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Seven Days in June ©

(Saint-Georges-de-Bohon to Graignes)

 

The Norman village of Graignes sits high atop a hill 5 miles southeast of Carentan.  This French farming community is bordered on three sides by water, the Taute River to the west, and the Viere-Taute Canal to the north and east.  Like many villages, this one was dominated by the local Catholic Church, which could be seen for miles.  The lowlands surrounding Graignes were often flooded, so local farmers had to make their way by boat through their fields. 

The only dry passage was from the south.  The Canal to the north was spanned by the Le Port des Planques Bridge that led to Carentan.  Though Graignes was the key to the Taute River Valley, it had no German presence on D-Day.  Just an occasional German patrol was sent to take supplies from the villagers.  The village did not figure in the early stages of the Normandy Invasion, not even appearing on American Military maps for the initial invasion.  Yet it became one of the more tragic dramas early in the Normandy campaign. 

The focus on Graignes was centered on the execution of the Medical personnel and the wounded paratroopers under their care.  The scope of this article is larger than that occurred in and around the Graignes.  The 101st Airborne dropped to the northwest across the flooded area in Saint-Georges-de-Bohon; the 29th Infantry Division was bloodied at Montmartin-en-Graignes to the northeast of Graignes.

            A brief explanation of military terminology is needed to better understand the following accounts.  A glossary will be found at the end of this narrative.

 

So It Begins…


            Saint-Georges-de-Bohon and Graignes saw their first Americans at 0130 hours 6 June 1944.  They were the men of the 101st Airborne Division’s 1st Battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment.  They were a part of Serials 13 & 14 out of Merryfield, England.  Author George Koskimaki had written about the men who landed near Saint-Georges-de-Bohon.  The author has conducted further interviews with the men who landed there 6 June using after action reports and maps from the book Rendezvous with Destiny the 101st Airborne.  Accounts given to Koskimaki add to the mosaic for the events in this article. 

The first Americans to land south of Carentan actually came down in the village of Raffoville, two and a half miles west of Saint-Georges-de-Bohon.   A stick of Company H Chalk #32 from Serial 13 landed in this area about 10 minutes before Chalk #13 from Serial 14 landed.  Chalk #13 landed in and around this village and consisted of men from Headquarters Company 1st Battalion 501st Parachute Infantry.  Two of the men in this stick were the S-2 (Intelligence) Officer of the 501st First Lieutenant Seale and Private Chester Brooks.  Brooks and a group of 10 men assembled within a short time.  They were greeted by a local member of the underground Jean Capiten, who led them towards the village of Sainteny, which lies south of Raffoville.[1]    

The reception at Saint-Georges-de-Bohon was decidedly less friendly than Raffoville.  Saint-Georges-de-Bohon was the very picture of a Norman village.  The Church was located on elevated land one mile to the west of the village, making it visible for a good distance.  Saint-Georges-de-Bohon sits 3.6 miles southwest of Carentan.  Normally an out of the way Norman village, Saint-Georges-de-Bohon was home to the 12. Kp. III. Btl. Fallschirmjaeger Regiment 6, German Paratroopers (12th Company of the 3rd Battalion).[2]  The 6th Fallschirmjaeger was the base of the German defense in Normandy.  They would move up the first day and engage the 101st to the north of Carentan.  Yet their first combat against the 101st was at Saint-Georges-de-Bohon.  This is an overlooked fact in the Normandy Campaign.

The second element of Serial 14 planes 4, 5 and 6 dropped their three sticks just east of the village of Saint-Georges-de-Bohon.[3]  The sticks were 101st Airborne Division from Headquarters Company 1st Battalion 501st Parachute Infantry.  Among those in the sticks were the Battalion Executive Officer Major Phillip Gage,[4] Battalion Plans and Operations Officer (S-3) Captain Thomas A. Chastant,[5] Battalion Supply Officer (S-4) First Lieutenant Newt Holt and the Commanding Officer of Headquarters Company 1st Battalion Captain John W. Simmons.[6]  The two Battalion Surgeons, Captain Robert Blatherwick and Assistant Battalion Surgeon 1st Lieutenant Thomas U. Johnson were also part of this group.[7]  The rest of the sticks were comprised of men from the Communications Platoon, Intelligence (S-2) Section, S-3 and Battalion Aid Station.

Five other 501st planes dropped in the area of chalks 4, 5 and 6 as well.  Chalk 20 Lieutenant Bowser’s stick from Company C 501 landed northwest of Saint-Georges-de-Bohon.  The lead jumper from Chalk 14, Captain Phillips of Company C, landed by Bowser’s stick and Chalk 23 First Lieutenant Edwin B. Hutchison Jr.’s stick from Company B 501 landed in this vicinity as well.  Captain William Paty and First Sergeant Wilburn Ammons from Chalks 31 and 33 from Company A 501st landed around the church outside of Saint-Georges-de-Bohon.[8] 

Sergeant Austin Johnson the First Battalion Message Center Chief was part of the 4, 5 and 6 group and related what happened in his plane just before the jump.  “My stick contained a Medic Reynolds [Robert J.] the lead jumper, number 2 man I don’t remember, the third man is Elliott [William K.] a communications man. Behind them were Jack Parr, myself and James Carpenter, who was directly behind me.  Carpenter was a Sergeant in the S-2 Section.  I don’t remember the order of any of the men behind Carpenter, but I knew that Earl Tyndall, another communication's man as well as Captain Chastant the Battalion S-3 and Lieutenant Daniels [John T.] the assistant S-2 officer were in my stick as well as Lieutenant Johnson one of the Battalion Surgeons.  I believe Chastant jumped last, Chastant always jumped the stick in training, but while getting ready for the Normandy jump decided to go last”.

Staff Sergeant Robert Reynolds jumped Austin Johnson’s stick.  He was a Sergeant for the 1st Battalion Aid Station and related his perspective on this plane.  “I was the lead jumper in this stick.  My job was to push out the door bundles, then lead the stick out the door.  When the time came I pushed out the bundles and Abbott Webber a Headquarters Medic followed me who jumped third.  I can’t remember the name of the man who jumped second.  Behind Webber was Elliott a man from communications”.[9]

Major Gage, a West Point graduate, was the Executive Officer for the 1st Battalion 501st Parachute.  Gage was wounded soon after landing and was taken to the church at Saint-Georges-de-Bohon.  Here is Gage’s account.  “I moved out looking for other men from my stick when after a short time I came across a German position.  I opened fire, and I was hit in the hand by return fire.  The hand had to be amputated later while I was a prisoner.  This ended my career in the military”.[10]

Staff Sergeant Matthew Wnorowski and Medic Private First Class Edmund W. Hock found each other on the ground.  They were also part of the Chalk 4, 5 and 6 grouping.  Early in the morning they stumbled into a German Machine Gun position.  Wnorowski was wounded, and Hock was killed in this firefight.  Staff Sergeant Wnorowski was eventually taken to St. Lo where he saw Major Gage.[11]   

Austin Johnson continues his account “The man in front of me was Jack Parr from the Communications Platoon who jumped fourth in the stick.  He was hit right before he jumped and fell down in the door.  I helped him to his feet and asked if he wanted to be unhooked.  He said he was all right and could jump.  The delay was about 30 seconds from the number three man to when Jack jumped.  I went out right behind him with Carpenter right on my heels.  After getting out of my chute, I found Carpenter right away.  We didn’t see anyone else until after our capture”.

Another member of the 4, 5 and 6 group is Private First Class Robert I. Wickham a scout from the S-2 Section. He gives his account of his first hours on the ground.  “I came down in a flooded area, but landed in the only dry spot.  The first man on the ground I found was Tyndall [Corporal Earl M., Jr.] from the Communications Platoon.  Then shortly after that we got together with Captain Chastant.  We heard a bugle and thought we should go towards the sound, as the Battalion has supposed to assemble on a bugle call.  Chastant said no, that these were Germans, and he later turns out to be correct.  We started moving through the swamp and came to a hedgerow and a farmer's path.  When I crossed the road I saw a German, the German said something to me from a distance, and I grunted a reply.  The German realized that the reply came from an American, so he took off.  Chastant said to wait there, and he went to the end of the hedgerow.  We heard Chastant firing his weapon, then a German machine gun, then silence.  We figured Chastant was dead, so Tyndall and I moved out”.[12]

Captain Robert H. Phillips the Commander of Company C 501st Parachute also lands in this area.  Phillips gathered a group of men from other sticks and began working their way back while ambushing Germans.  Phillips group would pick up more men from Lieutenant Bowser’s Company C Chalk 20.  Phillips also picked up 1st Lieutenant, Edwin B. Hutchison Jr. from Company B 501st Parachute. 

Private First Class Robert R. Harwell was a member of Company C 501st Parachute and a part of Captain Phillips stick.  He gave the following account “I was in the 1st Platoon Mortar Squad.  My Sergeant was Mickelson [Paul R.]; I was first gunner, McWilliams [Herbert] was second gunner and Lindley [Floyd W] was the ammo bearer.  I was in Captain Phillips stick which contained men from Company C 1st Platoon and the Headquarters group of our Company.  Captain Phillips was the lead jumper in our stick.  He was to push one bundle, and I was responsible for pushing out the second bundle.  The first bundle’s chute fouled which held up Phillips.  After pushing the bundle out, Phillips jumped, and I pushed the second bundle out, which got stuck in the door.  It took some time to get it out of the doorway.  The rest of the stick followed me out.  The opening shock was bad as the plane was flying extremely fast”.

Harwell continues “On the ground the rest of our stick joined up with Headquarters First Battalion Commander Captain Simmons and a group from Headquarters Company First Battalion.  The men who become part of Simmons group from Company C were: Max Osterman, Alvin Henderson, George Hall, Cannup [Adam L.], Duke Day, McWilliams, Lindsey, Richard Westerfield, Humma [Warren H.] and Sergeant. Mickelson.  After joining up with Captain Simmons and Lieutenant Daniels, Simmons sent me and Sergeant Mickelson out as scouts.  We went about a ½ mile without seeing any Germans.  We returned and informed Simmons of this, but he said no; he thought he had a better way.  A few minutes later we run into Germans and we were captured.  I would run into Thomas Holland from my stick as a POW.  He said that he was dazed on the jump and wandered around until the Germans captured him”.  Harwell also brings up an interesting fact about Stalag 4B where he spent the remainder of the war.  He said that Osterman from his stick and the rest of the Jewish Prisoners at 4B were segregated during their time in camp.[13]

After capturing Captains Simmons group, the Germans turned their attention to Company A Commander Captain William Paty’s group. His group consisted of First Battalion Headquarters and Company A and C men.[14] The group includes Radio Operator Sergeant Alex Haag, the Communications Platoon Pigeoneer Private First Class Ronald O. Schwarz and Technician 5th Grade Arthur J. Courtney.  They were joined by Private Leo L. Beals the former Company C Communications Sergeant, who has been busted to Private just before the Normandy, Private Jack M. Simpson and another Company C man Private George E. Hall. 

Paty’s group tried to dig in at the end of a hedgerow, but the Germans overwhelm them.  While trying to escape during the final attack on Paty’s position a few men including Technician 4th Grade (Sergeant) Joseph F. Taylor and an unknown man come under mortar fire.  Taylor made the cover of a ditch while the other paratrooper was killed.[15] Three Company C men were killed along with Harry Roberts Jr. from Co A, and Captain Paty was wounded during this attack. 

Al Haag gave an account of the deaths of Leo Beals’ and Private George E. Hall of Company C during this attack.  Haag said he sent Hall to guard their flank. Hall was killed shortly after, hit with artillery that hit him in the head and back while Beals was killed during the attack when hit in the chest by artillery.[16]   The third Company C man who was killed was Jack Simpson.  The wounded included Captain Paty and taken to the church at Saint-Georges-de-Bohon. That ended the first days fighting in this part of Normandy.[17] 

Two other Co A 501st men were brought to the Church, as well.  They are Corporal William C. Roble and Private First Class Donald J. MacMillin.  Both men were wounded in the final attack with Captain Paty and both died of their wounds.  Roble and MacMillin were brought back and buried at Ste. Mère-Eglise No. 2 September 9, 1944.[18]

Sergeant Austin Johnson noted the treatment afforded them by the German paratroopers was first rate.  “After being captured and taken to the church, the Germans treated us with courtesy.  I almost think it had to do with our being paratroopers.  The wounded were well cared for, as both Blatherwick and Johnson our Battalion Surgeons were there.  I saw Parr, Captain Paty of Company A, Captain Simmons the Commander of Headquarters Company 1st Battalion and Major Gage.  Gage and Paty along with Parr were wounded, and the Germans treated them.  Parr told me that he landed in a meadow and didn’t move until sometime after daylight.  As soon as he stood up he is shot by the Germans and taken prisoner.  I am one of the men chosen to bury the dead outside the church.  One of the men I buried was First Sergeant Ammons of Company A, who died when he hit the church steeple.”[19]

The wounded and captured were sent first to St. Lo to begin their life as POWs.  As the night falls, there were five groups of 501st men south of Carentan and west of the Taute River roaming the countryside.  Most eventually worked their way back to American lines.


On the Move

 

The first group to rejoin American lines was a large part of Lieutenant Hutchinson’s Company B stick.  Part of this group includes Sergeant Alston P. Couch, Privates Lester L. Birkey, Johnny Boyette and Hugh M. Glennon along with others from Hutchinson’s stick.[20]  Sergeant Couch was shot and killed while trying to cross the Madeleine River.[21]  Couch’s body was recovered on July 29th outside of Carentan.  Private Robert J. Foust from Company B was also killed in that area by artillery fire when hit in the head and leg.[22]  The men came into the lines of Company C 506th early on the morning of 10 June. 

Lieutenant Hutchinson, part of Captain Phillips group, will be killed outside of Baupte on 11 June.  He is killed while attacking a group of Germans retreating from Carentan.  Captain Phillips group of 17 Company C men rejoins the 101st later on 11 June without further losses.[23]

Technical Sergeant Reynolds finishes his account “Myself, Webber and Elliott found each other on the ground and never saw another man from our stick, including the unknown second jumper.  We traveled by night and rested by day and worked our way towards the sound of the fighting to the north.  On 13 June we were in view of Carentan.  We choose to lay low in the tall grass until the fighting quieted down.  At 1500 hours on the 14th large clouds of smoke develops in our area, and we decided to make a run for it.  We came into the lines of the 2nd Armored Division outside of Carentan.[24]

Chet Brooks of Headquarters Company 1st Battalion related the story of his group and the Company H 501st men who combined forces deep in Normandy.  “One day we came upon an area where there has been a small fire and we noted olive drab gum wrappers, so we knew they were either paratroopers or enemy who has found some of our equipment bundles. We followed the trail and came upon about 19 troopers from the Third Battalion. We chewed them out for leaving a trail, as our group had been very scrupulous in that regard. We brought them back to our hide-a-way.  In one of our patrols, we came upon Lieutenant Seale and three other men, one of whom was Oliver Burgess, our Company Supply Sergeant.” Private First Class Grandin M. Johnson a member of the 1st Battalion’s S-2 Section was in Chet Brooks stick.  Johnson’s account meshes with Chet Brook’s account.  Their group of approximately 30 men arrived back to American lines three hours after the Reynolds, Webb and Elliott group.[25]


The last men Killed in Action to be written about west of the Taute River was Company C 501st  Private First Class Garrel A. Jacobs and Private William D. Cross of Company A 501st.  The details of their deaths are unknown.  Jacobs is brought back for burial at St. Mere Eglise #2 on July 24, 1944 with two 507th men who drowned on the jump, Sergeant Kenneth Gunning and Private Reuben F. Lempke.[26]  Whether on the jump or killed while moving through the flooded area is not known.  Private Cross is an interesting example.  Cross is found on Omaha Beach in October of 1944 and brought back to Blosville’  Cross is listed as killed on 6 June 1944 which most likely means drowned on the jump as there were no obvious wounds.[27]  Private First Class Harry Roberts Jr. and Private Jack M. Simpson were listed as killed in action in the Saint-Georges-de-Bohon area, but their bodies were never identified.  Roberts like Simpson, Hornbaker and Nadeau are buried as unknowns even though all both have Surgeon Generals Office Reports from Blosville Cemetery.[28]

The day was done for the 501st Prcht Inf 1st Bn men at Saint-Georges-de-Bohon but the 6th Fallschirmjaeger were not.  The Third Battalion (III. Btl.) 9. Kp., 10. Kp., 11. Kp., & 12. Kp. moved into position to clean out the Americans in Graignes late in the day of 6 June 1944.[29]  The 4 Companies were ready to launch an attack using Tribehou as their base at 16.30 hours German time.  The attacked was called off as the 6th Fallschirmjaeger sent word that the Third Battalion would return to their original position and then move up to Carentan (minus 12 Kp.).  The 12 Kp. remained at Saint-Georges-de-Bohon the most south of any Germans as of 6 June 1944 now that the rest of 6th Fallschirmjaeger Regt. moved up to St. Come Du Mont and Carentan.

            If Graignes had fallen on 6 June 1944, the executions wouldn’t have happened after the battle.  The captured and wounded would have been treated fairly as the 501st Parachute Infantry had been treated.  The Priests and the housekeepers would have survived as well in Graignes.

             
 

The other side…

 

            There has been much debate about the quality of the Normandy drop.  Paratroopers supporters claim that it was a disaster, and Air Corps supporters claim that it was, in fact, quite good.  In Normandy, the truth falls somewhere in the middle.  Serial 14 is comprised of 45 planes from the 441st Troop Carrier Group.  The first two flights of 18 planes were from the 99th Troop Carrier Squadron.  The next three flights were from the 100th Troop Carrier Squadron.   

There are 45 planes in this serial.  14 out of 45 dropped 9.5 miles southwest of the intended drop zone.  At first blush 14 pilots somehow became lost and mis-dropped their load of paratroopers, but all is not as it appears.  In this case, it appeared that 13 of the pilots did exactly what they were ordered to do. The order was to stay in formation and follow the lead plane.  Landfall was made over Portbail, and the formation was still intact.  The infamous cloudbank then reared its ugly head.

In Serial 13, planes 32 and 37 both went southeast instead of east.  It appeared that planes 4, 5, and 6 of serial 14 mistook Chalks 32 and 37 from Serial 13 as the lead Element of their serial.  They would have been in close proximity to these planes after emerging from the cloudbank.  The distance from Portbail to DZ D is 22.4 miles.  Many of the planes used time and distance for their drops.  The distance from Portbail to Saint-Georges-de-Bohon is 20.25 miles.  The layout of Serial 14 shows what happened to them after they came out of the cloudbank.  Each serial in reality is three columns of planes.  In (Diagram 2) note that the planes that followed planes 32 and 37 from Serial 13 were 4, 5, 6, 13, 14, 15, 22, 23, 24 and 31, 32 and 33, from Serial 14.  The majority of these planes were located on the right side of the Serial. 

  Upon breaking free of the cloudbank planes 13, 14 and 15 appeared to have mistaken planes 4, 5 and 6 for the lead element of 1, 2 and 3.  Planes 22, 23 followed suit.  The third plane of this element 24 actually hit the DZ (D) while plane 20 which was directly in front of 24 appeared to have acquired planes 22 and 23.  The lead element of the 4th Flight seemed to have followed next and they in turn were followed by Planes 31 and 33.  Plane 32 from this element actually dropped to the north by Ravenoville, 5.75 miles north of the DZ and 15 miles north of where planes 31 and 33 dropped.

Planes 28, 29 and 30 are an interesting Element.  They were the lead element of the 4th  Flight.  Plane 28 was flown by Harry Beal.  When interviewed Lieutenant Beal stated “When I dropped my stick, there were no other planes in sight”.[30]  His stick came down near Montmartin-en Graignes, not to be confused with Graignes.  Montmartin-en Graignes is 3.6 miles northeast of Graignes.  This stick contained the first squad of 3rd Platoon of Company B 501st.  Some of these men made their way to Graignes over the next few days.  They were led there by a red headed Frenchman named Charles Goselin.[31]

            Plane 29 was flown by Lieutenant Edward Cullen.  This plane becomes hopelessly lost and returned to England with their troopers on board.  The jumpmaster was 1st Lieutenant Ian Hamilton Executive Officer of Company B 501st Parachute Infantry.  The men were part of the 3rd Platoon of Company B.  Interviews with Privates Peter Shilingia and Dominick M. Rizzo, both members of the 3rd Platoon Mortar Squad revealed the confusion in the plane.[32]  After receiving heavy flak all the way across the peninsula, they realized they were over the Channel and on the way back to England.  The crew chief came back and said the pilot is lost and is returning to base.[33]  Lieutenant Hamilton went to the cockpit door and found it locked; there was little more he could have done.  Three other members of this unlucky stick were 2nd Lieutenant Rudolph J. Feres, Privates Robert Burgess and Calvin Duncan.[34]

            When the plane arrived back at the base, the MPs were there to take the paratroopers into custody thinking they had refused to jump.  When it was sorted out, it is discovered that the pilot had never given the signal to jump, so the troopers were released by the MPs.  They wanted to go in the next day on a re-supply mission.  These men from Company B never get to Normandy.  They had the misfortune of being at an airfield that is flying gliders on their next mission, not supplies.  There was no room on the power planes towing the gliders for passengers.[35]

            An interesting sidelight to this story came from Pilot Lieutenant Jean Crawford.  He came in after the Normandy drop to the 100th Troop Carrier Squadron as a replacement Pilot.  During an interview, he is asked if he had heard of any unusual stories being told about the Normandy mission.  He said he was told that one crew had brought back their load of paratroopers.  Later in the war an order came down from the Group Commandeer asking for that damned crew that brought back their paratroopers.  They were given a mission that included just them on a risky mission.  That is all the detail that he ever heard of.  Other members of the Squadron have been interviewed about this, but no one remembers the story.[36]

            Plane 30 of this element never returned to base.  This plane carried a squad of the 101st Airborne 326th Airborne Engineer Battalion Company C.  They were shot down northeast of Saint-Georges-de-Bohon by the 8. Battery of the 91st LuftLanding Division’s 191 Artillery Regiment.  This battery consisted of 4 105MM guns.[37]  The plane was piloted by Captain John B. McCue.  His crew is Co-Pilot Second Lieutenant Ernest E. Wheeler, Radio Operator Sergeant James A. Freda and the Crew Chief Staff Sergeant Archer B. Hughes.  The jumpmaster of this stick was 1st Lieutenant Howard L. Huggett along with 14 men from his Platoon.[38]

            Their plane was hit by flak in the Radio Operator’s compartment killing Sergeant Freda.  Private Julius Holin was wounded by the same blast.  Huggett did not wait for the Green Light.  He gave the order to jump, and the rest of the stick followed him out except for Holin.[39]  Private Holin jumped before the plane went down.  The bodies of Freda, Hughes Wheeler and McCue, are found with the wreckage of the plane.  Holin was found a good distance from the crash site, killed by a gunshot wound to the right temple.[40]  Some of the sticks were able to work their way back to American lines, but a number were captured before being able to link up with friendly forces.

 

Graignes

 

This left 2 planes out of the 16 of the lost serial.  These were chalks 15 and 22.  Chalk 15 is Lieutenant Murn’s stick that included part of the Machine Gun Platoon of Headquarters Company First Battalion 501st Parachute Infantry.  Chalk 22 included the headquarters group of Company B 501 as well as men of First Platoon.  These two sticks made up the largest part of the 101st in Graignes. 

The reason these sticks were not in the first part of this article was that both of those sticks came down on the east side of the Taut River, and there wasn’t a German in sight.  Company B Commander Captain Loyal Bogart’s stick came down southwest of Graignes in the flooded area bordered by the Taute River.  Private Frank Juliano said that 17 of the 18 men rolled up on each other.  Bogart is in command but is wounded before jumping and was injured further upon landing.  Juliano felt the missing man must have drowned in the Taute River as the man who jumped two in front of him lands on the opposite bank of the river.[41]  Private Hugh J. McFadden from 1st Platoon was missing was from Company B.  Private McFadden was actually wounded and found by a local family who tried to help him.  He died during the night and was buried on their property.  McFadden was found in the Graignes area and buried in Blosville on July 16, 1944.  Bogart’s group began making their way towards the Church Tower to the north that they spotted at dawn. 

First Lieutenant Murn’s stick dropped a few miles south of Graignes and does not fair well in the early morning hours.  This stick included Lieutenant Murn, Private First Class Jimmie S. Millican, Richard J. Hoffman, Sammuel Chavous, Ray A. Magney, Armand Nadeau, Leo J. Packham, Chester L. Beisser and Privates William H. Love and Mel Sabre, all Machine Gun Platoon members.  Also in this stick is Armand Nadeau part of the S-2 Section and James M. Naff a First Battalion Medic. 

Sabre and Nadeau were worked their way through the Graignes area when Nadeau is killed by gunfire and Sabre was captured.  Sabre became a POW for the remainder of the war.[42] Armand Nadeau is listed on the Wall of the Missing in Normandy.  Like Harry Roberts, Jack Simpson and Nelson Hornbaker, Nadeau’s body was found and brought to Blosville.  Nadeau’s US ARMY ETO CASUALTY RECORD(S) is on file yet he is listed as FOD.[43]  This means that Nadeau is buried as an unknown.  Somewhere along the line his paperwork was lost by the Graves Registration.  Private First Class Ray Magney was last seen at the 352nd Division‘s (German) Aid Station at Le Mesnil Raoult. He was treated by the Germans for wounds received in combat. 

Ray Magney’s personal effects were found at the Aid Station, but no trace of his body was ever found.[44]  He is listed on the Wall of the Missing as well.  Sam Chavous also listed on the Wall of the Missing, was last seen in the vicinity of Graignes.  Chavous and Magney were instructors at Fort Benning and Fort. Bragg and handed in their Sergeant stripes in order to go overseas.[45]  The last man of this group to go missing on this day is Chester L. Beisser, also on the Wall of the Missing.  His report stated Private First Class Beisser is last seen jumping in the area of Graignes, France.[46]

 

All Quiet…

 

Nine sticks of Headquarters Company Third Battalion of the 507th Parachute Infantry 82nd Airborne Division jumped in the vicinity of Graignes, France 6 June 1944 at 0238 hours.  The 507th Drop Zone T was near the town of Amfreville 15 miles to the north of Graignes.  They dropped north and east of the village of Graignes.  They were part of Serial 25 being flown out of the Airfield at Barkston Heath England.  Serial 25 consisted of 36 aircraft flown by two Squadrons of the 61st Troop Carrier Group.  The 53rd Troop Carrier Squadron flew Chalks 37 through 54.[47]   

            The second Flight of the 53rd Troop Carrier Squadron flew in the Headquarters Company Third Battalion 507th in nine planes, chalks 46 through 54.  The lead Element was led by Captain Dayton Shermer in aircraft 43-15335, chalk 46.  His Co-Pilot was Second Lieutenant Clyde Roach, and the Navigator was Second Lieutenant George M. VerHoven.  Captain Shermer broke out of the cloud bank over the west coast of the Cotentin Peninsula heading southeast instead of their intended heading east to DZ T.  In an interview with Shermer’s Co-Pilot Clyde Roach, he stated:

            “I was responsible for giving the red and then green lights.  We were using time and distance method.  This entailed using checkpoints and a stopwatch.  When the time came for me to give the green light, I noticed water ahead of the plane and held up the green light until I spot dry land again.  I saw a town on a hillside in the darkness and gave the green light”.

            When asked if he noticed anything unusual about the village mentioned in his account above Roach said no.  The village is on a high hill.  He is asked if he saw a fire or any other details about the town.  He said no, the town was shrouded in darkness and stood out in relief against what little moonlight there was.  The reason this question was asked is in his account he states that he is sure it is Ste-Mere-Eglise he dropped over.  When told that the village he gave the green light over was Graignes, 13 miles to the southeast of Ste-Mere-Eglise he became upset and stated that he was sure it was Ste-Mere-Eglise.  It was explained in detail that Ste-Mere-Eglise had a fire that was visible for miles.  He never addressed this point.  Mr. Roach said “Paratroopers could easily board the wrong airplane. Single troopers that thought they landed far from the drop zone could have misread their map”. 

            In a follow up conversation, the author explained in detail that over 140 paratroopers were dropped in the Graignes area, so it isn’t an isolated case of one or two troopers.  He still maintains they misread their maps and, in fact, near Ste-Mere-Eglise.  His account actually helped to verify that they were indeed off course.  “No enemy resistance over the Cherbourg peninsula.  The Pathfinder group (of which, I have previously been a member) is supposed to drop a specially trained stick of paratroopers on the drop zone. They are to set up a Eureka-Rebecca transmitter for us to home-in on, and no signal is ever received”.[48]

His statement that there is no enemy resistance would be valid for a flight from the west coast down to Graignes.  The units from his Serial that drop in the vicinity of the DZ report heavy anti-aircraft fire.  The lack of a signal from the Pathfinder team also showed that they are not in the area of the DZ.  The 507th Pathfinder team did get the transmitters up that were picked up by the incoming aircraft.  The Flight of nine actually followed orders stating that if they became unsure of their location to then drop the unit they are flying as a group.  Headquarters Company Third Battalion 507th drops in the same area.  Three other planes from Headquarters Company Third Battalion 507th were part of another Serial, and they came down in the la Fiere area, near their intended Drop Zone.

At first light a mixed group of Mortar men and Machine Gun men from Headquarters Company Third Battalion 507th along with Captain Leroy “Dave” Brummitt the Battalion S-3 Officer and Staff Sergeant Robert A. Salewski the Battalion Sergeant Major were the first 82nd men in the village of Graignes.[49] Two more men that arrived a short time later and joined the Brummitt group were Machine Gunner John J. Hinchliff and his Assistant Gunner Patrick Sullivan.  Sullivan was the old man in the Machine Gun Platoon at age 35.  Brummitt ordered a defensive perimeter around the village.[50] During the morning, more troops wandered in wet and lost.  They are drawn to the church steeple which can be seen from all points in the swamps that surround Graignes. 

            At 0830 hours, two Glider Pilots from the 434th Troop Carrier Group came in with their two passengers from the 81st Airborne Anti-Aircraft Battalion.[51] This group included 2nd Lieutenant Thomas O. Ahmad, Flight Officer Irwin J. Morales both of the 74th Troop Carrier Squadron and Private First Class George A. Brown along with Private First Class First Class Lester H. Norwood both members of the 81st AAA Battalion Battery B.  They landed southwest of the village at 0400 hours.  Their glider was cut loose far past their intended Landing Zone E.  They arrived in France aboard a CG-4A glider or Waco as it was commonly referred to.

            The arrival of Captains Richard H. Chapman and Abraham Sophian Jr., the Headquarters Company Third Battalion 507th Commander and Battalion Surgeon respectively occurred at 0900 hours.  They were accompanied by Chapman’s Radio Operator Technician 4th Grade Joseph M. Schieble, Lineman Private Carlos J. Hurtado and a few other men.  At 0930 hours, another group came in from the swamps.  This group included 1st Lieutenant Elmer F. Hoffman the Battalion S-4 (Supply) Officer and the rest of Captain Brummitt’s stick.  This stick consists of men from the S-4 section as well as half of the section of attached Demolitions men from Regimental Headquarters Company.  Three men from Captain Chapman’s stick also were part of this group, Staff Sergeant Kenneth L. Jenkins and two Medics, Medical Detachment Staff Sergeant Nelson F. Hornbaker and Private Robert R. Miller.[52]

            A group of three men who found each other in the swamps were Private First Class Frank P. Costa, Technician 5th Grade Leroy “Leo” Smith and Corporal Edward W. Stranko all of the Communications Platoon.  They took two hours to get to dry land and then locate a group of approximately 100 Paratroopers gathered at the Rigault farm at Le Port St. Pierre, north of Graignes.  The farm was close to the le Port des Planques Bridge north of Graignes.  This was the only northern crossing that led to Carentan.  This bridge would become a key piece of real estate later in the week.  Among the group gathered at the farm was Sergeant Benton J. Broussard a French speaking soldier from Louisiana, Corporal Durward M. Biggerstaff, Private Frederic D. Boyle Jr. all members of the Mortar Platoon and Sergeant Rufus B. Carr of the Machine Gun Platoon.[53]  This group would arrive in Graignes later in the day on 6 June.

            Major Charles D. Johnston the Battalion Executive Officer and the Communications Officer First Lieutenant Francis E. Naughton along with Technician 5th Grade Richard E. Reese the Company Clerk arrived in the village about 1000 hours.  Their group also included the Communications Sergeant Staff Sergeant Edward A. Cannon and Wireman Private First Class Lief J. Olsen.[54]  Major Johnston was the senior officer and assumes overall command.

            Over the objections of the Third Battalion S-3 Captain “Leroy” Dave” Brummitt Major Johnston decides to remain and defend the village.  Brummitt argued that the men there could reach American lines and that their place was with their Regiment.  The Third Battalion was essentially headless without the Headquarters Company.  Even though not in agreement with Johnston, Brummitt accepted the decision and started to lay out the defense of the village.  The one thing they had was Machine Guns and Machine Gunners.  They were a large number of the Machine Gun Platoon from the 507th and some 501st Machine Gunners from Murn’s plane, as well.  The rest of 6 June saw the townspeople of Graignes got food and retrieved bundles for the 82nd and 101st men in the village. 

            The Mayor of Graignes Alphonse Voydie called the townspeople together to ask them if they would support the Americans in their midst.  The response was overwhelmingly yes.  The Mayor organized the people to retrieve bundles and bring supplies to the village.  Madame Boursier who ran the local café and grocery acted as Supply and Mess Sergeant.  She took it upon herself to feed the troops and went to neighboring villages for food.

            Pigeons were used when the unit was out of radio contact.  The end of the first day saw the first pigeon released with the message “Am in Graignes.  Coordinates Four One Five Eight Zero Zero with practically all of Hardware. Blue three four behind enemy lines.  No contact with friendly forces.  Am remaining in position.  Impossible to get to Regiment.  Signed Johnston Major”.  The message is found on a dead pigeon 8 June.[55]  A patrol was sent to the glider landing site to try and retrieve the jeep that was inside.  Due to the wet conditions, it was impossible to get the Jeep out of the flooded area. 

            The 507th had a Demolition Platoon that was part of Regimental Headquarters Company.  They were split into three sections, one for each Battalion.  The Third Battalion chose to break the section down further.  Seven men (6 enlisted men and their officer) went with the group of three Third Battalion planes that landed around la Fiere and 6 are assigned to a chalk 49.  Their mission was to blow up bridges, handle mines and building bridges and other structures as needed.  In Graignes, they were the Demolition men who along with Lieutenant Naughton would blow the bridge north of town in the face on the oncoming Germans with 10 June.

            During the afternoon hours of 6 June more men from the 101st Airborne made their way to Graignes.  These men were from the 501st Company B and Headquarters Company 1st Battalion.  Company B Commander Captain Loyal Bogart was helped into town by members of his stick including Private First Class Frank Juliano.  Bogart was wounded before jumping, and then injured again while landing.  He wanted to be left behind, but his men refused.[56]  The names of the other 501st Company B men who came into town with Bogart are Staff Sergeant George A. Faulkner Company Supply Sergeant, Sergeant John Piotrowicz, Radio Man Technician 4th Grade Roy M. Callahan, Private Herbert Weiss Company Runner, Technician 5th Grade John F. McNally Company Mail Orderly and Private Peter Sass, Company Clerk.  Captain Bogart of 501 Company B was unable to perform his duties due to his injuries.  He volunteered to run the switchboard at the CP and his request was granted.[57]

Lieutenant Naughton led a patrol at 1300 hours 6 June out of Graignes to locate friendly forces.  This patrol returned 7 June 1944 at 0230 hours with 1st Lieutenant Lowell C. Maxwell the Mortar Platoon assistant officer and 1st Lieutenant Wagner the Battalion S-1 (Personnel) Officer.[58]

The first full day in France 7 June 1944 began.  Defenses were firmed up; a few more men arrived, but otherwise was quiet.  Just one meal was served that day due to a lack of food.  Activity was seen to the west across the flooded area in Saint-Andre-de-Bohon, which was the 6th Fallschirmjaeger moving up to Carentan.   Another attempt was made to retrieve the jeep from the glider, which was again unsuccessful.  Captain Brummitt led a 30 man patrol towards Carentan while searching for heavy weapons.  South of Carentan Brummitt noted that Americans were engaged with Germans for control of the city.[59]

            The 7th also saw the arrival at 0600 of three men from Lieutenant Murn’s stick.  These were the last 3 men who’d jumped from that stick that took 28 hours to get to Graignes.  They were Private First Class Jimmie Millican, Private William Love and Private First Class Fred Weagley.[60]  Two more men made their way into the village. One was Private Joe Stefaniak the runner for Company G.  He and another 507th man wandered the swamps for a full day before making their way in.  Stefaniak was the last man in chalk 46, the lead plane of the 507th serial.[61]

Flight Sergeant Stanley K. Black made his way into the village on the 8 June.  Sergeant Black an Australian was a member of a British Lancaster crew that was shot down early on the morning of the 7 June.  He was one of two members of the 7 man crew who bailed out of the burning plane.  He landed close by the village of Saint-Jean-de-Daye.  He was taken in by Monsieur Desire Cardin.  The next day word came that there were American paratroopers in the next village, Graignes.  Black put on civilian clothes over his uniform and was taken to Graignes.  Before leaving he left Monsieur Cardin his photo from his RAF (Royal Air Force) identification card.[62]

            The only activity on 8 June was a patrol led by Lieutenant Maxwell to Carentan that left at 2200 hours.  The patrol reached the Le Port des Planques Bridge.  There they ran into a retreating German Artillery unit.  A skirmish ensues and the patrol was scattered and returns to Graignes one by one during the early morning hours of 9 June.  Sergeant Hornbaker is wounded in the wrist during this engagement.[63]

The arrival of two paratroopers rounded out the Airborne at Graignes.  On 9 June Private Robert I. Wickham and Corporal Earl Tyndall Jr. from Headquarters Company 1st Battalion 501st were brought in by a French Farmer who had hidden them in his fields.  He brought them across the flooded area from Saint-Andre-du-Bohon.  They had received a note that said “Join us in Graignes, Murn”.  Wickham was part of the S-2 Section, and Tyndall a Communications man.[64]

Lieutenant Francis Naughton led a patrol out on the 9 June to the Le Port des Planques Bridge.  Their mission was to destroy the bridge, denying the Germans the ability to attack from the North.  Naughton sent a two man team across the bridge to the North end to serve as scouts.  The Demolition Squad told Naughton it would take half an hour to wire the bridge for demolition.  At the 25 minute mark, the scouts came under fire from an advanced German patrol.  They retreated across the bridge to the South side.  Just as the Germans were advancing across the bridge, the Demolition Section blew up the bridge.[65]  This brought the action for 9 June to a close.

            More patrols were sent out on 10 June 1944, and the second pigeon was released.  The last two men who joined the defenders of Graignes are from the 29th Infantry Division.  They were from Company E 175th Infantry.  Sergeant Rees and Private First Class Edward Bochniasz were separated from their Company in an attack across the Vire River west of Isigny-sur-Mer during the night of 9 June.  Bochniasz and Technical Sergeant Paul A. Meluh the platoon Sergeant and Sergeant Robert L. Rees were together when the Germans counterattacked in the night.  Sergeant Meluh said he became separated from Rees and Bochniasz, never seeing them again.[66]  A short distance south of where they were separated was the road to Graignes.   The two 29th men arrived in the village during the morning of the 10th.  Bochniasz was a BAR man and his gun was gladly added to the defenses in and around Graignes. 

            10 June saw two French speaking Spaniards join the men in Graignes.  They were members of the German Toldt organization.[67]  There was a group of 507th men who had holed up in a house by the bridge north of the village.  They would join on 10 June.  During their time in this house, they located two 507th men who had drowned on the jump, Sergeant Kenneth Gunning and Private Reuben F. Lempke.  Gunning and Lempke had jumped 4th and 5th in their stick.  The body of the number 14 man in this stick Private Thomas E. Maltby of Headquarters Company Third Battalion 507th was found dead north of Graignes on July 8, 1944 and was buried in St. Mere Eglise #2.  This was Chalk 49 a stick of Machine Gunners whose jumpmaster was 1st Lieutenant Earcle “Pip” Reed.[68]  Private Richard “Dick” D. Sundberg was also part of this stick.

            Not all of the men who jumped in the Graignes area made their way to the village.  Some, not knowing their position worked their way north alone.  Private George Smudin of the 507th worked his way towards Carentan but was captured on the third day.  Smudin nursed an arm wound sustained on the jump.  After being captured, he was sent north to Cherbourg.  On 11 June he was being marched to the south as part of a large American POW column when it is strafed by American planes. [69]  Jean Tessier another Third Battalion Headquarters man is also captured after the jump.  Tessier’s name appears on the monument in Graignes as being killed, but actually died in 1972.  A Medic, John I. Pavkov, was also captured on his own.  He was wounded when captured on the third day.[70]  Tessier, Pavkov and Smudin spent the remainder of the war as POWs. 

            Private Harold J. Premo was killed shortly after the jump outside of Graignes and was buried in an isolated grave.  Premo was killed by Artillery when he is hit in the neck.[71]

            The number 182 has been listed as the total of men and officers in the village on the morning of 11 June.  There were 142 507th men who jumped in the nine sticks, between 32-36 101st men in their two sticks, 4 men from the glider and at least 3 men who made their way in from across the flooded area on the 10th.  Two men from the 29th Infantry Division joined them on the 10th, as well.  One man from the Royal Air Force was also in the village, having joined them on the 7th.  This was a grand total of a 187 men.  On the morning of the 11th, the Battalion S-3 Journal listed 14 Officers and 168 enlisted men.   

            The 14 Officers were Major Johnston Third Battalion Executive Officer, Captains Brummitt Battalion S-3, Chapman Headquarters Third Battalion Company Commander, Bogart 501st Company B Commander, Sophian Third Battalion Surgeon.  First Lieutenants Communications Officer  Naughton, Machine Gun Officer Reed, Battalion S-4 Hoffman, Battalion S-1 Wagner, Assistant Mortar Officer Maxwell, Mortar Officer Farnham, Machine Gun Officer First Battalion Headquarters Company 501st Murn and Second Lieutenant Ahmad and Flight Officer Morales the two glider pilots. 

 

11 June

 

            At 1100 hours a church service started with villagers and members of the 507th and 501st in attendance.  A patrol consisting of 501st Company B men were sent out that includes Frank Juliano and Sergeant John Piotrowicz.  Private Peter Sass of 501st Company B shot up a German sidecar, killing one.[72]  Sergeant Salewski went to investigate, and found no unit ID or name on the body and returned shortly before the first attack at 1230 hours.  Outpost (OP) 3 reported enemy fire.  An enemy amphibious Jeep with 3 men was ambushed; the driver is killed, and two Germans wounded.  There were continual probes of the American lines all afternoon.[73] 

            Joe Stefaniak and another trooper had been on outpost duty since 7 June.  Joe begins “I was a runner between my Company G and Headquarters Company Third Battalion.  Seeing as I wasn’t anywhere near my Company they stuck me on outpost duty with this guy I didn’t know.  I remained in that house until 11th of June when ordered back to the village before the final attack”.  Joe continued “I had a German lined up in my sites, when the other man on outpost duty with me comes in and said we had orders to fall back to the village.  I regret to this day not being able to shoot, I had him lined up”.[74]

Lieutenant Farnham the Mortar Officer reported 12 truckloads of Infantry had arrived at Rauline to the south.  During the afternoon Outposts 2 & 3 were pulled back 200 yards due to increased enemy activity.  During the afternoon, the Mortar Platoon knocked out the German mortar position that had been harassing the Americans since early afternoon.[75]  The Americans don’t know the unit they were now engaged was the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division.  This Company of Americans were now facing the 38th Regiment of the 17th SS, who outnumber them 10 to 1.[76]

            The Germans broke off the probing attacks at 1900 hours.  What turned out to be the final attack resumed at 2000 hours.  The Command Post was moved from inside the Boys School to the rear of the Boys School to protect it from incoming artillery fire.  The attacks were coming from both the south and east. 

In the church tower Mortar Officer Lieutenant Elmer F. Farnham and an unknown assistant had been calling out coordinates from the Observation Post to the Mortar Platoon.  When Farnham went back into the tower just before 1900 hours, Lieutenant Reed told him that the Germans had targeted the tower, and he’ll be killed.  Farnham replies “You gotta go sometime” and disappeared up the stairs.[77]  Within minutes, the Germans started firing their 88’s into the village.  Farnham and his assistant were blown from the tower by one of the first rounds.  Private Richard D. Sundberg’s Machine Gun position was situated on the corner of the church under the Church Tower.  After the dust cleared, Sundberg sees Farnham lying by his position. Sundberg said Farnham was just laying there with no visible wounds.[78]  There is no sign of Farnham’s unnamed assistant. 

In an effort to determine the identity of Farnham’s assistant the author obtained the IDPF for Private First Class George E. Tillett was also a Third Battalion Mortar man.  Contained in Tillet’s IDPF were multiple documents attesting to the fact he has met a violent end.  The upper half of Tillet’s body was buried in the La Cambe Cemetery, and the bottom half was buried in the Blosville Cemetery.  His body was finally consolidated in 1948 after the army determined that the contents of the two graves belonged to the same man.

            Speaking with Francis Naughton, it was mentioned to him that research was being done on the unidentified man in the Tower with Farnham in Graignes.  Francis Naughton is told of the theory that Tillet was the second man with Lieutenant Farnham.  Naughton then told of something that he had not spoken of since July of 1944 when the 507th had returned to England from Normandy.  Naughton stated that after the return of the Regiment, Pip Reed heard that Farnham had been cut in half by the 88 that destroyed the church tower, only to discover later that it wasn’t true.[79] Farnham’s IDPF doesn’t show any notable injuries, and there is Sundberg’s account of Farnham landing by his Machine Gun position.  If it wasn’t Farnham cut in two from the Church Tower, it seemed to have been the unidentified man, Private First Class George Tillet who was part of the Battalion’s Mortar Platoon.

During the next hour, the village was overrun.  Some men remained in their foxholes while the Germans went right over them into the village.  The order was given, every man for himself, most left in small groups and melt into the swamps to the north and west.  By 2350, hours the battle for Graignes was finished, but the killing had not. 

            Private Frederic D. Boyle Jr. was a Mortar man in Headquarters Company Third Battalion 507th.  He spent his time in Graignes sharing a foxhole on the Main Line of Resistance with Frederick E. Weagley from Headquarters Company First Battalion 501st.  Weagley came in as part of Murn’s stick.  He was a Machine Gunner but was put on the line with Boyle as a Rifleman due to a shortage of line Company men.  Boyle’s story of his withdrawal from Graignes shows the confusion during the retreat.  “We received the order that it was every man for himself which is good as we were low on ammo, so we took off down the hill.  A German stepped out and had me dead to rights.  Weagley, who is right behind me, emptied his gun into the German’s gut.  If it wasn’t for Weagley I wouldn’t be here now; he saved my life.” [80]

            Machine Gunner Private First Class John J. Hinchliff and his assistant Patrick Sullivan received the order to withdraw.  Hinchliff provided his account of the last moments in Graignes.  “Walter Zielinski another Machine Gunner, climbed up onto a roof that was above an alley.  When the Germans started pouring through town, Zielinski started dropping Grenades down on them and for a while they didn’t know what was happening.  Zielinski was laughing the whole time.  One of the Germans finally notices Zielinski and shot him off the roof, killing him.”  Hinchliff’s account continues “I told Sullivan to grab the last box of ammo, as I grabbed the Machine Gun and tripod and we went down the hill.  When we reached the bottom, I’d realized that Pat [Sullivan] forgot the ammo; I left my Machine Gun and Rifle with him and told him to wait for me while I went to retrieve the ammo.  The reason I didn’t have Pat go get it was due to his age.  He’s was in is 30s”.

            Hinchliff’s account continued “I ran up the hill and picked up the ammo.  Just then a German spotted me and started shooting.  I ran zig-zag back down the hill.  When I reached the spot where I left Pat I realized he was gone.  He had left my Rifle at least, so I grabbed that and started shooting back.  The Germans pursuing me finally gave up the chase.  I disappeared into the night.” [81]

            Staff Sergeant George A. Faulkner the 501st Company B Supply Sergeant left Graignes with 4 other men.  They were Private First Class Alison T. Bliss from the 507th, George A. Brown from the 81st AAA, Technician 5th Grade John F. McNally 501st Company B and an unidentified enlisted man.  Leaving the village they encountered no difficulties.  They hide during the next day, and started moving at night. 

 

They were discovered by Germans during the night of 12 June.  They were hit by grenades and rifle fire that killed Bliss, McNally and Brown.[82]  Bliss died from a gunshot wound to the head and suffered grenade fragments to his right leg. [83] Brown died from fragments to his right lung and stomach, McNally was killed by a gunshot wound to the shoulder.[84]  The unidentified man and Faulkner were both wounded by grenade fragments and become prisoners.

            Private Carlos J. Hurtado was a Wireman in the Communications Section of Third Battalion 507th.  “I went into the Church during the final attack to tell [Jesus] Casas a Medic and Captain Sophian that they should get going as the Germans were overrunning the town.  Sophian said they had to stay with the wounded.  As I came out of the church, I see the Machine Gun position by the corner of the church and the cemetery get hit by artillery or mortar fire.  Both men were killed.  I then went over the hill and out of the village”.[85]

            Private First Class Wickham was a member of the S-2 Section of 1st Battalion 501st.  The S-2 Section was to gathered and analyzed intelligence.  Wickham a Scout was sent to guard one of the paths leading up to the village.  Here is his account, “Murn stationed me at the bottom of the village guarding a road that led up to Graignes.  I remember asking myself what am I doing here alone?  I’m there about half hour when Murn and 6 men come down the path.  I ask Murn where Tyndall is.  Murn’s reply was that Tyndall was in the Church Tower when it was destroyed, so he must be dead (Tyndall survived the war).  One of the men was carrying a Machine Gun but said they should leave it behind.  Murn said no they might need it, so he kept lugging it.  It turned out we didn't need it.  We found a local man that had a boat, and he ferried us across the canal.  The boat had ropes on either end to be pulled back and forth across the water.  The boat could hold about 8 men at a time.  We joined a larger group at that time”.[86]

            Captain Brummitt gave his account of the last few minutes in the village.  “I took part in several fire-fights while visiting defensive positions. As the last position is being outflanked, I ordered the crew members of the remaining light machine gun to withdraw to a previously designated fall-back position. During the movement, both crewmembers are killed. I discard my carbine, scooped up the Machine Gun (minus the damaged tripod) and the box of ammunition and leapt over a stone wall from which two troopers are giving me covering fire. As I reached their side, both are hit by small arms fire.  I swung the gun around and steadying it fire a burst in the direction of the enemy fire. I heard no more from that sector.

There was a lull in the fighting and not having received any recent communication from Major Johnston, I moved to another firing position behind a stone wall near the church. Battalion Sergeant Major Salewski approached me with information that Major Johnston gave the order to abandon the position and attempt to return individually to friendly lines. He and others in the Command Post had gone.  I walked over to the Command Post and found the report to be accurate. I did discover, however, that the Battalion S-1 plus a number of other troopers were still in firing positions nearby”.[87]

First Lieutenant Francis Naughton shed some light on the fate of others during the final attack.  “The Demolitions Sergeant Harry Murray was shot through the throat while coming out of the church.  That was the last I saw of Harry”.  Naughton also tells what Captain Brummitt related after the battle about the death of Third Battalion First Sergeant Francis J. McCormick.  Brummitt said that McCormick went back into the CP to destroy the M209 encryption machine.  McCormick destroyed it with two shots from his .45 sidearm, and was killed a short time later while making his way from the village.[88]  Private Edward Bochniasz 29th Infantry Division 175th Infantry Regiment Company E BAR man was killed by artillery during the final attack.  He was buried in the same isolated grave as George Tillet from the Mortar Platoon. 

            Major Charles D. Johnston 507th Third Battalion’s Executive Officer led a party of men out of the village.  Included in this group were Corporal George E. Colli, Second Lieutenant Thomas Ahmad and Technician 5th Grade Richard Reese and Lieutenant Maxwell.  Corporal Colli tried to warn Johnston during the withdrawal, but Johnston made another bad decision and disregarded the warning.  Colli gave a statement after the war to the army about what transpired:  “On the night 11 June we were attacked by a large number of the enemy, and we were all forced to split up into small groups. I was with Major Johnston, two other officers and another enlisted man. Major Johnston wanted to cross the bridge so he could contact some friendly forces. The Major that the bridge is being guarded by S. S. Troopers, but he insisted we cross the bridge anyway”.

Colli’s account continued “We walked through the back of some woods and came upon the road leading to the bridge. So we kept in single file and stayed on the road. At the curve just before the bridge, some guards jump out and yelled halt at us.  Being swampland on both sides of the road, we all jumped in. I see  three guards go running down the bank shooting, about that time one of the officers is hit, so Major Johnston is trying to have them stop shooting by offering to surrender.  When they hear him they all turned their guns in his direction and another officer, Lieutenant Maxwell is shot through the stomach I believe.  Finally, I see them call Major Johnston up to the bank followed by another man whom I thought maybe the other enlisted man.  I duck underwater and pulled myself away some distance before I came up, and that’s all I can tell you”.[89]

            Brummitt gave the order to the remaining troops to withdraw into the swamps.  In Brummitt’s account after the war he stated that he had no knowledge that the Medical Staff had been left behind.  If he had known, he would have tried to move the wounded out with the retreating men.  It wouldn’t make much difference, as Captain Sophian the Battalion Surgeon had decided to remain behind with the wounded realizing he would become a POW.  The Medical Staff from the 82nd and 101st remained behind to treat the wounded with Captain Sophian.  The church was filled with men wounded during the fighting.  Being unable to walk properly Captain Loyal Bogart of 501st Company B also remained behind.

            During the final attack, the following men were killed; Second Lieutenant Foy E. Baker 502nd Headquarters Company 1st Battalion, Private Peter Sass 501st Company B Clerk, 507th Mortar men, Corporal Marvin H. Allen, Private First Class Lacy H. Reaves and Private Jesse J. Rushing.  Three 507th Machine Gunners were also killed during the final attack, Private First Class Shuford N. Humphries, Private Thomas J. Travers and Private Grady W. Lloyd.  The deaths of two of these gunners are most likely described by Captain Brummitt while moving their Machine Gun position by the church and by Carlos Hurtado, who saw them get hit as he came out of the church.[90]

            Sergeant John Piotrowicz of 501st Company B received the order to fall back into the swamps.  After conferring with Staff Sergeant George Faulkner of 501st Company B Piotrowicz decides to go it alone and gives his account, “I was wounded at the end of the battle of Graignes, shot in the shoulder.  I jumped over the cemetery wall without realizing there is a drop off there and fell 10 feet and injured my leg.  The Germans found me laying there and brought me back up to the church area, and I’m lined up against a wall with two other men, thinking we are going to be shot.  An officer arrived and said to stop the execution and then interrogated us during the evening.  Early the next morning I and another Sergeant from the 29th Infantry Division [Rees] and a third man are marched out of town and head south.  This started my journey as a POW.”[91]

                                               
The End

 

Major Johnston was taken back to Graignes along with Lieutenant Maxwell.  The author believes that the account by Corporal Colli had switched the identities of the Maxwell and Reese.  Lieutenant Maxwell is found dead later in Graignes.  Lieutenant Ahmad and Technical Five Reese’s bodies were found in October and November respectively later that year when the canals are being cleaned out.[92]  This gives weight to the fact that they are the two men who are killed in the water by the bridge during that action.

            Dawn found 507th and 501st men in swamps and hedgerows making their way away from Graignes.  It also found some men still in their foxholes outside of the village.  Private First Class Ed Costa and Privates Ed Page and James Klingman were still in their position.  Word hadn’t reached them about the pullout.  They noticed Germans digging in the distance and decide to lay low until dark.  Le Port St. Pierre to the north saw the arrival of two groups of men, with Captain Chapman’s men joining Captain Brummitt’s group.  They eventually pull out and headed north with a group of 89 men.[93]

            During the 12th and the 13th a total of 21 men arrived at the Rigault farm.  The Rigault family had already risked much in helping the Americans by retrieving bundles and bringing them food during the 6 days the Americans were in Graignes.  The sisters Odette, Marthe and their parents risked everything by letting the Americans stay in the loft over the barn.  Finally, a boat is located to take them along the Taute-Vire Canal.  The boat is piloted by Joseph Folliot.  The night of the 15 June the 21 men traveled by boat via canal until reaching American lines.  Private First Class Frank Juliano hid out in a large bread oven in the Graignes area until July 13th when liberated by friendly forces.[94]

            The Germans consolidated their position and went to the church and pulled out the two Priests, Father Lebarbanchona and Father Leblastier.  In the public square both are shot in the back of the head for aiding the enemy.  The Germans discovered both of the housekeepers in the rectory.  The Germans executed those women, as well.  The Germans rounded up the remaining villagers and threaten them with execution, but they stood united, and the Germans finally used them to help retrieve the wounded and the dead. 

The morning of 12 June the Mayor Alphonse Voydie returned to the village.  This was his account. “After the departure of the American soldiers in the night of 11-12 June, I went to the village on the 12th in the morning.  I removed 5 bodies from the pool located in Madame Boursier’s farm, three from the church.  Those three bodies were killed by the Germans.  Two other bodies are found in the fields.  I put those bodies in the field, but the Germans did not permit me to bury them.  Then I have to evacuate.  The American troops liberated the community on July 13.  I came back on July 20th.  The bodies of the 10 American paratroopers are removed between July 13th and the 20th”.

On July 13th, ten Americans are brought back from the village of Graignes for burial in the Blosville Cemetery as mentioned above.  Mayor Voydie stated that three of the bodies were in the church, 5 bodies from the pond.  He also mentioned the two bodies found in the fields.  Below is a list of the ten men and the breakdown of their wounds which gave some clues to where they were when killed.[95]

The brutality of the men of the 38th Regiment of the 17th SS during the period immediately following this battle is well documented.  They had already executed 2 priests and the two women who lived at the rectory.  Three men were killed in the church, and 5 men were executed at the pond, bayoneted to death.  Three of the men showed evidence of being killed by one of the artillery direct hits on the Church. One of three men in the church was Private Robert W. Britton 507th Demolition Platoon member.  He had been in the aid station since the first day.   Lieutenant Earcle Reed witnessed a wounded Britton being taken into aid station at the church on 6 June.[96]

            Private Britton had been shot in the right chest on 6 June.  Yet when his body was discovered it showed his left clavicle and a portion the left scapula missing and a skull fracture.  The 507th Battalion S-4 Officer 1st Lieutenant Elmer Hoffman suffered a crushed skull and Private Clarence R. Woodall died of a left side skull fracture of the temporal region.  The evidence indicates that these men were executed with their heads being crushed.

            This left 7 men out of this group of 10.  The 507th’s Medical Sergeant Staff Sergeant Nelson F. Hornbaker is listed on the Wall of The Missing.[97]  An unknown (X-88 Blosville) is buried with the men from Graignes when the bodies were brought back and buried on 13 July.   X-88 is buried with the group of executed wounded prisoners in the Blosville Cemetery.  His height matched with that of Staff Sergeant Hornbaker the Medical Sergeant for the Battalion Aid Station.  X-88 was buried one grave away from Bobby Miller another 507th Medic, as well as George Tillet from the 507th.  Hornbaker like Roberts, Simpson and Nadeau were buried as unknowns as their paperwork was lost at Blosville.

            This leaves 6 men, and five of these were killed at the pond, while one was found in the field.  The six men were Sergeant Leonard A. Davis A/501, Private Robert S. Niles runner from Company I 507, 501st Company B Runner Private Herbert “Herbie” Weiss, Private First Class Stanley J. Pytel 507th, 501st Private First Class Jimmie S. Millican and 507th Mortar Officer 1st Lieutenant Elmer Farnham who was assumed to have been killed when blown from the church tower.  Lieutenant Farnham seems the most likely candidate to have been the other body in the field. Leaving the other five as the men murdered at the pond behind Madame Boursier’s Café. 

The morning of 12 June started with Sergeant John Piotrowicz Company B 501, Sergeant Rees 175 Infantry Regiment Company E and an unidentified man being marched out of the village to start their trip to a POW camp.  The Germans still had 18 American and one Australian prisoner, Captains Abraham Sophian Jr. and Loyal Bogart among them.  19 men were taken to the German Headquarters at Le Mesnil-Angot.  Major Johnston was taken away separately and never seen alive again.  Johnston’s last moments were told by his wounds.  Standing facing his murderer, he put his upper left arm and covered his face from the blast that would kill him.  He was shot point blank in the head and then dumped into the canal.  His body will be recovered outside the village of de la Varde in a canal by the road to Marchesieux on November 20, 1946 by Monsieur Binard.[98]

At some point, Captains Bogart and Sophian were split up from the group of enlisted men.  They were taken to another German Headquarters at Tribehou.  They were both executed and left covered by brush off the side of the road leading back to Graignes.  There had been speculation that they were killed because Captain Sophian was Jewish.  The bodies of Bogart and Sophian were not discovered until February of 1945.[99]

            There were varied accounts of how many Americans were taken away on the morning of the 12th to Le Mesnil-Angot.  The Graignes village school teacher saw 11 men; another witness puts the number at 19, and two others set 9 as the number of prisoners.  A fifth account gives 6 as the number of bodies found executed in a roadside ditch.  There were 16 bodies recovered in the village of la Metairie just west of Le Mesnil-Angot on July 24, 1944.[100]  Mayor Voydie gave a statement to British authorities that the Germans took some of the Graignes battle dead to Le Mesnil-Angot for burial.  This statement was given to British authorities as they were investigating the death of Flight Sergeant Stanley Black of the RAF after the battle.   At some point, it seemed the citizens of la Metairie buried the groups of men close by each other, and Flight Sergeant Black is among them.

There were two burial sites in the area of the village of la Metairie.  The first contained 16 bodies and six show signs of execution.  The second contains Private Edward Bochniasz from the 29th Infantry Division and the upper half of Private First Class George Tillet as well as a large number of body parts.  Further research matched these body parts with the men buried in a mass grave in la Metairie.  This burial site was located close to the main site. 

In this instance, the favored German method of execution was to have the prisoners kneel with both hands locked behind the head.  The Germans then shoot them from behind and above.  Many of the men were lacking either hands or forearms and have fractured skulls or missing mandibles (lower jaw bones) likely because of the angle down of the shots being fired.  Five men show signs of execution in this group burial.  Three men from the 101st, Sammuel J. Chavous (X-93 Blosville) missing both hands and his jaw, Leo Packham missing right forearm and lower jaw, Richard Hoffman missing both forearms and lower jaw, 82nd men Private Arnold J. Martinez missing right clavicle and lower jaw, Benton Broussard missing lower jaw and right leg below the knee. 

Private Arnold J. Martinez was hit in the chest during the final attack.[101]  His cause of death is listed as a gunshot wounds.  Two separate accounts state that a brassard (Red Cross armband) is seen on one of the dead men.  None of the Medics show any type of a head wound.  All three of the 101st men were 501st Machine Gunners, and both Broussard and Martinez were 507th Mortar Platoon members.

Sergeant Broussard injuries indicated that he was wounded in Graignes before being taken away to la Metairie.  There are accounts of Walter Choquette being wounded as well during the battle and being treated at the aid station.[102]  Sammuel Chavous (X-93) also showed signs of being wounded.  When his body was found, he was wearing clothing from two other men, one who was buried next to him, Richard Hoffman.  There are other instances of this happening with wounded men in Graignes.  The most likely cause was that the uniforms would have been cut away treating a wounded man.  The Medical Staff would solicit extra clothing from the men in the village to replace the missing clothing.  This Chavous narrative was sent ahead to the DPMO (Defense Prisoner of War) to start the process of officially identifying him[103] but they have refused to even read the documentation.

            There was an account given by a Medic of the 507th’s Third Battalion that he ran into Medic Robert Miller during the day on 12 June.  His account states that Miller was with a group of captured men that the Germans interrogated and then started shooting them one by one.  Bobby Miller said that he was the last man to be interrogated.  When it was his turn the Germans put him on his knees, and made him lock his hands behind his head.  The gun misfired several times, and then an officer tried and when it misfired again told Miller to go. 

The man who gave this account did not make the jump into Normandy but claimed to have been there.  The veterans who knew him said at the reunions he would gather stories from other men and put himself in the account instead.  I believe that this account is valid that Miller did escape even if the person who relayed the information was not as the account came from a man who saw Robert Miller the next day outside of Graignes.[104] 

All of the other Medical Staff except Sophian were buried in the mass grave of 16.  The Medic Miller is found a distance away from Graignes and is recovered on July 23rd, a day before the group at la Metairie.

            For the remaining 10 of the la Metairie 16, some of the men exhibited traumatic battle wounds.  Private George S. Baragona was missing his left arm, Private Edward J. Pillis a Medic, was missing both arms.  There was no disinterment directive for Flight Sergeant Black from the RAF.  The seven remaining men had advanced decomposition and nothing else.  This does not mean that they didn’t, in fact, suffer extensive injuries. 

When the bodies were disinterred in 1948 a cursory examination and description of the body was conducted and reported.  For the 16 men, 15 who had reports; their inspection was by Second Lieutenant John H. Clark of the Quartermaster Corps.  While he described some of the wounds to the men, on others he didn’t mention fractured or missing body parts.[105]  Sergeant Broussard was the best example.  He is missing his lower leg, jawbone and teeth, but no mention was made, just advanced decomposition on his disinterment directive.  The reports of the remaining men who only had advanced decomposition listed by Lieutenant Clark can’t be taken at face value since Broussard’s report shows clearly that just listing advanced decomposition on the Disinterment Directive doesn’t match up with Broussard’s Check List for Disinterment of Unknowns[106].

            Two of the last ten men were Private Robert R. Rockwell 507th Runner and Private George S. Baragona part of the 507th’s Motor Pool.  The US ARMY ETO CASUALTY RECORD(S) that both men were executed.[107]

The remaining eight men were 507th Medics Private First Class Joseph A. Stachowiak, Private Edward J. Pillis, Private Jesus Casas and Corporal James M. Naff 501st Medic.  T/4 Roy M. Callahan 501st Company B Bogart’s radio operator, Flight Sergeant Stanley K. Black the RAF Gunner on a British Lancaster, Corporal Willard J. Lucas, 507th Machine Gunner, Private William H. Love 501st First Battalion Headquarters Company Machine Gunner.  

            Over the next few days the remainder of the Graignes defenders made their way back to American lines.  Major Johnston had made two important decisions that failed.  The first mistake was to remain in Graignes; the second mistake was to withdrawing by crossing a bridge that had already fallen into German hands.  What had been written to date said that the decision that Johnston made prevented the 38th Regiment of the 17th SS from joining the 37th in their counter attack on Carentan, but the reality was that the 38th was to be held in reserve, replacing the 6th Fallschirmjaeger in protecting the base of the German defense in Normandy.

            There will always been a question as to how many and why the 17th SS executed men from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Division after the battle.  Why were some executed and yet others because POWs.  We will never know for sure what occurred but I’ve formulated a theory.

            All of the Medical men were executed the day after the battle including Captain Sophian.  The only reason for that points towards the fact that the Americans used the Church for both an Aid Station and an Observation Post (OP) to spot the German positions.  The mortars inflicted heavy losses to the 17th SS. 

Using the church as both an Aid Station and an OP is not supposed to happen.  That very likely was the excuse they used to execute those men.  The real reason was more likely because Captain Sophian the Battalion surgeon was Jewish.  The next day the 17th SS executed two men from the 29th Infantry Division in the town of Montmartin-en-Graignes because they thought they were Jewish.  The 17th SS also murdered at least one more man that day in Montmartin-en-Graignes just for fun by killing a wounded 29th Division Infantry man.

            At the end it seems the 17th SS was no different than most SS units during WWII in that they did not believe in the Geneva Conventions.  It was bad luck that the 507th and the 501st ran into the 17th SS at Graignes.     

The liberation of Saint-Georges-de-Bohon and Graignes occurred July 10, 1944 when the 83rd Reconnaissance Squadron Troop from the 83rd Infantry Division arrived at Saint-Georges-de-Bohon and the 113th Reconnaissance Squadron Troop arrived in Graignes[108].  That was the day that Co B 501st man Private Juliano was liberated as well. 

 

          Over the next few weeks the bodies were located and brought back to Blosville Cemetery and Ste. Mère-Eglise No. 2.  The war had left the small towns of Saint-Georges-de-Bohon and Graignes but Graignes has never forgotten what happened during the 7 days in June.


 

Glossary

              A parachute regiment was broken down into three Battalions.  Each Battalion contained three line companies and one Headquarters Company.  Line companies were frontline units that were meant to function as a single entity.  The Battalion Headquarters Company was configured differently.  Headquarters Company consisted of a Battalion Headquarters Section, Communications Platoon, Mortar Platoon, Machine Gun Platoon and a Battalion Aid Station.  A Headquarters Company was not meant to fight as a unit; it was used to assisting line companies in combat.  The Mortar and Machine Gun Platoons were broken down into two sections each, which would be used as needed to support the line Companies. 

          The Battalion Aid Station had two surgeons and also included Medics to assist the surgeons, as well as Medics for each platoon for the line companies.  The Communications Platoon would set up and maintain the communications between Headquarters and Headquarters Company and Battalion Headquarters and the line companies and would also supply radio operators to the line companies when needed.  There was a Headquarters and Headquarters Company (Regimental) that also supplied men, in this case men from the Demolition Platoon.

            A final area of military terminology centers on the Army Air Corps.  A serial was the main formation for a paratroop drop[109]A serial was broken down in this order:  Elements were comprised of three aircraft flying in an inverted V.  The lead plane flew between and forward of its two wingmen.  One flew on the left or port side and the other the starboard or right side.  Three Elements made up a flight of nine and serials consisted of four or five flights of nine planes each.  The word chalk was derived from the number written by the rear door of the aircraft to enable the paratroopers to identify the proper aircraft to board.  A group of paratroopers was referred to as a stick.

            You will also see the term IDPF used.  This stands for Individual Deceased Personnel File.  This file is generated for any soldier that dies in uniform.  This contained any and all documents pertaining to the death of that soldier.  Military time was be used in this story, so 0130 is 1:30 am and 1500 is 3:00 pm.  Military time runs on a 24 hour clock, so after 1200 hours (noon) just subtract 12 to get the time, so 1500 hours becomes 3:00 pm.  The date will also be in Military form 6 June 1944.  The last items mentioned in the footnotes are US ARMY ETO CASUALTY RECORD(S).  US ARMY ETO CASUALTY RECORD(S) can contain very detailed information for men killed or wounded.  Some of the US ARMY ETO CASUALTY RECORD(S) came from an EMT which was an Emergency Medical Tag.  The EMTs showed the types of wounds and surgery done.  Examples of an EMT and US ARMY ETO CASUALTY RECORD(S) are listed at the end of this article.

 

 

Special Thanks To The Following People,
 

James Bigley for assisting in editing

Joe Balkoski for assisting in contacting 29th Infantry Division members

Mrs. Chester Books and her Daughter Anne Adams for sharing Chet Brooks’ memoir

Copyright 2007-2021 Brian N. Siddall and EQS Press

 


[9] Interview with Robert Reynolds conducted by Author via phone on March 31, 2008.

[10] P. Gage, Interview.

[11] Interview with Matthew Wnorowski conducted by Author via phone on January 7, 2008.

[12] Interview with Robert Wickham conducted by Author via phone on April 7, 2008.

[13] Interview with Robert Harwell conducted by Author via phone on April 1, 2008.

[14] Interview with William Paty conducted by Author via phone on January 7, 2008.

[24] R. Reynolds, Interview.

[30] Interview with Harry Beal conducted by Author via phone on February 25, 2008

[31] Interview with Eric Groce by Author via phone 2008

[32] Interview with Peter Shilingia conducted by Author via phone on April 2, 2008.

[33] Interview with Dominick M. Rizzo conducted by Author via phone on April 1, 2008.

[34] Interview with Edward DeFelice conducted by Author via phone on March 03, 2009.

[35] Interview with Jean Crawford by Author via phone March 30, 2008.

[36] Interview with Jean Crawford by Author via phone March 31, 2008.

[41] Interview with Frank Juliano by Author via phone February 6, 2007.

[45] A. Johnson, Interview.

[56] F. Juliano, Interview.

[57] Interview with Francis Naughton by Author via phone April 17, 2006.

[61] Interviews with Joseph Stefaniak by Author via phone 2006-2009.

[63] F. Naughton, Interview.

[65] F. Naughton, Interview.

[66] Interview with Paul Meluh, by Author via phone June 16, 2007.

[68] F. Naughton, Interview.

[69] Interview with George Smudin by Author via phone 2006.

[70] Interview with John Pavkov family by Author via phone 2006.

[72] Interview with John Piotrowicz, by Author via phone September 19, 2007.

[74] J. Stefaniak Interview.

[77] F. Naughton, Interview.

[78] Interview with Mrs. Richard Sundberg, by Author via phone 2008.

[79] F. Naughton, Interview.

[80] Interview with Frederic Boyle, by Author via phone August 16, 2006.

[82] Interview with George Faulkner, by Author via phone September 19, 2007.

[85] Interview with Carlos Hurtado, by Author via phone November 10, 2006.

[86] R. Wickham, Interview.

[88] F. Naughton, Interview.

[91] J. Piotrowicz, Interview.

[94] F. Juliano, Interview via his daughter.

 
 

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