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My G-Granndpa Bill Oatman,war hero's memoirs

Article about: ironically this is also my great grandfather

  1. #11
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    Default Re: My G-Granndpa Bill Oatman,war hero's memoirs

    I found out that day that the local underground group used
    to meet in their house once in awhile and hold meetings. The
    German that slept there used to sit at the same table while the
    underground talked about derailing a train or blowing up a
    bridge, and the German didn't even know what was going on.

    Chuck and I stayed at the farm for about a week, then one
    day the boy came back with another guy, and the other guy says he wanted us to go into Rheims for papers and different clothes. We went with him to Rheims and stayed for a few weeks. It really took time to get all the stamps made up for the identity cards.

    One day the man came and said the Gestapo had caught 2 of the underground. We were afraid he might talk, so we got ready to take off. Just when we were ready to go, Chuck found out he didn't have the latest stamp on his ID card, so he was told by the underground that he had better wait in Rheims until he got the new stamp. I walked back to the farm in about 5 hours. I was pretty brave by now, since I had my identity cards, so I used the roads most of the way.

    I walked up, knocked on the door. The girl I had my eye on, opened the door. She put her fingers up to her lips to tell me not to talk and we went in. There was a German. He stood up, said something in German to me, clicked his heels and shook hands. We sat down and he looked at me kind of funny.

    Then the French people told him I had lost my speech and hearing in a bombing in a small village in Brittany. I guess he took the story OK after I showed him my identity card. We sat there and smoked a cigarette or 2, drank some coffee, then around 11:30 P.M. we went to bed.

    Every evening, we would go for a walk down through the orchard and sit by the stream. I would sit between the girls and put my arms around them, and the German would sit there and talk French with the girls. He didn't know very much French, but he still tried. This went on for a few weeks until one day he said his outfit was moving out. That sounded pretty good because that meant the Yanks were getting pretty close.

    After he left, I could roam around a little more without the
    fear of being caught. Then I started helping a little more
    around the farm. One morning about 9:30, two of the girls came in and said the Yanks were in town, but I said, "No, maybe, maybe tomorrow." They said, "No tomorrow, today." So I got up and started to get dressed and started to go downstairs, but the girls called me back and handed me a pair of socks and my jump boots which they had hidden from the Germans in case they came in and searched.

    When I went out, I met a one-star general, and I found out
    his name was General Sommers, and he was with the 80th Division. He looked at me and asked if I spoke English. I laughed and said, "I hope so. I'm an American paratrooper from the 101st Airborne Division." He laughed and said, "what do you want to do? Go with us and get some Germans? Stay here and wait for a while and wait for more troops, or go back to your outfit?"

    I told him I'd like to stay here for a few days and help the old man on his farm, then go back and rejoin my outfit. Also get
    word back to the States to let my mom know I'm OK. He said, "OK, do as you please," then he asked if there were any Krauts around. I told him that there were about 600 went through the village around 6:30 this morning. They were walking, riding bikes, and riding the horse drawn wagons.

    They took a break in the village and took what they could find. They took the old man's two horse and his milk. Also they took chickens. There were about 8 or 10 that stayed back to see if they could find anything else, and they left about 10 or 15 minutes ago. The general grabbed his tommy gun and hopped in the jeep and took off. He came back about 15 minutes later with two Krauts sitting on the hood of his jeep. He took a 3rd one off another jeep and told the men to wait here till he got back.

    He wanted to take them into Rheims to question them. I started talking to the Yanks, and caught up on all the news since D-Day. I asked them for a few goodies for the French family that had done so much for me, and they loaded me down with cartons of cigarettes for the old man, and candy, canned goods, and I don't remember what else. But when I took the stuff back
    to the house, the French family just sat there and cried, because they never expected anything like that.

    Later that day, that general sent word that he was staying
    in Rheims that night, so he told the men to stay where they were. A group of guys put up an outpost out in the back of the house, so that evening, I went out to shoot the bull with them.

    About 10:30, a dozen people came walking up the road in a
    group. One of the guys said, "Hey, look at the target practice
    we got." I said, "Hey, hold your fire," because every night
    about this time, there's a group of French people that comes into the village from out by the railroad tracks. Just about that
    time, a couple of shots went off, and a bunch came running back down the road.

    I grabbed a rifle that was laying there and I started shooting. The guy on the machine gun also started shooting. There was some yelling, so I knew we hit one or more. Shortly everything grew quiet and we lay there waiting. After a while, I got tired of waiting and I told the guys to cover me and I crawled up to the fence along the road. I lay behind a tree for about 5 minutes, and then a Kraut, hollers, "Comrade, nix shooten." I told him "come out" and he rose up right across the road from me.

  2. #12
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    Default Re: My G-Granndpa Bill Oatman,war hero's memoirs

    He came across the road and walked right into the fence. He didn't see it and I wasn't about to get up and help him over it. I didn't know what he was carrying in his hand. I took him back to the machine gun, and the guys took everything off of him, like his watch, billfold, gun, and medals. Then I told the guys I'd take him up to the CP or the command post.

    On the way, we met a couple of men, and they told us what had
    happened. The bunch of Krauts didn't know the Yanks were in the village, and bumped into one of our men walking around on patrol. He thought they were French people out after 10:00 and he was going to tell him to get inside before they got shot by mistake. When he walked up to them, one of the Krauts pulled a pistol out and shot him, three times, once alone the side of the head and twice in the leg.

    I turned my prisoner over and went back to the orchard to tell the guys what was going on, then went up by the road and lay behind a tree after a while. I heard another Kraut yelling for help. By the sound of his voice, he was really in pain. I yelled back, and two of them came up the road, the one that was shot and his buddy helping him.

    They tried to climb over the fence and they both fell on their face. They got up themselves, and I took them back to the machine gun. The one that wasn't hurt, we put in the front of the machine gun on his knees. I was about ready to blow his head off for what he had done in the village to one of our guys, even though we didn't know for sure which one had done the shooting.

    By that time, an officer came up and tapped me on the shoulder and asked me what I was about to do. He says he wants him alive, so he takes him up to the CP. After a while, I got up and went to bed.

    The next morning, I went out and talked to the guys a while, then went in and sat down to eat. A woman came running into the house all excited, saying some Germans were coming down the railroad tracks. I went out and told the captain, and he set a
    jeep up in some beanstalks along the railroad tracks that had a
    machine gun mounted on it.

    The guy on the gun was trigger happy, and opened fire while the Germans were still about 300 yards away. He could have waited until they were within 50 or 100 yards, at least. He did hit one, but the other 8 or 10 took off into the woods. I said to the captain, I think we should get a jeep on the road that runs along the side of the woods, because the Germans can cross the road and escape.

    He said, "Nah, we have them pinned down." So I got a Sergeant, and we grabbed another guy and we took off. I grabbed a jeep driver's rifle, and the other guy got on the machine gun and we ran up and down the road. Sure enough, the Germans were just coming out of the woods, so we opened up on them. We chased them back into the woods. We ran about a half a mile up the road and stopped and turned in a farm driveway.

    The driver had 5 or 6 bottles of stuff in the jeep so we all took a drink. Then we started back down the road, spraying the woods with fire. Each time we stopped to turn around, we'd take a drink. Finally, my rifle jammed. We had to get back into the village for another one.

    When we went back up the road, there were 2 Krauts coming
    down the road with their hands up. We stripped them of all their valuables and set them on the hood of the jeep. After looking around for a short while, I couldn't find any more, so I went back to the jeep.

    We got back to the village and people started throwing stones and spitting on them. The guys were getting a kick out of seeing it, and saying the Germans were now getting what they deserved. When one of them spit back on the people, I yanked him off of the jeep and I clipped him. About this time, the captain walked up and asked what was going on, and again I
    told him I was about ready to shoot me a German.

    He says, "No you're not. We want him for questioning also." So he put the 3 on his jeep and headed for Rheims. Well, I went back to the house and I finished my meal. Then I started to get some things together, and I told the people I had to leave. They were very unhappy to see me go, but they understood that I had to rejoin my outfit as soon as possible.

    The next day, Chuck came, and we took some pictures. We left the next morning and flagged a jeep down that was going to Rheims.

    In Rheims we saw the chief of the underground and then went to the American government. They told us we would start back the next day. We went back and met the French underground again and we had a real party. The next morning, about 100-200 guys loaded on trucks, and we headed for Lemans, about 300 miles, I think it was. Here I met Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.

    When Fred found out that we were flying back to England, he asked Chuck and I to look up his sister in London at the Red Cross, which we did, and as you know, by the letter you received from her.

    When we got to England, they gave us new uniforms, and 100
    bucks, and a pass and said, "Go anywhere you want but report back once a day to see if your outfit called." Man, did we have a
    ball in London. I had 4 days in London and then went back to my outfit without waiting for them to call.

  3. #13
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    Default Re: My G-Granndpa Bill Oatman,war hero's memoirs

    I got back 4 days before the guys jumped into Holland. I wasn't fully outfitted, so I couldn't jump with the guys, therefore, I had to go by truck with the motor pool and the cooks.

    Also, I was given a chance to rejoin my outfit and take a chance on being shot as a spy since I had seen so much of the
    German stuff, or I could have a 90 day pass in the states and
    then go fight the Japs. I told the captain I'll take my chances
    and stay with my outfit.

    Anyway, when I got into Holland and back with the guys, it
    was just before they went into one of the worst battles the
    outfit had seen. It was in a little town called Opheusden in
    Holland. That's where I was hit in the arm with some shrapnel.
    I was taken to the hospital. I was in there for a while. The
    doctor had told me when I went in, I was lucky I came in when I did because about 4 more hours I would have had to lose my arm because I was already in the first stage of blood poison. So, that kind of shook me up a little bit.

    We went into the village at night, and the next morning, the
    English behind us and the Germans in front of us thought we were the enemy in the village of Opheusden, and they both started throwing shells in on us. We got the English to stop, and then we got onto the Germans.

    We really had a fight on our hands, but we put them on the run. After the Holland battle, they pulled us back to France, and that's when I had to stay in the hospital for a little while.

    I came back, the outfit was re-outfitted, and got some more
    replacements. I was again lucky. The camp where they moved us to was outside of Rheims. So, we got replacements and everything, and while we were there, I got hold of a bicycle and
    rode over to the village where I had hid out.

    The family was really glad to see me. One day when I was visiting with them, the call came in for all Airborne to get back to camp. But I didn't know anything was going on until that next evening when I returned to camp. When I got there, everybody was gone, so after finding out where they went, another trooper and I stole a jeep and took off after them.

    How we got almost to Bastogne before being stopped, I'll never know, but we were stopped and had to wait until they made the breakthrough to our buddies. After we rejoined our outfit, it was a mad rush down through Germany on anything that would move. A buddy of mine shot a German mail carrier off his motorcycle, and while we were stripping him, another German came along, and I shot him off of his cycle.

    We were then picked as lead scouts since we both had the
    motorcycles, and there was one town we came into that had a very bad smell. The more we got into the center of the town and started out the other side, the worse the smell got. When we got to the edge of town, we saw where the smell was coming from.

    It was a prison camp, and the German S.S. had stacked the dead and the dying in a pile and poured gas on them and set fire to them. We shot a couple of the S.S. and captured a few. We then made them un-stack the bodies and lay them out in rows so they could be identified and buried right.

    Next, we pulled the gates off the stockades so the remaining prisoners knew that we weren't holding them prisoners like the Germans did. My buddy and I stood there and cried just looking at the pitiful sight of human flesh and thinking what one human can do to another.

    By the time the rest of the outfit got up to us, we were ready to start shooting any and all Germans. My buddy and I had to get away from there real fast. We rode those cycles until we got down into Austria.

    We went into Berchtesgaden and all through Hitler's Eagle's
    Nest on the top of the mountain, then on into Bruck, Austria where we got word that the war was over.

    I was then shipped back to the States and discharged
    November 19, 1945. I went to work in a few different factories,
    but couldn't adjust to the inside work, so in 1948, I started
    driving trucks. After driving trucks for 33 years, I am now retired. I have jumped from airplanes and drove trucks and rode motorcycles. I am now sitting back and thanking the good Lord for watching over me and protecting me in everything that I have done.

    This is a true history of most of my life, and there were very few times that I ever talked about it due to people thinking I was just making it up, but it is true, and I still have the letter that Fred Astaire's sister wrote home to my mother, the telegrams the government sent to my mother when I was missing in
    action and my French identity card that the French underground had given me to get by the Germans.

    If I had it to do over, I think I'd do the same thing.

  4. #14
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    Default Re: My G-Granndpa Bill Oatman,war hero's memoirs

    So this is the bulk of the story, minus the first page which is mostly an intro to the military. Scout, if you read carefully you will see what I mean , when you asked about him dining with Germans.

    He went to the eagles nest!!

  5. #15
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    Default Re: My G-Granndpa Bill Oatman,war hero's memoirs

    Quote by big ned View Post
    Wow! That's a hell of a good memoir, thanks for putting it up Deano!!

    Regards, Ned.
    No prob uncle Ned! I thought you'd appreciate this!

  6. #16
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    Default Re: My G-Granndpa Bill Oatman,war hero's memoirs

    Dean, no need to waste precious forum bandwidth with copying what is alreay in the link. Just my opinion of course.
    I did indeed read the text in the link - with interest as already mentioned.
    I find it very important to preserve these eyewitness accounts for prosperity. We need to get as many first hand accounts recorded as possible.
    Just a few things which caught my attention from when you mentioned the above in another thread.
    You wrote in another thread, that he got tangled in the plane and swung twice.
    Had he gotten his chute tangled in a plane, he would most likely have gotten killed either upon impact or from freed but ripped chute.
    From my own parachute jumping experience I know, that a parachute will often jerk violently upon opening.
    I would guesstimate, that this is what happened; his chute opened violently and he jerked twice. That will make an impression on you, believe me!
    Especially the old T10 parachutes, which I have used for jumping out of planes, are not the most pleasent chutes to use.
    You then wrote, that he lived with locals where also Germans sat down at the same table and he listened and reported back. That also caught my attention, because did he speak fluent German or rather understand it?
    Did he have a radio to report back with?
    No, thats obviously just the way you wrote it, which caused me to interpret it thus, because he met a German there and played dumb, thats it (not that this in any way takes anything away from his exploits, which are indeed mist interesting).
    When you say, he reported back, that might have been the debriefing he obviously would have gotten upon his return. Not any reporting whilst there.
    Another couple of things; he jumped in his dress uniform? Very interesting. Do we have any other evidence of soldiers doing that to keep warm? The dress uniform of the time would have been far more constrictive than his combat uniform. Not disputing that he did indeed jump in his dress uniform.
    Further more, he saw comrades hanging from trees in chutes and having their 'privates cut off.'
    Do we have any other sources for this in regards to this particular landing?
    I know that atrocities happened on both sides, but have never heard about Germans cutting off the genitalia of US paratroopers hanging from their chutes.
    Dean - pls understand, that Im not disputing anything. Im merely asking because Im interested!
    (See, I did indeed read the text)

  7. #17

    Default Re: My G-Granndpa Bill Oatman,war hero's memoirs

    How lucky you are to have this,your family history!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My Father refused to tell me anything of his war service for nearly 20 years and when he did it was only verbally of the horror.

  8. #18
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    Default Re: My G-Granndpa Bill Oatman,war hero's memoirs

    That is a great discovery friend. Your Great grandpa was a fine man.

  9. #19
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    Default Re: My G-Granndpa Bill Oatman,war hero's memoirs

    Quote by Scout View Post
    Dean, no need to waste precious forum bandwidth with copying what is alreay in the link. Just my opinion of course.
    I did indeed read the text in the link - with interest as already mentioned.
    I find it very important to preserve these eyewitness accounts for prosperity. We need to get as many first hand accounts recorded as possible.
    Just a few things which caught my attention from when you mentioned the above in another thread.
    You wrote in another thread, that he got tangled in the plane and swung twice.
    Had he gotten his chute tangled in a plane, he would most likely have gotten killed either upon impact or from freed but ripped chute.
    From my own parachute jumping experience I know, that a parachute will often jerk violently upon opening.
    I would guesstimate, that this is what happened; his chute opened violently and he jerked twice. That will make an impression on you, believe me!
    Especially the old T10 parachutes, which I have used for jumping out of planes, are not the most pleasent chutes to use.
    You then wrote, that he lived with locals where also Germans sat down at the same table and he listened and reported back. That also caught my attention, because did he speak fluent German or rather understand it?
    Did he have a radio to report back with?
    No, thats obviously just the way you wrote it, which caused me to interpret it thus, because he met a German there and played dumb, thats it (not that this in any way takes anything away from his exploits, which are indeed mist interesting).
    When you say, he reported back, that might have been the debriefing he obviously would have gotten upon his return. Not any reporting whilst there.
    Another couple of things; he jumped in his dress uniform? Very interesting. Do we have any other evidence of soldiers doing that to keep warm? The dress uniform of the time would have been far more constrictive than his combat uniform. Not disputing that he did indeed jump in his dress uniform.
    Further more, he saw comrades hanging from trees in chutes and having their 'privates cut off.'
    Do we have any other sources for this in regards to this particular landing?
    I know that atrocities happened on both sides, but have never heard about Germans cutting off the genitalia of US paratroopers hanging from their chutes.
    Dean - pls understand, that Im not disputing anything. Im merely asking because Im interested!
    (See, I did indeed read the text)
    Indeed. As said before in the other thread, this was what I either read in a book at three in the morning in jail after a drunken bar fight or what my Aunt remembered hearing about him,and you know how stories get changed from one person to another, but i posted that BEFORE I read THIS official account , THEN after that post I tried looking more up about him and discovered what eventually became this thread. He DID swing twice after he jumped out because his WING was on fire. Maybe that's where things got confused. As far as him Dining with Germans and radioing back info, this was what my Aunt told me. In reality , he was working with the french underground and Im sure the french family translated what the German said and the info was passed on to the French underground. So, "no". maybe he didnt do Exactly what I heard he did by word of mouth after 70 years but you know how that goes, Im just glad to know what really happened. And as far 'Wasting precious bandwidth', I think this not a waste. Besides, it's easier to read this way and a lot of people dont like to have to click on links because they're lazy. The link is mainly me just citing my source so you dont think Im LYING! I hope this clears things up.

  10. #20
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    Default Re: My G-Granndpa Bill Oatman,war hero's memoirs

    Quote by SteveR View Post
    That is a great discovery friend. Your Great grandpa was a fine man.
    "How lucky you are to have this,your family history!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My Father refused to tell me anything of his war service for nearly 20 years and when he did it was only verbally of the horror."..

    Thanks Steve and Mr.Greimers! Yes , sadly many ww2 vets dont like to talk about the horrors of war because they're afraid nobody would believe them.

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