Captain Fellers lay with his boat team two hundred fifty yards from the D-1 Vierville draw. Jimmy Green had not been able to provide covering fire because his landing craft had bucked up and down too much in the heavy seas. There was only one thing to do — they would have to run for the nearest cover, making sure they did not bunch together to minimize casualties.
All along the bluffs above Omaha, veterans of the German 352nd Division lay in wait. They had moved into the area in recent weeks, relieving the inferior 716th Division. They totaled two regiments, almost two thousand men.
As Fellers and his men started to advance, German officers finally ordered their men to fire. Above the Vierville draw, the 352nd opened up with at least three MG-42 machine guns, firing over a thousand rounds per minute, and several mortars. Two dozen snipers lurked in nearby trenches. The slaughter was fast and merciless. Fellers and the twenty-nine men in his boat died in a matter of minutes, riddled by machine-gun bullets from several directions.
No accurate record exists of the boat roster for Company A on D-Day. It was probably lost with many others in the chaos and carnage after H-Hour. But it is thought that the following Bedford boys may have been among those who died within yards of their captain: twenty-two-year-old Sergeant Dickie Abbott; twenty-six-year-old Clifton Lee, the shy but fiercely patriotic private whose eyebrows arched dramatically above his pale face; twenty-three-year-old Gordon Henry White Jr. who dreamed of his mother’s cooking; the well-mannered Southern “gentleman” Nick Gillaspie; and the ace dice player, Wallace “Snake Eyes” Carter.
Less than fifty yards away, another LCA had also approached the beach. On board were George Roach, Thomas Valance, Gil Murdock, and the Bedford boys Dickie Overstreet and Master Sergeant John Wilkes. “We’re going to drop this ramp and as soon as we do, we’re going to back out,” shouted a British bowman, “so you guys better be ready.”1
The ramp slammed down into the surf and then the metal door swung open. Lieutenant Alfred Anderson exited, closely followed by Valance and seconds later by Roach and then Wilkes. Instantly, the Germans found their range. Men began to fall in every direction, picked off at random, while others miraculously staggered unscathed through a hail of bullets and shrapnel.
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