8 July, 1944
We haven’t talked in a while, and I thought I’d let you know I’m all right. I’ve lost my right leg, but I’m much better off than other fellas I know. It was last month when we went to Normandy. I was stationed at Omaha Beach, and the night before I didn’t get one second of sleep. Some of the guys were saying we were going to die before we reached shore, but some of us made it. We were silent as the waves churned us around in our boat as gun shot hit the door rapidly for 5 minutes straight.
Men were throwing up over the side of the boat because they gave us a full breakfast that morning. I was glad that we spent so many summers on the boat fishing with Pa. It seemed like everything went quiet before the ramp was lowered. But that was just my brain not thinking right, because we were pelted with gun shots immediately. The smell of blood drifted through the sea air, and I watched as 6 men, right in front of my eyes, fell to the ground, their blood making the floor slippery. I tried not to look into their faces as they lay there, motionless, under the stampede of boots scrambling to escape. I was lucky, for I stood in the back.
A bullet nicked my ear as I dove into the choppy darkness, my weaponry weighing me down at over 40-pounds, close to 80 in the water. The water around me was turning red from my ear, and I sank lower as I struggled to get my gear off my shoulders. Someone next to me thrashed while trying to undo the knot on his gear, and then drifted to the bottom of the ocean. I almost wished I could stay down there forever, but there was so much on the line.
I managed to dodge machine gun fire from Germans above, perched atop the dunes as I surfaced and crawled onto shore. On my left, at least 20 wooden hedgehogs were in the rocky sand, and I crawled around them carefully. My officer was up ahead of me as I stopped behind the hedgehog, and told me to help him detonate them to let the few tanks that hadn’t sunk get onto the beach. The Teller mines that were placed on these hedgehogs blew up around us as the enemy shot them, igniting the beach and filling the air with the smell of burnt hair and flesh.
We gathered up a group of men nearby, some of whom were bleeding something awful, and we tried to gather as much TNT as we could, to set off the Tellers. Overwhelmed by the things going on around me, I fell over wreckage of a hedgehog that lay smoldering while trying to race back into the waves to get the explosives for the mines. Artillery was fired some 10 feet away from me, and my leg was blown clean off. I was unconscious for only a little while, and my friend pulled me behind one of the hedges, and I bled for some time. I felt numbed by the excruciating pain, and thought of you and Pa, and Sally and Robert, which gave me hope. I was lucky compared to a lot of other men.
I sat behind the shield and screamed as the blood dirtied the sand. The sound of gunshots still ring in my ears today. We managed to crawl as a group to the cliff, but many men were shot, one straight through the skull. I finally stabilized myself as we met a medic who gave me morphine to ease the pain. McMilton, our finest sniper, managed to take out one of the machine gunmen up the cliff, and flame engulfed each bunker one by one. I miraculously remained unscathed for the rest of that night.
It was unlike anything that has ever happened to any of us before. It was hell, watching friends bleed and burn to death; I felt so angry, I could’ve taken on a whole army of Germans. I thought of you all back home, and I knew I couldn’t stop until we won. And we did. We’re in Paris now, and on our way to Berlin. The cities would be wonderful this time of year, but considering the circumstances, I hope to come again after the war. I think General Eisenhower will lead us to victory, because we have something to fight for. And Hitler? He’s got nothing to fight for except for hatred.There’s no word on what time we’ll be returning home, but I’ll write when I get the news. I’ll talk to you soon.
P.S. Tell LouAnne I hope to be home to take her to homecoming in October if my leg turns out all right.