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J J Collins

Forward observer on Utah beach for Naval bombardement

Thursday 8 November 2001

The commanding officer of VII th corp that landed on Utah beach was Major General J L Collins. Our man is another Collins. J J Collins. He was on Utah beach. He came in in a glider in the early hours of the 6th, but he wasn’t part of the 82nd or the 101st airbourne. His mission was to give radio bearings on targets on the beach, to the navy artillery.

J J displayed great initiative. A quality that got him promotion often, and then busted as many times.

Posted in southern England the GIs weren’t suposed to have money sent to them by their families. The Gis splashing money about caused friction between them and the locals. But what was one to do when money arrived anyway. Being freindly with the local Bank manager allowed him to change his "forbidden" money with no hassles.

But back to Utah beach. The glider landing was hard, as many were, and JJ was suffering from back pain as a result. He was taken to a hospital ship and awarded the Purple heart for being wounded in action. But sergent Collins wasn’t one to lie around in a hospital bed so he discharged himself, and lost his Purple heart and got busted. (His son says he had two shirts, one with sergents stripes and one with out. It saved sewing them on and cutting them off again)

A stray German motor cyclist was unlucky enough to drive into their camp. He got shot and JJ thought it would be a good idea to have a ride on the bike. He drove it into a tree and sprained his ankle.

Being the name-sake of the commanding officer was usefull sometimes. Going into the orderlies office with a signed request for a jeep: " Need a jeep ! Signed by Collins!" got he orderlies jumping with no questions asked.

JJ Collins recounted these anecdotes when he came back to Utah beach in september 2001. Better to recall these "lighter" moments than the other things he saw in the thick of the battle. We didn’t find places that he recognised but then after 50 years, and as I often say of the cherbourg peninsula "The americans knew what was happening but didn’t know where they were. The Germans knew where they were but didn’t know what was happening"

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