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The Story of a Tioga County Soldier: A Shell Hits Our Bunker

by ateamwar

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Harold F. Plank
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28 July 2005

All at once, there was a terrible explosion; and to this day, I don’t know whether the concussion threw me across the interior of the bunker, or if I was scared enough to jump across. But when I came to my senses and looked back to where I had been, I noticed thick yellow smoke billowing all through the interior of the bunker and the Captain lying on that place where I had been walking back and forth. I went directly to him; and he recognized me and said, “Plank, give me a shot of morphine.” I took morphine from my belt and the first aid kit and was going to put it in his right arm, which was nearest to me; but he was lying on his back, and the sleave was torn up above his elbow area. I took my knife and cut the sleave further up, so I could get to his shoulder to find enough flesh to put an injection of morphine in. He also said, “Don’t tell my folks how I got it.”

Eventually we recovered enough to realize that a shell from one of our own destroyers had hit just above my head, and it was concrete or shrapnel that hit the Captain. I also discovered that it had broken my carbine in two at the pistol grip, so it was no longer any use to me. My left eardrum had been broken, so I didn’t hear too well for awhile. We needed to take care of Captain Harwood, so we took clothing from a dead German and used it for padding to put splints on the broken limbs. We then called for some prisoners who had been taken and had them bring a stretcher to carry him back to the edge of the cliff, where Dr. Block had started a hospital-like infirmary. That was the last that I saw Captain Harwood alive. The dead German’s body was put outdoors behind the bunker. Soon after, an artillery shell hit nearby and completely buried his body. I’ve often wondered if it was ever found and identified and properly buried.

Some of the following events which occurred over the next couple of days may not be in sequence, because there were so many things happening in such a jumble that it’s hard to recall the order in which they happened.

Colonel Rudder once lost telephone contact with the company C.P. back by the cliff top, so I was asked to follow the telephone line back and see if I could repair it. During our training, we had been instructed in lineman’s work also. I took the telephone line in my hand and started running and crouching and jumping from shell hole to shell hole and bomb crater to bomb crater, following it back toward the Company C.P., until I located where it had been blown apart by a mortar shell. After locating the other end, I spliced the wires and taped them. I was near the Company C.P., so I had them call the Colonel at the Battalion Headquarters to be sure that the telephone was again working. After resting up a bit, I made my way back to the battalion headquarters at the bunker where we were staying.

At the time Captain Harwood was hit by that shell, the Lieutenant (jg) from the Navy was also wounded, so he was at the infirmary as well. A Ranger lieutenant gave me a German Mouser to use as a weapon since mine had been destroyed. I don’t know why I didn’t get another M-1, because there had to be more of them lying around, since we had lost quite a few fellows.

During that day and evening, I accompanied Rangers on several combat patrols further inland. Every time, we ran into larger German contingents than we could handle; and after a brief fire fight, we would disengage and make our way back to our own area again. This happened several times during the course of the day and the evening. One time, I was given a one-man radio; and we had intended to find a place that we could hide out further inland, where we could spot targets when it came daylight the next day. But again, we ran into another German patrol; and since we had been located by them, we knew we couldn’t stay there. So we managed to make it back to our own lines again.

During the night, while trying to sleep in this bunker, some guy rolled over and set off a smoke grenade. Someone hollered, “Gas attack!” and if we didn’t have a time trying to locate our gas masks and getting set up to repel a counter-attack that we expected at any moment! Luckily it wasn’t a gas attack, but a smoke grenade and no harm was done. These were incidents that later you found to be kind of amusing, although at the time they were not.

We were on the top of Point de Hoc for two-and-one-half days, almost continually under artillery fire, mortar fire, and counter-attacks. During this time, I was recommended for the Bronze Star Medal, which later I did receive. Of the 235 men who had landed with the 2nd Ranger Battalion at the bottom of the cliffs and climbed up, only 87 of us were able to walk out of there when we were finally relieved two-and-one-half days later. We were relieved at Point du Hoc by elements of the 29th Division and 5th Ranger Battalion and the rest of the 2nd Ranger Battalion. For a few days, I stayed with the Ranger Battalion as we went through some small villages nearby. We were heading toward Cherbourg, which would eventually be a primary target that if captured could make the harbour useful for landing supplies.

'This story was submitted to the People’s War site by BBC Radio Merseyside’s People’s War team on behalf of the author and has been added to the site with his / her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.'

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