Association U. S. Normandie “mémoire et gratitude”
Rodolphe and Vivian are dedicated members of the Association U. S. Normandie “mémoire et gratitude” since April 2005. The headquarters is based at the Amfreville Town Hall, a community of Ste. Mère-‐Eglise in Normandy. Rodolphe is currently one of the vice-‐presidents, while Vivian is the secretary of American affairs. They are honored and proud to work with such a fine group of local
French people whose mission it is to honor, remember, and appreciate the WWII American soldiers, and their sacrifices for LIBERTY!
In order to preserve the WWII history of these smaller communities, the Association has prepared several information panels at strategic places where important events took place in June 1944. In addition, they have developed and posted historic walking tours around Amfreville and Cauquigny, for which there is a pamphlet and brochure in both French and English. Other projects continue and will be announced when completed.
In this section “Battles”, you will find the text that is included on each of the information panels. It was all prepared in French and translated to English, so you may notice the transition. Feel free to pass it on, and help us to keep this history alive. Better yet, come to see it for yourselves. The people of Normandy will never forget what the Americans did to return their freedom.
General Gavins Touchdown
During the night 5-6 June 1944, Brigadier General James Maurice GAVIN, Assistant Division Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, had Task Force “A” under his direct command. It was composed of three paratrooper regiments, 505th PIR, 507th PIR, and 508th PIR, as well as the glider regiment
325th GIR. He took flight from the English base at Saltby. His aircraft, C-47 N° 43-
30651, piloted by Lt. Colonel Glen MYER, 314th Troop Carrier Group of the 50th Troop Carrier Squadron, was the lead in serial 21. That plane was charged to carry the paratroopers of HQ & HQ Company, 508th PIR, and B Company, 307th AEB (engineering battalion).
They entered a dense cloudbank just before arriving near what should have been their designated DZ “N” in Picauville. They had actually strayed a bit off course to the left. A little after 2 am (U.S. Army time) on 6 June 1944, General GAVIN was at the head of his men, and jumped into combat, landing somewhere in this perimeter that later became known as “Timmes’ Orchards”.
It was here, in this little corner of Normandy, that began the fabulous epic of General GAVIN, who would lead the paratroopers to the Liberation of Europe and end in Berlin May 1945.
Pfc Charles N. DeGlopper
C Company – 1st Battalion – 325th Glider Infantry Regiment
82nd Airborne Division
9 June 1944 – “Medal of Honor”
Charlie Neilans DeGlopper was born 30 November 1921 to Leonard and Mary DeGlopper of Grand Island, New York, a rural place with a population of about 1000. He grew to be a big, good natured kid. So big, that when he was inducted into the army at Fort Niagara, they could not find a uniform or a pair of shoes to fit him. He was six feet seven inches tall and weighed 245 pounds.
He was not career Army. He joined in November 1942 and went overseas in April 1943. By the time D-Day came, he had already served his country in North Africa, Sicily, Ireland, and England. He was a Private First Class foot soldier in C Company, 1st Battalion of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. At 22 years old, he was a tough fighting man when the terrible Battle of Normandy began. He lasted three days.
In the evening of 8 June 1944, on the orders of Generals Ridgway and Gavin, the men of 1st Battalion 325th GIR, commanded by Colonel Lewis, were selected to retake the western extremity of La Fière causeway, earlier taken by the Germans. In the early hours on 9 June 1944, they left the assembly area at the farm Couture. They were led by 507th PIR 1st Lieutenant John Marr over the railway tracks and the secret ford to what is now known as Timmes’ Orchards. They left the orchard and went South. A Company split off and went to guard the crossroads. B Company stayed on the left of D126 and advanced on Cauquigny. C Company crossed over the D126 road, and continued through a wheat field. Executive Officer Major Teddy Sanford and his Command Group, including messenger Pfc Clinton Riddle and 1st Lieutenant Wayne Pierce, stayed in the middle of the two companies B & C, keeping near the road while following the hedgerow toward Cauquigny. In the darkness, part of C Company ventured too far and crossed through an opening in a hedgerow. They arrived at a sunken tractor path near Hamlet Flaux, and soon realized that they were trapped by superior German forces on three sides.
It was either make a smart move or die one and all. Pfc. Charles DeGlopper, the gentle giant from the farm, took charge. He saw an escape route for the platoon and ordered his comrades to fall back through it. DeGlopper fired his BAR from the hip on full automatic as he jumped into the middle of the dirt road in view of the Germans. Even when wounded, he continued to fire. Then hit again, he sank to his knees, yet continued to fire. He got off blast after blast until his life was torn from him. His platoon escaped to a better position and made it back to safety in the orchard.
At the time of the fire fight, Major Teddy Sanford and his Command Post group, along with 1st Lieutenant John Marr, were close enough to hear and to discern the action in and beyond the sunken road. They were very near the German guns stationed where the roads D15 (towards Picauville) and D126 (towards Amfreville) verge. Sandford concluded that C Company was no longer able to offer resistance. The members of Sandford’s CP were caught under fire from a German Tank. Sandford told his messenger Riddle and the few men with him to make a holding force until he and the other officers could retreat back. Riddle stayed until
they got a good start. Then he crawled back enough to get under cover. He was pinned down in the wheat field. For a while, he was in danger of being captured. His backpack was filled with bullet holes. He started crawling until he was out of the wheat field. He then caught up with the others. Major Sandford set up the CP in the orchard about 7:30 am.
At the same time, Pierce lingered in the field, thinking he might salvage some of the men from C Company. He ran across the field to a position where he might have a better look. He crawled to the edge of the hedgerow along the tractor path. It was too dark to see, so he crawled away and found his way back to the orchard.
That day Pierce was placed in Command of C Company. It was Captain Wayne Pierce who recommended DeGlopper for the Medal of Honor. It was awarded posthumously 28 February 1946. DeGlopper was the only soldier of the 82nd Airborne Division (325th Glider Infantry Regiment), to be selected for this award for his heroic action and sacrifice of life during the WWII Battle of Normandy campaign.
In August 2007, Pierce and Marr returned to Normandy and together retraced their paths taken in 1944. They walked with Joël Baret as he recorded their memories. Together they identified the area of DeGlopper’s heroic stand. Clinton Riddle sent a letter and map identifying this same location. DeGlopper made his brave attack from the middle of this path, shooting in the direction of Cauquigny.
DeGlopper was first buried in the temporary cemetery at Blosville. In July 1948, his body was returned to Grand Island, New York. He was finally laid to rest in Maple Grove Cemetery.
As a note of interest, some members of the DeGlopper family, as well as members of the Grand Island VFW Post #9249 DeGlopper visited this site in June 2010, and again in June 2014. Also, Clinton Riddle came to pay his respects here 6 June 2014.
Association U. S. Normandie
« mémoire et gratitude » June 2014
That night during his parachute jump, Lt. Col. Timmes was going to be acquainted with a great fear. He imagined that he was going to touchdown in a Norman prairie very green, much like it is now. But, he touched the French earth in about two feet of water, in the middle of the marsh situated very near here! Upon his landing, a violent gust of wind pulled his parachute for 220 to 330 yards, and then his head was under water. Finally, there was another wind gust that saved his life, and threw him on a small slope. He got himself up rapidly and unhooked his harness.
During his descent, he was able to distinguish the railway. He understood that he found himself at approximately one and a half miles from Amfreville. Accompanied by a small group of his men who touched down like himself in the marsh, they directed themselves due South in the direction of Cauquigny. Then the enemy was already firing bursts in their direction. Near the chapel, a group of 30 men in Company “D” of his battalion came to join him. Lt. Col. Timmes established that the sector was very calm.
He went back toward Amfreville across the fields, because he heard some gunfire. He thought that his battalion was attacking the township in coming from the North. He thought it was possible to attack by the east side. But the enemy gunfire cracked everywhere, some men fell by the bullets. Lt. Col. Timmes ordered all of his men around him to withdraw. A large number of Germans followed them in pursuit.
Near 9:30 am June 6, 1944, they all took a defensive position in all the orchards that you see here. He had no communication equipment with which to reach higher headquarters or other groups. He hoped to gain trooper strength to assault Amfreville during daylight. He sent a patrol led by 1st Lt. Lewis LEVY to outpost the western approach to La Fière causeway at Cauquigny. LEVY reported it clear of enemy. Lt. Col. Timmes proceeded to dig his foxhole under a tree behind a farm, next door to Mr. Jules Jean. His men dug theirs at the feet of the hedges.
In the meanwhile, the Germans began attacking in force the position at Cauquigny. For the moment, Cauquigny was lost. The escapees of the 507th (including 1st Lt. Lewis LEVY and 2nd Lt. Joseph Kormylo) and 508th PIRs rejoined Lt. Col. Timmes in the isolated orchards. At the end of the day, he counted all around him 150 men, one 57 millimetre canon and two machine guns. For the night his men took defensive positions in the orchards around, as also in this one that you find yourselves in front of now. Lt. Col. Timmes was worried, because around 40 of his men had been hit by enemy fire. Survival in this isolation was but a question of time.
The next day, Wednesday June 7, the German pressure increased. They sneaked in the hedges and bushes. They arrived from the hamlet Motey, but also from the North side, coming from the Grey Castle. They tried to infiltrate in the positions of the defensive perimeter. The men pushed them by violent firepower. Never were they able to penetrate in the marsh. This same day, near 5 pm, the isolated men were able to scrounge for the parachute drop intended for them providing food, weapons, ammunition, that which would give them a glimmer of hope. This loud attacking from the North, like to the South…… Lt. Col. Timmes knew that he could not hold on much longer in these positions.
Thursday June 8 was a terrible day. Between 500 and 600 Germans arrived very near here at Motey. The paratroopers of Lt. Col. Timmes lanced forceful patrols, one towards the Grey Castle, the other towards the farm LAPIERRE. The battle was furious, the bullets by the hundreds targeted the trees and the walls of houses of the hamlet des “Heutes” that you can see there. The Germans lanced more furious attacks. The paratroopers cut down all that was in the open. The men of Lt. Col. Timmes had held well under fire of mortar and machine guns
Still in need of contact with higher headquarters, Lt. Col. TIMMES directed 1st Lt. John MARR (Co. G/507th PIR) to make contact with friendly forces across the flooded river basin (Merderet). MARR and his platoon runner, Pfc. Norman CARTER, started at noon and stumbled upon a knee-deep stone road that led them northeast to the railroad embankment. A boat and a jeep ride later, they were in the 82nd Div. CP where it was decided to send the 1st battalion of the 325th GIR across the sunken road at night to attack the rear of the Germans holding Cauquigny and the western end of La Fière causeway. CARTER returned to tell TIMMES of this plan and MARR stayed to lead the glider men to TIMMES’ position. Their arrival gave TIMMES his long needed communications with Division.
At 11:30 pm, Major Teddy Sanford, commanding officer of the 1st battalion of the 325th glider infantry regiment, was led by 1st Lt. John MARR G/507th PIR in accompaniment of 1st Lt. Wayne PIERCE 325th GIR, starting from the railway, to the secret underwater path, the ford, which crosses from East to West. Company “C” led and they attacked the Grey Castle, while Companies “A” and “B” went through the orchard to gain access to the pathway Motey. At 3:30 am, near Amfreville crossroads, Company “C” bumped into the bivouac of a German artillery unit. The reaction was very violent. Twelve soldiers of the 325th GIR were shot to death. Alarmed by the engagement, Lt. Col. Timmes’ mortars went into action, which allowed the rest of the 1st battalion to regroup, although disorganized, in Lt. Col. Timmes’ orchards.
The day after, the toughest battle took place on the causeway linking La Fière bridge and Cauquigny’s Chapel, the third battalion of the 325th GIR and those of the 507th PIR were engaged in it. Germans were expelled from this position. In the same stride, our American friends pushed toward the hamlet Motey. This thrust allowed to disengage from
the German grip around Lt. Col. Timmes’ orchards. Finally, they could resume to fight under different conditions. But, here, losses were very high. The German lock being crushed, still able bodied men could relieve their wounded and dead that were scattered all over the fields. The number reached almost a hundred. Wounded men were evacuated toward a field hospital settled near La Fière Manor. The residents of the hamlets, who helped and rescued the wounded soldiers, told that when they washed the sheets in the main stagnant pool, the water was red with blood of the heroic soldiers
Cauquigny 6 June 1944
At dawn, June 6, 1944, Cauquigny, a small village situated in the community of Amfreville, was not looking for celebrity ! Yet for our allies, this village was almost unknown on the map, with few houses and its little country chapel, silent and modest, huddled on the border of the flooded marsh, and one of the major objectives of all the allied bridgeheads! This was one of the “exit doors” to the West of the peninsula, the most important position to the opening of La Fière Causeway and the departing point of the offensive permitting the cutting off of Cotentin.
The future of the American bridgehead was going to play out here, at the Cauquigny Chapel !!!
The capture of this objective N°1 was confided to Lieutenant Colonel (Ltc.) Charles J. TIMMES, commander of the 2nd battalion of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), attached to the 82nd Airborne Division. At dawn, he found himself at the head of a small group of paratroopers of his unit and proceeded to identify the area. To his astonishment, he found the area void of the enemy. All was calm!
Later in the morning, Ltc. TIMMES entrenched at 1000 meters to the North at the Hamlet Heutes. He ordered 1st Lt. Lewis LEVY and 2nd Lt. Joseph KORMYLO (Co “D” 507th PIR) to go “bolt the door” of this Cauquigny objective. It was noon. They found themselves with two unknown officers and 8 paratroopers of the 508th PIR around the chapel to hold this objective N°1.
All of a sudden towards 15H30, the defenders who were well in place, were intrigued by fire shots and noise characteristic of tank tracks, coming along the road from Picauville (D.15). The German troops of the 1057th Grenadier Regiment and the Panzer Abteilung 100 (French Renault and Hotchkiss tanks, spoils of war) were attacking their position.
The paratroopers defended themselves with fury, neutralizing three guns and their shooters. They fought with all of their force and light weaponry, but because of a shortage of ammunition, they had to stop the combat. They sprang into the little cemetery, then escaped through the hedges and the marsh. They succeeded to join in the orchard, where Ltc. TIMMES and around 120 soldiers were entrenched.
This brief combat made them lose the bridgehead of Cauquigny. For now, it passed to the hands of the Germans, who arrived in force. Without waiting, the Germans would start to mount the counter attack toward La Fière bridge.
Towards 16H00, the defenders of the bridge on the other side of the causeway, belonging to the 1st Battalion of the 505th PIR, were ready to receive the enemy shock. They did not let go of one inch of terrain.
Note : This structure was never a church by French standards. It was, and still is, a chapel.
Cauquigny is a part of the Amfreville community.
Cauquigny 8 – 9 June 1944
Maj. Teddy H. SANFORD, Commander of the 1st Battalion of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR), received the order from Col. Harry L. LEWIS and Brig. Gen. James GAVIN to go across the marsh from East to West by way of a flooded passage (now a secret ford).
“The battalion was to be guided across a ford by [Lt. John MARR, G/507th PIR. Marr] had waded across the ford earlier in the day seeking assistance for a group of 507 men under the command of Ltc. Charles J. TIMMES. This group of 100 men under TIMMES had been holed up at a farm orchard (the Jules JEAN farm) since landing in the early morning hours of 6 June. (extract from the book ‘Let’s Go!’ by Wayne PIERCE)”.
The plan was to take the Germans at the extreme west of La Fière Causeway, in the manner to infiltrate by going across the fields and taking a turn towards the South to the sector of Cauquigny. Co. A commanded by Lt. Wilbur HECKMAN, received the mission to install a road block near the hamlet of Motey, in order to forbid the Germans from crossing over to the causeway (actually D.126) in the direction of Cauquigny. Co. B commanded by Capt. Dick GIBSON, starting from “Timmes’ Orchards”, should go South and attack Cauquigny Chapel. Co. C commanded by Capt. Dave STOKELY, after having fired upon the Amfreville Castle (Grey Castle), should align to the right of Co. B and go South just to the road toward Picauville (actually D.15), swing around to the left, and go through the fields to attack the sector at Cauquigny Chapel.
Companies B and C fell on the positions of German artillery. Violent combat engaged. Lots of men fell. Co. B turned around and left. Co. C, who found themselves committed at the Hameaux Flaux (200 meters from Cauquigny), fell into an ambush. It was around 04H30 and it was still very dark. Intense firing found the night. It was at this moment that Pfc. Charles N. DeGLOPPER entered into the action with his Browning automatic rifle (BAR), in order to permit his comrades of Co. C to back-up, turn around, and escape through the fields to “Timmes’ Orchards”. It was a sacrifice to save his comrades. For this action, he received posthumously the “Medal of Honour”. The operation was a loss.
See the map to the left (provided by Wayne PIERCE 325th GIR), which indicates the movements of the 325th GIR on the night of the 8th and morning of the 9th. It indicates the vicinity of Pfc. DeGLOPPER’s last heroic stand against the Germans. Both Clinton RIDDLE 325th GIR (radioman for Maj. Sanford) and John MARR 507th PIR verified this vicinity. They were all three THERE!!!
The following morning, Gen. Matthew B. RIDGWAY, Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, and his assistant, Brig. Gen. James GAVIN, disappointed by the failed night attack, decided to renew the attack by daylight, still at Cauquigny, this time with the 3rd Battalion of the 325th GIR. This battalion was attached to the 82nd Airborne Division, but it originated from the 2nd Battalion of the 401st GIR of the 101st Airborne Division.
The attack in preparation would be known as “The Battle of La Fière Causeway”.
La Fière Causeway Battle – 9 June 1944
In order to conquer this very important strategic position of La Fière causeway, the high command had decided to engage in the first assault, the 3rd battalion of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment (GIR), former 401st GIR of the 101st Airborne Division, since bound to the 82nd Airborne Division.
“Col. LEWIS sent word for the 3rd Battalion under Ltc. Charles CARRELL, a West Point officer, to move forward behind La Fière. He then asked Lt. Vernon Wyant, a liaison officer, to take him to see Gen. Gavin. It appeared to Wyant that Lewis considered this frontal attack across the causeway to be a “suicide mission.” Upon facing Gavin, however, he received no sympathy, only an emphatic direct order to move at once. Ltc. Carrell showed little enthusiasm for the attack when he assembled the company commanders and issued his order. Co. G-401 (L-325) under Capt. John SAULS would lead the frontal assault followed by Co. E-401 (I-325). Capt. James HARNEY, having just returned from his seaborne mission with Co. F-401, was ordered to follow Co. E-401. On the far shore, Saul’s company would turn left, Co. E would turn right and Co. F would plow straight ahead toward le Motey.
CARRELL had been injured in the glider landing, and when his troops did not respond rapidly, GAVIN, according to Clay Blair in his book Ridgway’s Paratroopers, shouted “Go! Go! Go! ” and CARRELL shouted back, « I don’t think I can do it!” “Why not? ” (GAVIN) “I’m sick!” (CARRELL).
With the outcome of the battle depending on quick action, Col. LEWIS relieved CARRELL on the spot and placed Maj. Arthur GARDNER, a 325 staff officer, in command of the battalion. However, the men of the battalion, not knowing Maj. Gardner, looked to their Executive Officer, Maj. Charles MOORE, for leadership in this attack..” (extract of the book ‘LET’S GO!’ , pages 141-142, by Wayne PIERCE). (end of quote!)
Men’s orders were to sprint to cover the 660 yards of the causeway starting from La Fière bridge, squads by squads, platoons by platoons, the companies following the companies G, E, and F (order of attack) until the Cauquigny chapel’s sector and the crossing were reached. The mission was mainly to capture this sector of the causeway and attack forward further more!
Preceding the attack, 90th Infantry Division (I. D.) artillery went into action at
10H30. Ltc. Franck NORRIS’ 105 mm gunnery started a blockage fire with smoke generating ammos to screen movements. A huge black smoke cloud rose among the explosions over Cauquigny. In return German fire was not in rest. A hail storm of enemy bullets crackled right there from where the men of the 325th GIR were supposed to start their spring forward. Fire support from two tank platoons of the 746th « Sherman » tank battalion hidden at the Manor was still going on, when at 10H45, Capt. John B. SAULS, leading Co. G sprang forward across the bridge, followed by Lt. Donald B. WASON, Sgt. Wilfred ERICSSON, Pvt. THURSTON, etc.…… A following tank was blown away by an American mine. Men were running in the middle of terrifying explosions, automatic weapons and mortars fires. A lot of them were nailed on the spot. Wounded and dead soldiers were already strewing the causeway. Lt. Donald WASON had just been killed. Many men were crawling to progress in the flooded ditches on each side of the causeway. Capt. SAULS and Sgt. ERICSSON reached across the far shore. In the middle of this rage, 40 Germans hidden along the banks were captured and sent back toward the Manor. Lt. Richard B. JOHNSON leading Co. E sprang forward in his turn, followed by Sgt. Henry HOWELL. When he reached the chapel, he had seen 12 of his men fall. All of a sudden, a burst of gunnery mowed him down and ripped away Lt. Johnson’s shoulder. This Co. E, which at its start from the Manor, took a census of 148 men, counted 35 dead on that causeway. Capt. Charles F. MURPHY was lying down, hit in the face by shrapnel on the line of departure, in the middle of 4 of his men killed by mortar splinters. Very close to the chapel, Sgt. Frank STUDANT collapsed from a bullet strike right into his heart. Lt. Bruce H. BOOKER and Capt. James G. FOGLE urged their men to go forward under grapeshot among destroyed ordnance, numerous dead and wounded men congesting the causeway. A burst of gunnery in his legs made Lt. BOOKER fall. He pulled himself up on the slope and continued to encourage his men to go forward. Upon reaching the chapel, 35 of his men captured 30 Germans and the servants of a mortar.
“Capt. MENTLIK moved his headquarters Company across the causeway along with some tank support. They hacked their way into a small field to set up their Control Post (CP). The first tanks to arrive started firing through the hedgerow into the field, forcing the CP group to get out as quickly as possible. The men in the CP group waited for Capt. FOGLE (BN S-3) to determine where to establish the CP. Unknown to them, FOGLE lay wounded on the causeway. ” (extract of the book ‘LET’S GO!’ by Wayne PIERCE) ……. “S/Sgt Bud OLSON, 3rd Battalion, was one who made the crossing with MENTLIK and the 3rd Battalion CP group. On orders from Maj. MOORE, SSgt’s OLSON and KELLER set up a mortar and fired at map targets until they ran out of 4.2 inches ammunition. OLSON had succeeded in knocking out a machine gun nest on the far shore of the crossing. MOORE had been wounded and OLSON dressed his wound, but he refused to be evacuated. As the fire from the far shore subsided, Col. LEWIS moved his regimental forward CP across the causeway. Eventually, the CP group established their Command Post in one of the houses surrounded by a stone wall at Cauquigny. Not far behind came Gen. GAVIN and Gen. RIDGWAY to make sure control of the bridgehead was established.” (From Bud OLSON’s personal notes.)
Around 11H30, Capt. James M. HARNEY, leading his Co. F, arrived to finish the job behind Co. G and Co. E ; meanwhile, the tanks at the Manor continued to shell Cauquigny. Gen. James GAVIN and Ltc. Arthur A. MALONEY of the 507h PIR, entrenched near the Manor, ignored the good work accomplished by the men of the 325th GIR, and that many of them held, in part, the West point of the causeway. Short of information, they thought that the attack had failed!!!!! Gen. GAVIN, worried, approached Capt. Robert D. RAE of the 507th PIR, and ordered him to attack and “to succeed, at any cost” the capture of the objective. Leading his 90 men, they rushed forward and very quickly were on the heels of Co. F company of Capt. HARNEY, who was moving up in line. Lt. William H. CONDON, already wounded during the landing of his glider, was again hit in his face. Capt. RAE and Capt. HARNEY joined their forces to push toward Cauquigny’s chapel. Lt. James ORWIN of the 507th PIR encouraged the stragglers to go forward. They managed to reach the chapel. In front of this one, Capt. HARNEY organised the defences as well as he could. Capt. RAE split up the present forces. Half went South, toward the positions of the 325th GIR Co. G, and he carried away the rest straight forward, for Motey hamlet. Lt. James A. WHITE 325th GIR Co. E went North with 18 men, in order to find Ltc. Charles J. TIMMES and his 2nd battalion/507th PIR. Capt. John SAULS who had gone to La Fière bridge to contact Col. LEWIS went back with 2 « Sherman » tanks to crush a local German attack. Still at the chapel, Capt. HARNEY sent his own Co. E toward Motey. When Capt. SAULS arrived at the Cauquigny’s crossing, the Manor’s artillery, which never stopped firing, was mute.
Around midday, the tanks of the 746th battalion started to go across the causeway. The battle to conquer Cauquigny had been won, the chapel would never be taken again. Men from the 3rd battalion/325th GIR and 507th PIR would progress toward the West to reach Motey hamlet, located 1 kilometer away. There, also, the struggle went very harsh and casualties in men were tremendous. It appears nowadays, that as a result of the intensity and the violence of the enemy fire on this deadly causeway, it is incredible that any men arrived alive at this point
“That night, after dark, OLSON was ordered to cross the causeway again and locate the leading elements of the 90th I.D. and to lead them across the crossing.” (From Bud OLSON’s personal notes). The next day, June 10 at day break, the 2nd Battalion of the 357th Regiment of the 90th I. D. arriving from Utah Beach, went across La Fière causeway and relieved the paratroopers. The 507th PIR was going to reorganize itself in the back. Only the 325th GIR would stay awhile on the heels of 90th I.D. which held Motey.
The 82th Airborne Division’s first mission was accomplished !
This causeway, conquered with such struggle, was going to serve as a spring board for the American troops of the 7 th Army Corps of Gen. Lawton COLLINS. On June 18, at
05H00, Co. K of the 3rd Battalion of the 60th Infantry Regiment, of the 90th I.D. of Gen. Manton EDDY, reached, in two points, the Cotentin West Coast.
The Americans succeeded in cutting off the Cotentin Peninsula
Gourbesville 6 – 15 June 1944
Like many French villages during the German Occupation, Gourbesville had troops garrisoned in houses at various times. The 91st LuftLanding Division’s 191st Medical Detachment had set up an Aid Station at the local school. On 6 June 1944 at 0220 hours, Gourbesville saw the night’s sky filled with descending paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division. The tail end of an I Company 508th PIR stick dropped into the village proper. The first part of this stick had landed to the west, in the St. Sauveur-le-Vicomte area.
Local stories have been passed through the generations, and they recount various bits of information of things that happened during those days of war in Gourbesville. In 2006, upon deciding to construct a memorial in honor of the soldiers who died there during the “Battle of Gourbesville”, questions arose about the plaque in the churchyard giving particular honor to one named James R. Hattrick. No one knows who made the plaque and placed it there, or why Hattrick was singled out. With recent research, the receipt of U. S. Archives documents, and the retelling of the old stories, the following is what they think occurred.
“Private James R. Hattrick of the 508th PIR touched down on the grounds of the castle in Gourbesville. (See the illustrated map.) Hattrick, who was the I Company Clerk, hid in a woodpile and started sniping at the Germans. The German Commander was under the impression that it was a local citizen shooting at his men. He summoned Mayor Delaune and told him that if the sniping did not stop, he would have the Mayor executed. At that moment, Hattrick shot the German Commander. Within a few minutes, the Germans spotted Hattrick’s location and opened fire on the woodpile. Hattrick sustained a fatal head wound and was taken to the German Aid Station where he died. Hattrick was buried in the Gourbesville churchyard in grave 4 on the northeast side of the church. This information was reported by the German doctor (see the illustrated German Death Certificate). Hattrick’s body was retrieved on 28 June 1944 and reburied in the U. S. Military Cemetery Ste. Mère-Eglise No. 2
by the 603rd Graves Registration Company. He was buried in Plot F, Row 4, grave 67. In
1948, Hattrick’s body was sent home for burial in Charlotte, North Carolina. As for the plaque… the best guess is that Mayor Delaune had it made and placed it there!”
Private First Class R. B. Lewellen, an I Company rifleman of the 508th PIR, jumped just behind his friend, Private James R. Hattrick. Lewellen touched down in a field by the crossroads on the outskirts of the village, and quickly assembled his rifle. (See the illustrated map.) He spotted three Germans walking in his direction and opened fire, wounding one. The Germans returned fire which shattered the stock of Lewellen’s rifle, and as a result, severely damaged his left hand. While trying to escape across the field, he was wounded in the left leg, and was eventually captured. Lewellen was taken to the German Aid Station where the doctor told him he would have to amputate his left hand. When Lewellen awoke from surgery, his hand was gone and his leg had been treated. Lewellen now had company at the German Aid Station, a Major from the 82nd Airborne. They were moved out together, deeper into the interior of France. Then they were separated.
Major Gordon K. Smith, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment S-4 (Supply Officer), landed northeast of Gourbesville on the east bank of the Merderet River at 0240 hours. Major Smith was only able to locate one man from his stick, Sergeant Harmon Walters. They set out to cross the river to reach the village of Amfreville. They had overshot drop zone T by more than 3 kilometres. Smith and Walters picked up 8 more men while moving north looking for a suitable river crossing. They found one at la Gare, the train station west of Fresville and 5 kilometres to the northwest of Ste. Mère-Eglise. Major Smith’s mission was to establish the Regimental Supply Depot in the Amfreville area. After crossing at la Gare, they left the road and entered an apple orchard where they came under enemy fire. Smith was hit in the right arm and side. Sergeant Harmon and the other paratroopers administered first aid, but were ordered by Major Smith to leave him behind. The Germans captured Smith a short time later. He was taken to the German Aid Station at Gourbesville on a cart by a local farmer. After waking from his surgery, he found that he was in the same room with a Corporal from the 508th PIR who had lost a hand. The German doctor spoke flawless English. He explained to Major Smith that he had performed surgery on the Corporal so that it would be easy to attach a prosthetic device to the arm. The doctor further explained to Smith that he had been a POW in Africa, and the Americans had allowed him to treat wounded German POWs. The German had vowed from that time on to treat American prisoners as he had been treated.
In the following days, the Americans made headway to the North. But, they were stopped at La Fière causeway by the 91st LuftLanding’s 1057th Regiment on the west bank. On 9 June, the 82nd Airborne broke through the German stranglehold on the west end of La Fière causeway. This set the stage for the 90th Infantry’s 357th Infantry Regiment to attack the next morning. At 0545 hours on 10 June, the 357th attacked with the 3rd Battalion, followed by the 2nd Battalion, and the 1st Battalion trailing in reserve. The 357th suffered only light casualties across La Fière causeway while moving through the 82nd Airborne. The 3rd Battalion was on the right flank of the line, and the 2nd Battalion on the left. The attack stalled outside of les Landes at 1240 hours when the 2nd Battalion came under heavy fire. At 1530 hours, A Company 1st Battalion was called up in support of 2nd Battalion. The 1st Battalion was called up later to relieve the 2nd Battalion.
On 11 June 0800 hours, the attack resumed with the 3rd Battalion gaining, then losing, 800 yards. At 1800 hours, another attack was launched with C Company making a wide sweep on the left flank. For this attack, E and G Companies were attached to the 3rd Battalion and F was attached to the 1st Battalion. C Company reached the road running through les Landes, but was stopped. On 12 June at 0900 hours, the attack resumed, but no ground was gained. At 1345 hours, a second attack was launched with two platoons of medium tanks in support. But they failed to gain ground when the 2nd Battalion was stopped.
On 13 June, Colonel John W. Sheehy assumed command of the 357th Infantry Regiment. At 0700 hours, the attack resumed again with the 1st Battalion on the left, the 2nd Battalion on the right, and the 3rd Battalion held in reserve. They reached the Amfreville-Gourbesville road and turned towards the northwest, but the attack halted due to darkness. Early morning 14 June, the first direct assault on Gourbesville was planned. A bombing mission was called for at 1400 hours, but was delayed, and then cancelled at 1700 hours. A Company of the 315th Engineers was attached to the 3rd Battalion during the afternoon. The attack finally began at 1930 hours, and it reached the town of Gourbesville with the 3rd Battalion in the lead. The Germans counter attacked and the 357th was driven out.
On 15 June at 0700 hours, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 357th Infantry Regiment were pulled back into the Amfreville area into defensive positions. At 2115 hours, the 3rd Battalion was ordered to renew their attack. At 2315 hours, word was sent back to 90th Division Headquarters that Gourbesville had fallen to the 3rd Battalion of the 357th Infantry Regiment.
The village of Gourbesville had been liberated.
Credits to Jean-Baptiste “Bobby” Feuillye , Brian Siddall, R. B. Lewellen, Gordon K. Smith,
Mme Bernadette Delaune, Ellen Peters, U. S. Archives, Richard O’Donnell, Association U. S. Normandie, Mayor Maurice Gidon and the residents of Gourbesville.
Hémevez Massacre – 6 June 1944
The 303rd Squadron, part of the 442nd Troop Carrier Group, was based at Fulbeck (ENGLAND). It was one of the units that carried the US Airborne troops to Cotentin during the night of 6 June 1944. At 0019 hours, C-47 #42-92382 with chalk number 17, as well as 44 others of serial #26, took off from ENGLAND heading for NORMANDY. The planned Drop Zone was DZ “T” located at 49°25′ north, 1°22′ west. It was near the village of Le HAM. At 0244 hours, plane #17 dropped its stick of paratroopers. They were part of Headquarters 1st Battalion of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne. Fourteen men jumped. The fifteenth man, Private Tress B. BALCH, stayed on board because his reserve chute accidentally opened.
Private Ashton J. LANDRY made a mistake that almost cost him his life. Right after landing, he climbed a hill exposing himself. He was shot in the leg by a patrolling German soldier. Quick to react, Private LANDRY eliminated him with a burst from his Tommy Gun. He fixed himself up and then tried to locate his comrades. He met two of them, then soon found the rest of the team, including 2nd Lieutenant Robert W. SHUTT. Thirteen of them regrouped. The fourteenth, Corporal Fred G. WONDELL, was badly wounded with a broken pelvis. They patched him up and hid him in a nearby shelter. He eventually recovered and returned to the States.
This paratrooper drop was aligned with the railway line Cherbourg/Paris over the town of HÉMEVEZ at “la Chasse à Genêts”. Looking for information, 1st Lieutenant SHUTT sent Private LANDRY, who spoke French, on patrol with Private First Class Charles R. WRIGHT and Private First Class Paul D. MOORE. The nearest farm was called “le CASTEL” (owned by Mme. CACHET). They entered it with difficulty to find the inhabitants both happy and frightened. A German patrol usually passed by at this hour of the morning. One of the young girls lead them to the stables were they remained hidden. Like Private LANDRY said, “thanks to the German army for equipping their soldiers with those heavy hobnail boots!”.
After leaving this place, they heard a fire fight with rifles and machineguns. A while later, they saw seven of their comrades captured. Their hands were on their necks, they were freed of their belts, and they were lined up in front of a machinegun. LANDRY recognized two of his best friends, Private First Class Daniel B. TILLMAN and Private Robert G. WATSON. Moving from shelter to shelter, they remained hidden in recent bomb craters. They were supplied by two young girls. Unfortunately, they were discovered by German soldiers and taken captive.
Locked up in a building, they joined about twenty other American prisoners. Private LANDRY noticed that they were guarded by only one soldier. After observing the guard pattern, he escaped with two of his comrades. Having been detained for only one hour, they used the night to leave the place.
Along the way, they came across a crashed glider and dead soldiers lying around. They recovered weapons and K rations. While foraging the place, Private First Class WRIGHT was hit by enemy fire. They gave him first aid immediately and he was able to continue fleeing the area, which was still occupied by the Germans.
Six days after landing, they finally reached the lines of the 82nd Airborne, 505th PIR and were interrogated by General GAVIN at his headquarters. On 6 February 1945, Private Ashton LANDRY was summoned to Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) in Versailles to complete the investigations of the HÉMEVEZ atrocities.
* * * Research * * *
This research started in June 1994. Henri THIEBOT attended a ceremony of the 507th PIR at GRAIGNES, another place of a massacre. A veteran, of French origin and from this regiment, opened the conversation. He explained that he witnessed a killing on 6 June 1944, but could not identify the exact place. He said that it was about 30 kilometers north of GRAIGNES. After investigation in the vicinity of Le HAM, THIEBOT found the exact spot of this tragedy in HÉMEVEZ.
In 1997, Michel GAUDRY picked up the investigation with Henri THIEBOT. He corresponded via mail and telephone with Ashton LANDRY. As a result, the circumstances of the massacre were finally known, as well as the names of the victims. Sadly, Ashton LANDRY passed away in 2003. It was not until early June 2004 that all of these revelations were confirmed.
(Note : In June 1944, Pierre RENAULT witnessed the scene. In the afternoon, a German went to the home of the mayor’s assistant, Emile LAINÉ, to announce the presence of the bodies. Ernest MOUCHEL and Ernest ESNOUF, with assistance from Roland ROBIOLE and Jeanne LEQUERTIER, citizens of the village, buried the seven bodies in the churchyard cemetery. Twenty days later, LAINÉ assisted the American investigators as they exhumed the seven bodies. They carefully examined the bodies to determine the circumstances of their executions while filming the process. This evidence could be useful in a war crimes trial later. HÉMEVEZ was liberated 17 June 1944. In 2004, the people of HÉMEVEZ erected a granite headstone to honour the seven paratroopers who were buried in a mass grave at that very spot in June 1944. Philippe ROUXEL, honorary mayor of the
community, organized a ceremony. A number of 507th PIR veterans returned to Normandy in June to attend that ceremony at the church graveyard, and to pay tribute to their fallen comrades.
© Michel Gaudry for http://www.6juin1944.com (2004).
Permission granted to the Association U. S. Normandie (2008). Assistance by Brian Siddall.
Photos furnished by the Landry family, Michel Gaudry, and U. S. Army Archives.
C-47 Crash at Négreville
This is the story of one aircraft, out of over 800 C-47s, that linked in a Sky Train for the invasion of Normandy. The transport units of the Ninth Air Force of the US Army, including the 61st Troop Carrier Group, flew out of Barkston Heath Airfield in eastern England during the night of 5 June 1944. This destined aircraft belonged to the 14th Troop Carrier Squadron, and was identified as chalk number 31, tail number 42-23638. On board was an aircrew of five. They carried a stick of nineteen paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division, Company F mortar platoon, of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The jumpmaster was 1st Lieutenant Walter “Chris” Heisler. This is also their fateful story!
Around 0220 hours on 6 June, the pilot Lt. William Hitztaler crossed over the western French coast at Point du Rozel, bound for Amfreville, drop zone “T”. To make this drop, the airplane had to descend to an altitude of 700 feet (210 meters). During its descent over the coastline, the C-47 was hit by flak, wounding paratrooper Private Donn Cummings. A short while later in the crew cabin, the radio operator Staff Sergeant Orlo Montgomery fell to the floor, mortally wounded. In the next few moments, they came under intense ground fire, wounding paratrooper Private Charles “Slim” Stout. The paratroopers were already standing up, ready to jump. (Cummings information from Brian Siddall’s story “Over and Out” © 2009.)
“…..someone in the back of the plane shouted, ‘Stout has been hit!’ Stout was the fourth man back, and I stepped back to look at him. I could not see if he had been hit or perhaps fainted ….I immediately gave the order to unhook him and lay him in the bucket seat. The men had barely laid him down when someone shouted, “The green light is on, Lieutenant. I took one look at him and the static lines and shouted, ‘Geronimo-let’s go” and jumped.” (Excerpt from Walter Chris Heisler’s “In Their Own Words”.)
“Coming in over the coast, we received machine gun fire. Then, we hit low clouds or heavy smoke. Trying to follow Captain Harruff, leader of the first flight, we pulled up and then down through the clouds, veering to right slightly, so as not to run into them. I could not find them upon emerging (.….). In approaching the DZ, our A/C encountered flak fire, which hit toward the rear and the tail. (…..). I gave the green light at the proper time, just short of the river. (…..). We started climbing and went up to 3000 feet going out. The plane seemed to be flying okay, but on turning north, the A/C began veering to the left. The vertical controls were all right, but the rudder control was jammed. I decided not to ditch the A/C, because I believed that the dinghies had been shot full of holes, since we had received fire in the tail, (…..). As I neared the coast, four searchlight batteries picked me up. I then began receiving accurate and intense light flak and machinegun fire. I tried to get into the clouds at 1500 feet, succeeding in losing the searchlights, but the A/C continued receiving flak. I tried to gain altitude, but at this time the instrument panel and part of the controls were shot away by a light flak burst. At 2600 feet, I gave the order to bail out at 0315 hours (..…).”
(The personal account by the pilot 1st Lieutenant William Hitztaler to the U. S. Army Air Corps, 22 June 1944.)
The four airmen landed in the Négreville countryside. The navigator and the pilot survived two weeks in hiding before rejoining the American lines, and then were quickly returned to their unit. Co-pilot 2nd Lieutenant Stanley Edwards, Jr. and crew chief Staff Sergeant Alvin Vezina were not that lucky. They were captured. In a POW enclosure outside Montebourg, they met up with some of the paratroopers who had been aboard their plane! Five of those who escaped capture found their fates in Normandy.
Abandoned by its crew, C-47 no. 42-23638 crashed at Rouville hamlet. “According to the owner of the property, M. Lecoquierre, the aircraft crashed at approximately 0230 hours on a section of his land known as ‘Le Clos Neuf ’. The aircraft exploded and burned upon crashing. Disintegrated remains were found scattered around the wreckage. The remains were collected and buried in an apple orchard approximately 50 meters from the crash point by M. Lemarotel and M. Pigol. Remains were removed by an American unit a few weeks later. The remains of Stout were identified (…..). Other remains of a second body were not identified. They were later reburied as Unknown X-153 Ste. Mère-Eglise No. 2”. Again, this body was transferred to the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer at Plot A, Row 3, Grave 18. Staff Sergeant Orlo Montgomery is listed on the “Wall of the Missing”. The process of identifying what is believed to be his remains began in May 2007. Private Charles George Stout was later interred at the Ste. Mère-Eglise Cemetery No. 2. He was finally interred at the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer in Plot B, Row 7, Grave
- (Extracts from the “Headquarters, American Graves Registration Command,
European Area (U. S. Army), Registration Division, Narrative of Investigation” , investigator H. A. Schaefer, dated 10 Jan. 1950.)
Today, a surviving witness of that plane is Walter Chris Heisler. He says “The only thing I could see was a house about 200 yards away. There was no one in sight, and I did not know which way the plane had gone. I got out my compass and started off in the direction that I thought the plane was going. I desperately searched until daybreak to find my men…..” He says that he traveled by night and never saw another American, only Germans! He remembers crossing over a heavily traveled road in order to continue toward the sound that he thought was the shore bombardment (due east). He crawled, walked, fought, and hid for three days before being captured on the evening of June 8. “The next thing I can remember is being stripped naked in the corner of a little village just beyond the corner of the field where I was captured. I have never been as embarrassed in my life as I was that day when I saw many girls, women and men watching me from their porches and windows.” In June 2006, with help, Heisler found this place. It was in Amfreville at the guardhouse of the castle (now known as the Grey Castle), where he was interrogated and held for a few days before being transferred to a POW camp in Poland, and later Germany. He found out the fate of his plane in 1999! Now, he also knows where he was captured and interrogated! (Brian Siddall’s recent research, as adduced in his story “Over and Out” ©
2009, cites that the best estimate is that Heisler touched down near Ste. Colombe, about eight miles west of drop zone “T”!
During research enquiries, Michel Rose, Patrick Delahaye and the association ‘Research and Aeronautic History in Cotentin’ (now dissolved) learned that local people had buried the body of the radio operator of an American airplane in the surroundings of Négreville around 6 June 1944. They had already recorded the crash point of a C-47 in Négreville, at Rouville hamlet. They cross checked these facts. Eyewitnesses living in Rouville clearly described that it was a troop carrier airplane and that two bodies had been recovered from that area. At that time, their documents were not complete enough to identify the crew and its passengers. Later, they obtained the manifest of the C-47 that fell during the night of 6 June
They focused their research on the aircraft No. 42-23638. Another pilot reported last seeing that airplane near Pointe du Rozel. In 1993, they began to search the ground carefully. They needed solid proof that the C-47 that crashed at Rouville was the plane that 1st Lieutenant Hitztaler piloted. After ten months of research, and many disappointments, in 1994 they found a plaque in a hedgerow which bore the serial number of the aircraft AC 42-23638. There was no longer any doubt!
In order to find possible survivors of this airplane, the associations ‘Research and Aeronautic History in Cotentin’ and ‘Historical Circle U.S. Airborne’ worked together to determine who the surviving occupants of that airplane were. As a result, 507th PIR veterans
1st Lieutenant Walter Chris Heisler and Staff Sergeant Carl Letson returned to Normandy to the site of that crash on 7 June 1999 to attend the inauguration of a monument, laid by the researchers, at the site of the crash. The town hall of Négreville assisted with a ceremony in their honor.
In 2008, residents of Brisset Hamlet near Rouville found part of an airplane wing while cleaning out their barn. After the ceremony in June at the C-47 crash site, a gathering including Heisler went to see that wing. At the time, it was thought possible to be from Heisler’s plane. In early 2009, Michel Rose confirmed that the part number positively identifies it to be from Heisler’s plane!
Each year, since June 1999, Walter Chris Heisler has faithfully returned to Négreville to represent and to honor his fallen comrades. In June 2007, he was named “Citizen of Honor” of Négreville, and the town center was named in his honor.
Many thanks to Walter « Chris » Heisler for his dedication !!!
Credits not noted above : Michel Rose, Mickaël Simon, and ‘Research and Aeronautic History in Cotentin’ (dissolved) for research, discovery of the C-47 identifying part, memorial at the crash site, and photos ; Brian Siddall collection WWII photos of Stout, Montgomery, Heisler ;
Daniel Briard collection WWII photo of Letson ; Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) No. 6139 ; Association U. S. Normandie « mémoire et gratitude » ; Mayor Yves Langlois and the town of Négreville.
Father Ignatius Maternowski Captain 508th PIR, 82nd Airborne Division Killed here 6 June 1944
Gueutteville hamlet is located 2 km northeast of Picauville. In 1944, around 80 people lived here. Like today, it was made up of a principal road bordered by houses and some agricultural fields. The only commercial business was the combined café-grocery owned by the Jules Thouroude family. The upper part of the hamlet is situated west towards the village of Picauville and the lower part east towards Caponnet, where “Hill 30” is now found.
In April 1944, a German company of the 1057th Infantry Regiment of the 91st Division occupied this hamlet. German soldiers composed this unit along with Georgians and Mongols, who were dressed in German uniforms. On their sleeves they wore insignias of their own respective countries. This company did not have much in the way of transportation. Principally, they used horse-driven carts. The German Command Post was located on a large farm in the upper part of the hamlet, known as the Bernaville Castle. See the photo “partie haute”. The German officers and enlisted men lived in the homes of the local people that they requisitioned.
During the night 5-6 June 1944, a large number of U.S. paratroopers touched down here. They were of the 508th PIR, 82nd Airborne Division. Their intended DZ “N” was actually north of Picauville. A glider crashed near, outside of its intended landing zone “E”.
In the middle of the night, U.S. soldiers knocked on the door of the Thouroude family home café- grocery, attempting to get their bearings, so they could move toward their objectives. U. S. medics brought wounded or dead paratroopers and glider men into Thouroude’s café-grocery. The residence and small business quickly became a first aid station. U.S. soldiers placed ammunition crates and three long-distance radio sets in the café-grocery. Among these U.S. soldiers was a Catholic Chaplain of the 508th PIR, Captain Ignatius P. Maternowski. *
In addition to religious insignias that he wore on his jacket collar, Maternowski wore a Red Cross armband on his left sleeve, same as doctors, nurses, and U.S. Army Medics. Realising Thouroude’s café-grocery would soon run out of space due to the continual flow of arriving wounded, Maternowski searched to find a suitable structure to shelter the wounded. He was walking alone with a bare head, wearing his helmet on his belt, in the lower sector of the hamlet. That morning Maternowski insisted upon meeting the German Medic in charge in hopes to combine their wounded together. Mr. Jules Thouroude tried to discourage him, but in vain! Maternowski realized that his plan was risky. He left his case, containing various religious ceremonial items, in the custody of Thouroude.
Walking briskly and with determination, Maternowski went to meet his German counterpart. To the surprise of the people of Gueutteville, Maternowski returned to the café-grocery accompanied by the German Major, so that he could see for himself the plight of the wounded U.S. soldiers. The German Major certainly would have made note of the stockpile of munitions and radio equipment in the café-grocery. After this quick visit, one can suppose that Maternowski, full of humanity and compassion, escorted the German Major back to the upper part of the hamlet. Upon his return, about midway through the hamlet, a gun shot sounded at his back, reportedly fired from one of the houses. Maternowski fell to the ground with his head laying on the edge of the ditch. He was killed by a bullet shot anonymously. Curiously, the Germans forbade anyone to remove his body. Maternowski’s body lay for three days where he had been shot …. just to the left of this information panel.
On 9 June U.S. soldiers of the 90th Infantry Division, arriving from Utah Beach, found and recovered Maternowski’s body. At the beginning of the afternoon on 6 June, the Germans began an attack on the U.S. paratroopers beginning at the upper part of the hamlet, and also, attacking from the east, along the road to Carponnet. A German-manned tank halted in front of the café- grocery and fired. Its blasts caused the roof and walls to collapse on the medics and the wounded.
It was 24 hours later that the Germans authorized the village residents to remove the wounded and carry them in carts to the mill Ebecquigneul. The wounded joined the captured paratroopers who were locked in the stables. Many of the wounded and dying were stuck under the ruins of the café- grocery and could not be saved.
The U.S. military morning report dated 26 June 1944 notes that Captain Ignatius P. Maternowski (Chaplain) 0-480972 was missing in action as of 6 June 1944. However, the morning report transmitted 29 June 1944 to the 508th PIR Headquarters stated that he was killed in action 13 June 1944. (Note : Often, if the actual date of death was unknown to the U.S. Graves Registration units, they typically recorded the date they recovered a body. Hence 13 June 44 reflects when the body was removed to a local cemetery, and the apparent confusion of the date of his death. This is not uncommon.) The residents of Gueutteville hamlet are certain that Maternowski was killed on the early morning 6 June 1944. Therefore, this story is based primarily upon testimony of the residents of Gueutteville. This account has been cross-referenced and thoroughly researched. Some of the eye witnesses to the killing of Maternowski still live in Gueutteville.
* * * Background * * *
Frank P. Maternowski was born on March 28, 1912 in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He graduated in 1931 from St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, New York. He followed with training for the priesthood and eventual practice in the Order of Friars Minor Conventual Franciscans, members of a worldwide Roman Catholic fraternity founded by St. Francis of Assisi. He was ordained Father Ignatious P. Maternowski. With the outbreak of WWII, he requested and received permission to enter the U.S. Army in 1942 as a military chaplain. During his training, he went through the same rigorous routine as the combat paratroopers, completing the required number of jumps, including a night jump under combat-like conditions, before winning his wings.
At the age of 32 years, Maternowski lost his life in Normandy after serving his country for 23 months. Following his death, his body was eventually returned to rest in Mater Dolorosa Cemetery, South Hadley, Massachusetts (Friars’ Plot, No. 3). In 1945, St. Francis High School established an annual athletic award in honor of Father Maternowski.
In 2010, Lieutenant Colonel Kelly Carrigg (retired) began her new career as a French teacher at this school. She saw the commemorative plaque just outside the chapel. As a result of her inquiries, they led her right back to Normandy. In June 2009, she represented the DeGlopper family and VFW Post #9249 for the inauguration of the Pfc. Charles N. DeGlopper Honor Information Panel, created by the “Association U. S. Normandie”, of which she is an Honorary member. Now she returns to this same area and association to honor the memory of this noble soldier and man of God.
This information panel has been created to pay tribute to Father Maternowski, as well as to his brothers of arms, who sacrificed their lives to liberate the French from the grip of Nazi Occupation. May he rest in peace, and his memory endure the ages of time!