June 6, 1944: Massacre at HEMEVEZ
303rd Troop Carrier Squadron, part of the 442nd Troop Carrier
Group, is based at Fulbeck (England). It will be one of the units to carry the
US Airborne troops to Cotentin during the night of June 6, 1944.
At 0019 hrs, C-47 #42-92382 with chalk number 17 as well as 44 others of serial
#26 take off from England heading for Normandy.
The planned Drop Zone is DZ "T" and located at 49°25' north, 1°22'
west. It is near the village of Le Ham.
At 0244 hrs, plane #17 drops its stick of paratroopers, they are part of the
HQ Company, 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne.
Fourteen men are jumping but the fifteenth one stays on board after his reserve
chute accidentally opens (Private Tress B. BALCH).
Ashton J. LANDRY made a mistake that almost costed him his life: right after
landing he climbs on a hill exposing himself and is shot in the leg by a patrolling
german soldier; quick to react, LANDRY eliminates him with a burst from his
He fixes himself up then tries to locate his comrads. He meets two of them then
finds the rest of the team including Lieutenant Robert W. SHUTT. 13 of them regrouped,
the fourteenth, private Fred G. WONDELL is badly wounded with a broken pelvis and
will be patched up and hidden in a nearby shelter. He will eventually be recovered
and returned to the States.
The drop pattern is located along the railway Cherbourg / Paris and near the village of Hemevez, "La casse à Genêts".
Looking for information, lieutenant SHUTT sends Ashton LANDRY,
who speaks french, on patrol with Charles L. WRIGHT et Paul D. MOORE.
The nearest farm is called "Castel"; they enter it
with difficulty to find the inhabitants both happy and frightened: a german
patrol usually passes by at this hour of the morning. One of the young girls
lead them to the stables were they remain hidden. Like Mr LANDRY would say:
"Thanks to the german army to be equiped with those heavy hobnail boots!!".
After leaving this place, they hear a firefight with rifles, machineguns; a
little while later, they would watch seven of their comrads made prisoners,
with their hands on their necks and freed of their belts, lined in front of
a machinegun. He recognizes two of his best friends: Daniel B. TILLMAN et Robert G. WATSON.
from shelter to shelter, they will remain hidden in recent bomb craters and
resupplied by two young girls. Unfortunately they will be discovered by some
german soldiers and taken captive.
Locked up in a building, they join about twenty other american prisoners. Ashton
LANDRY, noticing they were guarded by only one soldier and after observing the
guard pattern, will escape with two of its comrads.
Having been detained for only one hour, they will use the night to leave the
Along the way they come across a crashed glider and dead soldiers
lying around and pick up weapons and K rations.
While foraging the place, Charles WRIGHT is hit by enemy fire. Healed of the
spot, he'll be able to carry on fleeing this area still occupied by the germans.
Six days after landing they would finally reach the lines of
the 82nd Airborne's 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment and will be interrogated
by General GAVIN at his headquarters.
On February 6, 1945, Ashton LANDRY is summoned at SHAEF in
Versailles to complete the investigations of the HEMEVEZ atrocities.
The ongoing researches.
researches started in June 1994.
Mr. Henri THIEBOT attends the ceremonies of the 507th P.I.R. at Graignes, another
place of massacre. One veteran from this regiment opens conversation. Of french
origins, he explains that he witnessed a killing on June 6, 1944 but can't recall
the exact place, locating it about 30kms North of Graignes.
Mr. THIEBOT, after investigation in the vicinity of le HAM finds the exact spot
of this tragedy: HEMEVEZ.
In 1997, Michel GAUDRY picks up the investigation with Mr. THIEBOT, corresponding
via mail and telephone with Mr. LANDRY.
Circumstances of the massacre are finally known and the name of the victims
Then Mr. Ashton J. LANDRY passes away in 2003. It won't be
until early June 2004 that these revelations will be confirmed.
In MEMORY of the paratroopers murdered on June 6, 1944 at
- Pfc Daniel B. TILLMAN
- Pvt Robert G. WATSON
- Pvt Anthony J. HITZTALER
- Pvt Robert E. WERNER
- Pvt Delmar C. Mc ELHANEY
- Pvt Andrew W. KLING
- Pfc Elsworth M. HECK
© Michel Gaudry for http://www.6juin1944.com
Photos courtesy of Ashton J. Landry's family