Massa of Newark sees total terror of WWII in France

Forty-nine years after his experiences of June 1944, Paul Massa continues his memories. His battalion was heading towards Cherbourg, fighting the Germans for every inch of ground.

“One morning we had tank support and I thought that was great. The tanks pulverized the trees and the hedgerows with their machine guns and the battalion really started moving. I was about 100 feet away behind one of the tanks when suddenly there was an explosion. At first I thought the tank’s 75mm gun had fired. The tank stopped, its engine roared as if it had skidded , then the turret lid opened and the crew rushed in, all but one man. He was trapped inside and I listened to his screams as he burned to death. After that, the other tanks withdrew, otherwise they would have been sitting ducks for the German gun which got the first tank.The tank burned for several days.After the third day, the engineers brought in a bulldozer to move it.Lieutenant who was driving the bulldozer was a friend of mine The same German 88 who got the tank got the bulldozer and killed the Lt.

Once the 1st Battalion launched a night attack on Hill 90. If I remember correctly, a rail line was our starting line around midnight. The battalion did not reach its objective and occupy the top of the hill until after daylight. It turned out to be very expensive real estate. The Germans laid down barrages with everything they had, mortars, “screaming meemies” and artillery. Colonel Jackson, the battalion commander, and most of his staff were casualties. Many Germans on top of the hill were killed or wounded. I walked around the area at the top looking at the devastation. There were few shelters and most of the men had been pretty much in the open. Fragments of large-caliber shells maimed and maimed human bodies. The dead men had huge holes in their bodies and their arms or legs were ripped off. A man was in a seated position with the top of his head carefully removed. The inside of his head was empty as if everything had been emptied out.

I found fear to be a very painful experience. When I say “fear”, I mean the sheer terror a man feels when he thinks he is going to die. I prayed a lot in Normandy; I didn’t pray for my life to be saved, because there were times when I was sure I was going to be killed. I prayed for my soul to go to heaven. It was a very terrifying experience to be caught in an artillery barrage. I always touched the ground and made myself as flat as possible. I would have crawled into my field helmet if I could. I had shrapnel so close to me that I felt the heat of the explosion. When the shelling stopped, there were a few seconds of silence and then the injured man could be heard calling for a rescuer. There were always injuries. We all had the greatest respect for our doctors or orderlies as the wounded called them. Each nurse had a red cross on a white background on his helmet and a red cross armband. They answered the cry of the wounded even if they had to expose themselves to enemy fire. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the very visible red cross protected them, as many of them were killed or injured.

At this time, Massa was the only naval fire control observer remaining in his battalion; the others had been wounded or killed. Massa did not realize that his days in Normandy were nearly over.

Doug Stout is the Veterans Project Coordinator for the Licking County Library. You can contact him at 740-349-5571 or [email protected] His book “Never Forgotten: The Stories of Licking County Veterans” is available for purchase at the library or online at and

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