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Personal Wartime Memoir of Major Charles E. Tegtmeyer

Books and Documents

Operation Overlord

Personal Wartime Memoir of
Major Charles E. Tegtmeyer, Medical Corps
Regimental Surgeon, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division


Charles Edwin Tegtmeyer (11 March 1909-9 September 1963) was born in the Bronx, NY.  He received an AB in Chemistry from Colgate University, Hamilton, NY, before attending the College of Physicians and Surgeons (Columbia University Medical School) from which received his MD in 1935. He entered the Medical Corps Reserve as a 1st Lt. on 14 August 1935.  He practiced in Hamilton, NY, before being called to active duty in November 1940 and assigned to the 26th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, as a battalion surgeon.  He remained with the 1st Infantry Division throughout the war, later serving as commander of an ambulance company and Collecting Company B, 1st Medical Battalion, through operations in Algeria, Tunisia, and Sicily.  Following the Sicilian Campaign in July 1943, he became the Regimental Surgeon for the 16th Infantry Regiment.  In that position, he landed on on D-Day, 6 June 1944, Omaha Beach with the 16th Infantry's assault force and received a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions that day.  His Medical Detachment, 16th Infantry, was awarded the Presidential Distinguished Unit Badge (Distinguished Unit Citation), equivalent of today's Presidential Unit Citation (PUC), for its actions on Omaha Beach. He ended the war as one of the most decorated officers in the Medical Corps and Army Medical Department with a DSC, Silver Star with Oak Leaf Clusters for El Guettar (Tunisia) and St. Lô (France),  Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster for gallantry for Aachen and the Ardennes, and 2 Oak Leaf Clusters for distinguished wartime service.  He received the Purple Heart for being wounded at El Guettar.  He also received the French and Belgian Fourrageres and the Legion of Merit.  Dr. Tegtmeyer remained in the Army after the war, completed the Medical Field Service School Hospital Administration course in 1955 and received his MA in Hospital Administration from Baylor University in 1956.  He was Deputy Commander, US Army Medical Services Combat Development Group at Walter Reed Army Medical Center  in the late 1950s and early 1960s.  He was promoted to rank of Colonel on 10 March 1959.  He was assigned as medical faculty member of the US Army Chemical School at Fort McClellan, AL, when he suffered a heart attack and died on 9 September 1963.
The following excerpts from Colonel Tegtmeyer's personal memoir of his wartime experiences as a medical officer with the 1st Infantry Division were prepared after the war.  He turned his manuscript over to the former Historical Unit, Army Medical Department in 1960.  Today the manuscript in located in the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 319.  These excerpts were edited by Dr. John T. Greenwood, Chief, Office of Medical History, Office of The Surgeon General, U.S. Army.
Major Tegtmeyer (center) with the commander and staff officers of the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1944


CHAPTER XX
D-Day ---- H-Hour

I scrambled down the rope loading net, hanging over the rail of the troopship, at 0610 hours, my men all heavily laden with their own individual equipment and carrying extra medical supplies, followed me.  The LCM below me was being tossed toward me hitting the side of the ship with a bang and then dropping abruptly with the receding waves.  As I neared the bottom of the net I stopped climbing and when the boat almost reached me, I dropped into it and rolled with it.  Anxiously, I watched every man coming down, so that I might assist him if he should slip and fall.  Slowly, the men kept coming down.  I moved as far back in the waist of the craft as possible and rested my back against the forward wall of the engine compartment, with both feet braced against the pitching, tossing and rolling motion. Anxiously, I kept thinking of the action soon to take place on shore. Like the rest, I knew it would be tough but I confidently hoped not too tough!  Soon the motion of the boat began to bother my organs of equilibrium, I regretted the double breakfast I had eaten , and fear of being sea-sick drove all thought of landing from my mind.
Father Lawrence Deery, the Regimental Chaplain, came down the net and joined me at the rear of the boat.  Slowly, it filled with men and periodically, the Chaplain or I would yell, “Move up front,” the whole damn crowd was packing solidly against us, and doing their best to squeeze food and air out of me. At long last, Lt. George Wilder came down into the boat, the lines were cast off, the net thrown over board and the motor started.  Slowly we picked up speed and moved away from the troop ship only to stop our motor two hundred yards away. The pitching, rolling and tossing of the craft increased.  I watched the top of the landing ramp as it described several 45 degree arcs but it became too much of an effort.  I tried to looking at the densely packed men standing, ahead of me and found myself fascinated by the olive drab color of Cpl. Sam Fuller’s face.  Poor Sam, looked as I felt.


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Violently, I twisted my body against the pressure being exerted on it by the densely packed mob and gazed over the gunwale at the rolling sea.  I have preached loud and long that Mal-de-Mer is a state of mind, I tried thinking of my family, of  home, of places I’d been, my most recent gripes, but to no avail.  I bowed to the inevitable, I was getting sea-sick, god-damn sea-sick.
The craft remained wallowing in the rough troughs of the sea, I kept repeating, “if they'll get the god-damn thing moving I'll be alright.”  I could hear other less hardy souls retching already. Calmly, Father Deery pulled out an apple and began eating it.  I strained my neck around toward him and watched fascinated.  He seemed to be enjoying it thoroughly. He paused in his ruminating, looked at me and said, “Charlie, I guess I'd better quit, some of those birds up front look as if they’re ready to kill me.”  Between gritted teeth, I grated, “Larry, I’m sicker than hell.” He laughed, and I vomited. I couldn’t quite make it over the high gunwale and liberally decorated the back of the man jammed against me, murmured an apology and kept at it, putting my heart and soul in it. The damned Chaplain kept laughing. I gazed fascinated into the corner of the boat at my second breakfast.

The motor started and we gathered way slowly turning toward the shore 20,000 yards away.  The boat continued its terrible motion, it would rise upward and then plunge sharply downward, its propeller spinning wildly in the air, while waves of icy cold salt water were thrown sharply into our faces, across our backs and down our necks.
I suddenly felt sick again, leaned over and let go.  Father Deery yelled above the motor noise, “Stop roaring like a sea-lion,” and guffawed.  I gritted my teeth and gasped, “Go to hell.”  The boy whose back I was spraying kept twisting his head over his shoulder and looking at me in horror. Finally, he turned around and joined me.  The first breakfast and something extra added, separated from me, I began to feel better.  At last, I had reached the perfect frame of mind for the assault against a heavily fortified hostile shore, “I didn’t give a damn, just as long as I would reach the beach and put my feet on it.”


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 The air bombardment and the naval gun fire preparations followed by the rocket ships had already given the shore defenses the works; the D-D tanks had landed, supported by our assault battalions with their flame throwers and pole charges of TNT and we with the reserve battalion were about to land.  I was confident that all ashore was well for if it were not, we would not be landing.
 As we neared the beach machine gun bullets beat a tattoo against the plate of the LCM and whistled angrily around our heads.  The men crouched toward the floor.  The craft stopped suddenly, on command from the Colonel’s LCVP which was along side us and began to back water.  A lane thru the mines and beach obstacles had not been cleared.  The boat turned toward the west following the beachline.  The din of exploding artillery shells to our left along the shore and in the water was terrific.  Suddenly, the LCM moved sharply to the left toward the beach and gathered speed.  A few minutes later we grated along the sandy bottom, the ramp dropped and the men passed down into the water.  I yelled to Sgt. Goldberg to lead my men into the water and keep going, I would meet them on shore.  The men ahead of me thinned in density, I worked my way forward and yelled to my men to hurry but to bring along the extra medical supplies.  I reached the edge of the ramp, carefully descended it and found myself in icy cold rough water which reached my lower chest. Ineffectually, I slowly worked my way shoreward, passed a Belgian Gate obstacle with a large Teller mine attached to it and banged my knee against a steel tetrahedral, of rail steel, beneath the water. Anxiously, I felt about it for a mine or a booby trap wire, while a cold clammy sweat oozed from under my helmet band.  Finding neither, I climbed  over it but became entangled in its five outthrust arms,  slowly I extricated myself from its tentacles and touched bottom again with my feet.  Using all try strength I thrust myself forward and cursed my slow progress.  The water became shallower and I pushed on, my equipment dragging me forward and downward, abruptly, I stepped from the water to the beach shale and fell face downward.  Breathing laboriously, I rested face downward


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for a moment, oblivious to all that was going on about me.  As my oxygen debt became less, the explosions of shells and the sharp whistle of bullets forced their sound on my consciousness.  I lifted my head and crawled up the shale bank, just beneath its upper ledge, I rolled over and sat up.  The shelf, on which I rested, was about ten yards in width sloping upward from the water’s edge to a height of from two to ten feet at an angle of  roughly 35 degrees.  Face downward, as far as eyes could see in either direction were the huddled bodies of men; living, wounded and dead, as tightly packed together as a layer of cigars in a box.  Some were frantically but ineffectually attempting to dig into the shale shelf, a few were raising themselves above the parapet like edge and firing toward the concrete-protected enemy and those on the cliff above but the majority were huddled together face downward.  Artillery shells exploded on the beach and in the water with sharp explosions and threw fragments in all directions.  Uncomfortable close, overhead, machine gun and rifle bullets grazed the top of the ledge with the buzz of a million angry hornets and plunged into the water behind us with innumerable sharp hisses or whined away into the distance as they ricocheted off the stones of the beach.  At the water’s edge floating face downward with the arched backs were innumerable human forms eddying to and from with each incoming wave, the water about them a muddy pink in color. Floating equipment of all types like flotsam and jetsam rolled in the surf mingled with the bodies.
 Units of Infantry and Amphibious Engineers were inextricably mixed together, officers without men and men without their officers, lay perplexed awaiting orders.  The enemy gun emplacements of reinforced concrete at the base of the cliff-like slope, untouched by aerial bombing, naval and rocket shelling, continued to pour artillery  and machine gun fire across the beach and into the figures struggling thru the obstacles to reach it, decimating the ranks of the assaulting troops with every fusillade.  Snipers picking off


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every head, whether officer or enlisted man, which became lined in their sights.  Everywhere, the frantic cry, “Medics, Hey Medics,” could be heard above the horrible din.
 I called Sgts. Goldberg and Bailey over to me and the three of us crept about rounding up our detachment.  Within a very few minutes all of our group excepting Capt. Tierney, my Dental Surgeon, was accounted for.  Colonel George A. Taylor, the Regimental Commander, had landed fifty yards to the right of us. He passed us walking erect, followed by his staff  and yelled for me to bring my group along.  I instructed the men to follow me up the beach and to render aid to the wounded as we passed.  Crouching, running, crawling and stumbling over the prone, tightly packed bodies, we slowly worked our way up the beach, answering the cry “Medics” as we went. My men were superb as time and time again they plunged into the surf, regardless of the hail of steel fragments whistling about them, to pull wounded ashore.  The wounded were hastily  dressed and pulled to the shelter of the shale shelf and left with instructions to call to the landing craft for help as they grounded.  I examined scores as I went, telling the men who to dross and who not to bother with. The number of dead, killed by mines, shell fragments, machine guns and sniper bullets was appalling. Sgt. Herbert Goldberg bringing up the rear, supervised the work as he came and no doctor could have done more or could have done it better.
 Every man who lifted his head above the level of the shale was asking to be shot and every man who moved along the beach had utter disregard for his own personal safety.  We followed the Colonel and covered a thousand yards of it, just asking for it.  Father Deery was having a busy day too, for many of the men had more need of him, than of me.
 When we reached the extreme western edge of the Regimental Beach, the Colonel called a halt.  Three radios were brought up, their antennae shot into the air and the operators frantically sought contact with the Battalion Commanders.  Staff Officer and messengers were sent out to locate officers


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and bring them back.  Slowly the reorganization of the Regiment was begun.  As Officers were located, orders were issued and they moved out.  Soon, despite the decimating enemy fire,  platoons and companies were organized, small groups began blowing out the aprons of wire at the top of the ledge and columns began to crawl over it thru the gaps.  The attack was launched!
 Chaplain Deery and myself looked at each other and in one breath exclaimed “And we criticized those birds at Tarawa for being green.”  We both gave a couple of sickly laughs and Larry said, “Its about time for Jerry to turn on his Nebelwerfer.”  “That or a strafing plane,” I replied, “is all that we need.”  The words were no more uttered than 6 shells, preceded by the peculiar sound of the Nebelwerfer exploded a hundred yards away in the water.  “Oh-oh, here it comes,”  I exclaimed and ducked my head.  A fragment whistled by grazing the sleeve of my jacket, bounced off the stone and disappeared.
 Three of the 32 amphibious D.D. [Duplex Drive] Tanks reached the beach a few hundred yards to our East.  Lt. Colonel Skaggs, Commanding the 741st Tank Battalion worked his way from them to us, received instructions and departed.  The tanks were doing no firing but soon, Colonel Skaggs could be been belaboring his men with a life preserver, while they ran for the tanks and scrambled into them.  A few minutes later they began firing at the enemy strongpoints, while the enemy frantically tried to counter-battery them with 88s, 75s and 47s.
 Around Colonel Taylor and his three radios the bullets began to whistle more viciously than ever.  I yelled at the colonel, “For Christ’s sake, Colonel, get down, you’re drawing fire.”  He grinned at me, ordered the antennae pulled down and said, “There are only two kinds of men on this beach, those who are dead and those who are about to die, let’s get the hell out of here.” He started back along the shale to the West, the Headquarters Group behind him.  I told Sgt. Goldberg to take the lead while I followed the rear of the crouching file.


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 The tide had come in during this interval and the shelf had narrowed to about 7 yards.  We worked our way westward alternatively on the shale and knee deep in water.  My men continued giving aid to the new crop of wounded that had been reaped since our trip eastward. A hundred yards from our starting point, I stumbled over an Engineer, fell on my face and stayed there, too exhausted to get up.
 When I decided to move on, ten minutes later, I was so tangled in my  field equipment, that movement was impossible.  Five minutes later, I had the various straps readjusted and was able to move on. Fifty yards further on I was glad to rest again.  Thru out this time the fire along the beach was as harassing as ever, and the rising tide kept narrowing the beachhead.  My only thought was to find the exit and get the hell off the beach. The one thing I was sure of was that I would not get back into the icy cold water to swim, no matter what happened.  I’d be a guest of the Third Reich first.
 Another stop to help a wounded man and I reached the first tank, rested a few seconds and dashed across the open gap to the second, another momentary rest and a dash to the third. The vicinity of those tanks wasn’t choice either. The Heinie Anti-tank guns were still trying for them.  Beyond the last tank, a wounded Lieutenant stopped me, I examined the wound in his arm and told him to follow me off of the beach. Twenty yards further on, we reached the gap in the wire, hurried thru it and entered the mine field.  The building which had been visible in the aerial photographs of the place, had been reduced to rubble.  Engineers were using mine detectors and had cleared a single foot path thru the meadow.  We followed them, climbed the steep slope and came upon the Regimental C.P. in a hollow, forty feet below the crest of the plateau.  I reported to the Colonel, and then led my patient to my men, dug into the steep bank, twenty yards away.


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 My men had all reached the Aid Station excepting Capt. Tierney.  I was greatly about him but  C'est le Guerre.  The men had salvaged two litters and some extra cases of supplies from the wreckage along the beach.  Five patients had already come in, one of whom had a nasty wound of the chest.
 The enemy kept shelling the beach, even though by this time our troops had driven them back from the cliff edge and had knocked out the five strongpoints guarding the beach.  Enemy fire was concentrated on the two vehicle exits and the Engineers could not reach them to remove mines and blow the road blocks.  Landing craft kept bringing in personnel and vehicles even though the enemy shelling was knocking hell out of them.  Crowds of leaderless men of the Engineer Shore Brigade were still huddled along the beach and many of them were being killed by the exploding shells. Shells were just clearing the forty foot bank over our heads to hit craft, the beach and, the meadows behind us.
 Morale at the C. P. was excellent despite the reported deaths of many of the group.  We were all glad to get off the beach and glad to be alive.  Where was no doubt in anyone's mind but that the Invasion would be a success at the first try.
 Fragmentary reports, verbal and radio, kept coming in of action near Le Grande Hameau and Colleville-sur-Mer.  Although the regiment had been reduced below its effective strength, with a loss of thirty, percent of its officers and men, the attack was still going on.
 A trickling of prisoners were passing thru the C.P.  The constant  cover of our own fighter planes overhead and the constant firing of our destroyers and cruisers at inland targets was reassuring even though the enemy artillery was raising hell with deadly accuracy along the beach behind us.


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 Captain Bill Friedman, the Regimental Adjutant, asked me to have a look at Major Dave McGovern, our Air-liaison Officer, who had been hit on the beach.  Dave had lived with us for the past in months in England, had taken a terrific ride, on the subject of his branch of the service and its failure to give us support in Africa and Sicily.  However, with his ready wit and pleasant personality, he had been able to hold his own even on that tenderest of subject, “Pay and a half for the Air Corps.”
 I scrambled up to Dave's Fox Hole and before I could ask him about his injury, he pointed upward to the planes flying overhead and said, “Look at them, you guys should be damn  thankful they're there.”  I agreed readily enough and he continued, “You guys said this would be rough, but God, I didn’t think it would be this rough. You guys can have my pay and a half anytime.”  I admitted it had been rough, a hell of a lot rougher than Africa and Sicily, in fact rougher than anything I ever want to go through again.  I examined his wound; it was a jagged shell fragment wound just to the left of the heart and the 5th and 6th ribs were broken.  Sgt. Goldberg dressed it.  I asked Dave if he wanted to be evacuated and he replied, “No,”  he didn't want morphine either, but he was having a helluva time getting a decent breath.
 Captain John Finke came in with a compound fracture of the right arm and a wound of the right leg, both wounds were already dressed but he needed morphine.  All through the afternoon the wounded kept coming in; my men went out to get and carry them in.  Every shell that landed anywhere near the area was getting someone.  A frantic cry came up from the mined meadow below us,  “Hey Medics,  Hey Medics.”  Someone had run into the minefield and exploded a mine in an attempt to got away from a shell.  Sgts. Ed Bailey and Bernie Friedenberg volunteered to go and get him, but I wouldn’t let them go until I found an Engineer with a mine detector to go with them.  Several minutes later I watched them remove mine after mine,


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with crossed fingers until they reached the stricken man.  They worked over him for several minutes and then carried him off in the litter.  Mercifully, no shells landed in the field while they were working.  Fifteen minutes later they reported and told me that the man had two broken legs; they had left him with a Naval Beach Unit in the ruins of the house below us.  Eight mines had had to be removed before they reached the man.
 During the afternoon the 18th Infantry began to land from LCTs.  We at the C.P. were relieved to see them coming in, the regiment needed all the support it could get.  The LCIs rushing toward shore with barrage balloons on high were a beautiful sight to see.  The Germans liked the sight too, for immediately they began shelling the beach again.  The 18th landed and pushed inland rapidly to join the fight.
 The 26th Infantry came in early in the evening and rapidly  disembarked. A long column, in single file made its way toward the C.P.  When they reached us, Lt. Colonel John Corley, one of my best friends, was leading it.  He stopped to talk to Colonel Taylor and myself for a few minutes about the situation.  He was much concerned about the welfare of the eighty-four wounded I had collected and told me to use the blankets in his men’s bedding rolls for them. I thanked him and wished him luck as he left us to rejoin his battalion.
 Sgt. Friedenberg called me over to see our man with the chest wound.  I hurried over, examined the man quickly and called for plasma.  The plasma was brought, we opened it up, put it together in the prescribed manner but the God-damned bottle with the plasma in it had no vacuum and would not draw the sterile water into it.  Impatiently I swore and called for a second, this was no better, a third worked and we were able to get the stuff into him.  A few minutes later, his pulse improved and he felt better.  This chore was no more finished with than one of our Infantryman was brought in with a traumatic amputation of  the right leg and multiple fractures of the left leg. He was conscious and cheerful but his only hope was rapid evacuation, and at this time evacuation did not exist.  An hour later he was dead.


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 The Colonel, Captain Lincoln Fish of the Anti-Tank Company and myself were talking when an enemy shell exploded on a knoll fifty yards away.  Link sat down abruptly and said “I’m hit.”  Quickly, I opened his combat jacket and shirt.  On his abdomen was a large swollen circular weal – a fragment had hit a can of cheese in his pocket.  An anxious cry for help amongst my patients sounded and I left him.  In the midst of the wounded I found my dental technician, Cpl. Kisker, crumpled in a heap, blood pouring from the side of his neck.  A fragment had hit him cut thru the trapezius muscle.  The impact of the fragment had been like a rabbit-punch and the boy was completely helpless.  We dressed the wound rapidly and helped him to his slit trench.
 An Auxiliary Surgical Team of Doctors and their Assistants reported to me at this time, they were without equipment of any kind, no litters and their men would not act as litter bearers nor would their commanding officer order them to.  They were completely useless to me.  I told them to dig themselves foxholes further to the left, got in them and stay out of the way.
 I had Major Plitt our S-3 call Division and ask them to have the Navy send in boats, litters and blankets so that we could evacuate the patients.  He was assured that they would come.
 At 2200 hours, Captain Ralston reported to me with 12 men from his Collecting Company.  His face was burned and he was upset.  Excitedly he told me this story:
At 0830 hours this morning, June 6th, 1944, the LCI No 85 carrying 90 Officers and Men of my company (Company “A”, 1st Medical BN)
landed on Fox Green Beach.  Immediately on the touching of shore the enemy opened fire on the LCI with machine gun, 47 mm and heavier artillery fire. Several direct hits were made, going through the front holds, the control room and the forward deck killing several men and severely wounding several more.  Immediately, Captain Hahn with an aid man went into hold No. 2 to give medical aid and administer plasma to a critically wounded patient.  Captain Apanazewicz was on starboard side also giving aid and treatment


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to critically wounded.
The beach at this place was not satisfactory for a landing, so the LCI was withdrawn from land a few hundred yards and then again came in for another landing to the right.
On this 2nd landing we succeeded in reaching shore, the port side ramp was lowered and the men started getting off.  About 20 of the men from “A” Company succeeded in getting into the water when the enemy again opened fire, hitting the ramp, throwing it off the side of the boat into the water and at the same tine badly wounding some of the men as they were coming off the ship.  During this time other direct hits went into the holds setting two of them on fire, by this time the holds and deck were littered with dead and wounded. When the 3rd hold caught on fire there were still several men in it and since the opening to this hold was on the inside they were becoming quite panicky. We succeeded in getting them through the door to the outside deck.
There was a critically wounded patient in the officer's cabin immediately above and in front of the opening of the 3rd hold.  Another man and I went into the cabin in face of the terrific heat and blinding smoke and carried the helpless patient to the deck.  At this time Lt. Lundgren went up to the control tower to give aid to one of the injured navy men. The control tower by this time was full of smoke.  The ship was listing badly to starboard and was rapidly sinking.  It was also getting out of control, and,  therefore, was swinging around with the tide so that the portside was exposed to the shore.  The


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enemy was still firing and some hits were scored on the portside. The crew finally got the badly listing ship out into the water from shore, the fire was being extinguished and we started with the dead and wounded to the U.S.S. Chase, to be evacuated.
Throughout this time, during the attempted 1st and 2nd landings Captain Hahn, Captain Apanazewicz, Lt. Lundgren, Sgt. Dunphy, Sgt. Kline, Cpl.. Ginnetti, Pvts. Hopper and Wise with utter disregard for their own safety or position on the ship gave first aid, setup plasma units and helped carry patients from the holds and cabins to the deck, thus saving the lives of severe seriously wounded patients.  
When the LCI reached the Chase the same men continued to work at top speed to transport the dead arid wounded from the sinking ship to a place of safety.  This removal was done by placing the patients into net litters which were lifted by derrick to the larger ship.
After all evacuation was completed we again organized the remaining part of my company, transferred to an LCM and returned to the beach at 1700 hours.  The landing this time being made on Easy Red Beach.  This landing was accomplished in the face of heavy artillery fire on the very beach on which we were landing and in spite of the fact that again several of the men were injured or killed. Of the Officers wounded were Captains Hahn, Apanazewicz and myself, the men wounded were Sgts. Dunphy and Kline and Cpl. Ginnetti. Some of them seriously so.  At this time Lt. Lundgren distinguished himself by giving aid to those injured and helping others to areas of


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safety from the incoming tide.  This all being done while the beach was still under
enemy artillery fire.
I commended him for reaching me at all.  I ordered his men and mine to start litter bearing the wounded who could not walk back to the Naval Beach Station in the ruins below and told those wounded who could walk to start for the beach.  The long dismal procession formed and started: the lame supported by those who could walk and the blinded led by those who could see.  All but 10 of the most serious cases had moved or been moved when the enemy started a vicious shelling of the beach again. At darkness an enemy bomber dropped a stick of three below us in the vicinity of the ruins.  An LCM loaded with tanks and half tracks anchored high out of the water started to burn and for the next three hours blazed furiously, while ammunition exploded from it in all directions.  I stopped evacuating my patients.  Needless to say the craft did not come into pick them up.  I’ve never regretted anything as much as my decision to send them to the beach.


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Just after dark, another enemy plane came over, the anti-aircraft guns on the ships off the beach began to fire furiously, and a considerable amount of ammunition thudded into the hill behind us.  We all rushed for our slit trenches and pulled our heads down.  One man from Headquarters Company was not quick enough and was hit in the leg.  He let out a yelp and my men left their holes to drag him into one of the holes we had dug for the wounded and dressed him.  The shooting over, we climbed into our holes to get some sleep.  It was now midnight, a cold wind was blowing in from the Channel, our clothes were still damp, we had no blankets and our teeth were chattering.  I curled up in my hole, my helmet on my head and fell into a troubled but exhausted sleep.
I was awake, stiff and cold at daylight.  Every muscle in my body that I ever know of was painful and sore, I grimaced with every move.  I had had nothing to eat all of the day before and still didn’t feel like eating.  I went to check our patients and found five of them dead.  A runner sent to the beach station reported the patients there had not been evacuated, but they were all OK.  The Navy was going to send craft in for them.  The beach was still covered with dead and wounded.  Bodies drowned in the channel were being washed in, wrecked vehicles, and equipment littered the beach. Burned and sunken landing craft were everywhere.
Thruout the morning, encouraging reports continued to come in. Resistance in Colleville had been reduced to a few troublesome snipers, who were being mopped up. The 18th and 26th Infantries were pushing toward their objectives.  A spot check was made of our units and the number of known dead, wounded and missing was appalling.
 A clearing station was setup a thousand yards to our east, to which we evacuated our remaining patients.  The beach exits were opened and vehicles were moving forward to the units. The push was on.


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;At noon, we moved up the cliff and crossed the minefields at the top and setup the C. P. and the Aid Station a thousand yards inland.  A report came in that snipers had been mopped up and one of them was a women. The C. P. moved again, this time to the outskirts of Colleville. The roads were now crowded with the marching troops of the follow-up, vehicles and artillery all moving forward.


Book II, Chapter I
Normandy, 1944
I awakened cold, damp,  half conscious of the rocks digging into my back, feeling crummy.  An occasional artillery shell was still letting down on the shale beach and the deeper boom of heavier stuff and the occasional staccato of small arms fire was sounding behind me  down the bluff.  Untangling the blanket I painfully sat up, rubbed the dirt from my eyes, found my glasses and put them on.  I stood up, shook the dirt out of my clothes, scratched here and there, rubbed the itch from the three days of beard on my face.  I looked down on the choppy, gray shinny appearing water of the channel, reflecting another cold gray dawn and shuddered. “What a way to earn a living, there must be an easier one,” I thought.
The urging of nature manifested itself and propelled me off along the path under the sharp bluff.  I carefully threaded my way thru the wounded on litters and found my men huddled together on the ground close together for warmth.  I reached a clump of bushes beyond the last man and relieved myself.
 It was D+1, 7 June 1944, this was Omaha Beach, Normandy. This was as far as we had gotten in the invasion of Hitler's Fortress Europe.  This was the C. P. of  16th Infantry Regiment and its Aid Station.  I was the Regimental Surgeon.
 Threading my way back to the center of the sleeping group I thought “Jesus, I'm lucky, we're all lucky.”  My group had come through with out a scratch.  “Tired, cold, hungry, dirty, stiff and constipated, but alive.”
 In a pile of equipment I found it water can, opened it, filled it with one hand and poured water in the other, eased the can back, rinsed my hands, took my glasses off,  rubbed my face with a damp hand, reached into my back pocket, pulled out a dirty greasy handkerchief and wiped my hands and face and my toilet was complete for the day.
 I located my First Sergeant, Goldberg, walked over to him, leaned over and shook him thinking “poor kid, you sure look pooped.” His eyes fluttered a few times, opened with bewilderment, focused on me gradually, a moment of silence while he looked around, turned back to me and said, “What a dream, thought we were celebrating Yom Kippur in Hackensack.” “I’m hungry.”
 “Well, get off your lazy ass, dream boy, and come with me and we'll check the wounded.”
 He unwound himself, struggled up and started for the bush I’d previously patronized, calling back “I’ll be back in a second.”
 I rummaged thru the heap of gear on the ground, found my pack, opened it, fished out my last D ration Chocolate bar and a pack of cigarettes tied in a rubber.  The rest of the contents were a damp sodden


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mess, socks, handkerchiefs, and a change of underwear. I dumped the stuff out, spread it out to dry. I hadn’t had my boots off in over two days and my feet were beginning to itch.
 Goldie returned and I offered him the D Bar.
 “If you can break a chunk of this off with your lunch knife, I’ll have some,” I said. “Maybe I can chew some off without breaking my teeth, the son of a bitch that makes this damn stuff must put concrete in it.” Goldie whittled away with the knife and finally succeeded in getting an inch square out of the bar, handed it to me, and chuckled.
 “I hope the eggs aren’t too well done and the bacon crisp enough.”
 I nipped the misused rubber off the cigarettes, took out the pack, slightly damp but not wet, opened it and offered Goldie a cigarette, he declined.
 “Well let that be a lesson to you, Goldie,” I said. “Don't over depend on one of those damned things, a Frenchman named Voltaire once said, ‘A cuir-ass to pleasure and a cobweb for protection.’ I guess he knew what he was talking about.”
 “You'd better boot a few of the heroes in the butt, particularly the “Hatick Flash”, and tell him to chop up some of the god-damned D bars and take some hot chocolate so we can got it into the wounded.”
 Goldie lost no time in carrying out instructions, in fact be seemed to be enjoying his work.
 “Rise and shine,” he yelled as he booted each cocoon, while the clamor of groans and protests mounted all over the place.
 Bill Friedman, the Adjutant, came around a rock in the path, he looked a mess.
“Charlie,” he said, “Herb Hicks has called the old man, things have quieted down in Colleville and we're going to move the C. P. in there. Herb is fighting on the far side of town, he says he has less than two companies and his medics want to know what to do with the wounded?”  “Bill,” I replied, “When the god-damned Navy gets out of their warm beds and come in and get my wounded, I’ll move in with you. Tell Horrible Herbie to move his wounded to some defilade and have a couple of his medics with them. I'll take over when I got there.”
 “I’ll get him to mark the spot on the map,” replied Bill. “The Old Man said to tell you Division radioed that there’ll be a boat in abut 10:00 o’clock, and as soon as we get located and you get rid of the wounded, you and Larry bring up the rest of the C. P.”
 “Ok, but how in the hell will I know where you are?” “I’ll send a runner back,” he said, and took off.
 Goldie rejoined me and I said, “Come on.”
 We started up the path, found Father Larry Deery, the Chaplain


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and shook him awake. He was his usual pleasant self, “stop that you fat bastard,” he said, “or I’ll knock your damned block off.”
 Brushing this pleasantry aside, I told him Friedman’s message.
 “I like it here,” he said, “those damn fools will get our asses shot off  yet.”
 With difficulty and an assist from Larry, our air liaison officer, Major Dave McGovern, sat up with a groan.
 “How goes it, Mac,” I said. “Bill just told me those Navy bastards will be in with a boat to take you off about 10.”
 I loosened his sling and checked the dressing on his left chest, the bloody dressing was soaked but dry and caked.
 “You know Joe,” he said, “When you bastards used to tell me your stories about landings, I didn’t believe you. I didn’t think anything could be as rough as this.”
 “Well, don’t feel to bad about it,” Larry chirped in, “This has been the worst yet.”
 Goldie meanwhile was bending over a mound on a litter.
 “Better come over here Major,” he yelled.
 I went over, kneeled down next to the litter, the gray-green pallor of death was on the expressionless, ageless face. I yanked off the blankets, opened his shirt and put my ear to the chest, there was no heart beat and no sound from the chest.
 “Larry,” I called, “Here is a patient for you.”
 “Goldie, when Father gets through, have the men carry the body over to the others, wrap him in a blanket and bring back the litter.”  Those yellow Navy bastards.  I’d lost my seventh patient.
 Goldie got a litter squad together, led them, followed by Father Deery, off to the left along the path under the cliff to join the other six.
 Sgts. Ed Bailey and Bernie Friedenberg, both looking the worse for wear, came up to me with their aid kits in hand. Ed, the “Hatick Flash”, said, “Morning, Sir. Had a comfortable night I hope.” Bernie just grinned. “How can you two be so cheerful,” I said, “you both look like death warmed over, and as far as a comfortable night goes, it sure was a ditty. I bet, Ed, you left that damn rock in the foxhole purposely that kept digging into my ribs all night.” “Don't complain, Major,” said Bernie, “We dug that hole for you with loving care.”
 “I’ll bet, just tell me, Bernie, why did you keep kicking dirt in my face all night.”  They both laughed.


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 “Let’s check our guests,” I said and led off along the path. We checked the wounded, changed the dressings needing it, adjusted splints, reassured them that they’d be picked up today, kidded them, promise them chow, a clean bed with sheets on the hospital ship, good looking nurses to look after them and just about anything they asked about. Four more of my guests needed no promises.”
 About 1000 hours a Navy doctor and corpsman came into the aid station area. I had checked my last patient and was cursing the Navy, early evacuation would have saved half of my losses.
 “Major,” the lieutenant said, “How many wounded have you here?  We’re ready to move them.”  “Lieutenant,” I’ve been cursing you and the god-damned Navy for so long, I can't remember when it started, but I'm glad to see you.”
 His face reddened and [he] looked at me as if I'd slapped him. “Sir,” he said, “if they'd allowed me to land I'd have been here yesterday when you expected me.”
 “I know you had coxswain trouble just like we had.”
 “I’ve already cleared the wounded out of the ruined building below.  Can your men take the wounded down there?”
 “Yes, we will, but it’s the third time we’ve hauled them there. From now on they’re all yours,” I replied. My men under Bailey’s supervision and Co. As men went to work on the chore. It takes four men to move one helpless one over rough terrain on a litter and it’s all dead weight. It̓s a matter of carrying awhile and resting awhile and then argue about who is going to carry the folded litter back.
 By 1100 the job had been completed and I felt relieved of a terrific burden. Friedman’s promised runner arrived with the marked map.
 Sgt. Goldberg was supervising the packing of what gear we possessed and passing out the blankets to be carried.
 Larry Deery was scuttling around getting the remnants of headquarters company together.
 At noon we started out. It looked more like a Safari than a military expedition. Everything had to be hand carried.
 The guide led us up a steep path to the top of the cliff and over lip into another mine field. Signs with skulls and crossbones and word “Mine” were all over the place.
 “Sir,” the guide said, “follow exactly in my foot steps, when we went through we cleared a single foot path.”
 “Ok,” I replied and turned to Bernie behind me and repeated the


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guide’s instructions and told him to pass the word down the single file.
Before leaving I arranged with Capt. Em [Emerald] Ralston our line of evacuation.  He and his men would take the wounded from me and pass then on to the Navy.  As I left a location he would take it over. When the clearing Co. arrived he would pass the wounded to them and it would then be their responsibility to pass the wounded on to the Navy.
When we reached the top of the plateau, open fields riddled with bomb craters and shell holes could be seen in all directions. The Air Force and the Navy had certainly peppered the whole place, but there was not a single objective to be seen. The strong points along the beach and the crest of the cliff were unscuttled until the infantry reduced them one by one.
 Eventually we hit a dirt road, followed it a short distance and the guide pointed to the right between two hedge rows.  “The C. P. is in there,” he said.
 We had advanced about a 1000 yds. Sporadic rifle and burp gun fire could be heard in all directions. I was glad to get in between the hedge rows.
 A short distance in I met Bill. “Pretty good spot, eh?” he queried.  “Take your gang thru the C. P. and set up, put some security farther along the row.”
 I stood with Bill and passed my men thru. I gave Goldie the instructions, told him about the security and instructed him to hold the runner from Co. A, 1st Medical Battalion.
 “Where's the Old Man?” I asked Bill.
 “Oh! I’ll take you to him,” replied Bill. “He and Plitt are frantically trying to contact the Battalion.”
 I followed Bill along the path, stooping to duck under brush and sapling branches as I went. We found Col.. Taylor and Col. Plitt with the radios and a map board a few minutes later.
 “Doc, did you get the wounded out?” the Col. asked.
 “Yes,  I did. The Navy’s got them and Capt. Ralston has set up his collecting station in our old location. What’s the situation?”
 “Colleville is strongly held and Hicks is having a rough time getting thru. Puller Driscoll and his battalion are trying to work around to the Southeast and Chuck Horner is working eastward on the coastal road to Port en Bassin. They all have casualties and want to know what to do with them.”
 Plitt said, “Charlie, tell me what to tell them to do, they’re worried.”
 “Carl,” I replied, “I'm sympathetic but there is little I can do just now to help them. Tell them to gather their wounded in each aid


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station, tell us how many. If they have to move, leave two men with the wounded and move. As we come up I’ll take over the wounded and send the men back up to them. If they can confiscate some trucks, they can load the wounded on them and get them to us here and I’ll pass them on to Em Ralston.”
“Oh,” replied Carl, “I’ll pass the word but they're not going to be happy.”
“Carl, I'm not happy. Col. Taylor’s not happy, you’re not happy, so what the hell, nobody’s happy. I've got a dozen men, no vehicles, no chow, no nothing. What the hell else can I do?”
“Send the message, Carl, and tell Hicks the sooner he clears Colleville the sooner we’ll be there and take over,” said the Old Man.
We spent the night in the hedge row and with dawn came the message from Herb Hicks that Colleville was secure. Chuck Horner had pushed thru Port en Bessin and was at Huppain.

Germans were surrendering all over the place, but isolated groups of stragglers and snipers were holding out here and there. The Germans had closed in on Port-en-Bassin and formed a strong point there after Chuck’s battalion had gone thru and to the west the 26th Inf. had met strong resistance at Formigny.
Having the all clear from Hicks, we proceeded to Colleville-sur-Mer. It wasn’t much of a town but the excitable French were all over the place. The word “La Boche” was to be heard all over the place, and I was fascinated to see a group of women huddled together, all with clean shaven heads. These, we were told, had been too friendly with the Germans.
My men took over the 2nd Battalion aid station and were able to pass the wounded on to Co. A.

Some jeeps arrived and fortunately one of them was mine, from there our packs, litters, wounded could be moved and not hand carried.
On the 9th of June, with much confusion and no definite front, with the combat situation changing from moment to moment, the Division reached its D-day objective.
On the 9th Intelligence reported a build up of a German counter attacking force in the Cerisy forest. This attack never took place. Resistance at this period was not organized, but consisted of small detachments which refused to surrender but slowed our advance.
The 18th and 26th Infantry regiments were given the task of securing the Bayeux and St. Lo highway. The 16th Infantry or the remnants thereof supported by the 7th Field Artillery Battalion was given the task of clearing the enemy from the Corps boundary, from Port-en-Bassin to Vaucelles. In the actions that developed the German 30th Mobile Brigade was chopped up and in the days to come America’s finest, singly and doubly, were observed traveling the highways on bicycles and motorcycles. An added danger.


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The days that followed were confusion, the 16th had a succession of C. P.s, hedge rows, a chalet, a barn, confusion or not we continued to move south. When the Cerisy Forest was reached it was found to be a burned out area with no vegetation left, just burnt stalks pointed horribly toward the sky.
The Division, with excellent artillery support, was able to advance and consolidate, and assured the beach-head by the 11th of June.
On the 11th of June, Gen. Huebner, the Division commander, issued an attack order to secure Caumont, a road junction of great strategic importance, a hill mass of 750 feet south of the Cerisy Forest and controlling the upper [Drome] Valley. The position would control every movement from Caen to St. Lo and Avranches.
The 18th and 26th Inf. Regt. on a 3000-yard front, abreast, jumped to the attack and met little organized resistance until the village of Caumont itself was reached.  The remnants of the 16th Inf. followed along, mopping up and taking prisoners in small determined groups [that] were encountered and liquidated. After rough house to house fighting the 26th Inf. succeeded in taking Caumont.
On June 12th the Division was ordered to hold and found itself surrounded on three sides by the enemy. Neither the 2nd US Inf. Div. on our right or the British on our left were able to come up abreast, and straighten out the line. The Division found itself ringed by elements of parachute and Panzer Divisions of good fighting quality and morale, determined that we would go no farther.
Good old “General Logistics,” forbade further movement forward. A build up of supply, the landing of necessary vehicles and additional combat troops were necessary. The pause enabled the enemy to dig in and combat sharp, short and bitter developed in no-man’s land between determined patrols.
The period of relative inactivity, plus bad weather which kept the Air Force grounded, permitted further build up of enemy forces. On the high ground we held, it was possible to watch the forces on our left and our right vainly try to even out the line. Attack after attack was repulsed by the enemy.
During this period, the Division Medical Unit obtained their ambulances and trucks, set up collecting and clearing stations and received hospital back-up. The Infantry and the Artillery unit also received their full complement of vehicles, weapons and replacements but necessary as this build up was, we were all impatient and anxious to get on with the show and to top it off , the cloudy, rainy weather was not only depressing but wet and uncomfortable.
The 16th Infantry had its C. P. in a hollow near a farm house, the farmer and his family being French and tenacious, refused to be evacuated. We were able to get a room for the Colonel, but the rest of us went to fox holes and shelter halves. The C. P. itself was dug deep in the ground and roofed with timber. The kitchen under a tent fly set up in


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the apple orchard. I found a defiladed hollow behind a small hill, more orchard and a stone fence. With a great sense of security, I set my small-walled aid station tent. Larry Deery and I moved cots in for sleeping at night, no hole in the ground for us. We invited Capt. Tierney to sleep on a litter between us. We were living high on the hog and laughing at the rest of the men and their misery in the holes in the ground. But, as ever, “pride goest before the fall.” We were among the first to know when the German build-up opposite was complete.
Several quiet nights had walled us into a sense of security and invulnerability.  Then one dark night all hell broke loose. The enemy apparently had located the C. P. and on a dark night the shells began coming in all over the place and shell fragments whistled in all directions. In the midst of the uproar Tierney yelled, “I’m getting out of here.”
 “Shut up, let us sleep,” replied Larry.  
 “Stay where you are, keep your head down, there's nothing to worry about, we’re behind the hill,” I advised.
 Tierney kept repeating, “I’m getting out.”
 Larry kept repeating, “Shut up,” and I advising, “We’re safe, keep your head down.”
 “The stuff’s whistling thru the tent.”
 “No, it isn’t.”
 “Keep down.”
 “Shut up and let us sleep.”
 This conversation went on for an hour and so did the shelling, the detonation and whistling increasing in loudness.
 When it stopped, it was awfully quiet.
 “I’m getting out,” said Tierney.
 “No, you’re not,” replied Larry.
 “Lets shut up and get to sleep while we can,” was my contribution.
 Came daylight, I was awakened by the sun in my eyes. When my eyes regained focus, I put on my glasses. The top of the tent looked like a piece of Swiss Cheese. I got up. Larry and Tierney were still conked out. Less than a foot above Tierney’s head, in the back of the tent, was a large gaping hole and just above his feet at the front of the tent there was another. The best advise Tierney had ever gotten was to shut up and keep his head down.
 When he awakened, Captain Tierney surveyed the situation, picked up his gear and the litter and announced, “The hell with you characters, I̓m moving into the cow barn with the men.”
 “Ungrateful,” said Larry.


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 Surprisingly enough, even though the area was full of shell holes, the tree trunks scarred and broken by shell fragments and considerable leafage gone, we had suffered no casualties.
 Capt. Paul Laralle, my other dentist, with little or no dentistry to do, got bored. He became fascinated with the reports brought in by the patrols who were operating nightly. He listened with mouth open to reports rendered by platoon leaders and Sergeants. Sneaking up on the enemy at night, grabbing sentries, crawling on your belly, laying in puddles on your belly while the “Stupid Krauts” walked by, finally became irresistible and he volunteered nightly to go on patrol.
 His persistence was finally rewarded. He was taken along to see the sights.
 The next morning he came in completely cured, much the worse for wear. His clothes were torn and covered with mud.
 “How did it go, Paul?” I asked.  “Did you like it?”
 “Yeah! It was good up to a certain point but never again.”
 “Why?” I asked.
 “Well, we were doing swell. We were close enough to hear the Kraut talking when some clumsy bastard tripped over a trip wire and a couple of flares went off. I never felt so naked in my life.”
 “Scared?”  I asked.
 “That’s mild,” he replied. “Like one, we hit the dirt, while bullets from machine guns, burp guns and rifles whistled ever our heads. It seemed we were held down for ever before they got tired.
 “The Lieutenant and the sergeant said, “Crawl out you stupid bastards, we’ll cover you.”
 “Christ, that must have been something.”
 “No, that was only the beginning. We crawled and crawled and then those two crazy bastards started throwing grenades and the whole damn German force started shooting again and we were pinned down again.”  After awhile the Lieutenant crawled up and said, “What the hell is the matter with you guys, get the hell out of here.”
 “We got and it sounded like a herd of bulls on a rampage, and the shooting started all over again. I just got back, and I’m damn glad to be here.”
 “Cured?” I asked.
 “Hell no,” said Paul. “That was exciting, I’m going to bed.”
On the first clear day in weeks, I decided to take a jeep ride over to one of the battalion aid stations at Cormolain and see how things were going. Larry went with me and it was a pleasant ride, the sun was shining and the day was balmy. We stopped at the C. P. and had a drink and


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pleasant conversation with “Chuck” Horner, the Battalion Commander, had interesting conversations with Richard Niple, the surgeon and his men, and started back. We hadn’t seen any friendly aircraft in weeks, only Messerschmitts. The first thing I knew, bullets whistled from behind us, the staccato of machine gun fire could be heard and an American plane flew over us accompanied by six more. Selfridge, my driver, pulled to the ditch and the three of us promptly hit the dirt and rolled into the muddy ditch.  Head down we crawled a considerable distance from the jeep and collapsed. The planes circled to come back for another pass when ack-ack started up all over the area. As the planes came through for a second pass, the ack-ack and 50 cal. machine gun pellets plastered them. Five of the six came down in smoke and flames. The first air cover we got was our own, and they plastered us.
No one in the 16th Infantry was busier than Col. George Taylor, early and late he was either at work in the C. P., going over Personnel reports, supply figures, intelligence reports, and personally interrogating patrol leaders. He visited battalion headquarters and company command posts. He personally spoke to each group of replacements of the Big Red One and in particular of the fighting heritage and fighting qualities of the 16th.
We had developed a particular daily ceremony, in short the staff, with the exception of Chaplain Deery and myself, ate early breakfast but just as we had in England, we ate in the second shift composed of Col. Taylor and we two. Breakfast was served under a tent fly on a 6-place home made table. The discussion was always opened by the Colonel and varied with the weather. In good weather topics were apt to be light, over dates of experiences of the Colonel in China and the hinterlands of Asia. On gray wet days, of which these were plenty, debate was apt to be a bit bitter. The lack of air cover, the slowness of build up, Communists causing strikes, infiltrating the marine unions of the West Coast, movie stars red sympathizers, the inability of the British on our left to straighten out the salient and innumerable others gleaned from radio reports. The Colonel was exceptionally well informed and a very interesting conversationalist but as our stay north of Caumont and the days grew grayer and wetter the inactivity began to chafe George. He became grim. One particularly wet and cold morning in June Larry and I waited for the Old Man for breakfast, he was later than usual. Presently he stomped in and Larry and I promptly stood up.  “Sit down, sit down,”, the Old Man all but shouted. We knew this was going to be a bad day.
 “That bumpy bed is breaking my back.” The Old Man stated with a grimace.
 No comment from the good Father and myself.
 “This rotten weather is depressing, even it’s against us.”
 “The damned Air Force holed up in their comfortable billets and pubs in England aren’t about to come over here. It’s funny the Germans can fly.”


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 No comment.
 “I suppose it will be fried Spam again.”
 “Yes, sir,” we chorused.
 “Well, then, let’s sit down and get it over.”
 “Arthur, Arthur, bring the coffee,” he bellowed.
 Arthur came in, poured the coffee,
 The Colonel, who likes it scalding hot, took a sip, said, “it’s cold, damn it,” picked up the pot, poured it on the ground.
 “Arthur,  god damn it, bring hot coffee.”
 Arthur looked at him.
 “Sir,” he said, “that’s all the coffee we've got.”
 The Old Man put his cup down and stalked out. Larry and I washed our Spam down with cold canned grapefruit juice.