August 15, 1944
Near St. Tropez, France

No. 41

Dear Folksies,

          Our landing here turned out to be, instead of a grim and determined ordeal, a tiring but swell experience.  In fact, on looking back it was really lots of fun.  (Perhaps that’s a bad viewpoint to take for, one could, and probably will, use such experiences for dramatic and hair-raising cocktail material when one finally gets home.)

            We awoke a couple of hours before dawn on the big day and what we could see in the fog was an amazing sight — all kinds of ships — every description from tremendous to tiny.  It wasn’t long before the big boys let loose — what a racket!!

            The whole operation was a masterpiece of organization. Things went off in much better fashion than any previous invasion.

            We were on land ourselves in no time — just a few hours after the first men.  How close seems appalling when one thinks back about it. We got off our big ship and onto a smaller one, musette bag, gas mask, medical kit, and sleeping bag (with 2 extra clothes) on our backs!!  We were landed about 50 feet off shore and waded up to our necks from the boat to the sandy shores.

             Roy and I then went back for the two bloomin’ anesthesia machines (50 lbs each) — luckily they were in crates and we were able to float them in.  Roy and I think we deserve some sort of extra medal for packing those darn things all the way like that. The gang we’re attached to should have arranged for bringing them.

            After we were on solid ground (having plunked into holes in the sand in the water on the way in) we were a funny looking bunch, pants sagging below the knees where they had beaucoup water ballooning them out as they went into our boots. Our boots are waterproof alright, but that doesn’t do any good when water goes above the belt and then down that way into the boots.        

           We hiked a ways in our salty, soggy stuff and then stopped while someone tried to locate where we were supposed to go to meet the main body of the hospital gang (only the “attached group” was with us). 

          While waiting we disrobed and tried to dry our stuff out in some Frenchman’s backyard. While so doing, standing in our undies (along with a very nice Hdq. Lt. Colonel we had met on the ship) along came a couple of generals and it made quite a picture — our saluting them while almost au-naturel along the side of the road.  ‘Twas was really funny!

          After we were finally given a faint idea as to where to go, we started off with our big loads to go about a mile and a half. Roy and I and our 3 boys got there first, despite the fact that we went two extra miles forward in our search.

            We continued tramping up and down the road, as the M.P.s didn’t seem to know exactly where the area was, and actually we had gone by it before a sign was put on the road to show the turn off to the area. We finally back-tracked and found the rest of our “attached gang” just coming up the road. They had gotten a direct ride, whereas we walked a good bit of the way — getting an occasional short ride.

              So, for a day we camped on the side of a hill very recently vacated by the Germans.  We got some nice wicker furniture from one of their command posts, found some Frenchmen with some good “vin rouge,” and made ourselves fairly comfortable. In fact, imagine playing bridge on a French hillside, while drinking wine, on the evening of D-Day!  That’s what we did all right.

                                                                                        Loads of love,

rene-transparent

.

Watch for the conclusion of this letter
August 18, 1944

Operation Dragoon — D-Day August 15, 1944: St. Maxime from the LCI on which René is sailing.

René notes the barrage balloon in the upper right of the frame. A barrage balloon is a large  “kite” balloon used to defend the ships below by raising cables that pose a collision risk to attacking aircraft, thus making their approach more difficult and reducing the likelihood that they will hit their target.

(Left to right) Enlisted men Clint Green, Bill Kioski and Chuck Davis drying off after their wet landing. As René described it: “We were landed about 50 feet off shore and waded up to our necks from the boat to the sandy shores.”

More drying off…

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