2 AWOLS Miss Outfit But Find Battle

By Charles W. White

Stars and Stripes Staff Writer

A REPLACEMENT CENTER, England, July 10, 1944—In halting monotone, punctuated by boyish chuckles and by the night rain beating on the pyramidal tent, a little Czech from Scranton, PA., Pfc. Johnny Prislupinski, told hold his story how he and a paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne accounted for a German machine-gun, an 88, a light tank and 27 Germans in an eight-day epic in Normandy.

Johnny had a slight abdominal rupture that pained him, getting worse. The fifth day a sniper shot “went through my gas mask, right in the canister.” The paratrooper was severely wounded the last day, and the infantryman had to carry him, piggy-back, over a mile before they could find the medics, who sent them both home. They had been technically AWOL all the time, looking for their outfit near Montebourg.

Move on D-Day

operation neptune paratroopers dday infantry

Soldiers of the 4th Infantry division move inland from Utah Beach on D-Day

“We went in on D-Day, my outfit, Company B, Fourth Division, and Capt. Graves got wounded the first day,” Prislupinski said. “The first three days was just fighting, but on the third day I got lost and was looking for the outfit, and the medics. They was going to send me back to the field hospital.

“We was down in a kind of foxhole, and a sniper got sniping at us, and this paratrooper says, ‘Let’s go and get that —— and that’s how we got started.”

The sniper nearly got them. They were right under his tree.

“He ratched his gun and let and empty shell drop out of the tree—we were right under the tree before we noticed it.  The paratrooper made me crawl along the hedgerows—he knew all about it and wasn’t scared, but I was scared to death. The paratrooper got him, and the rifle dropped down…the sniper was snuggled to a limb there, tied up in a tent for camouflage. This guy cut him out of the tree.

“We knocked out three more snipers along the hedgerows and a machine-gun came next. We did a little parting, there—I was on one side of the hedgerow and he was on the other. Right on the outskirts of Montebourg. We crawled up close as we could and threw a hand grenade in there. Three killed, one was still kicking, and the paratrooper finished him off with his bayonet. It was almost dark, so we started back and we come to the second battalion of A Division and we stayed with them overnight—didn’t report to anybody, just come in with a gang of boys and stuck with them.

82nd airborne division paratroopers normandy

Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne in Normandy

“At daybreak of the fifth day we started back for our outfit, asking different guys and they would tell us, but still we couldn’t find them. That day we did a little fighting with different outifts.

“Sometimes we laughed and joked. The paratrooper was always telling jokes and saying, ‘Let’s go huntin!’ But most of the time I was scared and my rupture got hurting worse.”

The two Yanks were carrying M1s, hand grenades, first-aid equipment. The paratrooper  had a bazooka. They slept—“some way.”

“One the sixth day we started out to find our outfit. Then we got in with the airborne, the 82nd, glider troops. We fought the day out with them, helped them out.

Hunt for Outfit

“Next day we went looking for our outfit some more and we saw a tank and an 88. The tank was coming up the road, to a crossroads. My buddy had the bazooka, and I loaded it for him, and he aimed it and got it right in the turret. It burst out in flames and we heard them screaming in there, so we left, afraid to go up there, afraid of snipers….

“From the crossroads we went out looking for our outfits. Bumped into and 88. We was looking out for snipers and the .88 was shooting down on the men back of us there. This 88 opened up just about 50 to 75 yards away from us. It damn near busted my eardrums.

“We snuck up alongside the hedgerows. When we got right up alongside of them we threw hand grenades in there—we threw four, two apiece. It was just right across the road, and all four rolled in—bup, bup, bup and boom.

“We went up to the hole—four Germans, all dead.”

During all these days and nights, Johnny said, they drank some congnac to keep going. He wanted to get back.

“The paratrooper wanted to turn the gun and use it one them, but it was too heavy, we couldn’t So he took some pieces out of it—he knew all about those things, I didn’t—and then he threw a grenade down the barrel.

“Then we started back down the road and ran into a major, and he took down our names and said he was going to put us up for a medal.

Paratrooper Leaves Him

“Then the paratrooper left me for awhile. He went on down the road, and he was gone about an hour. Then he came back, and he had some cognac, but he said, ‘Well, I guess we don’t get that medal.’

normandy infantry paratrooper hedgerows wwii

American soldiers fighting in the Normandy Hedgerows.

“He said, ‘I just found that major down there, dead.’”

The rest is a drifting, confusing story of wandering, fighting, groping into Montebourg, where the two men were on the left flank that moved in—until the paratrooper got it.

“Him and I went looking for another sniper after that. That’s when he got it. He ran across machine-gun fire. It was along a hedgerow there. They had crossfire layed out there, they were firing out of a gateway.  He got shot three times—in the right leg, through the stomach and in the right shoulder. I run across.

“They saw me go and fired at me going across there, but they didn’t even fire at me going back. I gave him first aid, as much as I could—gave him a shot of morphine, and put some dusting powder on the wounds. He was in bad shape. I carried him back across the road and then I had to carry him to the medics and they took care of him. They took him back on a stretcher. He was banging around my neck, I had his legs…about a mile and a half, I guess…it seemed like 20 miles.

“The medics took care of him and they sent me back to a field hospital. The ninth morning they sent me back to England.”

Somebody asked Johnny if he were going back to France.

“Yes, I guess so. I’m proud of my damn infantry. I never thought they would last like that.

“I sure hope that paratrooper gets all right.”

For More On D-Day Check Out:

Beyond Band of Brothers: The War Memoirs of Major Dick Winters

The Longest Day: The Classic Epic of D-Day

D-Day Illustrated Edition: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II

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  • Bill Getz says:

    A good story but the reader is left hanging as to what became of Priplupinski. A medal? Who was the paratrooper? Verification of story?

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