D-Day Doctor's Diary

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DIARY, JANUARY 29, 1944 TO JULY 17, 1944

Walter E. Marchand, Capt. M.C.  0-1689952

  Bn. Surgeon with the 4th Infantry Division at Utah Beach

January 29, 1944. 

After 10 day Atlantic crossing sighted Ireland and England, and on this evening stood off to sea outside of Liverpool.  Weather cloudy and rainy.  Liverpool completely blacked out.  Troops anxious to debark – great occasion as they noted a girl on a pier we were passing on the way to our pier.


January 30, 1944


Sick and wounded let off first.  Chaplain Boice brings one of them – temperature 104 degrees, also a post-op appendectomy that Dr. Miller, Graf and I had operated on in mid-Atlantic with heavy seas.  Gen. Barton had come down to visit him – the General extremely nervous in the hospital.  Troops debarking steadily, others restless, watching from the deck side.


January 31

 

Finally my group began to debark – at 10:00 at night.  Walked about 1 mile to R.R. station in complete darkness.  Red Cross girls met us at station – cigarettes, gum, donuts and coffee freely given.  European R.R. cars a curiosity to all of us.


February 1.


No one slept until daylight – all anxious to see England – surprised at the abounding green-ness of the countryside.  Novelty of R.R. cars and freight cars – their smallness – like a toy train car.  Destination not disclosed until on the train – but we suspected it would be the Channel coast.  Passed Bristol, Newton Abbott – finally came to our destination – South Brent.  Greeted by the populace as we marched in the rain – 1/4 mile at base of Mount South Brent – a Nissen hut camp. 

Incident of first night – Restricted – yet 2 Pros given – sexual satisfaction easily obtained in England is the consensus of all.


February 3, 1944


Reviewed by Generals Eisenhower, Tedder, Barton, Bradley.


February 2 to 7


Rain nearly all the time.  Settling down in our new environment.  Rest of Division scattered over 50 mile area.  Kirtley at Camp Denberry 20 miles away.


February 8, 1944


I’m to be a part of a cadre to go to the Assault Training Center at Bramton.  I’m dreading amphibious operations in this kind of weather.  Got all packed – started out in clear weather – by motor convoy – got to Bramton in the rain. 

Will be training with 34th Battalion 16 Infantry 1st Division although whole 16th Infantry is in training.  Met the personnel – officers, Medical:  Major Tegmeyer – Regular Surgeon 10th Infantry – nice chap. 


February 9 to 23


Assault Training procedures – classes and problems training is excellent – all the ammo that one can shoot.  Got a case of tenosynovitis. 

Big Problem – towards end – man killed by shell fragment of shell shot close by me. 


February 24


Back to South Brent for a day’s visit after completing Assault Training – will go back with 3rd Battalion 22nd Infantry plus 2 Battalions of 8th Infantry of 4th Division.  Weather holding up nicely now – sunshine.


February 25 to March 8


Assault training over again.  Am S3 for Major Armbrecht of 8th Infantry.  Lt. Col. Barysh who heads the medical end of teaching at Assault Training Center asked to have me teach there – but “No” from Division – so I’ll stay on with the 4th. 

    Two killed in 8th Infantry – mortar shell went off in tube – messy deaths – otherwise not many injuries.  Went to Combe Martin, Ifflecromb and Clovelle one Sunday with Major K. 


March 8 to 14


Back at South Brent – regular training.


March 15


Alerted – first indication of the coming of D-day.  When?  Much to do to get ready, and many problems coming up. 


March 15 to May 6


Otter, Beaver, Tiger problems! – Big scale operations in preparation for D day.  Loss of personnel – by attack by German E Boats on Tiger problem.  Rough sea on landing – got sea sick.  King and Queen and Montgomery watched operations which were on Army scale (from shore).  All problems on same pattern:  Hit the beach and turn Right! – this will be our job on D day I feel certain.  Slapton Sands our training ground.  Will Fortress Europe be like that?  -- it will be difficult to crack the Atlantic Wall I feel. 


May 21


All packed ready to go – secrecy surrounds us – all England must know the “big show” will be on shortly. Our Battalion has the highest possible morale – all eager, but who knows what hell awaits us . . . Gen. Bradley spoke to us officers a while back – he told us, “In February you, the 4th Division, were chosen to be the Division to spearhead the beach landing, but now other Divisions have been added.  I can’t tell you when D day will be or who else will be with you on D day, but they are trained outfits.  This made us feel better.  Is it that “misery” loves company?

It is Sunday – chow is K rations – at 1:10 we pull out of South Brent camp for good and for the marshalling area.  Where? at Torquay.  Marshalling area is splendid – we call it a “sausage area”.  5th Armored is servicing us – Lt. Monyhan in charge – a swell chap. 


May 21 to 28


What a life – a life of ease! – eat and sleep and speculating – and  how we speculate.  What will D Day be like? Where?  Endless questions fill all of us, and we are speculating as to survival, but mainly our thoughts are of home – I think of you always, Corinne.


May 29


This is to be the day – our day of briefing by Col. Teague – to tell us where we will land on D Day.  We all think it is somewhere on the Brittany or Cherbourg peninsula . . .  And we are right – the map displayed showed Cherbourg on it – that was my first look when looking at the large map on the wall. 

     The plan of attack was discussed, S2 information given – we were there for hours getting things to the last detail.  In the days to come we could then study aerial photos at our leisure – and maps – of all scales.

     We are to land as an Assault Battalion on Utah beach, my boat is to be in the 4th wave – boat #45.  Hit the beach and turn right, taking all the beach fortifications up to Quinville.  We are to land at a place called Les Dunes de Varreville – romantic sounding place – and such place is right in front of Fortress 74 – so called because Navy and Air concentrations are all numbered and this German fortress is to receive “Concentration 74”. 


May 30 to June 2nd


Briefing of the men – studying photographs and maps for hours on end.  Getting last minute supplies and getting everything waterproofed.  Tension is mounting steadily.  Heavy bombing of Torquay one night.


June 3rd


Left marshalling area to load onto transport – what an ordeal what with all the equipment to carry.  Our ship is to be the HMS “Gauntlet” and we hope it will carry us safely across the channel.  On board is our Battalion and a cavalry unit which will have the special mission of taking St. Marcouf Island at H-4hrs.  The ships captain is a Scot – rugged and willing to do everything for us. 

        Chow on board is good – “feeding us well before the kill?”  We spend much of our time on board on deck – watching the weather – the exact time and date for D day has not been set yet – it depends on the weather since Airborne and Paratroops will play a part in the Invasion.  But D day will be sometime in early June, or if not then not until July, because the tides would not be right until such time. 


June 4, 1944


Strong winds, cloudy – some rain – and it looks like D day will not be tomorrow.  Lazing about in our cabins – sleeping, reading and resting.  The boys are getting restless – we practice loading into our small craft.  We are told the LCM3’s (Landing Craft) will come alongside just before debarkation – will come across channel separately. 


June 5, 1944


A.M. still strong winds, but clear weather.

P.M.  This is it, anchors aweigh! – we start out of the harbor – with strong convoy of Destroyers – will pick up Cruisers and battleships later.  Captain makes announcement – giving plan: we are to sail eastward parallel to the English coast as far as the Isle of Wight, then turn south, then turn westward until we are 7 miles off the beach on the east coast of the Cherbourg peninsula. 

     The convoy forms up – hundreds of boats of all sizes:  the battleships Texas, Arkansas are right next to us, as are several large cruisers and many destroyers and mine sweepers.  It is an Impressive sight, and in the PLAN for the landing, they are to help us by covering fire of large volume and also against possible air attack.

Orders have been issued to the troops that no one will fire at any aircraft during D day – this makes it certain that we will have air superiority at all costs.

5 P.M.  Isle of Wight sighted and passed and we change our course and veer south.  Pulled a tooth of an infantryman who complained of a toothache.  After supper which I ate rather nervously, I laid myself down to sleep – but couldn’t, but I rested.  Hyperkinesia is evident – all very talkative.  All remains quiet on board and around us except the splash of water over the bow and the wind thru the masts.  The captain of the ship reads a message from President Roosevelt, General Eisenhower.  The Captain himself gives us a message of hope and a prayer of safety and he was followed by Lt. Col. Teague, our Battalion Commanding Officer, and the Chaplain.  I gave a brief last minute message to the troops, telling them again of the various emergency First Aid measures to be taken if they became casualties.  All then was quiet on board as midnight passed.


June 6, 1944


D day is here! – D day has begun, how will it end?

We are now close to the German held coast of France – all is unbelievably quiet, but it isn’t for long.  At about 1 A.M. I hear a low sounding drone – I go on deck and here I see plane upon plane flying over our ship toward the hostile shore, towing gliders – these are the Paratroopers and Airborne Infantry – I wish them God’s speed and wish them well, for as I am watching the first planes are over the Atlantic Wall I see tremendous flares go up and great quantity of anti-aircraft fire and flak.  God what great numbers of planes there are, and all ours.  To our right – toward the Barfleur Peninsula area our Bombers are wreaking havoc on some coastal installations, we can hear the detonations clearly.  In the midst of this, the little Cavalry C.T. is preparing to debark and to take St. Marcouf island – this is at H minus 4 hours.  At this time also, the C47s are returning from France – flying home after letting go of their gliders or human cargo. 

        Had very early breakfast – then lay on my bunk for a while – I couldn’t sleep and I can’t sleep – I keep thinking of my wife and my family – I love you my Corinne.

        At 0400 the first wave of our Assault Battalion is called to stand-by to load into the boats – there is a great hum of activity throughout the ship.  The Captain speaks – our LCM3’s haven’t come yet, but there is still plenty of time.  We wait for 20, 40, 55 minutes.  Then they come out of the dawn alongside – still enough time to make the H hour landing, for H hour has been upped because of the heavy seas.  The LCM3’s are having great difficulty tieing up to the boat – they toss around like corks – but the landing nets are overside and the troops make their way down – but with great difficulty.  Often large hausers, 2 inch thick, would snap like a thread and often the man climbing down would be thrown into the small boats.  It was especially difficult to get the vehicles overboard into the small boats.  “Man overboard” was heard once – a British sailor was knocked overboard but rescued.

     First wave – Away, then the second, then the third, then it was my turn to get into my boat with 5 of my men and part of the Battalion Command section – it took long, the boat crashed against the ship time and time again, bending the ramp, and tearing loose, snapping the hausers.  Finally we are all in our boat with our equipment, and the men are getting seasick, and they huddle together toward the rear of the boat.  I stay near the front of the boat, getting sprayed continuously and I look about me and see hundreds upon hundreds of boats, from the little LCVP’s, LCM’s, LCT’s and LCI’s, to the huge battleships and cruisers, and smoke is billowing from their deck guns, for this is H-40 min. and the Naval barrage starts then, the fire directed against enemy shore installations.  Our wave has now formed and we are heading toward shore 7 miles away through rough waters, while on the way in our Dive bombers get to work, pouring tons of bombs against the enemy fortresses.

     We are getting close to shore and the boats of our wave go from a line in file to a line abreast formation and speed for shore.  I can now hear cannon fire clearly as well as machine gun fire.  We all pray that our boat will not strike a mine or an underwater obstacle or get hit by a shell from a coastal battery.  All sounds become closer, when about 50 yds. From shore I see 2 splashes on our port bow – enemy fire.  The boats streak for shore and hit the beach and we almost make a dry landing – we only have to wade knee deep thru about 20 yds. of water.  As we hit, the ramp goes down and we debark – wade in the water, then on hitting dry land start to run.  I see dead Americans floating in the water – a ghastly sight.  I get my men together and we run up across the beach to a concrete wall, faced with barbed wire and bearing signs.

     There are many wounded lying about and we start to care for them, and carry some to the Naval Beach Party Aid Station which just landed after us.  I try to orient myself, but we landed at a different place than was originally planned.  Enemy fire is increasing, landing just to our left, from our right there is machinegun fire.  I have only 1 choice I lead the men thru a break in the barbed wire into the Mine Field and we go in about 50 yds. – enemy fire increases, we dig in hurriedly to rest – we are all exhausted from the fear which we all know as shells come whistling overhead and landing close by.  But we must get out of the Mine Field! – I find a path to the right and we start along it, seeing mines all around us – and then the path disappears and we turn back to our former spot – from there we find a small path to the left and we follow it – we see wounded about us and we care for them, carrying some along with us on litters, and the small path leads us to a road and we follow it to the first right turn and we follow it. 

     Troops and vehicles are now storming ashore in great quantities – some vehicles are hit and burst into flames.  We pass burning houses and many dead German and American soldiers.  It is now noon – God the 5 hours passed like lightning.  At 1300 we come to the “Old French Fort”, now we are close to where originally we were supposed to land.  I scout ahead and find my Battalion just 300 yds. up the road, so I and Capt. Scott set up our Aid Station off the side of the road in a large hole and crater made by a 14 inch Naval shell – 12 feet by 5 feet and about 6 feet deep.  By this time one of our Jeep ambulances has reached us and we are ready to function as an Aid station.  We send out litter bearer groups into the mine fields to pick up casualties.  This is ticklish work, but the boys are excellent soldiers and go bravely although they have no paths to follow. 

     Our ambulance Jeep works up forward and brings back casualties – some are Paratroopers that are pretty well beaten up, having  been wounded shortly after landing. We work from this spot for 2 hours and then we move forward to the Command Post which is along the side of a road near Fortress 74 which is still holding out.  Shortly after arriving here, machine gun fire becomes active and we have to duck low – pinned down here for 5 hours, could watch the attack on the fortress and the surrender of the Germans.  Our boys are doing a splendid job and very few casualties so far.  As the sun is setting we note hundreds of C47’s again – more Airborne Infantry landing – They swoop inland and let go of their gliders, to come swooping back.  Liason Sgt., from Co. C shot in the leg while lying on the road beside Capt. Scott. 

     Toward dark a few serious casualties encountered – difficulty of evacuating great – Plasma given right in open.

Difficulty in finding path thru mine field to farm house where we will stay for the night – had to cross tank traps filled with water and lined with mines – ticklish business in the dark. 

     Finally we got all of Aid station together – we were all exhausted – and were so tired that we just fell down and fell asleep – with artillery, mainly enemy, going overhead, most of it, fortunately for us being directed toward the beach.

     This is the end of D day – it was hectic from the start – but we had few casualties, and those mainly from mines, which were numerous.  Heavy machinegun fire heard all night.


June 7 D+1


We are aroused early – it is cold – casualties are brought in, several requiring plasma.  One patient in shock we bring to the hot embers of a burnt house and so get him and keep him warm.  Fortress 78 is holding out and giving much opposition.  We move our Aid station away from the house we are at – to a field with a nearby road and we dig in.  Also, we are in a large crater for our Aid Sta.  Dead horse is nearby, not a very good sight, but this is the best we can do.  The attack continues fiercely this A.M., Company K surrounds the fortress 78, but is in water and swamp 3 feet deep.  Evacuation from such area is difficult.  We use our litter Jeeps to go forward, but they are fired upon.  I go forward myself to scout out a route, but unsuccessful and we get fired on – but no hits.

     Late A.M. – Artillery barrage falls in vicinity of Aid Station – we make our holes in time and hear the fragments zip past – no one hurt.  Routine evacuation going on most of day.  Treating injured civilians also.  Go out and try to find our 2nd Jeep – but no sign of it.  Later it comes to our Aid Sa.  We are all together now.  Getting used to artillery and machinegun fire.  We stay low most of the time.  Battalion Ammunition Dump set up 50 yds. away from our Aid Sta. – but can’t help this – everybody is crowded into small areas. 

After supper Capt. Scott and the Chaplain and I were working on 3 casualties on the edge of a pit that was our Aid Sta.  Suddenly we heard planes overhead, then the death roar of 6 M.G.’s.  we looked and reflexly dove for the Aid Sta. pit.  Capt. Scott landed head first, the Chaplain and I got in at the same moment, and then a patient threw himself in – just in time for the bullets started zipping past.  Then we heard the crash of bombs landing, and the earth shook – a bomb landed 24 yds. away from us – then all was silent for a moment, then a loud crash, and another – God, the Ammo. Dump was going up in smoke – we trembled and prayed at the same time.

       I looked over the edge of the pit to see that all was O.K. – the patients had found other holes to get into – I warned them to stay low, that the Dump was on fire.  And then things really began to happen as crate after crate of all size Ammo. started to go off, forming geyser upon geyser of smoke and shells and dirt and rock.  Tremendous detonations shook the ground violently and made our faces meet up with the ground.  We were petrified with fear as things – grenades, shell fragments flew and whistled over our pit for minute after minute.  At one time, something fell into our pit – it was a grenade – smoke – The Chaplain threw it out before it went off.  We only hoped that no phosphorous shells were in the Dump, for if that went off we would all be casualties as a surety – some did go off, but only a little phosphorous flew around – some on my Aid pouch – it burned a hole in it.

     After 2 hours, hours that were hell, the fire began to burn down – only small arms Ammo. going off now – and we get to work.  Sgt. Hambly badly hit – 2 50 caliber machinegun bullets get him – plasma given – I Qt. – then rapidly evacuate.  Another man got phosphorous burns – serious – used water with wet blanket – many water cans which had been placed outside our Aid Sta. pit were empty – riddled by shell fragments.  One of our trailers had caught fire, but no serious damage caused.

     This strafing-bombing and setting off of Ammo. Dump proved an ordeal to our men, and they didn’t get over it for some days to come – it was horrible namely in the length of time that fear gripped us – 2 hours.  We were completely exhausted by this.  We were glad to see this day come to an end.


June 8, 1944 D+2


Rainy and misty – Battalion to split – 1 section (all companies except K) to join with rest of Regiment in the attack on Ozeville.  I’m to stay behind with some of Aid Sta. to support K in the attack on Fortress 78.  Capt. Scott left with Battalion.  In P.M. spotted a soldier in swamp with field glasses – litter bearer squad dispatched.  Was a Paratrooper – shot thru foot and ankle – maggots in wound.  Had lain in swamp for 3 days – was in good condition physically, but foot would have to be amputated.  Got hot chow for him and sent him to Collecting Company.  Co. K having many casualties now – great difficulty in evacuation or getting to them thru the open terrain around the Fortress – in which Co. K is. 

     In evening German planes overhead – strafing – especially beach.  Later Mustangs overhead – fired upon by our machineguns for there was fog and planes swooping low.  1 shot down near Aid Sta. – pilot crash landed but only had a nick of his wrist that I fixed up.  Just after dark – telephone report states Germans dropping paratroopers – 100% alert established.  Troops jittery all night – misty and foggy – 2 men accidentally shot for not halting when challenged.  All were glad to see daylight.


June 9 D+3.

 

Attack on Fortress 78 in progress – Co. K still pinned down, sustaining casualties – not many of serious nature thank God.  We receive artillery barrages occasionally – it is 88 mm. Fire – not too dangerous, but you can’t  hear them coming until they are right upon one – Muzzle velocity is 3,200 Ft./sec.  That is reason for above.  Luckily we get to our holes in time – time and time again and suffer no casualties.  Navy starts shelling #78 – but they miscalculate target and we get a terrific barrage right in on us --  God, what concussion! – it bounces one around in one’s hole.  Radio communication calls off the fire mission, but it had us shaking in our shoes.  In P.M. several Germans came out of fortress, stating they were only too willing to give up, but officers wouldn’t let them.  He knows the location of the 88 in the fortress that is preventing Co. K from closing in on it – we get our Anti-tank guns into position and the Pole zeros our gun in for us and knocks out the 88.  And fortress 78 falls.  We stay put for the night, Co. K needs rest.  To go forward in A.M. to join Regiment in attack on Ozeville and 3rd Battalion to Attack Ozeville.


June 10 D+4


Move up to Regimental Command Post – see Kirtley – is busy – many casualties.  I go forward to locate Capt. Scott – find him with Capt. Kaufman since he couldn’t make his way up to 3rd Battalion due to heavy machinegun fire.  Get the poop and find out we can move with safety now.  Get Aid Sta. on road.  Road sheltered with dead Germans – those part of a bicycle brigade – sordid affair.  We make our way to 2 miles from Ozeville and set up Aid Station.  Battalion Command Post 200 yds. down the road.  “Overstrength” men came to us in P.M. – they look fresh.  Hear Col. Tribolet relieved of his command due to melancholia which is due to great loss of officers and men.  9th Division passing thru to get into position since 90th Division didn’t get there.  Many casualties during P.M. as our battalion is getting set for attack. 

     Just before dark get message Capt. Walker wants to see me at Forward O.P. – take Jeep and start forward, stopping at Command Post to get exact location of O.P.  See Capt. Kemp making way forward cautiously then get to see Col. Teague and Capt. Walker.  He wants me to come up on the line at 0600 next A.M. for the attack.  I tell him such isn’t feasible – to come up later after attack under way and until such time will keep Aid Sta. back a ways – finally agrees.  Start back with Hetrick.  On the way we hear a Jerry plane and then hear bombs – sound far away.  When we get near the Command Post again we are stopped – much milling about and cries for help – bodies scattered all over – what a gory mess – the bombing had been on the Command Post and exactly!! – we take two casualties and rush back to Aid Sta. with them and start evacuation of all the rest of the casualties.  Capt. Scott and I work until 3 A.M. – 83 casualties in all – many dead and many serious – God it was messy – many of my friends hit.  How had the Jerries spotted the Command Post? – lights flashed by someone in G2 report!  What a night that was – all exhausted by A.M.


June 11 D+5


Attack starts as scheduled – but advance held up by fierce artillery and mortar and machineguns of Germans.  At 8 A.M. move Aid sta. – decide to set up at “Dead Man’s corner” as we later called it.  It was Quiet there.  We get settled and start to eat breakfast when three 88 shells come in on us in the corner of the field.  Hebert killed outright, first shell hit him squarely – 2nd got Capt. Scott, 3rd got Angliss and me – it knocked me over into the ditch, Angliss spinning around and landing at my head.  I yell to Scotty – he is alright he says.  Angliss?  Hit bad thru thigh – I give him morphine and put on a compress.  Yell for a litter and Jeep.  Shells falling again.  We must get out of here! – we abandon most of equipment.  Get Angliss on Jeep and start back up road.  Jerries start strafing 5 corners (see map) – we run most of way back to Aid Sa. 

     We examine Scotty – will evacuate him with Angliss!  After they go I get the shakes and begin to feel dizzy and begin to stagger – feel like I’m drunk.  Not much good that way.  Fred helps me out – I stay in my hole for most of day.  I try walking several times – but find I can only stagger.  Get my slight wound left arm fixed up – all it needs is a “butterfly”.  Attack going slow – not many casualties though.  Don’t  remember much of rest of day – sleep.  And so a hellish day ended.  Am gun-shy now for sure.


June 12  D+6


Attack again on Ozeville. Fred goes forward to reconnoiter for Aid site should Battalion advance.  Comes running back -- was at dead Man’s corner and got hit in right thigh – needs 1 stitch – pretty shaken up like I was yesterday – doesn’t want to be evacuated.  Stays on – swell of Fred to stay with me.  By P.M. attack on in full force – many casualties – work feverishly all P.M. and evening.

    Attack going well but some troops come “storming” back disorganized since so many officer casualties – but we get reorganized after withdrawing 1/2 mile (this because we were definitely gun-shy) – move up again in about 1 hour.  Go to see Kirtley about Goforth’s attitude of wanting Aid Sta. on front line.  In all good advance made against Ozeville – settle down for the night in better frame of mind.  I feel better – headache and dizziness almost all gone – no longer staggering – a quiet night follows.  Lost 2 Aid men today – that hurt so!


June 13  D+7


Move Aid Sta. up 2 miles – to keep up with advance.  Much artillery – some men are breaking down mentally.  Work constantly all day.  Attack going well.  Getting my courage back again – go forward on foot to front lines but return after getting machinegun fire and rifle fire – still overcautious I guess, but getting over it.  Ozeville taken today – and with all the fighting around these fields many dead Jerries, cows and horses and they stink.  Battalion moves to take Quinville.  We move into position just below high ground.  [Diagram]

     All quiet during day except when vehicles travel along highway when 88’s open up and shells fall in our area.  More “screaming meemies” too.  As we settle down for night a terrific creeping barrage of 150 mm. fire falls all around us – it’s one of the worst barrages we have encountered except for the Naval shelling perhaps.  From then on shells fall intermittently – move Aid Sta. in A.M. we feel is best – back about 300 yds. 


June 14  D+8


Attack on Quinville – and we take it without too many casualties, in fact surprisingly few.  Mission accomplished! – we stay put for rest of day and night “mopping up”.  A peaceful night.  But in P.M. had flushed out 2 Jerries right beside our Aid Sta.


June 15  D+9


Pull back to Fortress sur Mer – bivouac – and it’s our first rest time since D day – we get cleaned up a bit and relax a bit.  Quiet during day but Jerries overhead at night.  Get my picture taken by Fred.


June 16  D+10


Get replacements – getting set for next move -- it is to be attack on Montebourg – get all the plans and get set.  To move into position in A.M.  Rest and relax for rest of day.  Montebourg had been attacked by 8th Regiment but repulsed 2x – now we are given the mission of taking it.  Will attack from west this time [Map below]. 


June 17  D+11


Advance in approach-march on Montebourg – as we get close meet up with a lot of artillery – it is raining hard all day. 

        Col. Teague is told to take the town in A.M. – but sees no need to since he feel Jerries will “beat it” when 8th and 12th reach objectives – and so it proves to be.  We sit outside of Montebourg all day – getting a lot of artillery, and as darkness falls we get the word to move – we surge thru blazing Montebourg – and make for the outskirts – we are to bivouac in a field with mines in it – have to test the ground myself before letting the boys come in – (the lot of an officer is tough – he has to lead the way).  Start digging in – almost finish my slit trench when we get orders to move.  Many mines encountered – several Jeeps blown.


June 19  D+13


A beautiful day today – perfect flying weather – and at 10:40 a terrific bombardment on Cherbourg takes place – we watch wave after wave of mediums come over – but a lot of P47’s also come over and since we are so close to the Jerries, they strafe us time and time again – and it’s hell being blasted by your own planes – as we later find out.  Regimental Service Company – back further, got strafed and bombed too.  The companies are getting into position – we attack tomorrow – and it is not going to be easy for we have to pass thru a draw and the Jerries have it zeroed in.  The objective is the high ground to the west of the airport 4 miles above Le Thiel.  Medical evacuation is very difficult due to the lack of roads.  Getting quite a few casualties today without too much activity, getting only a little artillery fire from the Germans.


June 20, 1944  D+14


Attack starts early in A.M. – casualties terrific right from the start – especially from 2nd Battalion.  The litter bearers get pinned down for hours at a time and can’t function in or near the draw.  They do a splendid job though and do get the wounded back God only knows how – with a dental officer with me, I can’t go forward readily to see what the score is. 

     The third Battalion pushes ahead rapidly, the 2nd is held up and the 12th Regiment to our left doesn’t move at all.  It finally turns out that the 3rd Battalion reaches its objective and there is cut off, we have only radio communication now – our litter bearers couldn’t keep up with them however, being busy evacuating the patients from the “draw” and there are many and it is difficult with all the Germans around and the artillery.  Towards night I’m really sweating it out – how can I get up to the Battalion?  I’m back with the Battalion rear Command Post and only have radio communication with Col. Teague.  The Jerries have cut all roads up to the hill and it’s suicide to go to reach them – attempts are made but the vehicles are cut to pieces and men all shot up – finally we get some tanks and they perform a suicide mission to bring up Ammo to the cut off Battalion.  We are busy most of the night with casualties.


June 21  D+15


The 2nd Battalion has made some advance on our right, the 12th Reg. has not advanced.  The 3rd Battalion is still cut off – the situation is becoming critical from a medical point of view – the casualties on the hill can’t be evacuated.  By noon it doesn’t look as if contact with the Battalion can be established – Radio tells me about 60 casualties are up on the hill.  I ask Goforth to let me go up – by tank since tanks got thru before – only 2 tanks are available right then – so I am allowed to take one man with me.  I ask for a volunteer from one of my boys – and Calvin Gross is the one – a splendid young man, with unsurpassed courage.  We get stuff together – lots of plasma and compresses, etc.  We are to meet the tanks at Le Thiel – so we move by Jeep to Le Thiel with the equipment.  While there at the roadside we get peppered with sniper fire, and a few rounds of artillery come over. Our tanks are the ones that went up the hill with Ammo on the first trip yesterday, and they are the ones that we are waiting to return from their second run this morning.  When after hours they don’t show up we fear that they have been hit, Lt. Herring then tries to run up by Jeep and trailer – he goes about a quarter of a mile and then comes running back – the Germans still have the road successfully cut and he was fired on but got out of it alright.  At 5 P.M. we see the tanks come down the road around the bend.  They made it back safely after all.  We stop them and tell them what we want – and their answer is O.K. 

     Gross gets in the 2nd tank, replacing the turret gunner, gets four 60mm. cartons of medical supplies in it and 1/2 doz. plasma units.  I get in 1st tank with like supplies, and the outside of the tank is loaded with AMMO.  I get the machine gunner’s place next to the driver and it feels comforting to have a machine gun in my hands.  It is a light Tank – we are going to depend on speed to prevent getting hit by 88’s. We button up the tank – and look out thru our periscopes and we start off – getting into high gear and literally tearing up the road – it’s a mad ride – wondering whether we are going to get hit or not.  At one point the Jerries let us have it and the bullets rattled against the side of the tank – but that armor sure makes one feel good – a false sense of security except against small arms fire – and I thought we’d never get there – it was the longest 4 miles in my life I think although we were doing about 30 MPH all the way.

      Finally the tank came to a stop and I opened the hatch above me – then “ping” and my hand “stung” – a bullet had hit the hatch cover.  Then I scrambled out fast, got the equipment out and made for the forward O.P. where Col. Teague was, Gross right behind me now, to get the “poop” but it wasn’t necessary – it was self evident in what I saw.  67 wounded in 3 adjoining fields! – some in slit trenches, others just lying about.  I found one of my Aid men with them + 2 German aid men, and they did a good job on them, fixing them up as best as possible.  Then we got to work – starting with the most serious in each field and seeing each one of them – rebandaged all of them, applied splints, amputated a hand and plugged a few bleeding chest cases – and gave plasma where needed.  Some were in bad shape, but we did the best we could for each and all of them. And shortly after I got there, the Germans threw an evening counter-attack – the bullets whistled over us constantly and we had to do most of our work in a prone or squatting position –- and artillery started – a few shells landing right on the other side of the hedgerow we were on – see (x ) [marking the map’s spot] – and we had no slit trenches to run into for they were occupied by the many wounded – so all that was left was hope and prayer.  Gross, Bud Lucas, and the 2 German aid men and I worked until dark (2300), finishing with the last patient just at about dark.  In Field (A) we had to work on our bellies – bullets hitting on occasions only a few feet away – in fact the bullets were flying about us so freely that we hardly dared put plasma bottles on rifles lest a bullet smash the bottle – and on that evening plasma was of much value. 

     But when we were finished with the patients, our work was only half done, for the patients, many of them seriously wounded, had to be evacuated!  -- and with the road cut by the Germans how could we risk it?  -- I worked up the following plan: In darkness a Jeep is likely to make it up the road, so I radioed the Battalion Rear Command Post to get a Jeep ambulance to work its way up to the hill if possible, and should he get thru under cover of darkness he would take 1 load down and then contact Capt. Harwood at Collecting Co. and get 2 ambulances and with our 2nd Jeep to come up.  And the plan worked! – the Jeep came at 0400 with Hetrick driving – Oh, what a fine lot of men I have in the Medical Section – each and every one is a hero twice over since landing on D Day.  Hetrick had made his way up and he wasn’t fired at. 

     Now he took 2 litter patients back with the message to Capt. Harwood for two ambulances and to rush them up while it was still dark – also the other Jeep.  Both came about 0600 – and we loaded them and shipped them back – and then later another load – until we had all the wounded evacuated.


June 22, 1944  D+16


Went to sleep – just plain pooped out.  The road opened and the Aid St. came up and Fred took over.  We captured some beautiful medical supplies – sent some back to Clearing Co. at the Division.  The day’s casualties weren’t too heavy but actually all day of the usual sort.  Constant counter attacks + sniper fire – infiltrating.


June 23  D+17


Usual activity in A.M.  2nd and 1st Battalions are now on the hill with us.  The 3 Aid Sta.’s are not too far apart – about 300 yds and it’s the first time since D day – we visit with each other.  1st Battalion attacks with heavy casualties – in afternoon Germans counterattack and they get very close to us, and we move Aid Sta. closer to Battalion Center.  [Map here again]

     Battalion then sends a runner to us to move out of there quick – but he doesn’t find us and Battalion thinks we are captured.  But report in after getting set up and they are truly surprised to see me.  We dig in deeply for the  night.  Counterattack repelled.  Casualties lighter than usual.


June 24, 1944  D+18


To attack today – a peculiar type of attack – the first time I’ve heard of it – an attack in a circle – therefor we won’t have to move the Aid Sta. at all  [Map].  As attack starts the Jerries open up with everything they have – mainly 40 mm. Bufor AA + 20 mm. AAS guns as anti-personnel weapons and they do heavy damage – a lot of head wounds resulting – but attack is successful and we are rid of German sniping for a while and no further counterattacks. 


June 25  D+19


A quiet day – go out on top of hill with Col. Teague and Gen. Roosevelt to watch the dive bombing of Cherbourg – a spectacular sight – rest the rest of the day – a few minor injuries only having to be treated.  All feel good and rather cocky although Walter Hill was killed yesterday – I found his body in a German truck with a dead German beside him – I wonder what happened? – he was a fine brave lad that just didn’t know what it was to be afraid – he would go help anyone that needed help no matter how much danger was involved to do so.  We all say a silent prayer for Walter E. Hill, a brave man, a splendid soldier.  We are all proud to have known such a splendid, fine upright and courageous man.

     Another one of my boys was captured yesterday we find out – we do not find his body anywhere and so assume that he is captured and alright.  In spite of all this we all feel pretty good.

June 26  D+20

Woke up with a miserable headache and a Temperature – got the “shakes” – chills – and as the day wears on feel worse – can’t figure it out though.  Since things are quiet, go to Collecting Co. – the first time I’m back from the front – they treat me royally – sulfa etc. and good food for a change and a litter to sleep on!! What comforts! Here I find out my trouble as in the evening I find swollen lymph nodes under my arm – a simple infected finger.  Incised it – pus draining and I feel better.


June 27, 1944  D+21


Rains all day, no activity at the front, so stay at Collecting – Temp normal – feel better – sleep a lot and eat ravenously.


June 28  D+22


Go back to my Battalion – and bring new medic along with me – and Fred goes back – little activity right now.  Battalion advances – The Jerries have the road covered with 88 fire.  While at command Post for orders, Kemp goes to defecate in next field – and then 4 shells drop right in same little field where he is.  I yell to him to see if he is alright – but no answer – I go to look for him thinking he was hit – and lo, there he was, squatting “comfortably” – unperturbed but anxious to finish his “duty” – and we both laugh like fools.   

     To move – get the route and we take off – 10 yds. apart – we run for it at the crest of the hill – but no shells land close to us.  We approach the north end of the airport – the place designated as the assembly point for a last Fight of all Nazi troops on the Cotentin Peninsula – they have tremendous fortifications in this area – and enough A.A. Batteries to resist for a long time should they care to.  Cherbourg has fallen and here we fight on.  We get into a nice position right off the edge of the Airport and we find a beautiful shelter for our Aid Sta.  It was a sunken Field Kitchen.  [Map-Diagram]  We make good use of Aid Sta. as shells whiz overhead.  Attack is on and pretty good success attends our efforts – few casualties – and no casualties at night.


June 29  D+23


Full scale attack on fortress and Radar Station – casualties fairly light – difficult to evacuate since this is flat ground, and scorched by the Nazis so they can see everything for miles around this fortress area.  Capt. Blazzard pulls a “fast-one” – gets a German Adjutant to bring him to his officers and so surrender the whole peninsula – and it works.  Col. Teague goes up forward then and talks peace terms – and they give up en masse – 1090 of them! – bluffed them into giving up by saying we have tanks, Air, etc. 

German Medical Officer comes up asking help to evacuate 14 wounded men from the Hamburg Battery (240 mm.) underground Aid Sta. Hospital.  Guarantees we won’t be “hurt” – or captured, and will lead us there personally.  Take no chances and have him ride the front of the Jeep.  Take ambulance and 2 Jeeps with me.  Reactions of civilians peculiar as we ride thru a little town toward Aid Sta. 

     See the set-up – underground fortress, mess hall seating 500 – what a layout! – they could hold out against us for weeks if they wanted to.  Make our way thru minefields and finally get there – a splendid underground hospital – could hold 20-40 wounded – an operating room +_ 3 sets of lights (2 emergency).  The German Capt. Gets out cognac – we drink a toast to “Victory” – he gives me all his surgical instruments – a bottle of cognac and 40,000 francs (I think it is souvenir money so give it away at will) – have 29,800 francs left, stuff it in a box and forget about it.  Evacuate the wounded – The German Capt. and his orderly – one wounded is almost dead. 

This ends the Cherbourg Campaign – Fighting stops.


June 30  D+24


In A.M. go scroungeing in some of the underground fortresses – come across a lot of excellent materiel but it’s too bulky to take with me.  Get myself a new Schmeisser machine pistol and other do-dads.  On my second trip just after sun-up I see a figure dart across the road and by God he is a Heinie.  I yell “Haende Hoch” and he stops and throws up his hands.  On questioning he states has been on the run for 4 days and no food for 4 days and I guess he was only too glad to give himself up – I take him back to where they are keeping the rest of the POW’s. 

     In late P.M. called to attend other German wounded in some of the underground fortresses – again thru minefields, but have good hunting as far as medical supplies go – also some souvenirs to send Corinne.  Get a Nazi Medical Officer – a Lt. – very scrappy and only so very certain Germany would win – in fact take back Cherbourg!  We have a long conversation – political – and he made the statement, “You may be fighting us now, but in 10 years you will fight with us against Russia.”

     In P.M. we all have a treat – we bathe completely without worrying about artillery or bullets whistling by – also get a complete change of clothing – had worn the others since 10 days before D Day – and I buried them – They really stank to high heaven – saved my D day shirt for a souvenir. 

July 1, 1944  D+25

Nothing much doing except taking care of minor wounds that the boys got during combat, but weren’t serious enough to come out of the fight to have them taken care of.  All are a bunch of swell guys. 

     Get ready to pull out and go to a new front – first to get replacements.  Move in convoy to a town west of Ste. Mere Eglise.  Where we first started out on D day – and what a sight we are with all our captured German vehicles – a gypsy train indeed.  In our new spot we dig in although we are a ways from the front yet – but the Long Toms are in continuous action all around us and we get no rest, and at night it will mean Jerries will come over.  We are on a 1 hour alert.

     The boys are very tired – all worked hard during the Cherbourg campaign.  Lounge around all day – it’s raining most of the time – We catch up a bit on sleep much needed.

     I visit Kirtley, Kaufman and Fred and Ragner.


July 2  D+26


Still awaiting orders, and so get to pack my “K” rations box of souvenirs for Corinne. 

     Replacements come in – so far have 60% enlisted men replacements!  Col. Teague and all the Battalion staff officers talk to the enlisted men – a pep talk – sensible and clear.  Col. Teague is a great leader and we all look up to him – clear headed and not foolhardy – brave and never demanding the impossible. 

     A day of rest.


July 3rd.


We get our orders – to move from our Bivouac thru Carentan to another Bivouac area near the Carentan-Perriers Road.  Get there – little artillery either way and we dig in.  It is hot -- take off my clothes and move bare-skinned, getting contact with some weed that makes me break out all over.  Go to Collecting Sta. to get some Ephedrine capsules and some Adrenalin and feel better.

Get our orders for moving up into the line to help the 83rd Div. which is being routed by the Germans.


July 4th


Regimental meeting – Regimental Commanding Officer exhorts us that when we attack we will go forward despite everything – or else! – Threats!  We all rebel at that inwardly.  Few of us have any regard for him after that.


July 5, 1944


Early A.M. start off – somehow most of us are tired before we start on this offensive – the approach march is along small roads lined by hedgerows and we get no artillery on us.  We come to the Perriers road, run along that for 200 yds. and then turn left up a small road til we come up to our temporary Command Post in an apple orchard – rather intact, but later on, when we move out of this place it is a shambles --  Artillery has stripped the trees of most of their branches. 

     This is Bocage country as dense as jungle with the advantage all the defenders – it is thick and tough to fight thru, attacking over open fields between hedgerows.  This is to be our battleground for God only knows how long.

     Toward evening the Companies are in position forward and we move up along the dirt road to our proposed site for our Aid Sta.  As we move up we come across many American dead – of 83rd Division which ran in rout before the Jerries.  They left many dead and left equipment.  As we pull into the field which is to be the Aid Sta. we see a tank still hot with a hole in it – got a direct hit.  In this field we find many dead 83rd men – killed in their slit trenches the night before.


July 5 – July 17


Days become confused – all mixed together, and I lost ability to account for each day.  Not that I can’t remember what happened, it’s that the sequence of events was lost sight of.

It was in this period that we really got Artillery – as heavy as any so far since D day and the country was tough to fight over – yes we advanced after bitter fighting only – some days we attacked and attacked with great loss of life and we took only a few hedgerows.

     And Jerry planes started coming over more and more frequently – strafing in the daytime, and bombing at night – and dropping occasional paratroopers which caused confusion always and made us form a different defense.

      The Germans had a stubborn defense – and used Tiger tanks freely – but by piecemeal commitment – the terrain did not allow them to use them in Company strength or larger as is their method – this is not tank country definitely – but it is excellent for mortar – and the Germans used plenty of them as we also did.


END OF DIARY