02 - Normandy, Among the Hedgerows
Coming soon, a full book by George Weir, a WW2 veteran.
As I was progressing through a badly damaged area, General Patton came up in a jeep. He wore a shiny helmet liner and had pearl handled pistols as side arms. He was escorted by motorcycles that had their sirens screaming, yelling for us to move aside.
When I got to our tanks they were located on the top of a hill. The first tank I came to was a buddy, Porter. He told me a couple our guy's tanks had been hit and destroyed. I asked him about a buddy who was my tank driver when we were in Indiantown Gap. He said my ex-driver was last seen running toward the Germans.
The utter Destruction of the St Lo area was caused by more than 300 US and British Bombers flying from England in waves. I witnessed some of our planes being shot down and smoking from German Ack Ack canons. The bombing remains sharp in my memory today!
It's like watching a movie!
A spring I can't forget!
Our Company (G Company, 32nd Armored Regiment, Third Armored Division) were stuck in the Normandy hedgerows during June and July until the St. Lo breakout. We broke out after a saturation bombing by 300 US and English planes on July 26th, my 21rst birthday.
We were shelled by Germany's 88s almost every day. A few times by "Bed Check Charley" our nick-name for the German plane that dropped bombs on us - always after dark.
The bombs were mostly small one pound anti-personnel bombs that were delivered in large containers that spread out when the containers split in half after hitting the ground. One night, a half of one of the containers fell with a "THUMP" next to my foxhole. I didn't know what it was and imagined it might be an unexploded bomb! I had a log top on my foxhole and could not see out in the darkness. I didn't sleep the rest of the night.
On another night we had a GAS scare. Somebody rattled the rattlers that were a signal for GAS. I always kept a gas mask and steel helmet handy and immediately put them on. It turned out to be a false alarm, but it was scary, anyway.
While were were stuck in the hedgerows, we dug foxholes to protect ourselves. I still have my folding foxhole digger. During this time, I composed the following poem on a beautiful quiet, sunny day, sitting on the edge of my foxhole, a "HOLE" that was my home for over 45 days.
FOXHOLE: JUNE 1944
The night is damp and gloomy
Dark without a moon
The wind that's blowing through the trees
Moans an eerie tune
You're lying in your foxhole
Trying not to think
'Bout war or death or anything
While bodies near you stink
An approaching plane drones nearer
Winging through the night
Shells exploding, ack ack firing
'Way out to your right
Hush! What was that sudden sound?
It seemed your blood to freeze
Then all is quiet, but still alert
You pray t'was just the breeze
A shell explodes. your buddy wakes
How close did THAT one come?
Trembling, trying to calm his fears
You say, "Not close as some."
Your watch is finally ended
And in your foxhole deep
You nestle in your bedroll
For a wet and troubled sleep
"Allies Advance", the headlines scream
A large attack's begun
But the end is just a dream
The war is far from won!
The folks at home are jubilant
For news that is so bright
But not the soldiers at the front
Who sleep in foxholes tonight
George Weir, June 1944
Our food for 6 months with an occasional "Hot Mess Kit meal" were special canned rations: A Ration, B Ration, C Ration, and D Ration with one chocolate bar and a 10-cigarette pack. I weighed 205 pounds when I landed on Normandy beach - I weighed 170 pounds six months later when I was taken from combat in Germany around the first of December and sent to 2 US Army hospitals in England where I spent about 2 months.