Herbert Eggie and the 20 paratroopers under his command looked down through the open door of the plane as it soared above the drop zone behind German lines in Holland during WW2.
The pilot lifted the tail of the plane so the paratrooper’s chutes wouldn’t catch on–but the pilot had not given the okay for them to jump. Eggie knew that in a matter of moments they would arrive at the drop zone and his paratroopers would land in the midst of the enemy.
As he saw the parachutes from other troopers that had jumped from the other planes, he gave the order for his men to jump. All together, the men dove in the air and began their descent into the German occupied Holland. Anti-aircraft artillery shot at them, but they still landed safely, considering they were still in the drop zone.
After Eggie landed, the strings of his chute were wrapped around him and he would have been an easy target should an enemy soldier spot him. He was freed from his strings by a comrade when he used the bayonet to cut the strings. Eggie told New Berlin Now that jump was the most harrowing event that he experienced during the seven months of combat.
Though Eggie, a retired attorney, doesn’t remember where he was when he learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor, one thing he does remember is thinking that his law practice in Chattanooga, Tennessee would be “down the drain.”
During that time, Eggie was in his mid-20s, and was a prime candidate to be drafted. So instead of being told when to go into battle, he enlisted first. Eggie wanted to be on the front lines so he could defend his country–he asked to be in the infantry.
In the Midst of It All
Pearl Harbor was the beginning of a long journey that took him through seven months of combat. During this time, he saw the Battle of the Bulge and straight into the lair of Hitler in Berchtesgaden.
“I didn’t want to sit back and be a clerk,” he said. He was fully aware that there was a possibility that he could die while fighting. After being posted at a stateside post, he volunteered to be a paratrooper. This pretty much guaranteed that he would be smack dab in the middle of combat.
As a member of the 101st Airborne Division, he fought in the deadly Battle of the Bulge. This battle was known for being the single battle with the most American casualties. Eggie was a part of the American defense desperate strategy to besiege the town of Bastogne. This plot was led by Lieutenant General George S. Patton and his Third Army, whose march was famous.
The fighting extended all the way to the frozen forests of the Ardennes. Though German tanks could get through the forest, they still fired shells over head. The shells exploded and shrapnel rained down onto the Americans on the ground. This had a devastating effect, Eggie recalled.
In addition to the horrific rain of shrapnel, Eggie remembers the bitter cold they endured in the Ardennes that winter. “More soldiers were incapacitated by frostbite than by enemy fire,” Eggie remembered.
Holocaust Causes Outrage
The horrors that Eggie and his comrades endured during the war could not compare to the tragic conditions they discovered when they went to help liberate a concentration camp.
“There were hundreds of bodies lying in a row on the ground, they were only skin and bone,” he said.
He entered a hut and found survivors in appalling conditions.
“It stunk so bad, I had to get out,” he said.
That atrocity so enraged Eggie that he asked if he could shoot the camp’s commander. And he meant it.
“I was beside myself,” Eggie said. “It was really bad, really bad.”
Eggie was among the first Americans at the mountain residence in Berchtesgaden that Hitler resided. Unfortunately, he said he found the Germans had already cleared out everything before they left the location.
Telling His Story
Eggie penned a book called “Close Calls and Unforgettables.” In this self-published book, he recounts various experiences he had during the wars.
Eggie had just finished writing a 600-page historical novel about a real plot to assassinate Joseph Stalin.
When asked why he wanted to write about his experiences, he stated simply, “I like to write.”