August 7, 2019

1944. The Assault on the Nijmegen Bridge

The Battle of Nijmegen
"Cromwell tanks of the 2nd Welsh Guards cross the bridge at Nijmegen, September 21, 1944" (source)
The 82nd Airborne Division's assault on the Waal river crossing at the Dutch city of Nijmegen during Operation Market Garden was one of the most brutal battles of the Allied advance to the Rhine. The attack was nicknamed "Little Omaha" because of the heavy losses on both sides.

As an eyewitness, Bill Downs described the assault as "a single, isolated battle that ranks in magnificence and courage with Guam, Tarawa, Omaha Beach. A story that should be told to the blowing of bugles and the beating of drums for the men whose bravery made the capture of this crossing over the Waal possible." He recounted, "The Nijmegen Bridge was in our hands intact as a monument to the gallantry of the 82nd Airborne soldiers, those who crossed the river, those who stormed it from the south."

The text is from War Report: A Record of Dispatches Broadcast by the BBC's War Correspondents With the Allied Expeditionary Force, 6 June 1944 - 5 May 1945, pp. 238-243:
NIJMEGEN
(The airborne landings had been heavily opposed, and General Dempsey's tanks were having a hard time of it through marshy country which kept our columns from deploying off the road to outflank German strong-points. Nevertheless the airborne men were fighting on grimly, and on September 20th the British Second Army reached Nijmegen. The bridge was intact. So far the plan had succeeded in spite of heavier fighting than had been hoped for, and the inability of the airborne troops to seize the bridge before the British tanks arrived):

24 September 1944.
BILL DOWNS, C.B.S.
"American airborne patrols reached the area at the southern end of the bridge on Sunday night, September 17th, shortly after they landed, but at that time they were not in enough strength to do anything about it. On Monday the paratroops and glider forces were too busy beating off the German counter-attacks to coordinate an assault on the bridge. By this time the armour of the British Second Army was on its way northwards from the Escaut Canal. Then on Tuesday the British tanks arrived on the outskirts of Nijmegen and an attack was commenced, but still the Germans held on strongly in the fortification and houses on the south end of the bridge. American airborne infantry and British tanks were only 300 yards from the bridge in the streets of Nijmegen, but they couldn't get to it.

"Tuesday night was the strangest. The American troops took machine guns to the top of the houses and sprayed the approaches and the entrance to the bridges with bullets. All night they shot at anything that moved. Perhaps it was this constant fire that kept the Germans from blowing the bridge then. But still the shuddering blast that would signal the end of the bridge did not come. And when morning arrived a new plan was devised. It was dangerous and daring and risky. The commanders who laid it out knew this; and the men who were to carry it out knew it too. Thinking a frontal assault on the bridge from the south was impossible, American infantry were to fight their way westwards down the west bank of the Waal River and cross in broad daylight to fight their way back up the river bank, and attack the bridge from the north. On Wednesday morning the infantry made their way westward through the town and got to the industrial outskirts along the river bank near the mouth of a big canal. Some British tanks went with them to give them protection in the street fighting and to act as artillery when the crossings were to be made. Accompanying this task force were trucks carrying twenty-six assault boats brought along by the British armoured units in case of such an emergency. Most of the men who were there to make the crossing had never handled an assault boat before. There was a lot of argument as to who would handle the paddles and preference was given to the men who had at least rowed a boat. Everything was going well. The Germans were supposed to be completely surprised by the audacity of the move.

"But late in the morning—the impossible happened. Two men showed themselves on a river bank and were fired at by the enemy. No Americans were supposed to be in that part of the town. The 88-mm. shells began plastering the area. The gaff was blown. Reconnaissance spotted batches of German troops being transferred to the opposite bank. A few hours later, machine guns were dug into the marshes on the far side—the plan had been discovered. The task force was under shell-fire, and several hundred Germans with machine guns were sitting on the opposite bank waiting for the crossing. This was about noon. There was a quick conference. It was decided that the original plan would proceed, but this time the men crossing the river would have the help of heavy bombers—Lancasters and Stirlings flying in daylight to drop their bombs on the opposite bank in tactical support of the men from the assault boats.

"Working under enemy shell-fire, the assault boats were assembled. When they were put into the water, another difficulty arose. The tide was moving, but with a downstream current of eight miles an hour. Some of the boats drifted 300 yards down river before they were retrieved and brought back. Meanwhile machine guns spluttered on the opposite bank and German artillery kept smashing the embarkation area regularly.

"At last everything was ready. The bombers went in, but didn't drop their bombs close enough to knock out the machine guns. Twenty-six assault boats were in the water. They would carry ten men each. Two hundred and sixty men would make the first assault. Waiting for them on the other bank were some 400 to 600 Germans. The shelling continued. Every man took a deep breath and climbed in. Someone made a wisecrack about the airborne navy and someone else said they preferred airborne submarines to this job. And off across the river they started. At the same time behind them, the British tanks fired their heavy guns, and our own heavy machine-guns fired into the opposite bank giving the little fleet as much cover as possible.

"And over on the other side of the river the enemy tracers shrieked at the boats. The fire at first was erratic, but as the boats approached the northern bank the tracers began to spread on to the boats. Men slumped in their seats—other men could be seen shifting a body to take over the paddling. One man rose up in his seat and fell overboard. There was no thought of turning back. The paddling continued clumsily and erratically, but it continued. One of the boats had so many holes in it that the men were baling out with their tin helmets—it was almost splintered when it reached the other side.

"The fighting, though, had only just begun. The hundred or so men who had arrived on the opposite side fought their way forward with the bayonet and grenade, going from one machine-gun nest to the other until they had established a bridgehead only a few yards deep and several hundred feet wide. The thirteen boats had hardly left for the return trip for the reinforcements, when the men on the north bank saw specks in the water. The men on the opposite bank, seeing the casualties suffered in the landing under fire, were not waiting for the boats. Some of them had stripped off their equipment, and taking  a bandolier of ammunition, were swimming the river with their rifles on their backs. And thus it went—the thirteen little boats going time after time across the river under fire, the men on the bridgehead digging in and firing as rapidly as possible, routing out the German machine-gun nests by hand, while British tanks fired for all they were worth. After an hour and a half of concentrated hell, the infantry were over. They held a bridgehead several hundred yards wide and 100 yards deep. After that time, one officer counted 138 Germans dead in a space of sixty yards of that bloody beach-head.

"There was a welcome pause as the men consolidated and rested in their foxholes. Some had thrown the German bodies out of the Nazi machine-gun nests and were using these to stiffen their defences. The plan was to turn eastwards and assault the northern end of the bridge. But on the left flank of that minute bridgehead was another menace—for there on the high ground overlooking the bridge and firing at us with some 88 guns, was an ancient fort. It is called Hatz van Holland and was supposed to have been used centuries ago by Charlemagne as a fortress. The Germans had been using the fort as an anti-aircraft gun position to defend Nijmegen, and now they turned the ack-ack guns downward to bear on the bridge and the airborne bridgehead. While these guns were firing at the back, the troops could not fight their way to the northern end of the bridge. A detail was formed to attack the Hatz van Holland and put its guns out of action. That, as warriors centuries ago found out, was extremely difficult because the Hatz van Holland was surrounded by a moat.

"This moat had a few feet of water in it—black dirty water, covered with a layer of bright green slime. Also, the attacking party would have to advance under point blank 88 mm. fire. But anyhow the party set out. They crawled towards the high ground and the 88's banged away at them. And then they came to a zone where there were no 88 shells. It was found out that the other 88 guns were so installed that the guns could not reach downward the far. The German gun-crews discovered this too late and rushed to put up a rifle and machine-gun defence along the moat. But the Americans by this time had faced so much that a few machine guns were nothing. They made a stand-up attack, shouting like Indians, and, with tommy-guns blazing, knocked out the historic Hatz von Holland. A few Americans with blood in their eyes left seventy-five Germans dead in that moat. The remaining troops fought their way up the river all right. they captured the northern end of the railroad bridge and worked their way to the junction of the railroad highway from the main bridge. The entire German position on the northern side of the river was cut off."
Downs gave another account in an earlier broadcast from September 20, 1944:
American Airborne infantry and British tanks beleaguered the streets of Nijmegen only 300 yards from the bridge that night, but they couldn't get it. A daring plan was drawn up. Wednesday morning, the infantry (504th) made its way to the industrial outskirts along the river bank. British tanks protected troopers in street fighting, acted as artillery when the crossings were made. 
Twenty-six assault boats were in the water. Two hundred and sixty men would make the first assault. Waiting for them on the other bank were 400 to 600 Germans; the shelling continued. A smoke screen was laid, but it wasn't very effective because of the wind. Men slumped in their seats; of those 260 men, half were wounded or killed. Only 13 of 26 boats came back—others didn't wait for boats. Some stripped off equipment, took a bandolier of ammunition and swam the river, rifles on their backs.
There was bitter bayonet fighting and Americans died, but more Germans died. That's only part of the story...British tanks and American Airborne Infantry (2nd Bn., 505th) began their frontal assault on the southern end of the bridge at the same time as the river crossing was started. Americans went through the houses on either side of the street.  
The southern end of the bridge has a large circular island approach. In this island were four self-propelled guns. There was nothing to do but rush the guns. So the tanks lined up four abreast and all roared into the street, firing. The American Airborne troops and British tankmen seized the south end of the bridge. Only tanks could get across at first because half a dozen fanatical Germans remained high in the girders, sniping. The Nijmegen Bridge was in our hands intact as a monument to the gallantry of the 82nd Airborne soldiers, those who crossed the river, those who stormed it from the south.

July 21, 2019

1943. The Aftermath in Stalingrad

The Site of One of Hitler's Greatest Defeats
Soviet soldiers on the roof of a factory shop in Stalingrad in 1942 (Photo by Arkady Shaikhetsource)
Bill Downs first arrived in Russia to cover the Eastern Front on December 25, 1942. He and other foreign correspondents were taken to Stalingrad just days after the German surrender there in February 1943.

During their long journey the group came across the broken, humiliated Axis commanders in Soviet captivity, including Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, whose 6th Army had just been destroyed. The press group then entered the city, where they passed bodies strewn along the streets and came across the wreckage at Mamayev Kurgan, the site of some of the worst fighting of the Battle of Stalingrad.

Recalling the experience in a broadcast, Downs said: "There are sights and sounds and smells in and around Stalingrad that make you want to weep, and make you want to shout and make you just plain sick to your stomach."

This text has been adapted from a transcript cabled to CBS in New York. The passages in parentheses were censored by Soviet officials for military security or propaganda reasons.
Bill Downs

CBS Moscow

February 8, 1943

The Foreign Office press department summoned the foreign press corps with a mysterious 6 p.m. phone call. They informed us we were leaving for Stalingrad at 8 a.m. the next morning. The trip was extremely hush-hush, although it had been announced that fighting had ceased in Stalingrad the day before. We were warned to dress warmly and take five days' worth of food.

I rushed back to the hotel and collected hard boiled eggs, a slab of smoked fish, sugar, two loaves of bread, and most important of all, a liter of vodka, which is Russia's most important personal antifreeze.

The next morning I dressed with three pairs of wool socks under fur boots, two pairs of wool underwear, a wool shirt, two sweaters, a ski jacket, a fur hat, and a fur coat—and I was among the lightest dressed in the party. Someone told me it was a mild winter.

The five hour plane trip in a comfortable Douglas transport was spent recalling hundreds of stories of Stalingrad's four and a half months of concentrated hell, which was worse than Coventry's, Rotterdam's, Warsaw's, or London's—anything Hitler had been able to do to cities opposing him.

The Douglas landed at an obscure little airfield 50 miles north of Stalingrad on steppes which looked like the Texas panhandle or Dakota plains buttered with about three feet of snow. The biting northwest wind of the Kalmyk Steppe made me look down at my legs to see whether I was not wearing a bathing suit.

The airfield was a former fighter-bomber base located in the area where the northern arm of the Red Army's tremendous encirclement of west Stalingrad started. We sheltered in a group of a half dozen peasant farmhouses which formed a tractor station for the surrounding wheat country.

We wondered how in the hell the Russians were able to concentrate an offensive army in these treeless, hill-less steppes without German reconnaissance discovering their striking power. That's mystery number one—or mistake number one—which was one of the major factors for the German defeat at Stalingrad.

At nightfall we headed southward to another peasant farm village where we were liberally fed and tried to warm our freezing hands and feet, to the amusement of Red Army men and women who were interested in foreigners.

We traveled by bus some 60 miles to a point 35 miles directly west of Stalingrad, where the next day we were taken to the headquarters of the commander of the Stalingrad front, Colonel General Konstantin Rokossovsky, who now takes a place as one of the great generals of history. Rokossovsky passed us en route to Moscow, where he went to the Kremlin to be awarded the Order of Suvorov for Stalingrad. We herded into a small peasant house where chairs were lined up like in a classroom, with desks in the corner and a map on the wall.

In walked a medium-sized Red Army general, his breast lined with several medals, dressed in a simple uniform on which the Red Army's new epaulets had yet to be sewn. He is Lieutenant General Mikhail Malinin, chief of staff for the Stalingrad front and one of the men responsible for putting into operation plans for the encirclement of the German 6th Army.

Malinin looked 35, square-faced with hair in a short pompadour which stuck up like a schoolboy's. The only sign of age was the sprinkling of gray hairs around the temples. He picked up a stick with which to point to the map. He looked as out of place standing at the front of that schoolroom as a schoolteacher would have looked in a front-line Stalingrad trench.

Malinin started speaking slowly and deliberately and explained that he wanted to outline briefly the details of the Red Army's encirclement movement where it started.

"Hitler sent his best troops—the German 6th Army—against Stalingrad, containing his crack infantry, tank, and motorized divisions," he said. Continuing in the same matter-of-fact tone, he said that as German forces moved toward the Volga, they created for themselves a sort of second front on the northern flank, "and the task of the defenders was not to give up the city."
Red Army soldiers on the Stalingrad front patrol the snow-covered steppes (source)
Malinin has been in three wars—in addition to the Russian Civil War and the Finnish War, he fought on the Moscow and Smolensk fronts in this war. He formerly was on the faculty of a Red Army military school.

(Malinin said that "Russian resistance forced the Germans to continually send up reinforcements. During the month of October and the first part of November was the fiercest fighting. The Germans continued to pour in huge reinforcements. But by the middle of November there was a certain equilibrium of strength. The Soviet High Command took advantage of its own forces at this time and ordered an offensive aimed at destroying both the Stalingrad and Don front troops of the enemy.")

(This certain equilibrium which Malinin referred to represented the greatest fighting retreat in the history of warfare. It was one place where the Red Army for the first time definitely stopped an Axis advance on the southern sector of the Russian front since the Axis invaded Kiev eighteen months earlier.)

Malinin then explained the great pincer movement (which launched simultaneously on November 19 one hundred miles northwest and some distance southeast of Stalingrad. This blow was so well-timed that in the first four days the northern and southern forces each advanced 55 miles on schedule, and the threat of encirclement became evident.)

Malinin said "the German High Command apparently was unconcerned because they evidently planned to bring up a powerful groups of reinforcements from Kotelnikovo anyway. However, the genius of this plan directed by Joseph Stalin foresaw this and even predicted that the Germans would attempt to relieve the group. Thus the Red Army prepared for it. The Germans did just what we thought they would do. They were engaged and routed at Kotelnikovo. We captured the original Paulus order to commanders not to receive Red Army emissaries who advanced under white flag to present an ultimatum. This order specified that this peace delegation was to be fired upon—the exact translation read 'to see emissaries off the premises with fire.'"

Malinin said that American and British equipment played very little part in the Battle of Stalingrad. "We had a small number of British tanks—Churchill tanks—but not enough to take into consideration when reckoning the entire offensive. Where they were used, they stood up well under test. No American tanks or planes were used in the battle. There were some American Dodge trucks, but they don't shoot."

The interviews ended and we filed out of headquarters feeling like we had just taken a college examination for a master's degree in history.

However, the Red Army moves fast, and they took us to a nearby village with a dozen or so scattered unpainted houses around which they posted heavy guard. The conducting Red Army colonel motioned us inside one house. There we found four German generals sitting around a table looking at each other, one in a sweater and the other three in full regalia. In the next room were four others standing and looking out the window, and sitting in the corner looking despondent was woebegone General [Romulus] Dimitriu, the onetime glorified Romanian general.

The Germans in the first room got politely to their feet, smiling sheepishly. These men were Hitler's super-generals, leading super-Aryans against an inferior tribe. The only sign of their "super-ness" now were the magnificent decorations of iron crosses displayed on their uniforms like pictures on a gallery wall.

The German generals of the first group included [Otto] Renoldi, Schlömer, Deboi, and Von Daniels. All fought in the last war and are damn proud of it. We were whisked through the room and had little chance to question them, but when they heard were were American correspondents, Schlömer and Renoldi began long conversations about how they like cigarettes of the American type and had used up their ration of Russian cigarettes. Not a single reporter responded to their hint to give them a smoke. I believe if anyone had, he would have been tackled by the entire press corps when we got outside. These generals were getting a Red Army officer's rations according to the Hague Convention, which is too much considering the kind of rats they are.

In the next room Von Drebber, who looks more like a college professor than a military man, dominated the group which included such nasty types as [Hans] Wulz, who is a small, bald-headed, potbellied Prussian who only managed to squeeze out an unenthusiastic "Heil."

Von Drebber, six feet four inches tall, was asked what primary factors led to his defeat. He drew himself up and politely replied: "The Russians struck from the north and south—we were simply sitting in the middle. We were surrounded, cut off with no munitions and no food."

We tried again asking why they didn't try to break out of encirclement. Von Drebber said: "At one time we could have broken the ring—but you will have to ask Marshal Paulus about questions of strategy."

He was asked if he had Hitler's permission to surrender. Von Drebber said: "I was ordered by Paulus to hold until I pushed back to a certain line. When I reached that line I surrendered."
Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, commander of the Wehrmacht 6th Army, and his adjutant Wilhelm Adam (left) are escorted to the Soviet 64th Army headquarters following the German surrender at Stalingrad, January 31, 1943 (source)
Then we asked Wulz, who is an artillery general, how Russian artillery compared to German artillery. He made a whining, inconsequential answer that "every army has good and bad guns, good and bad artillery—that's how it is with the Russian and German armies."

Schlömer, who was stationed in another house, said however: "The Red Army fought well everywhere we met them."

But the most revealing statements came from Von Arnim and [Fritz] Roske. Roske was asked how the Russians broke them down. Von Arnim interrupted: "That question is badly put. You should ask how we managed to hold out under such conditions."

Roske ignored Von Arnim's remark with a brief statement: "Hunger, cold, and lack of munitions."

However, the Russian colonel was anxious to show us the Red Army's prize exhibit and rushed us to a small farmhouse sitting apart from the others. We gathered outside around the doorway while a grinning Mongolian soldier—definitely non-Aryan—looked down on us.

The door opened and out came Paulus, poker-faced except for a tic which spasmodically twitched from eye to mouth on the right side of his face. He is 53 but looked 65, his face lined and yellowish—almost the same yellowish color of the frozen corpses of men he left lying in gutters in Stalingrad.

Accompanying him was his personal aide, Colonel Adam, a flat-faced Teuton who looked like a slightly overweight ball of concentrated Nazism, and Paulus' chief of staff, General Schmidt, who looked like he'd be happier running a Berlin butcher shop. All men were dressed in fur caps pulled down over their ears against the subzero cold. Paulus answered only two questions, which he appeared to do with effort. He said his first name was Friedrich and that he is 53.

The standing and gazing captured Nazis in those overheated peasant houses, as well as that bare peasant yard where Paulus was held, gave the same feeling one gets when looking in a snake pit at a zoo. But the obvious comparison that strikes when looking at German officers and German soldiers is that the officers are always well-clad while the soldiers are just the opposite. And standing there in that obscure peasant village, these much decorated gold-braided groups of Nazi bigwigs reminded you of a flock of sad-eyed peacocks standing with distaste in a hen run.

The conducting colonel loaded us into drafty buses for a 60 mile trip to Stalingrad. By nightfall the temperature dropped to 40 below, and we started out on a twelve hour, all night trip through snow to Stalingrad.

We would have made the trip sooner when we ran into a Russian supply column moving westward from Stalingrad toward new battlefields. There was a long black line of soldiers, horses, mobile kitchens, guns, and cars. It was an unbelievable sight out there in the steppes to come upon so many people slowly moving along the snow-choked road. But the most unbelievable of all was the sight of camels pulling sledges in three feet of snow.

As we made our way slowly along the road against traffic, a curious Red Army man came up to our bus, looked in, grinned and asked: "Deutschen Soldaten?"

When we explained we were Americans he immediately called all his comrades and soon there was a great crowd around our bus. We passed out cigarettes and someone made a speech with the general theme of friendship between the Soviet Union and the United States. Russians will make a speech at the drop of the hat, but it gave you a warm feeling overcoming even the steppe temperatures to get such a demonstration of friendship at two o'clock in the morning in the swirling snow and wind 30 miles east of Stalingrad on the world's bloodiest battlefield.

We arrived in Stalingrad at about 4 a.m. The driver seemed anxious to get there. We drove around for two hours. The only thing in sight were the dark ruins where we spotted fires which sentries cluttered around to keep warm.

Our driver finally pulled up to one of these fires, and when he got out he was crying. Our interpreter explained that the driver had once lived in Stalingrad and had not been back to the city since the battle. "He can't find any street that he knows," the interpreter explained. "He hasn't yet recognized a house."

This is because there were no houses. The streets were just auto tracks over ruins up and down through bombshell holes. This was the Red October factory district, parts of which changed hands a half dozen times during the fighting.

As the sun came up the scene of devastation was so great it made a lump in your throat. This was the worker's factory district's small homes. These homes were absolutely flat. Not even a gracious blanket of snow could cover the destruction they suffered.

Characteristic of all bombings I have seen in Britain, one of the most indestructible items of furniture in any home is the iron bedstead. It is the same in Stalingrad. The grave of every home is marked by charred headpieces of beds sticking up like tombstones over what was a peaceful home. Occasionally one could mark where a street once existed by looking closely at poles sticking six or seven feet out of the ground. These once were telephone poles which stuck ten to twelve feet up. Now they looked like blasted trees.

Sentries told us that, believe it or not, some civilians holed up in their basements and stuck through the whole bombardment. These included some women who did washing and cooking for the Red Army.

What these people suffered cannot even be imagined. When they were without food, they were forced to forage and risk bombshells. Horse meat was considered a delicacy, and sometimes bread. But they stuck through it, although many are not there to tell their story.
Soldiers of the Soviet 62nd Army walk past dugouts constructed on the banks of the Volga, 1942 (source)
At daybreak we were directed to the headquarters of the 62nd Army, which is credited for saving the city of Stalingrad. The headquarters is built into the side of a western bluff on the Volga near the bottom of a hundred foot high clay cliff. We were led up this cliff to dugouts—zemlyankas—small timber-roofed caves dug into the side of the cliff from where the Red Army held the Germans from establishing themselves on the bank of Russia's greatest river. Just three days earlier the Germans had been only 300 yards away from my zemlyanka. But I slept well—they are now fighting on a line 200 miles away.

Rising above the Volga bluff is Stalingrad's famous Hill 102, Mamayev Kurgan, which the Germans held and placed heavy artillery. The hill commands a view of the entire city as well as the Volga, over which the Red Army's vital supply lines are held. The summit of Mamayev Kurgan is only about a quarter mile from the Volga, and between it and the river are the Red October and Red Barricades factories. Beyond these plants is the high Volga bank wherein zemlyankas are located. This is where some of the bitterest fighting occurred.

We walked single file along a narrow path through the factory. There was little need to remind us the factory was mined, as every minute or so there was a shattering explosion of rock wreckage in a nearby district which Red Army sappers were de-mining.

The Red October factory once made steel for tractors and farm implements. With the war it switched over to tank armaments. After the Battle of Stalingrad the whole plant is now simply a junk heap. The Germans took almost the entire building after it was mercilessly shelled and bombed flat. The only portions of the factory still standing are extremely heavy girders which once held cranes. All other buildings are flat. There literally was not a piece of sheet iron roofing or shovel or piece of metal sticking four inches above ground which didn't have bullet shrapnel or fragment holes through it.

It was in this factory that we saw our first German dead. They were lying at the bottom of a large bomb crater with only their bare feet sticking up. Most of Red October's bodies had been cleaned up earlier.

The de-mined path through the factory led across wreckage and craters. We passed a German dugout in perfectly good condition, clean and well-kept. Beside it stood a sentry, and a sign on the door warned: "Keep Away—This Booby Trap."

The path ended at the most forward-line trenches the Germans held at the factory. These lines are on a small hill facing another factory building which still had two walls standing. The Russians held positions in the factory building which I paced, measuring twelve yards. It was here that some brilliant conversations between warring men occurred. This Russian factory position once manufactured consumer goods. Red Army men did their fighting here among dishpans, skillets, and shovels that littered the floor.
Soviet soldiers fighting in the destroyed Red October factory during the Battle of Stalingrad, January 1943 (source)
The only ordinary looking battlefield we saw was Mamayev Kurgan. This hill is terraced in a series of five foot shelves, and there was a recently planted apple orchard with young saplings about four feet high. There is absolutely no cover, and looking down it from German gun positions are trenches. It appeared that a single squad of machine gunners could hold against advancing infantry forces indefinitely.

Correspondents had trouble even walking over the slick snow uphill in broad daylight. It is hard to imagine what it must have been like for the Soviet soldiers who only a few weeks earlier negotiated slopes under a hail of bullets, artillery shrapnel, and dive bombers. The only statement on the subject I could get from a former Red Army man was a private who grimly admitted: "It was tough."

But once they took positions atop the first ridge a really tough job still awaited. The Germans for weeks held two almost impregnable fortresses atop the hill. They were two circular water tanks about ten feet apart. The tanks were about 50 feet in diameter, dug 30 feet into the ground with about 15 feet of reinforced concrete surfaces sticking above ground. Around the tops these Germans threw earth embankment, forming a shell-proof, bomb-proof position virtually impregnable—until the Red Army decided to take it.

The battlefield before these two fortresses was like any battlefield of the First World War. There were wrecked tanks, smashed Russian and German helmets, empty shell case remnants, and smashed guns. There were bodies which had not yet been cleaned up. There were pieces of mortars, bombs, grenades, and strips of machine gun bullets.

The Russians finally took position by digging trenches up to the fortresses and then launching an infantry assault from there. Tanks were no good, only bayonets, grenades, and Tommy guns were effective in the final clean-out.
The southern part of the eastern slope of the hill Mamayev Kurgan in Stalingrad in 1943 right after the battle. A destroyed Renault UE Chenillette, a French armored carrier used by the Wehrmacht, sits in the foreground (source)
But the greatest shock came when we entered the city of Stalingrad proper. The way Stalingrad is laid out is strip factory districts stretching northward along the Volga, with worker's districts connected by bus and streetcar lines. These settlements were marked by wreckage. Streetcars which ran between community centers now stood burned out, wrecked on what was left of their tracks. Store shops along Communist Street—which is the main highway connecting these settlements—now only had a few walls left. About every quarter mile on Communist Street the Germans built barricades eight feet high, consisting of two fences built five feet apart and filled in with dirt bricks and rubble from nearby houses.

As we approached the city center with its modern buildings, there were more and more signs of increased fighting. Around the ground floor windows, many of which were sandbagged with apertures for machine guns, there were countless chinks made by bullets or holes made by shells.

As we neared the town square called "Heroes of the Revolution" we could see bodies in doorways or behind barricades or lying on sidewalks. Fragments of letters and photographs from home, all written in German, littered streets—letters from Berlin and Hamburg starting out with "Mein Lieber Karl," or Heinrich or Heinz.

There was not a single manhole in Stalingrad's streets with a cover. Germans and Russians not only used the city's basements, housetops, and alleys for battlegrounds, but the sewers as well. Snipers were known to crawl through sewers and come out behind German positions to create panic.

You could almost arm a full division with equipment lying about Stalingrad's ruined streets. Grenades clutter gutters. Full machine gun belts lie across sidewalks, and mortars are a dime a dozen.

Veterans of the Stalingrad fight said it was not uncommon to find Russian and German soldiers locked in each other's death grip during the height of the fighting. That was the way these two armies locked in the city of Stalingrad fought until the Red Army proved itself more powerful and skilled and brought the Wehrmacht to its knees.

Returning to my zemlyanka after this trip through Stalingrad, I went to the headquarters kitchen to ask for a drink of water. The Red Army girl dipped some out of a bucket with a tin cup. The water was cold and clean and good, and I told her so: "Your vodka and wine are great but nothing is better than this water."

She threw back her head and replied: "It ought to be. It's Volga water. It's got Russian blood in it."

June 6, 2019

1944. The Murrow Boys on D-Day

The Murrow Boys Report on the Normandy Landings

RICHARD C. HOTTELET AT H-HOUR
June 6, 1944

DOUG EDWARDS: And now for the report of Richard Hottelet of CBS. Go ahead, London.

RICHARD C. HOTTELET: This is Richard C. Hottelet speaking from London.

The Allied forces landed in France early this morning. I watched the first landing barges hit the beach exactly on the minute of H-Hour. I was in a Ninth Air Force Marauder flying at 4,500 feet along twenty miles of the invasion coast.

From what I could see during those first few minutes, there was nothing stopping the assault parties from getting ashore. We spent about half an hour over enemy territory. We flew over and bombed some of the coastal fortifications, but except for some light flak from inland positions and from some tanks firing at us, we saw no enemy gunfire. The only other sign of life in enemy territory were some white and yellow parachutes dotting the ground, where all our paratroopers had hit the ground. The weather is favorable for the operation.

Offshore, Allied warships were bombing the enemy coast, and they seemed to be doing it without any opposition. As far as we were concerned, there was no opposition from the air, either. The Luftwaffe just didn't seem to be there.

What I saw was literally the last minute of the invasion preparation and the first minute of invasion. We were low, but we were traveling fast, and we could not tell how the battle for the beaches would develop. But if the ground action goes as smoothly as the air preparation, we can hope for the best.

I went in with a bomber group—probably the hottest group in the Ninth Air Force. Our mission was to plaster the invasion beach and some coastal fortifications with bombs seven minutes before our assault parties came ashore. This group was chosen for the hair-trigger work because of its previous superb record.

Well, we delivered, and we delivered on time.

This is the way it worked. Last night we were told briefing would be at 3 o'clock. We got up at 2, had griddle cakes and fried spam for breakfast, went into the Nissen hut that serves as a briefing room. The doors were closed, and the commanding officer announced that the invasion had begun. He said that, since midnight three hours before, our paratroopers—some 20,000 of them—had been landing in France. The men cheered. The colonel went on to say that the air forces were being called upon for their maximum contribution. There were going to be more than 1,500 Fortresses and Liberators flying ahead of us. Hundreds of medium bombers, too, were going to precede us, and our group was to wind up the pre-invasion bombing.

When he said this, the men really cheered. To top it off, we were going to have cover from more than 2,500 Allied fighters. The colonel made it plain that nothing was to be left to chance. The weather in the target area had been unsettled and cloudy, and as we were going to deliver precision bombing, we would have to fly below the clouds, and then we would go down and bomb from a thousand feet. When he said that, not a man blinked an eye, despite the fact that such a low altitude counts as suicide for the Marauders.

It was still dark when we took off, and raining. But one by one, those Marauders roared down the runway and took off. An hour and a half later we were out over the English Channel. First we couldn't see anything except a few stray vessels. Great care had been taken to keep our ships from firing at their own planes. Every single bomber and fighter had been painted overnight with special markings on wings and fuselage, and the direction we were to fly, the way we were to turn if we got into trouble, and the recognition signals we were to give, had all been very carefully worked out. Even so, when we passed over the first few barges, we had the uncomfortable feeling that we were being shot at. It didn't last long. We were out of the way in a matter of minutes.

By this time it was getting on, and the sun was painting the sky a bright orange color on our left. Below us, the English Channel was a fine, deep blue. There were a few whitecaps, but we got the impression that it wasn't very rough down below. About five miles off the French coast, we saw a plane in a steep dive laying a smokescreen. Just about the same minute, the pilot said he saw fires on the shore. I looked as hard as I could, and there down to the left were some naval vessels. They looked like cruisers firing broadsides onto the shore. Their guns belched flame and smoke. Once, I saw a fountain of water not far from one of them, which may have been a shot from the shore or a death charge. Near the cruisers were dozens of landing craft of all kinds, hardly visible in the early morning haze. All this while, we saw medium bombers and fighters crisscrossing on the way to the target without a sign of a German plane. Then, as we turned in over the coast about ten minutes before H-Hour, we saw a fast assault boat race along parallel to the beach laying a smokescreen. From the way the screen laid, smooth and even, it looked as if there were no wind.

We opened our bomb bay doors. Light flak began to come up after us; little balls of fire off to our right and to our left. Some heavy flak off to our left, not near at all, firing only sporadically. The flights ahead of us dropped their bombs. The guns on the ships offshore resumed fire. The bombs and the shells burst together on the target. There were sheets of flame down below, then rolling balls of brown and black smoke.

Four and a half thousand feet up, our plane was rocked by the concussion, and we got the stench of the explosives. We dropped our bombs as scheduled. And just then, we saw down below on our left dozens and scores of white streaks as the assault boats raced over the blue water to the beach, leaving their white wakes stretched out behind them.

As we turned away from the target, we saw the boats hit the beach. Then we took evasive action—I couldn't see anymore. Down below, except for some more sporadic flak, it was a dead country. No sign of life. No vehicles on roads; no troop movement. And all the way in, we saw our Marauders weaving in and out in perfect formation above us, below us, and around us on all sides. We didn't see a single one of our planes in distress.

The mission wasn't the way we had figured it. We had expected to see German fortifications give back blow for blow with our ships. There was no sign of it. We had expected to see the Luftwaffe out in its full remaining strength to try to stop our planes, or at least strike a blow against our landing craft. We didn't see either. We had expected to find enemy territory full of antiaircraft, alive with reserves moving into threatened areas. We didn't see that.

The circumstances of our flight, the fact that we got there simultaneously with the invading troops and left in a minute, make it impossible to draw any far reaching conclusions on how the battle is going. But one thing we can say already, and that is: our air supremacy over the coastal invasion zone today is not seriously challenged.

I return you now to the United States.

CHARLES COLLINGWOOD AT UTAH BEACH
June 6, 1944 (broadcast June 8)

EDWARD R. MURROW (from London): This is London. Late on the afternoon of D-Day, Charles Collingwood took his recording gear in a little 36-foot LCVP onto a French beach. Nearing the beach, the water was filled with floating objects. Part of a parachute; a K-ration box; a life jacket; wreckage from a ship; shell cases. Here is part of the recording.

CHARLES COLLINGWOOD: This is Charles Collingwood. We are on the beach today on D-Day. We've just come in. We caught a ride in a small boat which came in from our LST loaded with a thousand pounds of TNT, half a ton of high explosives on this beach which is still under considerable enemy gunfire.

While we have been here we have just seen one of the strangest and most remarkable sights of this invasion so far. Two great fleets of over a hundred gliders have gone overhead towed by C-47 transports, who are certainly proving the workhorses of this invasion. They've hauled them right over the beaches and it seems as though the German gunners, amazed at this incredible sight, have stopped firing on the beach now because it's quiet here, and the second batch are droning over now. I can see them. They're casting off the gliders as they circle around over the beach and the transports are circling around and beginning to make off home. Where they're landing we don't know because we're down here on the beach, and there's a seawall in front of us and we can't see the land behind.

This is the way the beach looks, which was hit by our troops about twelve hours ago early this morning. It's a flat, sandy beach, like almost any beach that you're likely to see, and it floats gently away from the shore—from the seashore up to the dunes and then to the seawall, which was the first objective of our troops and which they took early on in the game.

Since that time, we have been able to bring in quite a bit of equipment. There are various trucks and jeeps and motor vehicles of all kinds here. There are also antiaircraft guns. We breached the seawall in various places and have set up guns there to defend against any possible enemy counterattack on the beaches, which has not occurred.

A naval party has just come in from the shore and begun to unload our TNT here, which is taking a load off my mind as well as a load off this vessel. And I asked him how things were going and he said it was pretty rough still. I asked him how far the troops had gone on inshore and he said that they'd got five or six miles inshore, which sounds as though they're making good progress. He said that the beach was still under considerable gunfire. The Germans had some 88s which we haven't been able to silence.

These boys are apparently having a pretty tough time in here on the beaches. It's not very pleasant. It's exposed, and it must have been a rugged fight to get it—although as nearly as we can see there is not a great deal of evidence of damage. Perhaps that's because it has been smoothed up. We can look along down the coast now and see this flat part of the beach which joins the water, going all the way down to the lower beach which is marked for us by columns of white smoke which are arising from it. And further up at the end of this beach we can see another huge column of white smoke which has apparently been caused by naval gunfire.

Looking out to sea, all we can see of the vast invasion fleet which is assembled for us are the silhouettes of the big warships, the battleships, and cruisers which have been putting a steady bombardment against the enemy positions all day. We can also see a few of the transports, but the fleet of LCTs and LCIs and other craft, which we have brought and assembled back maybe ten miles offshore, is invisible from us at this moment. They're coming back now, taking off more and more of this ammunition.

We've got a captain here who has come by and is looking rather curiously at this gadget we've got. Captain, can you come over here a minute? Can you tell us how things are on the beaches?

LIEUTENANT: Thank you for "captain," but actually I'm a naval lieutenant. Sometimes we get on these beaches by—we get to look like all kinds of things, particularly after you take a few running jumps in the sand.

COLLINGWOOD: Well Lieutenant, what's your name?

LIEUTENANT: Well, I work for a rival network in New York City...

COLLINGWOOD: You do?

LIEUTENANT: So that—or I did and I don't think I wanna ruin your broadcast. Let's just—let's say we dropped in, and that alone.

COLLINGWOOD: Okay, well, how are things going on the beach there?

LIEUTENANT: I've only been in for a little while, while these other boys have been there all day and if you might have made—maybe an army word, it's "rugged" as a matter of fact.

COLLINGWOOD: Is the beach still under some enemy shellfire?

LIEUTENANT: The beach is being pounded by enemy shellfire, though we hope to have it knocked out in the near future.

COLLINGWOOD: Boy, those gliders that just went over were quite a sight, weren't they?

LIEUTENANT: That was an impressive thing. I think that all of you folks listening at home, if you could've heard the "oohs" and "aahs" from men who are really dug in the shell holes in the sand—if you had heard those it would've done your heart a lot of good. It certainly did mine to see them go by.

COLLINGWOOD: Well I can agree with that too because it was a very impressive sight.

And now looking out we can see them going back very low along the water. The C-47s—which brought the gliders in—they've cut loose. And here comes another flight. The third flight of gliders which is being pulled in. I can't tell how many of them there are. They're coming in over the beach here. Squadron upon squadron of them have lined up in perfect formation, with the gliders coming along behind the big C-47s, and they're coming in apparently to drop right where they dropped before. Further up the beach, there's a fire which has apparently just been started by enemy shelling. It's maybe a quarter of a mile up from us.

At the moment there's no shelling in our immediate vicinity, although when we first beached our little LCVP about a hundred yards down the beach, German 88s were kicking up big clouds of sand as they shelled our positions down there, and you can still see some smoke drifting off from it. And over to our left, there's what is left some small craft or other which has been hit and is burning.

A great big Rhino ferry is making its way into the beach loaded with every kind of vehicle and craft. I can make out jeeps and trucks on it, and men sitting up there manning their guns which are already in case of enemy air attack. But there is no enemy air to be seen anywhere around here. The sky however is filled with this third fleet of gliders which are coming in full of our airborne infantry.

There is something which just dropped into the ground—into the sea. I don't know whether it was a plane or what it was that it made a big splash up there as it dropped down from out of the sky. The gliders are coming in now hauled in by the C-47s and protected by fighters which are around there. I can make out Thunderbolts and Spitfires which are giving them cover, and they've just taken off the last of our thousand pounds of high explosives, which is making it considerably more pleasant on this little boat. They're having to wade in across maybe fifty yards of water to get it into the beach.

We've come in in this LCVP through the transport area where our ship is. It's taken us about two hours to get in, and we came in through the choppy seas, with every second wave breaking over the ship and dousing us with spray. Gene Ryder and I are—and everyone on this little boat—are soaked absolutely to the skin. We're wet through and through. The salt is caked in our eyebrows. Every time we lick our lips we taste the salt. Our hands are cold and chapped as... We just found ourselves lucky that, after having made a trip like that, we don't have to go onto the beaches and fight. All we have to do is make the trip again.

GENE RYDER: I might tell the Navy Department we owe them one recorder.

COLLINGWOOD: Gene is referring to the fact that we took our recording machine which the Navy has lent us along with us here, and it has been absolutely inundated with the spray. Somehow or other Gene has made it work. I don't know what—he was out there polishing it with his handkerchief. Gene says he doesn't know how he made it work either.

And looking back now, turning around with my back to the beach and looking out to the sea, more and more and more of these glider-borne troops are coming in. These gliders are coming in towed very slowly by the big C-47s in what is apparently an unending stream. It's an incredible sight. And as that navy lieutenant told us a moment ago, the troops are waving and pointing and talking about it on the shore, at least those of them who have time and are not too busy taking care of themselves.

The troops are well dug in here along the seawall which is partly covered by sand. They're sitting down now, most of them dug deep into the ground as close as they can to the seawall to protect themselves from the enemy shelling. Some men are lining up further down the beach near a sign which says "five." They are taking over a truck and are apparently about to move off, whether through a breach into the seawall back inland or not, one can't tell.

We're standing here—it's an absolutely incredible and fantastic sight. I don't know whether it's possible to describe it to you or not. It's late in the afternoon. The sun is going down. The sea is choppy and the beach is lined with men and materiel and guns, trucks, vehicles of all kinds. On either side of us there are pillars of smoke perhaps a mile, two miles away, which are rising from enemy shelling. And further back we can see the smoke and results of our own shelling. Looking behind us we can see the big ships and the—some of the transports which have brought the troops in.

And overhead this incredible sight is still going on as more and more gliders are towed in by the C-47s going over the seawall, disappearing out of sight in apparently a wide sweep, and dropping their men somewhere back there who—for a function which we don't know anything about. All we can do is stand here and marvel at the spectacle. Now our men—we're trying to get the LCVP in closer to pick up the men who have been waiting ashore in this cold sea and choppy wind to pick up the stuff.

This place even smells like an invasion. It has a curious odor which we all associate with modern war. It's a smell of oil and high explosives and burning things. All—thank you. Come on over here! [Inaudible], who is one of the sailors, has just come with a handful of sand because he heard me say a while ago that what I wanted to do most of all was just to get ashore and reach down and take up a handful of sand and say "This is France!" and I've got it in my hands. France at last, after four years. [Inaudible], how does it feel just to reach down and grab a piece of sand and say "I'm grabbing French soil," huh?

SAILOR: Well it's—since I was born in France it has special meaning to me.

COLLINGWOOD: Were you born in France?

SAILOR: Yeah.

COLLINGWOOD: Where were you born?

SAILOR: In Calais.

COLLINGWOOD: You were? Well that's not very far from here. Well it has a special meaning for me too, as you can imagine. Have you got some? We've gotta save this. We've gotta put it in a bottle or something.

Now the transport planes are going back. The C-47s who came in towing the gliders, they're going back very close to the sea and we're going back too. We've got our men aboard all with handfuls of France in their hands, and we're going to save it because this has been a momentous occasion for all of us.

There go our motors. The ramp is going up. We're backing away from the beach now, and soon we'll be out in the salt spray and it'll be impossible for us to broadcast anymore.

MURROW: That was a recording made by Charles Collingwood at a French beach on the afternoon of D-Day. We return you now to the United States.

CHARLES SHAW IN LONDON
June 6, 1944
 
 
ROBERT TROUT: And now we've just had word that we're to hear further news direct from overseas. And so for another report of the pooled broadcasts, we take you now to London for the report of CBS correspondent Charles Shaw. Go ahead, London.

CHARLES SHAW: This is Charles Shaw in London. For an hour after the broadcast of Communiqué Number One [audio], I played town crier to a London generally unaware that France had been invaded. I rode and walked through the strand—Fleet Street, past St. Paul's, along the Thames embankment to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, out to Piccadilly Circus and other parts of so-called downtown London—asking people here and there what they thought of the news. In most cases I found out that I had to report the news before getting any comment.

It looked like London any morning between 9:30 and 10:30. The streets comparatively deserted, soldiers of all nations dancing about, street cleaners running their brushes along the curbs. I asked a taxi driver to take me around the city because I wanted to see how people were reacting to the news. Incidentally, I asked him, "Have you heard the news?"

"I heard something about it," he said, "But I don't know whether it's official." I assured him it was, because I had just returned from the studio where the communiqué was broadcast.

Waiting for a traffic light, we drew alongside a car driven by a girl wearing the uniform of France. I leaned out and said, "What do you think of the news?"

"What news?" she asked.

"The Allies have landed in France."

All she said was, "Thank God."

Fleet Street, headquarters of the press in London, was normal. A couple of men who might have been reporters were seen dashing into buildings and up to St. Paul's Cathedral to see whether there were worshipers inside. And the only person in the vast auditorium was a black robed guide to the crypt who hadn't heard the news. His comment after being informed was, "That's good."

And so it was all over London. Two RAF sergeants were sightseeing in Westminster Abbey. A couple of women were trying unsuccessfully to gain entrance to the Houses of Parliament. Downing Street was empty except for a street cleaner almost in front of Number 10. All over London women were selling flags for the benefit of the Red Cross. The girl I patronized hadn't heard the news, and her expression changed little when she was informed.

The next interviewee was a roly-poly woman, dressed about as broad as she was long, who had heard the broadcast. "It's gewd," she said. Not a newspaper extra appeared on the street. London this morning, for at least an hour after the broadcast of Communiqué Number One, was the same London that it was yesterday morning.

Earlier this morning, the telephone rang at 7 AM. It was Ed Murrow. He said, "Better get dressed and wait for a call from me." A new world speed record for getting dressed was promptly set. The dressing was accomplished against a background of heavy sky noise, the sound of great fleets of planes. They were too high to be seen, but their roar seemed to fill the sky, and the planes seemed to be everywhere.

At 7:45 the phone rang again. "Get to such and such a building as quickly as possible." It was a building from which the big communiqué was to be issued.

It was going-to-work time for London, and masses of shopgirls and businessmen jammed the sidewalks leading to that building. Almost bursting with what I felt was the big secret, I studied the faces of those people. Their expressions were the same as those of going-to-work people all over the world. Most of them looked sleepy. Quite a few of the girls were white-lipped, apparently having got up too late to put on lipstick and intending to do so at their offices. Some were neatly dressed, others had ties askew just like the eight o'clock crowd in Pittsburgh or San Francisco.

But there was one difference. The clothes they wore neatly or carelessly were mostly of 1939 and 1940 vintage. The lipstick the girls wore or forgot to wear was of a hard, chalky substance—war stuff. The tiredness in their faces came not from a bad night, but from almost five years of working in the front lines of war. You felt like shouting to those weary people, "It happened! The invasion has started!" Because that's what these people have been working and fighting for; fighting beside antiaircraft guns, fighting with fire hoses, fighting with industrial tools since one day exactly four years ago when the tattered fugitives from Dunkirk reached these shores. In a few hours they would know, and you wondered how they would take it.

The building was reached, and the way correspondents were converging on the gates from all directions reminded you of the old Toonerville Trolley animated cartoons in which an incomprehensible number of people would enter small apertures. They were all hurrying; some of them just moved their legs faster without seeming to cover much more ground. Practically every pass that you've been issued since arriving in London had to be produced. No one-eyed Connellys could get in here.

Bureau chiefs were herded into one big room. One person from each press association, major newspaper, and broadcasting network. All others were barred. And downstairs, outside of news special studios, the other broadcasters were waiting and typing out last minute pieces. And one of those studios had been locked tightly since its construction was completed. That was the studio that which the communiqué was to be read to a waiting world. Already the German radio was broadcasting reports of fighting in France. London was maintaining silence.

The broadcaster's workroom was filling with colonels, majors, lieutenants, and GIs of both the American and British armies. Nobody seemed quite sure of what so many soldiers were supposed to do in so small a room. White legging-ed, white belted MPs, their garrison caps banded with what looked like white bandages, took spaces inside and outside the doors.

In came the official Allied spokesman with retinue. He began calling New York network headquarters, informing them that the first communiqué would be broadcast at 9:32 London Time. 9:32 arrived. The communiqué was broadcast. The big secret was out.

This is Charles Shaw in London returning you to New York.

BILL DOWNS "SOMEWHERE IN NORMANDY"
June 14, 1944

BILL DOWNS: I'm speaking to you from a tent somewhere in Normandy—that bit of a truly free France liberated eight days ago by the invasion of British, Canadian, and American troops. It is 6:30 AM over here—the ninth day of the invasion is only a few hours old.

If you hear strange noises during this broadcast, it's the RAF and the Allied air forces and the American air forces on dawn patrol. It's more than dawn patrol—it's dawn attack.

I could take you right now in a thirty minute jeep ride to where the Allied troops are fighting. You can get to some part of the front in thirty minutes no matter where you happen to be.

So much has happened in these past eight days that they seem like eight months to every one of us over here. Americans have died, and British and Canadians have died—and a very great number of Germans have died. But the Allied forces have achieved what Hitler's henchmen said was impossible. We are in Europe to stay—and you only have to look at the face of an American doughboy, or into the eyes of a man from Calgary or from London, to know that we're not going to stop until we have completed the job.

All this comes under the category of making history.

The news from the front this morning is good. As a matter of fact, we've no bad news to report since the Allied forces crossed the beaches.

On the American sectors of the front, the troops continue to widen the bulge, threatening the entire peninsula of Cherbourg. The British-Canadian sector likewise is slowly expanding. There are hold-ups at a village here or there which the Germans have strongly fortified. There has not been much forward movement [around the city of Caen on the left flank of the] beachhead.

But you might compare this bit of liberated France to a giant muscle, which daily is becoming stronger and stronger as the sinews of war pour into it. As more tanks and guns and men pour in, the muscle expands.

Thus far the Germans have been unable to do much about it. However, last night and today there are signs that the Nazi high command has finally been able to get some fresh troops into the line. The fact that it took a week for his first reinforcements to arrive speaks for itself as to the effectiveness of the Allied night and day bombing over the past few months.

But as the Germans reinforce—and we are reinforced—there can be little doubt that a big battle is developing. In this sense, the Battle of France is a race between supply systems of the opposing armies. The force that gains superiority first will strike. You'll be interested to know that our supply position is all right.

I have heard so many stories of gallantry and pure guts since I arrived here that it is difficult for me to begin to tell them. Heroes are not uncommon on this beachhead. I was lucky in my own personal invasion of France. I came in on a comparatively quiet sector.

As General Montgomery has announced, the battle for the beaches has been won. Sometime when we're not so busy, history will record the battle of the Commandos who landed behind the German defenses and so disrupted the Nazis that they were firing at each other. Or of the Canadians who walked point blank into German shellfire to silence these batteries.

And the most glorious single action of the whole invasion was performed by the American assault force. They clung to their position literally by their fingernails. They fought as no Americans have ever fought before. They were outnumbered; out-gunned with odds twenty to one against them.

They took their position coming through a wall of shrapnel, mortar fire, and machine gun bullets that was terrifying. The casualties were high—higher than on any other salient.

LARRY LESUEUR FROM THE NORMANDY BATTLEFRONT
June 18, 1944

ROBERT TROUT: And now Admiral takes you direct to the invasion beachhead in France, Larry LeSueur reporting.

LARRY LESUEUR: This is Larry LeSueur speaking from the American sector of the Normandy battlefront. Tonight the American troops hold the entire neck of the Cherbourg Peninsula firmly in their grip.

The picturesque little town of Bonneville on the western side of the peninsula has been captured, and we are now astride every road leading to Cherbourg. Thus the big French port, with its large garrisons, is cut off from the German Army in the interior of France.

Although today is D-Day plus thirteen, the boys who are up on the front lines still find themselves talking about their adventures on D-Day whenever they get a chance to smoke a cigarette.

My experience was similar to that of many of the men in the 4th Division who made the assault on our beach. The 4th Division has the enviable record of being the last American division to leave Germany after the occupation in the last war, and it was chosen to be one of the first American divisions to land on the continent.

It was very rough on the Channel, and after hours of seasickness we all felt pretty gloomy. Most of us had spent the time resting in our soaking wet [inaudible] waves had crossed over the sides of our little landing craft. But after a sleepless night, D-Day dawned. And we tramped forth from our barge towards tiny personnel assault craft. And with the regimental combat team, we began a rough ride into the beach.

It was a fantastic sight. We could see great geysers of sand shooting up from the beachhead as our planes drenched the area with bombs in great green and yellow flashes. Every time a salvo of bombs hit the beach, our assault craft seemed to bounce back about ten feet. We were the first regimental command post to make the landing.

I don't remember wading ashore—I think I must have just skipped in to get my feet on the ground. Every one of us felt the same way. We didn't care what happened to us as long as we could get off that bucking, bouncing boat.

The din of gunfire was deafening, and the first thing I vividly remember was a little sergeant with a Brooklyn accent. He was standing on the beach, and he said to me with a grin, "Boy, we made it." Out of all things, he handed me a cigar.

The stunned Germans defending the beach were being gathered in, and I remember their tall, blond Nazi captain. Dressed immaculately, he was, and as arrogant as ever. He refused to lie down with the rest of his men, although German shellfire was hitting the beach, and when my colleague Bob Landry of Life magazine tried to take his picture, the Nazi officer turned his back on him and on the whole American landing with deepest scorn.

A few minutes later a German shell hit the beach, and the German captain went down forever. He was killed by his own shellfire.

The colonel of the regiment quickly made contact with his men and led them off the beach across the green watery wastes of the port of Carteret in the rear. We followed them—long, soaking lines of men armed to the teeth. The first tank that tried to cross was hit by a German antitank shell. The second American tank fired one shot at the German antitank gun and silenced it. We were on our way.

In ten minutes I had reached the position of the German gun. It was trained perfectly on the only road by which we could cross. But that first shell had panicked the German gunner, and he had fled leaving his gun perfect condition.

I looked back at the beach from his observation post. With just that one gun he could have held us up on that single road crossing the swamp for hours. Now I could see other German cells docking and pulling up sand on the beach in back of us. And landing craft was going skyward as they hit underwater mines. But I was already inland, and I was glad I had chosen an early landing before the enemy had time to recover from the bombings, the shellings, and his surprise.

The colonel kept pushing ahead—gathering his men, advancing his command post, and sending out the code to wipe out the machine gun nest that harassed us from time to time.

By mid-afternoon, Bob Landry and I were already in the little town of Sainte-Marie-du-Mont some three miles inland. Here we met the paratroops. They were fighting a steep battle with the Germans. While I watched one paratrooper in hand-to-hand combat with a German, a shot rang out from a church steeple, and both the paratrooper and the German fell together—killed by a German bullet from that church.

Other paratroopers immediately turned their attention to the church steeple, tossing grenades as high as they could. And meantime, a Frenchwoman doctor refused to take cover and was giving a wounded paratrooper morphine as he lay wrapped up in his red parachute on the village green.

Whenever the machine guns opened up or a grenade exploded, the French people of the town would run for cover. And as soon as it stopped, they would emerge again. It was a most confusing scene—like a Hollywood movie set, only the dead men littering the streets made it appear real.

It was glowing dusk by this time, and we decided to set down on the grass for the night. Nobody had bedrolls or blankets, but we were wildly excited over the success of the Second Front. As it hit dusk, the planes from England started to come in towing gliders. They put down in fields all around us—meeting us, murderous ground fire from the Germans who seemed to be all around us judging by the screams of color tracers that went up to meet the gliders.

And then I talked to the soldier next to me. He was a youngster from South Carolina, and he'd been carrying a flamethrower all day long. He allowed as to how he was tired and his legs hurt him. I rolled up his pants, and I saw a wicked shrapnel wound in his leg. He had walked all day long with it, and never complained.

Those were the American soldiers on D-Day. And this is Larry LeSueur returning you now to New York.

BILL DOWNS ON THE WESTERN FRONT
June 18, 1944

BILL DOWNS: I have just returned from another one of those "little wars"—an isolated battle which is becoming more and more common in this ever-growing struggle for Europe.

This little war in no way ranks in importance with the American drive across the Cherbourg Peninsula. Everyone on the British-Canadian sector of the front regards the cutting of the peninsula the most important single achievement since the Allied troops crossed the beaches of Normandy. But the Battle of the Hindenburg and Bleecker bastions in which I participated is the perfect example of the type of fighting that is going to occur more and more as our armies advance. I was with the Royal Marine Commandos which took these two strong points. I didn't intend to go with the commandos—it just happened that way.

We haven't been able to tell you before, but just west of the city of Caen, a group of Germans has been holding out for the past ten days in two very strong defense points. These strong points, about one hundred yards apart, were built along the lines of a miniature Maginot Line. They were dug twelve feet into the ground, filled with reinforced concrete with walls three feet thick, and several medium artillery guns. The whole position was set on a rise of ground surrounded by mine fields and an intricate trench system. The Germans were so proud of these defenses that they printed the names "Hindenburg" on one of the super pillboxes and "Bleecker" on the other. The Hindenburg and Bleecker bastions were so strong that it was decided to bypass them on D-Day, and let this group of Nazis stew in their own juice. There was no hurry—the Germans couldn't do much damage there. They were completely isolated and could be cleaned out at will.

Yesterday, the order came to blast them out.

The strange thing about this battle was that to get there, you merely turned off a busy Allied supply route jammed with trucks. You drove a block up another road, parked your jeep up behind the hedge, and on the other side of the hedge was the war. For half an hour, artillery whistled over our heads, bursting all over the Nazi island of resistance. Direct hits sent bits of masonry high into the air—dust from the bursting shells mixed with the black smoke of exploding mines and a burning gasoline dump to darken the sun. We were only some two hundred yards from where the shells were landing, and you had an uncontrollable tendency to duck your head just a little every time a shell came over. The artillery punctuated the barrage with shrapnel shells that burst in the air downward into the trenches. Then the barrage stopped and the tanks moved in. There were a dozen of them approaching from two directions. They crawled forward, their machine guns and heavy guns ripping into the super pillbox. Behind them moved the commandos.

I was watching the battle with Richard McMillan of the United Press. When the tanks moved in, we couldn't see very much so we decided to walk up behind the nearest one and have a look. Out of the embrasures of the two bastions, heavy German machine guns fired in our direction. We clamped down in the tall wheat, but no matter how low you got you still felt as if you were sticking up as high as the Empire State Building.

The funny thing about it was that we weren't particularly frightened. We were too excited to be afraid. McMillan, the British conducting officer, and myself were tremendously surprised to find ourselves in with the commandos. We had followed their attacks so closely that we had actually got caught up in the middle of it.

Up ahead, an assault engineer climbed on top of the Hindenburg bastion and placed a charge of explosives on it. As soon as he lit the fuse he ran like the very devil. We all ducked. The heavy explosion must have blown a hole in the top of the pillbox. Other commandos crept up to this hole and tossed in hand grenades. One explosion set the whole works off. Out of the hole came a German "potato masher" grenade. It was on fire. We ducked again, but it didn't go off.

By this time we had reached the trench system. On both sides of us men were going along the trenches with their Tommy guns. A tank assaulted one of the trenches and behind it was a young radio operator calmly chewing a stalk of wheat, waiting to flash the words that the bastion had been taken. Shouts of "come on out of there you Nazi so-and-sos" and "keep your hands up you such-and-such" announced the arrival of the 1st Troop. Then they began to pop up like prairie dogs. All told, there were between a hundred and fifty and two hundred of them.

For the number of them, the Nazis resisted surprisingly weakly. It took only two squadrons of commandos to dig them out. The tanks merely stood by and watched after they had escorted these troops into position. We lined them up; they were as shaken a group of men as I've ever seen.

There were all shapes and sizes of Nazis. Big ones, little ones, old, and young. But the most surprising discovery made was a large number of ordinary chicken's eggs in the bastion. The surprise was that these eggs were fresh. We could not confirm earlier reports that the Germans had women in the strong point with them. There also was plenty of food, and we shared a bottle of brandy with the victorious commandos. It was a glorious feeling being in on a success like that. But even so, I believe it's the last time that I want to be that close to a practicing commando in action.

This is Bill Downs in Normandy, returning you to the United States.