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Shot Down

It had all happened so quickly, I hadn't had time to realize how dangerous our situation was. Now, as we skid to a stop, the CG-4A cutting a deep furrow, we didn't think, as much as, react. We immediately got out of the glider - and circled it to defend it and ourselves. One of the first things we saw was a U.S. jeep with men in it coming down the road toward us. We imagined we had landed among own troops and spirits soared. But this was short-lived, as a group of Germans jumped out of the captured jeep, slid into a ditch, and began firing at us! As we crouched behind a few fallen logs that provided precious little protection, we considered our chances of escape. We knew the woods we had just flown over was filled with the enemy. We could have made a run for the forested area on the other side, but voted against it because we didn't know if we would be running straight into the guns of more Germans and, we'd probably get shot before we cleared the open area anyway. We appeared to be greatly outnumbered already and knew our position was defenseless. While still being shot at by the Germans, we voted to surrender before getting caught in a deadly potential crossfire. We had been forewarned by army training sessions to disable our guns and not be captured with German articles of battle in a situation like this. So, I took the bolt assembly off my rifle, shoved it into the soft ground, and discarded some German insignias that I had cut off Nazi uniforms in France. This proved to be a smart move because, when we were later searched, a GI who was found with these German artifacts was given abusive treatment. We couldn't find anything white to wave in surrender since all our clothing - including handkerchiefs - was olive drab. Finally, someone stood up and waved something at the Germans who had us pinned down. They fired a couple more shots and cautiously approached us. I think they were as scared as we were. Then, much to our surprise, another skirmish line of German soldiers emerged from the woods behind us - precisely where we had considered running for cover to make a stand. If we had tried to sprint across the field, we would have been cut down in seconds. Our captives carefully searched us (took my watch, fountain pen, and billfold) and then searched the glider. One of the first things I saw being carried out of the glider was my gallon of fruit cocktail. And that was the last I saw of it!

We were corralled with hundreds of other GIs in a big barn. Some of us were wounded and bleeding. I had gotten hit with something in my left ankle and blood filled my shoe. It healed in several days and I later received a Purple Heart for the wound, but it contributed to a pretty miserable night behind enemy lines as a prisoner with the rest of the captured members of the 101st Airborne.

The next morning, we were fed a dreadful concoction vaguely resembling soup that most of us refused because it looked so horrible. Our hosts told us that it would be more appetizing to us later when we were hungrier. That morning I was interrogated by a German guard who spoke perfect English. He asked me what outfit I was in and where we were headed. I told him that I couldn't give him any of that information and all I had to tell him was my name, rank, and serial number. He was very polite and said if I didn't tell him, he would tell me. He had already found out much of what he asked me - perhaps from questioning someone else. Besides, the name of our outfit was stenciled in white paint on the two-wheeled trailer in the glider. Before dismissing me, he gave me a plug of American chewing tobacco that he had previously confiscated from somebody else.