Harley A. Reynolds
Staff Sergeant, B Co, 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st
My name is Harley A. Reynolds. My place
of birth is St. Charles, Virginia 24277. I was born on October 2nd, 1924.
I enlisted in the Army on December 28, 1940. I was assigned to Co. B, 16th
Infantry. Regiment, First Infantry Division, stationed at Fort Jay on Governors
Island, New York, N. Y. I served with this unit until honorably discharged
on July 4th, 1945 at Fort Meade Maryland, during demobilization after victory
in Germany. We were mustered out on a point system. I had the highest number
of points for a single man in England when the war ended. A group of 17 men
with the highest points were sent home to test the mustering out system and
I was in charge of our service records that we carried with us. My rank was
Staff Sergeant during the invasion of France, and this was the highest rank
In 1940 the First Infantry Division had
detachments stationed at many Camps and Forts in the New York area. In early
1941 the entire Division was assembled at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. While
at Fort Devens, the Division staged a mock invasion at Buzzards Bay, near
Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We also participated in a maneuver with troops from
many Southern states, including the Marines. The First Division was the invading
force coming ashore in North Carolina. We got into training for invasions
long before we were at war.
In early 1942 the Big Red One moved from
Fort Devens to Camp Blanding in Florida for training in a warmer climate.
The rumor was, we were headed for the Pacific area. In June 1942 we moved
from camp Blanding to Fort Benning, Georgia. While at Fort Benning we took
part in a coordinated exercise with planes bombing, paratroopers landing,
and tanks attacking with infantry support. We were the infantry support.
From Fort Benning we moved to Indiantown
Gap, Pennsylvania where we turned in our khaki clothing for O.D. wool and
reequipped to go overseas. From Indiantown Gap we went to the Port of New
York City where the entire Division of approximately 16,000 men boarded the
Queen Mary to set sail on August 2nd, 1942 and landed at Glasgow, Scotland
on August 7th, 1942. From Glasgow we traveled by train to Tidworth Barracks
near Amesbury, England. Here we trained with different weapons and did many
long hikes over the countryside with full packs and weapons.
While at Tidworth, we traveled by train
to Gourock, Scotland and loaded on a small ship from which we made a mock
invasion. We didn't know it at the time but this was practice on similar terrain
that we would face on the invasion of Africa.
I started my service as a rifleman in Fort
Devens and later as a Scout. This gave me my first stripe - PFC.
In camp Blanding I qualified as Expert
with the M1 rifle, light machine guns, 30-caliber carbine and 45-caliber Tommy
Qualifying with machine gun along with
my six feet, 178 pounds qualified me for a transfer to the Company Weapons
Platoon, Machine Gun Section. I was assigned to a Machine Gun Squad as First
Ammo Carrier. My job was to keep ammo to the Assistant Gunner and relieve
him, if needed. Husky men were required to carry all that ammo. On the mock
invasion near Gourock we did a forced, full equipment march, over which had
to be the highest mountain in Scotland.
We climbed all night, and most of the next
day, then we returned to where we started.
Here I regretted the macho image of Ammo
Carrier. We were carrying enough to last three days. It rained the entire
exercise and had to be the most miserable two days of my life. After a short
R & R on a ship with an Indian crew, we were permitted ashore for one
night. Back in Tidworth we prepared for the invasion of Africa. We would also
make the invasion of Sicily before returning to England and train for the
invasion of France. We had two successful invasions to our credit (Africa
and Sicily) yet we had to train for this one, too.
One night in a local pub Corporal Wm. Wilde
of Vineland, New Jersey made a toast while we were having a beer that went
like this "Here's to it, and to it again, if you ever get to it to do
it and can't do it, let us to it, we're used to it." Someone would ask
"What?" The answer was usually shouted "The Invasion!"
This was quite famous within the Big Red One.
From Sicily we returned to England and
were stationed in the small town of Lyme Regis near Torquay. The company was
billeted anywhere in town that room could be found for a few beds or cots.
Small hotels, rooming houses, private homes, empty rooms over buildings along
Main Street and a couple of small Nisson Huts vacated by the Home Guard.
Lyme Regis was central to various sites
we would train. At ports east of us we would board troop ships and west near
Torquay at Slapton Sands we would make practice landings. We would unload
in landing craft and make everything as realistic as possible. We carried
live ammo on the last landing and were allowed to fire at make-believe targets
on the hills in front of us. We fired at rocks, clumps of shrubbery, dark
spots, and white chalk spots, and when rabbits suddenly came out of their
burrows they gave us moving targets.
We stayed at Lyme Regis from November of
1943 until the middle of May in 1944. By this time I held the rank of Staff
Sergeant and commanded the Light Machine Gun Section. Each position I held
from First Ammo Carrier to Assistant Gunner, to Gunner to Squad Leader, and
then to Section Leader was because the men ahead of me were either wounded
or killed and I took over. What made me so lucky?
D-Day : 6 June 1944
Time came for the invasion and we went
aboard the troop ship Samuel Chase at Weymouth, England. We sailed immediately
for dispersal and position within the invading fleet. The plan was for our
BN to land in Regimental Reserve on Omaha Beach in the Easy Red Sector.
This would be our second invasion from
the Samuel Chase. The first was at Gela in Sicily. She also made the African
invasion alongside us. Many friendships were made then and later through our
division and ship associations, which are still active. I am an Honorary Member
of their Association, a fine brave and proud group.
We left the Chase for the last time and
went in single file to our rendezvous area, following the little light on
the stern of the craft ahead of us. The light would disappear and then reappear
as we rose and fell with the waves. The water was getting rough. I thought
several times we would crash into the craft ahead as we came upon them and
would have to back off. I could see the trail of phosphorus the craft was
leaving behind and I thought the Germans must be able to see it too, and pinpoint
History has recorded the near collapse
of our sector because of the storm. There are many films portraying the mishaps
but none as horrifying as my first view of the scene. We were trained to keep
our heads down until time to unload but being in command I felt it better
to know what was going on around us. I looked over and ahead many times and
what I saw was terrifying. No cameras filmed the pictures left in my mind.
While in training we were told of all the things that would be done in order
but to see it all come together was mind-boggling. The size of it all was
stunning. The emotions were mixed between fear and responsibility.
The amount of ships and craft involved
started materializing with the light of dawn. Ships and craft of all kinds
for as far as the eye could see; ships unloading troops and equipment. Battleships
were cruising the shoreline, firing Salvo after Salvo, some of it just over
our heads, point-blank at the beach. Landing craft by the hundreds going to
and from the beach. Craft loaded with rockets to blanket the beach with fire
and to give us shell holes for cover as foxholes after unloading onto the
beach. Rockets fired by the thousands and it is recorded also that all had
fallen short. I sure would have felt safer in one of those shell holes later.
Planes had bombed the beach earlier but
I saw very little evidence of it. There was a noticeable absence of planes
over our beach, even German planes, which I was glad of. A couple of recon
planes of the Germans and ours flew over later in the day. I read later that
our planes were inland keeping the enemy planes grounded. Thank God.
We circled for what seemed like hours in
our rendezvous area. We were near enough to hear the action on the beach.
There wasn't much conversation. We were listening to all that small arms fire
and swapping glances. We knew we were in for a hot reception. I think the
greatest dread and fear was felt at this time. The waiting is always the worst.
The mind can wonder. It doesn't have time to wonder after the action starts.
I saw and heard the Coxswain say to the
other crewman "This is it! Here we go!" as he waved foreword like
a Cavalryman to the other craft. I remember watching the Coxswain. He seemed
calm stationed in the armored box on the port stern. It gave me confidence
in him. A crewman was in another box on the starboard stern with a machine
gun mounted on his box that he could fire ahead. I have tried time and time
again to remember if he fired while going in but I can't say that he did.
I later asked other men if they could remember if he fired, and they say they
can't remember either.
I gave the team a final look of inspection.
Our group was called a Squadron. We had six squadrons to our Company and ours
was the Headquarters Squadron, made up of myself and the Company Radioman
at the head of the boat to come off first. Two machinegun squads, one on either
side of the boat was to come off next. First Squad Leader was Sgt. Dean Rummell,
from Cherry Tree, Pennsylvania. And Second Squad Leader was Sgt. James N.
Haughey of Sheridan, Indiana. Then came Company Headquarters Personnel; Messengers,
Wiremen, and our Company Commander last to see that everyone got off the boat.
We had practiced this formation many times on land in Lyme Regis. We would
draw a line on the ground with stakes and ribbons the same size of our landing
craft. Those on the sides fanned out to their side and setting up the machine
guns. That was the way we practiced it. Now this was the real thing.
I could see things were going wrong as
we slowed down to go in. Some boats were coming back after unloading, others
were partly awash, but still struggling. Some were stuck, bottomed out, racing
their motors and getting nowhere. Some were backing up short distances and
trying again. The timing for the craft to land at intervals was as much awash
as the storm. A washout. When we landed some of the assault wave was landing
with us. We were supposed to land twenty minutes after the assault wave. Afterwards
it was established that the assault wave was late and we were early. Confusion
doesn't really describe it. Landing in this order did qualify our Company
as an assault wave and gave us another Bronze Arrowhead for our ETO Ribbon
and an Oak Leaf Cluster for our Unit Citation.
I was looking over the side often during
these last minutes. We were moving slow because of other craft and obstacles
the Coxswain had to avoid. I saw direct hits on craft still far away from
land. I doubt those on board not wounded made it to shore. I saw craft sideways,
being upturned, and dumping troops into the water. I saw craft heavily damaged
by shellfire being tossed around by the waves. I saw craft empty of troops
and partly filled with water as though abandoned, awash in the surf. Men were
among them struggling for the pitiful protection they gave.
Recalling my feelings of those last couple
of minutes I became very calm and was analyzing things surprisingly well.
I was looking back at the men, making sure that they were down and in their
places and ready. I remember how calm and intent the Coxswain was as he guided
our craft in. I cannot give this man enough credit. I often think he must
have calmed me some. It was surprising how few machine gun bullets hit our
craft. I kept listening for them to hit because they certainly were flying
overhead and hitting the water around us. It could have been the direct approach
to the beach making us a smaller target at that point. The Coxswain did a
superb job. I heard later that he actually took wounded back on his return
to the Samuel Chase.
I felt things then that I would later recognize
as responsibility. I felt that getting as many men off as possible, and into
positions of safety on the beach, and in formation was the greatest concern.
On the last look over the side seconds before the ramp went down I saw many
motionless bodies at the water's edge. I saw wounded struggling with the rough
surf. I saw men kneeling and lying in the water with only their heads exposed
for the protection it gave them. I believe these men were frozen with fear,
unable to move because they began to move closer to the beach with the incoming
tide. They were of no use at that point because they had no weapons. They
just crowded the beach more, hindering movement. On this last look I decided
what to do when the ramp went down. I told the two Squad Leaders to fan out
and go straight in.
There was a huge pillbox to our right at
beach level and at the base of a steep bluff. To our front a draw I believe
designated as E1 on our map. To our left front a rounded Hill with the pond
at its base that we were told in training we would have to cross.
The pillbox had large chunks of concrete
blown out just above its left front aperture. It had wisps of powder smoke
still visible. Direct fire from the Navy had just ended. I heard the shells
whistle in and land close as we landed and I believe they had hit the pillbox.
It is quite a coincident that I met a man
last year at our office that was on a destroyer during this time. John A.
Fonner, Jr. of Largo, Florida was an observer on the control tower of a destroyer
assigned to give infantry support; shore observers called in most of their
targets. They couldn't see through the dust and smoke to deliver direct fire
but I give the Navy credit for the success of the invasion. Their mission
was to cruise up and down this section of the beach raking the shore in front
of us with as much firepower as possible. John told me they were firing five-inch
38 shells at the rate of one shell every four seconds. I feel this fire gave
us the relief to get organized.
When the ramp went down we were in kneeling
positions. Private Galenti, the Radioman, and I rose to exit first. At about
the second or third step I started my break to fan right. At this second Galenti
was hit by what I believe was machine gun fire because it seemed there were
more than one bullet The radio was hit also and fragments flew from it. Galenti
went down on the boat ramp. The fire seemed to come from our left front. I
was maybe two feet ahead of him saving me from being hit with the same burst
of fire. I don't recall getting my feet wet. The account of Galenti and I
can be viewed on a videotape titled 'True Glory' I believed this tape to be
of our craft until I recently learned that the craft number was not assigned
to the Samuel Chase. The incident as filmed is so close to what happened to
us that I sent copies of the tape to two members of our landing team and they
agreed until we learned different. PFC Stephen Cicon of Coopersburg, Pennsylvania
agrees. He would have been the second man off behind me and had the same opinion
The burst hitting Galenti went between
Steve and me. The other man to agree is PVT Arthur Schintzel of Williamsburg,
Virginia. He would have been the fourth man off on our side and he agrees
the tape is very graphic of what happened. Arthur's story almost ended here.
When he came off he went to the right, heading for a knocked-out tank, thinking
it would give him cover. Wrong! A German rifleman had the tank covered. He
believes it was a rifleman because only single bullets were being fired at
him. He was hit and knocked down. He stayed down until he thought it would
be safe to move. He got up and was knocked down again. This happened several
times and he does not remember. He was unconscious some of the time. I did
not see Arthur for forty years, thinking all the time he was dead.
I stayed to the right for a short distance.
Looking for any cover I headed for an obstacle made up of what appeared to
be rails welded together. It reminded me of the balls and jacks we played
with as kids. The beach was very smooth here, showing the absence of shell
holes we were promised. I knelt by the obstacles to look around. From the
craft to this point my constant thoughts were "What's keeping me up?
I must be hit. What does it feel like when you get hit?" Too many bullets
were flying not to be hit. While crossing the beach I felt tugs at my pants
legs several times. Searching later I found too many rips and tears to identify
any as bullet holes. I think it possible for bullets to pass close enough
to tug at your clothing. Bullets coming so close, make a hissing sound as
they go by. Those you hear are not the ones that hit you. There is another
tape I've seen on TV a couple of times usually around invasion anniversary
time. I saw it first on the 40th anniversary show narrated by Walter Cronkite.
I have tried in vain to locate this tape or copy it to a VHS format. It portrays
more graphically the kneeling at the Jacks obstacle. This film shows my actions
as I recall them and I would like to know if, in fact, it is me. I didn't
stay at the obstacle long. Bullets were coming through and hitting the sand
at my feet. What was keeping me up? I could see bullets hitting the sand in
bursts and ricocheting in front and to the side of me. I believe the bullets
were coming from a long distance away as they seemed to have lost some of
their energy and I could barely hear their hissing sounds.
I spotted the shingles, a sort of raised
roadbed running parallel to the beach. Many men were lying behind it. Looking
like the only cover, we headed for it too. As soon as I reached the safety
of the shingles I called out to Sgt. Rummell and Sgt. Haughey and they answered
very close from my right. I asked if they and the men were OK and they replied
"Yes" not mentioning private Schintzel, so I didn't know that he
was missing until later.
I don't believe the times of events would
be very reliable, so I will tell of events as they happened. We had gone directly
ahead to the shingles without wasting time. We passed men in the water that
were driven to the shingles later by the incoming tide. It was near low tide
when we landed and near high tide when we left the beach. We reached the temporary
shelter of the shingles and snuggled in between others already there. As the
tide came in others crowded in to snuggle in with us. Our area of the beach
seemed relatively safer, but only if you stayed prone behind the shingles.
Many times after bursts of machine gun
or shells landing close I called out to Rummell and Haughey, asking if they
were OK and they replied, "Yes." Once I got an answer from Donald
A. Heap of Atlanta, Georgia. Dale was our platoon comedian His comment was
serious, but laughable at any other time. He said "Sarge, how long do
we have to put up with this shit? We're going to get killed here." As
though I could do anything about it.
Most of the time behind the shingles we
kept our faces buried in the shingles. The shingles are small stones that
resemble river rock and had been built-up like a roadbed. They were smooth
and mostly flat, just right for skipping across a stream back home. But these
stones burst like grenades when hit by a bullet and we had to keep our faces
protected from the rock fragments.
At the top of the roadbed was concertina
wire. It would have to be blown. This was another miss for the rockets that
Many times calls would sound out for company
members. Efforts were being made to regroup without much success. One couldn't
just answer "Here!" and stand up and walk over to the caller. You
couldn't even roll over the man along side. This would put you too high and
you were sure to get hit. You had to crawfish backwards and side crawl like
a crab with your head towards the roadbed. This didn't give you much protection,
as many men were hit while trying to shift along to regroup. Any movement
seen above the roadbed would bring fire, both rifle and machine gun. The tide
was now almost lapping at our feet. Dead bodies were washing in and I'm thinking,
"It's time to do something, but what?" Sticking your head up would
draw fire. Occasional incoming artillery fire was increasing. There obviously
was no way backwards, only foreword. I began to raise my head up and down
for real quick looks ahead. I could see a narrow pond ahead with marsh grass.
Between the pond and us was the wire strung on the roadbed, and beyond that
was a three -strand wire fence with tripwire only on the front of it. Beyond
the pond was another fence without trip wires. There was a sign on the fence
that was in German, but two words I did understand were, Achtung Minen.
The round hill to our front rose sharply
from the far edge of the pond, almost ball shaped, rounding off to our right
into a draw leading inland. On the right of the draw was a cliff-like high
ground as far as the eye could see, and got more cliff-like in the distance.
It seemed at this point that I was able
to stick my head up and down without drawing fire from our right, as we had
been getting from atop the cliff and the entrenchments over the huge pillbox.
There was only occasional fire. It had slacked off. The base of the hill to
our front started looking safe and inviting. I felt it would be just a short
dash across the pond through a little flanking fire from the pillbox on our
right to put us beyond the pillbox's side vision. It worked textbook style,
but with some unexpected help and being in the wrong place at the right time.
These events can be corroborated and it is my belief, the first time to be
The unexpected help came from a man small
in size, pushing a long bangalore torpedo under the wire on the roadbed. I
don't know where he came from; suddenly he was there within a few feet on
my right. The torpedo was in two sections. He exposed himself to put the first
section under the wire. I realized what was happening and I yelled to Rummell
and Haughey and they answered. I yelled, "We're going through!"
They must have understood to respond so fast.
The torpedo man exposed himself again to
attach the second half of the torpedo. Then he very carefully inserted the
fuse lighter, turned his head to the left (in my direction) and looked back
to see if he could back up. He pulled the string to the fuse lighter and pushed
himself backwards. I braced myself for the sprint forward but nothing happened.
The fuse didn't light. After a few seconds the man calmly crawled forward
exposing himself again. He removed the bad lighter, replaced it with another
and started to repeat the first moves. He turned his head in my direction,
looked back, pulled the string and made only two movements backwards when
he flinched, and closed his eyes as he looked into mine. Death was so fast
for him. His eyes seemed to have a question or pleading look in them. His
head was maybe three feet from the explosion but didn't damage him. No fire
from the Germans for a couple of minutes before and if only a couple of seconds
later, who knows. My head was three or four feet from the torpedo and I was
closest to the path it blew in the wire. My men were behind me better than
we had even done in practice. I went through the trip wire high stepping just
as we did on obstacle courses. I was running so fast I hadn't made up my mind
what to do about the wire fence until I faced it. I literally dove through
in a sideways dive. Hard to believe I completely cleared those strands. Not
one rip or tear in my clothes or skin. I was into the pond in under ten seconds
with all my men except Schintzel and Galenti following. Troops on the beach
seemed to be holding back but not for long. They almost beat us to the top
of the hill.
The pond was deeper than I thought, but
we had been instructed not to throw away our life preservers for this purpose.
I didn't need to inflate mine, but some of the men did. I felt more secure
with my head and arms only above the water. I was the first across the pond
and as I paused to take off the life preserver, I looked back to see how the
men were doing. I heard my name called and I looked back to see Dale Heap
about half way across the pond. Dale was the gunner on one of the machine
guns. He was holding his one arm above his head and pointing his gun tripod
at it. He was saying, "Stateside! Stateside! See! I didn't drop the tripod
either!" Always the comedian, he was actually laughing. He had been shot
through his upper arm, a good flesh wound. He handed the tripod to his assistant
gunner, the first ammo carrier took the gun and we had a battlefield promotion
right there in the middle of the pond. Dale waived goodbye and headed back
to the beach. We had three men down now from the section. Dale made it stateside
and that was the last we heard from him until in 2001 I found his son Dale
Jr. living near Atlanta Georgia. His son told me that he received two wounds
on the beach, which has to mean that he was wounded again before he was evacuated.
He had been dead for three years when I finally located his son.
I went through the second fence and into
the minefield. I didn't see the sign. It was hanging on a fence post facing
away from us. This slowed us down but not much. The mines had been planted
so long ago the grass over them had died, making it easy to see the large
ones. There were smaller snuffbox types that were harder to find and trip
The better path led left along the fence.
I was leading and had gone maybe fifty yards when a man I didn't know rushed
by. He got maybe fifteen yards past me when he tripped a mine hanging about
waist high on a fence post. It blew him in half and splattered me. I was sick
every time I thought about it for days. This slowed us down again. Everyone
seemed glad to let me pick the way for while, so I then turned uphill. About
two-thirds of the way up the hill more men I recognized from our Company B
started passing and fanning out to the left. Another man from Company B passed
in my direction. After a short distance, he stepped on a snuffbox, blowing
his heel off. Medics had not gotten to him and he was trying to get off what
was left of his shoe as I moved on. His name was William Boyd, and because
of his size, we'd nicknamed him Wee Boy. He was Platoon Runner for the Second
Platoon, and thinking his platoon leader was ahead, he was trying to catch
up. He just didn't know there was no one ahead of us.
Another pause gave me the chance to look
back at the beach. Men were now pouring through the blown wire where we came
through. By chance I was looking to our left when a second torpedo blew wire
about three to four hundred yards away from us. Men started streaming through
there just as fast as we did. I believe they were the first men through the
wire in that area. Coast Guard After Action Reports lists only one explosion
in this area. I think this is where Lieutenant Spaulding came through the
wire and is recorded in an interview with him. I, along with my platoon sergeant,
saw this exit blown from near the top of the bluff.
I cannot explain my heading slightly to
the right at this time, but I was following a better path through the mines.
At the rim of the hill the path led to trenches. Noticing tracks in the bottom
I felt them safe and got in to see where they led. I was armed with a rifle
with a grenade launcher. I pushed the safety to off, as I knew if I ran into
Germans I might not have the time to push it off and pull the trigger. With
the grenade pointed down the trenches, I hunched over to the height of the
trenches and went all the way to the end without seeing any Germans.
The trenches followed the rim of the draw
going inland. In a very short distance we could look across the draw and down
on to entrenchments above the big pillbox. Coming back to the men I had left
while scouting out the trenches we noticed movement in the entrenchments across
the draw. Germans were carrying what appeared to be cases and satchels from
a dugout type shelter on the edge of the cliff over the big pillbox. They
were using trenches leading inland, away from the shelter. They were sitting
the things down at the end of the trench, picking up other things and taking
them back to the shelter. It appeared they were exchanging things; maybe empty
ammo cases for full ones, I didn't know.
I directed one machine gun setup and started
firing on them. It was out of range for a rifle grenade so I removed the one
on my rifle and started firing also. I saw several Germans go down, it caught
them by complete surprise and the ones standing ran back into the shelter.
At this time a man I recognized as one of our own stood up just beyond the
trenches and threw a grenade at the shelter. He had come up over the cliff
on the west side of the shelter. I believe the man realized we were firing
at the Germans instead of him because after throwing the grenade he motioned
to other men that came into sight and threw grenades also. The Germans then
started coming out with white flags and their hands held up. One of the Machine
Gun Squads had gone ahead during this time and now the squad that was doing
the firing broke down and followed, as the first squad was out of sight. I
told them to catch up as I paused for a moment, watching the scene below.
The men were searching the shelter and the trenches. Suddenly Germans were
sneaking up on them from the rear where they were exchanging cases. I started
firing at them and they jumped up, raised their hands, and moved very fast
towards the men cleaning up the trenches. These men didn't know the Germans
were there. They were quick to see if there were any more.
The situation on the bluff I had been watching
across the E1 draw, seemed to be secure and as I was leaving to catch up with
my section, I happened to notice movement that got my attention. From out
of no where this vehicle is making a run for it. It is heading straight inland
with (2) two of what I assumed to be German troops chasing to catch it. As
I recall there was one soldier driving, another just behind him, and one hanging
on but mostly being drug; trying to get aboard, with another just catching
up when I first saw them. It seemed the last man was going to be left, but
the vehicle had to slow for a partial turn to the right, and the last man
made it close enough to grab the hand being held out to him from the man that
had just made it aboard. The man aboard had one leg inside and one out side
the tailgate so he could reach farther backward. The man behind the driver
just seemed to be watching. The man doing the reaching did get hold of the
last man and helped him get partially aboard, and was hanging on and being
held by the man helping him as the vehicle went out of sight in the shrubbery.
The vehicle was a half track moving away
inland when I first saw it. One thing that stands out vividly in my mind was
a solitary tree maybe 15 to 20 feet tall, that the vehicle seemed to be moving
away from. There was very little shrubbery from the trenches on the bluff
to this tree, The Germans that had tried to slip up on our men cleaning up
the trenches just a few seconds earlier had come from this same location.
The half track was smaller than ours and
as I recall did not have a deep bed. It seems to me that it did not have a
partition behind the driver, but I can't remember that well. I can't remember
if the tailgate lowered, but it seems the sides that formed the bed were the
same height, but I can't swear to this. I had only enough time to get my rifle
to my shoulder. The whole scene lasted for only a few seconds and I did not
get a shot off. It did not get the attention of the men that had taken the
entrenchments. I have since established that the men taking that bluff top
were 29th Division men.
I started to follow the squad but they
were out of sight and I couldn't see anyone ahead. It seemed that everyone
had shied away or were led away from the draw. I backtracked until I saw troops
in large numbers only slightly to my left. They were moving at a very fast
pace away from the beach. I could now look back on the beach. It was filled
with vehicles and troops. The troops were streaming inland. Occasional German
artillery fire was now coming that I believed to be 88 mm.
A two and one half ton truck loaded with
Jerry cans of gasoline that was moving parallel to the beach towards the draw
was hit by one single shell from a gun firing at random. One or two seconds
either way and it would have missed. There was a huge fiery explosion. The
largest pieces left were the frame half buried in the sand and one single
wheel, continuing to roll down the beach as though nothing had happened. This
was my last look at the beach as I headed inland. .
I took off towards the men moving inland
and asked where Company B was. They said up ahead, but it was almost twenty-four
hours before I caught up.
I came to an unpaved road and asked where
Company B or First Bn. was and they pointed to a road going right. It wasn't
far down that road that I realized there wasn't anyone on this road. I turned
left at the next road and then the road was completely deserted. It was getting
dark and suddenly in the middle of the road I walked up on what I thought
was a German Tiger tank. I have since learned that it was more likely a self
propelled Artillery gun. I froze. It took me seconds to realize it was knocked
out. I must have acted peculiar because I heard a chuckle from the ditch along
side the road. It was an outpost of paratroopers, only five or six men on
guard for the night. Their main body was just down the road. They said some
of their people had knocked out the tank. They suggested I not go any further,
as there were more of their troops on the road and they weren't using passwords.
They were using the now famous cricket call. I spent the night in the ditch
with them. Several times during the night I heard the cricket sound being
exchanged as more troops joined them. It was surprising to me how close some
of the calls were when they were challenged. They were the quietest troops
I had ever heard.
I learned I had spent the night within
shouting distance of my company when I rejoined them. I caught up with the
company just south of Colleville. We spent most of the first five days in
Bn. Reserve. I remember moving into a wooded area for the night that I believe
was near Balleroy. In the middle of the area my platoon was assigned we found
a mature man and woman and a young woman in her late teens or early twenties.
They were lying on their backs, feet almost touching, and heads pointing outward,
similar to a three -pointed star. They were in formal dress. He in long tales,
she in a black gown, and the girl wore a white gown with pink embroidered
flowers on the front. The midsection of all three had been blown away. The
local authorities, from a town we could see a short distance away, were brought
in and the only thing we got from them was that it was suicide. They had simply
stood embracing themselves about a German potato masher. The handle to the
grenade was lying amid them. They were suspected Nazi collaborators. There
was also a younger girl badly wounded but still alive. Sgt. Haughey, dressed
her the best he could with his own first aid kit. Medics were called and they
took her away.
Assuming these statements to be true and
with no U.S. troops ahead of our team, we were the first through the wire
in our area and a big contributing factor to the surrender of the entrenchments
west of E1. This entrenchment controlled the beach where we landed and gave
us our greatest number of casualties.
The movie "The Longest Day" shows
wire being blown in the same manner I described, but the movie version shows
it in a very different location on the beach. It shows it happening among
cliffs and rocks with a log for some protection. Our beach was different with
sand and shingles. This has baffled me, since I saw the movie. Two events
so similar are hard for me to accept. I know the movies are dramatized but
I didn't hear any names mentioned in the movie that I recognized. Maybe they
used fictitious names, but our names are real! I have felt for years this
story should be told while it can be substantiated. We won't live forever!
My only excuse is that I always felt the story would not be accepted and I
would be embarrassed. I didn't feel I had anyone to tell it to until now.
The Movie "Saving Private Ryan"
shows a good graphic scene of a man being the first through the wire, following
a Bangalor Torpedo blasting a path through the wire, and our latest 16th Infantry
Regimental History book ("Blood and Sacrifice") lists me as that
Addition; March 20, 2005
I started this story in 1990, before I had done any research on Omaha Beach.
The movies above did not identify to me the Army units involved. I have since
identified the unit as 29th Infantry Division soldiers in both movies. It
happened on Dog Green Beach. An event happened on Easy Red Beach very similar.
It is mentioned in the 16th Infantry history Book Titled 'The Fighting First'.
This explains the situation.
Harley A. Reynolds (20
Awards and Decorations I am entitled to
<-> ETO Ribbon
<-> Battle Stars (worn on ETO Ribbon for each Campaign) (Six)
<-> Bronze Arrowheads (worn on ETO Ribbon; awarded only to those in
assault waves on invasions in Africa, Sicily, and France) (Three)
<-> Bronze Star (gallantry in action)
<-> Oak Leaf Cluster to Bronze Star (gallantry in action)
<-> Purple Heart
<-> Combat Infantrymen Badge
<-> Combat Green (awarded only to front-line leaders. A green ribbon
worn on shoulder epaulets that identified leaders that had led in combat)
<-> Presidential Unit Citation
<-> Oak Leaf Clusters to Unit Citation (Three)
<-> Six Months Overseas sleeve emblems (Six)
<-> Good Conduct Medal (with bar for second time awarded)
Expert Rifleman Badge with Bars for:
--Expert - Light Machine Gun
--Expert - 16mm Mortar
--Expert - .30 Caliber Carbine
--Expert - 45 Caliber Pistol
--Expert - 45 Caliber Sub Machine Gun
--Expert - Grenade
--Expert - Bayonet
> Three Year Hitch (sleeve emblems) (One)
> Ruptured Duck (lapel button)
> American Defense Service medal
> French Medaille Militaire
> French Fourragere Colors for Medaille Militaire
> French Croix de Guerre with Palms (Tunisia)
> French Croix de Guerre with Palms (Omaha Beach)
> French Croix de Guerre (September of 1944)
> Belgium Croix de Guerre (December of 1944)
> Belgium Fourragere Colors for Croix de Guerre
> French Medaille de la France Libre