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Major Warren Shield

82nd Airborne Division - 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment - 1st Battalion

Utah Beach

 

I came in as Executive Officer, 1st Battalion, Colonel Batcheller, commanding. Shortly after the drop he was KIA. The mission of the 508th was to go into Force "A" reserve in the vicinity of Hill 30, West of the Merderet River. Our flight across the channel was very uneventful, it was routine. As we hit the coast we got some flak. I checked and noted that all the planes were back there. But then we hit the clouds and it spread us a little. I could still see the leading V even in the fog. We passed over St. Sauveur le Vicomte, and got a lot of flak which spread the formation. Then we went over Etienville and got a hell of a lot of flak there. Then I looked around and there were no ships around my plane. I jumped on the green light, and just after coming out of the plane I turned around and looked over my shoulder and saw the Douve River behind me very close. I landed about half way between Picauville and the Douve. I landed in an orchard. We got a great deal of flak practically all along the entire route between St. Sauveur le Vicomte and Etienville. After coming down I only saw one plane which was towing a glider and kept on going, and another C-47 which was shot down in flames. I did have a light but I didn't put it up, because it was obvious it would not be seen. I toured the area in ever widening circles trying to collect as many men as I could. Daylight came approximately 0430 or 0445 in the morning and I collected some 20 odd men and ran into Captain McRoberts who had the entire 508 radar outfit. They put up no lights because their lights were lost. The hedges were high, and the orchards were practically all over the place near Picauville. I collected between 40 and 50 men and headed for Gouteville just north of Hill 30. I got up to Gouteville and found part of D and E Company and a platoon of the 505 under Lt. Medaugh. We were on the verge of attacking Gouteville with 100 men, but we had no supporting weapons - just rifles and carbines. Since there was an estimated German Battalion in Gouteville we just stayed on the hill and shot at them. About 15 truck loads of Germans went by, going in the direction of La Fierre. After shooting at them all afternoon I got in contact with Col. Shanley and joined forces and moved west about 500 yards of my position near Hill 30 and stayed there for five days. No lights were used in the area south of Picauville because the area was too dense. Hedges were high and orchards were all over the place. 

(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)