Chan Katzman's dog tags.Chan Katzman
Chan Katzman, 2010.Historica Canada
Chan Katzman (waving) during his training in England, 1944.Chan Katzman
Chan Katzman recovering from the wounds he received on D-Day in a hospital in England.Chan Katzman
Tom Settee and Chan Katzman back in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, after the war.Chan Katzman
"My life depended on the next guy. The king and the country, you know, they were fine, but they weren't there to help us ̶ we had to do it ourselves."
They were shooting at us before we ever landed. When we [The Regina Rifle Regiment] landed they put down the, it was like a big door and everything falls down, and then you run across. Now my partner and I were supposed to be the first guys to run with the [M1A1] Bangalores [torpedoes: explosive charge in an extendible tube used to clear obstacles such as barbed wire], but some guy got to be a hero. He got to go first; and he got killed before he left that landing craft. Some guys went to help him and before we knew it, there was a pile of bodies: there were sailors and a navy officer. We couldn't get through. So I said to my partner, let's go over the side, hanging on to that and a rifle. We've got to go to the beach. I took off to the left and I ran about maybe twenty steps; and every time I went to get up, I fell down and I didn't know why, but I had a machine gun [bullet] that went through my leg.
At the time when you get hit, it's more of a shock. It doesn't hurt, but I couldn't stand up. I couldn't run; I couldn't walk. The only way I could manoeuvre was crawl or wait until the tide pushed me up a little, and then I reached further on. There was big craters. There were [Supermarine] Spitfires [single-seat fighter aircraft] and bombers made big craters, and the 88 mm cannons [German anti-tank and anti-aircraft artillery]. So I was going in for cover to get into that hole; and by golly, I just about made it, when a big shell burst and I got a piece of shrapnel that landed in behind my eye. It knocked me cold. I guess I didn't know what was what because my buddy, who came in on the second wave, noticed me. He thought I was dead; and he took my gas cape [waterproof poncho for protection against chemical weapons], you know, and he covered me up.
All of a sudden things were quiet. Just like a lull, you know. There was a bunch of bodies lying around and I didn't know if I was run over, or the Germans, so I crawled in and lay amongst the bodies who were dead. All of a sudden I could hear people talking and they were talking in English. They were going around taking wrist watches, rings, or whatever from the dead. So when I heard them I kind of raised my voice and I said, over here. I thought they were stretcher bearers. They came running over; and one guy says, here's a live one.
I was always scared as hell. You know there is nobody that wasn't; and if they ever told you, they were full of shit. Everybody was scared. You didn't know. We were never in a situation like that. But this was the real thing. Everybody was thinking ̶ you know when they say that you died for king and country? Well, most of us looked after each other, the guy next to you, because if you saved his life, he'll save your life. My life depended on the next guy. The king and the country, you know, they were fine, but they weren't there to help us ̶ we had to do it ourselves.