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A Sobering Experience

He Was Lucky

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Richard Ford was born in Erie, Pennsylvania on the Great Lakes. He had two sisters and was the youngest one in the family. Ford’s two older sisters passed away the summer before this interview. One was 98 and the other was 91. His father had his own insurance agency. His mother was of German descent. She was a very good cook. Ford was a teenager during the Depression. After he got out of high school he went to Clemson College in South Carolina. Ford was talked into going to Clemson by a friend in Erie. The cost of going to Clemson was not prohibitive. Clemson was not coed by that point. There were 2,500 cadets. They had the old rat system. Ford was assigned to a couple of upperclassmen that he had to take care of. He learned how to conform to discipline. Ford knew that when he graduated he would be commissioned. During his sophomore year he got sick and they treated Ford with sulfa drugs which were just coming out on the market. As a result he had high blood pressure and could not pass the physical. Ford was frustrated with not being able to pass the physical so he enlisted in the army. His father was very upset with the whole thing. Ford enlisted in the regular army. He was told he could either go to Panama or Hawaii. Ford chose Panama. Since Ford was a college boy and he was taking up chemical engineering they put him in the 1st Separate Chemical Company. It was a mortar outfit that launched gas and smoke. They had mules for transportation. The officers rode horses in that outfit. It was not too bad of an assignment. The first post Ford was at was Corozal. Corozal was a location where the French had originally attempted to build a canal. The bed bugs were particularly bad there.

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Richard Ford was in Panama City when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was in a bar when he found out. Panamanian police rode into the saloon and they had their sabers drawn. They ran all of the American soldiers out and told them to get back to the Canal Zone. There were all kinds of trucks there to pick the soldiers up. The company commander got everyone together and told them about Pearl Harbor. Everybody was pretty edgy. One of Ford’s jobs was to burn piles of material to create a smokescreen that would make an attack on the Canal difficult. The first night they did it the smoke caused the civilians to become upset. Some of the locals put up signs on their businesses that forbid soldiers from coming inside. The smoke was a good pay back. In those days they did not have training centers to learn this stuff. Ford got his training on the fly. He did not enter boot camp. Ford carried a .45 caliber pistol on his hip. He recalls learning how to shoot a pistol on the fly in Panama. They issued them Springfield 03 rifles [Annotators Note: M1903 .30 caliber rifles]. The rifles were clean and not used. The rifles were covered in cosmoline. Eight inches were cut off of the barrel of the Springfield to make it into a carbine type weapon. They did not change the size of the cartridge. Ford notes that he told people about the carbine after the war but it was hard to find someone who knew what he was talking about. By the time Ford left Panama they had turned in their mules and gotten trucks. They were going along the top of a levee and the truck driver was going very fast and they rolled over off of the top of the levee. Ford did not get hurt too badly but a couple of the boys had broken legs. There were three guys stationed in Panama that had been going to college with Ford. An officer approached them one day and asked them if they would like to go to officers school. It seemed like a good deal with the pay.

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Richard Ford waited about three months for a boat back to the United States. Germans were sinking boats in the Gulf of Mexico. Their captain came in one day and told them that another ship was going to available in two days. Ford got on the banana boat and they were supposed to go to New Orleans. The first or second night out the alarm went off and they ran up on deck to see what was going on. The sailors were cutting the life rafts off the side of the ship. Ford was near one of the square racks that was cut loose. He jumped in the water and he and one of his comrades jumped on the top of the makeshift raft. Ford hung on that all night. The next morning a navy flying boat flew by and two hours later a destroyer came by and picked them up. Ford ended up in Tampa instead of New Orleans. Ford ended up at Fort Benning taking classes from some of the guys that he went to school with at Clemson. Ford became a 90 day wonder and was assigned to the 29th Infantry Division, which was at that time in Camp Blanding, Florida. They were attempting to bring the outfit up to strength officer wise. The 29th Division drew on national guard outfits from Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Ford was assigned to Company K, 115th Regiment [Annotators Note: Company K, 3rd Battalion, 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division]. He got all of his inoculations and always carried his inoculation card with him so that if people tried to give him shots in the future he could prove he already had them. They practiced amphibious landings for a little bit and then they were sent up to New York. One night they were told to pack their barracks bags in preparation for travel. A train took them into New York Harbor and they loaded on the Queen Elizabeth. The entire division was carried on the Queen Elizabeth. The ride to England was something else. The ship was very fast. The crossing only took them four nights and four days. Ford sat down next to a fellow officer named Fred Hoffman. They were trying to eat soup which proved difficult because of seasickness and the sway of the ship. They took everyone off of the ship. Ford remembered getting meat pies from some of the locals. They were pretty fatty. Ford's train ended up in Oxford. The company he was in was moved out to a little town called Bampton. They were just one company there. Battalion headquarters was in a town called Whitney. They had Quonset huts. Ford lived in an old stone house that was probably a thousand years old. There were some old markings inside of the church left by former Crusaders. It was interesting to see where these previous warriors had left their mark. Ford got to Bampton in October of 1942.

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Richard Ford left Bampton and went through Tidworth, England. They were there in the winter of 1942 to 1943. They were not in Tidworth for too long maybe one or two months. They then walked from Tidworth down to the southwestern edge of England. A lot of the places Ford stayed at had massive amounts of ancient and medieval history. Ford recalls going through exercises to prepare for the landing in France. They had to learn how to get in and out of landing craft. The first landing craft they trained with were old transportation barges. They eventually got the Higgins boats delivered to them. Many times Ford got out of the landing craft in water over his head. The infantry guys threatened the coxswains and told them that they better get the guys offloaded on the beach and not in the middle of the water. Their unit was transferred to Slapton Sands. There were destroyers behind their Higgins boats. Some of the guys washed out because they could not take the noise. Ford was sent to the assault training center which was up near the Bristol Channel. They used live ammunition and got used to making TNT charges. They learned how to attack and neutralize pillboxes. Tanks were also used in the live firing exercises so that the troops could get used to it. The blast from the tank gun was such that it could knock you over if you were not prepared. The Bangalore torpedoes was aother demolition type weapon that they trained with. There was one kid that did it and froze when he put the torpedo in the aperture of the pillbox. The explosion got the kid but he was not killed. It was a realistic set up. They had concussion grenades that they trained with as well. When they trained with grenades they had to have the detonators detached. They would throw grenades into minefields to demonstrate how to take out a minefield.

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Richard Ford was at the assault training center near Bristol for a few months. There was a boys' school near them. Everyday they marched to school and they would play bagpipes on their way to class. There were many different types of drills that they partook in. One training exercise was to learn how to negotiate barbed wire. Ford messed up attempting to go over the wire and ended up in a ditch. It was quite a place to learn warfare. The American soldiers used to joke that they were replacing the home guard. Ford was informed that they were going to be landing at Omaha Beach. They made more practice landings at Slapton Sands. Farmers and other civilians were evacuated from the shorelines. The farmers would have signs up that said please do not ruin my home or farm. The army had an exchange program set up where officers could transfer to a British unit to help with their training. Nobody volunteered so Ford stuck his head out and said that he would do it. Ford ended up with the Norfolk Regiment on the Isle of White. It turned out to be an anti tank outfit. They had six pound guns [Annotators Note: so named because of the weight of the projectiles they fired was six pounds]. He also trained on what was called a Bren Gun Carrier. The British guys would grind the gears on the machines they drove. Ford taught them how to double clutch an engine. They were tricky vehicles to drive. Ford was with the Norfolk Regiment for about three weeks. A major in the British Army informed Ford that their time was going to come to an end. The Norfolk Regiment had an assignment somewhere else. The British military lived quite well. Ford was outside of Plymouth when he was told that he had to make his way back to his unit. The British packed up and were gone before Ford realized they were gone. A ferry took Ford to Southampton. Ford got to where he was supposed to go and no one was there. The only person left was the supply sergeant. He informed Ford that they were out practicing another landing. Ford was instructed to go to a coastal town where his guys were.

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Richard Ford recalls a nasty day in England. Eisenhower came through with his staff. There were RAF [Annotators Note: British Royal Air Force] generals among them as well. Eisenhower asked Ford to procure some overshoes from the supply sergeant. They gave them the overshoes. The place they were at was right on the Channel. Eisenhower had a light machine gun and he fired it from the hip. Ford never saw any pictures of that but he recalls him doing that. Everyone was having a good time. The supply sergeant never got his boots back. Ford remembers going into Plymouth and loading up into landing craft. There was an officer watching everybody going into the landing craft. When they got in the landing craft they had to call out their name, rank and serial number. Later in life Ford met a man who was one of the officers who had to keep track of everyone. When they loaded up onto the landing craft it was in the middle of the day. Locals from Plymouth were watching all of this going on. Ford thought this was odd. During the night they pulled into Weymouth Harbor. They left Weymouth that same night. The landing was postponed for one day. The crossing was fairly rough especially for the small craft. Ford recalled going past the cruiser Augusta [Annotators Note: USS Augusta (CA-31)] and it looked like a skyscraper. The Augusta ended up being their artillery support because the artillery that was supposed to land sank in the Channel. Ford never kept a diary so he does not remember the days too well but one day one of the naval officers from the Augusta was with them. He was the fire control officer. They were in a field surrounded by hedgerows and the fire control officer spotted some Germans. The officer was wondering why the men were just counting the Germans and not shooting them. The reason was that they did not have any more ammunition. Ford thought the naval officer was going to go crazy. This event took place most likely the day after the invasion. Ford told his guys to shoot whatever they could find and to scrounge ammo from both enemy and friend.

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Richard Ford heard about the training incident at Slapton Sands [Annotators Note: Ford is referring to Exercise Tiger, or Operation Tiger, which was a large scale amphibious training maneuver that was spotted then attcked by German torpedo boats, resulting in the loss of many American lives]. They had no idea at the time who perpetrated the attack. Ford did not know much about the event at the time. A lot of things went on. Ford was the officer of the day one time and he got a call at night from a town that was north of him. There was a battalion from Ford's outfit [Annotators Note: 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division] stationed up there. He asked Ford how many cells they had available. They were to be brought back to be locked up. Whatever battalion was up there had been out on maneuvers. There was a colored camp on the other side of town. They went to a dance and there was a bunch of colored guys there. The white soldiers were upset. When they were crossing the channel and it became daylight they went past a barge and it was run by a couple of colored boys. The barge was full of gasoline. Ford felt bad for those guys because if they got hit they would have no idea what happened to them. When they got to France they did not land where they were supposed to. They were maybe 1,500 yards to the left. Ford was supposed to land near the Le Moulin draw. Ford went there later in life and was able to figure out where he landed. Ford realized they were in a precarious position. Ford landed where the present day cemetery is near the beach. If he walked up Omaha beach directly from where he landed he would walk right into the cemetery. That was not anywhere near where he was supposed to land. When Ford got up to the top of the bluff he was mixed in with some of the guys from the 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. Ford notes that if Hitler was not such a screwball he may not have messed up the defense. Ford’s coxswain told him that he was going to get them in as close as he could. The navy had decided, unbeknownst to Ford, to cancel landings near the roughest sections of Omaha because they were not sure if they could hold it. They landed to the left of where they were supposed to. The beach seemed to be two miles wide where they landed. The coxswain let them off in the water. Ford remembers the first few artillery shells landing among his men in the water. His first instinct was that the water would protect him somewhat but that was not the case. Shrapnel travels through water almost as fast as it travels through air. Ford told his men to follow him.

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Richard Ford was wading through the water on Omaha [Annotators Note: on Omaha Beach on 6 June 1944]. An LCI driver came by and offered Fords platoon a ride into the beach. Ford's men wanted to do it but he decided against it because in the time it would take to load everyone up the Germans could have bracketed them. The water was rough and extremely cold but because of his adrenaline he was warm. Three quarters of the way up the bluff they were attacking Ford noticed a relatively safe spot so he made that his goal. Ford could see an old gun emplacement manned by Germans. The beach was as flat as a driveway. Ford ran like hell. There was a minefield at the base of the bluff and by the time Ford had gotten up there he was pretty tired. Ford and about eight other guys hung out for a second to take a rest. The rest was short lived because Ford was getting hand grenades lobbed at him. Ford looked at the beach and thought that this was the end for sure. Dead bodies and material were everywhere. Ford witnessed a destroyer come close in to shore to provide close fire support. They pumped five rounds into an artillery emplacement the Germans had. Those five rounds quieted the artillery emplacement. Once that happened they were able to get up the bluff. Ford got on top and remembers being behind the wheels of a truck. It was late in the evening but still light out. It was dark at this point and Ford walked past a building with a stone wall. He told his guys to take cover and rest for the night. Ford walked around and met one of the officers from his company. He asked where everyone was and the officer had no answer. A German plane came by and buzzed him. In the morning Ford found the rest of the company and they took off from there. They finally got to a place they referred to as an inundated area. It was a swamp type area. Ford had not had anything to eat. That night some guys went back to the beach and were able to dig up some rations. Ford got a can of bacon and a can of condensed milk. The bacon was raw. Ford traded another man the can of bacon for a can of beans. He ate a can of condensed milk and a can of bacon. Ford was glad to get the food because of how hungry he was. He recalled going through a little town in France and came across a farmhouse. Ford found some butter sitting on a table and he stuck his finger in it and ate it only to find out that it was rancid. The company commander informed them that night they were going to cross the flooded area. The water was probably above his knees. The field had irrigation trenches in it that were unseen because of the amount of water in the field. Some guys disappeared. Ford asked the company commander if they were going to keep going through the field. It was so bad that they decided to turn around and go back. Some of the guys lost their equipment and their weapons. It was understandable. They went back to where they started from. Ford read an after action report from the division and it was all wrong.

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Richard Ford was told to move inland as fast as he could after he crossed the flooded area. He thought it was suspicious because he did not have an objective. There was a wheat field that they had to cross. Ford thought for a minute that it might be mined however upon further reflection he did not think that the Germans would mine a perfectly good wheat field. One of the scouts came back and told Ford he had something to show him. Following the scout Ford looked down and saw a little house that had a bunch of German officers milling around. Ford sent a runner to find the company commander. He told him what was going on and the company commander told him to not make any noise because he did not know the location of the rest of the battalion. He was worried about giving away his location to a potentially superior German force. During the night Ford heard horses and artillery coming down the road. The road was only 30 yards away. Shortly after that a fire fight broke out. The division commander was upset with the battalion commander but a bunch of the guys were killed. Ford could hear all of it going on. The German officers that they had originally spotted took off and they did not see them again. It was probably a smart idea not to fire at them. The Germans had what they called a Schnelle Brigade which used motorcycles as transportation. The Germans had ammunition stashed away in the hedgerows all over the place so they were able to grab ammo quickly. Ford set up an ambush on the side of a road one time in order to knock those guys out. Ford fired the first round then they nailed them all. Only two of them got away. Ford saw it as payback for all of the crap the Germans put them through during the landing [Annotators Note: when he landed on Omaha Beach on 6 June 1944]. Ford remembers things that happened but not necessarily when or where. One time they were on a small ridge on the edge of a valley. They could see columns of Germans moving through the valley. Ford called for one of the anti tank cannons to be brought up. He watched them set the 37 millimeter cannon up and as soon as the Germans cleared the opening they opened up and knocked them out. It was a hit or miss business. They did not get into a hard fight until they got to a place called the Elbe River at a little place called St. Margaret.

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Richard Ford notes that they really got nailed at the Elbe River. They moved up to an area one afternoon and the next day the company commander said they were going to cross the river. Ford’s platoon was designated as the lead platoon. They moved up to a hedgerow and there was an opening in it. There was also a road that moved perpendicular to their location. Ford’s orders were to just cross the river. He pressed for further direction in terms of what to do after he got across the river but was given none. They lined up in the morning behind the hedgerow. The river was about 40 yards away and was more of a creek. The problem was that since the river was low the banks were high so it created a naturally defensible position. Ford also had his suspicions that the whole area was zeroed in. Ford spoke with the company commander and the executive officer and informed them of the situation. An artillery round landed in the front where Ford had scoped out the river. Another artillery round landed behind them. Ford looked at the company commander and the executive officer and said I am getting the hell out of here they have us bracketed. The third round ended up landing where Ford was standing. The company commander was killed and the executive officer had both of his legs blown off. A few of the guys milling about were also killed. It threw Ford up against a hedgerow and scorched his jacket. A couple of guys ran away out of fear and Ford had to go corral them. They ended up going across the river. They got down and ran like hell to get to the other side. A mortar round hit near Ford and it knocked him unconscious. His head felt huge. His binoculars had a huge piece of shrapnel in them. His equilibrium was messed up from the concussion so he had trouble walking. Ford eventually got ready to move and by that time a captain came by and told him to go back. They crossed it again the next day. Ford met an old British officer later in life who had the job of mapping the Elbe river. He claimed to know exactly where Ford was attempting to cross at. There were only three officers left in the company by the time they crossed the river. They had six officers going into it but after a couple of days there was only two guys left. One of them had gotten it on D Day [Annotators Note: 6 June 1944]. Ford remembers when one of the officers got hit. Ford was asked to help get him out of the field. There was no way they could get near him. He kept calling for his mother. The Germans had a self propelled 88 [Annotators Note: an 88 millimeter gun mounted on a tracked vehicle]. They fired one round at one guy and he completely exploded. Ford thought they were nuts for firing that big of a gun at one guy.

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Richard Ford was pinned down by a German machine gun. He was up against a hedgerow so tight that he could not move. The dirt from the bullets hitting the ground was falling on Ford. The slightest movement was drawing machine gun bullets. Ford recalled helping to bury the man who was disintegrated by the 88 shell [Annotators Note: see Richard Ford Segment 10]. The graves registration guys came and helped Ford out. Ford was incredibly lucky during his time in the army. He had a sergeant by the name of Heely and Heely informed Ford that he was going to stick around him because he seemed to be lucky. Heely used to tell Ford that he led a charmed life. Orders came down that they were going to launch an attack on St. Lo. It was a misty and rainy day. Ford was hit during the operation and was able to get out of that operation. When Ford got to his outfit they were just about to push into St. Lo. Ford was incredibly lucky. He rejoined the outfit near a place named Percy. They came across a town and Ford decided to go down and take a look at the town. They walked down and got to a place where they could get a clear picture of what they needed to do. Ford ordered his guys to go down the road he just came up from and as soon as they moved they were nailed by the Germans. Ford lost several guys that day. Ford chewed out the company commander because he was upset with the plan. Ford had asked for help and he did not receive it. The company commander said people higher up the chain had nixed the plan for reinforcement. It was a wonder that Ford was not court martialed on the spot. That is just the way things went. Ford got nailed at Percy again. That was the end for Ford. He never went back again.

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Richard Ford had a carbine which was made by Remington. The barrel still had factory markings on it. Every now and then the cartridges would not feed correctly. Ford was five or six yards away from a German and the gun jammed. The German got Ford first. There was quite a bit of firing going on. Everyone was walking around crouched down. Ford was crouched down and walking behind a hedgerow. There was rifle fire everywhere. Ford looked up and there was an old French farmer hanging out on top of the hedgerow watching everything that was going on. Ford believes that the artillery that wounded him the second time was from railroad artillery. He could see the shells coming, that is how big they were. Ford saw a building get hit by one of these shells and the whole building disappeared. He was hit in the back by a piece of shrapnel. He still has back problems because of that. Ford was evacuated to England. He was shot at as he was being evacuated on a jeep. Ford was in the hospital in England for about three weeks then they ended up sending him home. Ford looked at his watch when they were approaching Omaha Beach and it read half past nine in the morning. Some guys tried to tell Ford later on in life that there was no way they could of come in then but he was there and he knows he was there. Ford went all the way across the Channel in his LCI [Annotators Note: Landing Craft Infantry]. Ford had a friend named Lieutenant Shea. He was a public relation man in the civilian world. He did not relish the military way of life. One time in Normandy Shea came by and he was glad to see that Ford was still alive. Later on there was a book written about August 1944. Ford read the book and he wrote the author to correct him on something he had written. The author told him that anything he read about the area was written by a lieutenant named Jack Shea. Jack Shea kept great notes and many authors later on who wrote about the subject utilized the notes that he took. Ford got a card from him later on in life and it was postmarked from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Ford tried to find him but he was not able to but he was able to contact his daughter.

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Richard Ford had 180 men in his company with six officers in his LCI [Annotators Note: Landing Craft Infantry] on D Day [Annotators Note: 6 June 1944]. Ford lost five to six of his men on D Day. It was not as bad where they landed as it was on Omaha Beach. The bluff was the hardest part. Going up the bluff they walked along the trail it was marked out by dead bodies. When they were in combat Company K [Annotators Note: Company K, 3rd Battalion, 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division] always seemed to be on either their left or right. A couple of their training exercises were intense. There was a tree plantation nearby and Ford told sergeant Heely that he thought they were out there by themselves. No one told them that the exercise was over. Heely told all the guys to hunker down in the plantation. Ford volunteered to go into the nearest town to by some bread. They ended up staying out in the field for a week before they came looking for him. Ford told him to stay in the trees. They used their helmets to cook their food. Ford walked into the nearest town and got bread. He always made sure to send a couple guys around during the day to check on the surrounding areas. The fifth day they were there Ford heard a couple of jeeps coming down the road. Ford was able to flag down one of the jeeps. The battalion commander was looking for Ford. They decided to come in. Ford got the platoon back to where they needed to be and the battalion commander really chewed him out. Ford argued that no one had told him the exercise was over. Another time they were on another battalion size exercise. After the exercise was over the battalion commander addressed all of the men. The guys were listening to him but they did not really know what he was talking about. Ford got his map out and realized that the battalion commander was assessing the exercise with an upside down map. The officer sitting next to Ford yelled out to the major to turn his map the right side up. Ford realized he was going to pay for that one and he did. There are people who should be in the service and there are some guys who should not be. There was a guy in Ford’s unit that was a bank teller in civilian life and he did not take well to the military. One night they were marching in formation. Order arms was the command and the civilian banker accidentally discharged his weapon on order arms. He had no business being in the service. Ford went back through the ranks and the guy who fell on the ground after the shot fainted. Ford was happy no one was shot. The company commander and all of the officers started ragging Ford about it. They joked that Ford was so bad to the guys that they were already killing themselves. Ford often thinks about guys like that.

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Richard Ford recalls one time when they got a bunch of replacements. He thought those guys were something else. Four or five of the guys had been in prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. They were given the chance at reduced sentences if they volunteered for a combat outfit. Some of the younger guys in Ford’s outfit were illiterate and as a result of this they would sometimes ask Ford to write a letter for them. Ford remembers looking out at Omaha Beach and seeing how high the bluffs were. The bluff looked like it was at least 200 feet high. They did not land at high tide. It made the beach wider and it made the bluffs appear to be higher as well. Things happened so fast on the beach. Ford told his people to start running and follow him. Mortars were dropping intermittently. The bluff seemed to be the safest place because it provided some protection. Ford was always scared no matter what. The first night Ford spent in France was the most terrifying. In the back of his mind he was worried about a German counter attack. The war did change him. It made him more sober. Seeing all of those dead people was quite a shock. There were a lot of corpses. After a little while it gets to be old hat. Every time he lost somebody it registered with him. There was one guy by the name of Sergeant Dadds. He was a nice guy. He was a real GI. He kept his boys in line. Ford remembered when he got killed. He looked over a hedgerow and was shot. He fell backwards as stiff as a board. The only part of his body touching the ground were the heels of his feet and the pack he had on his back. It was like a solid board that fell backwards. He had one hole in between his eyes. When Ford was a kid his dad used to kid him about using his grey matter in school. Ford saw Sergeant Dadds' grey matter that day.

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Richard Ford is able to watch World War 2 movies. Most of the movies in his opinion are a bunch of BS. They do things in the movies that no one would have done at the time. Ford thinks the movie The Longest Day was horrible. He walked out of it. Ford respects the movie Saving Private Ryan. The movie made him reflect on his service and it made him think of all the guys he served with. Ford remembers the first time he ran across a Tiger tank [Annotators Note: German Mark VI main battle tank, also referred to as a Tiger]. They sent a replacement officer to Ford. The Germans always had foxholes along the highways. Ford instructed the replacement officer to hang out in the foxhole on the side of the road. Up the road was a Tiger tank coming directly at Ford. He damn near wet his pants when he saw that tank. After that Ford went back to the replacement officer but he was dead. Ford never got the chance to even know the man’s name. He remembers looking down at the dead replacement officer and feeling that he was lucky because now he was out of it. Saving Private Ryan was as legitimate a war movie that Ford ever saw. Ford believes it is important for people to learn and study World War 2. A lot of people were killed during the war. In France the Germans had a wide variety of age groups in the service. There were some units that they ran across that were seemingly made up of kids. Some of the kids they ran across were versed in how to operate mortars. They came across Germans after D Day that they were able to capture. Some of the guys suggested that they kill them on the spot rather than take care of them. Ford heard three or four shots after the man took the prisoners. He did not think about it too much but a couple of weeks later he followed up on the incident and found out that the prisoners were lined up and shot. Things like that happen in war. Ford could understand the sergeant's predicament.

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Richard Ford believes that is important for people to know what happened during the war. A lot of people complain about what is going on in Iraq. It is hard to fight in towns. Ford feels bad for those soldiers. They are getting killed but it is not to the same magnitude as World War 2. It was tough duty when their battalion commander would order them to take a town. It is hard for Ford to remember a lot of different things. Some guys kept diaries but Ford never did. Ford began to write down his experiences five or six years before this interview took place. A girl from Wisconsin contacted him later in life to speak with him about her father. Her father died when she was young but he served in the same unit as Ford. She made contact to learn a little bit more about her dad. After his death she went through all of his personal files and through that she was able to track down the guys from the unit. She was able to find most of this information off of the 29th Infantry Divisions website. Ford had a three hour conversation on the phone with her the first time she called. Ford figured it was just a job he had to do and he did it. He is certainly happy that he was not killed. She convinced Ford to write down what he remembered. Another gal in England who was a lawyer got on the 29th Infantry Division website and she emailed Ford. She was a literature student at Oxford. She was writing about World War 2. She was completing her doctoral thesis. She wanted Ford’s opinion on the paper. Ford helped her edit her paper. She teaches English literature now at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. She noted that her thesis might not have been accepted if she had not worked with Ford. Ford did not want her to write a bunch of Hollywood junk. [Annotators Note: Ford shows the camera some of the medals and pictures from his service.]

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Richard Ford recalls one time when they got a bunch of replacements. He thought those guys were something else. Four or five of the guys had been in prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. They were given the chance at reduced sentences if they volunteered for a combat outfit. Some of the younger guys in Ford’s outfit were illiterate and as a result of this they would sometimes ask Ford to write a letter for them. Ford remembers looking out at Omaha Beach and seeing how high the bluffs were. The bluff looked like it was at least 200 feet high. They did not land at high tide. It made the beach wider and it made the bluffs appear to be higher as well. Things happened so fast on the beach. Ford told his people to start running and follow him. Mortars were dropping intermittently. The bluff seemed to be the safest place because it provided some protection. Ford was always scared no matter what. The first night Ford spent in France was the most terrifying. In the back of his mind he was worried about a German counter attack. The war did change him. It made him more sober. Seeing all of those dead people was quite a shock. There were a lot of corpses. After a little while it gets to be old hat. Every time he lost somebody it registered with him. There was one guy by the name of Sergeant Dadds. He was a nice guy. He was a real GI. He kept his boys in line. Ford remembered when he got killed. He looked over a hedgerow and was shot. He fell backwards as stiff as a board. The only part of his body touching the ground were the heels of his feet and the pack he had on his back. It was like a solid board that fell backwards. He had one hole in between his eyes. When Ford was a kid his dad used to kid him about using his grey matter in school. Ford saw Sergeant Dadds' grey matter that day.

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Richard Ford is able to watch World War 2 movies. Most of the movies in his opinion are a bunch of BS. They do things in the movies that no one would have done at the time. Ford thinks the movie The Longest Day was horrible. He walked out of it. Ford respects the movie Saving Private Ryan. The movie made him reflect on his service and it made him think of all the guys he served with. Ford remembers the first time he ran across a Tiger tank [Annotators Note: German Mark VI main battle tank, also referred to as a Tiger]. They sent a replacement officer to Ford. The Germans always had foxholes along the highways. Ford instructed the replacement officer to hang out in the foxhole on the side of the road. Up the road was a Tiger tank coming directly at Ford. He damn near wet his pants when he saw that tank. After that Ford went back to the replacement officer but he was dead. Ford never got the chance to even know the man’s name. He remembers looking down at the dead replacement officer and feeling that he was lucky because now he was out of it. Saving Private Ryan was as legitimate a war movie that Ford ever saw. Ford believes it is important for people to learn and study World War 2. A lot of people were killed during the war. In France the Germans had a wide variety of age groups in the service. There were some units that they ran across that were seemingly made up of kids. Some of the kids they ran across were versed in how to operate mortars. They came across Germans after D Day that they were able to capture. Some of the guys suggested that they kill them on the spot rather than take care of them. Ford heard three or four shots after the man took the prisoners. He did not think about it too much but a couple of weeks later he followed up on the incident and found out that the prisoners were lined up and shot. Things like that happen in war. Ford could understand the sergeant's predicament.
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