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Bell was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on December 15th, 1918. Before the war, Bell had a business manufacturing desserts. Bell was on a steamship coming from Alaska to Seattle when he found out about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Bell had a deferment from being drafted because he had needed an operation. Bell got the operation and entered the service as a draftee. Bell became an administrative officer in the air corps. He told the people who placed him there that he wanted to be in the infantry. Bell was put into officer training school for the infantry. Bell trained to be an officer at Fort Benning [Annotator's Note: Ft. Benning, Georgia].Bell remembers a specific incident regarding his first duty as an officer at officer candidate school at Fort Benning. He had trash duty for a few days and likes to tell people he started off cleaning up garbage. Bell qualified for the M-1 Garand.

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At Ft. Benning, Bell ended up training with the 79th Infantry Division. As an officer, Bell remembers going through some very rigid training. They had to learn how to speak in commanding voices. Bell remembers going out into the woods at night and practicing their commanding voices.After officer candidate school, Bell departed from New York on the Queen Elizabeth bound for Europe. There were eight thousand people on the boat. Bell learned after the fact that they only had enough life rafts for one thousand people. The ship was so big that not many people got seasick. Bell was fed twice a day on the Queen Elizabeth. Bell also remembers having to take evasive maneuvers to avoid German submarines.Bell remembers writing a letter describing certain aspects of the ship. He was aware that his letter was going to be censored but tried to be clever in his wording. When his sister got the letter most of it was cut out or blacked out so that no details about the ship got out to anyone.When Bell arrived in England he was put into a field camp. Bell does not remember the name of the camp he was initially put at but he said most of these camps corresponded with local town names. Bell had relatives in England that he wanted to see but he was never able to meet up with them. Bell remembers marching his men up and down the local roads and every time he saw a cute girl he would give the command , "Eyes Right!" and the men would honor the lucky young woman.

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Bell's initial experience in England consisted mainly of training and trying to avoid boredom. They were gradually being informed of plans for the invasion. They were briefed on how the Higgins boat [Annotator's Note: Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP)] worked. They trained going over the side of the boat on the net that led down to the Higgins boats. They had several training sessions where they practiced landing in a Higgins boat. The training they went through took them through the proper steps of disembarking a Higgins boat. They were also informed of the timetables for each landing beach.Bell landed on Utah beach [Annotator's Note: during invasion of Normandy, France or Operation Overlord, 6 June 1944]. When they landed on Utah beach they were immediately told what to do in order to not create a log jam on the beachhead. His landing at Utah was relatively light compared to his colleagues on Omaha beach. Bell's men suffered most of their casualties further down the road in the invasion. He remembers landing with a man from Louisiana who spoke French. Bell and this man became good friends during the war. The ability of his friend to speak French helped them many times. He was able to communicate with the French they ran into and a lot of the time the French knew where the Germans were so he was of great help.One night Bell found a barn for him and his men to stay in. The house was supposedly unoccupied but the house actually held a group of German soldiers. Bell stumbled around them in the middle of the night unknowingly and did not realize what he had done until the next morning. Bell took his men that morning and forced the Germans to surrender.Bell remembers his company going from 189 men to 28 men at one point.

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Bell and his men got up that morning and as they stood in formation outside the house, the Germans woke up and walked out of the door. They took the Germans prisoner.Bell had to send out scouts a lot of the time. Bell knew that this was a dangerous job and felt bad because a lot of times the scouts did not come back. They realized that it was better to risk two men then to risk everyone. Bell remembers an incident where two scouts went out and one got shot. The wounded man screamed out for the men to come get him. They all knew that they could not go out and get the man so they listened to him groan until he died. Bell believes that one of the reasons Americans were better soldiers then Germans was because Americans were prepared to take the initiative and have a command structure that permitted battlefield adaptation. In other words Americans had a shorter chain of command then the Germans and it worked to the Americans benefit.One scout proved to be very smart. He noticed on a hill that the leaves the Germans had taken off the trees in order to camouflage their machine gun nests had changed color. In a forest of all green leaves he could see each individual machine gun nest because of the now gold and red leaves.

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The scout that noticed the machine gun nests hidden in the changed leaves was able to go back to Bell and relay what he saw. Bell was then able to take that information from his man, trust what he said, and take that information up to his superiors. Bell was able to tell his superior that they should not head in that direction they were originally going because there was going to be an ambush from the machine guns. They were able to plan accordingly and hit the machine gun nests from an advantageous position. That night the Germans reinforced the position and it turned out to be a really good piece of intelligence. They ended up taking the hill with ease.Bell remembers thinking twice about going forward to attack the hill. However his training kicked in and he remembered that this was infantry, "this is what we do". One of the most vivid scenes Bell remembers is seeing a German soldier trying to surrender with his hands up but one of his men shot the soldier instead. Bell was asked if he celebrated when they took the hill. He did not because he had lost some of his buddies. A lot of the infractions that occured on the battlefield were overlooked.

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Bell has trouble bringing up exactly what his unit was doing at the time because he remembers it as a, "constant forward progression."Once Bell was digging a foxhole and was stung by a bunch of wasps. He wrote home to his mother explaining the incident. His mother told him to stop at a drug store and pick up some creme to rub on it. This made Bell happy because his mother's naïveté let him know that she had no concept of what he was doing over in Europe.Bell believes that God was watching ove him. There was an incident where a German .88 shell [Annotator's Note: 8.8 cm Flak antiaircraft and anti-tank artillery gun] landed among his men and many were wounded, but he came out without a scratch. There was an incredible amount of chance. There was another time when a shell knocked Bell back into a foxhole. His captain came over and touched his body to make sure he was still alive.Bell remembers an incident when he was driving down the road in a jeep and all of a sudden they started hearing machine gun bullets zipping over their heads. Bell distinctly remembers the sound a machine gun bullet makes when it zips over. He looked to the right and there was a gully, the driver drove into the gully and they were headed towards a barbed wire fence. As the jeep passed through the fence Bell grabbed the barbed wire with his hand and lifted it above the jeep. His hands were cut up and he had to wait until his hands healed until he could dig his own foxhole. Bell remembers a lot of self sacrifice.Bell and his regiment were marching one day and came to a river. They were instructed to march across the river. They found a sliver of a dam and had to cross it with each man holding on to the man in front of him. The entire regiment crossed the dam in that fashion. It was pitch black in the middle of the night when they made that crossing.

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Bell and his men got on the other side of the river and did not lose a single man. This was remarkable because each man had a lot of equipment on them that would have made not drowning extremely difficult. When they got on the other side of the river they believed that the Germans might be waiting on the other side. As soon as they crossed the river they were able to dig in and defend a hill that the Germans would surely be coming for. Bell was able to position his machine gunners in such a place that a lethal crossfire was set up. The artillery was on the other side of the river but they were still able to relay instructions and fire missions. When the Germans came up the hill they walked into a slaughter. The commander of his regiment said that he had never seen so many dead Germans in one place in his entire experience. At that point, Bell and his men were the closest people to Paris. Bell states that they did not enter Paris because they wanted a more famous regiment to walk in.There was a captain that Bell knew who everyone disliked. There was an incident when the captain refused to listen to the men when they said that they could not take the position. The captain threatened court martial for any man who did not partake. Eventually the men had to follow orders and nearly all of them were slaughtered. To this day it still makes Bell angry.

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The captain was severely disliked. Bell remembers the captain being in the back all the time and he did not have much communication with the men. It hurt Bell to see a man give commands blindly without knowing the men who's lives he was putting at risk.Towards the end of the war Bell was capturing a lot of German soldiers. He remembers them being full of pride but also very defeated. They were loyal to the last. They did realize though that the fight was hopeless.Bell also kept a 35 millimeter camera with him throughout his combat experience. Much to his surprise he was never stopped. He took a lot of pictures of French women. There were a lot of pictures that were not developed. There was one town where Bell made friends with a local man who owned a camera store and some of the pictures were developed then.Bell did not talk about his experiences before he saw the movie Saving Private Ryan. He realized after the movie that it was important for his story to be told and that he should take an active interest in developing the film he had and reaching out to people who would like to hear his story.

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