Αρχική > Ένοπλες Δυνάμεις, Διεθνή - Γεοπολιτικά, Ιστορικά > THE TALE OF TWO D-DAY’S SOLDIERS (Μικρή συλλογή άρθρων)

THE TALE OF TWO D-DAY’S SOLDIERS (Μικρή συλλογή άρθρων)

 A)Bagpiper Millin: Some Germans who claimed to have seen him didn’t shoot because they believed he was crazy!



ANY reasonable observer might have thought Bill Millin was unarmed as he jumped off the landing ramp at Sword Beach, in Normandy, on June 6th, 1944. Unlike his colleagues, the pale 21-year-old held no rifle in his hands.

Of course, in full Highland rig, as he was, he had his trusty skean dhu, his little dirk, tucked in his right sock. But that was soon under three feet of water as he waded ashore, a weary soldier still smelling his own vomit from a night in a close boat on a choppy sea, and whose kilt in the freezing water was floating prettily round him like a ballerina’s skirt.

But Mr Millin was not unarmed; far from it. He held his pipes, high over his head, at first, to keep them from the wet (for while whisky was said to be good for the bag, salt water wasn’t), then cradled in his arms to play. And bagpipes, by long tradition, counted as instruments of war.

An English judge had said so after the Jacobites’ great defeat at Culloden in 1746; a piper was a fighter like the rest, and his music was his weapon. The whining skirl of the pipes had struck dread into the Germans on the Somme, who had called the kilted pipers “Ladies from Hell”.

IAnd it raised the hearts and minds of the home side, so much so that when Mr Millin played on June 5th, as the troops left for France past the Isle of Wight and he was standing on the bowsprit just about keeping his balance above the waves getting rougher, the wild cheers of the crowd drowned out the sound of his pipes even to himself.

Bill_Millin_1944Bill Millin is playing his bagpipes in 1944.

His playing had been planned as part of the operation. On commando training near Fort William, he had struck up a friendship with Lord Lovat, the officer in charge of the 1st Special Service Brigade. Not that they had much in common.

Mr Millin was short, with a broad cheeky face, the son of a Glasgow policeman; his sharpest childhood memory was of being one of the “poor”, sleeping on deck, on the family’s return in 1925 from Canada to Scotland. Lovat was tall, lanky, outrageously handsome and romantic, with a castle towering above the river at Beauly, near Inverness.

He had asked Mr Millin to be his personal piper: not a feudal but a military arrangement. The War Office in London now forbade pipers to play in battle, but Mr Millin and Lord Lovat, as Scots, plotted rebellion. In this “greatest invasion in history”, Lovat wanted pipes to lead the way.

He was ordering now, as they waded up Sword Beach, in that drawly voice of his: “Give us a tune, piper.” Mr Millin thought him a mad dog. The man beside him, on the point of jumping off, had taken a bullet in the face and gone under.

But there was Lovat, strolling through fire quite calmly in his aristocratic way, allegedly wearing a monogrammed white pullover under his jacket and carrying an ancient Winchester rifle, so if he was mad Mr Millin thought he might as well be ridiculous too, and struck up “Hielan’ Laddie”.

Lovat approved it with a thumbs-up, and asked for “The Road to the Isles”. Mr Millin inquired, half-joking, whether he should walk up and down in the traditional way of pipers. “Oh, yes. That would be lovely.”

Three times, therefore, he walked up and down at the edge of the sea. He remembered the sand shaking under his feet from mortar fire and the dead bodies rolling in the surf, against his legs. For the rest of the day, whenever required, he played.

He piped the advancing troops along the raised road by the Caen canal, seeing the flashes from the rifle of a sniper about 100 yards ahead, noticing only after a minute or so that everyone behind him had hit the deck in the dust. When Lovat had dispatched the sniper, he struck up again.

He led the company down the main street of Bénouville playing “Blue Bonnets over the Border”, refusing to run when the commander of 6 Commando urged him to; pipers walked as they played.

Landing on Sword Beach; Millin is in the foreground at the right; Lovat is wading through the water to the right of the column
Landing on Sword Beach; Millin is in the foreground at the right; Lovat is wading through the water to the right of the column

The use of bagpipes was restricted to rear areas by the time of the Second World War by the British Army. Lovat, nevertheless, ignored these orders and ordered Millin, then aged 21, to play. When Private Millin demurred, citing the regulations, he recalled later, Lord Lovat replied: “Ah, but that’s the English War Office. You and I are both Scottish, and that doesn’t apply.”

He played “Hielan’ Laddie” and “The Road to the Isles” as his comrades fell around him on Sword Beach. Millin states that he later talked to captured German snipers who claimed they did not shoot at him because they thought he was crazy.

He took them across two bridges, one (later renamed the Pegasus Bridge) ringing and banging as shrapnel hit the metal sides, one merely with railings which bullets whistled through: “the longest bridge I ever piped across.” Those two crossings marked their successful rendezvous with the troops who had preceded them.

All the way, he learned later, German snipers had had him in their sights but, out of pity for this madman, had not fired. That was their story. Mr Millin himself knew he wasn’t going to die. Piping was too enjoyable, as he had discovered in the Boys’ Brigade band and all through his short army career. And piping protected him.

The Nut-Brown Maiden

The pipes themselves were less lucky, injured by shrapnel as he dived into a ditch. He could still play them, but four days later they took a direct hit on the chanter and the drone when he had laid them down in the grass, and that was that.

The last tune they had piped on D-Day was “The Nut-Brown Maiden”, played for a small red-haired French girl who, with her folks cowering behind her, had asked him for music as he passed their farm.

He gave the pipes later to the museum at the Pegasus Bridge, which he often revisited, and sometimes piped across, during his long and quiet post-war career as a mental nurse at Dawlish in Devon.

On one such visit, in full Highland rig with his pipes in his arms, he was approached by a smartly dressed woman of a certain age, with faded red hair, who planted a joyous kiss of remembrance on his cheek.



Β)Korean Soldier Fought in Pacific, Eastern Front, and D-Day for Axis and Allies and 3 Separate Countries

by Jeff Edwards

Many men have the honor of saying they fought for their country in the global struggle known as World War 2.  However, not many men have the misfortune of being forcibly called to fight for 3 separate countries that would take him from the Axis in the Pacific theater, the Allies on the Eastern front, and then back to the Axis just in time for D-Day.

It is a story almost too inexplicable to be true, but don’t tell that to Korean Yang Kyoungjong because that is precisely what happened to him.  As a Korean living in Manchuria at a time when the Japanese ruled Korea and were expanding their empire, the needed fresh troops for a series of border conflicts with the Soviet Union.

When conscripted at the age of 18 in 1938, he would begin a journey that would include the POW camps of 3 separate nations and fighting a war on behalf of both the Axis and the Allies.

A Short War for the Japanese

After his conscription, he would find himself at the Battle of Khalkhin Gol in 1939 which would pit Japanese forces and State of Manchurian forces of which Yang was a part against the Soviet Union and Mongolian People’s Republic.   This battle was part of a series of border conflicts that would take place amongst the powers between 1935 and 1939 with the Soviet Union and Japan pulling the strings for each of their respective puppet states.

The result was a Soviet and Mongolian victory where a ceasefire agreement was signed with little changed.  However, the ceasefire would come a little too late for Korean Yang Kyoungjong who would be captured and sent to a Soviet labor camp.

Soviet Tanks advancing at Khalkhin Gol via commons.wikimedia.org
Soviet Tanks advancing at Khalkhin Gol via commons.wikimedia.org

As a prisoner in these camps, Yang would inevitably suffer brutal conditions and an intense workload for which it was common for many not to survive.  While exact records are hard to verify it is estimated that over 1 million prisoners died in this system with many believing the number to be substantially higher.

However, Yang would be one of those who survived although his path out of the labor camp would bring its own unique set of risks.

In 1942 as the Soviets faced the German onslaught, they were in need of men to fight on the Eastern Front.  Against his will, Yang was pressed into service with the Soviet army and shipped to the front.

It remains to be seen which was the deadlier proposition going from the Gulags to the Eastern Front, but Yang wouldn’t have much say in the matter.  Once at the front, he would again find himself on the losing end of a major battle at the Battle of Kharkov in early 1943.  This time, he would now be in the hands of the Germans and on his way to yet another POW camp.

On the Road to D-Day

After a brief stint fighting for the Allies, Yang would find himself back with the Axis yet still against his will.  He was pressed into service for Germany as part of its Eastern Battalions.  This was a conscription effort by the Germans to raise much-needed fighting men out of the captured Easter territories.  Perhaps they thought Yang fought for the right side once, so why not give him another crack at it.  He was “volunteered” for duty.

The Eastern Battalions were hardly the elite of the German forces as most were pressed into service and while many would fight admirably, most would just surrender at the first sign of conflict.   So in late 1943, Yang and this unreliable conscription of troops were sent to Normandy because it is not like the Allies would pick this location for a massive invasion or anything of the sort.  Surely it wouldn’t it wouldn’t be Normandy.

General Eisenhower briefing Paratroopers prior to D-Day via commons.wikimedia.org
General Eisenhower briefing Paratroopers prior to D-Day via commons.wikimedia.org

June 6th, 1944, Yang would look up into the skies above Normandy and watch thousands of Allied paratroopers fall to the ground.  They were sent in advance of the main invasion force in order to kill the men that would oppose it, but for Yang, her perhaps saw it as his ride home.

While it remains to be seen just how much of fight this Korean from Japanese-occupied Manchuria would put up, he would quickly find himself in his 3rd and final Prisoner of War camp after fighting for his 3rd country in this very long and to him likely very confusing war.

The Long and Winding Road

Upon his capture by paratroopers on D-Day, he was believed at first to be a Japanese in a German uniform, but upon further examination his long ordeal had come out.  One might think that a soldier who gets captured 3 separate times by 3 different nations is not a very good soldier at all.  But if we are honest with ourselves, this man hardly had any reason to fight in any attempt to win each nation’s highest military honor.

This is a man who was conscripted by a country other than his own at age 18 in what would be a pattern that would last until 1944 and take him from his homeland in Asia all the way to Normandy.

Luckily for Yang, the Americans were not in need of extra manpower and he was finally able to sit out a war that began so long ago for him halfway across the world.  How he survived and stories he could tell might perhaps be lost to time as Yang Kyoungjong passed away as a resident of the State of Illinois in 1992.

Heis without a doubt, one of the luckiest and perhaps simultaneously unluckiest men of the entire war.  We can only hope enjoyed his life in America as he certainly seemed to deserve it.

This truly is one of the more remarkable stories of war that we can be thankful was not fully lost to the passage of time.


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