Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Exploits of my dad (2nd Infantry (Indian Head) Division) at Normandy from a 82nd Airborne Division veteran.

 A new website for this blog
This is a true story of George W.Tompkins Sr. by his son George W.Tompkins Jr.(82nd Airborne Division) and a personal note of interest by George Jr. about the British 6th Airborne Division.
When my dad  was still alive he described to me his first 5 or 6 hours on Omaha. They were pinned down by heavy German fire coming from the pillboxes. My dad said most of the guys arriving in the second and third waves were sitting ducks as soon as the gates dropped on the landing craft they were just cut down. He described the water at high tide as being a shade of crimson stained by the blood of fallen Americans. It took a few hours of heavy Naval gunfire to level some of the pillboxes before his unit could advance to the first series of hedgerows. He landed on the beach on June 6th a buck Sergeant.
On the second day he was promoted to 1st Sergeant H Company 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry (Indian Head) Division when his 1st Sergeant was killed in action. He was awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star with 2 oak leaf clusters, the Purple Heart with 5 oak leaf clusters for his actions and a battle field commission to 2nd Lieutenant during the "Battle of the Bulge".

One story he did tell me was after his unit liberated the village of St.Lo. They captured almost a complete infantry regiment. The Nazi CO was a full Colonel. He kept insisting that he ride in a vehicle instead of having to march along with his men because he was a German officer and demanded to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention. My father told him twice that only wounded men get to ride, Americans first Germans second. The Colonel insisted one more time so my father shot him in the leg and said OK now you can ride in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

Another interesting story is regarding the British 6th Airborne Division.  It was not until I got to the 82nd that I encountered a very small handful of legit WW2 veterans still on active duty amongst whom was my battalion Sergeant Major Harry S. Tompkins (no relation but in the Army we used to call the First Sergeant or the Battalion Sergeant Major TOP, an affectionate name for TOP KICK or senior most enlisted man.   I used to call the Sergeant Major POP. He never corrected me and would just smile at me. It was on Harry Tompkins that I saw for the first time a pair of Master Jump wings with 4 stars. The 4 stars were for his 4 combat jumps in WW2, that included Sicily, Salerno, Normandy (St. Mere Eglise), and Nijmegan (Holland.)  I engaged him in a conversation about WW2 and in particular I asked about the British 6th Airborne Division. In the US Army our maximum height for jumping was 20,000 feet and the only way you could go above 20,000 feet was to balloon jump. Of course the US Army does not permit balloon jumping however every year that I was in the 82nd two men from every unit were allowed to go to England to get their British Paratrooper Wings and to balloon jump with the British 6th Airborne perhaps the most notorious allied unit to ever hit France. According to POP you could always tell a British 6th trooper because he usually had no front teeth or was missing an ear. Amazed I inquired to find out that while US troops would exit C-47 aircraft via the two rear doors the British 6th would exit via an escape hatch in the floor near the tail of the aircraft. Most of whom would either knock out their front teeth or catch their ear on the hatch on the way out. POP said they were the craziest bastards he ever fought along side of.

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