My parents ran a combination
grocery store and café in the town of Neuville au Plain, which bordered
the road to Cherbourg. I was, at that time, 21 years old, and we all (I and my
siblings) lived at my parents' home. My parents took care of the store, and we
also milked the cows and cared for the animals that we had in the fields around
From the perspective of our
village, there was no suggestion as to what was about to happen. There were no
abnormal activities, nor was there any sign that would have shown us what was
going to happen during the night of June 5th, 1944.
the evening of June 5th, we went to bed as usual. In the middle of the night,
our father woke us and we then heard the loud bellowing of the aircraft that passed
overhead. With the opening of the window to the 1st story room, we could see paratroopers
descending, that would be landing in the fields surrounding the village. We saw
them silently enter the village, hugging the walls of the houses as they entered.
During the previous week, there had been Germans stationed in the village, but
they departed some days ago, and there remained no one except the civilians. Nobody
exited their home, and we returned to bed and slept until morning.
we left the village, as we did not want to remain in the house next to the road,
except for my father, who remained home the whole time.
For four days we wandered
across fields between Houlbec and Bergeries searching for our animals that had
run away. At night, we slept in barns on hay, with other civilians. We returned
to the house at the end of 5 days to find our father there. During the course
of our search, we found dead paratroopers in the ditches, as well as many dead
animals. At the castle in Neuville, the horses were dead at the gates. Without
doubt, the horses had been trying to get out through the gates, as their legs
were between the bars.
Upon returning to
our village, we helped our neighbor to take care of and milk his animals. He had
taken the precaution of locking in his animals so that they could not run away.
Additionally, at this moment, my sister was injured by the blast of an artillery
shell that the Germans had fired from Ecausseville.
the Americans replaced the Germans at my parent's café. They accompanied
us in the pastures when we went to milk the animals. We watched their convoys
pass that came from Cherbourg, and they threw us oranges.
Lecourtois (April 13, 2004)
from French by Thad J. Russell