The Longest Weekend, D-Day Ohio Pt. II

September 17, 2010 - No Comments

by Jim Barnes

Here is the second installment of Bill’s D-Day Journal:

Following a hearty breakfast at the hotel, Linda and I arrived at the German/French camps around 0900.

I was living history with Gilbert, John, Ray, Jim, Ron and Roger at the German camp while my wife and Debbie Wenig were living history at the French camp.

The battle for the bridge was the next big event on our agendas.

The weather was beautiful, low humidity, comfortable temperature. I had slept like a log Friday night and was ready for battle. We formed up at the commander’s shed, and led off towards our positions on the hill above the bridge. The walk uphill carrying all that equipment and ammo was a little winding on some of us but we survived. Arriving at our jump off point I was surprised at how many Germans there were as compared to last year. We said that nothing could stop us from taking that bridge and holding it indefinitely.

Suddenly the whistle blew and the attack was on. Ray and I were on the tail end of our zug and we remained on the ridge of the hill giving covering fire while the rest of the abteilung moved forward.

I saw Jim go down with a fatal shot. He did not move. All around me was the sound of gunfire. See the attached you-tube video for a visual/audio of this battle.

As the Germans got nearer to the bridge, Ray and I moved forward. We took cover behind trees and tables near hay stacks in the hollow ground.

Finally Ray and I made it to the bridge under heavy fire. Jaegers were falling all around us. I decided to crawl under a cluster of bushes near our end of the bridge, while Ray remained on the road near the abutment. I took up a sniper role as I had a concealed position, being completely covered by bushes (I also decided to do a little gardening while I was there, pulling up some poison ivy).

I had to struggle to stick my barrel through the heavy growth in order to shoot. From this vantage point I was able to observe the French resistance, up on the hill, opposite and to the right of my position. The French were trying to out- flank the German position. I was able to warn them with my incessant sporadic rifle fire.

While reloading, I was speaking to Ray from time to time. Ray failed to respond. I noticed that he too was dead. Another brave jaeger had given his life trying to hold the bridge.

Then from behind me, from the direction that we had come to attack the bridge, came the sound of gunfire. It was the Americans. People were shooting at us from both front and rear and to our right.

I took turns shooting in all three directions from my cover under the bushes. I heard the gun fire dying down and realized that I was the only one left alive. I decided to play possum.

The Americans had taken the bridge. They were dragging the dead Germans off the bridge and stacking them in a pile. I remained quiet. I could have killed a few with my knife but why? They would have gotten me in the end. Then I realized that the Amis were establishing a defensive position right on top of me. An Ami machine gun was put up right next to me between me and the bridge abutment.

That’s when my eyes made contact with the American sergeant. He said, “Do you want us to pull you out of there?” I said no I am ok; you can just leave me here.” The machine gunner then set up his Browning 50 cal. between me and the bridge. He promised not to fire it in my direction, to which I was grateful.

There then followed an attack by an army of ss troops. They were accompanied by an armored car. The SS came from the same route as both we and the Amis had just come.

I lay there watching the action from the vantage point of an American machine gunner (something I would have never experienced).

The ss then advanced and pushed the Americans off the bridge. As the armored car rolled up to my position I emerged from under the bushes to the amazement of the ss troopers. I thanked them for rescuing me.

This ended the battle.

Respectfully submitted by Bill Donegan

Update: Here is some footage from the Battle of the Bridge at Conneaut.

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