What a single soldier can accomplish. “Sergeant York” of WW 2 was a 101st AB paratrooper.
The low swampy ground west of Utah beach had been created by the Germans blocking rainfall drainage ditches over the four years of occupation. Only four slightly elevated roads crossed the swamp land thus creating a mobility impedance to the invading 4th Division. At dawn on June 6th paratroopers,who,had dropped hours before, seized the west end of the four beach exit roads to facilitate speed and restrict movement by the enemy. On the hill at the west end of exit 4 was the village of St Martin de Varreville which contained four large gun batteries, under concrete, aimed at the waters off the beach. The RAF had partially bombed them out of existence in May and June but still the 150 man gun crews remained billeted in 10 clustered chateau/homesites/barns in the Mesieres community a few hundred yards away. Lieutenant Colonel Frank Cassidy gave Staff Sergeant Harrison Summers the mission to take the buildings, eliminate the occupiers and open the road to Ste Mere Eglise. For five hours Summers, sometimes alone other times accompanied by one or two soldiers, who became casualties quickly, finally cleared out the last resistors having killed or captured 150 Germans. He said “kicking in doors and spraying lead was my mission”. In the largest building 15 were eating breakfast unaware of the chaos outside. “They never left the table”. 50 were rounded up escaping through a back door.
Summers was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He died in 1980’s as the “Sergeant York of WW 2”. Today the all the buildings are intact except for bullet holes. The gun bunkers that were never operated are patched farm storage shields. LTC Cassidy’s HQ building is occupied by a young family oblivious of the buildings history. To walk amidst the buildings fingering the bullet holes and spranged walls is nostalgia personified. One wooden door had a line of bullet holes for which the farmer was given $20 as reparations. He putied the holes and bought a few more chickens. Eventually the putty dried and the bullet holes reappeared.