Eyewitness to History

World War II
The Troop Carrier D-Day Flights
By Lew Johnston
These stories are not copyrighted unless noted but we request anyone using them for other than personal use to credit the author and the museum.
A Secret Report
Once, the jumpmaster called the shots

AUTH: CO 3l4th TC GP
DATE: 14 June 1944
INIT: (Blank)

This is the official narrative statement of the crew of A/C #42-93002, 62nd Troop Carrier Squadron, 314th Troop Carrier Group, in connection with events of BIGOT-NEPTUNE #1

The crew of this aircraft consisted of:

Pilot: Capt Charles S. Cartwright, 0-731943
Co-Pilot: F/0 Alma M. Magleby, T-926
Navigator: 2nd Lt Edward I. Osborne, 0-805327
Crew Chief: S/Sgt Raymond H. Farris, 151147O3
Radio Operator: S/Sgt Frank A. DeLuca, 3245328

"We flew number seven position in our first serial on this mission, leading the third element of the first squadron. We reached the Drop Zone in formation and have nothing to add to the mission report up to that time. Approaching the DZ, our airspeed was between 105 and 110 mph, our indicated altitude was 700 feet—the same as the leading element in our formation.

In seeing the stick leave the lead ship, we gave the green light, but our stick did not jump. The jumpmaster, Capt Simmons, instructed the crew chief to tell the pilot that the plane was too low, and that he would not jump his men at that height. The intercom was damaged, and the crew chief could not reach the pilot, so he passed the message to the navigator, who relayed it to the pilot. As soon as the message was received, we went up to 800 feet indicated, made a right turn, and began a second pass at the DZ. At this time the jumpmaster had come up to the cockpit to confer with the pilot, who said to him Get the hell Out: every one except your stick has jumped!

Hit on the Second Pass

During this second pass, we were hit by explosive flak—probably 40mm—two rounds of which went through the plane. One round narrowly missed Crew Chief Farris, who was at that time in the door of the companionway, and the other went through the rear of the fuselage. Paratrooper No 17 in the stick was hit by fragments of this flak, which detonated two of the hand grenades in his pouch, seriously injuring him. We went over the DZ again, and once again the troops did not jump, although they received the signal.

Down on the Third

We turned for a third pass, and this time the navigator told the jumpmaster that there was going to be a forced landing. The stick went out at once, a short distance south of the DZ, going in a westerly direction at 750 feet at 110-115 mph. The injured paratrooper, No 17, did not jump.

Immediately after the jump, both engines quit, either at once or so close together that it made no difference, The pilot turned the plane 180 degrees to the right hoping to reach the ocean. He saw that he would be unable to do so, and made a further 90 degree turn to the right (putting the aircraft on a southwesterly heading) hoping to reach the flooded area to the south of the DZ.

The altitude was not sufficient to reach this area, so the crew took crash positions in the plane and it was set down in an open field. On gong in, it clipped a row of trees bordering the field. Both engines were on fire, but Capt. Cartwright made a relatively smooth belly-landing. The plane came to rest in the middle of the field, and the crew evacuated it with all speed. The wounded paratrooper got out by himself. The pilot, the crew chief, and the radio operator carried the paratrooper, who had collapsed close to the plane, further away, and them the pilot went back into the plane for a first-aid kit and supplies. He recovered a kit, but was unable to reach anything else. Upon return to the paratrooper, the pilot found that he had his own morphine, and was asking to have it administered; the co-pilot and navigator did this.

We then began to carry the paratrooper toward the hedge bordering the field, which offered the only nearby cover—and as we got a short distance away, the aircraft exploded. The paratrooper, now unconscious, was concealed in the hedge, and about 2:45AM, we began traveling south in a zig zag line, looking for a place to hide out. About 3/4 mile from the plane, we found a dry ditch covered with brambles, and this became the hideout for all of us.

We cannot positively locate the position of the crashed plane, but believe it was over a mile east of DZ "N." It was not in the flooded area, and we did not cross any large streams on our way to the coast, so we believe the crash was east of the Merderet River, probably in the vicinity of the village of Coquerie.

About an hour after we had hidden, we heard a voice say "Sprechen Sie Deutsch" in an American accent, which was followed by the sign. We gave the correct countersign, and two US paratroopers—one with a badly injured ankle on which he could hardly walk—joined us. At dawn the uninjured paratrooper left to find his outfit. The whole crew, with the injured paratrooper, stayed where it was until 2:00PM on Tuesday 6 June l944. During these hours, we could hear a variety of firing of all types in all directions. We identified machine guns, rif1es, hand grenades, 88s and other large German guns, and naval bombardment in the direction of the coast.

Back to the Aircraft

At 2:00PM, we turned cautiously back toward the plane. We stopped two fields away from it, and the co-pilot and crew chief were left in hiding, while the pilot, navigator, and the radio operator went ahead using a stone wall bordering the field as partial cover. The navigator finally reached the aircraft, but except for its tall assembly it was entirely destroyed, and we could find no food, water, or other supplies. In the meantime the pilot went to the place where paratrooper #17 had been left the night before. He found that a flak suit and a Mae West had been carefully concealed in the bushes during the crew's absence, but the trooper had disappeared. We assumed that he had been picked up, either by French civilians or by our own men—so the three other crew members rejoined the co-pilot and crew chief two fields away from the aircraft.

After a discussion, we agreed on a scouting trip. The navigator went off to the northeast, and the pilot went southwest. This was at 3:45PM, and we agreed to meet gain in the same place at or before 5:45PM. The pilot approached a large stone farmhouse, which stood some distance on the other side of the plane, and observed several French farmers, including children, who went out to look at the wreck. He decided not to communicate with them, and he returned to the hiding place. The navigator had already returned.

The navigator reported a highway about a ten-minute walk to the east, running generally north and south. He also reported that the sound of heavy guns was quite near the highway to the south, although he did not observe any emplacements. He was afraid to cross this road, feeling sure that it was well posted by the enemy, so returned to the hideout.

The crew remained in the new hideout until about 8:00PM, when they heard American voices in the next field. The navigator went toward the sound, and a few moments later, he turned and called for the crew. When the rest of us crossed to him, he told us that he had met an old school mate in that outfit, and that he had arranged for transportation to the beach. We began running across the field toward our troops, the navigator in the lead, when someone on our left front began shooting at us with rifles. We hit the dirt, and shouted the password. The shooting stopped, the navigator got up to continue his course, but the firing broke out again and the navigator was hit. He fell to the ground. A soldier from the 4th Division came toward us, and yelled at the rest to stop firing.

A first-aid crew came over, examined the navigator, and discovered him to have been lit in the fleshy part of the buttocks. There was no exit wound, so we did not know if any bones were struck—but we didn't think so, and did not believe the wound was very serious.

We were then taken to a major and three lieutenants, leaving the navigator to be removed by stretcher. These officers apologized for incautious firing by their men. We got into a jeep with the major and headed for the beach, about 2-1/2 miles away, traveling along the road running from the town of Ste Mere Eglise (coordinates35.2-97.), 40.7-03.5 Map reference sheet 6E/3 and 6 E/5, France 1:50,000, 3rd edition). The major turned off to the left, gave us directions for walking to the beach, and left us. Along this road, our men engaged in digging out snipers, and enemy observation posts, and French civilians were helping by giving directions, warning of mines, and offering other aid. Tanks are coming up along the road from the shore, and our forces from the beach were already in touch with the paratroop and glider forces that had landed farther inland. It was approximately 2030 hours on Tuesday 6 June 1944 when the major left us.

Finally to the Beach

When we arrived on the beach, we had trouble making contact with anyone in authority who could help us, but finally found a US Navy Commander who was in charge of the sector. He put us on a boat and we left the beach about 11:00PM. We reported to the CO of an LCVP lying off shore, and after the crew spent some time getting the ship off a shoal, we traveled in it about 12 miles to the US "Bayfield," a headquarters and hospital ship. We arrived there about 2:30AM Wednesday, 7 June 1944.

At 7:30AM, we got up, having been fed and put to bed in the sick bay of the "Bayfield" as soon as we arrived. About 8:00 - 8:30AM, a colonel arrived with a rescued P-47 pilot, and we followed him to the USS "Ancon", another headquarters ship. (This craft was the headquarters for all that section of the beach, and many generals and admirals were present upon it, including General DeGaulle, who was observing the action and broadcasting messages to the French. From this ship, we transferred via another LCVP to LST 75, arriving about 2:00PM on Wednesday afternoon. This ship began to unload that night and finished the following morning. At about 9:00PM Thursday 8 June 1944, we left for the UK in a convoy of 40 - 50 ships.

'We arrived off Portland about 2:00PM Friday, and stayed on board until Saturday morning 10 June 1944. We then went through two straggler—survivor camps, the second at Weymouth. At the latter, we arrived simultaneously with 206 US glider pilots, who had just been brought back from the continent. From here we went to Southampton in trucks1 where we arrived about 6:00PM. The pilot immediately telephoned our base and spoke to Lt Col Myer, who sent Major Falkner and Capt Roush to pick us up at Stonycross Airfield near Southampton about 8:30PM on Saturday 10 June 1944. We arrived at our base about 10:30PM the same evening.

While we were on the continent, we did not observe any engagements with the enemy, although we heard much firing. We saw some empty gliders in the vicinity of Ste Mere Eglise, but we did not see the town itself. We did not see any of our glider troops.

We found that our troops had been instructed to shoot at anyone moving around at night, whereas we had been advised to hide during the day and do our traveling at night if we landed in enemy territory. Instructions on such matters should be coordinated, in order to prevent avoidable injury from our own troops."

HARRISON LOESCH
Captain, Air Corps
Intelligence Officer

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