Moosburg Online: Stalag VII A
Oral history

Eddie Livingston

The First Time I Saw Paris

Eddie Livingston first jumped in Africa, then fought in five European Campaigns: Sicily, Salerno, Cassino, Anzio, and Normandy. He was captured in Normandy and spent 11 months in German concentration camps and as slave labor in Hitler's coalmines before he was liberated in April of 1945. He witnessed and endured things that no person should have to experience. He earned many medals, but would gladly have traded them all to have never seen a friend die in battle or to have never had to pull the trigger himself.

The 504th was held back from the initial Normandy campaign because of the devastation they had just endured in Anzio. Regardless, Eddie volunteered to jump with the Pathfinders of the 508th. They were the first to jump that night prior to D-Day and had the mission to set up beacon lights that would help guide the rest of the airborne invasion. Eddie, as were many of the other Airborne that actually survived the jump that night, was dropped miles off target and had to try to fight his way to safety while miles behind the lines. He earned a Bronze Star Medal during the night of the jump, and then the Distinguished Service Cross on June 9 for heroic action in battle.

He was captured and severely beaten on June 9, 1944. The Germans lined up three guys in front of Eddie and shot them. He was then forced to dig four graves, one for each of the dead men, and one extra. Thus started his next 11 months of the unthinkable. Anyone feel free to contact me.

Bob Hepburn
Eddie's Place

This story is registered with the Writers Guild Of America. Contact Pam Baker at [email protected]

Eddie Livingston
Route 4, Box 457
Dothan, Alabama


The first time I saw Paris, ironically, was also my last time. And that great city, that is renowned the world over, for her beauty and glamour and heart; was, at the time I saw her, an embittered, snarling, screaming, vengeance-crazed, hate-ravaged, old crone! Stripped bare of all her beauty, glamour, and heart by WW II, and a long, cruel occupation by The Germans.

My outfit WW II, 504th parachute infantry regiment, 82nd airborne division, had arrived in England to re-join the 82nd just a few days before D-night 5-6 June ’44; after being left behind in Italy (after the fall of Naples) for much hard combat, as special troops for Mark Clark’s 5th Army. The 504th started its combat history in Sicily. Then it was Salerno; on to Naples; then Venafro and the other bloody approaches to Cassino; and many hectic days at a war-torn purgatory called Anzio; when the 504th swapped its jump-planes for landing craft, and hit the beach.

While all this combat was transpiring, the 82nd was cooling its heels in England, waiting for the Big One.

Because of the 504th’s much combat, the big brass gods decided to hold the 504th in reserve on D-night. Not so much to give us older jokers a well-earned break; but because they figured the 504th would be the ideal outfit to exploit any advantages that accrued after the initial jumps; or, to pull any lost irons out of the fiery holocaust, that Normandy turned out to be, to the surprise of no one.

But many of us old jokers volunteered for the D-night jumps, 5-6 June ’44. I did…and jumped with the path-finder team of the 508th, a new regiment that had been added to the 82nd, in England. One without combat experience. The big brass gods figured that a few of us old jokers, our presence among the, would steady and bolster the morals of the new men. The reasoning was sound.

There were 5 of us old jokers from my company, “I”-company, 504th, with the p.f.t. of the 508th. But I can only remember the names of just four: 2nd Lt. Murphy; Sgt. “Red” Murdock; Cpl. Nick Forkapa; myself. After first combat in Sicily, replacements had poured into the 504th in great numbers. In my company, “I”, there were just 3 original jokers left, out of a 110, by the time we reached England. Myself; my platoon Sgt. William H. White; and the 1st Sgt., a joker named Odom from Ga. Odom was not the original 1st Sgt. But he was an original member of “I”-company.

The 504th was bivouacked near-by-to a golf course, near-by-to Leicester, England. The greens were lush with blue-green, grass; upon which fat milk cows grazed placidly. There were many emerald-green meadows; tiny garden plots; quaint stone buildings; all about us; reminding one of a children’s’ play-land. But the things I remember best about England, were the honey-pots! (It would be both inappropriate and superfluous, to go into greater detail about the honey-pots!)

The 508th was bivouacked near-by-to famed old Nottingham. At the very fringe of a portion of Sherwood Forest. We old jokers were quickly integrated into the p.f.t.

After combat jumps in Sicily and at Salerno, we were knowledgeable about para-drops under combat conditions, and The Germans. As the pans for the D-night jumps progressed, the 508th picked us old jokers clean of all knowledge about combat jumps, and The Germans. We had many suggestions to offer.

And I am convinced that our presence as volunteers, among the new men, bolstered their morale greatly. But do not be, misled! The 508th became “Jokers” quickly, in the finest sense of the word.

I must confess that we old jokers wee cocky and confident, almost to the point of arrogance. We knew The Germans could be beaten. We had administered some good lickings, to some of Hitler’s best. But we also fully realized that The Germans were daring and resourceful combat soldiers, amply armed with good weapons, capably led by battle-wise officers and noncoms.

“We just honestly believed that we were, better!”

One common fallacy of new troops, is greatly over-rate the enemy; look upon them as 20-foot-tall, invincible giants. The very fact that we volunteered for what was considered, and turned out to be, the roughest jump of WW II, quickly dispelled that morale shattering myth.

At 2215 hours, 5 June ’44, 20 path-finder teams of paratroopers, began taking off from fields in West England. I could not know it at the time, “But I was on my next-to-last leg, of my trip to Paris; and the most unforgettable experience of my life. When, in the course of less than two short hours, I was reduced to the, “Lowest possible human denominator.”

The p.f.t. of the 508th, took off a little earlier than 2215 hours, by my watch. From a field near-by-to Grantham, England, where we had been barb-wired in, for security reasons, 3-4 days earlier. We, the old jokers, had been assigned the vital task of providing security for the p.f.t. while it set up its apparatus to guide the regiment to the jump-field. The regiment was scheduled to follow us in 30 minutes later. The p.f.t. numbered just 60 men; its primary objective was to seize and secure the jump-field, and guide the regiment in. We, the p.f.t. of the 508th may well have been the first of the invasion forces to land in France.

H-hour for the major paradrops was set for 30 minutes past mid-night, 5 June, or, the first 30 minutes of 6 June ’44. Which meant that we the p.f.t. dropped a few minutes before 5 June ’44, expired, we jumped appx. 8 miles inland, behind the Merderet River, where the river paralleled Utah Beach, near-by-to St. Mere Eglise; a little west of that small French town, as I remember. The regimental objective of the 508th was to keep The Germans away from the Beaches, specifically Utah, during those crucial early hours.

Many things went wrong, as we old jokers knew they would. The Germans were waiting for us on the jump-field. Were actually holding anti-paratroop maneuvers, yep! The enemy had some goddam good advance information. Information on allied airborne operations in Normandy. The jump-field was rigged with all manner of obstacles, Tall poles with barbed-wire strung between; sharpened stakes; coils of barbed-wire; a conglomeration of devilish obstacles aptly named Rommel-asparagus.

At the airfield at Grantham, we had received a final briefing, and our only look at the sand-table, which had been carefully constructed from the air of photos, to resemble as much as possible, the terrain, and other prominent features of the jump-field, and immediate vicinity. Briefing officers, always a cheerful optimistic lot; did not think there would be enemy troops on the jump-field itself. (Their intelligence must’ve come straight from Hitler, himself.) The jump-field was actually in the tactical area of The German’s 91st Division. Most of the 508th p.f.t. was killed in the planes (there were three C-47’s), Or, descending. Others perished on the obstacles, or were drowned in a water hazard, not shown on the sand table. It was a wild, bloody night!

I cannot be sure, but I think we turned right at the channel, not crossing, and flew up (or down) the channel, keeping close to the English side, quite a ways. Then made a sweeping left turn, crossing the channel, then came back to the channel, flew back the way we had came, keeping close to mid-channel. We did quite a bit of dit-dodging about. In an effort to confuse the Germans. Finally, we flew back out over England, then nosed onto course, and headed straight for the jump-field. I was standing in the jump0-door most of the time.

We hit flak as soon as we crossed the channel. (Which shows how useless all our did-dodging about was, or, how good The German’s intelligence, was.) The country side for as far as I could see, was filled with tracers and bursting shells, and aflame from fires of undetermined cause. Looking ahead of us, the flak was thicker. We appeared to be flying straight up an alley tracers and bursting shells. The cannon and machinegun fire raked the plane from nose to tail. Sounding for all the world like a hailstorm of giant hail, on a tin roof. The tracer streaked through the troop compartment, like incredibly fast, multicolored fingers of lightning. The plane on our right caught fire at the fuselage under the left engine.

I moved back from the jump door.

The red-light, ominous devil’s eye, flashed! The men stood up and hooked up static lines. The line was jammed tight. I was now 3rd or 4th from the jump-door. The man ahead of me and the one behind, were killed by flak; also the man whom had taken my place in the jump-door. I had moved out of the jump-door on a hunch!

After Jump-school, I seldom used a reserve ‘chute. Just the backpack, main ‘chute. Also, since jump-school, I had been jumping with my basic weapon, Thompson Submachine gun, in my hands, instead of strapped to me, in a boot. There was the danger of losing your grip on your weapon, when the ‘chute popped open, we called it the “Opening Shock”. With some 2-300 lbs of equipment strapped on, that “Opening Shock” was the most brutally-savage physical experience, of my life. It would snatch you almost half in to, or into many little pieces.

But after more than 178 jumps, most of them with my Thompson in my hands, I knew I could hold, opening shock, be damned.

It took precious minutes, minutes of extreme peril in combat, to get that Thompson out of the boot. And I wanted to be able to fight immediately upon landing.

It was my conviction that the reserve ‘chute was strictly superfluous, more so in combat, considering the low altitudes we jumped at. It was just a cumbersome bundle, once you landed. Getting out of the main ‘chute and gear, was a time consuming period of extreme peril in combat. I always jumped with just the necessary essentials. (And I considered it strictly my prerogative, to decide what was essential or not; except when given a special assignment, calling for some special gear or equipment.) In all my airborne days, I was never once challenged on this. Getting back to Normandy.

We made ready to jump on the red-light.

Jumped on the green.

Both signals flashed by the pilot. Both lights were located a little above, and to the right of, the jump-door.

When I hit the jump-door, the jump-field below, looked and sounded like a fiery inferno, with thunder! Soon as my ‘chute popped open, I could hear the slugs popping into the tight canopy. And they were crackling by my ears viciously. I could feel them tugging at my jump-suit, two loose-fitting garments, pants and jacket, with over-sized pockets. Next morning, I counted more than 20 holes in my jump-suite. One jump-boot heal was shot off.

All the way down, I watched the tracers coming up, pin-pointing their locations, for future usefulness. I floated over a road and hedge, just narrowly missing a thicket of Rommel’s vicious asparagus. Five jokers landed with me, in a line, alongside that hedge, at the edge of a wheat field, which had about a dozen rows of peanuts planted around its outer edges. I watched the 5 jokers, very carefully. They were not moving. I am sure they were dead, killed by the flak. Abruptly, a tall figure stepped out of the hedge. He was German. I identified him, quickly. The German made a fatal decision. His intentions were to bayonet us. He was armed with long rifle and burp gun. The burp gun was slung. He approached the joker farthest from me. Then, unaccountably, decided to start with me. I had my Thompson, safety off, tucked alongside my leg. I could hear the German approaching. Then he was standing over, me! I let him pull his rifle back, set himself for the downward plunge of the bayonet; then I tilted the muzzle of my Thompson, and let him have a clip of 50 .45 caliber slugs in the guts, chest and face. The force and shock of the storm of slugs blew him backwards. I was flat on my back.

Quickly, I reloaded the Thompson. I had practiced doing this in the dark, by the night, ‘til I could reload in a jiffy. I could do it in the air, after jumping.

Quickly, I wriggled my head and shoulders into the hedge. Over the hedge, on the road below, I heard a motor coming. The Germans had had troops and flak wagons, etc., on the jump-field, and tanks patrolling the roads.

I stood up in the hedgerow. I could tell by the sound, that the motor coming, was not a tank. It was a troop carrier, similar to our half-track. It was full of enemy soldiers, packed in like sardines. The machine packed a couple of small cannons, and a machine gun, gunners poised for quick action. I pulled the pins from a couple grenades, holding the levers down. The troop carrier ground by below me.

My plan had been a very simple one. Release the levers on the grenades, which activated the firing mechanism, lob them into the troop carrier. I figured, by pre-releasing the levers one-two seconds, they explode upon contact, give The Germans no chance to heave them out.

But the troop carrier slipped by too, quickly. I had badly under-estimated its speed. I held the levers to the grenades down. Eased even deeper into the hedgerow, closer to the road below. Wishing desperately the troop carrier would come, back. Give me a second chance.

It did!

I just leaned over and plopped the grenades into the huddle of enemy soldiers. I was so close, I could have brushed the tops of their steel helmets, the ones on my side of the troop carrier. The instant I let go of the grenades, I fell back, flat on my back.

The troop carrier blew up with a thunderous bang. My grenades touched off some explosives of some kind, it was carrying. There were a few screams, but they waned and died, quickly.

I jumped up and took off full speed down the peanut rows, heading for a piece of wood. And ran head-on into a German, who stepped out of the hedge row into my path. We were both knocked sprawling.

That German made his last mistake.

He waited to rise, before trying to get his burp gun into action. I let him have a half clip of .45s sprawled on the ground. He slumped over and came to rest in a praying position, useless burp gun still clutched in his lifeless hands.

All around, meanwhile, the night was filled with sounds of encounters between jokers and The Germans. It was a wild, bloody night. We had little mechanical crickets to pop for identifying ourselves to each other. But if you valued your life, you shot first, popped your cricket later, if at all.

The regiment, the part of it that hit the jump field, came in much later than the 30 minutes, we had been told would be the interval of time between p.f.t. and regiment. Enemy pressure had mounted; The Germans were fighting fiercely; it was brutally-savage, no quarter asked, none given, warfare. As always, the “Front” was a circle around us.

Next morning, our part of the Normandy war quickly developed into a deadly game of “Hares and Hounds”. We were the “Hares, as the Germans, reacting with typical precision and ferocity, used their vastly superior weaponry and manpower lavishly to crush the air-head. Outnumbered, out-gunned, we were no match for the superior forces arrayed against us. We had to scatter and fight for our lives in the hedge rows and woods. But even so, we took a terrific toll of the enemy, and forced him to hold back important elements of forces, that, had they been unleashed upon the Beaches at crucial times, might well have caused the invasion to abort. The record reveals, that we raised one hell of a ruckus behind the Beaches.

I made it ‘till 9 June ’44, after many hair-raising encounters with the Germans. My much previous combat experience mad the difference. About mid-afternoon of 9 June, I was moving warily through the countryside; striking any enemy that was in my path, and disappearing. I figured I had it, made! When so0unds of firing reached me. I could hear some M-Is and burp guns. There was much more enemy fire than friendly. The friendly fire was ragged, not steady. Often with just a single M-I firing. I stopped for a breath, and to think. From the sounds of the firing, I could tell The Germans were pressing some jokers, hard! Knowing full well I was making a mistake, perhaps a fatal one, I headed for the sounds of firing.

I came upon a road junction, near-by-to St. Mere Eglise. Tat road junction was a very important position, strategically. There 15-20 jokers at the road junction, sheltered behind a hedge row, and low stone wall. One-two of the jokers were dueling with The Germans, across a small open field. The Germans had taken shelter in a small wood, a goose-neck-like protrusion into the field. Both sides were firing across the open field.

All but one of the jokers were wounded, most seriously. One died a minute or so after I arrived. I had field glasses, and I could see what appeared to be a platoon of Germans, in that wooded protrusion, and they were trying to set up a mortar. The low stone wall afforded ample shelter from rifle and machine gun fire.

But I knew that if The Germans got that mortar set up, they could angle the shells over the wall, lob them flush on top of the jokers, and it would be, “Katy-goodbye!” Jokers and position would be lost. A little voice in one ear kept saying, “Get lost, Livingston! You volunteered for this sonofabitch, and it has blew all to hell, now! Your job is, done! Get, lost! Use your goddam head, joker!” the little voice urged. “Stay here, and you are dead, dead, DEAD!”

I would be a liar if I said I wasn’t tempted, to just turn tail and get lost. I knew goddam well I could take care of myself, for a month if need be, and hurt the enemy plenty in the process.

One joker, M.G. Marsh, 82nd division HQ, seemed to be in charge. He was the only unwounded joker. Marsh had jumped with the 508th, but not with the p.f.t. He had also been with the 504th through most of its combat. He was a Cpl. He had been in jump school instructor. Had been jump-master for me, on my first three school jumps.

Marsh told me an officer, a glider pilot, had been with them at the road junction; but had gone away to round up more jokers, leaving Marsh in charge; telling him to hold the strategic position at all costs, ‘till he returned with reinforcements.

“It is a hopeless proposition,” I told Marsh, “Unless we can knock out that mortar, quickly!” Marsh and one-two of the less seriously wounded had been dueling with The Germans across that open field.

But now, The Germans were ominously quiet. I kept my glasses on the ones setting up that mortar.

In combat, experience is the great teacher.

I knew that that mortar had to be knocked out, quickly! Greatly surprised, I found I had already abandoned the idea of turning tail, taking off, and getting, lost!

“Well, goddammit! I hadn’t come to France to, dance!” And I am-was a lousy dancer any old way!

I carefully estimated the distance from that stone wall, to grenade range, of that mortar. It was appx. 150 yards of open, unobstructed, field. The wheat had been trampled flat.

A good run. But I was fast, very fast, and a shifty runner!

I said I was fast.

With the proper incentive, I could fly!

But I needed to know what type weapons, aside from that mortar, and the usual burp guns and rifles, I would be facing. Also the caliber of the soldiers themselves.

I deliberately exposed myself. Hopped over the wall and capered out towards that wooded protrusion. Marsh thought I had gone crazy. But The Germans took the bait.

Their fire was erratic, high. There was a short burst from a machine gun. Less steady and higher than the rifles and burp guns.

The erratic and high fire, indicated to me that the enemy troops were probably green. Or nervous.

Maybe, both.

The machine gun fire being unsteady and high, indicated some important things. One: it probably was not properly emplaced. Two: the crew was probably not familiar with it. Maybe, both. I also learned the type gun it was.

From hard necessity, I had learned the combat capabilities of The Germans, and his weapons.

Even though I had now found out many things about the enemy across the way, I was not satisfied with my intelligence. Too much, was at stake!

My, life!

I deliberately exposed myself, again.

Between exposures, I had stripped myself of all but bars essentials. Two grenades, pins pulled, one double clip (Two clips taped together) for the Thompson. Discarding helmet, excess ammo, etc. On my second exposure, enemy fire was even more erratic, and the machine gun didn’t fire at all. And I had danced way out, offering a really inviting target, before scampering back over the wall.

I figured I had a good chance to get in close enough to use those two grenades on that mortar, before The Germans could recover and bring their fire down to a dangerous level. I gave my glasses, name etc., to Marsh. Asked him to notify my outfit if anything happened.

I topped that wall running! Bent low, flying actually, a shift zig-zag, course!

But The Germans had outsmarted, me! They had recognized my deliberate exposures, for the information-seeking subterfuges, they were.

Their fire came down quickly, steadied!

Swing wide them Pearly Gates!

Fire up that Fiery furnace!

Cursing myself for a goddam idiot, I was forced to hit the ground far short of grenade range. I hit the ground rolling and scrambling forward. That machine gun had opened up again, with a vengeance. I had to get in under that machine gun fire, quickly, or die! That Krauthead sonofabitch had fooled me, plenty! He could play that baby like Sugar Ray punching the light bag.

I kept scrambling forward, with the slugs and those little red devil German concussion grenades, eating up the ground around, me! After what seemed an eternity-an-a-half, I was close enough for my grenades, I let them fly, readied my Thompson. And only just in time. The Germans except for the ones at the mortar, came at me in a rush. Out of about 15-20, just four reached, me. I got the rest with my Thompson.

The mortar went up in thunderous blast, as my grenades landed smack on target. I am not certain, but I think that smart sonofabitch on the machine gun, fled.

By then, the four remaining Germans and I, were whirling on the ground in a desperate hand-to-hand struggle. The outcome was inevitable. I was already winded from running and scrambling. They smothered me with sheer weight of numbers. Those Germans were big and blond. I was 5-6, 155 lbs. I did reach my knees once. Only to be flattened by burp gun smash that all but peeled my nose from my face. My Thompson had been snatched from me. Then the Germans proceeded to kick and beat me senseless. I kept trying to get to my jump-knife, in a sheath on my boot.

But, it just wasn’t my day!

Marsh, helpless to intervene, watched the action from behind the wall, with my glasses. Later, after The Germans carried me away, the officer, glider pilot W/O Kirby, returned with reinforcements, and the jokers and position, were saved.

Later, about two months, Marsh reported my action to my company commander, Captain Thomas M. Burriss, “I”-company, 504th. Also my platoon sergeant in the 504th, S/Sgt. William H. White, and also First Sgt. Odom, of the 504th. This was all done back in England. Marsh suggested to my company officers, that my action at the road junction was worthy of at least, of the DSC. Second highest combat award. Burriss, White and Odom, promised that the recommendation would be made.

But in the great rush of war, such things were forgotten. A colonel of the First Recon Squadron, had made a similar promise, fro an action at Alcamo, Sicily. It too, was forgotten in the rush of war.

Captain Burriss did see that I was awarded The Bronze Star, with Combat V for valor. (Cross Of War) to all volunteers of the big invasion. Not having received either of the just mentioned awards, yet, doesn’t bother me. I came out of the war with medals enough. The real award for me, at that road junction action near St. Mere Eglise, was the knowledge that some jokers were saved, whom otherwise would’ve died. And a strategic position was saved, that would’ve cost more lives, to regain from The Germans.

When my captors learned for certain I was airborne, they gave me another severe beating…The Germans hated and feared the airborne. I was quickly moved back to a point where The Germans had collected a small cluster of POWs. By then it was after dark. Our captors bivouacked us in a smelly stone barn, with a cow-dung-dirt floor, with a smattering of hay. All of us had been picked clean of food, cigarettes, aid kits, and all personal items such as wallets, rings, watches, etc. Being combat-wise, The Germans found slim pickings on me.

The next 2-3-4 days, passed in a blur. Each morning we were hustled out of the barn, counted, then hustled back inside immediately. Nothing was said about food or water for us, or care for our wounds. Each day our number swelled by a few; as I recall, every one of us were severely wounded. A number of jokers died, from neglect of their wounds. I had bled ‘til my jump-jacket was a solid red with blood. I was close to death. My head was a bloody pulp. I was sore, raw, bruised all over. My right hand was broken across the top of the palm. The thumb broken at the middle joint. I had a bayone3t gash clear through the palm, near the thumb. One of the four Germans in that last scuffle, had tried to bayonet me in the guts, and I caught it with the palm of my right hand.

About 10 or 11 a.m. one morning, a beat-up, cleverly camouflaged wood burning troop-bus pulled up at our cow barn prison. Very carefully, The Germans selected about 100 of the worst looking of us, and kicked and shoved us aboard. On top of the bus, were two young French freedom fighters, a boy and girl. Both were naked. They were spread-eagled on their backs, arms and legs roped one to a corner of the top.

Both had been, gutted!

The top of the bus was solid red with their blood. And their bloody entrails had been strung around the edges of the top.

Our bus truly had a “Fringe on top!”

After riding what seemed to me rather aimlessly for an hour, our guards, four burly SS burp gunners, told us were going to Paris. We must’ve did a lot more aimless riding, because it was after mid-afternoon when we got to Paris. The windows on the bus were blacked out, so we could see nothing. The driver and four SS guards had the windshield blocked, from our view.

We were unloaded not too far from downtown Paris. One joker said The Arch Of Triumph was behind us. We were lined up single file in the middle of a wide, long boulevard, facing downtown. The street ahead of us was teeming, filled to the overflow, with people3. A wild, throbbing, mob, screaming, cursing, gesticulating, stone-hurling, hate-ravaged mob of French.

With typical precision and thoroughness, The Germans had prepared a special reception for us.

I kept backing out.

And falling down.

My pulpy head had been bleeding steadily since the first few minutes of the jolting ride on the ancient bus. The blood was dripping from the lower edges of my jump-jacket.

Each time I fell down, I was kicked to my feet again; revived by hard-toed jackboots in the guts and back and ribs. Since I could not stand or walk, I was moved to the end of the line. And a coffin-like cage was produced. It had a solid bottom, and iron bars for top and sides. The ends were solid. I was flung headfirst into the cage, rapping my head on the solid end, with enough force to jar my ancestors all the way back to Cro-Magnon Man. The door to my cage was fastened. Three POWs were assigned the task of dragging me and my cage, along at the end of the line. There were appx. 100 of us. All were sick, wounded, hungry and thirsty, dirty and bloody and filthy; stinking, actually! Most were just able to stand. Some kept falling down. Some were helped to stand and shuffle along, by the more able-bodied.

The mob before us, jamming the wide boulevard to the overflow, had grown, became wilder, more violent and savage. The Germans had to force a lane for us, with a light tank with sirens screaming. Which drove the brutally savage French mob even wilder. They fell upon us with a vengeance. Cursed us, spat on us; flailed us with their fists; stoned us; gouged us with sharp-pointed sticks, which The Germans were distributing to the mob by the arms full.

Ravaged by hate, “egged on” by The Germans, that Paris mob fell upon us with a brutally-savage fury, impossible to describe. Time after time the siren-screaming tank had to come back and rescue us.

The French had simply gone insanely, hysterical!

It was like the whole world had gone, mad!

The hate-crazed mob seemed particularly anxious to use those sharp-pointed sticks.

In my coffin-like cage, sick, bleeding, my stomach jumping and boiling. I wanted just one thing:

To, die!

Just, die! I tried to will it, to no avail.

After just a short while and distance, I was one great mass of aching, burning, gouge holes. It was like being on, fire!

That mob was deliberately trying to gouge my eyes, out!

I was covered with filthy spittle, which had mingled with my blood and vomit. I could rake the filthy spittle from my face and head by the hands full.

That hate-ravaged Paris mob seemed particularly enraged at me. In my coffin-like cage, I could not hide or dodge. The stones, gouging sticks and spittle, all found their mark. My big problem was protecting my eyes from those viciously gouging sticks.

I must have looked like some slimy worm, squirming, turning, twisting in that filthy spittle in my cage. The floor of the cage was inches deep in spittle. My whole body was covered with it.

I was a slimy, tortured worm! That hate-ravaged, brutally-savage Paris mob, reduced me to, “The lowest possible human denominator!”

I will never forget one toothless, hideous-faced old crone. She was particularly savage with me. Nor will I never forget a tall, red-headed SS colonel, who kept “Egging” that mob to get really violent with us!

The Germans had their news-reel cameras out, and radio commentators were broadcasting eyewitness accounts direct to Germany.

It probably gave Hitler and henchmen great comfort. As long as we were in the broad, open boulevard, The Germans could keep what control of the mob, they wanted to keep. But once we reached the downtown area, the mob took over. Not even the siren-screaming tank could reach us through the mass of wild humanity.

But that tall red-headed SS colonel, with something akin to magic waded through the mob, the way opening for him yards in advance. He was the coldest man I ever saw. He picked up one savage Frenchmen, and dashed his brains out, by reversing ends with him, and smashing the top of his head into the pavement. Then flung the dead carcass disdainfully aside, and spat on, it! His was the only even part way friendly face, I saw; even though he was urging the French to destroy us, completely, utterly!

He caught my eye once, smiled! Indicated the mob around us with sweeping arms, and spat!

“Peeegs! Swine!” he said of the French.

Somehow, we reached our destination, the railroad station. And were kicked and shoved aboard a filthy cattle car. After that Paris reception, not a one of us even dared speculate about the reception we would receive in Germany.

Ultimately, after a hair-raising train ride to Germany, locked in our cattle car, with allied planes overhead most of the time, I was processed through the stalags.

First, 12-A. Then to slave labor coal mines, filled with poison, radioactive gas, at and near-by-to Saarbrucken, thence to more of the same type of coal mines in Czechoslovakia. Etc. etc. etc.

But I will never forget, how in the brief time of less than two hours, that hate-ravaged, brutally-savage Paris mob, reduced me to the:

“Lowest possible human denominator!”

And, that, briefly, was:


Even now, after almost 20 years, I often ask myself: Would I do it, again? I do not, know. For the same reason, I thing I would, yep! Certainly not for any medal. Not for the DSC, nor the CMH. The deed is done, many years now. Giving me a medal then, now, later, or never, can’t change a thing; except perhaps the way I feel. But I do remember that I did not see one “Friendly French Face” that unforgettable day.

* Source:

  • E-Mails by Bob Hepburn, USA, to Moosburg Online, February-March 2008.

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