"when I think about it now, was probably as scared as I’d ever been in my life before then or since then."
It was behind barbed wire on the East Indy docks in London, you had rolls of barbed wire up and you were, I would say, you must have been 25, 35, 40 feet from the nearest civilian population, they kept you away from them. So every day, maybe 4:00 in the afternoon, 5:00 in the afternoon, marched you down to docks, put you on a landing craft and out to Thames River you’d go. So when it turned back, they’d tell you, when you landing, you’re going to be landing on foreign soil. We did this every night for maybe three weeks. But I’ll tell you, the night that it was the real thing, they didn’t have to tell you because the air was full of airplanes and there was warships everywhere, and we knew then that we were going someplace. We didn’t know where.
So, the next morning, we come in on the bigger boat and we were out maybe two miles from shore, I’m guessing, but it was out quite a ways from shore, and we came down by, they put rope nets over the side of the ship, we come over that, down into landing craft. They call that LCIs [Landing Craft Infantry], those boats just went into the shore, the front end of the boat dropped down. Of course, there was prodding, they were telling you, “When that goes down, you run, you run, you run.” They also said, “Get down, you know, if your buddy gets hit, you don’t stop and help him, you keep going, you keep going.” When you’re 18 years old, I guess maybe you just do everything you’re told, this is drilled into you day and night.
They had given a small little map maybe, oh maybe three inches by four inches and it was a map of the village where we were landing. We come into Bernières-sur-Mer, I think it was, Bernières-sur-Mer. In that map, there was a bridge drawn in inland about I suppose maybe a mile, a mile and a quarter. And that’s where we had to be that evening, I don’t know, 5:00, 6:00, 7:00, whatever. After running all day long, you went there and we all got back together and we dug our trenches and dug a hole in the sand and got in the hole for the night.
Well, there was air raids of course. When we were there, there were people shooting at you. So you were, I wouldn’t say that you were brave or anything like that, because you were probably, when I think about it now, was probably as scared as I’d ever been in my life before then or since then. But we dug the hole in the ground and we stayed there and then we started doing what we had been trained to do, to run telephone lines out for the infantry, for the artillery, for whoever needed it, from our headquarters. And then of course, our headquarters on back. These telephone lines are not like today. Today, they string them up on poles, but then we had just had a coil of wire and it was on the ground and we took that and we run with that. And if the wire gave out, you’d put the wires together, tied them with a knot and a little bit of rubber tape and then kept going with the next one until you got where you were going. And then you stick a telephone on the end.
And the telephone then was in a canvass bag and it had a crank on it and you cranked it and if you’d get through, you were through. If you, if you didn’t get through, that meant that the line was broke and maybe a truck or a tank or something had run over that piece of wire. Then you had to go back, find out where it was broke and fix it again. And that was pretty much the whole thing. And you’re doing this, it’s a far thing from a picnic.