Harry Hoots - 377th PFAB

Robin501
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Robin501
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May 14th, 2012, 7:08 am #1

Hi people ,
Nothing special to report but just a memory i will never forget,
Some years ago , june 2004  i was in Normandy for the first time with our WWII group from my town. We were residing at camping Utah beach for the week.
During the afternoon me and a friend got bored so we took some mountainbikes and decided to go to Sainte mère eglise to see what's going on. Little did i know what to expect...
So with our jumpsuit and boots on , and a fancy mountainbike , we cycled to Sainte mère eglise and arrived at the square 20 minutes later.
The square was crowded and full of festivities so it was kinda cool to see... as i just rolled into the WWII circuit it was all so fascinating.
I saw an older man in a jumpsuit standing on his own and enjoying the afternoon so i told my friend...come on let's go and meet him.
Back then i was about 17-18 years old and only spoke english in school...so it was a challenge but i took it.
I met veteran Harry r Hoots of the 377th PFAB , he jumped into Normandy and got wounded at his hand , he lost a few fingers , and got taken prisoner on june 6 1944.
I don't recall everything , but i do remember he thanked us for keeping the memory alive and  we shook his hand , got his autograph , thanked him for everything he did and continued our afternoon.
Now, since we are just a few weeks away from the 68th anniversary i was reflecting on my first encounter with a veteran.
I still have his autograph in my book, and i did some research on the internet . This is what i made :

I will take this picture with me to Normandy and place it on the Sainte mère eglise townsquare, where i met him.
I'll add some notes  i found on the net :


CHANDLER — Not a day goes by that Harry Hoots doesn't think about D-Day, which is June 6.

Simple things trigger his memories of that day in 1944, when he was a 21-year-old Army corporal.
It could be something as innocent as driving along a country road near his ranch and spotting a stand of trees, wondering how many Germans are lurking there.
Or scanning an open field, wondering whether he can make it across safely before the enemy draws a bead on him.
On that day 64 years ago, Hoots was in the vanguard of the Normandy onslaught, one of thousands of Allied paratroopers dropping into France in the early morning darkness before the invasion began.
Back then, Hoots was a member of the 377th Parachute Field Artillery Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, the legendary Screaming Eagles.
His mission, like every other paratrooper that night, was to disrupt the enemy's lines of communication and secure vital roads and bridges to prevent the Germans from reinforcing their defenses.
Hoots landed on French soil at 1:10 a.m., about five hours before the largest amphibious invasion in history was to begin.
Trouble was, he was in the wrong place.
It wasn't uncommon; thousands of troops were dropped in wrong locations.
"The pilot of our C-47 — he was from Shawnee — dropped us at Cherbourg, when we were supposed to be 25 miles away at Valognes," Hoots said.
Hoots was joined by two other paratroopers on the airplane, which was carrying an array of machine guns, bazookas and other weaponry in support of combat troops.
So there they were, the three of them on the ground, in the darkness, lost and surrounded by Germans.
Hoots said he and the others eventually split up, and it wasn't too long before he found himself in firefights against the Germans.
During one of those skirmishes, a German lobbed a grenade in his direction. Hoots scooped it up with both hands and tried to throw it back.
But it exploded in his hands, taking off several fingers and badly injuring several others.
Bloodied and in great pain, Hoots said he made his way to a French farmhouse, where he was hidden for two days.
But apparently his French hosts got scared and turned him over to the dreaded Nazi SS — the Schutzstaffel.
Hoot will never forget his exposure to an SS major.
"He spoke really good English, and I told him that," Hoots said.
"He told me he graduated from Columbia University and that he would be home before I am."
Hoots spent a few days in a German stockade before being taken to a hospital at Valognes, the intended target of his parachute drop.
Once at the hospital, two of his badly infected fingers on his left hand were amputated.
As a result of the grenade blast and amputation, Hoots was left with just a pinky finger on his left hand. The grenade had left his right hand with just the pinky and the finger next to it.
Hoots noted that trouble seemed to follow him wherever he went.
While he was at that hospital, in a second-floor ward, American planes bombed the building, "killing all the Germans on the first floor."
From there, the Germans took Hoots and other prisoners to a stockade at Cherbourg.
That stockade was eventually overrun by American forces, and Hoots and the other prisoners were liberated after slightly more than three weeks of captivity.
Hoots was shipped back to England, where he was hospitalized for a few months before he was sent to an Army hospital in Temple, Texas.
"They wanted to fix me up with a set of hooks," he said, "but I told him I would have none of it."
So Hoots decided to return to Oklahoma, where he finished high school and went on to college, receiving an animal husbandry degree from Oklahoma State University.
Hoots said he had a great opportunity to buy a 600-acre ranch about seven miles south of Chandler, so he jumped at it.
It was the well-named "Jumping H" ranch where Hoots settled, running cattle and raising three sons and a daughter.
Hoots was awarded all sorts of medals and honors for his war service, and he remains active in veterans organizations today.
In 2006, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame.
And in 2004, he visited the Normandy area and flew in a C-47 over much of the same terrain where his most vivid memories were ingrained in his consciousness.
"Yeah," Hoots said as he reflected on D-Day, "I think about it all day. Every day."


One great memory !
Robin
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jonesy
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May 14th, 2012, 7:32 am #2

Great account Robin. Is Harry still alive and well?



Bob Noody and Lou Vecchi were the first veterans I've ever met. It was only for a few minutes but I'll treasure that time forever.
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Robin501
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May 14th, 2012, 7:43 am #3

I don't know but i'm pretty sure that Harry is still around , i haven't found anything negative so far.

I do plan to contact him if i can find his adress.



Such moments are one of the best.





Robin
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gogs1
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May 14th, 2012, 8:15 am #4

Harry is still alive and well and living in Chandler, OK. Harry was escorted on the 2004 Trip by the WWII Airborne Demonstration Team and he had a great time watching the jump and meeting many new friends.
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Jacques Wood1
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May 14th, 2012, 10:32 am #5

Nice post Robin. I think I remember Mark naming Harry Hoots in a line up of 377th PFAB men in a photo taken in England at a location close to Benham Valence. Good to hear he is doing well.



Matt
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BENNING WING
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May 14th, 2012, 11:56 am #6

As a matter of interest Robin we will be parading the HQ 377th guidon at the Ravenoville Memorial unvailing, the 377th PFAB was one of the 4 main units who fought here and will be commemorated on Irish Daves Memorial.



Regards



Lee
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kskorner101
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May 14th, 2012, 12:22 pm #7

In George's book D-Day with the Screaming Eagles, George has a description of the events of that night. A couple of the guys from his stick report that he blew off his fingers with his own grenade but that differs from the account Harry gave in the above article. The guys in the book also report that they thought it best to leave Harry in the care of the German medics as they had done all they could with bandages and tourniquets. In the above account, Harry reports that he wass with the French for a couple days before being turned over to the Germans.



George recalls being in Normandy in 2004 for the 60th Anniversary and was accompanied by his grandson Matt. As they were sitting in a VIP box in St. Mere Eglise waiting for commorations to begin, he saw Harry Hoots and Jake McNiece sitting a few rows down. They were having a grand time and waved at George. George recalls that the niece of John Steele was sitting next to him and were a few Generals! You will remember that John Steele was the fellow that got the birds eye view of the square as he hung from the steeple. His likeness still hangs there today!



The D-Day book as well as the Hell's Highway and The Battered Bastards of Bastogne has been reprinted by Casemate in a new larger size. All now have an index to make looking for inforamation on people, places or events much easier. The D-Day with the Screaming Eagles book is in it's 7th printing.



Dan Cutting for George Koskimaki
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Robin501
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May 14th, 2012, 12:34 pm #8

Thanks both Dan and George ,



I wish i could recall his story into detail but i can only remember he lost a few fingers by an explosion from a grenade.

He was the first paratrooper i spoke to. He was a good man to speak with.



I prepared my letter to him and will send this picture along in the mail tomorrow.



In the future i will get George his books , feel stupid to tell i don't have them yet.



Robin
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KlondikeFox
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May 14th, 2012, 3:58 pm #9


This is a page from the Normandy journal kept June 6-10, 1944 by Captain Bill Brubaker,
of 377th S-3.  I used to have a copy of his loading manifest for the D-day jump but can't
locate it at this time. If I recall correctly, there were 14 troopers in his stick and a month later,
Brubaker was the only one of them still fit for duty.  The others had been KIA, captured, or in
some cases, were liberated PWs, who were so devastated by their harrowing experiences, that
they could no longer serve. 
Bru's group changed each day, as personnel drifted in and out from the misdrops, as they migrated
to the south. Each time they encountered German forces, there was a shootout and they'd lose a few
guys, scatter and pick up different strays the next day. So Bru made a daily roster of who was present
for duty on each date with his group. You'll note Harry Hoots' name listed above. As to Werner Angress,

he surfaced here in MI shortly before his recent death and he donated his reinforced jump suit to the
Farmington Hills Holocaust museum, where it is currently displayed on a full mannequin.
Last edited by KlondikeFox on May 14th, 2012, 4:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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KlondikeFox
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May 14th, 2012, 4:07 pm #10


note the entry on Hoots.
Brubaker's cricket is in my collection-it has never been
cleaned and has mold spots on it.
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