Cornelius Ryan WWII papers, box 022, folder 46: David Jesse Sawyer

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Release Int. British SAWYER, Daivd Jesse Juno -- 2nd Canada Armoured Brig. 79th Armoured Box 22, #46

1st Canadian 79th Armoured [inserted]x TANK MUST[end of inserted] 0800 Bernieres Sur Mer Tank exploded about 20 mines with its chains Hit by high explosives. White enamel inside tank chipped off Bailed out of tank after 1 explosion joined up with Canad. Inf. Saw man & women crying over dead cow French Canadian strung up a woman snipe from a telephone pole

Last edit 6 months ago by heatheralr
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Ack 27/5/58 THE ASSAULT LANDINGS IN NORMANDY D DAY: MIDNIGHT JUNE 5 - MIDNIGHT JUNE 6 What is your full name? David Jesse Sawyer What is your present address? 76 Bisson Road Stratford London, E15 Telephone number: What was your unit, division, corps? 22nd Dragoons, 79 Armoured Div Royal Armoured Corps Where did you land and at what time? Bernieres sur Mer at about 7.30AM What was your rank and age on June 6, 1944? Trooper. Aged 20 Were you married at that time? No What is your wife's name? Did you have any children at that time? When did you know that you were going to be part of the invasion? I knew definitely about March 1944 What was the trip like during the crossing of the Channel? Do you remember, for example, any conversations you had or how you passed the time? The trip took about 28 hours. We left Southampton at 4 AM on 5th June. The trip was very rough indeed and everybody on board the L.C.T. was very sea-sick, more so myself. Conversation was about casualty rate. We expected a great percentage. Were there any rumours aboard ship? (Some people remember hearing that the Germans had poured gasoline on the water and planned to set it afire when the troops came in.) The rumour on board was that there was a large concentration of German troops waiting for us. Did you by any chance keep a diary of what happened to you that day? No. We were not allowed to keep diaries

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2. Were any of your friends killed or wounded either during the landing or during the day? Yes Do you remember any conversations you had with them before they became casualties? I had conversation with some of them but cannot remember what the conversation was about Were you wounded? I was wounded on D plus 5 How were you wounded? I had just come from the front line. and had dismounted from the tank (A Flail Tank) to bed down for the night when my Squadron was attacked by enemy aircraft. I received shrapnel wounds in my knee Do you remember what it was like — that is, do you remember whether you felt any pain or were you so surprised that you felt nothing? Yes: I felt a searing burn and then a numbness. I was very surprised. Do you remember seeing or hearing anything that seems funny now, even though it may not have seemed amusing at the time? Or anything unexpected or out- of-place? I saw on D Day a French man & wife crying over a dead cow which I presume was a pet of theirs. They did not seem to notice the dead soldiers lying around them. Do you recall any incident, sad or heroic, or simply memorable, that struck you more than anything else? My tank was knock out on D Day which meant that all the crew had to bail out. Myself being ill through seasickness and slightly dazed through the explosion, sat on top of the tank for a few moments. My commander (who was later killed) pulled me off just as a German machine gun opened up upon me. I missed death by the

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skin of my teeth through his action. 3. In times of great crisis, people generally show either great ingenuity or self-reliance; others do incredibly strange or stupid things. Do you remember any examples of either? I saw cases of soldiers with Battle fatigue who did strange things Do you know of anybody else who landed within the 24 hours (midnight 5 June to midnight 6 June ) either as infantry, glider or airborne troops, whom we should write to? William Scott 264 Goswell Road Acocks Green Birmingham What do you do now? Electronic Weighing machine mechanic Please let us have this questionnaire as soon as possible, so that we can include your experiences in the book. We hope that you will continue your story on separate sheets if we have not left sufficient room. Full acknowledgement will be given in a chapter called "Where They Are Now." Cornelius Ryan Joan O. Isaacs The Reader's Digest

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[inserted] BR E Brit Juno[end of inserted] Trooper David Jesse Sawyer nicknamed Sawbones member of the crew of a flail tank. He was with the 22nd Dragoons of the 79th Armoured Div. attached to the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade. He went over in an LCT which contained 2 flail tanks and two AVRE's - a fascine and a petard. They left at 4.a.m. of Juhe 5 from Southampton and he looked back at the receding coastline, he had a feeling he'd never see England again. That was the start of 28 miserable hours which he will never forget. There were 25 men on board and everybody was seasick - so seasick in fact that two men tried to jump overboard. He had to hold one man down who was yelling "I can't stand it, let me go!”

The journey was so rough[crossed out]t[end of crossed out that at one moment they could see the flotilla and the next just great walls of water. Even the Navy Captain with 25 years of experience behind him, was ill.

They landed easily enough on the beach and in the first 20 minutes as his flail tank slashed the gournd ahead of them with its chains, he exploded about twenty mines. Each time his chains hit a mine the tank would shudder and the whole front would lift up. Also some of the chains would be blown off and this he had to watch because if he waited until all of them were destroyed he knew that the next thing that would happen would be a track blown off. Eight time in that 20 minutes he was hit by high explosive shells. He could feel the tank shudder undef the impact and the white enamel paint on the tank's interior would splinter off in hard little pieces, flying into his face.

The Commander of his tank was Sergeant Jock Stirling from Glasgow.

Suddenly Stanley said as they saw a tank passing with a man's head outside of it through the open hatch "Look at that sill b...he's going to get himself killed”. Sawyer looked through his periscope and just at that moment he saw a flash along the top of the tank and the man's head completely disappeared. Well, said Sterling he asked for it.

What Sawyer was afraid of was not the high explosive shells but armoured piercing shells., which he knew could destroy him, the crew and the tank.

Suddenly he heard Stirling yell, "bail out”- a shot had hit the flail in front. Sawyer climbed up and partly because he was still seasick and slightly dazed through the explosion he sat on the tope of the tank fir a few moments. Stirling grabbed him and pulled him to the ground as a machine gun opened up and a hail of bullets rattled around the top of the tank.

With their tank knocked out they joined up with the Canadian infantry and moved along with them as infantry. He remembers seeing a man and a woman crying over a dead cow yet all around were British, Canadian, German and even French civilians dead. Stirling was quite angry "How can they feel that way about a cow when they're so many dead lying about”. Late that evening Stirling went back to find out if their new tanks had come in. He returned looking a little green. He said to Sawyer "What do you think the French Canadians have done up around near the beqch?” They've strung up a woman sniper from a telephone pole. The French say she was only 17 1/2."

(Sawyer says that others saw this too but he did not.)

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