Early Life and Entering Service

Training and Deployment

D Day Objectives

The Jump into Normandy

Rallying with other Troops on D Day

Manoir La Fiere

The Bridge

Crossing the Causeway at La Fiere

Situation at Cauquigny

Counter Attack

Timmes' Orchard

Reconnaissance Patrols

Division Command Post

Reinforcements

Poorly Executed Assaults

Failed Assault on the La Fiere Causeway

German Ruse

Aftermath of the Fighting at La Fiere

Lessons from La Fiere

Leadership

Paratroopers on D Day

Eliminating a Machine Gun Position

Interviewed by S.L.A. Marshall

First Few Hours in Normandy

Coordinating the Attack on La Fiere

Crossing the La Fiere Causeway

Levy's Outpost

Importance of Training for Combat

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John W. Marr was born in Johnson County, Missouri in May 1918. He grew up on a farm and moved farms twice during his childhood before his father inherited his grandfather's estate and settled the family there. Marr was the second born of nine children with six brothers and two younger sisters. Marr attended a one room, country schoolhouse that housed eight different grades, all of which were taught by a single teacher. Marr attended high school at a college laboratory school for a teachers’ college in his home town of Warrensburg, MO. Marr entered high school in the midst of the Great Depression and frequently dropped out in order to work and help his family make a living. During the Dust Bowl drought of the early 1930s, Marr and his family entered the coal mining business and Marr helped mine coal underground and sold it to other families. Ultimately, it took Marr six years to graduate high school. After he graduated in 1938, Marr took a job painting apartment houses in Kansas City where he remained until 1941 when he entered the US Army. Marr met his wife in the summer of 1940 after she moved to Warrensburg and worked at a beauty parlor. In late 1940 and early 1941, the buildup of the American armed forces was underway. Marr was drafted into the army in February of 1941, and entered the service in June of that year. Marr went to Camp Roberts, California for basic combat training. Camp Roberts was still under construction when he arrived. Basic training at Camp Roberts lasted roughly three months, but, while the war raged in Europe, Marr and his fellow recruits figured that they would serve in the army for a long while. While at Camp Roberts, Marr heard a recruitment speech by the famous airborne commander Robert Sink, who was a major at the time. Sink attempted to recruit army soldiers to the paratroopers, which required special and often difficult training. Marr and a number of other soldiers were persuaded to join the paratroopers due to the 50 dollar per month increase in pay that paratroopers received over ground infantry. After basic combat training concluded, Marr boarded a train to Fort Benning, Georgia where he received jump training. Marr was organized in the third battalion of parachute infantry troops formed at Fort Benning.

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After John Marr was assigned to a parachute infantry battalion at Fort Benning, Georgia, he learned that the same officer who recruited him to the paratroopers, then Major Robert Sink, was in command of his battalion. Jump training was rigorous and was one of the toughest experiences of Marr's life to that point. After he completed jump training, Marr's battalion became a tactical battalion stationed at Fort Benning. The US Army high command decided to expand paratrooper training and shortly thereafter, in March of 1942, the first parachute infantry regiment was formed. Marr's unit, the 503rd Parachute Infantry Battalion became the first battalion of the new regiment, the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment. Marr went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina for continued training before he was sent to officer candidate school back at Fort Benning in June of 1942. He spent three months at officer candidate school and finished in September 1942. Marr was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He first served as a club and mess officer in the 507th Parachute Infantry, but had received no training for any of those responsibilities. On 21 December 1942, Marr was assigned as a platoon leader in Company G of the 507th Parachute Infantry. Marr remained with his platoon for the remainder of the regiment's stateside training, which included training in the Louisianan Maneuvers, and a stop at a camp in Nebraska. The 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment embarked for Europe out of Camp Shanks, New York in late November of 1942. The regiment arrived in Northern Ireland and stayed there for roughly three months with only limited, small unit training. In March 1943, the regiment moved to a tent encampment at Allerton Castle in Nottingham, England. There the unit trained and prepared for the Allied invasion of Europe. Shortly after the regiment arrived in Nottingham, it became clear that training would be limited to command post exercises and small unit training. Despite those limitations, Marr's training in England was very important and prepared the men for combat in the hedgerow country in Normandy. Training included both daytime and nighttime operations and practice in assembly and maneuvering. This intense training regimen revealed to Marr and his men that a major operation lay ahead of the Allies, but none of the soldiers knew the details. Finally, Marr and the rest of the regiment's lieutenants were briefed on Operation Overlord, shortly before the Allied invasion of Normandy began. Just as the troops moved to their marshalling areas ahead of the invasion, Marr's unit was given a new drop zone closer to Utah Beach than initially planned. Marr's unit was briefed on the new drop zone on 28 May 1944, which only gave the men a few days to adjust their battle plans to the new drop zone. The new orders, however, did not faze the men as the timing and overall objectives of the mission largely remained unchanged.

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Late on the night on 5 June 1944, John Marr and the men of Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment boarded their aircraft and took off for Normandy. The 507th Parachute Infantry dropped into the vicinity of the village of Amfreville, France near the Merderet River on the Cotentin Peninsula. Marr's initial mission was to establish a defensive perimeter around the town of Amfreville and seize the river crossing over the Merderet River at La Fiere. During the mission briefings, each platoon was assigned different objectives which were all coordinated toward the seizure of Amfreville and the securing of crossings over the Merderet River in preparation for the divisions which were to come ashore at Utah Beach on D Day. The men were also briefed on landmarks in Normandy around which to assemble and used to identify their location. The rail road track embankment, which connected Paris to Cherbourg, was one of the most distinctive landmarks and it served as a rallying point for many paratroopers after the jump. The men anticipated a drop into meadows and farm fields, but they quickly realized that the Merderet River had been flooded by the Germans, so the paratroopers often dropped into marshes and wetlands. Since the jump occurred at night in a flooded area, the Normandy landmarks became of paramount importance. The overall mission of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment was to take the town of Amfreville, secure the river crossing over the Merderet River at La Fiere, and establish a defensive perimeter around those objectives to secure them. Company G was ordered to establish part of the regiment's defensive perimeter. The paratroopers did not realize, however, that the fields around the Merderet River had been flooded until they landed in them, but there was no intelligence that suggested that the river was flooded.

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John W. Marr and the men of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment loaded into their transport airplanes on the evening of 5 June 1944. The planes took off from Nottingham, England and flew southeast over the English Channel to the French Cotentin Peninsula. Marr's plane made landfall around 0200 hours on 6 June, and the men anticipated the signal light to send them into the night. As the plane formation approached the drop zone, the planes encountered a low cloud cluster and then the German antiaircraft opened up from the ground. The red warning light illuminated as Marr's plane neared the drop zone and Marr watched as the seemingly peaceful pastures whizzed by below. Unbeknownst to Marr and his men, those pastures had been flooded by the Germans. The green light illuminated and Marr hurled himself from the plane, the first paratrooper out. His parachute deployed and before he knew it, Marr had hit water and submerged; he stood up and, to his great surprise, found himself in water up to his armpits. American intelligence photographs of the area did not reveal the flooded marshes in the drop zones since the tall grass grew up through the water, which disguised the flooding from the air. As it turned out, the men in Marr's stick, as was the case for men in many others, were strung out over a span of about five miles. The last man in Marr's stick landed so far from the intended drop zone that he was captured by German forces nearer to the beach than to the objectives of the 507th Parachute Infantry. Marr struggled to unbuckle his parachute harness in the water and escape the tangle of chords from his chute. After he freed himself from his chute, Marr waded across the flooded field toward a raised embankment upon which sat the railroad tracks which ran from Cherbourg to Paris. Many paratroopers could not free themselves from their harnesses and drowned in the flooded fields under the weight of their gear and supplies.

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The D Day assembly plans for paratroopers like John Marr were completely forgotten in the chaos of the jump. The pathfinder operations launched by the army were not entirely successful and the flooded fields in the drop zones made a coordinated troop assembly very difficult [Annotator's Note: pathfinder troops dropped into Normandy ahead of the main airborne landings in order to organize drop zones and establish rallying points]. Paratroopers became less concerned about plans and more concerned about escaping the flooded fields and getting to higher ground. Since almost all paratroopers identified a main railroad embankment as a familiar landmark, men from different companies and regiments headed for the embankment. Marr landed in a flooded field alone with no other paratroopers around; he never knew what happened to the paratrooper who jumped right after him. Since Marr landed in such a difficult situation, the importance of the railroad embankment as a landmark became even greater. Marr started out alone from where he landed and went toward a blue light that marked an assembly point. The blue light was positioned right in the middle of the flooded field, however, and Marr only found two other soldiers there. After he reached the light, Marr decided to move on toward the railroad embankment in hopes of assembling with more soldiers. Marr reached the railroad and climbed up the embankment only to discover that most of the men there were from the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, not his own 507th Parachute Infantry. On the railroad, men climbed the telephone wire poles in order to cut the wires and disrupt German communication. Determined to reconnect with his unit, Marr tried to find out where his fellow troopers from the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment were. He was informed that Captain Ben Schwartzwalder [Annotator's Note: commanding officer, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division] was among the men assembled on the railroad embankment. As men began to move southeast toward the road connecting the towns of Sainte Mere Eglise and Amfreville, Marr passed through the ranks until he met up with Schwartzwalder and some other men of the 507th. The men then moved out and found that the road ran over the railroad tracks as the tracks had been cut into the landscape at that location instead of sitting atop a raised embankment.

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John Marr landed in water up to his armpits on D Day after the jump [Annotators Note: into Normandy] and immediately unstrapped his parachute harness and secured his rifle. He began to wade through the water and quickly discovered that the depth of the water varied greatly from as shallow as ankle deep, to deeper than a trooper was tall. He avoided the deep areas as best he could and continued to wade toward a nearby railroad embankment, which he remembered as an important landmark from his briefings ahead of D Day. As he waded, Marr noticed a small blue assembly light set up by the pathfinder troops. At the light he found Lieutenant Princkett [Annotator's Note: unsure of spelling], who instructed him to move out for the railroad embankment. He climbed up the embankment and recognized the silhouettes of marching soldiers against the night sky. Marr made contact with a fellow paratrooper before finding a trooper from his own regiment, the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, who informed him that Captain Ben Schwartzwalder [Annotator's Note: commanding officer, Company G, 2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division] was on the embankment leading a small team. A majority of the troopers on the railroad, however, were from the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment under the command of Colonel Roy Lindquist. The 508th had a different objective than Marr and the 507th. Marr eventually linked up with Captain Schwartzwalder who had assembled some 75 men of Company G, 507th. Some of the men in Marr's platoon made the rallying point, but since the landings were so scattered, many of the men did not link up with Company G. Captain Schwartzwalder made it clear that the capture of the town of Amfreville was of paramount importance and instructed Marr to lead his platoon into the town at the first place where the marshes were passable. Marr took up the lead and brought the team up a road toward Amfreville from Sainte Mere Eglise, which ran over the railroad tracks. It was nearly dawn when Marr and his men crossed the road and moved west toward the farmstead with the French name Manoir La Fiere [Annotators Note: La Fiere Manor], which was situated near a vital bridge across the Merderet River. The manor was under attack by Company A, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment whose objective was to seize the eastern end of the river crossing. Marr led his advanced team of five men through a field just south of Manoir La Fiere in order to skirt the battle. As Marr's team moved along a hedgerow south of the manor, a German machine gun opened up. Marr and his men hit the ground and all reached for a grenade and threw them about thirty yards toward the machine gun. The opening foray from the machine gun had hit two of Marr's men, Private Escobar and Corporal Lawton. The American grenades caused the two Germans who manning the machine gun to jump up, at which point Escobar killed them with his Thompson submachine gun, successfully eliminating the machine gun position. Marr halted his advance at that point to move his wounded back to the main group with Captain Schwartzwalder.

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As John Marr led his advanced scout team back to the position of Captain Ben Schwartzwalder [Annotator's Note: commanding officer, Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment], he ran into Lieutenant John Dolan, commander of Company A, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment. Back at Schwartzwalder's position, two of Marr's men who were wounded by German machine gun fire were evacuated. While in the field with Schwartzwalder, Colonel Roy Lindquist [Annotator's Note: commanding officer, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment] led his men into the field much to the surprise of Marr and his men, who had all thought that the 508th was headed to a different objective at the nearby town of Chef du Pont. As Colonel Lindquist conversed with Captain Schwartzwalder and Lieutenant Dolan, General Matthew Ridgeway [Annotator's Note: Major General Ridgeway commanded the entire 82nd Airborne Division] entered the field. General Ridgeway instructed Colonel Lindquist to take the bridge near Manoir La Fiere [Annotators Note: La Fiere Manor], which prompted Lindquist to give a brief, direct order to Dolan and Schwartzwalder for how to seize the objective. Dolan was ordered to take Company A, 505th PIR around the right [Annotator's Note: north] side of the manor, and ordered Captain Schwartzwalder to take Company G, 507th PIR around the left [Annotator's Note: south] side of the manor. Colonel Lindquist himself would lead the 508th PIR in a direct assault on Manior La Fiere. Since Marr and his advanced party had already eliminated the only German machine gun position on the south side of the manor, Company G's objective was not defended. Marr and Company G advanced to their objective as the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, and Company A, 505th PIR fought a brief, loud, and successful battle with the few Germans who defended the Manoir. Marr and his men held up on the southern flank of the Manoir when Captain Schwartzwalder was called to meet with Colonel Lindquist inside the manor house. Schwartzwalder ordered Marr to lead the men across the bridge to the other side of the Merderet River and indicated that the men of the 508th PIR would follow up. Marr sent out two scouts, John Ward and Jim Mattingly, ahead of the unit to cross the bridge. Ward crossed unopposed and had proceeded about 100 yards down the roadway when Mattingly crossed. Marr and the rest of the company waited at the edge of the bridge. Mattingly crossed the bridge, but just as he made it across, a German emerged from a concealed machine gun emplacement on the north side of the road. In an incredible display of reflexes, Mattingly turned on the German and emptied an entire eight round clip from his M1 rifle into the enemy position. The German ducked down, at which point Mattingly flung a grenade into the emplacement and, shortly after it exploded, four wounded Germans rose and surrendered. Moments later, five Germans in a concealed machine gun position on the other side of the road also rose with their hands skyward. In the span of about 20 seconds, Mattingly had captured nine German soldiers. He later received a Silver Star for his actions. After Captain Schwartzwalder sent away the prisoners, Company G moved up the road when a smoke grenade went off in a church yard in the small village of Cauquigny. The smoke signified friendly troops at the church. The 75 or so men of Company G then advanced to a Y in the road, where a German ambulance turned out in front of them with its rear doors ajar, which gave Marr a glimpse of American uniforms as well as German ones in the back. Company G let the ambulance go even after it halted for a few minutes, as they assumed it was en route to an aid station. As the ambulance drove off, the Americans began to hear the rumble of tanks, just as artillery shells began to fall on the intersection. At the church, Company G made contact with Lieutenant Levy from 2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry, who had set up an outpost there under the orders of Colonel Timmes [Annotator's Note: Lieutenant Colonel Charles J. Timmes, commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment]. The 2nd Battalion's mission was to hold the west flank of the La Fiere crossing. As the artillery barrage began, a German force advanced north from the village of Picauville toward Company G's position, so the unit moved north and went to Timme's command post in an orchard. Company G joined Timmes’ unit and their total numbers equaled only about 150 men. The German force overran the outpost at the Cauquigny church, and it was later determined that the German force comprised an entire regiment.

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 Lieutenant John Marr crossed the bridge at La Fiere with a group of about 75 men from Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, under the command of Captain Ben Schwartzwalder. When Company G arrived at the church in the small village of Cauquigny, Captain Schwartzwalder spoke with Lieutenant Lewis Levy from 2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, who was posted at the church with about 30 men. The men under Lieutenant Levy first fired on the German force that advanced from Picauville, before Levy withdrew his force after German tanks arrived. Levy withdrew his men to Timmes' orchard [Annotator's Note: the command post of Lieutenant Colonel Charles J. Timmes, commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment]. Captain Schwartzwalder asked Levy where Timmes' position was, since Schwartzwalder wanted to get Company G in a defensive position to hold the line. The main objective of the 507th PIR was to keep and hold the river crossing at La Fiere so that the divisions landing on the beaches could move inland and cut off the Cotentin Peninsula. The Germans, however, advanced with so much strength that Schwartzwalder and Marr realized that they could not hold the bridgehead alone, so they decided to move north and join Colonel Timmes' forces. The 507th Parachute Infantry's regimental commander, a man named Millett [Annotator's Note: Colonel George Millett Jr.], dropped with his group north of the town of Amfreville on D Day, but after three days of unsuccessful fighting in an assault on the town, he was captured by German forces. Marr and the men of Company G moved right past the church to join Timmes' defensive position on Captain Schwartzwalder's orders, instead of joining the outpost at the church. Timmes' orchard was surrounded by flooded fields on three sides and was situated about 1000 yards from the bridgehead at La Fiere. While with Lieutenant Levy at the Cauquigny church, Marr and Captain Schwartzwalder interviewed the some German prisoners that Levy held there. Company G waited at the Cauquigny church for over an hour in the early afternoon on D Day in anticipation that Colonel Lindquist's 508th PIR would cross the La Fiere bridge as planned, but the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment never crossed. Schwartzwalder knew that his group from Company G was not large enough to move west since Levy had warned of Timmes' failed attack on Amfreville. That the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment never crossed the bridge greatly contributed to Schwartzwalder’s decision to move to Timmes’ defensive position. Timmes had stationed his men at the orchard in hopes of gathering more men to make another assault on the town of Amfreville. At the same time, Colonel Millett's group on the northwest edge of Amfreville was fighting a losing battle against the German defenders there and Millett was ultimately captured two days after D Day.

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A German force moved north out of Picauville toward Lieutenant John Marr's position and attacked in force with tanks and infantry, supported by artillery fire. The troopers on the ground did not know how strong the German force was, but when a German artillery barrage began around the small village of Cauquigny, the Americans figured that a strong German assault would follow. Even before the Americans heard the rumble of German tanks, however, Marr's commanding officer, Captain Ben Schwartzwalder [Annotator's Note: commanding Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment] knew that the small American force posted in the village of Cauquigny under the charge of Lieutenant Levy [Annotator’s Note: of 2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment] would have to withdraw in the face of a German assault. Not even a combined force of Schwartzwalder's Company G group and Lieutenant Levy's outpost force would have had enough men to hold the position there against enemy tanks and infantry, especially since Colonel Lindquist [Annotator's Note: Roy Lindquist, commanding officer, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment] did not bring reinforcements to Cauquigny. Marr thought that General Gavin's battlefield direction [Annotator's Note: Brigadier General James M. Gavin, assistant commander of the 82nd Airborne Division] accounted for the lack of reinforcements to Cauquigny, since Gavin had shown up in the area and redirected other elements of the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, elements which included the regimental executive officer, Maloney [Annotator's Note: Lieutenant Colonel Arthur A. Maloney], and other officers to a nearby objective in the town of Chef du Pont. In Marr's estimation, Gavin must have thought that Manoir La Fiere had been taken by American forces and that the bridge over the Merderet River at La Fiere was secure, thus Colonel Lindquist's forces were sent to Chef du Pont. On the night of D Day, when the Germans counter attacked, it became clear that the bridge at La Fiere was not secure and German forces regained control of the western side of the causeway. Lieutenant Levy's men first fired on the German assault force from their outpost at the Cauquigny church, but their mission was not to stand and defend Cauquigny. A group of men under the command of Colonel Timmes [Annotator's Note: Lieutenant Colonel Charles J. Timmes, commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment] had dug in at an orchard and provided flank protection to the west end of the bridgehead, but his position did not halt the German advance on D Day night. Timmes' position became important to a subsequent American assault on the causeway, Rae's charge [Annotator's Note: Captain Robert D. Rae].

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Lieutenant John Marr and his group from Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment arrived at an orchard where Lieutenant Colonel Timmes [Annotator's Note: Charles J. Timmes, commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, 507th PIR] and his men had dug in. Marr's group, under the command of Captain Ben Schwartzwalder [Annotator's Note: commanding officer of Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment] took up a position in the defensive perimeter around the orchard. The orchard's proximity to the town of Amfreville gave Timmes a good position to regroup after his unsuccessful assault on Amfreville on the morning of D Day. Timmes wanted to accumulate more troops in the orchard before assaulting Amfreville again. Timmes had no knowledge of the German assault force which was moving north from the town of Picauville, since the assault force moved through the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment's sector. However, neither Timmes nor Captain Schwartzwalder knew were the 508th PIR was positioned or where the 508th’s commanding officer, Colonel Lindquist, was. Marr and Schwartzwalder informed Timmes that they thought Lindquist would follow up to help defend the bridgehead at La Fiere, but that never occurred. It became clear in the orchard that there were not enough troops to establish a widespread defensive line. Schwartzwalder placed Marr and Company G under the command of Timmes, whose objectives were to take Amfreville and secure the western flank of the bridgehead at La Fiere. Timmes' position in the orchard was right between his two objectives, but he did not have the manpower to secure either one. In Marr's memory, Timmes was very strong willed, quiet, and thoughtful man who thoroughly thought through tactical problems on the battlefield, but he was severely handicapped by his insufficient troop numbers in Normandy to accomplish his mission. Marr had multiple conversations with Timmes during which Timmes ordered Marr out on numerous patrols both at night and during the day. Timmes sent out constant patrols in an attempt to make contact with other American troops in the area. Marr's patrols were often met with heavy enemy fire from well camouflaged and fortified positions, which made the completion of a patrol nearly impossible. Marr's group arrived in Timmes' orchard in the late afternoon on D Day and spent that first night in the orchard preparing their defensive positions. The next night, D plus one, a German command car drove from Amfreville right near the orchard and drove into a minefield laid by the Americans and blew up. Marr and his men discovered that the officer in the command car was the surgeon for the German 91st Division, who held the rank of lieutenant colonel.

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Lieutenant John Marr's first patrol from Timmes' orchard was sent to find any American or other friendly forces in the area. Another group from the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment under the command of the regimental commander, Millett [Annotator's Note: Lieutenant Colonel George C. Millett Jr.], had landed northwest of Amfreville and attacked the town continually during D Day, D plus one, and D plus two, but no one from Timmes' group could get through Amfreville to make contact with Millett's group. The group under Timmes' command also had no radios, since most had been lost in the swamps and marshes that covered the drop zones, so communication between commanding officers and with division headquarters was impossible. On D plus one, a man from Timmes' group, Lieutenant Chambers, had crossed the flooded area to the rear of the orchard and made contact with the division command post. He informed divisional command of Timmes' location in the orchard, and divisional command ordered that Timmes' group hold their ground. With Chambers gone in search of the divisional command post, Marr went out on patrol on the morning of D plus two, not for combat purposes, but in order to make contact with other American units. Marr's patrol was ordered in the direction of a castle on the edge of Amfreville in order to make contact with the American troops fighting on the other side of that city. Lieutenant Chambers swam back across flooded fields and marshes on D plus two and informed Timmes' that divisional command wanted the group to hold position at the orchard. Marr's patrol ran into heavy German fire which came from a wooded area that guarded the approach to the castle, so Marr withdrew his men under the cover of smoke grenades and returned to the orchard. Timmes then ordered Marr out on another patrol in the direction of a railroad section house across the flooded area in search of other American troops. Marr objected to Timmes orders and told Timmes that a large patrol would attract enemy fire. Instead, Marr suggested that he take one other soldier named Carter [Annotator's Note: Private First Class Norman Carter, Company G's runner] out in search of friendly units. Timmes agreed in the interest of making any progress. Marr and Carter set out along a pathway to the rear of their defensive perimeter. The pair entered the flooded area where Carter stumbled upon a submerged road that ran toward the railroad embankment. Marr and Carter followed the submerged road across the flooded field and waded through water approximately knee deep. They reached the railroad section house on the railroad embankment and were greeted by a French family who were hiding there. Since the Americans spoke no French and the family spoke no English, they conversed in broken language until the family conveyed to them some German positions and the location of an American glider regiment. Marr and Carter indicated that they wanted to cross the flooded area and head for the American positions, so the Frenchman went and untied a boat near the railroad embankment and motioned for Marr and Carter to get in. The Frenchman used a long pole to push the boat up the river until they reached the far side of the flooded area near where the American gliders had landed.

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As Lieutenant John Marr was taken by boat to American positions across the Merderet River from Timmes' orchard [Annotator's Note: so called because Lieutenant Colonel Charles J. Timmes, commanding officer of  2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division had his command post dug in there], he recognized the positions as those of an American glider regiment. Marr remembered the glider landing location from his mission briefings, and it turned out that the gliders came down very close to the division command post. The glider units landed as an intact regiment and were immediately made reserves to await further orders. After the Frenchman brought the boat into the east side of the flooded area, Marr and Carter disembarked from the boat. They were soon stopped at the glider regiment's security line and met by a battalion commander who drove them by jeep to the divisional command post. On the way to the divisional command post, they were stopped by the unmistakable General Ridgway [Annotator's Note: Major General Matthew Ridgway, commanding officer of the 82nd Airborne Division] and Marr briefed him on the location of Timmes' orchard and the situation there. Ridgway ordered Marr and Carter to go on to the division command post and brief the division staff on the situation. Marr and Carter briefed the division chief of staff as well as the other four staff officers on the situation at Timmes' orchard. After they briefed the staff, Marr and Carter were given the opportunity to rest, and they both collapsed and went to sleep. Divisional staff awoke them sometime after and gave them the plan for Timmes' forces. Marr and Carter's briefing of the division staff consisted mostly of answering questions and providing information to the staff officers. The glider battalion commander gave the division staff a background of Marr and Carter's story as well as their brief meeting with General Ridgway. Marr then explained his mission to make contact with other American troops, before the division chief of staff began to ask more specific questions. Once the division staff felt they had enough information, they began to devise a plan to reinforce Timmes' and beat the Germans back off the bridgehead. Division staff, however, had to figure out how to exactly carry out that plan. After Marr and Carter were awoken and brought back, division command relayed the plan to move the 1st Battalion of the nearby glider infantry regiment [Annotator's Note: 325th Glider Infantry Regiment] to Timmes' position. That required moving the daisy chain minefield which guarded the rear of Timmes' orchard, but there was no radio contact between Timmes and the division command post. Marr then sent Carter back to the orchard at twilight in order to inform Timmes of the plan and to move the minefield ahead of 1st Battalion's relocation, which was set to begin after dark that night. Even after Carter arrived back at the orchard, however, Timmes did not know any details of his new mission, he had to wait until Sanford [Annotator's Note: Major Teddy Sanford, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment] arrived at the orchard later and briefed him.

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After darkness fell, Lieutenant John Marr began to lead the 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment back to Timmes' orchard [Annotator's Note: so called because Lieutenant Colonel Charles J. Timmes, commanding officer of  2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, had his command post dug in there] as directed by division command. Marr led the battalion back via a submerged road through the flooded area of the Merderet River and had some engineers outline the path of the road with markers for the battalion to follow. The battalion moved slowly and the group of reinforcements did not reach Timmes' orchard until around midnight. Division command had outlined the general mission for an attack on the west end of the La Fiere crossing over the Merderet River, which had fallen back into German hands late on D Day night. Using Timmes' orchard as a staging area, the attack was to commence down the road that connected Amfreville and Sainte Mere Eglise past Cauquigny and assault the enemy forces which held the western end of the causeway. The details of the mission, however, were left to Timmes and Teddy Sanford [Annotator's Note: Major Sanford commanded 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment], and the two worked out a detailed plan at Timmes command post. Before Timmes and Sanford worked out a detailed plan of attack, however, the entire 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment had to move from the division command post to Timmes' orchard across the flooded area of the Merderet River. The battalion crossed in column down the railroad embankment and across the submerged road which Marr had first used to cross to the division command post earlier that day. Engineers marked out the boundaries of the submerged road with white tape wrapped around stakes which protruded from the water, but the road was not wide enough to accommodate mass numbers of men and vehicles so the column often was stretched out. It took until around midnight to move all elements of the battalion to Timmes' orchard and the attack did not commence until sometime after that. After the reinforced 1st Battalion moved into the orchard, there were over 1000 Americans ready to make the assault. The German force defending the west end of the La Fiere crossing consisted of a reinforced regiment which numbered over 3000 men. The night assault failed to dislodge the Germans and a coordinated attack never occurred due to poor coordination between a few of the companies. Total casualties numbered about a third of the American force in Marr's estimation, but the Germans never even brought in reinforcements to fend off the American advance. After the attack, the remaining American units fell back to the orchard. Marr retreated with two infantrymen but lost Company C, 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry, which he had been temporarily assigned to. It took Marr a considerable amount of time to reach the orchard as they were pinned down by German fire for most of their retreat.

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Lieutenant John Marr was involved in the mission planning meeting between Lieutenant Colonel Charles J. Timmes [Annotator's Note: commander of 2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division] and Major Teddy Sanford [Annotator's Note: commander of 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment]. Many other principal officers from the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment who were to be involved in the attack on the west end of the La Fiere causeway were present as well. The attack was to commence at night but no reconnaissance could be made of the area by the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment. Timmes' knew, however, that the men of the 507th were, for the most part, familiar with the terrain around the causeway so he assigned some of his officers to guide each of the three companies from the 325th Glider Infantry that were to make the assault on the La Fiere causeway. Marr was assigned to lead Company C, but Marr was unfamiliar with the terrain that Company C was assigned to cover in its advance. Timmes’ mission was to protect the flank of Major Sanford's 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry while three companies of 1st Battalion were to make the main assault on the causeway. Within those parameters, Timmes and Sanford worked out the details of the assault, and, even though Timmes' held a higher rank, he was ready to do whatever was necessary to support 1st Battalion's attack. While Timmes' and Sanford were still working out the details, Company C made an ill advised faint toward the castle to the north of the orchard, which was heavily defended by German troops. Sanford immediately called off Company C’s assault on the castle, but by the time he did, the company had already engaged the German forces there and lost the element of surprise for the Americans. Despite Marr's skepticism in regards to the success of the attack, he felt that the attack was necessary for the success of the greater Normandy campaign. Marr was still at Timmes' command post during Company C's fiasco of an assault on the castle. The advances of Companies A and B were halted temporarily so that Company C could rejoin the line and commence a coordinated attack between all three companies. While the men of Company C were still on their way into position, Company B entered the attack too prematurely for a coordinated attack. The attack raged for some time before Company C even got into position to attack. As Company C crossed the road from Amfreville to Sainte Mere Eglise, the company commander, Captain Dave Stokely, fanned the men out in skirmish formation. As Company C advanced, the men quickly ran into the German alert devices which included trip wires and flares which completely revealed the Americans' position and eliminated any element of surprise left.

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Lieutenant John Marr was assigned to guide Company C, 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment in that company's assault on the La Fiere causeway over the Merderet River. Marr had briefly met the company commander, Captain Dave Stokely, immediately prior to moving out and Marr remained by Stokely's side throughout the entire ill fated assault to offer advice and guidance. Marr respected Stokely's leadership, but he would have commanded the company differently in one instance when the men confronted the enemy at close range. After Stokely fanned the men out in a skirmish formation, they had set off the German alert devices which revealed to the enemy the American position. The company advanced into a field and pushed forward to a sunken road that neither Marr nor Stokely knew existed, since neither had been over that terrain before. Marr moved forward with Stokely, but Marr would not have deployed the men in a skirmish formation so quickly as it slowed the advance and changed the direction of the company away from Company B, which was part of the attack. The scout on Company C's flank had made an honest mistake and lost contact with Company B, and thus disrupted a coordinated attack between the two companies. After the men of Company C had set off the German alert devices, they advanced to within about 30 yards of a sunken road that looked like a hedgerow in the darkness. As the Americans reached about 30 yards out from the road, a hidden group of German soldiers began shouting and raised a few white sheets on poles out of the nearby hedgerow. It seemed as though the Germans were petitioning to surrender, but Marr warned Stokely that the situation was a common German ruse to lure the Americans out of concealment. Marr advised that Company C charge the enemy position, but Captain Stokely opted to send a sergeant from his company forward to negotiate surrender terms. Before the sergeant even made it to the German line, the enemy opened up with machine gun fire from both flanks. Marr had already planned for such a situation, and he sprinted forward and dove into a hole near a hedgerow, but as he did so a different German machine gun opened up on his position. Marr ducked in the hole while he tried to figure out a plan of escape. Marr figured that the rest of the company had shifted to the right as the Germans opened up, which left Marr alone at the base of the hedgerow. He looked around and saw two American soldiers nestled up against the hedgerow and made contact with them just as dawn broke into daylight. Marr decided that the best plan for retreat was to crawl back through the oat field to their rear. Weary of possible German machine gun fire, the three men crawled about two body lengths and then remain still for a time as to not continuously shake the tall oat stocks. The three reached a hedgerow and crawled along it for a time back through where Company C had earlier set off the German alert devices. They continued up a slope, but when they reached the crest of the slope, they saw a few Germans digging a machine gun foxhole ahead of them. Marr contacted a mortar crew and had them drop a few rounds near the German machine gun position, which scared off the Germans. Marr and his companions crossed the road and reached Timmes' position in the orchard. After a brief discussion with Timmes, Marr reoccupied his old foxhole on the defensive perimeter around the orchard.

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After Lieutenant John Marr narrowly escaped a German ambush during the failed night assault on the west end of the La Fiere causeway, he reported back to Lieutenant Colonel Timmes [Annotator's Note: Charles J. Timmes, commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment]. Timmes' command post was situated in a manor house and was filled with wounded soldiers. Marr reported the heavy casualties sustained by Company C, 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment and that he had been separated from the rest of the company, unaware of its whereabouts. By that time, however, Timmes was aware that the attack had failed since a battered Company B had already retreated to the orchard. Company A had the objective of protecting the assault's western flank and, at the time Marr returned to the orchard, remained in position to defend that objective despite the failure of the overall assault. By mid morning Rea's attack [Annotator's Note: led by Captain Robert Rea of Service Company, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment] had kick started a ferocious charge across the La Fiere causeway from the east, at which point Timmes assumed command of 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry and held his position in order to protect Rea's right flank. During Rea's attack, Marr held his defensive position around the orchard, but Rea's attack had passed before Marr confronted any Germans. Rae's attack commenced on 9 June 1944 and the following day, D plus four, Marr and Timmes' group continued to defend the right flank of the westward assault, which had been taken up by 3rd Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, when the 90th Infantry Division crossed the La Fiere causeway. In the aftermath of 1st Battalion's failed night assault, Marr understood the good intentions of the mission, but thinks that the battalion was put in an impossible position to achieve its objectives. Marr is quick to point out, however, that the decision to put the 1st Battalion into combat was not a bad decision given the desperate circumstances that faced the entire Normandy invasion at the time. Infantry divisions were pushing inland and had to cut off the Cotentin Peninsula before German reinforcements could arrive in strength. In Marr's view, the worst mistake that Stokely made during the night assault [Annotator's Note: Captain Dave Stokely, commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment], was his attempt to accept the German surrender, which turned out to be a ruse for an ambush. Marr is doubtful that Stokely or many of the glider infantry troops had previous combat experience. Marr remembered the breakup of the 401st Glider Infantry Regiment in order to bolster the strength of other glider infantry regiments and laments the negative affect that breaking up a combat unit can have on the men. Marr experienced the negative effects of such a decision during his service in Vietnam as well. Once a soldier enters combat with a unit, tearing him away from that unit has demoralizing affects. Marr acknowledged that the 325th Glider Infantry did have some disabilities, which started at the top with the flaws of regimental commander Colonel Harry Lewis, who was relieved of his command shortly after the battle. Marr does not mean to prescribe blame on any person or group, but his judgment comes from a retrospective look at the war.

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For John Marr it is paramount to relentlessly train military leadership based on the lessons learned from failed attacks, like the failed night assault by 1st Battalion, 325th Glider Infantry Regiment in Normandy. Although rigorous training might not prevent every slip up or mishap in battle, the principles of success must be trained into combat leaders. The lack of the element of surprise during the aforementioned failed assault was an example of a principle for success which was lacking. The inability to control and coordinate the attack between companies caused by the ill advised faint of Company C against a castle fortified by the enemy and the eager push of Company B with no regards for Company C's location was another reason for failure. As it was revealed later, 1st Battalion's attacking force was outnumbered three to one by the German defenders, but the 82nd Airborne Division's command had no way of knowing that, despite their suspicion that there was a well organized German force there. However, for two nights in a row, German tanks had launched assaults against the Americans on the east bank of the La Fiere causeway. The American defenders repelled both attacks, which suggested that the German force on the west end of the causeway was less stout than initially thought. This thought might have influenced the divisional command's decision to send only a single battalion against the enemy positions on the west end of the causeway. The sheer amount of forces thrown at the causeway, including Robert Rae's attack [Annotator's Note: Captain Rae commanded Service Company, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment], emphasized how vital control of the La Fiere causeway was to the American high command. The risk of a worst case scenario, the elimination of a beach head on the Cotentin Peninsula, made it difficult to fault any of the decisions of divisional command.

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Captain Ben Schwartzwalder, Lieutenant John Marr's superior in command of Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was an aggressive combat leader. Schwartzwalder came from a long sports tradition in his family. He had been a football player before the war, and went on to coach football after it. He was a leader who could motivate his men to do the impossible. Schwartzwalder was constantly frustrated by the situation in Normandy, which inhibited him from securing his objectives, and he often felt that the success of the entire regiment was on his shoulders. Schwartzwalder's group from Company G joined Lieutenant Colonel Timmes at the orchard [Annotator's Note: Charles J. Timmes, commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, 507th PIR], where Timmes exemplified calmness and always kept a level head in combat. Timmes treated his men fairly and was always willing to fight for them. Timmes possessed a kind of leadership that almost seemed nonexistent in the army, a calm leadership that often led the men to achieve more than they would have under a loud and verbally abusive officer. Marr enjoyed serving under Timmes during his five days in the orchard and he felt that Timmes always exerted the right amount of pressure on the troops given the situation. Soldiers often had a preconceived idea that they would form up in combat and fight a well coordinated battle, but the realities of combat saw soldiers scattered all over the battlefield and they often only formed small, desperate fighting groups. In Marr's view, officers who exerted leadership in those kinds of situations were the ones most deserving of commendation. Marr served with officers from various companies and battalions of the 507th PIR. One winter day, Marr's battalion commander, John Davis [Annotator's Note: Major Davis commanded 3rd Battalion, 507th PIR], was killed in an attack on Cake Hill. Marr then served under two temporary replacement commanders all in a single day. Marr also served in peacetime under both loud and abusive commanders, as well as calm and even handed ones. During the battle for the La Fiere causeway, General Gavin [Annotator's Note: Brigadier General James M. Gavin was assistant commander of the 82nd Airborne Division in Normandy] exerted extraordinary leadership in the battle to regain control of the causeway at La Fiere. Early in the battle, he spent his time directing the advance of paratroopers on the river crossings at Chef Du Pont and La Fiere. He even walked between the two objectives in hopes of collecting enough men to secure the next objective. Gavin ended up at La Fiere and helped direct the assault that ultimately dislodged the Germans from the western end of the La Fiere causeway. Gavin's battle direction might have accounted for the confusion with Colonel Roy Lindquist's 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment and the regiment being sent to Chef Du Pont instead of bringing up the rear behind Marr's group at the La Fiere causeway. Despite such instances of confusion, Marr concludes that all the leaders in the 82nd Airborne Division exerted excellent leadership in Normandy.

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After paratrooper John Marr unexpectedly landed in deep water after his jump into Normandy on D Day, his first priority was to get loose of his parachute. Wind gusts were high during the jump and gusts often caught troopers' parachutes and pulled them across the water. It was of paramount importance for a paratrooper to escape his harness as quickly as possible, and unbuckle his reserve chute so he could reach his weapon. Troopers concentrated on a mental checklist in order to situate himself before he could move out. The shock of landing in deep water was a difficult thing to overcome as the water often disoriented soldiers as to their surroundings and the best route to escape the water. Paratroopers also struggled to locate the landmarks they were briefed on, such as the railroad embankment, in relation to the river, since the fields surrounding the river were flooded. Marr waded through a flooded field until he saw a blue assembly light deployed by a pathfinder trooper, but once he reached it, he found that there were hardly any other troopers assembled there. Marr informed his battalion S2 [Annotator's Note: intelligence officer], who was waiting at the blue light, that he was going to the railroad embankment to assemble with the other troops there. Marr was 26 years old when he jumped into Normandy on D Day. On the morning of D Day, Captain Schwartzwalder [Annotator's Note: Captain Ben Schwartzwalder was the commanding officer of Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division] ordered Marr to lead an advanced party ahead of the rest of the group as Company G began to move toward its objectives. Once the company reached the bridge at La Fiere, Schwartzwalder assigned Marr's advanced party to cross the bridge to the west end of the causeway. Marr sent scouts out across the causeway ahead of the group since the causeway was lined with trees and brush on either side and Marr had no way of knowing if Germans were laying in wait there or not. The Germans did have two machine gun emplacements on either side of the west end of the causeway, but they let Marr's first scout move across without opening up on him. The second scout, Jim Mattingly, then set out and crossed the bridge. Mattingly advanced about five or six yards passed the end of the bridge when a German emerged from the brush and went for a concealed machine gun. Mattingly saw the German just in time. He whirled around and emptied an entire clip from his M1 rifle at the machine gun emplacement then dropped his empty rifle and lobbed a grenade into it. After it exploded, four Germans emerged with their hands raised and Mattingly grabbed his rifle to cover them. Almost immediately, five Germans who were manning a concealed machine gun emplacement on the other side of the causeway also emerged with their hands skyward. In the span of about 20 seconds, Mattingly took nine German prisoners and eliminated two machine gun positions single handed. The Germans never even got off a shot before Mattingly opened up. All in all, the Germans had four machine gun emplacements around Manior La Fiere [Annotators Note: La Fiere Manor] situated just next to the bridge, and the four had severely hampered the assault by Company A, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment on the manor earlier on the morning of D Day. Mattingly took out two of them, Marr's advanced party eliminated one in the early morning of D Day, and one remained in the turret of the manor house, which was mopped up later. The machine gun on the south side of the manor which Marr and his advanced party eliminated was an MG42, but, since neither machine gun fired a round at Mattingly, Marr and his men could not tell if the guns were MG34 or MG42s.

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During the assault on Manoir La Fiere [Annotators Note: La Fiere Manor] on D Day, Lieutenant John Marr led his advanced party ahead of the rest of his company along the south side of the manor and eliminated a German machine gun position there. In doing so, two of Marr's soldiers, T5 [Annotators Note: Technician 5th Grade] Escobar and Corporal Lawton, were wounded by machine gun fire. One of the five men who helped eliminate the machine gun, Private Mario Parletto, lives in Arizona and Marr laments not seeing him at any postwar veteran reunions. It seemed a great stroke of luck that Marr and each of his five soldiers were not all killed by the machine gun. The group advanced along a hedgerow and saw a cattle gate through it, but none of the men realized that the machine gun was there. The group got within about 30 feet of the cattle gate when the machine gun cut loose. It is a miracle that, given how many bullets a machine gun spews, only two of Marr's soldiers were hit. The team hit the ground and then each man heaved a grenade at the position. Once the grenades detonated, the two German machine gunners jumped up and stepped toward the cattle gate to surrender. T5 Escobar did not realize this, however, and, in his wounded state, he mistook their stepping forward as an advance. Escobar slung up his Thompson submachine gun and killed both the Germans on the spot. Marr and his team had to escort the wounded Escobar and Lawton back to cover as they were uncertain of what lay ahead. As it turned out, Marr could have safely advanced all the way around the Manoir out of the sightline of the remaining German machine guns. It was a tremendous stroke of luck that the other guns were situated the way they were and also that the German machine gunners did not kill Marr and his entire team. In Marr's view, had an American soldier been behind the machine gun, he would have sprayed the entire area with fire and not missed a single enemy. After he and his men eliminated the machine gun, Marr and Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment moved across the causeway, which essentially ended their action around Manior La Fiere itself.

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Once Lieutenant John Marr and the rest of Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment crossed the bridge at La Fiere, they came into contact with Lieutenant Levy [Annotator's Note: from 2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment], who had set up an outpost at the church in the small village of Cauquigny. Levy's position was not a defensive perimeter, but was an outpost that consisted of a series of foxholes from which Levy's men observed the surrounding area in order to alert Lieutenant Colonel Timmes [Annotator's Note: Charles J. Timmes, commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, 507th PIR] of any enemy troop movements. When the Germans counter attacked at Cauquigny later on D Day, Levy pulled his force back from the church as the Germans arrived in force and would have easily disposed of Levy's force. The German counter attack on Cauquigny occurred shortly after Marr and Company G moved out of the village, but it was unclear how long Levy's position held. After Company G pulled out of Levy's outpost at Cauquigny, it circled north and joined Timmes' defensive perimeter around an orchard. Marr gave his first oral history of his Normandy experience to historian S.L.A. Marshall [Annotator's Note: official US Army combat historian] in England as he was recovering from a combat wound. The interview occurred in August of 1944 and Marr refers people interested in his combat experiences to Marshall’s book, . During the interview, Marshall asked Marr if he had expected to be followed across the La Fiere causeway on the afternoon of D Day. Marr answered yes and that he expected Roy Lindquist [Annotator's Note: Colonel Roy Lindquist commanded the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment] to cross the causeway with a sizable force. Marshall also asked Marr if he participated in Rae's attack across the La Fiere causeway later in the battle [Captain Robert Rae commanded Service Company, 507th PIR], and Marr informed Marshall that he was defending Timmes' orchard during Rae's attack. Marr found nothing wrong with Marshall's account of the La Fiere battle in and felt that Marshall remained true to Marr's answers in the interview. Marshall also conveyed Jim Mattingly's actions on the La Fiere bridge. Marshall ultimately interviewed three soldiers from Marr's regiment. Marr's one critique of Marshall was his carelessness in describing the characters he writes about, Marr felt that his use of negative adjectives to describe himself and other soldiers were not especially considerate.

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John Marr served as a 1st Lieutenant and commanded 1st Platoon, Company G, 2nd Battalion,  507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, during the airborne invasion of Normandy and jumped on D Day. As the C47 Skytrain which carried Marr and his stick of paratroopers made landfall over Normandy, tracer bullets and antiaircraft fire began to fill the sky. Marr saw a few aircraft which had been hit and were on fire, but a layer of low clouds obscured much of the aircraft armada and made it difficult to tell the formation of surrounding American aircraft. As Marr looked down on France, the landscape appeared to consist of numerous meadows after rain had fallen, but that appearance was misleading as many of those meadows had been flooded by the Germans prior to the invasion. What appeared to be good landing areas were actually flooded fields. Marr's aircraft overshot the intended drop zone and flashed the green signal light over the flooded area, which sent the paratroopers out into a very deadly situation. Marr's plane was flying at a low altitude when he jumped and he oscillated just once in his chute before he hit the water. Marr landed in a braced landing position and immediately went under, but when he stood up, the water was armpit deep. Marr then waded through the water towards a blinking, blue assembly light, where he came across a pathfinder trooper and a lieutenant from 2nd Platoon, Company G named Princkett [Annotator's Note: spelling unknown]. Marr made out the silhouettes of American troops assembling on a nearby railroad embankment and he moved forward to join them. He clambered up the embankment to find that most of the troopers gathering there were from the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, not his own 507th. Marr moved through the ranks in search of troopers from his own regiment and eventually linked up with his Company G commander, Captain Ben Schwartzwalder, and they set off for the highway which connected the French town of Amfreville to Sainte Mere Eglise. One of the 507th's main objectives was the town of Amfreville and Captain Schwartzwalder immediately indicated to Marr that Company G had to reach that objective. Marr and Schwartzwalder collected a group of some 70 troopers from various companies of the 507th PIR. Marr took point and led the group for about an hour down the railroad embankment before they climbed onto the Amfreville to Sainte Mere Eglise highway just as morning twilight began to crack the night sky. Captain Schwartzwalder decided to move the group into a large field to the left of the highway and go through it as they moved west toward the bridge over the Merderet River situated right near Manoir La Fiere [Annotators Note: La Fiere manor], a farmstead located just east of the causeway. Schwartzwalder’s group totaled between 70 and 80 men as they assembled near the Amfreville to Sainte Mere Eglise highway. Before the group moved out along the railroad embankment, Captain Schwartzwalder assigned Marr to the advanced party, a group of some five men and a few scouts that preceded the main group during the march. Marr's advanced party led Schwartzwalder's group across the highway and into a field where they advanced up the southern edge of the field near a hedgerow, beyond which lay the flooded area. The group then followed the hedgerow westward as they approached Manoir La Fiere.

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Lieutenant John Marr led his advanced party along a hedgerow ahead of the main group of Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment on the approach to Manoir La Fiere [Annotator's Note: La Fiere Manor]. As Marr's group advanced up the hedgerow, they came across a cattle gate that cut through the hedgerow. As they neared the gate, a German machine gun cut loose on them from only about 100 feet away. Two men of Marr's advance party were wounded by machine gun fire, but Marr and all his men managed to duck to the ground before any were killed. Each of the men in the advanced party heaved a grenade into the machine gun emplacement. After they exploded, the two Germans manning the machine gun jumped up and stepped forward in a gesture of surrender. Before the Germans fully made their intentions clear, one of Marr's men fired his Thompson submachine gun and killed both Germans. The two men wounded of Marr's group were T5 [Annotators Note: Technician 5th Grade] Escobar, who was hit in his upper hip, and Corporal Lawton, who was hit in his leg. Escobar, concerned about his wound and uncertain of the intentions of the enemy, was the one who killed the two Germans. After eliminating the machine gun, Marr halted the advance of his group and decided to bring his two wounded men back and report to Captain Schwartzwalder [Annotator's Note: Captain Ben Schwartzwalder commanded Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment] with the main group of Company G. As Marr and his men moved around the south side of the manor, they heard the sounds of American small arms fire to the north of the manor, which came from Company A, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment which was attacking from the north. As Marr tried to assess the situation at the manor, he found Red Dolan [Annotator's Note: Lieutenant John J. Dolan, commanding officer of Company A, 505th PIR] who informed Marr that his company had been fighting for the manor since before daylight and were pinned down by machine gun fire. Upon returning to Schwartzwalder, Marr's wounded men were evacuated and Marr briefed Schwartzwalder on the action with the machine gun. Shortly after Marr finished his report to Captain Schwartzwalder, Colonel Lindquist [Annotator's Note: Roy Lindquist, commanding officer of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment] entered the field. As Lindquist and Schwartzwalder conversed, General Ridgway [Annotator's Note: Major General Matthew B. Ridgway, commanding officer of the 82nd Airborne Division] entered the field and immediately conveyed to Lindquist his desire to capture the bridge near Manoir La Fiere. Lindquist then gave a short, direct field order to the other officers. He instructed Lieutenant Dolan to lead elements of the 505th PIR around the right side of the manor and assigned Captain Schwartzwalder and his men of the 507th PIR to advance down the left side. He then ordered that his 508th PIR would attack right at the manor itself, and with that, he moved out. It was always a mystery to Marr why Colonel Lindquist brought his regiment to La Fiere, as Marr had understood Lindquist's objective to be a river crossing at the town of Chef Du Pont. Marr also did not understand why General Ridgway showed up at La Fiere either.

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Lieutenant John Marr had encounters with other American officers and commanders in the field early on in the Normandy campaign. He first met Lieutenant Red Dolan [Annotator's Note: John J. Dolan, commanding officer of Company A, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment] around Manoir La Fiere [Annotators Note: La Fiere Manor]. Marr quickly realized that Dolan was a seasoned combat veteran and an excellent combat leader. After Marr assembled with his unit on a railroad embankment, the entire unit moved quickly toward its objective area which was the town of Amfreville west of the Merderet River. Marr was impressed with his commander, Captain Ben Schwartzwalder, and his ability to take charge of Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment and get the men moving toward their objective. On the way to the objective, however, Company G became involved in the assault on Manoir La Fiere which was situated next to the bridge over the Merderet River. Company G moved down the south side of the manor as Colonel Lindquist [Annotator's Note: Roy Lindquist, commanding officer of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment] and his men made the main assault on the manor, supported by Lieutenant Dolan's Company A, 505th PIR on the north side. Marr and the rest of Schwartzwalder's Company G moved to the other side of the manor essentially unopposed and waited for the assault to conclude. As the battle ended, Captain Schwartzwalder contacted Colonel Lindquist and got new orders for Company G. Lindquist ordered Schwartzwalder to lead his men across the bridge to the west end of the causeway. Again, Schwartzwalder placed Marr in command of an advanced party to precede the main group. Marr then deployed two scouts across the bridge. The lead scout, Private John Ward, crossed the bridge on the south end of the road, followed closely by the second scout, Private Jim Mattingly, on the north side. Ward made it past the bridge about 100 yards when Mattingly got across. Jjust as Mattingly crossed the bridge, a German rose up out of the brush and aimed his rifle right at Mattingly. Mattingly saw the German with his peripheral vision, turned on him, swung his M1 rifle up to his hip, and emptied all eight rounds at the German. The German soldier fell to the ground. Mattingly then dropped his rifle, popped a grenade and tossed it into the concealed enemy emplacement. After it exploded, four Germans, two of them noticeably bloodied by the blast, rose and surrendered. Mattingly picked up his empty rifle and covered the surrendering Germans when another five Germans in a concealed emplacement on the other side of the road also rose and surrendered. This left Mattingly in charge of nine enemy prisoners with an empty rifle. As it turned out, Marr and his men were responsible for eliminating three of the four enemy machine gun emplacements around the manor and the bridge. It also turned out that Lindquist's men had captured more German prisoners inside the manor house who informed the Americans of the hidden emplacements on the other side of the bridge, but Marr's group had no contact with those prisoners. Marr's group had moved around the south side of the manor unopposed and then moved across the bridge. Company G had Mattingly's prisoners picked up by Americans to their rear and moved across to the west end of the causeway. On the far side of the bridge, an American outpost under the command of Lieutenant Levy [Annotator's Note: Lewis Levy of 2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment] heard the ordeal and the silencing of the German weapons, so Levy popped orange smoke at his outpost, signaling friendly troops to Marr and his men. At that point, Company G moved to Levy's position and made contact with him at the outpost.

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After Lieutenant John Marr and the rest of Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment crossed the La Fiere causeway, they came into contact with Lieutenant Lewis Levy and Lieutenant Joe Kormylo, both of 2nd Battalion, 507th PIR, who had set up an outpost in a church yard on the far side of the causeway. Levy had been deployed by Lieutenant Colonel Timmes [Annotator's Note: Charles J. Timmes, commanding officer of 2nd Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment] with a small outpost force of about 20 men. Lieutenant Kormylo had joined Levy at the outpost with his men, and they informed Marr and his company of Timmes' position and situation. Timmes and his men had dug in at an orchard after a failed assault on the town of Amfreville, which was one of the 507th PIR's D Day objectives. Captain Ben Schwartzwalder [Annotator's Note: commanding officer of Company G, 507th PIR] tried to determine a new plan based off of Levy's information and held up the company for a time. As Schwartzwalder was considering his options, a German advance moved up the highway from the southern town of Picauville toward the town of Cauquigny, where Levy's outpost was set up in a church yard. The approach of enemy troops convinced Schwartzwalder that Company G needed to clear out and join Timmes at the orchard, since his small company would not have been able to make a successful attack on Amfreville. Once Company G joined Timmes' force, the American strength in the orchard totaled about 150 men. As the Germans advanced, the rumble of their tanks could be heard by the Americans at the outpost. Just prior to the advance of the main German force, however, a German ambulance drove up the same highway from Picauville and turned onto the Amfreville to Sainte Mere Eglise highway toward Amfreville, where it paused for a few minutes. The ambulance's rear doors were ajar and the Americans saw wounded Americans in the back of the German vehicle, so they left it alone. As the German tanks advanced, Schwartzwalder's group withdrew and left Levy's outpost behind to scope out the enemy strength. When an artillery barrage began near the outpost's position, Schwartzwalder had to make the decision to either advance on Amfreville in low strength or maneuver through the woods to Timmes' position in the orchard. When enemy tanks advanced and the enemy artillery barrage began, Schwartzwalder's group was not dug in or prepared to fight, thus, out of necessity, they had to move, and the smartest destination for their withdrawal was to an existing defensive position, which is exactly what Timmes' position offered.

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[Annotator's Note: 1st Lieutenant John Marr served as a platoon leader in Company G, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division in Normandy.] The purpose of Lieutenant Lewis Levy's outpost at the church in Cauquigny was to observe enemy troop movements and serve as a buffer between an enemy attack and the 2nd Battalion's main defensive position. The outpost force under Levy, however, was not large enough to defend the town at the west end of the La Fiere causeway, nor was it meant to. Rather, it’s only purpose was to serve as a forward position and provide warning to the main defensive position. When John Marr and Captain Ben Schwartzwalder's Company G, 507th PIR came into contact with Levy's outpost, a German advance approached from the south toward the outpost and the western end of the causeway. Captain Schwartzwalder was faced with the choice between fighting to defend the causeway or falling back to join the defensive position of 2nd Battalion, 507th PIR. The area around the causeway did not provide sufficient cover for a defensive position and Company G would have been fighting with their backs to the river and flooded areas against a German force with superior numbers and firepower. Essentially, it was not a tactically defensible position at Levy's outpost, and it made much more sense to join a larger defensive unit. One of the lasting impressions from the war for Marr was the power of training. Private Jim Mattingly exemplified the power of training in his actions on the bridge at La Fiere which resulted in his taking nine German prisoners by himself. The paratroopers trained rigorously before they went into combat, and, in Marr's view, they would not have fought as well as they did without it. Most all of the paratrooper training was designed to instill in them the confidence that they would be successful. All of the troopers were confident in their abilities, even when they left for Normandy. Captain Schwartzwalder exemplified confidence and energy and his men considered him one of the greatest company commanders in the army. His leadership even extended onto the football field as he went on to become a hall of fame collegiate football coach after the war.

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