Robert  E  WERNER


AGE20 ans
DATE D'INCORPORATION5 janvier 1943  San Francisco  CALIFORNIA
COMPANYHeadquarters Company
REGIMENT  507th  Parachute Infantry Regiment
DIVISION  82nd Airborne Division
DATE DU DECES6 juin 1944werner robert e tombe

Plan du Normandy American Cemetery

Purple HeartPhoto FDLM
us army div 82 507pir 507pir patch

By WW2 Legacy Keepers (en attente de traduction)

Last month Mrs. Francine Picillo reached out to WW2 Legacy Keepers to see if I could find any details on her Uncle Pvt. Robert E. Werner of California who served in the Army during World War II. Francine did not have many details about her uncle because her Grandmother didn’t speak about his death. She believed he was a paratrooper and that he was “shot down over France during June of 1945" and that was about it.

Within thirty seconds of doing my research I realized I was not going to experience the usual enjoyment delivering my findings to someone who was searching for details about one of their loved ones. Private Robert E. Werner was a member of Headquarters Company, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the famed 82nd Airborne Division. According to the National Archives World War II Army enlistment records, Werner, Robert, E, serial # 39119065, was a resident of San Francisco County, CA and he entered the Army on January 5, 1943 in San Francisco, CA. He was a native of California and was born in 1924. At the time of his service he had completed 4 years of high school, was single, without dependents and his civilian occupation was listed as stock clerks.

Pvt. Werner jumped into Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944, with the rest of his regiment and just a few hours after his boots hit the ground he was captured by the Germans near the town of Hemevez. 3 other paratroopers from his company were also captured around the same time; they were PFC Elsworth M. Heck of West Virginia, Pvt. Anthony J. Hitztaler of Wisconsin, and Pvt. Delmar C. Mc Elhaney of Arkansas. To this day there is no explanation for the events that took place next, during the chaotic first day of the Allied invasion of Normandy.

After being marched around for about 2 hours, the 4 prisoners were brought to a place where, earlier in the day, 3 of their fellow 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers were killed. Stripped of their helmets and field gear, the Americans were led at gun point down a tree lined dirt road. They were then forced through a cattle gate into a field and they were never seen alive again.

Werner, Heck, Hitztaler, and Mc Elhaney were all shot in the back of the head at close range by their Nazi captors. It is believed that the German’s were attempting to make it appear that these troopers were killed in action during the battle that occurred in the same area earlier that day. So as you can imagine, it was difficult having to tell Mrs. Picillo that her Uncle, who was killed before she was born, was not killed in action but murdered by his Nazi captors in an act that was nothing less than a war crime.

Later, during the evening of June 6, French civilians brought the bodies of the 7 paratroopers to a Hemevez cemetery and buried them in a hastily prepared grave. It took about 2 weeks for word of the buried paratroopers to reach the American forces that now controlled the area. An Army Graves Registration Service team was dispatched to investigate. The bodies of all 7 troopers were exhumed and given a rudimentary field autopsy before being moved to a temporary American Cemetery. Most of the investigation and exhumation was filmed by a Signal Corps cameraman and the black & white photos attached to this post are screen-grabs I made from that film.

I reached out to acclaimed World War II historian Martin K.A. Morgan Marty Morganwho wrote about the murder of the paratroopers in his book The Americans on D-Day, A Photographic History of the Normandy Invasion. Mr. Morgan was kind enough to forward me a copy of a very detailed article he wrote specifically about the massacre entitled Sixteen Days in June, The Massacre at Hemevez which I mailed to Mrs. Picillo along with some photos I printed up.

Private Werner is buried at the Normandy American Cemetery in France, not far from the field in which he was murdered. Several of the other paratroopers were later exhumed and sent back to the U.S. for burial in their home towns. There is a monument in the cemetery at Hemevez dedicated to the 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers who were temporarily buried there for a little over 2 weeks in 1944.

The monument, which is flanked by American and French flags, bares the names of 7 troopers on one side and a brief description of the massacre on the other. Each year, on the anniversary of D-Day, the citizens of Hemevez hold a small ceremony at the monument to keep the legacy of the brave young Americans who came to liberate their country but were brutally murdered before they had a chance to fight.

Thank you to Francine Picillo for reaching out to WW2 Legacy Keepers regarding your Uncle. We are truly sorry for details of his death that we had to report to you. Private Werner, and all of the men who were killed at Hemevez on or about June 6, 1944, WW2 Legacy Keepers salutes you and thanks you for your service, job well done Sirs. May you all continue to rest in peace and know that you are not and will not be forgotten.

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Stèle en mémoire des Parachutistes décédés dans la commune

Prise en charge du corps par "Army Graves Registration"
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PROGRAMMEURSFrédéric & Renaud
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