By Christopher Miskimon
On D-Day, Sergeant O.B. Hill of the 82nd Airborne Division landed by parachute along the flooded banks of the Merderet River. He could see some of his comrades drowning after landing in the swollen waters. He and Corporal Dave Jones quickly rounded up 28 men and decided to occupy a nearby farm building from which they could interdict a nearby road. The ad hoc unit dug in around the farm with Hill taking up an observation post on the second floor. German tanks and infantry soon approached, and Hill told his men to hold their fire. One of the German tanks, a black-clad commander perched in its turret hatch, drove up right next to the building. Hill took a Gammon grenade and dropped it right into the hatch past the unsuspecting German. The explosion sent the enemy soldier flying up into the air; “He popped out like a champagne cork and came up to me and then down like on an elevator,” Hill later said. The Germans retreated, and the American paratroopers held that farm for three more days until relieved.
The author gathered multiple perspectives of the D-Day invasion from the participants and organized them deftly in this new book. The narrative is engaging and keep the reader’s attention page after page. The book is filled with veteran accounts and interesting battle stories.
The Human Face of D-Day, Walking the Battlefields of Normandy: Essays, Reflections and Conversations with Veterans of the Longest Day (Col. (Ret) Keith M. Nightingale, Casemate Books, Havertown, PA, 2023, 357 pp., maps, photographs, appendices, bibliography, index, $37.95, hardcover)