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 John Warner interview

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Kieran Bridge

Kieran Bridge

Nombre de messages : 76
Age : 63
Localisation : White Rock, British Columbia
Date d'inscription : 11/12/2007

John Warner interview Empty
MessageSujet: John Warner interview   John Warner interview EmptyDim 30 Déc - 6:59

Here is an interview of John Warner, including descriptions of the shelling of the Falaise pocket and the aftermath.


The Falaise Gap

John Warner

©1998, Aaron Elson

John Warner was a forward observer with the 344th Field Artillery Battalion of the 90th Infantry Division. I interviewed him at the 1995 reunion of the division in San Antonio.

I’ve been face to face with the enemy, but it’s not like the First World War; I didn’t see any bayonets. You see pictures of that. I never saw a bayonet being used. Now in the Pacific it’s a different story, but I’m talking about in Europe. I never saw a bayonet being used by anybody.

I remember, in a little town – in fact my friend, he went back to this town – Distroff, at the end of France, almost going into Germany. We went in, along with four tank destroyers – they went in and we went in behind them. The town had maybe 500 people. There was just one street going through it. It was late in the afternoon when we got there. We just walked right in and G Company of the 358th Infantry Regiment put their outposts out.

There were hills around the village, and during the night the Germans came in. They captured I don’t know how many men out of G Company, an awful lot of men. I heard a hundred, in that neighborhood. It was about 4 in the morning, it was just gonna break dawn, and I heard all this noise.

I was in a corner building, and I was a radio operator. I stepped out on the stoop, and there’s a German halftrack coming, and it’s 50 or 75 yards away. They had a .20-millimeter cannon, and they were firing down the street. Hit my radio. I got an award there for calling fire in. This one TD right around the corner from us, a friend of mine from Ford City, Pennsylvania, was hit there. They knocked his tank destroyer out and he was hit with shrapnel.

I saw this halftrack, and a shell hit my radio. I hurried back in the house, and my officer, Lieutenant D’Angelo, said, "We’ve got to call some fire back there." So I went back out, I fixed the antenna to where it was working, and we called fire direction. And they didn’t want to take my order, because they said, "You guys are all captured." Three of these TDs took off and went back. And they told them that we were surrounded, that we were all done. Twice I called, and they didn’t want to take my fire order. So finally they accepted it. And we fired over there and the Germans retreated and went back out over the hill. But we were face-to-face there. I would say I was face-to-face with that halftrack.

As I was going back in this building – it was a corner building, I don’t know if it had been an old hotel or what – there were two big plate picture windows in my corner, and the Germans up on the hill they fired an 88. I was walking in and this captain from E Company of the 358 had his headquarters down in the cellar. So I was walking over towards it and this 88 came right through this plate glass just over my head. I was just going down the steps, I was bending, and it went over my head. You could feel the heat off it. It knocked me down in the cellar. Dust. When I came to, I thought, "Where am I?" I couldn’t see a thing. It scared the hell out of me, I’ll tell you. Didn’t hurt me, though.

In Dillingen, Germany, we were in this house, they were in that house, it was that type of situation. We’d peek out and try to find a target, direct fire on it, and they’d do the same thing. They’d come out once in a while, back and forth between buildings, you’d see them. You were face to face in that way, but as far as me going over and getting ahold of that guy or him getting ahold of me with a bayonet, no. But it did happen, understand. There were times that did happen.

At the Falaise Gap, we had a pilot named Matthews. He was in a Piper Cub. Now this Falaise Gap was a big wide valley, and there was a hill on that side and a hill on this side, and I was on the side of one of the hills.

And right down below was all this mass of humanity and vehicles, they were trying to get out and they were trapped. Every kind of vehicle you could picture was coming up through there. And personnel. You could look over and see fifty, a hundred men. Well, he was flying around in a Piper Cub, and then he was directing fire. And one of the things that we always remember him saying is, "Stop computin’ and start shootin’." We always remembered that. And he was doing a good job. But they forget, this guy on the hillside there, it was man-to-man, seeing this guy, and subject to fire. And after the day was done, he flew back to his base, got a bite to eat, a place to sleep. My day didn’t get done. Come dark, you were still on the damn hill. And you ate a K-ration. Forward observers got no credit. He got a lot of credit, and I don’t begrudge him, because he did a good job, understand. But his conditions when he got back were a hell of a lot different than ours. He’s a nice guy, I don’t begrudge him any of his glory. But the guy, the forward observer from the infantry there, he gets nothing.

What I saw in the Falaise Gap was disgusting. Revolting. I’ll tell you, and I’m not ashamed to be a part of it because it was a necessity, I mean it was a job I had to do. But I don’t care who you are or what type of people you are, it’s hard.

After the battle was over, I went down into the Gap. Me and a friend, we walked down in that valley. And it was a mess. Everything, all kinds of vehicles, you can’t believe it. I mean, of every description. People laying around, blown up. An arm over there, a leg over there, you can’t believe it. Can’t believe it. There was a communications halftrack, and it was blown up, just stopped there. And I was curious. I looked in the back of it to see what kind of instruments they had. They had a lot of radios and stuff, wireless and all that. And I’m standing on something …mushy. I looked, and see it was a body. Burnt. That had been blown up and burned. It was just a mass of flesh, burned. It’s revolting.

I didn’t throw up. I don’t know, it’s hard to describe. It’s just like, you could be there, that could be you. Nobody shows respect for anybody there, you’re just a piece of flesh. How one man could do that to another…

Hey, when you’re in war, you’re in war. It’s a terrible situation. But how in hell you can do something like that to another person, I don’t give a damn who they are. Terrible. It’s the type of thing, hey, I could tell you all day, but there’s no way you could describe a picture like that.

That’s the difference between a Matthews and me. He’s a good man, but he didn’t see that. He wasn’t a party to that. He can talk to you all day, about hey, I soared around there, and I directed fire and killed fifty men. I was never proud of that. And he can say he saw this and he saw that, but he didn’t really see it. He didn’t smell it. The smell is the most terrible, that odor of burned flesh, you can’t describe that, rotting flesh.

And some of that I was responsible for, I mean I directed fire in there. That doesn’t help either, you know, when you know you’re a party to that. Then you go down and you see stuff like that, you think, what the hell kind of a man am I? It gives you a bad feeling.
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Nombre de messages : 2444
Date d'inscription : 10/04/2007

John Warner interview Empty
MessageSujet: Re: John Warner interview   John Warner interview EmptyDim 30 Déc - 10:16

Tristan, THE specialist of the 90th In fahtry Division, is going to be mad...
Thank you Kieran for all these links !
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Nombre de messages : 2814
Localisation : Paris - Normandie
Date d'inscription : 16/06/2006

John Warner interview Empty
MessageSujet: Re: John Warner interview   John Warner interview EmptyDim 30 Déc - 10:23

Thank's you very much.
I dont know this interview, the description of the battle-field is very hard for the veteran ...

Merci pour ce témoignage, je n'en avais pas connaissance.
Le vétéran décrit le champ de bataille, et çela a dû être asser dur pour lui.
Il était donc un artilleur, du 344th Field Artillery Battalion qui était doté de pièce de 105mm. Je sais que certains de ces éléments d'artillerie de la 90th ID étaient présents à Exmes et sans ses herbages, car des douilles de 105mm ont été retrouvées après les combats.
Je profite de ce post pour rajouter la description des combats du Brg St Léonard et Chambois, trouvée sur le site officiel de la division.
La description est courte, mais elle a le mérité de donner les noms des petits villages avec précision ... Wink

The Falaise Gap

Narrative of Action at Le Bourg St Leonard - Chambois
by Donald E. Thomson.

On August 16, the 915th FA Bn was in position south of Exmes. The 359th held
a line from Le Bourg St Leonard to the east. At about 1400 on the 16th, Co A, which
occupied Le Bourg St Leonard, was attacked by the enemy, who was in considerable
strength. The attack came south down the road from Chambois and southwest through
the Foret de Gouffern. Artillery fire in the woods and on the road, and TD's emplaced in
the town aided materially in repulsing this attack.
During the evening of the 16th, the whole 1st Bn moved up to occupy Le Bourg
St Leonard. The rest of the Regt was brought up to effect a turning movement from the
east around to the north of town. Plans were being made to displace the 915th to a
position south of Le Bourg St Leonard.
At 170630 the enemy fired a fairly heavy preparation with tanks on Le Bourg St
Leonard and began an attack. During the morning a reconnaissance of the new position
was made, but the battalion was too heavily engaged to move until 1030.
During the afternoon and early evening the action in Le Bourg St Leonard was
hot and close. Numerous missions were fired into the Foret NW of town to stop the
infiltration of enemy tanks. Our planes adjusted several missions on enemy tanks in
groups of 2 to 5 north and west of town.
During the evening the 2nd and 3rd Bns completed their turning movement and
reached the road north of St Leonard and the enemy withdrew through the forest.
On the 18th of August the 359th advanced slowly along the road toward
Chambois and numerous missions were fired for the Air Observers on enemy columns.
At about 1730, Lt Kilmer, the Ln pilot, reported a huge enemy column moving to
the east through Bon Menil and St Eugenie. Artillery fire was placed on the head of the
column and then moved down the length of the column. The column was left halted and
helpless on the road as a group of P47's came over to strafe and bomb the remnants of
the column.
At the close of the day the woods and the town of Fougy had been cleared and some ground observation of the area had been obtained.
On the 19th of August many missions were fired on enemy and infantry groups
by both air and ground observers. There were many conflicting no fire lines and
alternately we were allowed to and then could not fire into Chambois because of reports
of U.K. Troops there. During the day we refused to fire several times on columns
reported by our Air Observers because they were in or north of Chambois.
Late in the afternoon the 915th displaced to a new position close to Le Bourg St
Leonard. At 1800 the 2nd Bn 359th occupied Chambois and the gap was closed. The
915th FA Bn was in position to cover the entire east end of the pocket and our observers
could see over the entire area.
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