For the third time I am writing to get in touch with you by letter. I hope
that it will reach you. Some time ago when I left the 6th Group, I arrived
by way of Gardeleben in Wittstock where I made my ten jumps. Then I came to
my regiment in France and to my company. We were stationed in Brittany, near
Brest. When the invasion started we moved out approximately 30-40 km daily,
but only at night. During the day American fighter-bombers controlled the
area. Then were put into line east of St. Lo, approximately 5 km. Away from
the town. When we were committed our company strength was 170. Then the 11,
July arrived and the most terrible and gruesome day of my life. At 0300 our
company sector got such a dense hail of artillery and mortar fire, that we
thought the world was coming to an end. In addition to that, the rumbling of
motors and rattling could be heard in the enemy lines - tanks. It scared the
pants off us. We could expect a very juicy attack. If we thought that the
artillery fire had reached it's climax, we were disillusioned at 0530. At
that time a tremendous firing started which continued to 0615. Then tanks
arrived. The movement of tanks, however, is somewhat difficult here in
Normandy. As we at home have our fields fenced in by wire and wooden fences,
so the fields over here are lined with hedgerows. They are about five feet
high, and have the same thickness. These hedgerows are winding crisscross
through the terrain. We dig in behind these walls and the Americans do the
same. It is a regular hedgerow war.
Well on that 11 July the tanks were rolling toward us. They shot with their
guns through the hedgerows as though cake dough. Sharpshooters gave us a lot
of trouble. You must know however, that the Americans are using H.E.
ammunition, which tears terrible wounds. Around 1000 the order came to
withdraw, as the position could not be held. I had one wounded in my MG
position. When I wanted to get him in position with the help of someone
else, a shell landed 2 yards away from us. The wounded fellow got another
piece of shrapnel in his side, and the other fellow also was wounded. I
however did not get one single piece of shrapnel. Anyway, on that day I
escaped death just by a few seconds a hundred times. A piece of shrapnel
penetrated through the leather strap of my MG and was thus diverted from my
chest. In this way I could name many instances.
At 1135 I left the platoon sector as last man. Carried my MG through the
enemy lines into a slightly more protected defile and crept back again with
another fellow to get the wounded. It was time to get them, for tanks were
moving 30 yards from us.
On our way back we were covered again with terrific artillery fire. We were
just lying in an open area. Every moment, I expected deadly shrapnel. At
that moment I lost my nerves. The others acted just like me. When one hears
for hours the whining, whistling and bursting of shells and the moaning and
groaning of the wounded, one does not feel too well. Altogether it was Hell.
Our company has only 30 men left. In the meantime it was reorganized to a
certain extent. We are now located in a somewhat more quiet sector, i.e.,
what we call quiet. We are expecting a new attack supported by tanks today
I have been recommended for the Air Force Ground Fighting Badge, on account
of the hand-to-hand fighting on 11th and 12th of July.
Now I would like to finish this letter. I gave you sufficient reading
material, I guess. Hope to hear from you soon.
Best Regards -
Your friend, Helmut.
(Contributed by Maurice Higginbotham