Conversations with Former Members from Reunion '99
Recollections of D-Day, Omaha Beach, and the ETO Campaigns: Conversations with Frank Dorsey, Lawrence Belmont, and Stephen Madeja
(a work in progress)
Keeping Morale Up
"Coming down to southern England for staging on the train after D-Day, I remember officers moving quickly through the cars and pulling the shutters over the windows closed. Apparently there was a hospital train heading north right next to us, and the officers didn't want us to see it because it was filled with hundreds of wounded men from the invasion." [FD]
The 225th Lands at Utah?
"Well, all of the 225th was slated to come in at Omaha, but by the time I was ready to disembark from the landing ship, it was after the big storm that hit around June 20 and the portable harbor that had been set up was pretty broken up and there was only one floating roadway that was usable leading to the beach. Not too many DUKWs were available either, as they were the only way to get precious supplies to the beach for a while. Boy, the Channel sure acted up for a few days! Anyway, because the priority was to get supplies, especially ammo, ashore ASAP, we got diverted over to Utah and that's where I came in with a few guys. So, to be accurate, the 225th landed at both beaches, but not by design. [SM] (Webmaster's Note: On the afternoon of June 19, four days after the first elements of the 225th landed, and with other elements still on ships waiting for transportation to shore, the wind started to pick up off the beaches. By nightfall, it was obvious that a storm was going to hit. For the next 72 hours, the invasion area was pelted with 30-knot winds and waves rode eight to ten feet on the beaches. The flow of supplies ashore was reduced to nothing. When the skies cleared, large numbers of small boats had been destroyed and even larger vessels had been sunk or heavily damaged. The biggest problem was now the flow of ammunition, food, and fuel for the combat units fighting inland was backed up. Priority 1 was to restore this flow immediately. Transport ships that had been grounded had their hulls cut open with torches and their supplies unloaded that way. C-47s began landing at the Advance Landing Ground at St. Laurent, carrying ammo and artillery shells. Men stationed on shore had to clear away tons of debris and begin rebuilding the floating causeways leading in to the beach. Mulberry A, the gigantic artificial harbor, was a total loss and it was decided not to rebuild it. Most of the Rhino ferries were out of commission, so for a few days the amphibious DUKW companies, who had managed to park the majority of their vehicles out of harm's way, bore the brunt of the load, bringing tons of cargo ashore.)
All's Fair in War?
"Not long after I arrived in Normandy, we began finding tremendous caches of German supplies, especially ammunition. They had stashed stuff everywhere, especially in old farm buildings and sheds all over the place. Most of these places were booby-trapped and it took a while for the engineers to systematically defuse these things, and then we were pretty much free to take the stuff if we wanted it. Well, one thing I found in an old farm building was boxes and boxes of wooden bullets. Now, I think these things were against the Geneva Convention, or the rules of war or something like that, but there they were. Hundreds of boxes of them. The concept was that these wooden bullets would shatter when they entered your body, and while you wouldn't necessarily die unless you got hit in the right place, it would take the medics a lot longer to clean your wounds because of all the splintering and all. They had to clean the wound extra good so you wouldn't get an infection, so they spent more time on each guy hit with these things. And that's what the Germans wanted. They wanted our medical guys to waste time on guys wounded this way so as to drain our medical resources. I still have three or four boxes left. I gave some away over the years as souvenirs." [SM] (Webmaster's Note: In other parts of the ETO, especially near the end of the war as the Germans grew desperate, the use of wooden bullets became more prevalent, especially among SS units. It wasn't unusual for Germans to be captured or found with machine-gun belts and bandoliers full of wooden bullets. American medical personnel even ran across bodies in which bullet holes had been filled with wax to conceal the remains of wooden bullets, as their use constituted a war crime, as did the use of frangible, soft-nosed, or "dum-dum" bullets. Veterans of the Pacific Theater also report the use of wooden bullets by the Japanese.)