Testimony of Claude Galley about the fight of Alet’s pass.
As follows are some actions which took place on August 17, 1944.
We arrived at the site about 5:00 p.m., Lt Swank and Sergent Galley (myself) were scouting a place to set explosives. The actual explosives were to be set up later that night. We found a Rail Road Bridge, which was being used by the Germans. We were there for a short period of time when the Geman’s arrived earlier than expected. Bullets were flying overhead within minutes. I ran back to the truck with Lt Swank, Frickey, and two underground French men and others in our units. Lt Swank told me to stay with him. Lt Swank laid down behind the right front wheel of the truck and I was positioned behind the left rear wheel returning fire. He told the other’s to run up the hill and get out of sight. Two truck loads of Germans were coming at us all firing guns.
After a while, Lt Swank called my name and said, “they got me”. I moved to see if I could help him and that is when I was shot. I told him they “got me too”. I stayed there a while; I called his name again but I got no response. I figured he was dead. I was bleeding terribly. I took a small kit something like a first aid kit, which was around my waist and wrapped my hand the best I could. I stood up and could feel blood in my boots. I was trying to think of a way I could escape.
I ran about 50 feet to get off the road. Germans continued shooting at me. I could see sparks bouncing off the pave and hear the bullets passing by me. I walked up the hill, and had no idea what I should do next. All I could think of was, I had to get away.
When I got to the top of the hill I ran into the two underground Frenchmen. They told me they were going to bring me where I could get some help. We walked approximately 5 hours cross-country. They brought me to a little town where one of the boys lived. They left me on the side of the road for awhile. They wanted to make sure it was safe to bring me to a house.
When they came back for me I had passed out from blood lost.
When the got me to the house, there was a lady (I think it may have been one of the Frenchmen’s mother). She poured me a glass of wine, but before I could finish it I passed out again.
When I woke up I was in a clean bed, with clean dressing around my hand and on my foot.
Next morning the two Frenchmen brought me to a French hospital (don’t remember the name). The doctors didn’t have any gauze to redress my wounds, but used a bed sheet. I feel back to sleep again, when I awakened, there was a beautiful little girl at the foot of my bed.
She had heard there was an American Soldier in the hospital, so she wanted to see what one looked like. She was around 18 years old. She would come visit me daily. Her sister had a bar and restaurant about 2 blocks from the hospital. After I started to get around a little better, she brought me to her sister’s place. She had confided in me and told me that the Germans had rapped her.
After about 2 weeks in this hospital, they moved me to another French hospital. Don’t remember the name of this hospital, but was told it was once a school.
Before they moved me agian, they brought me to the area where Lt Swank was buried. They kept me in this hospital for a few weeks. They kept my wounds clean. The 2 Frenchmen brought me to meet my unit in another town. I spent a few hours with them.
Next morning they put me in a car with them and traveled all day long. Brought me to an American Evacuation Hospital (something like MASH). That was the first American hospital I got to. Here they brought me to an operating room. They put me to sleep. When I woke up I had a cast on my arm from my fingers to my elbow and a cast on my foot from toes to my knee. I never stopped walking on my foot.
When I seen the cast on my foot, I called the nurse. I questioned the nurse why there was a cast on my foot, and asked that it be removed. They removed it immediately.
The next day they transfered me to an American Hospital. They put me in a airplane and brought me to Naples, Italy. Here is where they presented me with the honor of a Purple Heart.
All total of 13 months were spent in hospital. I lost my right index (trigger) finger. I still have shrapnel in my foot.
Bridge City, Louisiana, USA, December 2004.