1 The Longest Day Untold Stories Files of Coast Guard LCIs (Landing Craft Infantry) move across the English Channel for The Sarnia, British Merchant Navy 1,000-ton coaster, was enlisted to carry supplies to Omaha Beach: 400 Panel 7 Our landing craft was sunk after landing but we actually abandoned ship before I took part in the invasion on one of the few British destroyers that escorted the Ameri- A Note On Unit Designations... In the following Untold Stories, some mili- About this time the great naval bombardment started. The Germans were watching seaward to see the show. Five of them were standing in the road when Private Danford got We proceeded to Le Pleim. Prior to this we collected the wounded and I remember pulling them to one place. We then came under terrific bombing by our own planes, bits and My brother, Ernest, was nine years older, and had been taken prisoner in Greece in 1941 and was in On opening the lid of the dropping hatch, a snowstorm of spare vomit-bags blew round the I heard that Hitler had ordered all parachutists and commandos to be killed instantly, allegedly because we carried fighting knives not [I heard of al captured German officer who complained that his men could not fight madmen. PARA asked why and he said that that evening he was told paratroop- As the bombarding force took up position the 115th proceeded inshore and I recall nearly running down a 1-man submarine who was marking the launching area An unsuspecting German feldwebel approached the crossroads in the sidecar of a combi- While we were unloading the troops and equipment at the beach head I saw a warrant officer (army) supervising the The glider that they landed in was on the field with its nose almost resting on the parapet of the bridge. The Schramm was one of some thirty official reporters who called themselves war correspondents. They wrote their stories, submitted them to When we went down to land on the 6th, our glider seemed to be coming in rather low. I could see a tall hedge in our way and thought the pilot would pull Mrs. Pestchansky is actually an Englishwoman who married a White Russian in She was born in En-
2 "When we went down to land on the 6th, our glider seemed to be coming in rather low. I could see a tall hedge in our way and thought the pilot would pull up over it. But, of course, without power we could not do that and we crashed right through it. I thought those in the front had been killed as they were very quiet, but anyway I started to unshackle the Jeep. There was movement after a few seconds and they came round to the tail to see how we were. We realised then that the undercarriage had been smashed and that we could not drop the tailpiece off to allow the Jeep to be driven out. However, I was left on my own unshackling the Jeep. Just finished when there was a terrific crash and the tracks of a tank appeared. It was a tank crushing the tail of the glider. I knew nothing of this at the time and thought it was an enemy tank until I saw the markings. It was an Airborne one. Lucky I was not further down the tail. As I got the Jeep out, a Gerry came out of the hedge near where we went through. He was white as death and was taken prisoner." Driver Mechanic Stanley Fortham, 6th Airborne Div.
3 "Though I was dropped inside the German lines, it seems funny now to think I was for a few hours, almost rubbing shoulders with "Gerry," and was unaware that I was miles from where I should have been; I thought I was in the wrong war. "I cannot recall any incident during the first day as I was alone until the next day; when I met up with several others. It was a case of lying low, but I can recall how we were housed and fed in secrecy by a family who lived in a chateau until we left to make our way back to our own lines. We were missing for a week. "While we were with the French family they brought a Canadian pilot in, who had made a crash landing. A corporal in my party went out and destroyed the plane with a grenade; regardless of whether the Germans had found it. We did gain some useful information." Lance-Corporal Alfred McGowan, 6th Airborne Div.
4 The glider that they landed in was on the field with its nose almost resting on the parapet of the bridge. The moment that the glider had come to a stop there was a yell "Come on lads," in the rich Birmingham accent of Lieut. "Danny" Brotheridge, the commander of the platoon. They rushed out of the glider just in time to see a German sentry on Pegasus Bridge fire a white Very light. Shooting from the hip, Gray opened up on him as did everybody else. Major John Howard in command of D Company was also on their glider and he promptly set up his headquarters in a disused pillbox on one side of the bridge. A little while later Gray and the others saw a black German tank turning out of the village and clanking towards the bridge. "Blimey, we've had it now," Gray said to Lance-Corporal Packwood. Then they saw a sergeant lying flat in the centre of the road on the bridge with a PIAT (Projector, Infantry, Anti-Tank). The Sergeant waited until the tank was barely 20 yards away, then he fired. The tank exploded inside, none of the crew got out. It burned all night. Howard's group cheered at the sergeant's bulls eye. Jnterview with Private William J. Gray, D Company, 2nd Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, 6th Airborne Div
5 The Sarnia, British Merchant Navy 1,000-ton coaster, was enlisted to carry supplies to Omaha Beach: 400 tons of TNT and high explosive high explosive shells, small arms, ammunition, food. All merchant marine officers and crew were volunteers. On the trip were 65 Amencan soldiers who were to be stevedores. Sarnia was called "Listy" by the crew. She had a habit of listing over to port and she looked like a "tired yacht without sails leaning into the wind coming down the channel." She was capable of only 9 knots; she had a crew of 14 and 6 gunners manning three Oerlikons. Listy was in company with such armoured giants as the USS Nevada and HMS Rodney. They arrived at Omaha about 10 a.m., pulled in one mile offshore about 3 p.m. Capt. Alexander watched American stevedores waiting to unload cargo into DUKWS. He called the top sergeant to the bridge and said, "Do you know, sergeant, that we have 400 tons of TNT on board? Now, I don't mind being bombed or shot at because if I'm hit that's the will of God, but if one of your men drops a cigarette that might burn through the canvas over the hold that would be the end of everything. So if I see one of your men smoking, I'll shoot him." The sergeant replied, "Oh, no, you won't. I'll shoot him first." Although they were in the midst of the fleet, they did not know what was happening. Alexander said to the sergeant, "I've got a ringside seat but I don't know what the hell is going on." They had to listen to the BBC to find out what was going on. The tension was so great that one of the crew told the captain: "You know, captain, if we get through this, I'm going to church every Sunday when possible." Interview with Captain Lynn T Alexandet; Merchant Navy
6 Mrs. Pestchansky is actually an Englishwoman who married a White Russian in She was born in England and lived in Newcastle-upon- Tyne before she met her husband. They moved to France in 1934 and as her husband was a naturalized Frenchman she too had to adopt that nationality. The Germans were quite suspicious of her adopted nationality. On the morning of D-Day she heard the first reports of the invasion. A few weeks before, she had been tipped off that the Gestapo were wise to her work of hiding refugees and although she had never been a member of the French underground, Maureen knew that the combination of having been born in Great Britain plus having even the faintest suspicion that she was harboring refugees could have sent her to a concentration camp. She had moved her 20-year-old daughter...to the Normandy peninsula with some friends and relatives. So she decided that she would set out to collect her child and try and join up with the Allied troops. She had no transport with the exception of her trusty bicycle which was painted blue and had a basket on the front. Calmly, she walked down her five flights of stairs, picked up her bicycle, made sure that the tyres were pumped hard and set off a good 24 hours away if she drove hard. It was just as well that Maureen left Paris that day because it was on the evening of June 6 that the Gestapo came round to the apartment to arrest her. So Maureen set out through the quiet streets of Paris. The news had not reached everybody yet. For the first two or three hours all Maureen saw were people coming the other way, nobody was going along heading west. As people came toward her on bicycles and cars they would warn her that there were Germans ahead or convoys of troops and there was a sort of intelligence system which always gave her a clear picture of what to expect for at least 20 or 30 miles. Before she reached Chartres, several P-47s came across and strafed the road and Maureen found herself occupying a ditch with several German troops. They stayed in this ditch for 11/2 hours and then she got up, dusted herself off, and began to pedal on towards Normandy. After she got through Chartres, a driver of a truck filled full of potatoes gave her a lift for about 20 or 30 miles. She was strafed four times between Chartres and La Loupe. She got to La Loupe past the cordon all
7 right and continued on. All she could think about as she cycled along was what she had promised her daughter: "Whatever happens I will always get back to you." When she got there Uust before midnight] she was told that the madam and her daughter had moyed to another village, a village which was much closer to the front so she set off in the darkness for the village. She got there, found her daughter and her first remark to her daughter was, "Well, were you worried about my not coming?" Tania looked at her mother and said, "Oh no Mommy, you promised you would come." This for Maureen was worth the whole journey. Interview with Maureen Lembanez-Pestchansky, British-born Frenchnaturalized citizen
8 "I had twelve men in the trench spread out across the field. Didn't know these men well as I had only recently been attached to battn, just promoted to captain. I had an anti-tank gun, crew, a naval observer - 12 men in all. Sgt. Jones was covering extreme right flank, Sgt. Miliburn extreme left, the rest of us spread out I, in H.Q. near left flank, with navy type to my right. Field was about 800 yards long, river to extreme right. "About 11:00 A.M. a party of men appeared from hedgerow on left-hand side of field. They were wearing parachute helmets and camouflaged smocks like our own. Thought they were our men. Then suddenly they turned and started advancing up the field toward us.. Germans. There were about 40 of them all told. I told our men to hold their fire until they got up to the wooden fence; the signal to fire would be a red Very light. We opened fire, they immediately dropped into the long grass. Then suddenly from behind them appeared two tanks, came up close to give German infantry support. I waited for our anti-tank gun to open up.. nothing happened. Gerry 88 mm. started firing on us, we were sitting targets. Still no anti-tank fire. Then, up crawled a soldier, saluted, "Sorry, sir, the gun breech was damaged when we dropped." "By this time, I discovered that the wireless set wasn't working, no anti-tank gun, no communication with main company position. Suddenly there was silence. By this time, a number of my men had been killed or wounded. Out of one of the tanks stepped a German officer dressed in full regalia, Sam Browne, etc. (one can almost visualize a monocle!) He climbed out of turret, leisurely lit cigarette. I told man to my right, "Give him two puffs." We did, and then whoosh. The Gerries opened fire again. The navy type got wounded in the thigh, chap next to me got shot in the head. We were in a bad way. Silence from Sgt. Jones. Gerry had killed him and his crew. "I decided we couldn't do much there, so I sent two of my men back to Company lines, as runners, with messages, and told them not to come back. Seemed sensible to save as many lives as I could, they couldn't do anything against those Gerry tanks. In the middle of this maelstrom, a farmer walked calmly across the field taking no notice of the Germans or the British. I then noticed some of the German infantry crawling towards my extreme left
9 flank. I called out to Millburn "Have you got a smoke bomb and grenade?" "No grenade." So I threw him a gammon bomb, then waited. Millburn started off as I instructed: "Try to get that tank under cover of a smoke screen." But hardly had he started when Gerry opened up, shelled them and killed both Millbum and his pal. "His little party copped it." There was another lull. Not a sign from Sgt. Jones, not a move from anywhere up the trench. Now there seemed only four of us left, myself, Batman Harris, a gunner with half his cheek blown off and a fourth chap. The Navy type was badly wounded in the thigh By this time I decided there was not much we could do: we could either stick it out and all get killed or try to make our way back to C Company and "live to fight another day." Began to think the sooner we are out of this the better. Said to the men, 'Let's get out of this; we are the only four left on our feet.' We drew out of that position covering each other, two by two." Major John A. N. Sim, 6th Airborne Division, (Sim was awarded the Military Cross and the two sergeants who were killed received the Distinguished Conduct MedaL)
10 Schramm was one of some thirty official reporters who called themselves "war correspondents." They wrote their stories, submitted them to headquarters, headquarters then sent them to Berlin where they were disseminated through official channels presumably Goebbels' propaganda agency. On the 5th of June, Schramm was staying at the George V hotel in Paris. Rommel had left the day before "to go to Herrlingen for his wife's birthday." On the morning of the 5th,he awoke suddenly out of a nightmare. A nightmare in which he heard a voice saying over and over again, "The turn of the war is coming." This premonition impressed him very deeply so much so in fact having wakened he walked across the room, opened the door, and looked outside to see if somebody in the hall had said these words. It was only after he'd found the hall was vacant that he realised it was a dream. He thought no more about it. He left Paris about six o'clock on the evening of the 6th to drive to Rommel's headquarters at La Roche Guyon. It took him almost two hours to get to Rommel's headquarters because Allied fighter bombers had destroyed a bridge on the main road through Mantes. The actual dinner itself broke up a little after ten. It must have been shortly before midnight that Schramm left the room to go to the toilet and on his return he passed the adjutant's desk. He paused for a moment and saw two messages on it. It was there that he read the first and second lines of the verse of Verlaine. The poem which included the line "Violins singing in the autumn" and the second line was. "And fills my heart with sorrow." Schramm knew that these were the two messages that the Germans had been waiting on because they would immediately indicate that an invasion was about to take place. The reports started to come in but they were still unsure of the exact strength of the
11 invasion or indeed if this really was the main invasion at all. It wasn't until 4:30 in the afternoon of D-Day that Schramm remembered his premonition of the previous day but he didn't mention it to anybody. He figured that if he had he might have been considered a defeatist. Interview with Major Wilhelm von Schramm, war reporter, German Army
12 "I took part in the invasion on one of the few British destroyers that escorted the American force to Omaha Beach. My ship, the destroyer H.M.S. Meibreak led the way through the swept channel for the American ships commanded by Rear Admiral Alan Kirk, U.S.N. "Another thing I remember, when some shells were falling near us I was diving underneath a rack of depth charges, until I realised what I was sheltering behind. (Discovered a hole in one of the depth charges after, but was relieved to hear that the depth charge would not go off except by detonating.)" Leading Seaman Sydney F Paris, Anti-Aircraft Gunnei; Royal Navy
13 "I recall nearly running down a 1-man submarine who was marking the launching area for the DD tanks, however, I didn't." Lieutenant Roger H. Harrison, 4th LCT Flotilla, Royal Navy
14 "[I heard of al captured German officer who complained that his men could not fight madmen. PARA asked why and he said that that evening he was told paratroopers landing in large numbers, hears a knock on his H.Q. door going to the door with revolver at the ready was shook rigid At the door stood a British paratroop who said: 'Do not shoot, Herr Offitser - I am a conscientious objector, a medical orderly - could I borrow a blanket please for a wounded parachutist?' "Taking a message to Div. H.Q. near Ranville which was being heavily mortared, getting to the yard of the house I saw General Gale standing in the middle - as if he were just discussing the weather mortars were coming thick and heavy. I dived into (in my hurry) a full water trough looking up, he was still standing there. I felt a proper Charlie." Trooper Edgar T Sheard, 7th Parachute Battalion, 6th Airborne Div.
15 "About this time the great naval bombardment started. The Germans were watching seaward to see the show. Five of them were standing in the road when Private Danford got all five of them with a bullet through the head. I thought that was the best marksmanship that I saw during the war. I saw one of my young soldiers, about 18 years old, who had gotten hungry sit down on one of the dead Germans with his head spattered across the road. There sat my soldier calmly munching his K ration. That settled the concern I had about my new, green troops going into first combat." Gen. Maxwell Taylor US ]O]st Airborne Div.
16 "While we were unloading the troops and equipment at the beach head I saw a warrant officer (army) supervising the loading of casualties onto landing craft, the stretcher bearers were German and as they were carrying a stretcher containing a casualty, the beach received a burst of shelling, the bearers dropped the stretcher and sought cover. The W.O., however, ran after them, grabbed them by the neck, kicked their behinds and ensured that they carried on with the work concerned. I can only add that the W.O. seemed to be oblivious of danger that was exploding in his very close proximity. "As we approached the beachhead, we had the misfortune to wrap a 'Dan buoy' around our port screw. One of the crew, Able Seaman Tilley went over the side, and in heavy seas managed to clear the buoy from the screw. For this he was awarded a decoration, I cannot say what, but I do know that he was eventually presented with this decoration at the temporary depot at Westcliffe on Sea." Leading Seaman Geoffrey R. Fox, 48th Landing Craft Flotilla
17 "We proceeded to Le Pleim. Prior to this we collected the wounded and I remember pulling them to one place. We then came under terrific bombing by our own planes, bits and pieces of human bodies were in the vicinity. I hit the earth and was lucky." Private Sidney F Capon, 9th Parachute Battalion, 6th Airborne Div.
18 "I was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for my action on June 6th at 12:00 p.m. in the harbour known as Mulberry. I saved 16 sappers who were wounded on a Rhino, and towed the Rhino away from the merchant ship. This Rhino was loaded with lorries and ammunition, which was on fire. "One thing also that stands out in my memory was the wonderful cover our small landing craft had from the (Phoenix) large concrete slabs which were towed across the channel by tugs. Without these we should have lost most of our craft. As you know it was force 8 gale when we landed." Corporal (Coxwain) George S. Pargetei; Royal Marines
19 Files of Coast Guard LCIs (Landing Craft Infantry) move across the English Channel for the D-Day invasion of the Coast of Normandy. The LCIs carry barrage balloons as protection against low-flying Nazi strafing planes. This photograph taken by U.S. Coast Guard Combat Photographers. Scott Wigle, former Detroit newspaperman, was sent by radio-telephoto from London. The picture appeared in American newspapers from coast to coast on June 6, 1944, giving the United States her first look at the D-Day invasion of the French coast on the actual day the ships got underway.
20 A Note On Unit Designations... In the following "Untold Stories," some military unit and formation designations are more complete than others, depending upon the information the veterans themselves provided in answering their questionnaires from Ryan.
21 "On opening the lid of the dropping hatch, a snowstorm of spare vomit-bags blew round the aircraft no one had used any! "The wrecking of a collaborationist cafe by Free French forces within an hour of arriving was somewhat shocking. "The most striking thing was the welcome by French civilians who handed out tea at 3 AM amid shellfire - their delight was an unforgettable memory. "My C.O. was entangled in a tree by his parachute, upside down. He cut himself free without thinking and promptly fell on his head. However, he made up for it by coming across a German H.Q. where he cut their telephone cables before rejoining his unit." Captain Anthony H. Windrum, 6th Airborne Div.
22 "I heard that Hitler had ordered all parachutists and commandos to be killed instantly, allegedly because we carried fighting knives not conforming to the Geneva Convention. "We had been briefed about "decoys" being dropped and we often discussed whether we were being deliberately bluffed and whether we would eventually be the decoys. "An enemy aircraft - a captured Spitfire - [was] trying to read our ground/air recognition signals and giving wrong acknowledgments. I had arguments with my C.O. and Gen. Gale about this episode. We later heard that the plane concerned had been shot down." Sergeant John McCallon May 6th Airborne Div.
23 "An unsuspecting German feldwebel approached the crossroads in the sidecar of a combination, and received two rifle bullets and a Sten bullet. He was alive a few hours later, and a sort of balloon of blood and mucus hung from his nostrils. Despite the no prisoner order, pity for him and appreciation of his great courage and fortitude prompted the platoon commander to spare his life, and he was taken back to the battalion H.Q. Great interest was taken in the welfare of this man, and information was passed to us from time to time. In the weeks that followed the flow was kept up, and those of us who were left were glad that he recovered." Private Raymond W Batten, 13th Parachute Battalion, 5th Parachute Brigade, 6th Airborne Div.
24 "My brother, Ernest, was nine years older, and had been taken prisoner in Greece in 1941 and was in Stalag thought of him most of the time: Did he know what was going on; how did he feel? I thought this was one day nearer to his release. "Mum heard it on the radio. She said she never slept for days, couldn't do the housework. I was the youngest of three boys. I learned later that Ernest, my POW brother, had a radio in the Stalag. A German guard came to them and said, 'It won't be long now."' Able Seaman Ronald J. Northwood, H.M.S.Scylla
25 "As the bombarding force took up position the 115th proceeded inshore and dropped radar deflecting balloons at pre-arranged points. Each ship carried 3 of these balloons with sinkers attached to the mooring wires. The mooring wires were of different lengths and this enabled the balloons to fly at varying heights. The reflections given by the anti-radar units were those of battleships, cruisers and destroyers. The German shore batteries opened up on these false bearings and ranges and I may add that we did not stop to admire the view when this happened. "No head of state has ever had an opportunity of reviewing a fleet as large as that which we saw on that and subsequent days. I would not have missed it for all the tea in China." Lieutenant Patrick A.J. Ward, ]]5th Minesweeping Flotilla, Royal Navy