||John J. Prince
2nd Lieutenant - Pilot - 303rd Troop Carrier Squadron - 442nd
Troop Carrier Group
The 303rd TC Squadron was the
second squadron to take off from station 488 just before midnight
on 5 june 1944 on mission Neptune carrying paratroopers and bundles
to a designated DZ not far from Ste. Mere Eglise on the East side
of Cherbourg Peninsula. There were nine (9) planes in V of Vs formation.
I was the last plane and was in the left wing position of the last
element. My chalk number was « 18 ». I was
carrying 16 paratroopers and 5 bundles in pararacks,
All went well until I was approaching the DZ. Four minutes from
DZ I put on my warning light. One minute after that a shell which
I figured to have been 40mm Caliber hit the plane knocking out the
left engine immediately and damaging the right engine so that it
began to sputter. I was down at about a thousand feet over the terrain.
I began to loose altitude and drop back from the formation. Two
minutes later and one minute before reaching the DZ I was at about
700 feet and gave the paratroopers the signal to jump which they
did and also released all five bundles. None of the paratroopers
or my crew were injured by the flak. I never saw any of the paratroopers
again. Based on the time of one minute short of the DZ I figure
the troops dropped about five miles West of the target.
THE CRASH LANDING
Since I had only one engine and was unable to maintain speed and
keep in formation, I turned to the left as soon as the troops jumped
in order to get out over the water. I gained about two hundred feet
of highth and went up to about 900 feet but not knowing the exact
course I turned to far to the left and it later proved, that I was
flying almost due North. About two or three minutes later my right
engine cut out leaving me with no power at all and I crashed landed,
fortunately in a field. I was in my pilot's seat and the co-pilot
was in his seat ; the radio operator was in the ditching position
with his back to the liaison set and I believe the crew chief was
on the floor in the forward cabin.
After the right engine stopped there was no time for any of us to
bail out. Except for a few minor bruises and the chipping of one
of Loeb's front teeth, none of us substained any injuries.
The plane did not take fire and
we all walked out the door. The right wing was torn off in landing
but the fuselage was more or less intact. We immediately destroyed
our IFF set by detonating it, our Radar with the ax. Charlton destroyed
the bomber code and the colors of the day ; we ate the eatable
paper overlays but we did not burn the plane for fear of detection.
We landed about 0245 June 6 1944.
We did not know where we were but thought we might be in friendly
territory. It later proved that we were near a small village called
Montaigu North of Valognes.
THE HIDE OUT
Within three minutes of the time of landing all four of us were
out of the plane with our equipment. We took the compass from the
plane but no K-rations because the wooden box was not open. We headed
for the East coast along a foot path by a creek bed which was dry.
Ten or fifteen minutes later we saw three or four men in a nearby
field. They ran one way and we ran the other. I don't know whether
they were soldiers or civilians. In running away Schultz got separated
from us and we never saw him again.
The three of us, Loeb, Charlton and I, found a dry stream bed nearby
which was like a rivine and full of brush and weeds. We hid there
the rest of that night and slept there all the next day. Later we
found a hollowed out bank, sort of a cave, where the three of us
could lie down. We stayed there all the rest of the time until yesterday
morning, June 21, 1944.
Leaving the plane we each had
a full canteen of water, our escape kits and purses and our side-arms,
Schultz had a tommy gun with plenty of ammunition, the rest of us
had .45 caliber pistols which we kept all the time. We had no blankets,
only our clothing and rain coats and were cold at night.
We stood no watches because no
one came near us. However one of us was usually awake. For the first
two and one half days we did not eat or drink. After that we used
the water in the canteens which lasted until the sixth day. For
food we opened one escape kit and used the milk tablets. On the
sixth day Loeb found a stagnat pool a short distance away and brought
back some water which we strained through handerchiefs and drunk
after putting halazone tablets into it.
On the eight day Loeb had to
go a little further for water and found a French boy about 19 milking
a cow. Loeb, seeing he was observed, spoke to the boy, told him
he was an American and ask for food and drink. The boy took him
to a farm house where he was given eggs, bread and butter and milk.
When Loeb told the boy's mother about his companions she gave him
a quart of milk and some egg sandwiches to take back.
After this Loeb got food and
milk every other day from these people. Charlton and I remained
hidden all the time. The boy and his mother proved their friendship
the first night when Loeb went out near their house and was motioned
away because they had a German Captain at the house.
On the evening of June 20 these
French people told Loeb that American soldiers had passed by and
gave Loeb some American cigarettes and K-rations. We all came out
of hidding then for the first time, went to the French farm house
where we were given a good meal. We returned to our hidding place
for the night, went back the next morning to the farm, were given
a big breakfast and introduced to another French man who took us
to the village of Saussemesnil, East and slightly North of Montaigu.
At Saussemesnil we contacted American soldiers of the 4th division,
I think they were the 12th AA Battalion. They started us on our
way through Valognes, Montebourg and on down to Ste Mere Eglise
near which we found a landing strip, after seeing two C-47s coming
in with their wheels down. Here we met Colonel Roberts of IX TCC
who brough us back to Membury. From there the 436th TC Group flew
us down here.
Our photographs were taken at
Membury by an officer whose name I do not know, but we were not
AIDS BOX : We used the contents of only one aids box because
we did not know how long we would have to stay hidden and rationed
every thing strickly.
PURSES : We gave the money
in one purse to the lady and her son at the farm. The money in another
purse we gave to the Frenchman who guided us to the American CP
at Saussemesnil even though he was very reluctant to take it.
FRENCH ATTITUDE : The native
where we were, were friendly as is shown by their treatment of us.
We heard stories from an officer and some paratroopers, all Americans,
who we met on the way out.
French women sniping and firing a mortar from a wall at our troops.
These acts were apparently confined to the Southern part of the
THE LINE : Yesterday the
line was fluid. Our troops were not in contact with german ground
forces and did not know just where they were. We were shelling German
positions. Germans were shelling our positions near Valognes, along
the road between their and Montebourg and south of Montebourg.
BRIEFING : Our briefing
on what to do in case of a crash landing was good. We did just what
we were told to do and came out all right.
1 – Wear winter flying jackets
2 – Take long underwear and extra socks
3 – Have K-rations tied to you or in your clothes
4 – Wear G-I shoes
5 – Take Toilet paper
John J. Prince (June