An interview with Joe Bressler
|On the night of the 5th we started
blackening our faces for the Invasion. Around 10:00 they moved us out to the airplanes and
I remember we started getting nervous. Then there was a long wait at the planes. We
checked our equipment over and over to make sure everything was in order. We didnt
load up until after 11:00. After we loaded into the planes we took off soon after that.
Once in the air, I looked out the window at one of the most remarkable sights I have ever
seen. There were so many planes that you could almost walk across them. We could also see
the seaborne fleet below. It was awesome how could we lose with this many ships.
Everyone in the plane even gave a cheer.
During the flight the weather was not good and some men got airsick. Not long after passing over some islands in the Channel we hit the coast and flew into a cloud bank which caused some turbulence. We were very low and catching a lot of small arms fire. The stuff coming up sounded like pebbles hitting a roof. But when its next to you it has a definite crack and you know it's close. Once I left the door of the plane, I dont remember an opening shock. I do remember that I was coming down very fast and was being shot at from a German on the ground.
I landed on the other side of a hedgerow. This saved my life since I had the earth wall and shrubbery of the hedgerow as a shield. He was firing over the brush in the center of the hedgerow slightly over my head. I got closer, I could see the guy shooting. My rifle was in two pieces. I pulled a grenade off my harness and threw the damn grenade. After I threw it I wondered what was next. Is this thing going to come back on my side? Is it going to get caught on top of the hedgerow and were there other troopers close by. That was the longest wait in my life, waiting for that grenade to go off. It took forever to go off so I kept saying to myself why doesnt it go off? Finally it went off and I didnt get any more interference from him.
With that behind me, I started moving away from the hedgerow. As I stepped forward could hear a squish sound coming from my boot and felt warm blood. I had a really hard time walking. So I figured the German had hit me. Along came another trooper. I told him I couldnt walk and he told me to stay put and he would try to round up a few men. I waited about a half an hour and heard the "click - clock" the distinctive noise of a toy cricket, our signaling device. At this point I met my close friend Prasse and he said come on, lean on your rifle and try to walk forward. I limped along and made it into a large group of paratroopers where a medic examined my foot and determined that I had a compound fracture.
Meanwhile, the large group of paratroopers started to move forward and an officer, who I knew, approached me and said, " Joe you know the rules, we got to move, you stay behind with the wounded." I said "no Ill get along" because I heard the Germans were killing wounded paratroopers. We only went about 1,000 yards and we came across small arms fire. Prasse went ahead and said wait here while I find out what the hell is going on. That night I kept clicking and clicking with my cricket trying to find other troopers. I was behind some tall weeds and I didnt find anyone.
The next morning, Prasse returned and said "we got to go, theres Germans all over the place, come with me." He took me to this house that was near the road. The people who own the house I now know and communicate with them regularly. We got to the house and he put me in the backyard. The night before I was in a great deal of pain and I took some morphine. As I waited in the backyard, I saw a guy with a gray, bucket-shaped helmet look at me over the fence. I reached for my gun and he fled. Prasse came back and I told him about the German and he looked around and said he didnt see anyone and not to worry about it. He took me in the house to the third floor that was over the street.
Shortly after that, we got up to the attic and heard some noise. When the noise got closer we could see it was a German half-track. We let that go by. Following the half-track was a German on a motorcycle. Prasse took him out with his first shot. He then went over to the dead German and took his M-40 machine pistol that he handed to me. Meanwhile, we tried to construct a crude splint from my M1 and he gave me the M-40 since the broken down M1 was being used as a splint
A few days later another motorcycle rider came down the road and Prasse said "give me that MP40" and he went out to the road and fired at the driver, only nicking him. We heard the German yelling at us in German saying something to the effect of "stupid" we knew enough German at the time to understand that. He felt that we were German troops firing on him as you know the MP40 has a distinct sound. So he sped away.
On about D-DAY+8 we again heard the roar of an engine coming down the road. I remember saying to myself "here comes that damn half-track again." But it wasnt it was one of ours. It was the beginning of my trip back to England and the hospital.
Interview by Pat O'Donnell with Joe Bressler