Steve Perum still lives with the nightmares of his incarceration, but he appreciates wholeheartedly the compassion of decent men and women whose paths he crossed. A hard-fighting realist, Steve broke into tears on four occasions during the following interview, each time in remembering an act of compassion either toward him or from him toward someone else.
We hit the third wave in the Normandy beachhead. I was in the 79th Infantry, the 314th Battalion, F Company. I was a machine gunner.
We hit the beachhead, and it was toward evening. When we hit, there was a lot of dead soldiers floating on top of the water, and we had to push them out of the way to make it to the shore. When we hit the shore, the Germans put down a barrage of artillery that was just terrifying. When the shells started to hit, I leaped into the nearest trench and landed on a dead German. I stayed there for quite some time, for all hell was breaking loose.
After that subsided, we moved on. The only way we could attack was from the rear because the Germans had these big guns facing the English Channel. But they couldn't fire them on us because we were attacking them from the rear.
The 79th and 36th Infantry took the area for General Patton to come into with tanks. Then we joined his Third Army. We had originally been with the Seventh. Our job with the Third Army was to follow Patton's tanks. But he was moving forward so fast with those tanks that we couldn't keep up with him. So we fell behind, and it wasn't too long before we found