Commander Lynn H. Guilloud
up to June 6th 1944
Uncle Red, Utah Beach, Normandy, France
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 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
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
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
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. .