She started crying. She scraped the tags in my throat and they started bleeding and she said "well, that is all I can do. I can't help you." So I went back to the ward and the doctor gave me pills. Every morning they checked me and they said "your not doing so good. Lets see how you do tomorrow." In the mean time D day had come. And all of a sudden I was the only one in the ward. One day there was a big commotion and they brought a guy in who was swearing at them and telling them they had the cast on the wrong leg. They dumped him on the bed beside me and he told me he was a paratrooper fresh from the African campaign. He had been in on D day when he hit the ground in Normandy. He broke a leg and they evacuated him so fast they put the cast on the wrong leg. This is actually what happened. I became very well acquainted with him and he and I were now buddies in this ward. We had a real nice little Second lieutenant nurse who put us to bed one evening. She sat down on his bed and she said "you know if it is the last thing I do, I want to get pregnant so I can go home cause I am tired of this. " I said "well, don't look at me", and the paratrooper raised up and said "what the hell are you talking about?" She had married one of the owners or part owners of MGM in Hollywood and prior to the war both of them had traveled around the world two or three times. She was just getting fed up with this deal in England and wanted to go home. Well about one day later a train pulled in with D day casualties. It filled up every bed right away. Most of them were sedated so much that they just didn't know anything about it. They left them there and they laid for about a day until all of a sudden a 2nd lieutenant nurse came in. Then a ward boy yelled "ten shun". Then came a second lieutenant nurse and a colonel. He was there to inspect the troops or the casualties. The American colonel carried a swagger stick and was acting very Prussian like. He came to the third bunk where an officer was lying unconscious. He stopped and hit the metal bed with his swagger stick and said to the Second Lieutenant "what is the meaning of this?" And she replied that he was one of the casualties that hadn't regained consciousness yet. The Colonel became very upset and said something while in the bed right next door was a captain-laying there who said "I think I've just about heard everything. Here we are over here trying to win a war and some so-and so like you comes in here and starts stirring up trouble because somebody got hit and they are not conscious yet." The colonel whirled around and said "if it is within my power I'll have you court marshaled tomorrow," and he whirled around and left. He never even inspected the rest of the casualties. Of course we never did see him anymore which was OK with us. One of the casualties was a boy who had had a hand grenade go off in his face and he didn't have any nose or mouth or eyes, just a big hole and I don't know whether he could hear but the nurses took him for a walk out in the sunshine every morning and it was a terrible. It would have been better if he had died.
Every day I had a temperature elevation and it would go down at night. This went on for a few days. Meanwhile you have to remember our impressions over here were very strong because it seems the life style in Britain was very different. The standard of living was very different. England is about 1/30th the size of the US, with forty seven million people. At that time they didn't have central heating. They didn't have central plumbing. The roads were like little country roads and custom and tradition were very important. They said "you build your houses out of wood? Do you move out of one every year and build a new one?" And of course everything over there is left handed. If you go into a comfort station and there is a scale and you want to weigh yourself there is a slot to put a coin in but it is on the left side. What they call a hay-penny is a half penny-and then the thing goes ding-ding-ding , the arrow points and it tells you that you weigh 13 stones. That doesn't tell you anything. The first time I went into a store over there I wanted some paint brushes because we were making some signs I went into a place that looked like Kresses. It was the first time I had been in a store and I had just been issued English money. I didn't know what it was worth. I had paper money and pieces of metal. I picked out a couple brushes and asked how much and she said a ha-penny. What! A tup and a hapenny. Two pence and a half penny. I threw some money down and she smiled and took out what she needed. Their thinking is different because there are so many people living on such a small island. You have to think differently. So custom is great. Change is bad. They don't want change. The only thing is what would we have done without them when we were there. Churchill was one man I really admired. Anyway after so long the doctors said "well, lt. we can't do any more for you. So what we are going to do is send you to what we call the rehabilitation center at Bromsgrove. And there we will either make you or break you. And I'm ready . I've had enough of this. By that time it is effecting my leg. I don't know why but I had to have a crutch so I could get on one of these fast British trains in Malvern and I rode to a place called Bromsgrove. There I found that this is a hospital. It is just like the one I left only it is a different kind of hospital. It has a theater, it has an area where you can do calisthenics and everybody seems to wear bathrobes here. The red cross has these free cigarettes because it says this on the carton but they still charged you for them. And you start doing calisthenics at 6:30 in the morning. We go out on the blacktop and there is about 300 of us and there we are supposed to say "good morning Mr. Ballou!". And then he starts giving us calestenics. There are guys with broken legs, crutches , what have you. The idea is that after you can take twenty-five mile hikes a day then you are ready for combat. Some of the ones with one leg were ready to take five mile hikes. I knew one guy with one leg. He was taking ten miles hikes. It got to the point where I am taking ten mile hikes.
I should tell you there was a guy in town that had the garbage concession.. In other words there were about forty garbage cans out there every morning that had to be taken care of and he had the concession to haul the stuff away. I found out he had a pig farm and a few other things and he also had a few taxi's. He also had a cute little French wife who was a terrific cook. So he propositioned me one day up there on the walk and wanted to know if I wanted a real old fashioned dinner. I said "yeah, sure would, but what do you mean".. He says I'll come and get you about midnight with my little Morris taxi and I will take you over to the house. "Do you have a buddy?" I said yes, I do. About midnight he picked us up in this little Morris taxi and took us over to the house in Bromsgrove and introduced us to his French wife. She was not too attractive but she looked pretty skookum in the upper story so he said "heres how it is going to start-eggs and bacon and ham". We go whoa "wait a minute. We will have one of each." Our dinner lasted two hours. Of course we found out he has the where with all to get all this stuff. He had lots of eggs, everything was rationed over there. He wasn't suppose to have that. But seems he had this concession for the garbage and everything and the pig farm. I guess he was able to do all these things. It was a very enjoyable dinner.
From ten to eleven every morning we were supposed to take turns putting on skits in the theater. We had one little fellow. He was a P38 pilot. He had been shot down someplace. I forget where. Anyhow it was his turn to get up there in front of everybody and of course he was very embarrassed and bashful. He got up and just kind of hung his head. And everybody yelled "hey Johnny". They said "something must have happened to you." Finally he opened up and he says ,"I am a P38 pilot and you don't have to be crazy to be one of those. But he said you have to be. He said when I go across the channel "I go just above the water. He said I go low and fast across the water. I just put my hand on the button and hold it down and put my head down. I don't look to see whether I am hitting anyone or not. And anyway a little later he said when I get out I am coming back and buzz you guys. Well one morning after calisthenics we all got around to talk and this is his last day and he was going back to his outfit. He was in the 9th Airforce. So we all wished him well and he said he was going to give us a buzz one day. Well one Sunday morning we were all walking up the walk with our bathrobes on. We were going to the chapel for morning services when we heard this awful whining in the sky. We were still being buzzed by the Germans. We all ran over and dove down in the flower beds cause this thing was really winding up and them somebody yelled "it is Johnny." We all looked up and here is this thing coming straight down. It is winding up and coming down and twirling-I think you could have made a lot of money there if you'd made any bets cause none of us would have bet that Johnny would have come out of that deal. Just before he slammed into the ground he pulled up.
I was called into the office. They said. "We can't do any more for you. We are going to release you. We are going to give you a paper for limited service. You carry it on your person at all times. You will be discharged tomorrow. That sounded good enough for me. I was discharged and sent to another town. I had no more arrived there when some colonel said "you will organize a troop to cross the channel. I want you to get the whole thing organized and here are some of your first duties. You are due to leave Southampton day after tomorrow. Well looks like things are going to change real fast. As far as I am concerned I am ready. I get my list of men, 300 or so, and got some equipment organized and we rode a train to Southampton. We boarded a ship, the King Leapod, kind of a junker with a couple of limeys with the foulest mouths ever and we shoved off and all slept out on the deck at night. We are in the English Channel now. It is D-Day plus 8. The meals on this boat were something else. They had two meals a day which consisted of crumpets. And of course we Americans are used to filling our bellies and we had kind of a hollow feeling there. We didn't know what we were getting into. It is D day plus 8-and we know that we've got Omaha Beach secured. Finally after an overnight voyage across the channel, we arrive by all the debris at Utah Beach. We went to Omaha Beach and they had piled up a bunch of landing craft, so that when you jumped off your boat you could kind of get your footing on some landing craft or something in the sand. Of course we had our overcoats on, big long overcoats and our 30 caliber carbines.
There were a couple of trails going up the cliff. It looked pretty steep. It kind of wound around the turn offs and foot trails. The sun was out and it was pretty hot. I got to the top of that and there was a barn that was painted blue on the one side and it said Dubonette and I thought to myself "its me. I am in France." I heard about France in WW1. I had never been there before but I am now. The next thing I saw was a cow that had been killed laying on its back, blown up. It looked like a balloon because it was deteriorating. So we kept walking and walking and here were some trucks. They hauled us to a place called Avranches. It is down south at the bottom of the Cherbourg Peninsula. St. Lo was destroyed. The purpose for our being in the orchard was to be a replacement for the different groups who are starting to move across France. We didn't have anything to do until we were called up and we must have been about 3000 troops in this orchard. Our only duties were to censor the mail that the GI's were sending home which was a job that I hated. We noticed that there were a couple of peramital tents down where the food was supposed to be. I saw-everybody was lining up-a big long line way down in the orchard and so we got in the line too. We figured whatever it was we wanted some of it. We found out that one of the GI cooks had gone into Avranches and brought a couple of prostitutes out. We decided real fast we didn't want to stay in this line. We also found out that a cook had taken some K rations into town and traded it for a French motorcycle. We didn't get any hot meals while we were in this orchard. We got only K rations. So a couple of us decided to go AWOL. In other words we were going to walk into Avranches which we did. We went into a little old French pub and there were a couple of old guys in there. Of course we didn't know any French words. Vin blanc, vin rouge, (red wine and white wine) became our vocabulary. We got a whole hunk of cheese, a hunk of dry hard French bread, and a bottle of red wine and I want you to know it was delicious. By this time we had to go to a toilet to relieve ourselves and we noticed that in the town square was a little screen that was about one foot off the ground and two feet high where all the men were going. Everybody could see you but that was the only place in town, a public place. I went there real embarrassed and was standing inside this little screen which only covered my midsection, and somebody was tapping me on the shoulder "au ve vous en cigarette.?" In other words he was the local Frenchman wanting a smoke. It made me a little bit disgusted. Well, we didn't get caught from going AWOL. We went back out to the orchard. The word came down that some of us were going up to the front to replace some other troops and of course in any area you always dig a trench for a latrine. In this orchard the latrine wasn't a trench any more. It was about two feet high. And as we were pulling out all the old French women were digging that human excrement, pulling out boxes and anything else they could find and filling them up for their gardens.. We left the orchard, got into some trucks and started moving. We came up on a high ridge and there was this very small town. One store, a restaurant, couple of barns and that was about it. Of course we are told not to go into any local places of business. We had been issued invasion currency which the French were supposed to use or any other country that we occupied or went into. We came into this little cobblestone village. There was blood running down the street coming out of the barn across the way Then we looked on the other side of the street and we saw this place that said "cafe" and we went in there. There were a couple of little tables there with red print tablecloths on them. This little old lady came in and she was all excited. We said what we wanted by using gestures. We told her we wanted some real thick big steaks. She kept saying, "oui, oui, oui." We sat down and we noticed she went out in the back. And she was out there quite a while. She came in with a bundle of twigs. She had an old farm cookstove. She started a fire in her cookstove. Then she went out the front door and across the street into this barn. Apparently they had just butchered. She came back with a couple of big hunks of meat. It looked great. We waited about an hour and a half. She served us these so called steaks but they were so tough it was impossible to eat them We paid her some invasion currency.
We went down and finally we joined Pattons 3rd army. Anyway Patton was on the move. We chased the Germans out of the towns. We decided we are going to stop and have something to eat there regardless of regulations. I had two truck loads of GI's and we all got out and I said we will all meet back here in an hour and a half. I walked around the corner and almost bumped into a real cute young lady. She said, "Pardon-em wa." Then we went into a hotel where there were palm trees and potted plants. A lovely place with a restaurant and lobby. The waiter came with towels on both shoulders and menus and started suggesting this and that. . We really had a good dinner. We decided we'd better get back on the trucks. We were up where we are supposed to be. We got back to the trucks and here is a colonel. He said "who is in charge of the troops?" I said "I am sir". "You know better than to stop in a French town like this one," he says, "you could be court marshaled for this. I'll see you later". So we loaded up in the trucks. We went to an area up on a high ridge. We put up our shelter halves, it was getting dark when we had joined a battalion of trucks. We had a couple of tanks we had captured and some German prisoners. I put up my little shelter half and crawled in and put my gun beside me and fell asleep. In the middle of the night I heard some crashing around out in the brush and a guard hollering "Halt." Then boom-boom. I had my gun ready if someone stuck his head in my shelter half or tent. I was going to let him have it. Well-nothing else happened, we all got up and what happened was there were four German GI's starving to death and they had turned themselves in. They were dirty, looked like they hadn't had any sleep, had beards and that day when we censored the enlisted mens letter it was really amusing. One man wrote to this mother. He said he had personally captured three tanks himself , and twenty-six German fighters. Of course this was ridiculous. Its a funny thing about enlisted men when they write home. The ones who said very little were the ones who were really in the rough deal. The ones who expounded at great length about what they accomplished and done were usually back at headquarters someplace. It was disgusting to say the least.
By this time we were moving across France.
We were running out of gas,
didn't have any tobacco or cigarettes. I
remember I was smoking in those days. I
wrote to my wife every other day and said "send tobacco, send cigarettes,