We got the news today that Reg Alexander passed away. A delightful man who was a WW2 veteran – Screaming Eagle that parachuted in on June 6th 1944 but broke both legs on impact ended up as a POW – this is his sory as written by him…
I enlisted in the army in 1942, starting out at the Presidio of Monterey and then signed up to be a paratrooper, training in Georgia at Fort Benning Jump School.
Jump school was a rigorous regimen for soldiers slated to spearhead the offensive on
D-Day. We were required to make five jumps out of a C-47 aircraft to qualify and earn our jump wings.
I was assigned to H Company of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. We shipped to England 1943 and were attached to the 101st Airborne Division, the “Screaming Eagles” and we prepared for the allied assault into Normandy.
The evening of June 5 we embarked on our troop carrier a C-47 airplane for the trip over the English Channel to France, but due to rain and blustery weather we were forced off course and were hit by enemy fire. The flight crew held the plane for all of the paratroopers to make their jumps before the plane crashed killing the flight crew.
I was seriously injured on the jump as my parachute was torn into a streamer and I crashed into the ground shattering both legs.
My buddies went into the nearby village of Pretot and brought help out to me, a farmer Mr. Jaquet whose apple orchard I had just landed in. With the help of Mr. Jaquet and his wheelbarrow I was taken into the village school house where Mr. Andre Broquet, the school master and his family hid me for a week.
The Broquets were not able to get me medical help as the local doctor was a Nazi collaborator.
I met with two members of the French underground who would try to help move me toward the American lines via a farm cart pulled by horse. In this attempt we were stopped by a German patrol and although I thought of throwing a hand grenade I realized we would not be able to escape and killing those who were trying to save me was not the right choice and so I surrendered.
What followed was three or four months of movement with the Germans who had captured me, being strafed by Allied planes, stopping for a time in a German headquarter that was located in a large Chateau not far from Carentan (later finding out that this was Chateau Coigny). Then we were moved to a makeshift hospital in Rennes manned by a captured British Field Hospital and French Nurses.
The Germans eventually abandoned the injured prisoners as the Allies pushed further into France.
I was sent to England for treatment and eventually returned to the United States for additional treatment and rehabilitation, relearning to walk was a challenge as my broken legs where never tended to or set while I was held prisoner so bones mended overlapping with one leg shorter than the other.
After being honorably discharged from the army I returned to school and became a business teacher, principal of high schools and vice chancellor of City College in San Francisco.
I have returned to Normandy for the 40th, 50th, 60th and now plan to return for the 65th Anniversary of D-Day, “A Day of Remembrance.” The Honorable Mayor of Houseville and his wife Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Brotin and their wonderful family have been my gracious hosts for all of these visits. I have been welcomed into their family and words cannot convey the gratitude and appreciation I feel towards them.
The ‘greatest generation’ is passing, it seems, so rapidly now.
This is Reg & Harry being told by the officials at the ceremony where they were awarded the Legion d’Honneur here in our village how wonderful they are!