Private Herschel W. Peterson
1st Engineer Special Brigade - 286th Joint Assault Signal Company
We actually started across the channel on Sunday June 5, 1944 but we had to return due to weather and tides. We landed the next day on Monday June 6, 1944 at 0630 hours.
I was with the 286th Joint Assault Signal Company attached to the 531st Special Engineer Brigade. Most of the men had been in the Africa, Italy, and Sicily invasions. I was the young kid that joined them in the spring of 1944 in England as a replacement. I remember the landing on Normandy, jumping off the LCI in ankle deep water. I had to carry telephone equipment on to the beach. We made a dash to cover, artillery shells (88's) were falling all around us. Many of them were duds. One fell right beside me and didn't explode. I was face down in the sand and nothing happened. I jumped up and ran again. We made it to the designated area where we set up our equipment to be tied into the shore infantry positions. My main job was to run the wires of communication between the infantry command posts. I was a fortunate man to be in the Signal Company.
We were near the beach and Ste. Marie du Mont for nearly 7 months. During much of the time my duty involved keeping account of all our equipment and disbursement as needed.
I remember one time I was in the back of a jeep rolling out wire and we suddenly realized we had driven into a German camp area. We heard the soldiers talking to each other in German. My officer said "Cut the Wire, lets get out of here NOW!" I did, and we wheeled around and raced back the way we'd come with bullets flying.
We were shipped back to the United States to California and we were new recruits for the invasion of Japan. The war was officially over while I was in California and I was discharged from there.
My story isn't one of extreme bravery, but it was an experience that I was fortunate to return home from. I saw many of my friend's die and many German prisoners of war. No one ever really wins a war with the loss of lives, the destruction of homes and cities. Such a waste of the youth of all involved. War is an evil thing that should never happen again and yet it has.
Herschel W. Peterson
Copyright 2000 - | Laurent LEFEBVRE - D-Day Historian