For the third time I am writing to get in touch with you by letter.
I hope that it will reach you. Some time ago when I left the 6th
Group, I arrived by way of Gardeleben in Wittstock where I made
my ten jumps. Then I came to my regiment in France and to my company.
We were stationed in Brittany, near Brest. When the invasion started
we moved out approximately 30-40 km daily, but only at night. During
the day American fighter-bombers controlled the area. Then were
put into line east of St. Lo, approximately 5 km. Away from the
town. When we were committed our company strength was 170. Then
the 11, July arrived and the most terrible and gruesome day of my
life. At 0300 our company sector got such a dense hail of artillery
and mortar fire, that we thought the world was coming to an end.
In addition to that, the rumbling of motors and rattling could be
heard in the enemy lines - tanks. It scared the pants off us. We
could expect a very juicy attack. If we thought that the artillery
fire had reached it's climax, we were disillusioned at 0530. At
that time a tremendous firing started which continued to 0615. Then
tanks arrived. The movement of tanks, however, is somewhat difficult
here in Normandy. As we at home have our fields fenced in by wire
and wooden fences, so the fields over here are lined with hedgerows.
They are about five feet high, and have the same thickness. These
hedgerows are winding crisscross through the terrain. We dig in
behind these walls and the Americans do the same. It is a regular
Well on that 11 July the tanks were rolling toward us. They shot
with their guns through the hedgerows as though cake dough. Sharpshooters
gave us a lot of trouble. You must know however, that the Americans
are using H.E. ammunition, which tears terrible wounds. Around 1000
the order came to withdraw, as the position could not be held. I
had one wounded in my MG position. When I wanted to get him in position
with the help of someone else, a shell landed 2 yards away from
us. The wounded fellow got another piece of shrapnel in his side,
and the other fellow also was wounded. I however did not get one
single piece of shrapnel. Anyway, on that day I escaped death just
by a few seconds a hundred times. A piece of shrapnel penetrated
through the leather strap of my MG and was thus diverted from my
chest. In this way I could name many instances.
At 1135 I left the platoon sector as last man. Carried my MG through
the enemy lines into a slightly more protected defile and crept
back again with another fellow to get the wounded. It was time to
get them, for tanks were moving 30 yards from us.
On our way back we were covered again with terrific artillery fire.
We were just lying in an open area. Every moment, I expected deadly
shrapnel. At that moment I lost my nerves. The others acted just
like me. When one hears for hours the whining, whistling and bursting
of shells and the moaning and groaning of the wounded, one does
not feel too well. Altogether it was Hell.
Our company has only 30 men left. In the meantime it was reorganized
to a certain extent. We are now located in a somewhat more quiet
sector, i.e., what we call quiet. We are expecting a new attack
supported by tanks today or tomorrow.
I have been recommended for the Air Force Ground Fighting Badge,
on account of the hand-to-hand fighting on 11th and 12th of July.
Now I would like to finish this letter. I gave you sufficient reading
material, I guess. Hope to hear from you soon.
Best Regards -
Your friend, Helmut.
(Contributed by Maurice Higginbotham)