A small American flag hangs from the brick wall outside the front door of Buck Fields’ Port Charlotte home. It’s a manifestation of the former World War II infantryman’s love of the country he fought for so long ago.
He hit the beach at Normandy on D-Day plus two, June 8, 1944, with Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Regiment, 2nd Division of Gen.Omar Bradley’s 1st Army. Fields was a member of a 10-man anti-tank gun squad.
“What I remember is that we went on the beach in landing craft, up a hill and onto a road. Then we were taken by truck. The first town we came to was a place called Trevieres,” the 89-year-old former private said.
“It was about 8:30 a.m. and town’s people were standing along the road waving and cheering,” he said. “It was a small town, but it appeared to be in pretty good condition. We were hauling our little anti-tank gun behind the truck we riding in.
“That first day we didn’t get very far because the Germans were attacking a rifle company that was up ahead of us on the road. Behind the rifle company was a heavy weapons company and then there was our headquarters company.
“Sometime that morning we were strafed by German fighter planes. We jumped out of our truck and tried to take cover under the vehicle,” he explained. “Our sergeant screamed at us to get the hell out from under the truck. If the truck is hit and blows up you die!
“We were pushing the Germans back. We were on a sunken road with hedgerows on both sides when incoming enemy artillery started hitting our company. A lieutenant standing in the road had his privates cut off by enemy artillery. I’ll never forget that for as long as I live,” Fields said.
“We came up on Hill 192. It was dark, maybe 8 or 9 p.m. and we were down at the bottom of the hill. Me and a buddy, Pfc. James Hill of Tennessee, were ordered to take a couple of buckets and go up the hill and get some water.
“On the way back down with the water we ran into Cpl. Johnny White. About that time the Germans started shelling us. Cpl. White took off running down the hill and I haven’t seen him since. I don’t know whatever happened to him.
“We kept moving forward until we came to a two-story farm house. The house was built on the second floor with the animals down below on the ground floor,” Fields explained. “We set up our anti-tank gun behind the house pointed toward St. Lo in the distance. Nobody was in the farm house and the animals were gone.”
His job, as part of the gun crew, was to help position the anti-tank gun and carry the ammunition.
“A lieutenant was up on the second floor with his binoculars. A soldier on the ground yelled, ‘You’d better get down from up there or the Germans are going to start firing at you and we’ll all get killed,” he remembered..
“The lieutenant yelled back to the soldier, ‘If you don’t shut up I’m going to court-martial you.’
“’If you don’t get your ass down here you’re not going to have time to court-martial me. We’ll be dead’ came the soldier’s response.
“There were two big double doors on the backside of the barn. A guy from Clearwater named Stein crawled into the barn and I crawled in behind him,” Fields said. “Moments later German 88 shells started coming down near the barn. I was hit in the right knee with shrapnel from one of those shells.
“I never fired my rifle in France when I was in World War II,” he said.
It was July 7, 1944 – the first day of the Battle of St. Lo. This was the 1st Army’s initial victory in Nazi occupied France. Twelve U.S. Army divisions faced a German defensive belt eight to 10 miles deep with massive enemy fortifications in place every foot of the way. By the time St. Lo was captured on July 18 and the Americans had broken out of the hedgerow country.
It was from the breakout of Allied forces after the capture of St. Lo that American troops under Gen. George Patton would race across France and take the battle initiative away from the German war machine. Pfc. Buck Fields of Port Charlotte would see none of it.
He was taken to a field hospital behind the lines and operated on. Eventually Fields was transported by ship to England and spent weeks recovering from his injuries at a hospital in Malvern, near Birmingham.
A while later Fields got orders that sent him stateside. After arriving by ship in New York Harbor he went on to Fort Dix, N.J. and after more recuperation was relocated to Camp Pickens, Va. where he was discharged.
He worked a number of jobs after the war up north in the wholesale baking business before he and his wife, Gladys, moved to Port Charlotte in 1980. He later went to work for Byron’s Department Store that went out of business years ago.
Fields retired in 1994 and Gladys died seven years ago. He lives alone in his small block house on Beverly Avenue with “Old Glory” on the brick wall outside his front door as a reminder of what he did for his country when he was a young man.
Name: Buck Fields
Age at the time of this interview: 89
Hometown: Taylortown, Pa.
Address: Port Charlotte
Rank: Private 1st Class
Unit: Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Regiment, 2nd Division of Gen.Omar Bradley’s 1st Army
This story was first printed March 2010 in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. and is republished with permission.