A Reason to Join

Training to go

Training for North Africa

Fighting in North Africa

Fighting in North Africa

Kasserine Pass

Hill 609

Meeting the Germans head on

Their uniforms were empty

Fighting in North Africa comes to a close

Landing at Sicily

The first 3 days in Sicily

The end of the Sicilian campaign and the dreaded Screaming Mimis

More stories from Sicily

Preparing for Normandy

Landing at Omaha Beach

Get off the landing craft!

Breaking through on Omaha Red Beach

Getting up the bluffs

Fighting at the top of the bluffs

The night of June 6th and morning of June 7th 1944

Stories from the Invasion

End of combat and beginning of new responsibilities

Reflections

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Harley Reynolds served with the 1st Infantry Division from the time that he went in. He was in the 16th Infantry Regiment and served in B Company. Reynolds jokes that B stands for the best company. Reynolds was born in St. Charles, Virginia in 1924. St. Charles is a coal mining town. Reynolds was old enough during the Depression to realize how severe it was. The effects on the population were obvious. People suffered. Reynolds wonders and worries a lot about the current recession that is taking place. Reynolds did not start school until he was nine years old. His sister was born with a condition that left her weak. His parents wanted to make sure he did not start school until his sister was in school so that he could look after her. Reynolds would borrow books to learn. His mother was not able to teach Reynolds much. She knew her ABCs and her arithmetic. In Reynolds second year of school he was skipped ahead to the 3rd grade. Reynolds recalls that the children he went to school with were incredibly poor. Up until the snow got to ankle deep they did not have shoes. It was a very sad time. Reynolds went to that school until about halfway through the 4th grade. Reynolds went to the junior high school in town. The stories people hear about grandpa having to walk miles and miles to school are somewhat true. Reynolds parents were able to arrange a deal with a local cab driver to get him and his sister to school. Reynolds got sick and he missed a year of school. They allowed his mother to get books for him for that grade. Reynolds was 14 or 15 years old when he got sick. They wanted Reynolds to take that year over again. His next door neighbor had joined the Army when Reynolds was 16 years old. His neighbor was the first Command Sergeant Major of the Army. Reynolds saw his neighbors coming by with their uniforms on and it inspired him. He had his parents sign so he could go in early. That is what started it. Reynolds took the oath in Roanoke Virginia on 27 December 1940. From Roanoke he went into Washington DC and then into New York City to Grand Central Station. Reynolds was assigned to a unit. The 1st Infantry Division was his unit and there was nothing he could do about it. He woke up to this realization at Fort Jay in New York.

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Harley Reynolds had never been more than 20 or 30 miles away from home. In one day’s time, he more than exceeded that distance. His mind settled down a bit when they got into infantry training. The 1st Infantry Division was scattered all over the place. They had units in Puerto Rico and all over the United States. They recalled everybody and got the division all in one place. This occurred at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. They finished their infantry training at Fort Devens. They did a maneuver at Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts for Secretary of War Stimson. Reynolds felt like the maneuver was a flop. They realized they had a long way to go to master the art of amphibious warfare. They went through another maneuver off the coast of North Carolina. The 1st Infantry Division was the assaulting force and the 36th Infantry Division from Texas was the defensive force. The Marines were also involved in these exercises. The referees declared the 1st Infantry Division the victors. They pulled another land maneuver in North Carolina. Reynolds got a chance to go home for a week. During his week home Pearl Harbor was attacked. Reynolds and some buddies had planned a hike into the mountains and when they returned from their hike they found out that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. It was on the radio. All soldiers were ordered to report back to base but Reynolds had a week of leave left so he attempted to call his base but to no avail. Reynolds decided to take his week off anyways. He was able to hitchhike his way back to Fort Devens because a union strike had caused rail disruption near New York City. When he got back the rumors were flying about a potential Japanese invasion along the west coast and a potential German invasion coming from across the Atlantic. The division then moved to a base in Florida and they were given sun tan khakis. The rumor then was that they were being trained for the Pacific Theater. They had to do a lot of training in the swamps. Training in the swamps was miserable. Reynolds notes that the soldiers in the Pacific had to contend with that type of environment. Their suntan khakis were taken away from them and they were shipped to a camp in Pennsylvania where they were issued wool uniforms. Then they were shipped to New York City and put on the Queen Mary. Reynolds recalls it was a miserable walk to get on the boat because they had to carry two barracks bags and everything they owned. It was a lot of gear.

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Harley Reynolds learned immediately on the Queen Mary that they were headed for England because the crew passed along that information to the guys. Instead of landing in England they landed in Scotland. They landed near the Firth of Clyde. There were so many ships that they had to wait their turn to land. They took the train down to Salisbury which is in central England. They were introduced to a lot of things that were interesting to Reynolds. Reynolds had never tasted hot tea before and has been a tea drinker ever since. They were stationed in Tidworth Barracks in England. They were given two canteens instead of just one in preparation for the invasion of North Africa. Their tents were of good quality and they protected them from some of the elements. They were told that the Queen Mary was fast enough to not require convoy duty. The ship was fast enough to avoid torpedoes. They made it to England alright. They made a practice landing in Scotland. They realized later that the planning for North Africa had been going along for a long time. After the practice landing in Scotland they went back to Glasgow. They ended up sailing again and this time the crew had no idea where they were going. The English crew explained once they passed Spain that the lights were from the shore. They could also see Morocco. It was at night and the sky was clear. Reynolds could tell the English onboard the ship were nervous because they were going through the Strait of Gibraltar and it was infested by u boats. The next day they were given a brief explanation as to why they were where they were. The men were told they were there to invade North Africa near the town of Oran. They did expect casualties. There was a question as to whether or not the French were going to fight back. Company B was tasked to hit the beach and move to the left near the town of Macta. The company was to take this town and secure a railway. It was the entire left flank of the invasion.

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Harley Reynolds notes that today everything is different from what they were doing. Reynolds notes that they had to do a job that would have been assigned to the Rangers but at that point there were no Rangers. Reynolds was part of a group of about 15 guys. They had a rifle squad and a machine gun squad. Everybody carried extra equipment such as TNT and explosives. They needed the TNT because they had to mine the bridges. The bridge had to be wired because if they suddenly could not hold the bridge it would have to be blown up so nobody could cross it. There was a marsh that made the bridge a strategic point. If units could not cross the bridge then they were forced into an eight mile run around to get where the other side of the bridge connected to. Reynolds’ group was the first group to hit the beach. They landed and crossed the railroad track and got to the top of the mountain. They went down behind the mountain and started east. After getting to a certain point they came down off of the mountain and a town was there that they took over. They established the eastern end of the invading forces. They met a group of Arabs on that trip and they knew what American cigarettes were and were eager to get them. The Arabs spoke a little bit of French. When they were approaching the village of Macta the French laid down some artillery fire against the guys. Their regimental cannon company returned the fire and the battle really started for Reynolds and his battalion. One of the first people killed there was one of Reynolds best friends. He was shot in the leg by a French civilian with a shotgun. They were getting into position with their machine gun and two motorcycles with side cars. Their machine gunner froze and so did his assistant gunner. It happens in combat. Reynolds took over as the gunner and from that point on he was the gunner. The assistant gunner later became Reynolds best friend. His name was Brad and he was from Biloxi, Mississippi. Reynolds automatically took the position. Some guys hold up under it and some people do not. Reynolds was the first ammo carrier so it was his job to take over if the guys were hit or froze. Many times they endured combat and counterattacks from the Germans. His assistant gunner was killed later on. Africa represented hardships because of the terrain. The fighting was mountainous.

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Harley Reynolds was one of the first people under fire during the invasion of North Africa. Reynolds saw fighting on Hill 523 in Northern Tunisia. It started off with Reynolds and ended with Reynolds. He was one of 13 survivors in the battalion from the battle of Hill 523. Most of the battalion including their battalion commander was a prisoner. The individual stories have come out later on but at the time not too many people knew about all of this. They came back to where they made the invasion of Africa to hold a memorial service for the men lost in North Africa. It was the saddest memorial service he had ever been a part of. They started to train for the invasion of Sicily but at that point nobody knew. They did not find out until they were on the ship and heading to the invasion point. They saw action before Kasserine Pass. They were stationed with some of the English troops that had made their own invasion of North Africa. Reynolds and the Americans landed in Algiers and the English landed in Tunisia. When the campaign settled down their unit stayed near where they landed for awhile. Their job was to protect the rear lines and to guard an airport. They had built an emergency air base there to handle medical casualties and supplies. Some of those planes came in so shot up that it was hard to believe they were still able to fly. They would try to get the planes in good enough shape to fly. For a month and half they enjoyed occupation duty. Additional troops were coming in for a big push. The equipment and the soldiers had to be built up. As those things materialized they were moved back into the front. Reynolds’ Company B was sent out to set up an outpost. Their job was to keep a road under surveillance. If the Germans started moving west along the road they would have to get out of there and report it. It was constant fighting at that point and it seemed that every day they were on the attack. There were quite a few battles that led up to Kasserine Pass. They took the town of Gafsa. Company B led the charge on this one and they were able to take it. There was not much actual fighting that took place there. The armored troops bore the brunt of the combat. One of the armored regiments had tanks and half tracks to transport soldiers but Reynolds notes that most of the armor they had in North Africa was too light to go up against what the Germans had. American tanks at this time did not have a chance against the German tanks. They outran and outshot the Sherman tanks. A lot of little individual fights took place. When the armor made their attack against Gafsa it was against mainly Italian troops. A lot of the war involved troops shifting for position. There was a lot of shifting of troops.

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Harley Reynolds’s 2nd battalion was in Faid Pass when the Germans made an attack to penetrate their lines and take some of the towns they had taken. As Reynolds mentioned before, there was no fighting involved but rather a switching of positions. When the Germans decided to make their push to get the Americans out of North African they hit Faid Pass and rather handily threw the Americans out of the area. One of Reynolds 2nd cousins was captured from Company E. Reynolds saw them getting captured and they were in such proximity they could not shoot to save their friends. The next time Reynolds saw him was after the war was over. That was a prelude to Kasserine Pass. They took Gafsa and that was another instance where they took a position without incurring any casualties. They were on trucks making their way up from Gafsa. This was southwest of Kasserine Pass. The trucks dumped them off and they went into position on either side of Kasserine Pass. The Pass moved through the mountains in a south westerly direction. If the Germans had hit them right when they set up they would have easily busted through. Their most powerful weapon available was a .30 caliber machine gun. Reynolds notes there was an armored force that made some reconnaissance southeast of Kasserine Pass. They shifted from each side of the pass a couple of times trying to figure out what was the best side to defend. Troops were running back for about a day and a half. It was a constant back and forth for their company because the situation was frantic and constantly changing. The German Air Force showed up and that was how the Germans would attack. They attacked with Stukas [Annotators Note: Junkers Ju87] which were the dive bombers. The United States Air Force was nowhere to be seen at first but they ended up cutting them off at Kasserine Pass. Reynolds could look out and see the giant trail of dust from the advancing German Army and they were all headed towards Kasserine Pass. The word started to get passed around. The American artillery was moving in and they took a defensive position. The German planes were strafing the American artillery lines. They had 75 millimeter howitzers and were attempting to knock out German tanks. They felt uneasy looking out at this situation. The advancing Germans got to about halfway across the valley on the approach to Kasserine Pass. All of a sudden the English P40s and American P47s came in and started hitting the German army. A huge battle raged on and it started from early mid day to the end of the day. The Spitfire had a 20 millimeter gun on it and if they zeroed it in properly they could blow the turret off of a tank. After the battle was over they loaded up on trucks and drove through the area where most of the fighting had taken place. The tanks that were knocked out had immense damage done to them.

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Harley Reynolds notes that when the sun went down that night fighters would sweep over German positions dropping flares so that they could continue to hit the Germans all night long. Reynolds could see the bombs hitting at night. He still sees the battle in his head and he thinks it is a shame that nobody got it on camera. The 9th Infantry Division was there and was involved in the fighting at Kasserine. The 34th Infantry Division was also there. Kasserine was in the southern part of Tunisia and not far from Gafsa. After the battle of Kasserine Pass was over the Air Force was in hot pursuit of the Germans. Reynolds was in such a position with his unit that he was above the desert floor and could look out and see everything that was transpiring before him. Their unit was pulled out and they were moved north. They got into the fighting at Matur which was a big battle for them. The war in North Africa was coming to a close and Hill 609 came into play. Patton came up for a personal inspection which was strange. The 34th Division had been making an attack on Hill 609 for a considerable amount of time. The leaders had a lot of confidence in the 1st Division. From Reynolds’s position they could see the battle on Hill 609. The 9th Division was assigned to attack and Reynolds and the 1st Division were in a position to see the attack in progress. If they were to fail in the attack, the 1st Division was in reserve. The battle for North Africa was a battle for position. They got ready to jump off into the attack. Reynolds was ready and in position manning a machine gun. His squad leader was wounded badly in this battle. He was hit in the legs by a German 47 millimeter gun. He made it back to the aid station but was dragging strips of flesh which were his legs. He got help within 75 yards of the front. He was out of the war. Their battalion commander was also wounded at that time. Captain Smith was a company commander who eventually became a famous General. He was also wounded and was in the same litter as Smith. Reynolds’s battalion commander bummed a cigarette off of Captain Smith when they were both wounded lying in the litter. General Patton along, with their regimental commander, inspected Reynolds’s position. Reynolds watched Patton watch the battle on Hill 609. Reynolds heard Patton’s tanks fire up behind him. Three light tanks got in position. An antitank gun that was on the hill they were going to attack opened up on the tanks. One of the tanks was knocked out quickly. Within seconds another three tanks made a run and the lead tank was knocked out again. Patton was furious watching this happen. Patton was trying to stop the attack because he realized it was futile. He called off the attack and then told the regimental commander to get his men ready for the next morning to take the hill.

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Harley Reynolds notes that by one in the morning they stopped and rested. The next morning they were in position and some of the troops were jumping off to attack Hill 609. Their attack took place across a wheat field. They made their move to get on the hill. It was morning and still dark so the Germans would send flares up to see. When it came Reynolds turn to fall in at the end of the column which was attacking, they had reached the foot of the hill. All of a sudden someone said Germans and started firing. They looked up and the Germans were right next to them. Some of the men who survived noted how close the combat was. It was one of those things that happened so quickly it caught the Germans by surprise too. The Germans broke and ran for a ledge that was behind them. Reynolds was one of 42 men that were left and they dug in as best as they could. The Germans came again and this all happened within about a five minute time frame. They had made quick shelter and were able to drive the Germans back again. This happened two or three times throughout the day. A German stood up on the ledge and asked Reynolds and his group to surrender. A GI next to Reynolds shot the German dead. This made Reynolds nervous because he realized then that they were outnumbered by the Germans. They did not have contact with the rest of the battalion. One or two of the men had gotten a radio working again and they made contact with the battalion to lay out artillery fire. The Germans were stopped cold by the artillery. The two men on the radio were in front of Reynolds about 35 yards. Their artillery fire came in short and killed the two guys on the radio. Reynolds saw that happen about 35 yards away and it was a sad thing to see. The explosion Reynolds saw did not blow them sideways. The explosion lifted the two men off the ground and they fell to the ground crumpled up. The uniforms seemed to not matter to Reynolds because he knew when they fell that there was nobody in them. It was a very bloody scene. Reynolds looked at the scene a number of times because he saw their blood baking on the rocks. The battalion had them in view and Reynolds suspects that they saw the short rounds land because the fire rose immediately. Reynolds notes that there is an article in a hard cover magazine put out by the Turner Publishing company but he has not been able to find a copy of it. The magazine describes the battle Reynolds is talking about. That particular magazine described the battle as one of the toughest of the whole North African campaign. Throughout the whole day they were getting attacked by the Germans. They only had a few wounded because everybody was killed. When dark came the word passed they were going to make a run for it. When the darkness hit they broke out into a run. The Germans started an attack from the northwest. The Germans did not realize that the Americans had retreated. The Germans clearly had no intention of taking any prisoners. Everybody who was alive made it into a ditch. A few of the wounded men were dragging behind.

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Harley Reynolds notes that a few of the wounded men were dragging behind. They made it to the trench area. They had men already in the trench area and they recognized Reynolds and his group as friendly. Reynolds was carrying a machine gun tripod. A couple of his men who carried machine gun ammunition were cut down. Another one of his men had been sent back before daylight for ammunition. When he came back with the ammunition it was daylight and he could not traverse the wheat field because it was too obvious. Out of the machine gun section Reynolds was a part of, only three guys made it off of the hill. They had 13 men out of the original 42 that were on the hill. Everybody else out of the battalion was captured. The Germans were able to take all of these prisoners without taking a shot. The moonlight and the flares helped the Germans and they allowed the Americans to walk right on top of their lines and then force them into an easy surrender. Reynolds interviewed a man after the war was over. He was taken prisoner at Hill 523. There was a big overhang at the bottom of the mountain. The Germans gathered the prisoners underneath the overhang. The rest of the day they got blasted by American artillery but they were protected from it. Later that night one of Reynolds’s men had to go back on the hill to recover his mortar sight. There were no Germans on the hill but history does not record it that way. Reynolds has on tape and in text the story of the man who got the mortar sight. That was the last action Reynolds saw in North Africa. This action took place sometime around 29 April 1943.

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Harley Reynolds and his unit trained for Sicily on an incredibly rocky shoreline. The shore they actually landed on in Sicily was steep and sandy. Reynolds recalls studying the sand tables for the invasion. Most of the guys were resentful that they had been chosen for another invasion and were asking why they could not send someone else. On the way to Sicily a storm blew up in the Mediterranean and caused 65 mile per hour winds which created massive waves. Reynolds recalls hearing the man overboard alert during the storm when he was topside. The vomiting and sea sickness was with everyone. The man overboard was incredibly heartbreaking because Reynolds knew that there was no chance of saving the man. They had the new LCVP landing craft for the invasion of Sicily. Reynolds does not recall any of the craft sinking. The closer they got to the Sicilian shoreline the less wind there was. Reynolds was one of the first soldiers on the beach and was able to run off because of not being sea sick. Some of the soldiers stumbled off because they were so sick. If the Germans had mounted an attack at the initial landing they may have knocked them out. The Germans had a search light but apparently were not using it for any military purposes. The search light was knocked out as soon as possible by a destroyer. They hit the beach right at the break of day but it was still dark. Reynolds heard someone approaching where he was and was able to stick his gun into the man’s gut. Reynolds was with his captain and his captain gave the man a slight jab with the bayonet to ensure his hands went in the air. Reynolds stole his Italian officer’s pistol. Reynolds went on ahead to set up his machine gun with a clear field of fire for support.

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Harley Reynolds recognizes that the invasion [Annotators Note: the invasion of Sicily] was fairly easy in terms of getting men ashore. Reynolds and his unit were in attack formation when a German plane came in low for what appeared to be a reconnaissance run. Shortly after that a gas attack warning came through and caused panic. Many of the men had thrown their gas masks away. There was a procedure in place that allowed for two men to survive using one gas mask. Fortunately it was a false alarm. Someone smelled the exhaust from the plane and thought it was gas. The next morning they went to make their attack but the Germans had beaten them to it. The Germans attacked with mechanized vehicles and very little infantry. Patton was surprised by this attack so he ordered in the rest of the paratroopers who were in Africa who had not jumped yet. The next night they dropped and there was a serious case of friendly fire. It was a terrible disaster. Reynolds saw many of their own planes falling out of the sky. He saw men jumping out of the planes on fire without deployed parachutes. Reynolds lost his friend Bradshaw on the first morning of the attack. German tanks played a key role in the battle. They were displaced from their positions. Reynolds told Bradshaw it was time to go and it was the last time he saw him. They lost a lot of men in the attack. Their battalion and company commander were killed along with a few of their squad leaders. Reynolds made his way along a cliff he had jumped off of. It took Reynolds nearly the whole day to get back to his company and when he got back the paratroopers began coming in. Most of the guys thought that Reynolds had been killed so it was a relief to the men when he showed up. Reynolds was given a Thompson submachine gun. The following morning they jumped off into the attack. Patton’s orders, time and time again, was to push. Reynolds was awarded his second Bronze Star for actions that morning. The first one he earned was during North Africa when he knocked out two German motorcycles. The second Bronze Star came on the third morning of the Sicily invasion. He came up against some pillboxes and unwisely decided he was going to take one of the pillboxes out by himself. He was able to coerce the remaining Germans in the pillbox to surrender. Reynolds saw a white flag stick out of the pillbox. They ended up being Italians. The last man out of the pillbox made a move to grab a rifle out of the pillbox and Reynolds cut him down with his Thompson. The rest of the prisoners dropped to the ground and surrendered easily. That is how Reynolds got his second Bronze Star.

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Harley Reynolds thinks he was crazy to have assaulted that pillbox by himself. Only four hours before he had learned that his friend Bradshaw had been killed. Perhaps he had revenge on his mind. From there on the battle went well for them. The navy had laid waste to the German counterattack from the sea. There were hundreds of tanks and mechanized vehicles that had been destroyed. The naval gunfire was instrumental in stopping the German attacks. At the town of Troina, they were bombed unintentionally by their own Air Force. The 2nd Battalion had a lot of casualties and they were on Reynolds right. Reynolds unit was close to cutting off the Germans at Messina but they watched them get away. The Sicilian campaign ended when they were stationed near Mount Etna. Reynolds witnessed an incident where one of the guards shot a fellow GI trying to get back on the line. The man that killed the GI was no good from that point on because his nerves were shot. He was put behind the lines as a cook and that did no well. The last Reynolds heard of him was that he was shipped to a quartermaster outfit. The nebelwerfer [Annotators Note: German rocket mortar] attacks were worse than being bombed by aircraft. The shell it fired was very big. The explosion was loud from the shells but it did not produce much shrapnel. Reynolds recalls seeing these shells hit. The noise they made was quite odd. The nebelwerfers were nearly impossible to predict in terms of where they were going to land. Reynolds personally witnessed a nebelwerfer rocket landing. From his foxhole a few yards away it seemed like the explosion lifted him up. Reynolds feared them terribly. One of the nebelwerfers had a five shot barrel system set up like the cylinder on a revolver. The cylinder did not rotate but rather each rocket was wired to fire. In a few seconds time five shots would be fired. They sounded like bottle rockets to a degree. The rocket would get to a spot quicker than the sound coming from the rocket. The GIs called them Screaming Mimis. They are hard to describe. Reynolds heard American rockets at Omaha Beach and they did not sound at all like the nebelwerfers.

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Harley Reynolds went through the town of Troina but did not fight there. Company F ran into most of the resistance there. The last serious stand the Germans made was at Troina. After that they made haste for Messina. On the second day of the campaign, after the Germans had made their counter attack, Reynolds recalls seeing some paratroopers. He called to them to get their attention to make sure they did not shoot at him. There was a blockhouse that resembled a sort of old western style fort made of logs. Inside the blockhouse were several paratroopers who were drunk. There were dead Germans and Italians lying around. Reynolds was offered a drink of wine which he gladly accepted. There were probably thousands of gallons of wine there. Reynolds did not finish his canteen of wine but it was an interesting experience none the less. Then Reynolds headed back to join his unit.

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Harley Reynolds and his unit disembarked from Sicily near the beach where they landed. There was a convoy on the way from India and they hitched a ride when the convoy stopped near Sicily. Some of the ships in the convoy were passenger ships. Reynolds slept in the hallway of a ship. General Patton had requested that the men in the convoy be topside so he could make a pass and the men could cheer him. Not one soldier cheered for Patton. The cruise back to England was uneventful. They were never berated for not cheering Patton. Once back in England they began to train. They made two or three mock invasions to prepare for the Normandy Invasion. They practiced at a placed called Slapton Sands. For their last practice invasion they were given a lot of ammunition and it was all live fire. The men were based out of a town called Lyme Regis, England. Reynolds had a girlfriend in Lyme Regis. They were taken out of their bivouac in Lyme Regis and put into a camp. The guys nicknamed these camps sausage camps because of their size. They were behind barbed wire and were essentially treated like prisoners. [Annotators Note: The men were put behind barbed wire to protect the secrecy of the invasion.] They were put aboard ships in Weymouth, England. They set sail but the invasion had been cancelled and pushed back 24 hours so they came back to port. The next time they set sail they were reintroduced to the sand tables and the men went over their assignments again.

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Harley Reynolds and his unit were given a specific assignment. The planners were aware that their beachhead was defended. Men were instructed not to stop and help anyone hit but to keep moving inland because initial penetration was key to the invasion. The method of invasion was to make contact with the Germans to locate them. Once located, they were to push inland and get through the fortifications. Reynolds remembers saying so long to many of the guys. One man was incredibly fearful about his chances of survival. Reynolds realized they had no option but to fight. They were 12 miles out to sea when they unloaded from their mother ships. [Annotators Note: Reynolds unloaded from the USS Chase.] The weather was still terrible at that point. Their experience in Sicily had helped them out a little bit but it was still a mess. It was a long rough ride into the beach. Everybody was drenched and cold going in to the beach. They landed at low tide. The first row of obstacles was uncovered by the low tide so they had no problem getting through them. Since it was low tide they had about 300 extra yards of beach to run across. Reynolds recalls that the incoming fire did not start until they were all off of the boat. Reynolds’s radioman was hit standing on the ramp of the boat. The second man off of the boat was hit but he is still alive. The air was filled with bullets.

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Harley Reynolds remembers the air filling with bullets. About 20 or 30 yards in, Reynolds made it to an obstacle called a hedgehog. The bullets seemed to be permeating every inch of available air. Reynolds realized he had to move and he ran about 300 yards to the shingle. At the shingle, they were not able to move because of the barbed wire. Reynolds remained in that position for about an hour. There was a lot of artillery and machine gun fire. Reynolds saw many men being killed and wounded. A man crawled up next to Reynolds and he was rigging a bangalore torpedo to knock out the barbed wire. At first, the bangalore did not explode because it was either wet or defective. The man who rigged the bangalore was hit almost immediately and Reynolds watched him die. To Reynolds that man was the greatest hero on the beach because he was able to clear a path for people to get off of the beach. Reynolds was the first one through the wire at that point. As soon as he cleared the wire there was a pond he had to run through. One buddy of Reynolds had a miracle wound that allowed him to go back stateside. Reynolds attempted to locate the man later on in life and found out he lived through his wounds. There were a lot of casualties caused by the mining of the beach. It was hard to advance through the mines because one had to be aware of the enemy as well.

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Harley Reynolds turned left after getting to the top of the bluff. A man passed Reynolds and tripped a mine which caused him to be blown in half. Reynolds had to go past the man and he barely looked at him. Reynolds located a path and another man passed him on it. Looking back at the beach Reynolds saw another bangalore torpedo go off. If Reynolds was able to put a time on when that bangalore torpedo went off he would be able to figure out the exact timetable for where he was geographically in relation to the invasion. Reynolds was near the top of the bluff when the bangalore went off. He recalls that Company A took a beating because as soon as they got to the top of the bluff they took cover in an antitank ditch and got stuck. Reynolds has memories that sneak up on him. Reynolds landed in the Easy Red sector. One of the pillboxes that was set up at Easy Red was set up in such a way that it covered the beach in a flanking position. Most of the pillboxes were set up to not fire directly out to sea. This was so that their position could not be located by naval ships.

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Harley Reynolds remembers artillery fire coming in from one of the supporting ships out at sea. The shells came just over Reynolds’s head and he saw them slam into a pillbox. That pillbox is still there today. A number of stories have gone around regarding that pillbox but Reynolds notes that in no way did it begin to fire again. A lot of people have asked Reynolds what the holdup was on the beach. Reynolds replies that you had to have been there. Reynolds came upon an entrenched area which was designed to protect the pillbox. He notes that some of the historical documented material is wrong because he witnessed otherwise. He recalls coming upon a set of fortifications so he opened fire upon them. He gave some orders to the other machine gun crew then realized the Germans were moving again near the fortifications. At approximately that same time, Reynolds saw an American approach the fortifications and drop a grenade in it. There were a total of half a dozen grenades thrown into the fortifications. After the grenade blast, the Germans in the trench system surrendered. The other troops were from the 29th Infantry Division, 116th Infantry Regiment, Company M. They had landed where they were supposed to land. Reynolds fired on a group of three Germans that did not drop their weapons. As soon as they heard Reynolds firing they dropped their weapons and surrendered. Reynolds witnessed a German half track that was making a run inland. No one got a shot off on the half track.

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Harley Reynolds, through subsequent research, was able to find out what the German half track was doing there. The half track was there to tow antitank artillery pieces around. As a result of the fighting at the top of the bluffs Reynolds got separated from his unit. Reynolds was told how to meet up with Company B. Reynolds decided to backtrack because he did not make contact with his unit. More and more troops were moving inland at that point. Reynolds asked another man where Company B was and it turned out to be a dead end again. Reynolds realized at one point that he was alone so he slowed down. The entire time he was moving he was watching for mines. It began to get late in the day so Reynolds made his way to a well traveled road. At one point he ran into a German gun and he froze. He heard laughing and it was a paratrooper who had knocked out the gun. The paratrooper told him to not go any further. Reynolds sat down in the ditch with the paratrooper and he ended up spending the night there. The next morning movement started as troops began to move inland. Reynolds recalls a master sergeant coming to grab the paratroopers. He saw the paratroopers load up on a half track weapons carrier.

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Harley Reynolds and his unit were moving inland toward their objective. The first troops from his unit he ran into were the cooks. They were able to get Reynolds to his unit by the end of the second day. Reynolds learned recently that the paratroopers he stayed with were specifically dropped there to eliminate some artillery pieces. Reynolds was given credit for being in the first wave. There were a lot of units that landed in the wrong place on 6 June. Reynolds’s unit landed exactly where it was supposed to. Technically there were no troops where Reynolds landed and that made them a part of the first wave even though they were designated for the second wave. Their unit was given a Presidential Unit Citation for opening up that beach. Reynolds carried a bolt action rifle. He carried this because he was loaded down with anti tank grenades. Reynolds fired maybe three or four rounds during the invasion. Reynolds notes how he has heard all types of crazy stories from that beach.

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Harley Reynolds’s company came across some German collaborators who had killed themselves once they realized the Americans were there. They found a little girl who had been wounded. Reynolds has since gone back to the same area and even tried to contact the mayor to figure out who that little girl was. That first night with his unit, a group of Germans counterattacked. They had been hiding out up until that point and were not counterattacking but rather trying to get back to where they were supposed to be. Reynolds’s unit was the spearhead through an area that had been heavily bombed for an attack. Reynolds took shrapnel all over the place. He made it all the way through to the Hurtgen Forest. Reynolds was given relief from the line and was shipped back to England. He spent the rest of the war in England training men who were going into combat. They ran up against the problem of not having any replacements left. At this point in the war they were taking whatever they could get. They were given 30 days of infantry training before being shipped to the front lines. Reynolds trained multiple groups. He realized that they were hurting for replacements but has not been able to find good documentation on this.

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For Harley Reynolds, it was extremely emotional going back to Normandy for the first time. Reynolds and the honorary colonel of the reunion group installed a plaque near the golf course. The emotion of the moment hit Reynolds and he froze up and could not talk. He walked about 100 yards from the golf course clubhouse and it was extremely difficult for him. The emotion seized him a few times. The second time he went back he went back to help out with a documentary. Reynolds was filmed walking among the headstones and he came across a headstone that said unknown on it. It hurt Reynolds seeing that unknown headstone. Having unknown on a tombstone can meet a lot of things. To that soldier’s family it means someone is gone and they never heard from him again. Reynolds was not able to talk to anybody about the war when he got home. There were occasions when he spoke but those were few and far between. The first time Reynolds tried to contact the division or association was in 1990. Reynolds worked with a man for 20 years before he realized he served in the same division. The 1st Infantry Division did not serve in Korea but members of the division did serve on detached duty. Reynolds still thinks long and hard about the things that happened and the things that did not happen.
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