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Remembrance of Combat in Normandy

Guy Charland

2003, 2009 Colin Charland, Chad Charland, and Claire Ashford

Chapter 22

And So It Goes

    The next few days were pretty hectic. We were in a number of scraps, but events are kind of hazy and not too clear. I have other notes and will have to go through them.

    As I think back, a number of incidents come slowly back to me. Better write them down before
my mind goes blank. So many things happened that I can't remember them all. It's a wonder
I've recalled what I have already. Well, someday, somebody will read all of this stuff as just another "war tale." You read one, you read 'em all. You know how that goes. It's like a baseball game. Who won the World Series in 1938? Do you know? Bill said the Brooklyn Dodgers and I said "You're full of shit" and laughed. It's like the old saying, there are a thousand stories in this war and this is one of them. War is war. Only the uniforms and weapons change, but the killing is the same and death holds unlimited domain over all and is uncontested.

    Future generations will read about World War II -- its battles, its political implications and meanings, the destruction and havoc and the deaths, and will be in the same class with my generation when we read about World War I and those GIs and their exploits and results. Those soldiers were our heroes and so it goes. Kind of sad because each generation does not learn or profit from each previous war. They make the same mistakes over and over. The people do not learn a thing. This present generation, the product of us
guys in World War II, hasn't learned a thing. The scenario is unchanged, inhabited by crackpots, bleeding hearts, know nothings who get to be tyrants, dictators, profiteers and reprobates of years yet to come and ending with a new bloody war to save mankind from another Hitlerite or other two bit idiot tyrants flexing their muscles and saber rattling with some new damned fool ideology with the same deluded and ignorant followers.

    A brave and heroic last stand was taken by a lone 82nd paratrooper we came upon lying upright in a ditch sitting against an embankment with his M-1 rifle at his side, pointing at a number of dead Germans across the dirt road, seemingly not looking dead at all, his open eyes staring ahead at his enemies hanging over their 88mm artillery piece and others in other positions lying about the gun frozen in death. By the looks of the scene, it was like there was one hell of a skirmish. Empty M-1 ammo clips lay all around him. We figured out this lone paratrooper accidentally stumbled against this artillery gun crew and a hell of a battle ensued
with the trooper killing the whole damned German gun crew. I don't think this little fracas lasted a long time. This guy fought a one-man battle. There were no other troopers around.

    We counted seven or eight dead Germans. I don't think the enemy had the chance to shoot
back. As they say, he had the drop on them. He looked like a young guy about nineteen years of age. It made a deep impression on us. This one lone soldier wiping out a gun crew that probably would have killed a lot of us guys. We all gave him a salute and left the scene.

    Funny thing, we couldn't find a single wound on him. He didn't look dead at all. His face showed a calmness not usually associated with a soldier who met sudden death. Near him, I spotted a pack of cigs, but for some reason I did not take them, out of respect I guess. I don't know.

    Last night I occupied an L-shaped foxhole and slept in it all night. When I awoke in the morning I was horrified to death to find a German soldier on the other side of the L shape, unknown to me at the time. I was in the company of a dead German all night. Lucky for me. Some of the most bizarre and strange things occur in battle. Before finding out he was dead, I very slowly crept up behind him and nudged him with my bayonet. He fell over to the side still clutching his rifle and dead as a mackerel. It still unnerved me. I sat there and stared at him as if I expected him to get up any moment. He looked twenty or so and what kept my gaze was, he wore an Iron Cross medal on his uniform. I could have taken it but I left it alone. No doubt another soldier picked it up. I had bad feelings about frisking dead bodies. Souvenirs laying about were okay. That didn't bother me. I would have images or a dream of this Kraut coming back to haunt me to reclaim his medal. I told this to Bill and he said I was superstitious. I said, "Call it what you will. I leave the dead alone."

    I witnessed a gun duel between three Sherman M-4s with some Tiger tanks that attempted to break through our line in this wooded area. We had a couple of tank destroyers who knocked out two Tigers within a few minutes. Both burst into flames. It looked like they were hit from the rear in the gas tanks which was bad news for them. The tank
destroyers had come to the aid of the M-4s who were having a bad time of it. One of the Shermans was hit in the tank wheel tread, disabling it, but it kept firing away at the Germans anyhow.

    We were on a high point of ground and had a grandstand seat to witness this terrific fight. It was like watching a group of iron monsters in a deadly battle. One of the M-4s managed to move around to the left side of one of the Tigers and blew the turret off the enemy tank, a lucky shot. So far three Germans were shot up and one disabled M-4. The
other Tigers called it a day and retreated. They had had enough.

    Most of the time the Tigers came off better in a battle with the Shermans. We heard Shermans were called "Ronsons" because they were so inflammable. I believe that the Shermans did okay against the Panther tanks PZK Ills or IVs, but not too well against those 60-ton Tiger monsters, unless hit in a vital spot. Our tank destroyers were more successful against them. They used M-10s a lot with good results or those other armed vehicles called Priests. I believe they had 105s, but that German 88 was one of the best heavy guns in the war. We called them "Whiz Bangs." They were used as dual purpose, anti-tank, personnel and anti-aircraft, but despite their awesome and deadly power, we destroyed a lot of them.

    The one thing about the Sherman that saved a lot of them was their maneuverability and speed and that was a great asset when you don't have the armor and firepower.

    After the sharp deadly battle, the Germans never
launched another attack which was okay by me. I'd say that that tank affair lasted close to an hour, although it felt longer, but what was as bad was the hellish noise. It made your ears ring. Now I know why those tankers wore those ear-covering helmets. I wonder how many of those tankers developed hearing problems after the war.

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