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
 

 

  Charles S. Pearson
12th Yorkshire Parachute Battalion - 6th Airborne Division

I was in the 12th Yorkshire Parachute Battalion. It was just growing dusk on the 5th June 1944 when we got in the Aircraft - Stirling four engine jobs. We were all very quiet. The RAF came round with canisters of tea, but nobody wanted any! As we went over the Channel and over France I held my breath - the world seemed to stand still - THIS WAS IT - the start of everything, I thought of my wife at home, I hoped I would come through and I prayed to God, as many others did, and as I did at Dunkirk. He must have been listening to me and perhaps thought I still wasn't good enough to die! When we approached the Dropping Zone the plane was getting hit, it was like driving on a new road with the grit hitting the body work - it was only light stuff, but it still sounded fearful!

The Red Light came on and then the Green Light - this was the moment - we all had to jump through the hole in the floor. I had a kit-bag with a Bren etc, It took one or two seconds to get through as there were more men with kit-bags and equipment and the plane was going like hell. I think the pilot had his foot through the headlights!

I landed awkwardly with the kit-bag tope wrapped round my boot, I thought I had broken my foot and I had wrenched my arm badly, I could still feel the heat of the plane's engine and I still can! I also thought about the cups of tea we had turned down in the aircraft! I carried a Bren gun and when I reached our rendez-vous we round Jerry giving us heavy fire from his armoured cars. Then a Jerry started to machine gun us. We did a flanking movement and went round behind him. Then the lads went in with the steel. That finished that problem. After forming up we started to move to our objective: Breville. Its capture was essential - it was to be done at all costs. It was on high ground overlooking a valley through which the Germans could percolate at any time into the bridgehead which was to be established unless we took it.

We formed up in an area only 3/4-mile from Breville and came under terrific mortar pounding from the Germans. As darkness fell our artillery opened up in support of us and soon the night was lit up by tracer and the deafening din of artillery from the Allied lines and counter Eire tram the German mortars. As we stormed up towards the village one after another of our men fell on the way, but we went on, determined to do the job we had been given. Despite the killed and wounded we eventually fought our way into Breville where the battle raged on at dose quarters until Jerry was driven out.

Then we started our next job with no respite - digging in frenziedly to await the inevitable counter attack from the mortars! We were not disappointed. Within a quarter-of-an-hour the inferno began and the entire village seemed to be ablaze. The Germans knew its importance as much as we did! But we clung on, despite everything. I remember at the height of the bombardment we lost the Sergeant Major and our Colonel. The Colonel was dashing about rallying everyone, and shouting "Dig in you... or die." Shortly afterwards he was killed - and many of our lads and my comrades DID die. One lad was lucky - he had his helmet blown open just like a tin can- he was wounded, but he was lucky to be even alive after a hit like that.

Throughout the long night we waited for the German counterattack against what was now a shambles of a village - not with mortars now - but with infantry. It never came. Not until prisoners were interrogated later did we learn that we had given them such a hammering that they had neither the strength or the will to make another effort. But we didn't know that at the time and so through the next day and night we stuck it out and after two days, VERY tired and weary, we were relieved. Incidentally I carried out the lad who had his helmet blown off and took him to a jeep to get him out of the line of fire. But when I got to it I found the rear tyre was ablaze and I had to put it out by smothering it with horse or cow manure.
Things were too hectic for me to take much notice which it was! It was at this time that I realised I had been wounded in the leg. I hadn't had time to notice until then!
By this time the church and everything else was on fire. Shells from our own artillery were hitting us as well because apparently the Officer directing the shelling had been killed and so we got both lots: British artillery and German mortars!

When we were relieved I was taken to the Royal Navy and so back to England where my report from the hospital at Blackpool gave my problem as "Leg wound and exhaustion".
One incident that shows how fate plays a part: one of my mates dropped his fighting knife just before we set off and cut his foot. We dressed it for him and said nothing because he didn't want to be left behind. But he had trouble in walking once we got there and so he was left to look after the equipment when the shelling started. He was promptly hit by shellfire in the lower head and neck.

When General, later Field Marshal, Montgomery held a Field investiture for officers and men of the Airborne Division, one DSO went to the Colonel, and one MC and two DCM's and four Military Medals to other officers and men of the 12th Yorkshire Parachute Battalion. Only one was present at the investiture to collect his award- the rest was either killed or wounded. That about says what it was all about.

Charles S. Pearson