||David 'Buck' Rogers
1st Sergeant, Hq Co, 1st Battalion, 506th PIR, 101st Airborne
Upon arrival at Upottery
Airfield, on May 31, 1944, we were placed in a closely guarded area.
after getting settled, we spent most of our time in the large briefing
tent. In this tent there were wall maps, sand tables, and aerial
photographs. We listened to lectures did an intense study of the
maps, sand tables, and aerial photographs We learned that we would
land on drop zone C just west of Ste-Marie-du-Mont, Normandy. This
would be inland from a beach labeled Utah.
The food served while at
Upottery was better than any we had since leaving the States. We
had ice cream, white bread, steaks, and many other food items not
usually served to us since arriving in England. We joked that we
were being fattened for the kill.
We were issued our parachutes,
ammunition, gas mask, life preservers, etc. a day before the expected
departure for Normandy. This was June 3 since we originally were
taking off from Upottery at about 11:00 PM on the evening of the
4th of June. As we now know, D-Day was delayed one day due to weather
conditions. Our takeoff was during the late evening hours of June
We boarded truck with all
of our equipment at about 9:00 PM on June 5th and was driven to
our planes. We dismounted from the trucks, put on our parachutes,
life preservers, all the other equipment we carried, and was issued
seasick pills. We boarded our planes about 10:30 PM. It was no easy
task getting on the plane with all of our equipment including arms
and ammunition. I carried a 30.06 M-1 rifle, a 45 caliber Colt automatic
pistol, trench knife, and hand grenades. I carried a large bright
orange flag which I was to use in signalling any of the Beach landing
forces if and when I saw them. We were also issued some French francs,
how much, I don't remember. I still have some of this money. Each
of us carried a dime store metal cricket for identification purposes.
One squeeze, click-clack to be answered by two click-clacks.
My plane took off at 11:15
PM. As I remember, it was not quite dark at this time. There was
some flying time used to get this huge number of planes in the proper
formation for the flight to Normandy. We eventually headed south
toward our destination and found ourselves flying at about 500 feet
elevation over the English Channel. There was not a lot of talking
during the flight across the Channel. I think most of the men were
contemplating what was about to happen.
As we neared Guernsey island,
the planes began to turn eastward toward the Normandy coast. When
we were over the coast, the planes entered a cloud or fog bank.
It was at this time that some of the planes lost formation. The
pilots had been told to hold formation at all cost, most did but
some did not. As a result of this, some of the paratroopers were
dropped miles from their drop zone. The pilot of my plane stayed
the course and we flew directly over our drop zone C. A mortar cart
that was to be pushed out the plane door before we jumped was slow
in getting out delayed us a bit.
When my parachute opened,
I was directly above the church steeple of the church in Ste-Marie-du-Mont.
The moon was full and there were scattered clouds which made every
thing on the ground easy to see. When I looked down, I saw the picture
of Ste-Marie-du-Mont. It looked just like the picture I had studied
so intensely at Upottery. I knew without a doubt that I was over
the church steeple in that small French village.
I drifted to the edge of
the village and landed with my Parachute caught in a small tree
in a fence row. I was probably 75 ft from some buildings. I got
out of my parachute and was looking around the area when I saw a
shadowy figure about 150 ft along the fence row moving toward me.
I clicked my cricket and received two clicks in return. We moved
toward each other and I met my Battalion Sgt Major, Sgt Issac Cole.
We were extremely happy to see each other.
At this time, troop carrier
planes were still flying over and gunfire sounds were coming from
every direction. It wasn't long before Sgt Cole and myself had gathered
together 6 or 7 other paratroopers, none of whom I knew. We didn't
bother to ask their names or what unit they belonged to. We were
just glad to have this small group together in one place.
After some consultation,
we decided to move toward the church and the center of the village.
As we moved along the street, we decided to knock on a door and
try to get some information about the enemy. An elderly French man
answered our knock. One of the men in our group could speak some
French and he asked him where the Germans were. Waving his hand
over his head, he said, "every where."
We proceeded on to the church
and decided that we would enter and have half of our group stay
on the ground floor and the others would go up into the steeple.
Sgt Cole, myself and three of the other men would go up the steeple.
After going to the upper reaches of the steeple, we found that we
had could fire in every direction and had a good view in most every
direction. We would do our best to prevent any German troops from
moving through the village.
Daylight was not long in
coming and when it did I looked toward Utah Beach and saw the most
awe inspiring sight I had ever seen. There were hundreds and hundreds
of ships of various kinds laying off the beach. I could see some
of the ships firing on the beach. Later there were planes dropping
bombs. After some time had passed, we saw the boats caring the landing
forces moving toward the beach. We now new the sea landing forces
were on their way.
We later saw a lone paratrooper
moving along the sidewalk hugging the buildings as he moved. He
was passing the corner of a building where another street entered
the church square when he collapsed to the sidewalk. we heard the
shot and we knew he had been hit. he didn't move after he fell so
we knew that he was probably dead. This was a sobering event, At
that moment, we realized that we were in a deadly game of kill or
be killed. After a few minutes, a German soldier came from around
the corner of the building where the dead paratrooper lay and begin
to go through the trooper's pockets. We begin to fire our weapons
at the German and dropped across the paratroopers body.
Later that morning two German
soldiers came riding into the village driving a small vehicle. When
they came into view below us we opened fire. One of them, I remember
he had red hair, jumped of the vehicle started running along the
sidewalk below us. He was looking left and right trying to determine
where the gunfire was coming from. He didn't go far before he dropped
to the sidewalk dead. The driver of the vehicle had placed it in
reverse and it was moving backward. It backed into a building and
stopped. The driver was slumped over dead by the time the vehicle
In the early afternoon I
saw an American tank about 175 yards distance with it's gun pointed
toward the steeple. I unfolded the flag and waved it at the tank.
That wave did not save us from some shell fire. It was not the tank
that was firing at us An artillery shell came screaming by the church
steeple. From the sound, we knew the shell was coming from a different
direction than the tank. A moment or two later we heard another
artillery shell screaming toward us. This one hit the steeple above
us with a very loud explosion. Debris begin to fall from the explosion
and a big hole was opened in the steeple. It was a miracle that
none of us were hurt.
Some beach forces and other
paratroopers arrived in the village soon after the artillery shell
hit the steeple and we came down from the steeple. Cole and myself
went and pulled my parachute from the tree. I cut two panels out
of it which I folded and placed in my back pack. I still have this
piece of my parachute that lowered me to the ground in Normandy.
We moved out of Ste-Marie-du-Mont
late that afternoon and went to Holdy where we had learned that
My company commander, Capt. Patch and other members of my company
were located. When we arrived at Holdy we were told that they had
captured 4 artillery guns and that Sgt William King had bore sited
one of the guns and fired it at the church steeple they could see
in the distance. They thought that the steeple was being used by
the Germans to direct artillery fire.
The area around the four
guns were littered by dead Germans and a few paratroopers. The dead
paratroopers were from our company mortar squad. They had landed
in and around the area of the guns and were immediately killed before
getting out of their parachutes.
By this time it was getting
dark and we learned we would be heading toward Carentan the next
morning, June 7.
David 'Buck' Rogers (May 30, 2002)