Veteran Stories:
Marcel Auger

Air Force

  • Marcel Auger, in Quebec City,Quebec, June 2010.

    Historica Canada
  • German officer parade bayonet, 1945.

    Marcel Auger
  • Canadian Bayonet of Le Régiment de la Chaudière.

    Marcel Auger
  • Nazi dagger.

    Marcel Auger
  • Marcel Auger, October 18th 1944.

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"I don't know hold old he was but he seemed like an older man. He was sitting on a rock and was chewing on his wool blanket. He was chewing and looking at me like a wild animal ready to jump on its prey."

Transcript

Please be advised that this veteran’s personal experience includes elements of a graphic nature and may not be suitable for a younger viewer. I had to enlist because it was the draft. I stopped my studies once I reached my 9th year. I turned 18 in May '[19]42. Before the army came calling, I wanted to join the air force, not the army. Unbeknownst to my mother, I enlisted in the air force on Buade street in Quebec, near the basilica. I told my mother that I had to report to the Lachine camp [Quebec] only two days before my departure. It was a bit hard on her and on me, as well. I knew that I wanted absolutely to enlist in the air force rather than the army. Finally, I had just as much difficulty in the air force because I was part of the ground team. Sometimes the army was even behind us. I enlisted on November the 2nd, [19]42. I started my gunner training in Fingal, Ontario [No. 4 Bombing and Gunnery School]. My first choice was to be a pilot but I hadn't received enough instruction to become one. There weren't many of us French Canadians in our squadron. There were maybe 1,200 men in the three squadrons. There were maybe twenty or so of us French Canadians, no more. So inevitably I, who wasn't English, learned English the hard way.

During the landing on Normandy on June 6, 1944, a few days before June 6, we noticed that our planes had been flying a lot. We were working almost 12-18 hours a day. We didn't know why. We found out that the landing had taken place on June 6, in the morning. When we started working in the morning, we learned that the men had landed in Normandy at six in the morning. We landed on the 8th [of June] with the advance party; the first who arrived in front. Before leaving, we had received a message from Eisenhower [Dwight D. Eisenhower, the commander of the Allied forces in Europe]; he was in charge of the landing. I still have the recording. I even have it in my suitcase here. He wished us luck, and it made us cry.

We loaded into the barge. There were sixty of us men in the barge. We had four trucks. I was in the first truck that was to land. The crossing [of the English Channel] was pretty easy. We weren't attacked by any submarines; we were too close to England and France. The submarines weren't venturing that close. Once we arrived in Normandy, it was a beautiful, sunny day. We began to hear the cannons before we had even arrived. We had beached on the shore. We couldn't land with the low tide. It was soft […] and our trucks would have gotten stuck like they did in 1942 in Dieppe [during the Anglo-Canadien raid on August 19th]. Their trucks had gotten stuck. We arrived towards 6:30-6:45 at night and we had to wait until 10:30 at night for the tide to rise. At that moment, there were two warships behind us that were launching shells at the German lines and the German lines were hitting back. Unfortunately, one of the shells hit one of our barges and wiped out in one shot all of the trucks and the sixty men housed inside. Everything gone. We saw it with our own eyes. Towards 10:45 [am], the tide had risen enough for us to get out. When we started exiting, we could see dead men floating in the water all around us. It wasn't easy. It was nice, clear day out but bombs were dropping and shells were falling on all sides.

On land, we followed the front line. We did the entire French countryside. The worst place was Caen. A battle you have surely heard about. I crossed through Caen with my truck, over the ruins of the town. We did the entire countryside; Caen, Villers-Bocage, [Falaise], Beauvais, we crossed through it all. We crossed over intoDouai [France], Belgium, at the beginning of September 1944, I believe. The same thing in Belgium; we did three or four places. During the liberation of the town of Brussels, since I was driving my truck and in Belgium the wheel is on the right and you drive on the right side of the road, I was close to the sidewalk. A woman climbed up onto my truck and asked if I was from Montreal. I told her that I was from Quebec. She told me that her husband was a Canadian she that she was from Montreal. She was Belgian but she had married a Canadian in '14-18 [during the First World War of 1914-1918]. Mrs. Raymond Massard was her name. She gave me her phone number and became my war godmother.

Holland was the worse place we went to. It was the winter, and it was very cold. It was snowing and people were poor. Children would dig through our garbage and eat what was good or what they thought was good. We had bread tipped in tea, imagine that. Mutton with fat afterwards. We ate a lot of mutton. That's what they ate. The wore clogs, both the children and adults. It was difficult in Holland, very, very difficult. It was cold, cold like our winters here. It was the end of the war. We thought that we would be coming back as soon as possible, but that was May 1945. I worked as part of the occupation until January 1946. I spent six months in Germany.

I would never advise my children to enlist in the war. I witnessed atrocities, especially at the Belsen-Bergen camp [Bergen-Belsen concentration camp], near Hanover [Germany]. While I was convalescing, I was a driver for a […] commander. We slept one night at the Belsen-Bergen [Bergen-Belsen] concentration camp. I have photos with my in my suitcase. One is of a pit with five or six thousand bodies. Those bodies, they took them from the barracks where there were compartments with three levels. Some of them were dead already. Some of them were injured and some of them were dying. They took all those poor people and put them in the pit. In one of the holes, you can see a woman. I have a photo of it. She had nice black hair and a hole in her thigh. One of guards told me how she got that hole in her thigh. The woman gave birth to a child at the camp. She was breastfeeding when one morning, an SS guard [Schutzstaffel, Nazi Party paramilitary organization] quartered it before her very eyes. She went crazy. She tried to run away and escape but she couldn't get through the barbed wire. They shot her. You can see that her body in the hole. It's a horrible memory. I saw another man, I don't know how old he was but he seemed like an older man. He was sitting on a rock and was chewing on his wool blanket. He was chewing and looking at me like a wild animal ready to jump on its prey. It's an image I will never forget. Never, never, never.

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