Richard Bostwick - 401st Glider Infantry Regiment - 101st Airborne Division
Hedgerow fighting in Normandy France, June 1944
Then there were the In Normandy hedgerows separate fields, as fences do at home; where a road runs between fields there is a hedgerow on either side. Hedgerows, earthen dikes, may be anywhere from five to seven feet high topped with vegetation, a hedge.
Sometimes running, sometimes walking, we continued to advance through all the noise and confusion; the outfit was fairly strung out and fighting became more intense. At one point Mosier and I rounded a corner on the dead run and found ourselves face to face with the biggest German paratrooper I had ever seen. The Kraut was sitting on the ground with his back against the hedgerow calmly smoking a cigarette, he had been wounded in the foot. Letting out a war-hoop, Mosier charged the Kraut pulling out his pistol. ;I simultaneously knocked the gun from his hand. Mosier was furious, screaming "I'll kill the son-of-a-bitch". Yelling , so as to be heard, I told him that under the circumstances it would be murder. If the Kraut had been armed, someone sure a hell would have been killed. I picked the gun from the ground and we moved on.
Weaving through "hedgerow lanes" we sometimes lay in a ditch for minutes at a time, then again on our feet and running. It was pure hell. Enemy artillery poured in on us. Dust filled the air. Shattering ear-splitting explosions followed one upon another; it all seemed such a mad frenzy. Running to beat hell, we got out of there; that is, until we turned another corner and ran into a hail of machine gun fire. Thinking of nothing but survival, I literally threw myself through an opening at the top of the hedgerow and slid down the other side into what appeared to be a hog wallow, in the corner of a pasture. My discomfort was complete; I was soaked to the skin, my face and arms were burning from the nettles and now I was covered with mud. The Krauts were retreating but at the same time seemed to be killing us.
Following the inside perimeter of the pasture I covered some 200 yards before reentering the "lane". Joining the remnants of the outfit we briefly rested. I was tired...so tired. There were very large trees all about us, tall, branches intertwined. Snipers were a problem; a single shot..a dead trooper. Capt. Mac. came along the line testing the moral of the troops. Just as the Capt. passed me, the metallic sound of a rifle bolt was heard above me; I fired half a dozen shots skyward, through the leafy foliage. "Saddle-up" rang down the line. Just as I was getting off my butt, incoming artillery caused me to hit the dirt again. Again my face was in the dirt.
Moving through a hedgerow intersection we experienced a helluva pasting, a thrashing, furious conglomeration of exploding shells and small arms fire. There was so much dust in the air that I could scarcely see or breath. The noise was indescribable. Running, dropping, rolling, on my feet again; over and over and over.At the same time our own artillery was screaming into the Kraut lines. As though someone had called a halt to the proceedings, it was suddenly quiet, I was lying in the corner of another pasture. I was hot and miserable.
Later, when climbing over a hedgerow, a sniper damned near took me. A bullet sizzled past my head. I leaped to the ground, took several steps and hit the dirt. I felt comfortable that the sniper couldn't see me, but he hadn't given up. Getting to my feet, another bullet tore up the ground near me. Again I was on the ground; I lay very still. Another bullet churned up dust not more than five feet from me. I wanted to get up and run like hell, but that was not the answer. I didn't hear the shot, only dirt smashing into my face and the right side of my neck, my ear stung something fierce. I have no idea how long I lay there, but I stayed motionless for a time. The sniper had fired through he shrubbery atop the earthen fence; he couldn't see me, he was guessing. His calculations were close. It seemed ages before I mustered the courage to start crawling. Edging over to the base of the hedgerow, I got to my feet and took off to rejoin the outfit.
We moved into, and occupied an area the Krauts had left only a short time before using their foxholes for the purpose intended. As near as anyone could tell we were just North of the Carentan marshes, near LesDroueries. Nearby lay the body of a trooper, his parachute wrapped around him, he hadn't gotten out of his harness. At the base of a nearby tree lay the body of a Kraut sniper, one end of a long rope tied around his waist. Snipers were apparently tieing themselves in the trees so as not to fall if shot. I may have shot my share of snipers and didn't know it. Many of those strange looking, green, wooden bullets, used by the krauts, littered the area.