©2003, 2009 Colin Charland, Chad Charland, and Claire Ashford
The next story was how I acquired a German Swastika Nazi flag. It was during a big battle to capture this small city. I don't remember the name but it was during our advance through Normandy and it doesn't matter. The German infantry was putting on a pretty stiff defense. It was a very hot day and humid as hell and the smell of dead bodies didn't make things any easier, mingled with the smoke and burning oil of destroyed vehicles of all sorts and exploding ammunition which made things pretty dangerous.
We were advancing in spread-out formation up this city street lined with tall trees along the way with a number of three- and four-story houses on the opposite side, none of them too damaged. There were the usual last stand snipers in some of the buildings taking pot shots at us. We could hear the slugs hitting the pavement and hitting the trees, snapping the branches. What was so maddening was we couldn't spot them, let alone see them, but despite this harassment, we still had to push on. We suffered a certain amount of casualties I know. I came under fire making my way up the street but lucky for me, I didn't get hit. The fire was heavy. I'm glad they didn't have machine guns at the time or casualties would have been worse. Anyhow, in our advance, we came to the end of the street. As this happened, some guys in companies "H" and "I" were sent out to try and flush out and kill these damn snipers. They succeeded in killing a number of them, about eight or nine of these tormentors. I'm glad they got that assignment and left "G" company alone.
When we got to the end of the street, we crossed over to the next street ahead and again started to advance at nine-foot intervals between each man. Bunched up men make good targets. We came to a place up the street where there was a city hall or some municipal building of sorts on the other side of the street.
We were still sustaining German machine gun and rifle fire which kept us ducking and hiding behind trees along the way and firing at them at the same time. I hit some I think but am unable to say how many. I knew we gave as much as we took. It looked as if we were getting the better of the argument. Then we all came to a halt along a ditch with intervals of trees for protection. It was at that point, along with my buddy, Bill, we spotted this municipal building with a large Nazi flag hanging down from a small balcony about one story up.
I got real excited when I saw that German flag fluttering in the breeze big as day. Before I joined up for the war, I used to see movies and news reels showing that damned flag and swore when I went to fight, I was going to get one of them and a German luger, God help me.
Here was my longed-for wish and ambition. I said to my friend, "I want that flag, so help me, and I don't care how many Germans are shooting at us."
Bill said to me "Have you lost your senses? You'll get killed doing a brainless thing like that."
I replied, "Like hell. I'm going to get that flag. Give me some cover." So I jumped up from the ditch and took off like a greyhound across the street. I don't know if the Germans saw me or not. I didn't give it any thought. I jumped up halfway up the wall, grabbed hold of the end of the flag, yanked it down and took off back to the ditch with my prize and threw myself behind a tree next to Bill.
"I got it. I didn't think I'd make it but I did."
"You were damned lucky to get away with that stunt without getting your fool head shot off," said Bill.
"I admit it was a foolish and stupid thing, but I can say I'm alive," I replied. But I got me a Nazi flag, which, by the way, I still have at home for a souvenir, which was gotten the hard way. I'm glad to say I didn't have to buy one. It's still as fresh and clean as the day I got it, never been washed – an ugly but a proud memory of an exciting day.
After the event and I had gotten back to my position, I felt something wet on my backside and leg. I was shocked to discover that my water canteen had been hit. A great big hole was in it and all the water had run out. So they did hit me but thank God, it was my canteen.
Bill said with humor, "You're lucky it was only your canteen that got it. While we are together, don't dare pull another dumb stunt like that. It ain't worth your life."
In fact, one of our NCOs ran up to me and said, "I saw you run across the street and grab that flag and run back under fire. At first I thought you were attacking the Krauts' position single handed."
I replied, "Are you nuts? I could have gotten killed doing something as foolish as that."
And the sergeant said, "But going to get a Nazi flag under fire was a different thing?"
We all laughed over it. I thought about it later and had second thoughts about my foolish stunt but getting away with it was worth the deadly effort. Once in a while after the incident Bill would look at me and say, "You and that damned kraut flag," and shake his head and would kind of grin. "Only you would do a foolhardy thing like that and get away with it."