Friday, July 17, 2009

America Loses A WWII Hero

Tom Hanks took a hint after the success of Saving Private Ryan, producing an absolutely AMAZING mini-series, Band of Brothers, about the valor of the men in the 101st Airborne from the night time drop before D-Day, through the end of the war in Berlin. Some of the more familiar characters such as Captain Lipton, Lt. (Later Major)Winters, Wild Bill Guarnere, and one other, Staff Sgt. Darrell "Shifty" Powers.

From Shifty's page on;
D-Day, Normandy, France
The jump on D-Day in Normandy was all "Screwed up!" Bill Keen, SGT. Taylor, and I were the last 3 men on the stick on our plane. I could hear bullets "pinging" through the plane as I jumped. Also, as I went out the door, the left motor was hit by antiaircraft. I do not know if the plane made it back to England. On the ground, Taylor and I got together in the shadows of a hedgerow. We were trying to decide the best way to find the other E-Company soldiers. While talking, we saw a soldier walking across the field. (The night was fairly light since there was a full moon.) I pointed my rifle at him and waited. Taylor clicked his "cricket clicker." (We issued the clickers to use as a recognition signal.) When the moon heard the click, he dropped to the ground. This move made us think he was a German. I started to shoot, but then decided to ask the oral password. Fortunately, he gave the correct response. As it turned out, it was our buddy, Bill Keen. He had lost his cricket and I almost shot him. This was the first incident in which I almost shot Keen.

The second incident occurred in Holland. The LT. Platoon called me into the Command Post. He told me there was a twelve-man German combat patrol in the area. My orders were take men and find the Germans. It was a dark night. (I mean really dark!). I knew I would not be able to see my rifle sights, so I took 2 pistols instead. We were moving down a road, stopping often to listen. I was leading the group mainly because of my keen sense of hearing. I stopped the column because, I could hear someone coming toward us. The Lieutenant had told me there would be no GPs out there, only the German Patrol. He advised us to shoot anyone we saw. I could tell this was just "one man", not twelve Germans. Instead of shooting, I asked him the password (which he knew). It was Bill Keen. He had been in the hospital and was returning to our platoon. We continued our search until almost daybreak, but never did encounter the Germans.

Note: (Bill Keen was later killed by artillery fire in Hagenau.)

Bastogne, Belgium
Another incident I will mention occurred in Bastogne. Easy Company was pulled off the line and put in reserve for a short rest. There was about 10-12 inches of snow on the ground. We were bivouacked in an area of Pine trees. We placed pine branches over our foxholes to keep out some of the snow. I climbed out of my foxhole at daybreak. I was standing among the trees all by myself. As I looked at the mounds in the snow, I thought how it looked just like a graveyard. Then the guys would pop up out these mounds. This was such a weird sight! It looked as if they were climbing out of their graves. One soldier asked me who was doing the shooting during the night. I told him that I had not heard any shooting.

Then I remembered the dream I had that night: I had dreamed that I was shooting at one of our own. I don't know why. When I remembered my dream, I thought, "Man, I better check this out!" I eased my pistol out and sure enough I had fired it twice during the night. Then I started watching the guys climbing out of their foxholes. I breathed a sigh of relief when saw they were all allright. I was glad that I hadn't shot anyone while sleepwalking during that snowy night in Bastogne. These are just a few memories of my experiences during World War.

Shifty passed away on June 17th.

H/T: Wyatt

No comments: