Men of D-Day


    
 Troop Carrier
Michael N. Ingrisano
Robert E. Callahan
Benjamin F. Kendig
John R. Devitt
Arthur W. Hooper
Ward Smith
Julian A. Rice
Charles E. Skidmore
Sherfey T. Randolph
Louis R. Emerson Jr.
Leonard L. Baer
Robert D. Dopita
Harvey Cohen
Zane H. Graves
John J. Prince
Henry C. Hobbs
John C. Hanscom
Charles S. Cartwright
 
 82nd Airborne
Leslie Palmer Cruise Jr.
Marie-T Lavieille
Denise Lecourtois
Howard Huebner
Malcolm D. Brannen
Thomas W. Porcella
Ray T. Burchell
Robert C. Moss
Richard R. Hill
Edward W. Shimko
 
 101st Airborne
John Nasea, Jr
David 'Buck' Rogers
Marie madeleine Poisson
Roger Lecheminant
Dale Q. Gregory
George E. Willey
Raymond Geddes
 
 Utah Beach
Joseph S. Jones
Jim McKee
Eugene D. Shales
Milton Staley
 
 Omaha Beach
Melvin B. Farrell
James R. Argo
Carl E. Bombardier
Robert M. Leach
Joseph Alexander
James Branch
John Hooper
Anthony Leone
George A. Davison
James H. Jordan
Albert J. Berard
Jewel M. Vidito
H. Smith Shumway
Louis Occelli
John H. Kellers
Harley A. Reynolds
John C. Raaen
Wesley Ross
Richard J. Ford
William C. Smith
Ralph E. Gallant
James W. Gabaree
James W. Tucker
Robert Watson
Robert R. Chapman
Robert H. Searl
Leslie Dobinson
William H. Johnson
 
 Gold Beach
George F. Weightman
Norman W. Cohen
Walter Uden
 
 Juno Beach
Leonard Smith
 
 Sword Beach
Brian Guy
 
 6th Airborne
Roger Charbonneau
Frederick Glover
Jacques Courcy
Arlette Lechevalier
Charles S. Pearson
 
 U.S.A.A.F
Harvey Jacobs
William O. Gifford
 
Civils
Philippe Bauduin
Albert Lefevre
René Etrillard
Suzanne Lesueur
 

 

  William "Bill" O. Gifford
2ndLt. - 95th Bomb Group - 8th Air Force

June 6, 1944, D DAY. This is it. This is what it is all about. COMBAT. I was assigned to another crew for my first flight. It was not a standard practice, but the crew that I flew with was short their regular navigator that day, DNIF (duty not involving flying), or something.

The Army had set up a special fund to buy fresh eggs on the English black market. Only crew members, flying combat on that particular day, were served fresh eggs, two each. Everyone else ate those horrible powdered eggs.

Have your two fresh eggs anyway you want them. I have seen near fights when Cookie didn't cook them just right. It was jokingly called "The Last Breakfast." I ate my first "Last Breakfast" and went to briefing.

When you walk into the briefing room, it is just as they show it in the movies. A curtain covers the wall behind the podium. The Command Pilot for the mission mounts the rostrum, and the curtain is dramatically removed showing a map of the Continent with our day's work laid out. The C.P. announces the target, the way we are to get there, also, the pit falls and dangers. Flak areas are shown in red. Aircraft and positions in the formation are assigned.

The Weather Officer guesses at the weather, and the Chaplain performs the Last Rights. Good luck!

Scared, you better believe it. Preflight, engines started, taxi into position.

"Off we go into the wild blue yonder . . . ." (The Air Corp Song)

D Day morning, the wild blue yonder was anything but blue. There was an overcast at about 200'. The 95th used Horam buncher for our climbing pattern. Our pattern intertwined with the climbing pattern of a nearby B-24 base. Take off, IAS 155 mph, and climb 500'/minute to altitude. In the soup, it was impossible warn the pilot of approaching aircraft, instead you said, "There went a B-24 at 11 o'clock."

Just getting to altitude under such conditions was a hairy task, at best. We broke out on top at 19,000', rendezvoused and headed across the English Channel for our target, Falaise, a French town just inside the Normandy coast.

Through rare breaks in the clouds, we glimpsed the armada in the Channel below us. It looked as though you could have walked across, stepping from boat to boat. Our orders were visual bombing only. Nobody knew what was going to happen on the ground. We were there to support, not jeopardize our ground forces.

Every available plane was in the air that morning, and traffic was ONE WAY. At navigation school, we had been told that fighters in the air resembled a swarm of bees. Sitting in the nose of the B-17, I kept pointing out swarms to the Bombardier.
"Enemy fighters?"
"No, ours."

With each new appearance, same question, same answer. I'm not nervous. My course in aircraft identification at Selman Field was a complete bust. I know that Bombardier was glad to get his regular navigator back.

Our target was socked in, so we turned, flew down the Cherbourg peninsula, turned and started for home. "DO NOT LAND WITH ARMED BOMBS. GET RID OF THEM OVER THE NORTH SEA." We got rid of ours.

We landed safely, and now, I am a combat veteran.

Bitch, if you must, about flying combat, but a nice warm bunk, and hot meals are waiting for you if and when you return. The Red Cross girls are serving hot coffee and doughnuts to men that have braved the skies, today.

Think of those poor bastards on the ground, on the beach head. Warm bed, hot meals, hot coffee and doughnuts, girls. GIRLS!

Bill Gifford