06/06/04 — D-Day veteran can still hear the gunfire

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D-Day veteran can still hear the gunfire

By Sam Atkins
Published in News on June 6, 2004 2:03 AM

D-Day memories come flowing back into the mind of retired Army Capt. Alfred J. Linton on this day.

The sounds of gunfire are all too distinct. Losing four of his fellow soldiers stands out as he looks at his medals and certificates on his office wall.

"Every night I was scared. I'll never forget it," he said.

Linton entered the Army in November 1941 as a 15-year-old. He later was with the Office of Strategic Service #144, whose mission was to gather intelligence information during World War II. The service's main concern was finding out where the enemy was hiding, how many there were and what kind of ammunition they had.

Nineteen-year-old Linton and 11 other OSS members landed in France on May 4, 1944, a month before Americans invaded the shores of Omaha Beach. They jumped out of a C-47 and landed four miles from the coast and remained behind enemy lines for 38 days. His group was the first to land in that area. Their mission was called "Operation Rosebud."

They were dressed in civilian clothes to disguise themselves from the Germans, and their base was a basement in a farm house about seven miles from the beach.

They laid low during the day and moved at night to try to spot enemy forces. Any information they obtained was sent by radio to an Allied headquarters in England. They would change the radio codes every night to help prevent any enemy interception, and all they had to do was push a button to blow up the radio if they were attacked.

A few of the OSS members could speak fluent French and would talk to civilians to see what they could find out. The men also searched for "pill boxes," which contained enemy ammunition and were often disguised by being covered with dirt. Linton said that during their mission they were only able to find two pill boxes, and they were empty.

He said all of the men had cyanide capsules in their mouths and were supposed to bite down on them if they were captured, which would cause their death in just a few minutes. They also had several British rifles they could use if needed.

On June 5, 1944, the night before D-Day, Linton and his group were given a password so they could join with the American troops scheduled to land the next day at Omaha Beach.

They headed out early on June 6, but didn't make it to the American lines. They hit the Canadian lines instead, and they didn't know their password.

Linton told the Canadian commanding officer that they were not the enemy, but it was too late to save two of the men that they had shot. They also had lost two others who were shot by the Germans.

Linton, who was reared in Canada, was eventually able to convince the officer that they were Americans. The Canadians took Linton and the other seven men to meet the U.S. Army 1st Division, he said. He and his fellow officers were immediately flown back to England and assigned another undercover task.

The Americans suffered 1,200 casualties in one day at Omaha Beach. Linton is the only one still alive out of the 12 OSS members in his group.

He has received the Distinguished Service Award, Silver Star Award, Legion of Merit, Army's Soldiers Medal, three Purple Hearts, two Bronze Stars, Army Presidential Citation, American Service Medal, Battle of the Bulge Medal, National Defense Medal, Army Occupation Medal -- Germany, Pre-Pearl Harbor Award, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, OSS Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, French Croix De Guierre, Belgian Croix De Guierre and the French Foreign Commendation.

He has also written several poems about his experiences, including the D-Day event, called "Behind Enemy Lines with the OSS."

He said he still has nightmares about some of his experiences that occurred 60 years ago today.

"I wonder how the hell I got through it."