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Follies of a Navy Chaplain

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Tanks for the Memories

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They were all young kids

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Love Company

A Mile in Their Shoes

A Mile in Their Shoes

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Nine Lives

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©2014, Aaron Elson

   

They were all young kids

The online version

©2014, Aaron Elson

Lieutenant Jim Flowers and the battle for Hill 122

This is the story of Jim Flowers, a brash young lieutenant from Dallas whose courage and sacrifice helped turn the tide in one of the bloodiest battles of the Normandy campaign. Flowers' story, along with that of the battle for Hill 122, is taught to French schoolchildren. Yet it is virtually unknown in the United States.

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 Chapter 8

Louis Gerrard's story, Part 2

   After the Germans left, I never slept; I was just petrified, laying there. Then when the shelling kept coming, there were stones and all from the road, that stuff was coming up, hitting me on the head. I crawled up as best I could; my hands were all bleeding. I got 28 stitches in my arm. They put me in two casts.

    They hit the tank on my side. If weíd have got out a little sooner I might have made it without losing my eye. If. You canít keep iffing. But Jack Sheppard can probably tell you everything that happened that day.

    An American medic treated me. The Germans took him. They shouldnít have taken him, but they did. Maybe for their own protection, I donít know. But I was trying to get Sheppard and the other guys to get away from there, because a German patrol was coming through. Bailey didnít get out fast enough. He was the last one, poor Bailey; he was helping everybody, and he wound up getting killed.

    I knew Bailey from when I first went in the service. Nice guy. Every guy you ask me about I say was a nice guy; I never had any problem with these fellows. He treated me all right; I treated him all right. Poor Bailey. He was from the South, I think. He had an accent. [Sgt. James Bailey was from Christine, Ky.]

    I remember German kids in front of our tank with their hands over their heads; they were young kids, crying. And some of the guys would say, "Sonofabitches, shoot íem!" They didnít do it, but they were thinking about it, because they figured they were young kids and all, but they would kill you. I didnít like the idea of killing people, but itís either them or you, you have to do it.

    When we went in, I thought they were way the heck in, but we were damn near at the beach; it was all flooded. I thought, boy, we could get pushed back into the English Channel. But we didnít. Those poor guys that landed first took a lacing. The 4th Infantry Division got hit hard. A couple other divisions too got hit hard. A ranger battalion too got belted pretty good.

    I used to always watch everything I could about the war. I think Iíve seen "The Longest Day" three or four times, and Iíve seen that Telly Savalas movie with the tank. I see them all. I see them over and over. My wife keeps saying, "What do you want to see that for? Youíve seen it six times."

    It brings back memories. My brother Jack, heís really gung-ho about this. He knows everything, from the top to the bottom. He never misses a reunion. And my two sisters used to go with him. Theyíve made a lot of friends and they talk to people in California, Texas. But I never went to any of the reunions except Fort Knox.

    I was never heavy, but when I got out of the service I think I weighed about 115 pounds. I was lucky to be alive, I guess. I met a lot of nice guys in the service.

    I was a printer before the war. I was a compositor. Hand composition. I went back to the same company after the war, and worked there until I retired.

    When I came back, we landed in Charleston, South Carolina. We got on a hospital train and went to Camp Gordon. Then they put us on a plane, a C-47, and we were going to Orangeburg, West Virginia, but there was a storm and they had to land the plane at Fort Bragg. I didnít want to get in a plane. I didnít like the planes; you didnít see any parachutes. It was loaded with wounded. We got there and I thought, "Good, now weíll go by train the rest of the way." The next day, back on the plane. They took us to Hagerstown, Maryland, and from there they put us in ambulances and took us to Newton D. Baker General Hospital in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Thatís the first time my wife and sister came down to see me. My sister Mary. From there, I got my first pass to go home.

    Before I got to Martinsburg, I was always on the move someplace, and I had missed several paychecks. I used to get like a partial payment, every now and then theyíd give you so much. Then we all had to go to the auditorium, and the paymaster was coming in. So he called my name, and I went up and he started shelling out hundreds of dollars. I said, "There must be some mistake. Iím not entitled to all this."

    He said, "Thatís whatís here." So I took it and went back to the ward, and I told the guys itís not my money. They were hollering, "Keep it!" I went back to the service department in the hospital; there were a couple of WACs in there, and I told them about all the money. One of them said, "Wait a minute," and they went and got my service records, and she said, "No wonder you got paid all that money." It was stamped in the service records, "Killed in action."

    I said, "Holy cow!" What if they ever sent that to my wife and mother? I couldnít believe that. But thatís what it was. She showed it to me.

    I was never angry at the Germans. I figured they were put into it just like I was. I mean, I didnít want to go to war, and I guess a lot of them didnít want to go to war. But that nut was over there sending them in. Thatís the way I used to think of it, but like I say, youíve got to kill them or theyíll kill you. As much as you donít want to, you have to.

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