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Lexington AB - E KY 8
For Cornelius Ryan Book about D-Day
THOUSANDS OF MEN, ON LAND AND SEA AND IN THE AIR, PARTICIPATED IN THE INVASION OF NORMANDY BETWEEN MIDNIGHT JUNE 5, 1944 AND MIDNIGHT JUNE 6, 1944. IF YOU WERE ONE OF THEM, PLEASE ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS.
What is your full name? Robert Mercer Robinson
What was your unit and division? Headquarters Company, 2d Battalion 505th Parachute Regiment 82d Airborne Division
Where did you arrive in Normandy, and at what time? Ste. Mere Eglise 0030 hours 6 June 1944 [inserted] Pathfinder? [end inserted]
What was your rank on June 6, 1944? Pfc
What was your age on June 6, 1944? 21 years
Were you married at that time? No
What is your wife's name?
Did you have any children at that time? No
What do you do now? Captain, Infantry, U.S. Army
When did you know that you were going to be part of the invasion? We knew that we were to be part of the invasion several months before but we did not know where or when it was to take place. About two weeks before D-day we were sealed in our camp and later transported to the airfield so we knew that it would be in the next few days. Our final briefing was not until 5 June.
What was the trip like during the crossing of the Channel? Do you remember, for example, any conversations you had or how you passed the time? We spent several hours in the air before the drop but the plane was rather quiet. I spent most of the time looking out the open door and thinking about the jump. Approaching the drop zone awaiting the signal to jump I could see the fields and roads below and it was very quiet until we approached right near the field and then I could see the tracers and hear the noise of battle. Coming down I could see some of our ammunition blowing up for evidently some of our equipment bundles had gone off when they landed.
What were the rumors on board the boat, ship or plane in which you made the crossing? (Some people remember scuttlebut to the effect that the Germans had poured gasoline on the water and planned to set it afire when the troops came in). We had no rumors going in but on the night of the sixth there was a rumor that the invasion had beeen repulsed on the beaches. Here we were sixteen miles inland and a delay in the link up would surely stretch my three K-rations.
- for Cornelius Ryan 2 - Your name Robinson, Robert M.
Did you by any chance keep a diary of what happened to you that day? No
Were any of your friends killed or wounded either during the landing or during the day? Yes several
Do you remember any conversations you had with them before they became casualties? No
Were you wounded? Yes, 3 July 1944; shot by a German officer with a pistol from about four feet. I disarmed the officer and took the pistol.
Do you remember what it was like--that is, do you remember whether you felt any pain or were you so surprised that you felt nothing? The shot knocked me to my knees but it felt like a heavy blow and it wasn't until several minutes later that I realized that there was a hole in the front and back of the shoulder of my raincoat. It was then that I realized that I had been shot clean through the shoulder.
Do you remember seeing or hearing anything that seems funny now, even though it did not, of course, seem amusing at the time? I landed by parachute alone in a small field bounded by hedgerows. My M-1 rifle was stowed in the "griswald case” in two parts so I was quite unarmed except for my trench knife strapped to my jump boot. The first thing I saw were several creatures charging at me from the shadows. All I could see were white faces and this unnerved me quite a bit but when I realized that these creatures were cattle I was really worried. Being a city dweller I was afraid of being kicked or bitten so I quickly cut myself free of my parachute and beat a hasty retreat from the field with my adversaries in hot pursuit.
Do you recall any incident, sad or heroic, or simply memorable, which struck you more than anything else? While we were flying over a couple of off-shore islands approaching the Cherbourg Peninsula one of the "troopers" looked out the window and said, "Gee, look at the sparks coming from the engine". One of the other men that had been with us on our two previous jumps looked out and said, "Sparks hell, them's tracers; we are being shot at".
- for Cornelius Ryan 3 -
Your name Robinson, Robert. M.
In times of great crisis, people generally show either great ingenuity or self-reliance; others do incredibly stupid things. Do you remember any examples of either? A few minutes after my experience with the cattle l finally met up with, another "trooper", a corporal, from my unit. He decided we should go in a certain direction to the assembly point so we proceded but is wasn't long before we ran into several automatic weapons. I told him corporal or not I was a Pfc and I knew that we were going in the wrong direction if we wanted to meet up with our unit - alive. We went in the opposite direction and several minutes later we linked up with the remains of our unit.
Where were you at midnight on June 5, 1944? Flying over the English Channel bound for Normandy
Where were you at midnight on June 6, 1944? My position was in a grave yard in Ste. Mere Eglise.
Do you know of anybody else who landed within those 24 hours (midnight June 5 to midnight June 6) as infantry, glider or airborne troops, or who took part in the air and sea operations, whom we should write to? I have lost contact with all of the remaining men of our unit.
I will welcome any interview if I can be of any assistance and I can be reached at 2055 Rambler Road, Lexington, Kentucky after August. For the next two months I will be with the ROTC Summer Camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Robert M Robinson ROBERT M ROBINSON Captain, Infantry
PLEASE LET US HAVE THIS QUESTIONNAIRE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, SO THAT WE CAN INCLUDE YOUR EXPERIENCES IN THE BOOK. WE HOPE THAT YOU WILL CONTINUE YOUR STORY ON SEPARATE SHEETS IF WE HAVE NOT LEFT SUFFICIENT ROOM. FULL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT WILL BE GIVEN IN A CHAPTER CALLED "WHERE THEY ARE NOW; YOUR NAME AND VOCATION OR OCCUPATION WILL BE LISTED.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP.
Frances Ward Research, The Reader's Digest
Capt. Robert Robinson Commander, Detachment #6, 2156-6 AU University of Kentucky Lexington, Kentucky
Dear Capt. Robinson:
A history of D-Day, June 6, 1944, to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the Normandy invasion next year is being prepared by Cornelius Ryan for publication in the Reader's Digest and in book form. It is being written with the complete cooperation and assistance of the Department of the Army and the Department of Defense. This will not be another strategic history of invasion day, but a story of the twenty-four hours of D-Day as people lived them and remembered them. For this, we can only go to the men who were there and, if they are willing, invade their memories. Having learned of the part which you played in the invasion, we hope very much that you will be interested in the project and agree to help us.
During the next few months, both in this country and in Europe, Mr. Ryan will be interviewing many of the D-Day participants who agree to contribute to the book. Very probably, he will wish to talk with you during that period. In the meantime, since we are dealing with literally hundreds of people, we have found it necessary to develop an individual file on each person who agrees to help us. Therefore, we hope that if you are interested in the project, you will complete the enclosed record and return it to me it your earliest convenience. We truly believe that these questions will serve you, as well as us, if they can help to crystallize some hazy memories and to indicate the sort of information which we are seeking.
I should be most grateful to know as soon as possible when and if you will be available for interview during the next few months. We want very much to tell the story of your unit, and in order to do that we need your personal account. We look forward eagerly to your reply.
Frances Ward Research Department