Civilian and Military Life Before the D-Day Invasion

Training in England and the D-Day Invasion

From D-Day to St. Lo

Assault into Germany

Occupation Duty and Going Home

VE-Day, a Popular Officer, and Relationships with Locals

Famous Officers, Students, and Anniversaries

Saving Private Ryan, Premonitions of Death, and Nightmares

Postwar Life

Overseas Deployment

First Days in Normandy

Crossing the Roer River


Lucien Paul Laborde was named after his grandfathers. He was the third boy in his family. Laborde was born in Vinton, Louisiana in April 1918. His father was the principal of the school in Vinton but was offered the principal position in Marksville, Louisiana and moved the family there when Laborde was about nine months old. Laborde lived in Marksville until leaving to attend LSU at the age of 15. He spent six years at LSU during which he was in the ROTC [Annotators Note: Reserve Officer Training Corps] program. After graduating he had to wait two years to get his commission because he was not old enough. Laborde was working for the government doing flood control surveys in northern Arkansas when he was called up for active duty on 27 January 1942. Laborde got 30 days to return to Marksville to clean up then report for duty at Camp Beauregard, Louisiana. From Camp Beauregard he was sent to Fort McClellan, Alabama. Fort McClellan was a BROTC training center, a Branch and Material Training Center. Laborde was a platoon leader for a short time then made the battalion adjutant for a while. Laborde was sent to an intelligence school at Camp Ritchie, Maryland. After intelligence school he stayed on as an instructor. After the invasion of North African he volunteered to deploy overseas. Before he got to North Africa he was diverted to England where he was assigned the 29th Infantry Division. The trip to England took 27 days. He originally thought he was going into an intelligence unit but by the time he got to England the 29th Infantry Division had filled the empty billets they had in the intelligence section from within. Laborde was briefly given command of a heavy machinegun platoon in Company M, 3rd Battalion, 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division. Soon after, Laborde was moved to executive officer of Company M. From there he became the battalion adjutant then regimental adjutant. Laborde was a regimental adjutant for the remainder of the division's training and during the invasion [Annotator's Note: D-Day invasion, 6 June 1944]. The intelligence training he received involved interrogations. He and the guys he served with would practice amongst themselves. Laborde liked the aerial photo interpretation part of the training, so much so that he stayed on as an instructor after completing it. Laborde's basic training was at LSU during his four years there in the ROTC. His ROTC training was very beneficial. When Laborde was sent to Fort McClellan, Alabama the battalion commander he was assigned to had been one of his ROTC instructors. During the campaign on the Britney Peninsula the 29th Infantry Division was part of the VIII Corps. The VIII Corps was commanded by General Troy Middleton. When Laborde was in ROTC at LSU, Major Troy Middleton was the Commandant of Cadets. Laborde was sent aboard the 5,000 ton freighter Esperance Bay [Annotator's Note: HMS Esperance Bay] for the trip to England. There were 80 vessels in the convoy and the crossing speed was six knots. For escorts the convoy had five Canadian corvettes. As long as the convoy had PBYs [Annotator's Note: Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boats] providing air cover they were fine. At Newfoundland the convoy was joined by the Dorchester [Annotator's Note: SS Dorchester]. When the convoy no longer had air cover the wolf pack moved in. The u-boats went after the corvettes first. Then the Dorchester was sunk. The German u-boats attacked any ship that had a fighter plane or locomotive strapped to its deck. After a number of ships were sunk the convoy was broken up and it was every ship for itself. The skipper of Laborde's ship pulled up into an ice flow because the submarines could not work under ice at that time. They stayed in the ice flow for five days shoveling snow off the deck before the skipper took the ship past Greenland and Iceland on to Liverpool, England. When they arrived in England they were met by the Red Cross who passed out watercress sandwiches. It was the first green thing Laborde had had to eat in a while and really enjoyed the sandwiches.


After arriving in Liverpool, Lucien Laborde was sent to Swindon where he was assigned to the 29th Infantry Division. At Tidworth he joined Company M [Annotator's Note: Company M, 3rd Battalion, 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division]. He was then moved up to 3rd Battalion adjutant. The regiment Laborde was assigned was in the town of Bodmin. The whole 29th Division moved into the Cornwall area for training. Their training consisted of assaulting hilltops, camping, and operating in marshy areas. Then they moved north to the assault training center where everyone had to learn how to swim. They also did some dry runs loading onto landing barges. They would circle out into the English Channel then land on Slapton Sands. The soldiers also trained on the rifle range, learned weapons and aircraft recognition, and practiced anti-aircraft firing. Laborde was a regimental adjutant when word was passed down that they would be part of the invasion. Each of the 29th Divisions three regiments set up a war room. The war rooms were well protected and inside had mock ups and descriptions of the invasion beaches. Some of the officers had the opportunity to fly the invasion beaches in British Mosquitos. The division was moved to a staging area in Plymouth where they were processed. They made sure that everyone was up to date on their immunizations and that everyone had their dog tags and identification among other things. Then they loaded on boats. Laborde went aboard an LST [Annotator's Note: Landing Ship, Tank]. The LSTs carried 210 people. There were three Navy men aboard running the ship. The landing was originally planned for the morning of the 5 June [Annotator's Note: 5 June 1944] but the weather was too bad. There was a slight break in the weather on 6 June so that is when the landing took place. Laborde heard the planes flying overhead carrying paratroopers. The bombers were supposed to drop 500 pound bombs on the beach for the infantry because they knew the machine gun fire would be terrific. The bombers dropped their bombs about two miles inland so there were no holes on the beach. The landing craft Laborde was in hit an underwater obstacle about 50 yards offshore. They went over the front into water with mortar and artillery shells hitting all around. When Laborde got to the beach he turned around and looked right as his boat was hit badly. He thought that the Navy boys aboard were dead. One of the Navy guys had taken pictures of Laborde and the other soldiers and had gotten their addresses. Six months after the invasion one of Labordes older brothers received a set of pictures from a sailor in a hospital in North Carolina. Laborde still has those pictures. Laborde went ashore at Easy Green. The navy beach master told them to move down the beach nearer the 1st Infantry Division. There were some engineers ahead of them. Laborde landed at about 9:30 in the morning. By two that afternoon Laborde was up on the ridge with Colonel Slappey [Annotator's Note: Colonel Eugene N. Slappey]. Laborde and Slappey went back onto the beach to find General Huebner [Annotator's Note: Major General Clarence R. Heubner], the 1st Infantry Division commander. The beach was still under fire. The 116th [Annotator's Note: 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division] had landed first and was decimated so it was decided that the 115th Regiment would take over the objectives of the 116th. The 115th would clean out the area between St. Laurent and Viervilles, the 2nd Battalion by the beach. The 3rd Battalion was south of the 2nd Battalion. The 1st Battalion was south of the 3rd Battalion. By nightfall the battalion commander of the 1st Battalion was killed. By the second day the battalion commander of the 3rd Battalion was removed with combat exhaustion. On D plus two the 2nd Battalion moved into a field surrounded by hedgerows. The battalion had been going for three days with no sleep or food and just flopped down in the field without digging in. The Germans were waiting for them and eliminated over half of the battalion including the battalion commander. The commanding general of the division, General Gerhardt [Annotator's Note: US Army Major General Charles H. Gerhardt], came down looking for the regimental commander and ran into Laborde who was with the 3rd Battalion. The general asked Laborde where Colonel Slappey was. Nobody knew. The general relieved Colonel Slappey of his command right there on the spot. So by the end of the second day the regiment lost all three of its battalion commanders and the regimental commander. It was a new ball game. The way things work in combat is when an officer drops out the man below him moves up and takes over.


Lucien Laborde was a regimental adjutant in the 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division when he landed in Normandy on 6 June 1944. After the landing they encountered a wide area that had been flooded. They knew it was flooded and had water proofed their vehicles before the invasion. They tried to cross the area but could not. A patrol went out to feel out the German resistance. They entered a small town where a local Frenchman told the American patrol that all of the German officers were holding a conference at the time and told them where they were. The Americans called to the Germans to surrender but they did not. All of the Germans were killed. The objective was always to secure the high ground. If areas had to be by passed they were. This style of combat kept up through the hedgerow country which was difficult. The hedgerows were six to eight feet high and several feet wide and had trees growing out of them. The Germans had cut holes through them to set up machineguns to cover the open fields out in front of them. The Americans had to cross those open fields in front of the hedgerows. Laborde's unit fought its way to St. Lo. Here there was a communications center and was important to the Germans and the Americans. To defend St. Lo the Germans put in their paratroopers and the Schutzstaffel, the SS. They had several weeks of tough fighting. It took them almost six weeks to get to St. Lo. Three days before the final attack on St. Lo they were held up. They were told that General McNair [Annotator's Note: US Army Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair] was putting together 1,000 bombers that would saturate St. Lo. During those three days Laborde and the rest of his outfit stayed in their foxholes eating chickens, eggs, and whatever else they could find. When the bombing began General McNair was at the front and was killed by an American bomb. After the bombing, Laborde's unit moved into and through St. Lo. For the next eight or ten kilometers they faced very little resistance then they started running into it again. Patton [Annotator's Note: US Army Lieutenant General George S. Patton] made a breakthrough to the south then turned east toward Paris. Patton made it to the Falaise Gap where he encircled about 15 German divisions. While waiting for permission for Patton to complete the encirclement of the Falaise Gap about three quarters of the trapped German units escaped. Patton went all the way to the German border where he ran into the Siegfried Line. There he ran out of gas. Patton had bypassed the Brittney Peninsula. General Middleton's [Annotator's Note: US Army Lieutenant General Troy H. Middleton] VIII Corps had the job of clearing the peninsula. The objective was the port city of Brest. That was a tough and costly fight. A lot of officers were lost. By the time they got to the final defenses of the city, Laborde was back in regimental headquarters as adjutant and regimental S3, operations officer. The assistant division commander, General Watson, arrived at headquarters with new photographs they had taken. Watson was talking with Colonel Sheppe [Annotator's Note: Lieutenant Colonel Arthur T. Sheppe], the regimental commander, about the photographs. Laborde asked Sheppe if he could look at the photographs. Laborde was able to work his eyes to get the third dimension. It occurred to him that all of the positions they were firing at circled the city and had to all be connected by an underground system. Laborde showed his discovery to General Watson. Watson agreed and organized a task force to go to the water's edge with British flame thrower tanks, some regular tanks, some anti-land mine tanks, and two companies of infantry. The task force found a tremendous opening into the fortification. They fired it up and resistance ceased. All of the little units they saw had periscopes. There was also a 200 bed hospital inside of the fortification. The complete German naval command for the submarine pens and other German vessels working out of Brest were also present. It was a tremendous thing.


Lucien Laborde and the rest of the 115th Infantry Regiment [Annotator's Note: 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division] were told that they would be getting about three weeks rest after the capture of the port city of Brest on the Brittney Peninsula. Three days after the battle they got orders to move to Geilenkirchen on the German border. Laborde was ordered to report to division headquarters as soon as they got to Germany. He had been promoted to division as assistant operations officer. This was in September [Annotator's Note: September 1944]. They fought through the area of the Roer River capturing town after town throughout the fall. The weather was very cold. There was a lot of snow and there were many cases of frostbite among the men in the trenches. The Battle of the Bulge started south of them. The Hurtgen Forest was also south of them. Laborde's division was part of General Simpson's IX Corps [Annotator's Note: Laborde means US Army General William H. Simpson's 9th Army]. The German objective was to turn toward Antwerp and drive a wedge between the American and British forces. General Simpson's troops were to block this advance. Laborde's division was given an area to hold. General Simpson was given the assignment of crossing the Roer River and heading up the Roer Valley. Laborde had a lot to do with the planning of the river crossing. The Roer River was about 150 feet wide because the Germans had blown the damns upriver to impede the American crossing. Laborde visited the area 30 years later and the river was 20 or 30 feet wide where they crossed. They lost a lot of men in the crossing. They got across and captured the town of Julich. At Julich there was a big fort built by Charlemagne. Before the crossing was scheduled Churchill met with three corps commanders and division commanders who showed him their plans for the crossing. Within two days of the crossing they arrived at the city of Mönchengladbach. At the time, Mönchengladbach was the largest German city to fall to the Americans. In town the men of the 29th Infantry Division located Goebbels' castle and had a big celebration in it. From this point on the German resistance was crumbling. They crossed the Rhine River with no real difficulty other than the problems associated with crossing rivers. They went through the Roer Valley, through Hanover, and all the way up to the Elbe River. They encountered mines along the way but no organized resistance. When they reached the Elbe River they could almost see Berlin. They had the equipment to cross the river and continue their advance but were told to halt. An agreement had been reached at Yalta [Annotator's Note: the Yalta Conference] that the Russians would take Berlin. The Russians were still two weeks away. During those two weeks about 90 percent of the German troops in the area crossed the river to surrender to the Americans. They crossed on everything from truck inner tubes to small boats. The Germans were happy to surrender to the Americans because they thought that they would receive proper treatment. When the Germans crossed the river they brought Hohenzollern china and silver with them which they gave to the Americans. Laborde was raised in roast pig country in Avoyelles Parish. All of the Hohenzollern china, crystal, and silver was eventually taken to the 29th Infantry Division armory in Baltimore. It had not even been there a week before the State Department showed up and took it, packed it all up, and sent it back to Germany.


After reaching the Elbe River, Lucien Laborde and the 29th Infantrty Division were ordered to secure an area between Bremen and Bremerhaven called the Bremen Enclave. They moved into the area and set up their headquarters in the town of Vegesack. They patrolled the area and cleaned out all of the guns and ammunition. Once the area was deemed safe, all of the American troops going home had to move through there to Bremen to load onto boats. Anything coming in had to move through the area as well. By this time Laborde was the division operations officer, G3. Laborde and the division G2 went to the French Riviera for R and R [Annotator's Note: rest and relaxation] for a few days. Laborde was able to do a lot of hunting while on occupation duty in Germany. He hunted deer, ducks, and pheasant. Laboarde was in Germany from May [Annotator's Note: May 1945] until the day after Christmas. There was a point system for going home but it did not apply to staff officers. They had to stay for as long as they were needed. Two days after Christmas they loaded the entire division on boats in Bremerhaven. They were relieved of their responsibility for the Bremen Enclave. The division staff loaded onto a C-47 [Annotator's Note: Douglas C-47 Skytrain cargo aircraft] and were to fly to Paris. As soon as they took off one of the motors went out. The pilot was able to land the plane between some bomb craters on a bombed out air strip. They were put up in a small town on the Dutch border while a Dutch mechanic worked on the hydraulic system. The staff boarded the plane and flew to Paris where they landed just before the airport was shut down because of a storm. The following morning they boarded a C-54 [Annotator's Note: Douglas C-54 Skymaster cargo aircraft] to fly to the Azores. It was a ten hour flight. They spent 24 hours in the Azores then boarded another C-54 and flew to Bermuda. In Bermuda they had breakfast and refueled the plane then flew to Washington. Three or four staff members got off the plane in Washington. The plane then flew to Baltimore where all but two of the remainder of the division staff got off. Laborde, the division G3, and Bob Minor [Annotator's Note: US Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert W. Minor], the division G2 went on to New York. They were going to meet the division which had left Europe on boats. Laborde and Minor stayed at the Commodore Hotel where they saw the Andrews Sisters perform. Laborde and Minor met with the port commander who took them out to meet the first boat. They climbed up a rope ladder and remained on board for the remainder of the trip in. There were a lot of dogs on board even though the men were not supposed to have any. Laborde was sent to Fort Dix, New Jersey to be processed out. He was then put on a troop train to Camp Shelby, Mississippi where he got out of the army. He hitched a ride with a soldier whose father was there to bring him back to Norco [Annotator's Note: Norco, Louisiana]. Laborde called his father and had him meet him at a garage in Norco. Laborde does not recall how his foot locker got back.


Lucien Laborde was on staff duty in the war room on the night of 7 May 1945. At about two in the morning they got a TWX [Annotator's Note: Teletypewriter Exchange Service message] from Supreme Headquarters notifying them that the war had ended and instructing them to inform all commanders under their command. Laborde made copies of the orders and put the word out to all regimental, battalion, and company commanders. He kept the original TWX. They referred to General Charles Gerhardt [Annotator's Note: US Army Major General General Charles H. Gerhardt was the commanding officer of the 29th Infantry Division] as "Jumping Charlie." Gerhardt was a regular army officer and had spent a long tour at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. He was a big polo player and a cavalryman. He was small but he was tough. Gerhardt would get the job done no matter what it took. He was fair but did not put up with inefficiency. He wanted success from all of his officers. Gerhardt got in trouble after Brest fell. The Germans had a lot of women in the area and Gerhardt had the division doctors clean the women up then set up what they referred to as the division riding academy. The division chaplain did not approve and contacted Washington. The place was promptly shut down but Gerhardt got away with just a reprimand. After the war Gerhardt was busted down to Colonel for something but was later restored to the rank of Major General. Gerhardt died in Winter Haven, Florida. Laborde met one of Gerhardt's sons when he took 18 members of his family over for the 50th [Annotator's Note: the 50th anniversary of the Normandy invasion]. The division had set up an organized tour. He took several family members over for the 60th anniversary as well but set the trip up in July. Laborde arranged for a bus to meet his family in Paris with a driver and an English speaking guide. He arranged for 35 members of his family to stay in a chateau in Bayeux for three nights then at a place above St. Lo for another two nights. They did the tour the way Laborde wanted to do it. They more or less followed the path that Laborde had taken during the war. During the three days they were waiting for General McNair [Annotator's Note: US Army Lieutenant General Lesley McNair] to arrange for 1,000 bombers to bomb the front lines to prepare for the breakout from the St. Lo bridgehead, the men in Laborde's unit hung out in their foxholes. One day a few soldiers approached him and asked if he spoke French. Laborde replied that he did and was taken to see a Frenchman the soldiers had just found hiding in a hole under his house. The man had sent his family away and excavated a hole beneath his dining room that he stocked with wine, eggs, and cheese. The man's name was Pierre Lemoine. Laborde spent a lot of time with Lemoine. In 1973 Laborde's older brother bought Laborde and his wife first class tickets to Paris. His brother was going to Norway to commission a ship for the Tidewater Company. Laborde met his brother and his brother's wife in Normandy and showed them where he fought. Laborde went to the place where he had spent a few days with Lemoine during the war. He met up with Lemoine who had just returned to the area the night before Laborde had gotten there. For the 50th anniversary there was a demonstration of a tank and infantry attack. The general at the microphone who was presiding over the event called Laborde up to the podium and told him that there was a lady looking for him who had a letter that she wanted Laborde to explain. The letter was from Colonel Lou Smith. After the war the 29th Infantry Division had rebuilt the hospital in St. Lo but Laborde was not able to attend the dedication. At the dedication a man named Pierre Lemoine had approached him inquiring about Laborde. The lady with the letter was Pierre Lemoine's daughter. The two families maintain a close connection to this day.


Lucien Laborde had no personal contact with General Patton [Annotator's Note: US Army Lieutenant General George S. Patton]. People do not understand that war is hell and Laborde is the last person who would judge a person for their conduct during war. Eisenhower [Annotator's Note: US Army General, later President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower] was berated for having a woman driver. Laborde does not know if Eisenhower and his driver were involved romantically but the news media made it out to be that way. Just before they left to cross the channel Eisenhower had all of the officers go over to the Ancon [Annotator's Note: USS Ancon (AGC-4)] where he made a speech. That speech impressed Laborde. He also likes the fact that when Eisenhower made a decision he made a decision no matter if it was right or wrong. Laborde has seen the movie Saving Private Ryan. He thinks that the first 20 minutes of the movie accurately portrayed what they experienced on the beach but everything after that was not. It was tough for Laborde to watch that first 20 minutes of the movie. Laborde believes that museums such as The National WWII Museum are very important. He was interested in The National WWII Museum but his affection has moved to the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Missouri and the National WWII Memorial in Washington DC. Laborde is very impressed with the memorial in Washington. Bob Slaughter was a close personal friend of Laborde so Laborde helped Slaughter get the memorial in Bedford going as much as he could. When Laborde was in Grandchamp for the 50th anniversary he was asked by a school teacher to speak to a group of about 20 school children who were about 15 or 16 years old. The teacher had arranged for a boat to take them out into the channel and wanted Laborde to describe to the group what had taken place between Pointe du Hoc and the cemetary [Annotator's Note: Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville sur Mer]. Laborde had been asked to do the tour since he spoke French. Bob Slaughter was asked to join the group to back Laborde up. The first time Laborde went back to France after the war was for the dedication of the monument the town of Vierville had constructed honoring the 29th Infantry Division. The second time he went back was with his older brother. He went back twice with Bob Minor [Annotator's Note: US Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert Minor], the 29th Infantry Division G2, and their wives. He also went back for the 50th and 60th anniversaries. Laborde's brothers John and Alden were in the Pacific. Laborde cared less about the Pacific because he had his hands full in Europe. He did think that he would actually have to go to the Pacific after the war in Europe ended. Truman has been criticized but he saved millions of lives.


To Lucien Laborde, the first 20 minutes of the movie Saving Private Ryan accurately depict what they experienced when they landed on Omaha Beach on 6 June 1944. By the time they landed on Omaha Beach they had been thoroughly trained. The Army was very disciplined. They just ran into a situation that was much worse than they expected. The Army knew that the German 354th Division was based in St. Lo but they did not know that it just happened to be on maneuvers on Omaha Beach when Laborde's unit [Annotator's Note: 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division] landed. Instead of facing an expected regiment, Laborde's unit was facing an entire German division. Even so, Laborde did not see any incidents of cowardice. After they landed and got to St. Laurant, an officer told the chaplain that he knew he was going to die. The chaplain asked him if he was ready and the officer said that he was. That officer was killed later that night. They all had close calls. Laborde had people killed right alongside him. By D plus three or D plus four they had bypassed a lot of area. Laborde was approached by a Frenchman who told him that there was a German in a hole nearby that wanted to surrender. Laborde took one soldier with him and went back 300 or 400 yards to get the German soldier. He arrived at the hole which was covered up so Laborde could not see into it. He called for the German soldier to come out and to his surprise 11 German soldiers emerged from the hole. The German soldiers had machine guns and pistols with plenty of ammunition which made Laborde nervous but they did not give him any trouble. Laborde sent the soldier he had taken with him back to the beach to get help. Another thing they faced all the time was mines. When Laborde was the adjutant of the 115th [Annotator's Note: 115th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division] he had an excellent Sergeant Major who went through the entire war without a scratch until the last day when he was killed when his jeep hit a mine. The war changed Laborde but not in the way he has heard others say. He did not have wild dreams and did not have any mental or physical problems. He knew people who did have problems but thinks some of those problems may have been exaggerated.


Lucien Laborde had asked his older brother to try to find him a piece of land that he could buy and begin farming. His college training was in animal husbandry and agronomy. He wanted to get away from the concentrated areas and live in the country where he could raise his family close to the earth and close to God. One day a plantation came up for sale. Laborde only had 2,000 dollars in the bank. As a colonel he was making about 420 dollars a month. His brother came up with some money and a family friend did too. They came up with 128,000 dollars. The property they were trying to obtain was 4,400 acres and had 600 head of cattle. The place was sold to someone else. Laborde ended up purchasing a few large farms around Cheneyville and opened a feed mill in Hamburg. He eventually bought out his brother and another investor. The last investor, Mr. Nolan, is Laborde's father-in-law. He gave his daughter his share of the business. Laborde ran a vehicle into New Orleans. He had customers on Poydras Street. After ten years, Laborde had the Cheneyville farms cleaned up nicely. He then started developing property for his cattle business. He also grew white clover for feed. Laborde ended up with about 5,000 acres. The land still provides them with an income. His children still farm some of the acreage. Laborde does not think that he could fit into the way the military operates today. The type of war being fought in Iraq is totally foreign to him. He feels that the press is this country's biggest enemy. The second is Al Qaeda. When they landed in Normandy they had two reporters from the Baltimore Sun with them. Laborde feels that they were as good as soldiers as any of them. The only difference being that all they carried was pencil and paper and they knew what to say and what not to say. Today the media does not care if something they say costs lives.

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