2nd Lieutenant - Navigator - 88th Troop Carrier Squadron - 438th
Troop Carrier Group
I was the navigator of plane
#42-92894, piloted by Second Lt. Samuel S. Cromie, co-pilot Second
Lt. Floyd Bennett, crew chief S/Sgt. John Holton and radio operator
Sgt. Joseph M. Kozik.
We came into our LZW with no difficulty and cut our glider. I saw
a C-47 plane burning near the center of LZW. As we turned we came
out at five hundred feet. We then went down on the deck to about
seventy-five to a hundred feet.
Just as we hit the deck I saw the co-pilot tilt his head and duck,
and I heard noise in the right engine. The pilot said, « Feather
right engine ! ». Both the co-pilot and myself slammed
our hands up to feather the engine. At the time I was standing behind
the pilot. The pilot opened up the other engine and it immediately
coughed and sputtered. The pilot shouted to us to prepare for a
crash. I turned around to the crew chief behind me and pushed both
him and the radio operator into the main cabin. I ran back with
them and placed my feet against the bulkhead behind the navigators
table. Before I got flat on the floor we hit a tree and the jolt
flattened at on the floor.
Prior to hitting I noticed sparks coming from the right engine.
We bounced off the trees and jolted three times and then slid into
the ground. As soon as the plane stopped I looked back and saw daylight
in the plane. The whole tail assembly was knocked off. I crawled
out of the plane. The right wing was knocked off. The left wing
was knocked off near the engine. The tail was broken off, and the
nose was pushed in on the co-pilot's side.
I stood up and saw the pilot come out through the cabin. He immediately
said that Second Lt. Bennett was missing. I went around to the front
of the plane and saw Second Lt. Bennett on a stretcher with four
I heard a sing and a paratrooper told me to keep my damned head
down. They than asked us if we had any weapons on board the ship.
One of the paratroopers came out of the ship with one of our Tommy
guns. He thanked us for it. There were about twenty-five paratroopers
around the ship and they were shooting into the trees at snipers.
Our plane went down about two
miles North of Reuville on course directly five miles from the beach.
The time the plane crashed was at 2131.42 hours. I determined this
time from my watch which was stopped.
I ordered the paratroopers to destroy the plane. I understand that
the pilot also gave the same instructions. The pilot went to the
502nd paratrooper command post. I followed as soon as I determined
that the ship was destroyed.
Upon arriving at the command post I found that all of our crew was
there. We secured first aid for the co-pilot. We stayed at the command
post until a truck came by to take the co-pilot down to the field
hospital. We all went to the hospital, one-half mile directly behing
Green Beach in the truck. At the hospital we got the co-pilot taken
care of and then we took blankets and laid down on the ground.
The field hospital was very crowded with wounded men ; many
of them lying around in fields on stretchers. We were told by one
of the Doctors, that they had over a thousand parachute casualties.
There were about four hundred wounded men out in the opening.
While I was lying on the ground near the hospital I saw several
groups of C-47's coming in towing Horsa gliders. Three planes crashed.
As far as I could observe, no plane was hit until after dropping
gliders. When the planes went to the deck, they were hit by small
arms fire from snipers hidden in the trees. A glider pilot near
me said, « God, why doesn't someone tell those fellows
to stay up high ? ». This was about 0700 hours.
In the morning we were told that
we would be evacuated at high tide at 1000 hours. At 0950 hours,
five F.W. 190's hit the beach with one bomb, and straffed the road
leading to the beach. A squadron of P-51's followed by spitfires,
about 20 or 30. And in the distance P-38's came in and chased off
the enemy planes. The last I saw of them, one was smoking. After
this we were turned back from the beach, and told that we would
have to wait until next high tide.
After being told we would have to wait until the next tide to be
evacuated, we went to the hospital. I talked with one of the doctors,
a Major. He told me that our co-pilot would be well taken care of.
I filled my canteen with water and got a D ration and put them under
the co-pilots pillow within easy reach. I wen to the beach to see
if I could be evacuated with the radio-operator..
In the meantime the pilot and crew chief disappeared at 10:00 o'clock
and I assumed they had got on a boat at high tide. I went to the
Green Beach command post and as soon as they found I wanted to get
back to England, they gave me a pack of film and told me to rush
it to APO #887 ETOUSA. A naval officer told me that this film was
of urgent importance.
This naval officer ordered an LCVP to pick us up. It grounded after
I got on it. Then they got a Duck (amphibious vehicle) for us. I
had been in water up to my belt for two and one-half hours trying
to get on boats. The duck took us to an LCI boat. On the boat they
fed us supper and took us to an LST boat. I left the beach about
1630 hours 7 june 1944.
The LST boat took us to Southampton. There I contacted an officer
and told him I had important films. They rushed me to the signal
There they interrogated me ; thanked me and took the films
which they said were important. I was then turned over to Ninth
AAF Hdqs. And found a Captain who drove me home.
While on the LST I met Captain Adams, 53rd wing, who said he was
Captain Cawthon's co-pilot. He said when the glider hit the ground,
the side near Captain Cawthon was smashed in and Captain Cawthon
was cut slightly.
Just as they climbed out of the glider a German mortar opened up.Captain
Adams jumped into a shell hole. A Major, a medical officer, was
killed instantly. Captain Adams said that he and Captain Cawthon
were the only ones not injured seriously. Captain Cawthon was taken
I believe that I and the entire
crew owe our lives and safety to the great courage, coolness and
presence of mind of our pilot, Second Lt. Cromie. He took decisive
action with split-second timing. He issued precise and clear orders
to all of us, which enable us to do all things necessary for our
safety, and which did much to help us to function intelligently,
and quickly in the few seconds we had in wich to act before we crashed.
This statement consists of four
pages which I have read and signed. I certify the statements to
be correct to the best of my knowledge and belief.
Leonard L. Baer