Memories from Trevières, Normandy, France
Memories of the Landings, June 6 1944
—Henry Leroutier, 5 Rue Abbé Guerin, Trevières, Normandy, France
“At that time I was 22 years old and worked on the family farm at Saint Laurent-sur-Mer, one kilometer from the beach. I had been required to work on the bunker at Colleville-sur–Mer, in a group of about 30 people. We were supervised by only two Germans, which allowed us to sabotage the work by hiding or slowing things down as much as we could. For example, we let the wagons that we used for carrying the sand and gravel roll down to the bottom of the cliff. We couldn’t do it too often or they would come down hard on us. On June 5 they told us not to come to work because there would be some large-scale maneuvers.
“My parents, who were required to give lodging to the occupiers, used to listen secretly to the radio from London. About 6 AM on June 6 the bombardments and the artillery shells fell in our fields. We went up to the attic and we saw the sea full of boats, the airplanes dropping bombs, and the German response. It was hell. We went out to a prepared trench to protect ourselves. We ran quickly to avoid being mowed down by the artillery shells.
“We saw the first Americans about 10 o’clock. They came into the village, advancing as hunters. They must have seen a silhouette through our window, and fired at our house. The bullets went through the kitchen. My mother and my sisters showed their presence. The soldiers were very surprised because the Germans had led them to believe that the population had been evacuated to the rear. Threatening with their rifles, they made us go ahead of them into the bedrooms, farm buildings, and hayloft.
“An American Colonel came with the mayor to look for us to relocate the population to provide security because there were still Germans everywhere. We went along the small, sheltered paths and saw dead American and German bodies. It was horrible. There were Germans hidden in the hedgerows and ditches who fired from there. There were others, such as at my brother’s house, who hid in the out-houses and refused to fight.
“On June 8 I volunteered to help the Americans to clear the beach. I saw dead bodies and damaged vehicles by the thousands.”
Henry Leroutier has shared with story with many of our Normandy Allies participants during our visit to Trevières. He wrote this account in 2003, when he was 81 years old. The Normandy American Cemetery is now located at Colleville-sur-Mer. Madame Leroutier gave this to us and Walter F. Carter provided the translation.
Each year at Trevières, our groups are welcomed for a luncheon with the Town Council and joined by local residents who witnessed the landings and liberation in 1944.
Many years, we have been honored to hear the accounts of two women who will be familiar to many of our participants. Difficult though these memories are to share, the men and women offer their stories as a way to honor the Allied soldiers who liberated them when they were young.
Sr. Nelly Durand, pictured on left, was severely injured by shrapnel during the initial bombardments. She received life-saving treatments from American medics.
Madame Lagrange, pictured on right, was a 10-year-old school girl in 1944, growing up under German occupation and witnessing the joy of her parents as the Allied forces arrived.
Originally published in Amitié, the newsletter of Normandy Allies.
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