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
 

 

Robert Clinton Moss, Jr
Lieutenant - H Co. - 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment - 82nd A/B Div.

The 508th Prcht. Inf. left USA sometime after Christmas, 1943. We landed at Belfast and made camp somewhere between Coleraine and Port Stuart in Northern Ireland where it rains every day excepting Sundays. After a month or so we crossed to England and settled at Nottingham, one great place. This was early February, 1944. Weather had improved.
We made training jumps always at night and on one of these I went through a thatched roof of a farmhouse and wound up swinging in a farmers bedroom. He and wife were in the sack.

In April or May, in addition to my duties as platoon leader, I was named liaison officer to the Air Force. This meant I would handle the detail for jumps to be made by the third Battalion.
Toward the end of May, the Bn. CO. told me to go to a certain airfield (I forget which) and set up a drop. No date was given. Then before I left, the Bn. CO. said, after swearing me to secrecy, "This is the big one. We are going."
I remember it was Whitsundide or WhitSunday that the regiment took off from Nottingham in a double decker British busses and went to the field and bunked in a hangar that I had arranged for us. It was enclosed with barbed wire. Only special people go in or out. I could go out but had nowhere to go.
We were set to go on June 4th but the weather messed that up. Some rain, heavy gusts but nothing like the coastal regions.

June 5, 1944, dawned bright and clear. Late in the afternoon we began loading our equipment on the planes. (The 1st & 3rd Bns. were at this field.) the British had double daylight time and in that northern region it did not get absolutely dark until about midnight so it was light when we finally took off. I have forgotten the time.
We flew south and west out over the ocean. It was dark and the formations had tiny blue lights around the wing edges and down the fusilages, arranged to be seen only by the other aircraft. We homed on a sub somewhere, turned south for a spell then east and hit the west coast of Normandy on an axmuth of 113 degrees.
We supposedly had a few minutes to go to drop zone and the red ready light went on. All men stood up, hooked up and moved in position to jump. Flak at night is magnified similar to flying over the fair grounds into the fireworks. The plane began jumping from the concussion but I don't think we took and hits.
We flew and flew and flew - and flew. We knew something was wrong. I could no longer see the formation light of other planes. The guys were getting edgy and that line was surging and pushing. And there was some profanity, I believe.
Then the crew chief came up to me and said: "Lieutenant, we can't find the drop zone. We are lost. Do you want to go back to England? Gawd amighty! Go back to England? Those guys would have thrown me out and jumped anyway or killed me when we got back to England. I said, "Are we over France?" He said, "Yes." I said, "Give us the green light, We're going."

I had a large, sharp, GI knife in a boot holster with a lanyard to my belt, a carbine (.30 cal) and a .45 pistol which was cocked and ready in a shoulder holster. Thus I departed the good old C-47. I knew there was something bad on the ground but it didn't worry me particularly. I was happy to get out of that plane. This feeling is shared by all troopers.

My chute opened as usual, I checked the swing somewhat. A strong breeze was blowing and I knew I was moving fairly fast in some direction. I was not going straight down. What looked large pasture below me was really a flooded section of the Merderet river. I removed my reserve chute and dropped it to have no interferrence when removing the back pack on the ground. I knew we had jumped about 700 to 800 feet which is not bad. Then I realized I was moving backwards. I could have turned my body to come in forward but said to hell with it, I'll go in as the Good Lord permits.
The "pasture" was gone now and I could see houses below. I realized I was coming in fast, mostly horizontal. More so than vertical. Then WHAMMMM'.
I had trained for this with that thatched roof. I was swinging in the corner of a room. Bang-right wall, bang-left wall. Then I knew - nobody told me - I had come through the roof of a stone barn. I saw the joists, about two feet apart and up to a peak like any house roof.
I pulled the knife from my boot and slashed through the nylon suspension lines that go from the shoulder to the parachute. I was now swinging by my left shoulder and still banging the wall. Left right, left right.

Then I heard voices and I recognized the tongue. They were not French. A schmeisser (German machine pistol, smaller rounds than our sub-machine gun) started firing through the door and through the window of the barn but I was swinging behind the window and not close to the door and they missed me.
I could make out two persons outside the barn and they were coming close. I pulled my .45 out of the shoulder holster - it had a hair trigger and it went off as I pulled it out. Remarkable I didn't shoot my arm off - and I kept firing, nervous reaction, and just as I reach the door with my rapid fire this German came in still firing and the .45 slug caught him somwhere and knocked him up in the corner. A .45 is a rough damn gun. I did not see this man move again. I grabbed the lanyard on my knife and pulled it up and slashed the suspensions lines on the left side and dropped a foot or so to the floor. I went down flat and crawled to the door. I saw the other one standing about five or six feet away and shot him. He spun around and went backwards and fell and lay there. Still on my hands and knees, I crawled trhough the doorway (there was no door) around the side of the barn into a driveway to a road behind the barn. There was gunfire but not right there. I dashed across the road into what was an orchard and stopped to survey the situation in the dark. I could not see more than thirty yards, if that.

Reconnaissance - that is a military positive and it comes up front - reconnoiter - patrol - and that's what I did. There were 17 or 19 men on my plane and we would have come down in a generally straight line. I did not know about the river then. I was in the village of Chef du Pont but did not know where I was.

I spent about one hour going from end to end of that place which was spread out with several fields and many open places along a main drag. No lights, no sign of habitation. The natives were lying low. I found none of my boys. How much time went by I can't recall and I was ready to leave the village and make toward some firing that had started up I don't know just how far away. I could tell from the sound that our rifles were firing.

Actually, I was heading cover behind fences, posts, bushes - just like a good soldier doing it by the book. That was the easy part. I was back at the orchard and I heard someone moving. The weeds were about knee high. A normal pace through could make noise and I was tuned for a pin drop.
I went down in a prone position, brought my carbine up on this figure I could make out as he came toward me and - why I didn't take that perfect shot, only God knows. Something held my finger and I snapped Halt! Right back came the words "Lt. Moss." I said, "Damnit, Svenson, what the hell are you doing walking though here like that? That's the way to get killed!" The training officer, still training my men.

Now we were two, reinforced and ready. We moved toward the river and the bridge. The bridge told me a lot. It had to be held. Our job was to seal off the beaches. We start here.
Our armament consisted of one M-1 rifle, one carbine, two hand grenades apiece, amunition aplenty, sulphur powder and a bandage apiece and-and-and - each of us had a five pound land mine in our musett bag hanging over our bellies. We could stop any tank that tried to cross.
Svenson and I found a spot at riverside just to the flank of the bridge, It was hidden by trees but we could see out when light came. Best of all it muffled the sound of fire and better yet, it hid the flash and smoke. We settled in to hold that unnamed bridge.

Not quite daylight and Svenson was eying the river and I was a few yards back watching our rear when I saw.
He was standing about fifty feet away, looking right past us. I saw him first. Now we were three and most confident. That was because we didn't understand the real situation at all.

At just about daylight, I caught a motion behind us and challenged this Frenchman. I could see him trying to come around a chicken house. For the first time I could see we were behind a house with a back yard stretching to the river. I showed him the American Flag on my shoulder and he seemed pleased. He spoke to me in French - I spoke to him in English. We understoodnothing and he signaled and disappeared then returned with a bottle of something that was "Ceeeda," the great Norman cider we learned to love. Pluss a boiled egg for each of us.

Robert Clinton Moss, Jr.     (September 06, 2007)