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Bill Coleman

Bill Coleman D Day StoryBob: The story is you jumped in as a paratrooper the night before D Day?Bill: Right.

Bob:So what was your mission and what happened?

Bill:(Laughs). First of all we loaded up in France, I mean in England, on the night of the fourth. We were to jump on the night of the fifth, and then the weather got so bad they were going to have us stand down. Then, they called us out the next day, same sort of thing. Incidentally, I weighed 200 pounds, but I had about a hundred pounds. Almost all of us weighed three hundred pounds, getting on that aircraft.

Bob:With all of our gear?

Bill: Yeah, with all of our gear and everything, and some weighed more than that, which really was on the boarder of not being able to bail out with that kind of stuff. We started late in the afternoon of the fifth loading up and helping everybody get ready to go. I think there were two sticks of eight on each side, about sixteen. I think. Now, I'm drawing from an old mind when I start to think about this.

Bob: I understand.

Bill:But you could get many more in there than that with the load and ballast factor and that. So we took off. Now one of the things that's really funny. They gave us two pills. Said take one now and one when you're airborne. So everybody took one. They had and when we got airborne everybody took the other one. I started thinking we'd been jumping for two or three years now. Now they're worried about us getting air sick. What the heck is this? And then I looked out the little porthole and seen all those ships down there. You could walk on them. It was like I was home at The Beachum, watching the Cafe News; listening to Ed Herlihy describing everything and it was such a calming effect on me. Later, I said you know what, I bet those were the first tranquilizers ever issued in this world. Now, haven't proved it, haven't heard it from anybody else. But I experienced something I didn't expect too and that was until we got into where they were firing at us.

Bob: A calm came over you?

Bill:Yeah, a calm, and it took awhile to rendezvous. I don't know how many hundreds of planes they had up there. Two divisions: 101st and the 82nd and the British had two divisions and I think I counted that they had another so about five divisions, that were going over there in the Allied army, the airborne army. Guernsey and Jersey Islands, the Germans were occupying them. They opened fire on us. I don't think we had any serious casualties there, but as we came around on the backside of the peninsula, you know, the Normandy peninsula comes out. Instead of coming over the beaches we were coming around the backside of it and were dropping behind where the lines were supposed to be, but we were at least behind the embankments on the beach. When we got into those clouds everything opened up. Now these guys were flying without communications, and without navigational lights, and they're in these clouds.

Bob: This is at night?

Bill: Yeah, this is about 11:45, 11:30, oh about the night of the fifth and one or two of the planes hit. You could see the flare. Now this is all supposition on my part. I got a little ticked off at the air force. They dumped us everywhere. And I look back, and heck they were only 15, I mean, 18, 19 years old like we were. They didn't want to stay around. They wanted to get out and they wanted to get rid of us. So, what we had was a three light system. We have the red, amber and then the green. And then they say stand up, hook up, turn off equipment, replica michael kors handbags check ignition, and get ready to go. Well, all of a sudden we skipped all those lights and we got a green. We heard the pinning and some shrapnel and things were coming through the airplane. Now I'm talking about my airplane. I don't know about anybody else. I believed that we were really going down because we usually jump at about 100, 110 miles an hour and we did it from about 1,200 feet all our practice stuff, and I, you know when you bail out, we went out the side of the aircraft. You had to have your body positioned dropping down like this because the tail was coming over it and you want to be sure that missed. And the static line, when you get on the static line it jerks the parachute out. And we had reserves. Absolutely! Totally! Useless! There is no way in the world we could've used them but that was the protective gear we're supposed to carry, but

Bob: Because you were too low?

Bill:Well, not only that, you had so much weight on and you were strapped in. I cradled my riffle because I couldn't find any place else to put it. And I had my head in that pot that they had and my chin in that cup. I could hardly chew the gum that I had in my mouth and then bailed out. That opening shock was the worst I had ever gotten in my life, because it jerked the cheap michael kors handbags gun out of my arms and ripped my helmet off. And you know when you do you are parallel to the ground and you oscillate like this, then like this as you're going down. I had, usually, you think you're going to go three or four times before you're prepared to shoot. But I went like this, like this, like this and then WHAM! I landed on my back on that last one, smack on the bottom of the ground. It kind of knocked the breath out of me and we all had knifes that we carried on the thing, the side there, because those old shoots had buckles across the legs and across the chest and they were these big steel things you could not, it take so long. So they said take this knife and cut yourself out of it. You're not going to use them anymore. They were silk chutes back then and not camouflage white silk. I was laying there looking and saying, whoa, look at all that up there and the noise going on and the flash in the sky and the tracer bullets and things blowing up and again. Uh, whoopee, isn't this fun. (Laughing). It wasn't, but then I got up. I thought what the hell am I going to do? I haven't got a gun or a helmet. I have a knife in my hand and I'm looking around because they said here's the way you work it. When we get on the ground we don't want anybody to fire a shot because we don't want to be shooting each other. It will either be hand to hand or grenades. You want to know your targets. So they gave us these little crickets and what you do, they said you'll be there three days. Here's the sign and countersign for these three days that you will use and then you'll be relieved. Of course that was a fiasco. That never happened. And so if you click once and somebody clicked back twice and then I remember the first day. I would say," flash" and they'd say "thunder" and you'd say "welcome." Then we'd pretty well know we were on the same side. And so I looked around, and I couldn't see anybody anywhere. And I was standing there with this knife and looking up at that thing. What am I going to do now? I sensed somebody behind me and I thought wow. Turned around and it was a German coming out. He is curious; I'm supposing this as well. He had a side arm. He is looking at me, like that's some idiot or native or something or one of our guys because he doesn't have a helmet, doesn't have a gun. As he came up, I looked around and said; oh my God that's a German. And he saw me about the same time, drew his pistol and was coming toward me. And we had what they called ju jitsu. We didn't have any of that fancy stuff that they have today, that'll kill you in two seconds. But we had enough to know how to react because they used to put us in, horseshoes and try and use that on each other, until you were defeated. Then you'd get out of the line, and we did this in the company. We learned a little bit about hand to hand combat. And one of the things they said is, if you stab somebody, stab them below the sternum and then go up cause replica michael kors handbags that is the most vulnerable place to hit. Well, I hit his arm as he was coming towards me and he fired and it went into he ground. At the same time, I jammed my knife. They say when you do that to withdraw. I couldn't withdraw. So I think I just hit his sternum. But he went down and I didn't want to go find out. So I went across the road and the hedgerow, the thing could take a tank couldn't even knock them down and sat in a corner. I had a field of fire that was open for me, but nothing to fire. I'd at least know if someone was coming towards me. And saying what am I going to do, I'm sitting here in the middle of all this stuff going on. People everywhere, screaming and hollering. And I said, what I'm thinking, somebody comes over the back and I said boy this is it and I turned around just to try and get a hold of them, and it was another American. He said, "what the hell is wrong with you?" "What's the matter with you?" "Where is your helmet?" I said, "lost it." But then what we did from that point is salvaged both a helmet and a rifle from one of the guys that didn't make it. And that was the beginning of it.

Bob: So the first thing that happened to you was, once you got out of your chute. You're accosted by a guy with a gun, all you had was a knife and you killed him.

Bill: I don't know.

Bob:But you defeated him?

Bill:I stuck him for darn sure.

Bob:But you didn't take his gun?

Bill: Not his pistol. No, I didn't I just, I think, fake michael kors handbags that some of the things you do are from training are just instantaneous reactions to how you operate yourself. And um, they never said, after you've done this, here's what you do.

Bob: So you didn't really know what to do from that point.

Bill: I didn't. I didn't know if I had killed him, or just mortally wounded him or what I'd done. Usually, if you'd hit somebody in those organs, they want you to go up so you hit all the vitals behind the sternum. But this knife was stuck. I don't know if I went in too far or it got stuck in the sternum or what. But I'm not going to stop and say well look how did this happen and where did I hit him, before you get the hell out of there. I shouldn't be using those words I'm sure.

Bob: That's ok.

Bill:That's the way my reaction was when I first got into combat. Now one thing that was curious was after the war, you try and find out where you dropped and what happened. I got a hold of a historian and I said get a hold of my plane number and see where I was dropped. He called back and said, you were 15 miles from the drop zone. And he said you weren't the only one. He said thirty percent of the airborne achieved the objectives of which they were assigned. The rest of them were all out here with the skirmishes all over the place. And it turned out that was very fortuitous because Hitler is sleeping. Rommel has gone to his wife's birthday to give her a new pair of French shoes. The weather was so lousy; they thought there was no chance they were going to come today. It's not going to happen. All of these guys were dropping and then they'd call in, the paratroopers to their headquarters and say where they are? They're everywhere. Said, where is the main thrust going to be if they're all over the place? So that little bit of distraction and the fact their commanding general was not on the site. They did have troops standing there that were ready to move at his command. And if they had done that, we wouldn't not have made that thing as well as it turned out. I think that's what made it possible for us to do what we did from the sea. At 6:30, they're coming in now. We had captured the causeways; they had to get over that part.

Bob:You've got a helmet. You've got a gun. What did you do at that point?

Bill: You get together in little groups and you'd run into some German Patrols and have a shootout and everybody breaks up and goes other places again. You never knew who you were going to run into, where you were going to run into them. We did get a reasonable size group together and we were up on a rise and we were on a road. We were here on this hill, and there is a road that came down here and did like this. And we were warn out. This is about the third day I guess. Put two or three guys on watch, two others would come out and they'd go back to see if there was anything coming. But a German on a motorcycle was coming down on a road and heading out. He (a fellow soldier) had a beat on him and just as he was about to fire and (another soldier) pulled (him) away. The guy (smack) said you don't shoot a guy in the back. He said, "are you out of your mind?" "Listen, never have you seen us do that in the movies or anywhere else." Cause we used to go to the Tomax movies and Buck Jones and all the others. They always wore the Black and White hats and you never shot a man in the back. It's something you just don't do. So these guys beat up on him so bad. There are no rules in war. You kill them, or they'll kill us. That's about what happened. That's the real first real, realization of what it was all about to me. Now all the rest is just adrenaline. Incidentally, I was hit coming down and didn't even know it. I had shrapnel that went straight up my shin bone. Then you know you have those capillaries there that bleed like crazy and you wouldn't have a lot of pain, because it's just the bone and scooped it just a bit. Wasn't paying any attention to that. We'd try to figure out where to go and get our maps out. None of the signs we saw made any sense and we had little compasses, you know what they call them. We had those so we knew directions but we didn't know exactly where to go. We got into discussions about it. Some say it's that way, no it's that way, and not it's that way. But anyhow, that one of the late evenings, we heard a patrol. There were only 10 or 12 of us I guess. So we lined up and everybody picked one of the Germans that we were going for. We each fired, open fired and they fired back. It broke up and they ran away. None of us were even scratched. Well all except one. He had one hit his helmet. He took it off and said That son of a, he shot my socks.

Bob: He had a pair of socks in his helmet?

Bill: Laughing: It tore a hole in his socks, he threw his helmet down and he was all upset about replica michael kors handbags the socks. Anyway we went down there. Each of us knew what we wanted. I went up to the one I had shot. He was still alive and I was a lousy shot I guess because I hit him on the glance and it hit his aorta here. His eyes were fluttering. He was starting to go through the rigors of death. Have you ever seen death rigors?

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