Early Life

Normandy

Holland, Belgium and Germany

Normandy Action

Screw Ups

Merderet Combat

Men and Weapons

Dereliction of Duty

Capturing La Fiere

Experiencing Combat

Glider Infantry

Leadership

WWII Museum Visit

Reflections

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James Livaudais was born in Jefferson Parish in Louisiana. He was one of eight children. There were six boys and two girls. His father was a carpenter who had worked for the railroad prior to a strike in 1923. Following the strike, his father did not return to work for the railroad. He became a carpenter instead. Livaudais had older brothers who worked as a roofer, a Parish worker and a mechanic. His sister also worked. There were three siblings younger than Livaudais. Three of his siblings went into the service during the war. One was killed. Livaudais went into the 82nd Airborne in the service. During the Depression, he walked to school and obtained a job at an early age. He turned his earnings over to his mother. She only gave him a 50 cent allowance no matter how much he earned. He learned that he had to cash his check and give money to his mother so he could retain a bit more spending money. His family had very little money. Livaudais was a fireman in a fire department when he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. He received a good wage at that time but he got his greetings from the government and was drafted. He went to Camp Beauregard in Louisiana and then Camp Claiborne where the 82nd was activated. General Omar Bradley was in command of the camp.

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James Livaudais entered the service in March 1942. His division was to be the Sergeant York Division. The decision was made to develop more airborne troops. Livaudais’ division was divided into two new divisions—the 82nd and the 101st Airborne Divisions. Livaudais would be assigned to the 101st but after training at Fort Bragg he was transferred to the 82nd. This was before going overseas. Change was always certain. He arrived in Reading, England and stayed at an English barracks that was not bad. His outfit was transferred to another location where they lived in tents. The men remained there for additional training. [Annotator’s Note: Livaudais later in the interview remembered the town in England where he trained and lived in a tent before the action in Normandy. It was Leicester, England.] From that training site, the airborne troops went into a staging area to fly into Normandy. The destination in Normandy was about eight miles inland at St. Mere Eglise. Despite the vertical poles that the Germans had installed as obstacles, Livaudais’ glider pilot managed to find a place to safely land. After takeoff, the glider wheels were dropped so that the aircraft would land on skids. The glider would stop when it rose up on its nose and came to a stop. The stop was aided by a hedgerow. A couple men were hurt in the landing. The men had to rapidly exit the glider because machine gun fire was quickly on them. From that point, the men had to muster and attempt to find their company command post. The men drew together and became a fighting force. A day or two later, the airborne troops found the Merderet crossing. [Annotator’s Note: the targets of the airborne troops were the capture of key bridges and road intersections. The Merderet River crossed a causeway road near La Fiere. Fierce fighting included a German counterattack which transpired at that location.] The battle there was indescribable. There was a long causeway with swamps on both sides. Enemy machine gun fire cut many men down. It took a whole platoon to get the guns together. Livaudais was a staff sergeant leading an 81mm mortar squad. The large mortar shells were carried by supporting troops. Those men wore a canvas vest that had pockets for the individual mortar rounds. There were three shells in the front and three in the back of the vest. The first three men in the squad were the gunner, the base plate and the tube. They did not carry ammunition. There were six squads with nine men each for a total of 54 men in the platoon. There were also three section leaders and a platoon sergeant for a total of 58 men in the platoon. The men found themselves fighting in one direction and then in another without getting replacements. Airborne troops did not get replacements at night. The triangular divisions with their 15,000 troops did get replacements for their losses at night. Replacements were coming but since the airborne was eight miles inland, it was impossible to replace their lost men. Livaudais and his outfit stayed in Normandy for 33 days. They were withdrawn when they were near St. Lo. The town was badly beaten up with a smell that was horrible. It was the stench of death. When the men of the 82nd returned to the beach, they were informed that they would exit Normandy by boat. When they peered out toward the English Channel, the boat they were to board was 600 yards out to sea. They went to sleep but could not anticipate how they would reach the boat to board it. When they awoke, they walked to the boat. [Annotator’s Note: the tides on the beaches of Normandy have a large deviation] It could have been a Higgins boat that took them back. The men returned to England to the same town where they had trained before. When Livaudais was back in the United States in the 101st Airborne, he was in Headquarters Company. When he learned that he was going into the 82nd Airborne before deployment, there were two options. He could be in a mortar platoon or a machine gun platoon. The men were randomly assigned to one or the other. That was how Livaudais ended up in a mortar platoon within his new company. Though he cannot remember the company commander for his company, he does remember that the machine gun platoon commander was a Lieutenant Travelstead. [Annotator’s Note: Lieutenant Lee C. Travelstead] During the retraining during July and August in England, Livaudais thought he would receive replacement troops. Instead, they were informed that they would be sent into Holland for an invasion there. [Annotator’s Note: Operation Market Garden occurred in Holland in September 1944.]

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James Livaudais flew from England to Holland on 17 September 1944. Flying at about 500 feet at 150 miles per hour, they received quite a bit of flak over enemy territory. The target was the Nijmegen Bridge. The glider landing went smoothly in open fields. Livaudais and his squad were to reach the command post for their assignment. This was accomplished. Pete Segula was the first sergeant. [Annotator’s Note: spelling of the first sergeant’s name could not be confirmed] From there, different assignments were given. About 60 days were spent in Holland. Afterward, the 82nd was withdrawn to Sissonne, France. They were told that they would rest there through Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, the Battle of the Bulge broke out in mid-November. [Annotator’s Note: the 82nd was used to reinforce the hard pressed American forces when the Battle of the Bulge began in mid-December 1944] The men were loaded up on trucks before midnight and rushed to the front. They were in the battle by early the next morning. The 82nd passed through Bastogne and progressed further toward the front. The 101st would go on to defend Bastogne. It was the 101st commander who said “nuts” to the German demand for their surrender. The 82nd fought in the Battle of the Bulge from that deployment to March. Livaudais went from Normandy to Berlin without missing anything. During his combat, Livaudais was frostbitten. He always had difficulty with his hands as a result. He was in a place called Tournai, Belgium. That was where he received his Bronze Star. He was on a rise above the city. He was on an outpost in front of the village. There, he met a jeep with a lieutenant with the artillery. The officer fled his position leaving Livaudais remaining in a foxhole overnight in the forward position. Livaudais was calling in artillery fire. The next morning he had a difficult time moving. He was swimming in snow. That morning another squad leader named Michael Croup relieved him. [Annotator’s Note: spelling of the squad leader’s name could not be confirmed] Livaudais withdrew from the front to get some sleep. Later that day, Livaudais was sent back to the forward position. He objected. He told his non-responsive commander that there were other squad and section leaders besides him and Croup. Their chances of getting killed were much greater since the other leaders were not being called on to share the duty. Livaudais did the second night anyway. The next morning, Lieutenant Travelstead said he was going to write Livaudais up for the Bronze Star. It was because of the hazardous duty he had to do as a forward observer. The replacement that night for Livaudais was Croup, again. That second night, the Germans took the forward observer position. Croup became a prisoner of war. Eventually, the frail man would die in a German camp. Livaudais and the man’s parents communicated by mail about this later. Livaudais turned out to be a lucky person in that case. There was a man of Polish descent named [inaudible] in Normandy. The man thought he was hit by enemy fire. It turned out to be oil which was used to lubricate his weapon. A piece of shrapnel had penetrated the can of oil and it had leaked on his leg. This same man was in the glider next to Livaudais flying into Holland. The man reached behind himself and pulled back a bloodied hand. He made a point of it not being oil that time. The gliders in Holland only had a pilot with no copilot like had been assigned in Normandy. One squad had their glider cut loose early and was captured by the enemy. It was bad in Tournai, Belgium. The 82nd fought their way through Germany and met the Russians coming from the opposite direction. The Germans preferred to surrender to the Americans not the Russians. After the war ended in Europe, the 82nd was slated to go to Japan. They were to be part of the invasion of the home islands. The war ended before that was necessary. The point system was implemented after the war. [Annotator’s Note: following the end of the war against Germany in May 1945, military personnel in Europe were allowed to return to civilian life if they had sufficient credits or points. The point system was the military rating system to prioritize the discharge of the more veteran troops before releasing more recent inductees. The system included credit for months in service, months served overseas, and number of children under 18, as well as combat decorations.] Livaudais knew he would have enough points with his tenure in combat and combat badge. Instead, he was in was two points short of the 85 needed. As a result, he had to serve in the occupation forces in Berlin. There was no trouble there. In German territory, the civilians were put out of their homes so that the Allied troops could be billeted there.

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James Livaudais flew in a glider over Allied shipping in the English Channel on his route to land in Normandy on D-Day. [Annotator’s Note: during the early morning hours of 6 June 1944] One of the ships below fired at the aircraft and a burst shoved the glider up about 40 feet. The Germans had positioned poles in the Norman countryside to serve as obstacles for gliders that were trying to land. The pilot managed to find a location that provided a safe landing for the glider. It came to a stop near a hedgerow and the men evacuated the aircraft quickly through the one exit door while machine gun fire was attempting to cut them down. The glider also had the capability to open the front for quick egress or if it carried a jeep. There was about 8,000 pounds of gear in the center of the glider. There were at least nine men in the glider as it carried Livaudais’ mortar squad of nine men at a minimum. The first instinct was to exit and hit the ground to get their bearings. The main priority was then to find the command post with the first sergeant and the company commander. Livaudais was to report to either. His platoon lieutenant was in another glider. There were about 1000 men in the battalion. During the battle for the Merderet causeway, there were many airborne casualties. Only 255 men came out of Normandy unhurt. Livaudais was one of the men who were not hurt during the combat. Some of the men who were lightly wounded would be treated and then released to return to their company. Going back into the fight could result in being wounded or even killed in action. [Annotator’s Note: at this point, Livaudais remembers the town in England where he trained before the action in Normandy. It was Leicester, England.] Livaudais reported to his section leader first and then the platoon sergeant as an alternate in Normandy. There was a section leader over two of the six squads in the platoon. In combat, you report to anyone who was higher in rank.

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James Livaudais remembers some of the men in his company who were not exactly the best soldiers. One was named James Kiss. He was an only child out of Columbus, Ohio. He was a screw up. One day First Sergeant Pete Segula came to Livaudais and told him that he was going to put Kiss in Livaudais’ squad with the idea of getting the errant man straightened out. [Annotator’s Note: the spelling of these names was not confirmed] When the gliders landed in Holland, the glider which carried Kiss’ previous squad had been shot down. Segula reported that Kiss was missing in action. Livaudais corrected the situation and reminded his First Sergeant that Kiss was not with the other squad but was now with him and therefore not missing in action. Segula agreed. Livaudais told Kiss to write his parents and tell them that he was not missing. While in Leicester, England prior to Holland, Kiss and Livaudais had sent flowers home to their loved ones so they knew then that he was alright. Later in Holland, Kiss and another man with him would be killed by one shell while in their foxhole. Kiss’ parents got contradictory messages and probably were very confused about the real situation. Another man named Ernest Mays was a buddy of Kiss. [Annotator’s Note: spelling of this surname was not confirmed] The two of them were fooling around with two 14 year old girls in Leicester and Mays got one pregnant. Mays came from a bad background. He had a girlfriend back in West Virginia. Nevertheless, Mays went back to England from France and married the young English girl and gave her a portion of his combat death insurance. Afterward, the Battle of the Bulge broke out and Mays returned to his old job with Livaudais’ squad. He carried the mortar base plate. [Annotator’s Note: Livaudais’ squad consisted of him carrying the 81mm mortar tripod and gun sight, a base plate carrier and the man that carried the mortar tube. Additionally, there were six mortar shell carriers who brought along six shells each. Livaudais was the squad leader and gunner.] There was an American attack on 5 January 1945 on an enemy position near the Hürtgen Forest. Nearly all Livaudais’ squad was lost but Mays survived. Livaudais and Mays were resting in a garage in the German town of Odenbach. A shell went off outside and cut Mays in half. He died shortly thereafter. That hurt Livaudais because the two men had soldiered together for about two and a half years. The men carried morphine into combat for the wounded. They would turn it in when they returned from the front. While in action inside the Siegfried Line near Odenbach, the platoon lieutenant told Livaudais to take another man and a bazooka and shoot into the aperture of an enemy pillbox. [Annotator’s Note: the Siegfried Line, or Westwall in German terminology, was a series of fortified positions for the final defense of the German border. Pillboxes with interlocking fire were spread continuously along the line. Additionally, there were concrete tank obstacles called “dragon’s teeth”. The Siegfried Line did not slow the Allied advance for very long. A bazooka team is comprised of the gunner and a loader.] When Livaudais and the other man finally reached the pillbox and loaded the bazooka, a sniper fired on them and shot the back end of the weapon off. Livaudais immediately withdrew and told the platoon lieutenant that he should send a tank up to fire on that pillbox. It was too dangerous for just a bazooka team. In that case, Livaudais had luck. It was not just a matter of being a good soldier. You had to have luck to survive.

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James Livaudais saw a man named Oseroff killed. That was the first combat death that Livaudais witnessed. He merely stepped over the man and moved on. [Annotator’s Note: the surname spelling was not confirmed] There were so many individuals lost. Probably half the men were lost in Livaudais’ heavy weapons company. Orders came down and the troops followed the leader into combat. [Annotator’s Note: the objectives of the airborne troops in Normandy were the capture of key bridges and road intersections. The Merderet River crossed a causeway road near La Fiere. Fierce fighting included a German counterattack at that location.] When the men advanced on Merderet causeway, they came out of a wooded area and immediately were under fire. There was machine gun fire and incoming shells. He had no idea how he survived it, but he managed. While advancing to the front, the squad leaders and the section leaders had maps so they knew where they were going. The men avoided grouping up too much. Ernie Mays and John Henry were with Livaudais when he advanced on Merderet. The three of them carried sections of the mortar that included the tube, the base plate and the tripod. Livaudais was not a squad leader at this point. He was the first gunner on the mortar. He made staff sergeant while in Holland. [Annotator’s Note: in September 1944 during Operation Market Garden] After his squad leader had been hurt in Normandy, Livaudais ran the squad. The same thing happened in Holland and the lieutenant informed Livaudais that he would be made a sergeant and squad leader. The promotion did not appeal to Livaudais but the officer told him that he had to run the squad whether he was going to remain a private or take the promotion. Livaudais was stuck at that point. He was made a sergeant and later a staff sergeant. When he began the crossing of the Merderet causeway, Livaudais could immediately tell it was the real thing. Enemy fire was heavy. All he could do was run for awhile then hit the ground and then run a bit more to try to reach the opposite side. He saw dead men every five feet. It was a straight run with swamp on both sides. There were American tanks going across at the same time. The Americans ultimately reached the opposite side. A machine gun platoon was set up but friendly artillery support was coming in too fast. It was necessary to communicate back to the batteries, but the thin wire used for communication was easily knocked out. There was a lot of shouting of orders and directions. In addition, the wounded shouted for medics to give them assistance. The crossing was awful. There were woods on both sides. Lieutenant Billingslea was already wounded and issued the orders to advance. He had tears in his eyes because he knew it would be awful. Billingslea was a very fine major at that time. [Annotator’s Note: Charles Billingslea of the 82nd Airborne would go on to become a general] General James “Slim Jim” Gavin helped carry ammunition to Livaudais’ mortar position. Gavin was a fantastic soldier and always in the thick of the fight. Matthew Ridgway was the same. Both of them could be seen where the action was. While Livaudais was hitting the ground, Gavin was walking across the causeway. Livaudais carried a 45 pound tripod across the causeway while under heavy enemy fire. There were machine guns facing them on both sides. The Americans had to take the town. Some of the squad were casualties and had to reach treatment in the rear. Some of the men were with Livaudais all the way through the war. At 25, Livaudais was among the older men. Two men were even in their 30s. The older men would not be in the forefront of an attack but would carry the packs for the other men who did advance. Ernie Mays was with him when he reached the opposite side. They saw dead men everywhere. Some German dead had a waxy look. Artillery fire was bad especially from the 88mm German guns. They had a flat trajectory. Those guns were deadly in Normandy. Tree bursts from artillery explosions overhead were also very dangerous. Hedgerows and the confusion of combat got men mixed up. Livaudais’ platoon leader got the men lost in hedgerows at one point for several days. They ultimately had to search for their unit until they were found. When the Americans reached the opposite side of the causeway, they quickly set up their weapons and were ready to fire. The ammunition carriers had to bring the mortar shells forward. In Holland, all the ammunition was placed by Livaudais’ gun. When it looked like the Germans were about to overrun his position, he fired his mortar so rapidly that the tube got red hot. The troops advanced in various directions during Normandy. The combat was tough. Sometimes a squad would be called forward but only a few of the men remained. Livaudais’ outfit reached St. Lo. It had been bombed extensively. At that juncture, they were withdrawn from Normandy.

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James Livaudais remembers certain names from his combat experience very vividly. Not all of them are mentioned in Company histories. One individual named Clarence Knudson was a strong machine gunner of Swedish background. Livaudais did not keep up with the man to know if he made it through the war. James Kiss was in Livaudais’ squad. [Annotator’s Note: Kiss was discussed earlier in the interview and described by Livaudais as being a “screw up.”] There was also a Billingsley in the mortar squad. [Annotator’s Note: not the officer discussed earlier in the interview. The spelling of the surname is not certain and the given name was not provided.] The men were separated at the end of the war. Some had enough points to return home and others, like Livaudais, had to remain on occupation duty because they had not accumulated sufficient points. [Annotator’s Note: following the end of the war against Germany in May 1945, military personnel in Europe were allowed to return to civilian life if they had sufficient credits or points. The point system was the military rating system to prioritize the discharge of the more veteran troops before releasing more recent inductees. The system included credit for months in service, months served overseas, and number of children under 18, as well as combat decorations. Livaudais had two less points than the 85 required to be allowed to return home.] Livaudais would be sent to Tempelhof Airport in Berlin to do guard duty. Peter Van Dyke was in his mortar squad. The two men continued to correspond long after the war ended. Even though Livaudais soldiered with men for nearly four years, he lost contact with most of them. From the standpoint of weaponry, both the Americans and the Germans used an 81mm mortar. The gun in Livaudais’ squad had a sight on it that allowed for it to be accurately fired in a pattern up to 600 yards. Range could be adjusted on the shell and phosphorous shells could be fired to see where the shell actually hit. The German machine gun was a very good weapon that could cut a man in half. It had a distinctive sound when it fired. The rate of fire was so rapid that it made a sound where individual rounds firing off could not be distinguished. [Annotator’s Note: Livaudais simulates the rapid fire sound of the Mauser MG 42 machine gun] The German machine gun fired so many rounds so quickly that it needed to have the barrel changed to prevent overheating. There was a lever on the side of the gun that released the heated barrel quickly. That allowed speedy insertion of a cool barrel to commence firing again. It was not advantageous to have to change barrels so many times in combat. It was obvious in a firefight when the German gunner was hit because he held the trigger down and the weapon just kept on firing continuously. The American equivalent machine guns were able to fire longer than the German guns because the rate of fire was less than the enemy’s weapon. The German soldiers were good warriors.

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James Livaudais knew when he was given an order, he had to respond. When the man in front stepped off, the next individual had to move out. That was the case for most all troops, but there were circumstances when individuals did not respond properly. In one case, Livaudais had to court martial an individual who refused to follow orders. That man threw down his weapon and ran to the rear when he heard enemy gunfire. It was an Italian boy named Jerry and the incident occurred in the Battle of the Bulge. [Annotator’s Note: no surname was provided for Jerry. The Battle of the Bulge raged between December 1944 and January 1945.] The firing intensified and the boy said he could not go forward because his fingers were cold. He dropped his weapon despite Livaudais admonishing him that by his refusal he could be endangering Livaudais’ life. The boy ran anyway. After the action, Livaudais turned the boy in for court martial. The irony was that the individual made it back to the United States before Livaudais did. The court martialed boy got a DD—Dishonorable Discharge and eight years. Someone told Livaudais that the boy was seen walking the streets of New York. [Annotator’s Note: Livaudais is obviously frustrated with the irony of the situation] There were quite a few soldiers who would not fight. They would run out on those that did fight. By running, they endangered the others. Livaudais witnessed none of that in the fighting for the 500 yard Merderet causeway. [Annotator’s Note: in a key skirmish near La Fiere in Normandy, France in early June 1944] There was no cover on the causeway and swamps on each side. The idea was just to get across as quickly as possible. You would be out of the fire after crossing. There would be hedgerows again. He saw no glider troops hesitate or stall in the attack. The troops reacted well except for the one man he discussed earlier. Livaudais knew he had to turn in the guilty man who ran away from the fight. Later, Livaudais pondered if it would have been better to shoot the man on the spot.

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James Livaudais and his glider infantrymen met up with paratroopers after crossing the Merderet causeway. The paratroopers seemed to be controlling everything including the taking of the town. One paratrooper was shouting commands in the middle of the street. There were hedgerows on the opposite side of the causeway with houses and multiple roadways. It was the worst of the fighting in Normandy with all the hedgerows. The mortar would be fired almost directly up in the air. The squad would have to retreat about 100 yards prior to the round exploding. There were many snipers who were shot out of trees. The action was being directed by a sergeant or an officer at all times. First Sergeant Pete Segula was often in control of the Company in Normandy because many of the officers were hit. [Annotator’s Note: spelling of this surname was not confirmed] James “Slim Jim” Gavin was right in the thick of the action carrying ammunition even though he was commanding multiple battalions. [Annotator’s Note: Brigadier General James Gavin was also referred to as “Jumping Jim” for being with his men when they jumped into combat zones.] Many of those who experienced that combat are no longer around to tell about their experiences. The survivors are advanced in age. When the men were ordered into action, they followed the order. The exception was only one man who did not adhere to the command to engage the enemy. [Annotator’s Note: the individual would be court martialed and given a Dishonorable Discharge and time in the stockade as a result of Livaudais’ testimony. The irony for Livaudais was that the convicted man would make it back to the United States before he did.]

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James Livaudais received replacements prior to the Battle of the Bulge. [Annotator’s Note: in December 1944] One newly arrived young man approached Livaudais and requested advice on what he should do in his first combat. The man might have been named Cole. [Annotator’s Note: no further name provided] As an ammunition man for the mortar squad that Livaudais led, he was told to do the best he could and to be sure and get the mortar shells to the gun. [Annotator’s Note: Livaudais was the squad leader and gunner for an 81mm mortar team. It included six ammunition men each of which carried six rounds for the gun.] Shortly afterwards, incoming German fire was landing near the troops. The newcomer sat in the middle of a road instead of taking cover. Livaudais told him to get to the ditch in the side of the road. The boy mocked the Germans and refused. Shortly thereafter, a shell hit him and blew him into a million pieces. The newcomer might have survived had he taken cover. Livaudais knew to never take the incoming fire for granted. He always found cover. Livaudais had pride in what he did. He had to accomplish the work assigned to him. He had no doubt that he would survive the war. The only time he was worried was after the war ended when he worried that some person with anger issues might randomly turn a weapon on him. That was his concern because otherwise he had made it. The war ended while he was in Ludwigslust, Germany. Livaudais always admired Generals Gavin and Ridgway because they were supreme soldiers who stayed close to the action and their men. [Annotator’s Note: General Matthew Ridgway commanded the 82nd Airborne Division and Brigadier General James Gavin served as his deputy within the division. Both jumped into Normandy on D-Day on 6 June 1944.] There were some other men in the Company who Livaudais also admired. Among those was a gigantic machine gunner who fired his weapon from the hip. [Annotator’s Note: no name was provided] That was impressive when the troops were trying to clean out the houses in Germany. The assault troops could live in the houses after the enemy was cleared out. The German civilians were moved out to accommodate the American troops. Livaudais and many other men got across the Merderet causeway but it was surprising with the heavy enemy fire. The Germans were firing their machine guns at the Americans from multiple directions. There were dead men every five feet or so along the 600 yard length of the roadway. The advancing troops used the dead as cover against the heavy enemy machine gun fire. Unlike later in the war, there were no spotter planes above to determine fire missions for the Allied artillery. Likewise, the Spitfires were not available to do supporting ground cover. The spotters could avoid fights with enemy aircraft by quickly landing in small fields.

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James Livaudais was part of the division which was to become the Sergeant York Division—the 82nd Division with about 16,000 troops. The decision was made to separate it into two new airborne divisions with 8,000 troops each. [Annotator’s Note: Sergeant Alvin York was a much decorated soldier in the 82nd Infantry Division during World War One.] While still in the United States in training, Livaudais was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. Before overseas deployment, changes were made again. He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. Uniforms were exchanged between individuals of about the same size. The men lived in tents most of the time. The only time Livaudais was in barracks was in Reading, England when he was billeted in brick barracks formerly used by British troops. When Livaudais went to Leicester, England, he went back to living in tents. It was a good size camp that included just about the whole battalion. There were “honey buckets” used for human waste. The British used the waste as crop fertilizer on their farms. Paratroopers and glider infantrymen were the only troops allowed to wear jump boots. No other troops could wear boots for threat of raising the ire of the airborne troops. The glider troops were offered the option of qualifying for jumps but that soon changed. After Holland, there was interchangeability between paratroopers and glider men. In the Bulge, the airborne rode to the front in trucks. There was very little jumping left in the war. The troops became exchangeable. [Annotator’s Note: Holland refers to Operation Market Garden in September 1944 where paratroopers and glider infantrymen were deployed. The Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 involved very inclement weather precluding the possibility of airborne reinforcement.] During combat, the machine gun nests were often fixed emplacements as opposed to the light mortars which were easily moveable. [Annotator’s Note: the M1 mortar was an 81mm mortar of the type that was used by Livaudais’ squad. The lighter M2 mortar was a 60mm weapon that was about one third the weight of the 81mm mortar.] If the squad would be in a place for a couple days, a hole would be dug for protection. An 81mm required a sizeable hole. When advancing, the weapon would be set up and fired quickly. After crossing the Siegfried Line, the mortar was fired so much that the base plate was driven so far into the snow that it may not have been recovered. That was when Livaudais told his platoon commander that he would not attack a pillbox with a bazooka. The commander needed to send a tank to do that. [Annotator’s Note: the Siegfried Line, or Westwall in German terminology, was a series of fortified positions for the final defense of the German border. Pillboxes with interlocking fire were spread continuously along the line. Additionally, there were concrete tank obstacles called “dragon’s teeth”. The Siegfried Line did not slow the Allied advance for very long. Livaudais had the back of his bazooka shot off by a German sniper.] Seeing dead men could not impact a man advancing under fire. The main concern was to get forward. A soldier had to run then hit the ground and then get up and run again. Many were killed at that point. Seeing the dead had a tendency to toughen up a man. The dead man was alive previously but now was gone. In training, Livaudais saw an officer have his head cut off by accident. There was a need to fly at least once a month to maintain the airborne qualification. The officers and non-coms would be given a CPX problem to solve. That would be a training mission. The same thing was done repeatedly until going into actual combat. There was a lot of pride about what Livaudais and the others did. Some men may have thought differently. Some individuals may even have shot themselves in the foot in order to avoid combat. In Normandy, there were “C pots” in the ground which would shoot a person in the foot. A foot injury could be a million dollar wound. [Annotator’s Note: no definition of “C pots” could be found] Livaudais felt he got a million dollars worth of experience in the Army. He had no regrets. He was 25 years old when he went across. He was just married when he went into the Army. He told his wife that he would be in a rough outfit and might not return. It was better not to leave her with a child to care for by herself if he did not return from Europe. As a result, they waited until he returned to have their only child. The couple was married for 54 years prior to her death.

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James Livaudais knew he had really seen combat after the battle at La Fiere and the Merderet crossing. He thought at times he was running on the causeway with machine gun bullets hitting between his legs. He saw men killed and wounded and he was not bothered by it. For a short period after discharge, the sound of firecrackers bothered him. He got over it. As a squad leader, he was well known by his men. He had soldiered with them for a while, and they were good men. Whenever a detail was requested, his men would volunteer or Livaudais would do the selection. He was respected by his men. His only regret was not attending reunions. He could not afford to do so early on because he was trying to make a living. By the time he could make it to the reunions, many of the others were not in a position to get there. The one individual he maintained a long-term relationship with was Peter Van Dyke. They would alternate visiting each other. They would stay at each other’s home and talk over the telephone or send letters. Van Dyke’s wife had a physical turn for the worse. Consequently, Van Dyke requested that the visits no longer continue under those circumstances. Until then, the two men would visit each other and play golf or go into the Michigan woods together. Livaudais went to visit his First Sergeant Pete Segula in Indiana and had barbeque with him. After the visit, Livaudais did not hear from Segula again. [Annotator’s Note: the spelling on this surname is not certain] After Normandy, all the non-coms were given the option to go to officer’s school and be promoted. Livaudais did not take the opportunity because he felt a private would return home faster than a lieutenant. One 18 year old did just that and returned as an officer. A few other non-coms did go to officer’s school. Livaudais maintained his memories of many of the events of the war.

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James Livaudais toured the third floor of the Louisiana Memorial Pavilion of The National WWII Museum with multiple Museum historians. That area of the Museum deals specifically with the invasion of Normandy, France during the Second World War. As a member of the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment in the 82nd Airborne Division, Livaudais was a direct participant of that campaign for over a month. While walking through the exhibits, Livaudais discussed his equipment and experiences during the Normandy invasion commencing on 6 June 1944. He compared both the Allied and Axis weaponry and offered his insight into the details of his involvement in the associated combat.

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James Livaudais saw that the German troops in Ludwigslust, Germany tried their best not to be taken prisoner by the Russians. [Annotator’s Note: the war in Eastern Europe and Russia had been epitomized by savagery, brutality, and annihilation. Much of the Nazi wrath was directed toward Slavic peoples in the East and Jews many of whom were in the East. Millions were killed during and after the fighting. There was no mercy for Soviet prisoners of war. Following the Nazi bloodletting early in the war, the Russians were ready for retribution when they followed the retreating Wehrmacht back to Germany.] The next time Livaudais met up with the Russians was in Berlin. He viewed the Russians as being mean people. The Russians were harsh with the German people even the young. There was no fighting between the Americans and the Russians. The American soldiers were paid well in England and Europe. They were paid much better than their British or Russian counterparts. When the Americans returned to the United States, they were limited to the amount of money with which they could return. Anything in excess of that amount had to be disposed of. When the Americans met the Russians, they knew there was no German opposition left out there. The troops did not know a lot about what was going on in the war. The military newspaper gave a limited amount of information but not much. At the end of the war, one man with six children was drafted. It made Livaudais and his outfit wonder how that happened. Livaudais had no children so he was called upon to serve. In retrospect, having seen the death and destruction near him during the war, Livaudais knew he was a lucky man. His number never came up. He was in the right place at the right time.

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