6/20/2014

Letters Home from the Greatest Generation - Part III

 


Nine Days After D-Day

As I've said in the second part of this series, you can click HERE for all the information you need for what this series is all about. Any questions, you can post comments below or send me email by using the contact form above.

This was a very difficult letter to transcribe to the printed word for a number of reasons. One, my Uncle John's penmanship was horrible. I thought no one had worse penmanship than I did. But, he has me beat by a mile. I had to enlist the help of a handwriting expert from a local university to help understand part of what the letters actually said. Add my uncle's handwriting style to ink that has faded substantially over the past 67 years and you have a nightmare on your hands. There are some words that we have been completely unable to decipher. The only living sibling (of seven children) my uncle has, my Aunt Dianne, is 92 years old and suffers from dementia. She now lives in a nursing home oblivious to the world around her. She would be no help to us. So, with the handwriting expert, we have been able to figure out most of what is in these letters. Secondly, reading this letter was extremely disturbing. I freely admit, myself and the expert from the university both cried while reading this letter. Man's inhumanity to man never ceases to amaze me in both war and peace.

This letter was seven pages long. I have heavily edited most of it due to trying to convey what he endured on D-Day. Most of it is just far too graphic to post here. I am including some parts of the graphic remembrances of my uncle's experiences that fateful day on June 6, 1944. I know the few parts I have included will seem extremely graphic to most. Trust me, there are other parts that are far worse. These men went through hell. I can almost understand why the war changed my uncle. The war affected men in different ways. It had an adverse effect on Uncle John.

Parts of the following letter are very graphic and disturbing. If you are squeamish, I suggest you skip this post now. There are a couple of parts that will remind you of the hit movie "Saving Private Ryan." My uncle and the squad he led that day took out a German pillbox that was spraying murderous fire on the U.S. Army troops that day on Omaha Beach. The aftermath will also remind you of a disturbing part of that movie. There is a section of this letter that will also enrage you. I know it did me. There was still some humanity left in my uncle after surviving the carnage on Omaha Beach. But, it was set aside by an Army Major that day.

In the first part of this series, I noted the misspellings of my Uncle John. I decided to stop doing that in the second part and now in the third part. I am leaving all misspellings in these letters. Here now is the third part of this series, Nine Days After D-Day.

Cpl John S. Wxxxx
IV Division, Third Infantry, U.S. Army
Somewhere in France
June 15, 1944

Dear Alice
I am safe. I know it is a long time since my last letter. But, I have seen things Alice that are hard to talk about. The landing at the beech was something that the devil must have done. We lost so many men that first wave Alice. I saw my best friend in the army Branson Mxxxxx get his head blown off by a 30 cal machine gun nest. It was like watching something at the movie picture show. I could not beliave what I was seen. In the first 5 minutes of landing on the beech we lost 5 men of the 17 man sqaud. We complete our mission Alice. We took out the German machine gun killing so many of our boys. So much blood on the beech. I did not believe it was happening to me. So many of our boys dead on the beech. Arms, legs, heads were all over the beech Alice. My squad was pinned down by that machine gun nest I told you about. I was laying in a small pool of blood. I looked to see where it came from. It was from a soldier of ours split from his right shoder down to his left part of his hip. His head was gone, Alice. I look over to where my men was screaming and crying. Next to my hand was an eyeball. I think it came from the soldier I told you about. It was like this eyeball was staring right at me on the beech in the blood and sand. I did not think it was real, but it was real. I told my men we had to move on up off the beech. [Uncle John suffered nightmares for the rest of his life about this eyeball that was next to his hand as he was pinned down on the beach]

I was yelling for my men to follow me off the beech. We got pinned agin by that dam German machine gun nest. As I turned to see my men was strung out, I saw something that will live with me forever. A man that was cut in half from his wayst was near some rocks. His other half was about 5 feet from us. I thought he was dead but his eyes blinked. I crawled over to him. He was trying to put sand over his guts. I told him not to do that and I put a craw sack [no idea what that is] over the guts hanging from his top half. He tried to tell me something, but only blood come out of his mouth. I could not understand him. This boy pulled a letter from his shirt pocket, Alice. I took it and put it in my shirt pocket for him. I had to leave him. It hurt so much to leave this boy, Alice. But, I had a job to do. He was looking at me as me and my men left to attack that german machine gun. Even now I think of him 9 days after the landing. [The letter of this unfortunate soul, who was ripped in half, was his goodbye letter to his parents. Uncle John hand-delivered that letter after the war. He did not tell them about the condition of their son on the beach. He simply told them he died heroically that day, serving his country]

As we crawled throw a ditch there was human guts in there. I smelled crap and saw what I think must be a man's bowels. We had to crawl through that. Blood, legs, arms and heads were all in that ditch. I throwed up 2 times. We fire sprayed the German machine gun nest. I never heard so much screaming. A army major told us not to shoot them. So we did not. But then 2 German solidiers tryed to surrender to us and 2 of the boys in my squad shot them when they put there arms up. I screamed at them they can not do this. I told the army major what my men did. He told me to forget it and to get back to my division. But, these germans wanted to surrender, Alice. We can not shoot them if they do that. I told this major that I want to report the 2 boys that shot the germans. He grab me by my arm and told me to look at the beach. What do you see? I told him I see dead American boys. The army major then told me to take my squad and get back to division or he will have me sent back to England for court marshal. So, I took my men back to division.

I have seen things that will live with me forever Alice. I feel like I live in a dream world now. Nothing is real to me. I do not even want to eat now. I can not sleep. I want to come home. You do not know how much I want to come home. Please please please do not tell mama what I tell you Alice. Please do not do that. I must go now. We have to move on to a french village where Germans are holed up. We have been fighting in hedges that cost so many lives. The fly boys helped out and now the Germans are running. We are going to give them some of there own medicene. 

Pray for me Alice. Sometimes I think God has forgot me. I think he forgot all those good boys that will never come home on that dam beech. I know you are praying for me. Please tell pastor Henry to pray to. I need all the prayers I can get. I don't know when I can write again. Soon I hope. We are on the move. I love you Alice.

Johnny

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