In honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, here is a chapter from Sean M. Casey’s upcoming book “One Town’s War” about the Marbleheaders who served at home and overseas.
Chapter 19: Overlord
June 5-6, 1944 in Europe
Yankees of the 116th
In late 1940 President Roosevelt had activated all of the National Guard units in the
country and brought them into the United States Army. These units served as the
foundation upon which the war-size army would be built. Many of the units – of
various sizes and shapes — had a linage, and could trace their origins to state militia
units from earlier wars. As units were brought into the army, and as the army grew
and organized itself in 1941 and 1942, the once-National Guard units were
augmented by draftees to bring the units to full strength. Thus did William Haley
find himself a member of the “Essex Troop” of the former New Jersey National
Guard; and Daniel Lord found himself training alongside midwesterners as a
member of the 84th Infantry Division, made up from parts of the Indiana and Illinois
But perhaps the quirkiest example of this phenomena is how five Marbleheaders –
Yankees all – found themselves assigned to the 116th Infantry Regiment1 of the 29th
Infantry Division.2 The 116th had been part of the Virginia National Guard, and 82
years before had been Stonewall Jackson’s Brigade in the Confederate Army. The
five were: Ralph Messervey, Bill Hawkes, the Boggis Brothers, Porter and Clifford,
and their cousin, Willard Fader.
Ralph Messervey was 27 when he was drafted in early 1942. Stocky, with red hair,
and an outgoing personality, he was known as “Freckles” to his friends and family.
Messervey had been working on the town dump truck when called up two months
after Pearl Harbor. After induction and basic training he had been assigned to the
116th. And after joining the 116th he made it home to Marblehead once before
shipping out to Great Britain in late September 1942. Like many of his generation,
between joining the service and shipping out for Europe, Messervey married a local
girl, Marie Brophy.
Willard Fader’s path to the 116th was almost identical to Messervey’s. Fader was
born and raised in town, graduated from high school, and married a local girl,
Barbara Doliber, before heading overseas.
The Boggis brothers were unique for the town of Marblehead – they were the only
pair of brothers in the same army unit. When they enlisted Port was 24; Cliff was
two years younger. Both brothers had gone to Marblehead High, and afterwards
Cliff had been a pitcher for a semi-pro baseball team in town while working as an
accountant at A. W. Hilliard and Sons in Boston. Port was working as a fryer at
Winslow’s Potato Chips factory in town.
The Boggis brothers, Messervey and Fader all went into the service on the same day,
being part of an early February call up.3 The four arrived at Fort Devens together,
shipped out together to go through basic training, and then went together into the
116th at Ft. Meade in Maryland later in 1942.4
Hawkes came to the 116th later than the other Headers, being assigned to the unit
almost a year after the others had been shipped off to Great Britain. He was 21
when he was drafted in the fall of 1942. He was about to graduate from Essex
Agricultural School, and was working as a self-described “gentleman farmer” on a
tract of land in Ipswich, up the coast from Marblehead.
The 116th had been stationed just outside the town of Dartmoor in the county of
Devon5, in the southwest corner of Great Britain for over a year, when word finally
came in late May 1944 that they were moving out. The men of the 116th didn’t have
far to go, traveling less than 100 miles along the southern coast of England to
Weymouth in County Dorset. Hawkes, a private in F Company of the 116th 6,
described the scene: Every port was jammed with naval vessels of all kinds. The
Germans must have known about it. They expected an invasion but they couldn’t pin it
down to when, and they couldn’t pin it down as to where.i
The Atlantic Wall
Indeed, everyone everywhere knew an invasion would come in 1944, and within
certain bounds, everyone suspected the invasion would come along the French
Atlantic coast. The US and its allies had been building strength in Great Britain for
over two years, and by the spring of 1944, over 1.5 million US servicemen were
stationed in the United Kingdom.
In occupied western Europe, the Germans had worked feverishly to build “the
Atlantic Wall:” a series of defenses from Norway to the French border with Spain.
The Atlantic Wall extended over such a large area (1,670 miles) because the
Germans were uncertain as to where the attack would come. In early 1944 the
overall command of the Atlantic defenses were put under the command of Field
Marshal Erwin Rommel – the famed Desert Fox of North Africa. Rommel greatly
expanded the defenses at the shoreline – building concrete pill boxes overlooking
the beaches and creating vast minefields as well as water-borne obstacles that
would challenge an invader from even reaching dry land. Rommel’s plan was to
meet any invasion, and defeat it, at the waterline.
The decision on the invasion site – one of the best-kept secrets of the war – had its
origins in a May 1943 conference in Washington, where the senior military and
political leaders of the US and UK agreed that an Allied invasion against the Atlantic
Wall would be launched in 1944.ii
After weighing all the issues, the planners had settled on a 50-mile stretch of
coastline in western Normandy, between the Vire Estuary and the Orne River. The
location was ideal for transporting troops from the English southern coastline; and
it was within range of fighter planes operating out of English air fields.
It was also just a bit out-of-the-way; and Allied planners saw that as an advantage. It
was less-heavily defended than some of the more obvious landing locations, such as
the area around Calais, further up the coast. Because it was less heavily defended, it
was hoped that a foothold would be easier to achieve. By June of 1944 the Allies
completely controlled the skies over that part of occupied Europe; and the thinking
went that air power could significantly hamper the Germans’ ability to respond,
allowing the Allies time to consolidate and build up their foothold.7
The 116th Infantry Regiment boarded USS Thomas Jefferson (APA-30) the afternoon
of June 5th. The Jefferson was an attack transport, designed specifically to launch
landing craft for seaborne invasions. She carried 33 such landing craft, each
designed to carry 30 men, that could be loaded on-board and then lowered into the
water, rather than have the soldiers climb down the ship’s side. For the crossing of
June 5-6, she carried 1,000 infantrymen for the initial assault.
Hawkes: We left in daylight before dark, but most of the crossing was in dark. It was
quite a highly-planned operation. They had little bitty light markers in the channel to
show a path that was clear of mines and we were just slithering along there. The
weather was essentially bad but that particular day it let up and that’s when
Eisenhower decided to go – the channel had been pretty damn rough for a few days.8
But it didn’t seem that bad to me; and it wasn’t that bad, so we crossed.
There was little sleeping during the crossing – and for the men of the 116th, the
option never existed. The 2nd Battalion of the 116th – which include all five
Marbleheaders – had been designated as the first infantry unit in the United States
Army to land on the beaches of Normandy. The very first. And those first units
were scheduled to hit the beach at 6:30 in the morning, an hour after sunrise near
At dawn, at low tide…
A number of factors had gone into the date and timing of the assault. Because of
Allied air superiority, the landings were planned to maximize daylight; both to
protect the landing forces, and suppress German reinforcements from responding.
Therefore, the initial assaults were planned to commence an hour after dawn9, and
near the summer solstice.iii
Although it might seem counter-intuitive, the ideal timing of the initial assault would
also be at low tide, with the tide coming in. The German defenses along the
waterline had a number of wood and steel obstacles – standing, pretzel-like objects
– many with mines attached to their tops. They were heavily scattered across the
tidal flats – visible at low tide, but just below water at high tide. The plan, therefore,
was to land at low tide, and as the initial infantry units attacked, engineering units
would clear lanes for subsequent landing waves to land further up the beach on the
In the daylight-heavy months of late spring and early summer, there were three
options to meet the tidal criteria: May 21-23; June 5-7 and June 19-21. General
Eisenhower had initially chosen June 5th, but because of bad weather, the attack was
pushed back a day at the last minute.
The troops began their day shortly after midnight. We were called to breakfast not
much after 1 in the morning on the boat, and it was regular navy – no chairs, Hawkes
recalled, referring to the cramped standing dining format common on troop
transports. I don’t remember what we ate, but we ate, and there was very little
conversation going on on that breakfast. Damn little.
Following breakfast the troops readied to be loaded into the landing craft. Each man
wore an assault jacket, with large pockets and built-in packs on the back. All of the
clothing had been treated in case of a gas attack. It made the fabric waxy and stiff.
In addition to personal weapons and special equipment, each man also was outfitted
with a gas mask, a life preserver, 5 grenades, a half-pound block of TNT with
primacord fuse, and 6 one-third rations (3 K-rations and 3 D rations).iv There was
more, as Hawkes recalled: We were told we were on our own for at least one whole
day as far as medical help. Each man had a little package of morphine and extra
bandages so we could take care of our own guys. And we were warned “don’t anybody
get the idea to try some of that morphine where you’re going – you wont be good for
They started loading the landing craft before 3:00 a.m. Men were arranged the same
in each landing craft. The 116th assault craft were loaded so that the first to land
would be a section leader and 5 riflemen armed with M-1′s and carrying 96 rounds of
ammunition. Following was a wire-cutting team of 4 men, armed with rifles; 2 carried
large “search-nose” cutters, and 2 a smaller type. Behind these in the craft, loaded so
as to land in proper order were: 2 BAR teams of 2 men each, carrying 900 rounds per
gun; 2 bazooka teams, totaling 4 men, the assistants armed with carbines; a mortar
team of 4 men, with a 60-mm mortar and 15 to 20 rounds; a flame-thrower crew of 2
men; and, finally, 5 demolition men with pole and pack charges of TNT. A medic and
the assistant section leader sat at the stern.v
While seemingly planned to a fine level of minutia, the loading arrangements would
cause problems on shore. To load the boats with the mix of weapons desired,
existing platoons were broken up, and one-time-only “boat teams” were assembled
for each boat. After training with their individual units for over a year, soldiers
often found themselves next to strangers, with unknown officers leading them. And
the boat teams were temporary. Once ashore, original units were expected to reform.
It did have an effect said Hawkes, fowling up the normal communications and
the normal command of guys that you knew.
The entire assault for that morning had been similarly planned with exacting details
– precise points of landing, precise targets to attack, and elaborate coordination
between units. Each unit had dozens of objectives with timetables down to the
It all went to shit in the first minutes.
By 4:30 that morning the landing craft, loaded and launched, had reached their
rendezvous area several miles off the Normandy coast, where they idled in the
choppy seas awaiting the dawn. The naval bombardment began a little before dawn,
and pounded the coastal defenses for nearly an hour, and then changed their
targeting further inland as the assault craft headed for shore.
The 116th was to land in the middle of the five designated landing beaches. It had
been code-named Omaha Beach.10 Omaha Beach itself was six miles long, and Allied
planners had divided it up into sectors and sub-sectors, with six sub-sectors being
the main target of the landings. They were designated (west to east) Dog Green, Dog
White, Dog Red, Easy Green, Easy Red, and Fox Green. Hawkes’ company – F
Company, which also included Ralph Messervey – was suppose to land on Dog Red
at exactly 6:30.
While the timing of the assault made sense in the larger context, it was not much
comfort to the men of the 116th Infantry Regiment that had been assigned to the first
assault wave. Bill Hawkes, reflected on the strategy as his landing craft headed for
the beach: We never got the order to head for shore until broad daylight. And I said to
myself “oh my God, here’s the coast of France as plain as day,” and I said “obviously,
we’re just as plain to them as what we see.”
It wasn’t just the daylight that worried Hawkes as his landing craft headed in. The
men were burdened with “super loads” – amounts of equipment and ammunition far
in excess of anything they had trained with. Hawkes was part of a mortar team, and
he was responsible for carrying 12 mortar rounds in addition to his rifle and other
equipment. At the last minute, he was given four extra rounds to carry. As he
remembered it: It was just a hell of a load. And I knew I was in some trouble getting
that into shore, and with all the other stuff. After trying unsuccessfully to get
assistance, the 120-pound Hawkes took the precaution of putting the four extra
rounds in a separate bag, in case he was unable to carry the entire load across the
beach. It was a prudent decision: When my feet hit the sand, my knees buckled right
down – just automatically –woop! So now I start up the beach and I didn’t go more
than [ten feet] before I just dropped the small bag [with the extra mortar rounds] and
said the hell with that. If I can get the main charge up I’ll be doing well.
F Company’s six landing craft touched the shores of Dog Red at 6:31, a minute later
than planned. It was one of the few units to land anywhere near its target landing
point that morning.11
The shelling and bombing that were supposed to soften up the German defenses had
varying degrees of success across the Normandy shoreline that morning. In
preparing for the assault Hawkes had been told the shelling would explode German
mine fields, rip open the barbed-wire entanglements, and create shell holes you
could jump into. But Dog Red was untouched. Not one single shell hole did I see,
Hawkes’ landing craft came ashore at one of the single worst spots in all of
Normandy: a heavily-defended position named les Moulins draw. It was defended
by one of the few crack German units stationed along the Normandy coast – the
352nd Infantry Division.12 The six landing craft of F Company were not close to each
other as they came ashore, and each boat and the troops they carried were in an
isolated world of their own. German mortars rained down and German machine
guns raked the beach. Casualties were heavy and immediate.
It was two to three hundred yards across the beach to the first possible point of
refuge – a slight sloping band of smooth, rounded sea rocks roughly the size of
bricks. They were called shingles13; and looked remarkably similar to the rocks on
Usher’s Beach in Marblehead.14 Hawkes described the first moments on the beach:
It was pretty much everybody by himself, for himself. There were no officers yelling
and hollering. Not that any officers were needed to tell the men what to do.
Hawkes again: Every damn man knew that his first job was to get his get his ass
beyond the high water mark first. You’re dumped at low tide. The tides coming in
behind you, so you have no options of turning back, and you’re under fire all the way
Anyone that stood up for more than a few strides was cut down. The beach
obstacles afforded marginal protection, and men used them for shelter as best they
could; but the tide was coming in, and to stay in one place meant drowning. And if
multiple men gathered behind the same obstacle it immediately caught the attention
of German gunners.
The Germans dominated the area in front of that part of Dog Red primarily with
machine guns. Hawkes could not see them, but he could hear them distinctly, and he
could see their bullets strafing across the beach. The German Maschinengewehr
1942 was a devastating weapon, with a range of greater than a half mile, and
capable of firing over 1,200 rounds per minute. The rate of fire was so high that the
sound of individual shots could not be distinguished by the human ear – instead, the
MG-42 sounded like a buzz saw or a loud zipper when it fired. Anyone who ever
heard it remembered it the rest of their lives.
Because of the high rate of fire, the MG-42’s barrel had to be changed frequently so
that it wouldn’t overheat. Although, the barrel change was a quick operation, it
offered brief respites. Hawkes quickly picked up on the pauses in the German
machine gun fire: I was trying to get the rhythm of the friggin’ burst of machine gun
fire. And I’d pick my spot not too damn far away and at the [right] moment I would
jump up and run like hell to that spot and hit the sand again.
Hawkes had no idea how long it took him to reach the shingle,15 but it was the point
of salvation he strived to reach that morning. The shingle was at the high water
mark; upon reaching it the threat of drowning would be past. The shingle also rose
ever-so-slightly, providing potential refuge from direct German fire – if you could lie
flat enough. Upon reaching the shingle Hawkes moved the smooth stones as best he
could to create a slight depression to lie in.
As he took stock of his situation, Hawkes realized he was alone on his own little
piece of Normandy.16 There were several other soldiers within talking distance, but
most of the men that were in his boat team, and in boats that landed near his, lay
behind him, dead or bleeding on the sand and incoming tide; or were somewhere
else out of sight.
Easy Green/Easy Red
E Company was supposed to land on Easy Green to the left (east) of Dog Red, at 6:31,
but strong currents pulled the six landing craft east of their landing point by almost
a mile, where they came ashore in the subsector designated Easy Red. They came
under small arms fire while approaching the beach,vi, 17 but the overall opposition
was lighter than on Dog Red. Porter Boggis’ landing craft hit shore close by another
of the six E company landing craft, and the men from the two boats initially
advanced across the tidal flats without being fired upon. That changed as they
approach the high tide mark, where they came under fire from a pill box three
hundred yards to their left. 50 men, Boggis included, took refuge behind a sea wall,
pinned down by the pill box.
A bazooka team among the 50 men came forward and silenced the pill box with an
accurate – and wildly improbable – shot. With the respite in the German fire, Port
Boggis crawled forward to a gap in the sea wall and started cutting the wire blocking
the way off the beach. It took him ten minutes to complete, where upon the massed
troops crouched low and ran through the gap Boggis had cut. They were off the tidal
part of the beach and into the “beach flat,” an area with trenches and minefields;
beyond which were heavily-defended, steep bluffs. It was just past 8:00 a.m.
Battalion HQ Company
The 2nd Battalion Headquarters Company was scheduled to land on the far right
hand (west) end of Dog Red at 7:00.vii There was supposed to be troops already
there ahead of them, but when the five boats of the Battalion HQ Company arrived,
only a handful of tanks18 were there; the preceding infantry units having come in
The boats drew little fire coming in, but upon landing in shallow water, they came
under heavy and very accurate mortar, machine gun and sniper fire. The five boat
teams took heavy casualties wading between the landing craft and the beach, and
those that made it to dry land instinctively sought out the protection of the tanks.
But it turned out to be false safety, as the Germans were trying to take out the tanks
with artillery, and the shells took out most of the men massed around the tanks.
Somewhere in the carnage of those first few minutes, Willard Fader was killed by a
wound to head.
The US plan for exiting the beach was via draws – natural breaks in the beach
topography that created an obvious roadway inward. The minute-specific planning
had called for the initial assault wave to overtake the draws, and following waves to
pass through and assault the bluffs beyond the beach.
But as was the case with les Moulin draw on Dog Red (designated D-3 by US
planners), the Germans had not been blind to what the draws represented, and
across Omaha Beach the draws were stubbornly defended as the morning
As succeeding waves arrived on the Omaha beaches their points of egress were not
yet open, and units that they were suppose to connect up with were rarely there
when they arrived. More often units landed in locations other than where they had
studied and planned to attack. Engineers were behind their timetable for clearing
paths to the beach, and between sunken landing craft and still dangerous obstacles,
there was congestion in even getting to the beach. Bill Hawkes described the midmorning
looking back from the shingle bank: The beach was full of people and
equipment; dead, wounded, and some in shock, in semi-shock; and dazed sort-of; and
disorganized. All landings were suspended at 0830 by order of the commander of
the 7th Naval Beach Battalion,viii and senior US command seriously considered
pulling the plug on the Omaha invasion. Things were that bad.
Hawkes and the handful of survivors from his section of F Company remained
pinned down by sniper and machine gun fire on their isolated stretch of shingles.
They kept their heads down and waited for the situation to evolve.
Twenty-five to thirty feet to Hawkes’ left Edward Gillingham from Indiana lay
seriously wounded. Most of Gillingham’s jaw had been blown away coming across
the tidal flat but he had somehow made it to the shingle bank. With only a piece of
his jaw hanging, Gillingham still managed to call out, “Hawksie, Hawksie.” Hawkes
sprinted the 25 feet to Gillingham, exposing himself to fire as he ran. There was
nothing Hawkes could do except administer morphine, which he did, using
Gillingham’s supply (as was procedure), and then scramble back to his own little
depression in the shingle bank. Hours later Gillingham called Hawkes again, and
again Hawkes went to his aid – the second time using his own morphine.19
Up to the Bluffs
But there was slow progress for the Americans as the morning went on.
Units had been scattered piecemeal because of both the boat team loading plans and
the inability of almost any landing craft to come ashore where intended. But in case
after case groups self-organized, formed by men from different units that found
themselves in close proximity to each other. Thus Porter Boggis’ section from E
Company of the 116/29 teamed up with an equal number from G Company of the
16th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division. The group of roughly 100 men
would fight together as a cohesive unit for three days.
Across Easy Red and Easy Green the men of E Company and other units began
pushing beyond the tidal beach. It was not through the draws as planned, but more
often between the draws: over sea walls, and through barbed wire. Cliff Boggis was
part of a bazooka team that found itself hurrying across the beach flat beyond Easy
Red hoping to reach some refuge at the base of the defended bluffs. As they crossed,
a land mine exploded behind Boggis, who was cut down by the shrapnel across the
entire left side of his body.
Messervey at the crest of the bluff
Men were pushing through on parts of Dog Red as well. Out in front was Ralph
Messervey. It came as no surprise to Hawkes: He was rough and tough… the kind of
a guy that wins the battles.
On that day, Messervey, down the beach from Hawkes, had been among a number of
small groups of men that managed to get across the beach flat, and were fighting
their way up the bluffs. The bluffs were defended by a series of trenches connecting
dugouts that could be used by mortar teams and machine guns. Barbed wire was
everywhere, and aprons of it were spread in front of the strong points.
Late that morning Messervey’s group had fought their way through the initial
trenchworks and were nearing the crest of the bluff. He was out in front going after
a dugout at the very top of the bluff that was defended by a handful of Germans.
Tangled in the barbed wire apron ten feet from the dugout, Messervey was firing
away at the Germans when they tossed grenades down at him. Unable to move
quickly in the wire, he was killed by the blasts.
Just before noon, at high tide, Marblehead’s Elliot Roundy steered his 115-foot barge
onto Omaha Beach — the beach was a mess, recalled Roundy, there were bodies all
over.ix Roundy’s slow-moving barge – LCT (5) 413 – a Landing Craft Tank – was
making its second run of the day, bringing in additional men and equipment of the
29th Infantry Division to the rough and dangerous shores of Omaha Beach. It was
mayhem along the waterline. The beach obstructions were terrible. How we ever got
through I’ll never know,x Roundy noted.
Roundy’s day had started before 4:00 a.m. when he rendezvoused his LCT with an
attack transport ten miles off the French coast. As the name suggests, the landing
craft tank, was a shallow-draw boat designed to bring heavy equipment directly
onto to beaches. The morning of the 6th, Roundy’s first cargo was three amphibious
assault vehicles called DUCWs loaded with elite Army Rangers, and firemen’s
ladders. Roundy’s target was the cliffs that separated Omaha Beach from Utah
beach. The cliffs were called Point-du-Hoc, and the Germans had positioned the
high point with artillery pieces capable of raking both Omaha and Utah beaches.
1/8 of a mile from shore, Roundy’s LCT launched the DUCWs, that then dashed to
shore. By 7:30 the LCT was pulling away from the coast and headed to pick up men
and material for their next run – which was to Omaha Beach.
At noon on Omaha Beach, Roundy quickly unloaded and headed to sea to repeat the
operation. It amounted to an obstacle course under fire – a course Roundy would
run all afternoon and into the evening. Somewhere in his trips to and from Omaha
Beach that afternoon a long strand of barbed wire somehow managed to entangle
itself in one of Roundy’s propellers, forcing him to shut down one of the three
engines that powered a propeller each. But LCT (5) 413 continued to operate – as
an even slower target. There was never any thought of stopping for repairs so long
as the boat could float and be steered.
The Long Day Wanes
Sunset was after 9:00 p.m., with the day’s second high tide coming two hours later.
When the long day drew to an end US force held Omaha Beach, but it was barely a
foothold. They had advanced inland as far as a mile and a half on one part of the
beach, but in some places the perimeter was less than a mile inland. Plans had
called for all of that area to have been captured relatively early in the morning, and
for US forces to have been considerably further inland by nightfall. But it had been a
desperate struggle to gain what they did hold.
While almost all of the infantry that were scheduled to be landed on the first day
had made it ashore; only small percentages of equipment and material did. Plans
had called for 2,400 tons of material to be unloaded on Omaha Beach, and by
nightfall only 1,000 tons had been.xi Ammunition was in critically short supply, and
tanks and artillery were scarce20. Over 2,000 US servicemen had been killed on
Omaha Beach – the highest proportion of casualties being to the elements of the
116th Infantry Regiment that had made the initial assault.21
The beach was a mess – the Navy had lost 50 landing craft and 10 larger vessels,
with a much larger number of all types damaged. Getting to the beach, especially
with ammunition and heavy weapons, was problematic at best. Elliot Roundy’s boat
was one of 36 LCTs that made up Flotilla 18 that morning. Only nine, including
Roundy’s damaged LCT (5) 413, were fit for duty by day’s end.
Medical units had been late in getting to the beach. It hadn’t been until 2:00 in the
afternoon that elements of the 61st Medical Battalion had come ashore on Easy Red,
and set up collecting points on the beach and begun collecting casualties and
administering first aid to the wounded.xii As night came, many of the planned
locations for initial medical facilities and field hospital were still in German hands,
and much of the medical equipment had yet to reach shore.
While the medical battalions were too late for many of those wounded in the initial
assaults that morning, an amazing number had survived because of the skill and
bravery of the medics assigned to the infantry units22 and to Navy beach medical
parties. In those first few hours, medics administered first aid, and as quickly as
humanly possible put the wounded men on any available landing craft headed back
to a larger vessel off shore.
Because of the actions of army medics and navy and coast guardsmen manning the
landing craft, that evening, as night fell, Cliff Boggis was alive and under doctors’
care on a ship off the coast of Normandy.
Bill Hawkes finally met up with other men from his unit shortly before dusk, as the
devastated F Company tried to re-group. One of the company’s South Boston
Virginians had been sent out to scavenged for men and ammunition, and a small
group of them grabbed what they could and headed up the bluffs where they were
placed in defensive positions in German trenches. There were dead Germans in the
trench. They just tossed them out, and we rolled them down the hill, Hawkes
It was a sleepless night for Hawkes – his second in a row. I didn’t get any sleep –
didn’t even have a place to lay down. We were just crouched in a fairly deep trench
with an open top. But Hawkes, along with the remainder of the 116th was on French
soil, and they had no intention of being pushed off.
For their actions that day, the 116th would receive the Distinguished Unit Citation.23
It had been almost two and a half years to the day that Germany had declared war
on the US. There were 330 days of fighting ahead of them in Europe.
(Image Credit: Smithsonian Institute)