jeeps above our heads and pushed them over the sea wall then put the 37mm & 57mm guns over in the same manner. The guns were then reattached to the jeeps and moved toward the front. Vehicles continued to come ashore and congestion was alarming. German 88mm shells were coming in and found targets without difficulty because of the congestion. One artillery shell hit a truck loaded with ammunition and the result was devastating. George Prescott was the company armorer and his assignment for the landing was manning a 50 caliber machine gun. The gun was mounted on a skate-mount on a 2 _ ton 6x6 truck. George stayed with that gun despite the artillery exploding around him. George became the standard in the company for doing the job you are assigned.

I spent a few minutes in a shell crater with Col. Van Fleet of the 4th Division and learned that we had landed south of our intended site. Col. Van Fleet later became a General and gained fame in Korea. As soon as the sea wall was blown, two of our bridge trucks went through the opening and quickly dumped the excess material and proceeded to road U 5. The blown bridge on U 5 required only 30’ of bridging. We had previously sandbagged the front of the trucks to prevent the front of the truck from rising off the ground when the heavy bridge treads were lifted for placement over the gap in the road where the bridge once stood. It was necessary to work from the back of the trucks and the road was too narrow to turn them around at the site so we backed them about _ mile from the closest road intersection. An amphibious tank had been destroyed near the bridge site but was off the road enough for us to pass. The enemy was still firing at the tank so the shells were exploding only a few yards from our work area. The controls for the hydraulic hoist on the truck were elevated exposing the operator to enemy fire. We laid 36’ of bridge treads and had the “honor” of constructing the first allied bridge on the European Continent. Sgt. Joe Bennett, T/5 George Joseph, and T/5 Samuel Pepe were awarded the bronze star for this operation. As the trucks exited the site, I hung on the side of the lead truck. At the road intersection, I went to the “soldier” who was preventing traffic from going down the road and thus blocking our exiting. The “soldier” was Brig. General Teddy Roosevelt. He hugged me when I told him the road was open and then released the waiting tanks to proceed down the road. This recollection may sound like things were well organized but there was a lot of confusion.

Elements of the company continued to land until about 1800 hours. Because of our landing south of the planned area, it was a problem to assemble the unit at an unplanned area and amid the extreme confusion that existed. Several pieces of equipment were damaged including one Brockway Bridge truck that sunk into the sand on the beach and had to be winched out. Another was wrapped around a stone fence.

We had sixteen 50 Cal. Machine guns in the company and all but four were mounted on skate mounts for anti-aircraft fire. There were few enemy planes in the air until after dark that day when they came out to harass us and keep us from sleeping. The few that did show up during daylight hours were met with a wall of lead. We were in more danger from the falling lead from our own weapons than from the enemy planes. A British Spitfire fighter plane crash landed very close to my position and caught fire. Machine guns on the plane began firing and continued until all ammunition aboard was exhausted. The pilot ran from the plane and pleaded with me to get him back to England so he could get into another plane before he lost his nerve. Apparently they had been taught this in training. Three LCTs which included Lt. Lindsay and 21 enlisted men were unaccounted for. Sometime later we learned that one LCT had sunk in the channel but all aboard including Lt. Lindsay were rescued and returned to England. The other two boats had landed by mistake on Omaha Beach. All of the men eventually rejoined the company but it was not until June 11th that we knew their fate.

By 2230 hours, the company had moved off the beach and at midnight was still on the road. We moved through the small village of La Madeleine and into an area about 3 miles from the beach near Hebert. Oftentimes in training it was difficult to get the men to dig a proper foxhole but on this night the sounds of picks & shovels could be heard all over the area. Perimeter guards were posted with three men at each post rather than two as was normally done because of the extreme fatigue that all were suffering. Fitful sleep came easy but was interrupted many times by the sound of artillery and machine gun fire. Thus ended what later became known as “The Longest Day”.

There were numerous signs “Actung Minen” in the area which translated into English means “Attention Mines.” We soon discovered that the Germans had mined the area but a lot of them were dummies made of slices of tree trunks. They were mixed with real mines so they all had to be removed. We placed sand bags in the floor of the jeep under our feet. It was always fatal to the driver and passenger in a jeep when it struck a mine. The sand bags sometimes shielded you enough that you had a chance to survive. A piece of angle iron was welded vertically on the front bumper of the Jeep to cut any piano wire that the enemy sometime stretched across roads to decapitate persons riding in the vehicle. About daylight on the 7th, there was rifle fire in our area. I talked to the artillery commander across the hedge row from us and each of us sent a patrol in search of the source of the fire. A French woman in a camouflage suit was found with a rifle. She had married a German officer during the occupation and he had disappeared because of our landing. She was upset.

The German’s were firing rockets over our heads towards the beach. We called them screaming minnies because of the eerie and unsettling sound they made. The morning of June 8th Col. Rogers ordered us to take the village of La Rosleau. I’m not sure if this is the correct name since my memory has dimmed and I cannot find it on the map. Sgt. Braddy and four men were left to guard the company area and we proceeded down the road carrying four 50 caliber machine guns, a couple bazookas, several hand grenades as well as our small arms. At a road intersection just outside the village, we were met by a unit of the 101st Airborne. A Lt. Col. asked where we were going and when I told him, he said “no, that is my town.” A fire fight broke out and I know of six of his men that were killed - one was a First Lt. We returned to the bivouac area without any losses. Braddy had fired at someone in the wooded area nearby while we were gone but wasn’t sure who it was or if he hit the person. Gliders continued to come in bringing more of the airborne troops and more supplies. The dead men from June 6th had not been removed. Several were still in their parachutes and many more in crashed gliders. I picked up a folding-stock 30 caliber carbine used by the airborne to replace the fixed-stock one I had secured earlier. I also had a 45 semi-automatic pistol which was really my assigned weapon. The folding stock carbine was better for getting into and out of the jeep.

I think it was on the night of the 8th a German tank tried to turn around in the road close by but got trapped between the hedgerows. Someone dropped a grenade in the turret and killed the crew. It was blocking the road so we tried to remove it with our D4 bulldozer but weren’t doing much good when a much larger dozer from a combat engineering unit arrived. The hedgerow was eaten away by the large dozer and we winched the tank through the opening into the adjoining field to clear the road.

I was called to a meeting at Group Headquarters to plan the crossing of the Douve River. The Douve flows into the English Channel between Omaha and Utah Beaches. The town of Carentan had not fallen so there was no land connection between the two allied beaches. The 101st would cross the river the morning of June 10th and we would supply covering fire for them. Lt. Starling and I went to the river to reconnoiter for a crossing site. It was a very dark night. We went to the forward Infantry outpost to advise them that we would be ahead of them so they wouldn’t shoot us when we returned. While talking to them, an American jeep passed without stopping and proceeded to a road intersection a short distance away. Someone in the jeep got out at the intersection and struck a match to read a sign. There was a burst from a burp gun and he was killed. Basic military science teaches that you to never go into no-man’s land without informing the forward Infantry outpost. I usually left Petronzi, my jeep driver, with the Infantry while I was ahead of them. There was a danger that the guards would be relieved by others and the word would not be passed to the new ones. The night was so dark we were unable to see much so we waited until daylight. There were some deep trenches near the river. Some were parallel to the river and some were at right angles. We walked down the parallel trench but when we came to the intersection with a right angle trench, the Germans would fire at us so it became a cat and mouse game at each intersection.

Early the morning of June 10th, we tore up the far bank of the river with 50 Cal. machine gun fire. An officer of the 101st advised us when to lift the fire. The Infantry crossed in assault boats and found that the enemy had pulled out during the night. We immediately started bridging the river but the 13’ tide gave us a lot of trouble. Half of the 480’ bridge was floating and half was on a mud flat at low tide but the mud flat was covered with about 18” of water at high tide. Several rounds of mortar fire was directed at us but none hit us directly. Upon completion of the bridge on the 11th, I got my first sleep in 72 hours.

We learned this same day the fate of the three missing LCTs. One sunk in the channel on D-Day and two had landed on Omaha beach in error. All the men were saved but equipment on the craft that sunk was lost. Lt. Lindsay joined us on the 12th with part of his men from the sunken LCT. The other men were saved by another boat and would eventually rejoin us. On this same day, Lt. Reynolds and 13 new men were assigned to the company.

The 82nd Airborne planned to cross the Douve River just south of Pont’l Abbe so Lt. Starling & I made a reconnaissance of the river during the hours of darkness. Petronzi was left at the forward Infantry outpost. Day was breaking before we started back up the road. German 20mm shells were fired at us and were breaking on the road surface very close. We dove into the ditch and returned through the weeds and debris of the ditch. A short time later the 82nd called for an air strike on the town by fighter bombers. The fighters were delayed and the men of the 82nd were restless so they moved in to take the town and we moved to the river to put a bridge across. Shortly after arriving at the waters edge, the American fighters appeared and started dropping their bombs. One 500 pounder landed only a few yards from us in a mud flat. We would certainly have been wiped out but it failed to explode.

A captain from the artillery stopped me and told me that one of my men was in a farm house holding his gun on an elderly couple. I picked up Cpl. Ace McCaslin and went to investigate. We found Clifford F - - - with his rifle pointed at the couple and saying in a slurred voice “to the victor belong the spoils.” He turned his rifle on me when I entered the house and said “I know why you are here.” There was a stand-off for a few minutes until McCaslin inched his way toward Fields then grabbed him and threw him over his shoulder. Ace was a weight lifter and very strong. Clifford had long been a problem, even during training. He was turned over to the MP’s and the last I heard of him he was driving a garbage truck in a camp in England.

We captured a very young SS Trooper. One of our men, Percy Cohen, was called in to interrogate the German. Percy spoke fluent German. I made it known to the German that Percy was Jewish and he became very arrogant and uncooperative. I drew my finger across my throat and he thought I was giving the order to cut his throat. He began to cry and beg to be spared. This was a “tough” guy that had sworn to die for his Fuhrer rather than be captured.On June 26th, Lt. Shook arrived with the men and equipment that had been left as “residue” in England. For the first time in 26 days, I took a sponge bath, changed clothes and shaved. The water I used to shave was cold so there were a lot of nicks on my face. My clothes and boots had not been off since leaving England 26 days earlier. You can imagine my condition.

Our large trucks had a lot of difficulty passing through the narrow streets of the French villages. We often took the corners off houses and in one case went completely through a house. The French protested but I quickly learned to say, “Se Le Guerre” - it is the war. One morning after a blackout run by several of our trucks, part of a child’s body was found on the front bumper of one of the trucks - such is life in a combat area.

One day I noticed a short young man or boy in the chow line. His name was Julius and he was Hungarian. His parents had been killed by the Germans and he was sent to a furniture factory to work. He later escaped and found his way to the American lines and to our company. We initially tried to get rid of him but he somehow managed to stay - I think some of the men were hiding him. They made a uniform for him and I can still see him on one of the trucks every time we pulled out and he was “always” present for chow. It was a sad parting in late 1945 when the company was ordered to the Port of Embarkation to return home. A unit that was scheduled to stay as part of the occupation force agreed to take him and he was ceremoniously transferred as equipment is passed from one unit to another. I never knew his last name. I have a photograph of him in my memoirs. .

Personal Photographs

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