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Lieutenant Colonel Louis G. Mendez, Jr.

82nd Airborne Division - 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment - 3rd Battalion

Utah Beach

 

I was in command of the 3d Battalion at the outset. I didn't see my Bn. for five days. We ran into a lot of trouble as soon as we hit land. The flak was terrific. We jumped from about 2100 feet, the entire serial, and were going rather fast. 2100 feet is too much of a ride, I checked my field bag and found 3 bullet holes in it. Lieutenant Daly was subsequently killed. I landed about 0230 in the morning and didn't see anybody for five days, with the possible exception of my messenger. I batted 1000 with my pistol, I got three Heines with three shots, two Heines with a carbine and one Heine with a hand grenade. The Germans had a very good means of communication. We seemed to run into antiparatroop groups of about 60 men and we shot back and forth. We drew the conclusion that these groups called other groups who were waiting for us. Altogether I had three men, one officer and my messenger.

The most outstanding thing I learned was the accurate intelligence of the Germans. They used full name, even nicknames to confuse my company commanders. My company commanders stated that they received messages in my full name and even my nickname. It is essential that the challenging system must be known to the Air Corps as well, in case they end up on the ground. The reply to the challenge must be given very quickly or it will be too bad. Selection of words is very important. We landed about 3/4 or a mile from the DZ, southeast. I was on the North side of the Douve River. In the five days that I was separated from the Battalion. I walked 90 miles. I was looking for the Second Battalion and all I found was ack-ack. We never saw a T, we jumped on the green light. The pilot did not see the T light either. It would be helpful to have earphones from the jump master and the crew chief and the pilot. As a matter of fact "G" Company was dropped in the ocean and several men were drowned. Recommend the short method of challenging, bundles be daisy-chained, one light per plane load of bundles. 

(On the evening of Thursday, 13 August 1944, a debriefing conference was held at the Glebe Mount House, Leicester. During the course of the conference each commander present who had commanded a unit the size of a battalion or larger of the 82d Airborne Division in Operation Neptune, was permitted to talk for not to exceed ten minutes. Instructions were that each officer was to speak freely, without restraint, regarding any aspect of the operation during its airborne phase and to offer any criticism he saw fit in the interests of improving our operational technique in future combat. Commanders spoke in the order in which it was planned that they would land. Their statements were taken down verbatim as far as possible.)

(Courtesy: National Archives)