Biography of Hyman Haas
Sergeant, Battery A, 467th Anti Aircraft Artillery Battalion (SP), USA
I spent about four years in the amy: 2/42 till 11/45. Some of it was pure fun. I have to admit that. Before the war we had the terrible depression to cope with. There was little hope for, what the kids of today look for, satisfying work, There was little hope for work at all and when you worked you literally slaved for long hours , 50, 60, or more hours a week for $5.00, or $6.00. So when I was inducted into the army and got over my missing my widowed mother and my sisters I began enjoying, in spite of the regimentation the relative freedom from the rigors of depression living. But then a lot of the Army was pure terror. I trained in Fort Eustus, Virginia, Fort Sheridan, Illinois, Camp Stewart, Georgia, The Desert Training Center, California and finally Camp Pickett, Virginia We got a small taste of amphibian training. I started late so I'll stop here and continue at another time. I hope some of you recognize these training sites. The big point I'm making is when would a depression kid ever get the chance to travel around like that in those days. I have to admit, I enjoyed that.
Well so there I was a kid from Brooklyn, New York traveling to places I never heard of or, never dreaming I'd ever get to the land of the movies: California. Moreover I was hiking my way to the best physical shape I had ever been. This wasn't easy for a poor city boy who barely made it through the depression where food was sometimes scarce. The only workouts I got was walking to wherever I had to go as I didn't have the fare for subways, trolleys, or busses. By the time my induction into the army came I was working steadily for the grand sum of $15.00 a week. Somehow everyone, my mother and my sisters, were also working and collectively we started living a more secure life. This didn't make my physical condition any better as I soon found out when I entered the Army. I was inducted in Camp Upton in Suffolk County, Long Island. There I was processed at full speed: that meant we ran everywhere. By the time for taps I was worn out. After a week of shots IQ testing, Uniform distribution and whatever I was shipped out to Fort Eustis in Virginia. Fort Eustis was a Coast Artillery Replacement Training Center. At that time Anti Aircraft Artillery was part of the Coast Artillery. Well after we were properly oriented, given more shots, gotten our uniform to fit we were given our first rifles and a WW1 type steel helmet. We were told told to memorize the serial numbers of the rifle and the general orders. Then the fun began. We began Basic training. Close order drill with the rifle and what I thought would be a lark and some fun. To start a ten mile field march with full field equipment. An overnight bivouac and a ten mile march back. This after I had been in the army three weeks. There were many times in my almost four years in the army where I thought my life was on the line and my demise imminent. That hike was the first such time. The day began with higher than normal temperatures in March for the Area in Virginia we were in and as the day went on it got warmer. We started the march and the first thing I noticed was that my underwear was rising and getting caught in my buttocks. The steel hemet kept slipping and began hitting me in the back of the neck, or my chin. The rifle weighed a ton. My full field pack weighed as much as a coast artillery cannon and the temperature was rising. Who could have anticipated such torture, worse yet, the men I was marching with showed no discomfort at all. I would love to say I overcame my poor physical condition and did what was expected of me. No! I must have dropped out countless times. The army anticipated this and had a truck pick up the dropouts and bring us up to our place in line. Yes there were a lot like me. By the time we reached our Bivouac area I was not only a classic case of exhaustion, but my feet had blistered badly. Some how I lived through the bivouac and survived the hike back. For better or worse this was my introduction to the Army of the USA. The Army fed us well and with time and more man killing hikes of which I fell out many times, I began to build up physically. During my time in Fort Sheridan with the 502nd Coast Artillery Regiment that I was able to carry my load in the army. I never fell out of any march again. When the 502 was ready for deployment I was sent out as cadre for the newly activated 467 Anti AirCraft Artillery Battalion (SP) in Camp Stewart Georgia. With this unit I would go into the war.
Camp Stewart, Georgia was in the deep south about 30 miles from Savannah and sited near, or on a swamp. Okeefanokee swamp wasn't far. After Fort Sheridan and the proximity to Chicago This was really as they say, in the boondocks. When the full cadre assembled we were sure given the terrain Camp Stewart was on: we would be training for jungle warfare. The cadre were assigned to their respective Batteries, I went to Battery A after which we did what Cadre do. We organized the Battery areas, drew all equipment for the new draftees that would man the Battalion. We also trained diligently on the basics we would be passing on to the new men. We did close order drill and road marches. We went to special Artillery schools and did much time at the rifle range firing the new M1 Garand rifles. We became adept at the 37 mm Automatic cannon and 50 caliber Machine guns. As I look back at that time and the people of the Battalion I am still in touch with and have met at our reunions. I realize I had made lifetime friends. There aren't many of us still left and even less who are in decent health. The men assigned to Battery A came from Louisiana, mostly from New Orleans, and the mid west. Some were from Denver, Colorado and the rest from different areas of Kansas. All it seemed to me were farmers. At this time I was already a corporal and soon my third stripe, Sergeant, was given. I became a drill instructor. I couldn't believe it, I was a city kid just recently able to tolerate Army life, here I was giving orders to big husky farm boys who could probably turn me inside out if they so desired. I got through OK and when our Basic training was over we were issued our Half Tracks and were organized into combat sections. A section consisted 12 men in two Half tracks. The first squad was a M15 Halftrack armed with a 37MM cannon and twin 50 caliber Machine Guns. All guns mounted so they would fire together at the same target. This squad had seven men assigned. The second squad Halftrack was a M16 and it was armed with 4 - 50 caliber Machine guns mounted on a power turret and fired by one man in the turret. Two men stood on the sides so as to reload the ammo canisters. Squad two had five men assigned. We would train hard on every aspect of our equipment. When we could do no more in Camp Stewart we loaded up our Halftracks on Flat cars and took off for California and the Desert Training Center. Here we lived in the field and we trained with the 9th Armored Division and we got the idea we wouldn't be fighting in the Pacific area and we were right. After five months of some of the hottest temperatures I ever endured, though broken up with passes to Los Angeles and Lake Arrowhead we turned in our Halftracks and got on trains again and went to Camp Picket, Virginia for some sort of Infantry Amphibian training. After some weeks and a furlough we left for Fort Dix, New Jersey. This was in November, 1943. I had been in training since February, 1942 and it was time to meet the war. We discharged what was considered overage men and drew new replacements and the it was Camp Shanks, New York and the Port Of Embarkation in New York City. We loaded on The Esperance Bay an English Freighter and left for England January 5, 1944. We landed in Liverpool ten days later after an enjoyable uneventful voyage.
As soon as we debarked off the Esperance Bay in Liverpool we looked for bomb damage. As usual we hurried off the ship and then waited on the pier. After about two hours we marched off the pier and began loading on trucks that apparently had just arrived. We were loaded down wearing overcoats helmet and a full field pack on our backs, in addition we carried our rifles and our barracks bag filled with all our worldly goods and army issue clothes. We all needed help in climbing aboard the 21/2 ton trucks. We drove for hours till we reached the small town called Gillingham in Dorset. I still don't know where it is, except that it is near the Channel. We moved into our encampment which consisted of Quonset Huts on the edge of the small town. I'm not too certain we weren't in the center of town. In Gillingham we rested up and oriented ourselves. We slept on wooden cots, no mattress. We did some drilling for the entertainment of our English hosts and some exercising. Within a month we were off again, this time to Exmouth in Devon and right on the Channel. Exmouth had a small beach area that was mined and blocked off with barbed wire. Captain Napier reminded us that in flying time the German airforce was only five minutes away. In Exmouth we were billeted in English homes. Living with the owners. The block we were billeted in consisted of one family homes that were quite large. As a matter of fact in peacetime Exmouth with it's beach area attracted tourists and they rented rooms in these homes All sections were divided and six men were quartered in a house. We slept on the floor and managed to keep the areas assigned to us neat and clean. Our hosts were happy with us and tried to provide us with as much comfort as possible. We were always politely invited for tea and cakes. In Exmouth we were issued new Halftracks and armament. We were able to find a large area for our motor pool and there we cleaned our new equipment: most of which was packed in cosmoline' a kind of grease. We worked long hours cleaning up and the we began our field problem program and firing missions in a designated area. We drove to Penzance for extensive target practice on sleeves towed by planes. This was always our mode of firing practice. In addition we practiced firing on ground targets. We were always on the go, either on problems in the field with our halftracks, or hiking. In early April, 1944 we held a revue in the center of town , boarded our Halftrack which was combat loaded and drove out of the town. We had said goodbye to our hosts who were saddened to see us go as it was obvious we were headed for action. Indeed we were. We drove to an area designated as marshalling areas. Pyramidal tents were erected in wooded areas and we were served by men of an infantry division who it was said at the time would see action after us. For a time we were allowed passes in Bournmouth a resort town, or Weymouth. Both fairly sized cities. Suddenly we were closed in and no more passes. We began waterproofing or HalfTracks and all vehicles. and when we finished we drove out of our area and drove to Portland. What's more it seemed as if the entire Army was on the move. In Portland we combat loaded on Two LCTs.
We were sure the invasion we long suspected we were part of was on. No it wasn't It was a practice and our landing target was Slapton Sands. The Channel was full of all types of ships and craft. We were briefed and that is how we learned that we would be landing early in the exercise. It didn't take much imagination to figure that would be our time in the real thing whenever it would happen. The voyage to our landing site went uneventful and we landed and went into position as planned. There we saw many mixups of infantry landing in the wrong places and of formations going lost and not knowing where they were to go. While there a rumor went around that a German E boat had sunk a big LST with many casualties. This proved true. The 4th U.S. Infantry Division lost practically an entire Regimental Combat Team, over 1000 men. We had heard about it almost immediately, but the news of that disaster was withheld for decades and finally released sometime in the 1990s. On shore we quickly dewaterproofed and after three or four days we drove back to our encampment in the marshalling area. The first thing we did on return was to clean up all our equipment and get things in order. a last pass was given after a sumptuous meal. We had terrific steaks with all the trimming. I was feeling good after that meal and I went to a movie where I started throwing up. After a while I left the theatre and looked for help. My vomiting was now accompanied by severe diarrhea. I approached an MP appealing for help: so he arrested me for being drunk and brought me in to his station where it was finally determined I had food poisoning. I was hospitalized with severe symptoms continuing for at least another 12 hours before I was brought under control. After two days I was sent back to my unit. There I found many men had eaten the same tainted peas and suffered a like fate. We were now locked in and there was little to do except speculate as to what we were facing. there were many lectures concerning Battle conditions and we reached out to troops near us and just speculated some more . We were near a contingent of Rangers who kept mentioning about having a suicide mission. They said they would have to climb a cliff. To me they looked like a bunch of tough mature men. But I couldn't help noticing that among them there was a young boy, at least he looked to me to be a young boy, maybe 17 years of age, These older tough looking guys, that's how they appeared to me, were fatherly toward that young man. I have to mention here that if any one is to go off into Battle then the the way we did is the way. We were with our own unit among men we had been with for well over a year. We had formed friendly relationships and were practically family. We were given all sorts of information and this time without any mishaps, good food. Now as we approached the third week of May we began to notice a stepping up of religious services. There would be services for all. We Jewish men were led by a Rabbi in a long beard completely covered with his Prayer shawl and Phylacteries. Along side was a Catholic Mass led by a priest with full religious dress. Near by a Protestant service led by a minister in navy uniform. The thing about those religious services was that all were praying to g-d and watching one another. I recall a Colonel Mumford who lectured us about going into battle and ended with, "take care of yourselves, if you don't we'll replace you." Now at the beginning of the last week in May the order came to waterproof our vehicles again. We didn't Know exactly where we were going to go, but we clearly were going there. We would find out aboard our LCT.
We left Exmouth May 30th while the people of the town lined the streets and cheered us on. We noticed many of the townspeople in tears. The time had come and it seemed as if the entire nation was in motion. there was a steady roar of motors as troops, all in battle gear were on the move. Infantry in deuce and a half trucks, waterproofed tanks, Artillery, whatever kind of unit in the army was on the move and waterproofed. there were many times we pulled off to the side of the road, or main street of a town so to allow other units to proceed. That there was a plan for this was evident. Though there times we stopped and waited every thing moved smoothly. M.P.'s were everywhere directing traffic. This was the biggest parade ever. The only thing missing were the marching Bands.There was constant cheering as we went through towns. Everyone knew what was happening. As for the parade: we were aware that this was the memorial day holiday in the States. Decoration day when every city and town in the United States held a parade, This was the biggest of them all. We pulled over to the side when we reached Portland and waited our turn to load on our Lcts. The time was about 10PM and it was still light. We all found a spot and went to sleep. At &AM we still were waiting and as I recall there was a red cross truck nearby and we were taken in order for coffee and doughnuts. We loaded at noontime May 31st, 1944. Immediately out came the maps and our platoon officer held classes showing us where we were to land and for the first time I heard the name Omaha. We were part of Force O for Omaha and Omaha Beach would be in Normandy. Our section to land on would be the eastern edge of Easy Red Beach and the town we would be looking for was ST. Laurent. Our 2nd platoon was to land nearby to our East. We were given a code system to put our radio transmissions into code to study. We were briefed over and over where the supply dumps would be on the beach. As chief of section I had to absorb everything and then pass this mountain of Information on to my crew. Then we cleaned all our weapons and stowed all our gear in Barracks Bags on the top of the cab of theM15 Halftrack,Right under the 37mm gun which made it necessary to raise the vertical position of the gun. The M16 stowed similarly. This meant that we couldn't fire our guns over the cabs of the Halftracks. The time flew by, there was so much to do and study. D Day we were told was to be June 5th. H Hour 06:30 AM. We would leave the evening of June 4th.
We left Portland harbor at about 8PM amidst much whistle blowing, it seemed as if every ship was blowing its fog horn. There were ships and boats of every description everywhere. I couldn't help reflecting that we had, since leaving Exmouth seen and were part of one of the greatest spectacular events ever. At this time during our departure from the port of Portland the scene of all those ships were overwhelming. Fast Cutters pulled up nearby and men with megaphones were shouting "GOOD LUCK" at us. They were cheering at us and we were cheering back. We took our place in a long line of LCTs and made our way into the English Channel. By the time it got dark I decided that I had better get some sleep. Up to this point I had given little thought of what the landings might entail. The thought that I might be killed or wounded never entered my mind. The spectacle was too overwhelming and besides I had so many details to see to that I had no other thought than to digest and memorize all the information that was given to me. I fell asleep immediately. Sometime later I was shaken awake by our Corporal; "Get Up, Getup, We're turning back, the invasions been called off." After I fully woke I went to our 1st Sergeant who told me the operation was probably postponed because of the weather. The weather looked good to me. I could feel no rain, spray yes. As there was nothing I could do about it I went back to sleep and when I awoke we were back in the same spot we were in before we left. I didn't know whether to be disappointed, or not.
I can't recall the hour when we were told that the invasion was on again. That evening we repeated the departure scene over again. The same activities and spectacle. This time I didn't go to sleep. Again I couldn't tell the time when we heard the motors of hundreds of Planes. We couldn't see then as it was pitch black, we couldn't see our hand in front of our eyes. We kept on sailing our excitement rising. Whatever spectacle we had witnessed before would soon be replaced with another kind. In those latitudes there was only about 4 hours of dark at night. We first saw the first glimmers of light very early that morning and as it got lighter ships of all kinds became visible. Destroyers, Cruisers and Big Battleships. There were Ocean liners and men were climbing over the sides on nets and into small Higgins boats and then they started circling. We had stopped near a big Battle ship. At about 05:30, or so I think, it could have been earlier. The Battle Ship let go a salvo with all its big 15 inch guns. I had always wanted to hear what one of those salvos sounded like. The sound wasn't like the distant thunder I had imagined. It was like a very loud rifle shot with plenty of concussion. A sharp crack. Then the shell could be seen as all the shots were tracer. We then heard the Bombers overhead. They were to bomb the beaches. There seemed to be no end to them and all the cannonading from all the naval vessels acting as field artillery. To our right about a half mile away a LCT with rockets let go with all they had. Between the Battleship and the Rocket LCT we were witness to some terrific Bombardment. We were told that the battleship was actually firing in support of the Utah Beach landings. We never found out the name of the battle ship, perhaps she was the Texas.
06:30 the bombardment stopped, with the Airforce and the off shore bombardment so terrific we couldn't see how anything could be left alive on the beach. We also knew the engineers had landed so they could blow up any beach obstacles. The morning though overcast was showing lots of light, we couldn't see the shore as there was much fog and smoke. All we knew was the first men were ashore. We couldn't estimate how far from shore we were, but at 07:00 AM a boat pulled near and again a man with a megaphone yelled at us;"Go On In, GOOD LUCK. Well that started us off. We began our run onto Omaha Beach.
The run in took at least a half hour and probably more. We had no idea of what was happening on the beach, except as I looked over the side I saw the body of a GI floating by. A short while later a shell exploded about 20 feet away on my side. Somebody had targeted us. There were one or two more shots and Captain Napier yelled that everyone should keep our heads down during the run. We were near the beach I still couldn't see what was ahead, except that the smell of smoke was heavy. We could clearly hear the distinctive sound of German Machine guns. They had such a high rate of fire they sounded like a burp and that's how they got the name burp guns. We had long ago been told that and now we were hearing the sound again. We Had found a clear spot through the obstacles and made for shore and soon the ramp was down and we started our motors. Every motor started and soon we were ready to land. Someone gave out with a Rebel Yell and our 1st Sergeant who had been looking out in the front of the LCT shouted back;"Shut up you shmuck! In a minute you may be dead!" The Captain's command Halftrack was off first and as he got on to the beach he turned right (West). We all followed suit. I found we weren't exactly on shore as when we went in I was sitting in the cab of the Half track with the driver and the water went up to my chin, I grabbed my rifle and the driver's Thompson machine gun and held them over my head. I thought the driver would be completely under water. But he wasn't and we were soon ashore and we turned right and made for our place 30 feet from the vehicle ahead of me. My M16 was soon 30 feet behind me. In minutes the entire platoon was ashore. The noises of mortars and German Machine guns were louder and as I looked ahead the shore was littered with landing ships and craft. All aflame. I didn't know where to look first when I looked up on the Bluffs ahead and spotted a bunker that looked to me to be built into the hills. At the same time I also spotted an American officer with a full handle bar mustache and wearing shiny cavalry boots running towards me pointing at that German Bunker. Captain Napier was standing near me and he said "Go Get it.. I immediately saw we couldn't fire ahead because of our barracks bags being piled up in front so I ran into the surf and signalled my two Half tracks to follow me into the surf. They caught on immediately and turned right and drove into the surf deep enough to cover our tracks and wheels. I took up a position behind the rangefinder and in an instant we opened fire. We missed our first three shots as a shell went past us. I made an adjustment on the rangefinder and the next 15 shots went right into the gun port of the bunker. All the time my M16 were firing their 4 50 caliber machine guns at the bunker. No doubt the Bunker was dead.
Breathing heavily with excitement I recalled the Halftracks out of the surf and now we were standing by and we could see the results of the German machine gun, mortar and artillery fire. There was complete Chaos on the beach in front of us. On our right all Giant LSTs, LCTs, LCIs were afire and exploding ammunition. It was difficult to see if any one was alive in, or on the ships and craft. To our left on the shore were tremendous amount of dead and wounded soldiers lying about in all positions, as we looked further we could see parts of bodies, arms legs, heads. We made our way through this Valley of death taking machine gun and mortar hits and adding to the casualties. We went through a blown hole in a wall, many of our GIs had taken cover by this wall and they died in groups or just been blown apart. We made our way through the opening of the wall and found ourselves on soft beach sand. and then the mortaring began . The sound of their coming sounding like the fluttering of a small birds wings I noticed an infantryman jump into a fox hole and a mortar shell went in with him.We were out of our Halftracks and under them for cover, some of the mortars flew right into three of our tracks. Suddenly the mortaring stopped and then A large LST blew up and sent a large amount of burning oil over our heads putting the bluffs ahead of us on fire. It seemed to me that every thing was on fire and that it wouldn't be long before we would all be dead. Panic wasn't far away. Somehow we kept together and soon we got the order to proceed ahead to the Beach exit and ride to the top of the bluffs. The Beach exit was called Exit E 1 and it led to the town of St. Laurent. On the way up the road we paused in front of the bunker we had knocked out and there were two wounded German soldiers lying on the parapet of the bunker: one of them was vomiting blood. As we waited to go on Macneil the Chief of section 2 ran over to me and shouted "Hey that's your bunker." For a while I thought he was accusing me of killing the Germans. Of Course he wasn't. Everyone was in a keen sense of excitement. We all were gasping for breath even though we weren't moving. We moved on away from the unsettling scene of the dying German soldiers. We Made our way to the top of the bluffs and soon the sounds of battle began to recede from our area and we began to breath a little freer. But not for long. We had dug foxholes and, from force of habit in training, a latrine. It was that latrine that a sniper took aim at. He wasn't a good shot as he missed whomever he aimed at, but whoever used that latrine had a shot aimed at him. We Knew about the sniper and we couldn't locate him. Still whoever came to us and asked where our latrine was we pointed at it and sent the guy to it. A shot was followed by near hysterical laughter as the latrine user began to scatter away. None of us could explain why it was that we never warned any one away. We actually were looking for the sniper to show himself and he did to one of our men in another section who aimed his 4 50 caliber machine guns at him and stopped the comedy. We were off the beach and the sun came out and warmed us. We were soaking wet most of the day and now we began to dry. The most depressing thought we had was that what we had endured even though it seemed we had won a toehold on the beach was this day was only the beginning. We had no sense of victory, only dread. We had seen war up front there was nothing ahead but more of the same.. We weren't wrong.
We stayed on the top of the bluff, a sort of plateau where eventually an airfield was built, three, or four days without any incident aside from the spectacular displays of AA fire coming from the ships anchored off the beach. Some, not many, German bombers came in after dark and dropped bombs, or tried to bomb the ships. I watched the display as we were told not to fire at night from our position. I recall the one time a lone german plane scored a hit. The ship blew up with a terrific explosion that turned the area blood red. The strange thing was that all the ships were firing and did so every time a german plane come buzzing over the ships. The sky was literally filled with tracers and explosions and not once did they bring a german plane down. At that position we sort of recouperated from the trauma of the landings. I recall the first food we ate was over 36 hours since our last meal. As armored and mobile troops we carried plenty of food and the utensils to cook though at that time we had the 10 and 1 rations which weren't bad. In addition we were issued, before we left the marshalling area, some sort of concentrated Chicken Soup which came in a self heating container. To heat the soup we pulled a string, or something and the soup heated. We each were issued 4 cans. and that was the first food we ate when we finally simmered down. The soup was delicious and we wolfed down three each before we decided to stop. After that we sort of normalized we took the waterproofing off our Half Tracks and made coffee. We had lots of ground coffee and we kept a pot on our stove. We also were issued a small two burner gasoline stove that you had to pump up before you lit it. We even gave passing Generals coffee.
We would have been satisfied to stay in that spot for the duration but we got our march order after three, or four days. Our position atop the bluff felt like home, we never went far from it, not even to go back and look the landing beaches over. We'd seen enough of the landing Beach.
The next day after we took our position off the beach. In the early morning. We noticed Captain Napier our Battery Commander slowly riding by with his Jeep followed by three Halftracks. He caught my eye and held up his hands showing six fingers. This turned out to mean that six out of nine Halftracks of the 2nd were destroyed. and as I found out with the loss of half the men. OUr 2nd platoon had landed on a beach area in front of a strong German position and suffered the sort of machine gun, Artillery and mortar attack seen in the movie "Saving Private Ryan. Their LCT had gone onto the Beach firing their 50 cal. machine guns. Soon the navy gunner was blown off the craft by a shell hit and The LCT (#30) began to take in water and looked out of control. Luckily whoever was steering got control and went in close enough to allow the platoon to land. They all got off and did as we did, they turned right and as soon as they were all on the beach the machine guns opened up on them and mortars dropped directly into their buckets, as we called the interiors of our Half tracks. To get away from the murderous fire some of the Half tracks drove back into the surf and took up positions along the beach . Lieutenant Paul Nauer our Executive Officer was in command and he Did all he could to get as many Halftracks away from the murderous fire and under some cover and to tend to the wounded. The Germans had them completely pinned down. While in their positions in the surf the surviving men spent their time rescuing those soldiers whose landing craft had sunk. By the time Captain Napier found the platoon the Germans were pushed out of the area and our wounded could be evacuated. The2nd platoon had landed about 3oo yards to the East of where we , the 1st platoon landed. All in all 40 % of A Battery men were casualties and half our equipment was lost.
Now after three, or four days we received our march order. We were going to meet the war again.
We didn't know what to expect when we left the beach area. What we didn't expect was the hedgerows that dominated the Normandy landscape. Every position we took was a potential trap and for the first days snipers were every where. We drove to towns like ST. Mer Eglise where the paratroopers were still in position. We took up positions in, or around Isigny, Carantan as well as St. Mer Eglise. We got our taste of Hedgerow fighting firing in support of Infantry or finding assigned positions still occupied by German troops. We shot up the place and ran like hell back to our CP. When we got into position we had to dig Foxholes and then dig our halftrack in about four feet deep. This took hours and many times after we finished digging in we were given a march order and the whole routine started over. After some weeks of this I began to notice that there were many Engineer Battalions in the many areas we operated in. When We went into position I would look the area over and I always found such a unit and they always were happy to loan us a driver and a bulldozer who dug out our positions for us. Digging in Normandy was a torture as the Earth was a sort of red clay and backbreaking to dig. When we felt we wouldn't be in a position for long we only dug foxholes and latrines. That is the way the Normandy campaign went. We slowly advanced to the St.Lo area where we did much maneuvering and firing. On July 25th we were surprised to see wave after wave of our B17 and B24 Bombers fly overhead and begin to bomb the St. Lo area. It seemed hours that they Bombed. They also Bombed our Command Post and most of our men there, including Captain Napier, were killed. Lieut. Paul Nauer became our new C.O. The news of Captain Napier's death had a terrible effect on the unit. This was a shock that hard to overcome. We had dug and fought our way to this position for almost two months and we were showing the strain. The positive part of the bombing was that soon we broke out of Normandy and soon we were experiencing pitched battles with a fair sized German counterattack at the Mortain area. We were saved many times by the British attack planes firing rockets at the big German tanks. At this time i was exhausted to the point where I couldn't dig a fox hole for my self. What saved me was the big breakout and the near surrounding of the German Army at Falaise. We were rushed to the Falaise area where we manned roadblocks. Luckily no German formations challenged us.Soon we took up with the 2nd Armored Division and Spearheaded with them to the Siegfried line amid the cheers and adulation of the French people we liberated. We were all exhausted and we made damn sure to get the sleep we needed within the 2nd Armored Division's perimeter at night.We didn't dig, or stand guard. We made our way to Maastricht in Holland and then the town of Gulpen about ten miles from Maastricht on the Siegfried line where we supported a rookie engineer company who were given an infantry mission. From the Siegfried line in Gulpin, Holland, not far from Maastricht and Heerlin. Shortly after we got shot up in that area we went off to the city of Luxembourg for our first break. A pass to Paris. Then came "The Battle of the Bulge". Oh Boy. The Remagen Bridge and the other side of the Rhine. The Concentration Camp, Displaced persons. The end of the war and patrolling Munich as cops. The details of all this will follow later.
For the 50th anniversary of D Day We had installed a Battalion Plaque above the gun port of the Bunker we knocked out. We are probably the only Separate Battalion to have a memorial plaque on Omaha Beach. The marks made by the 50 cal machine guns on the inside are still visible today. You might see pictures of the bunker if you look for pictures taken of Exit E1 in the Ruquet Valley. That is practically on the dividing line of Easy Red and Easy Green Beaches. The Bunker is on the side of the road leading off the Beach on the way to St. Laurent. Of course we had permission from The Battle Monument Commission and the people of St. Laurent to place the plaque. I am still in touch with the Mayor of St. Laurent: Jean Martin. The Mayor got out all the people he could from St Laurent, Colleville and Viereville for the Unveiling of the plaque and that night they threw a gala dinner dance for us. What a memory.
- MORE TO COME -
--- Hyman Haas
Normandy, Digging in near Carentan, Photo by Hyman Haas
Hyman Haas with Captured Flag and Cap, Photo by Hyman Haas
LSTs on Omaha, by Hyman Haas
March Order, M15 and Crew, Photo by Hyman Haas
Omaha Beach, 1994, Exit E1, Ruguet Valley, Photo by Hyman Haas
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