Airborne In Normandy   FAQs   Links    Homepage     Contact     About    WWII Research

The War Comes To Town


Wednesday June 7, 1944 in and around the village of le Mesnil-Vigot was no different than the past 4 years as France had been occupied by the Germans.  There were rumors of liberation since early spring but after years of hope it was just that, hope.


Just north of le Mesnil-Vigot at the settlement la Colentinerie that straddled the road that ran between Perries and St. Lo.  The war came to la Colentinerie at noon June 7th.  The Germans had started a convoyed early that morning leaving Etienville with 150 American Paratroopers as guests of the Germans.  These were the men who had been dropped short of their Drop Zones early in the morning of June 6, 1944.


The trucks they road in had no markings at all stating that these were POWs.  After heading south they turned onto the highway Perries and St. Lo. They took a left towards St. Lo.  Just as the convoy passed through la Colentinerie Allied Planes strafed the column.  The Germans jumped out in the ditches on either side of the road but refused the American POWs the same luxury.  The lead truck in the column was the US POW officers. 


Several of those men were either wounded or killed in the first strafing run.  After the first run the Paratroopers bailed out into the nearest covered area if possible.  Some of the officers who had been wounded weren’t able to get out of the truck due to their wounds either during the strafing or an injury from the day before.


There were two more strafing runs that occurred with more soldiers being killed and wounded.  One of the men wounded was Corporal Ben McKeeby.  McKeeby had been First Sergeant for Company B 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion (Combat) for both Sicily and Italy Jumps. 


McKeeby lost his rank for the following reason; when Company B left Italy they landed in Northern Ireland.  First Sergeant McKeeby and another Staff Sergeant crossed over to Ireland which was neutral in WWII.  Ben McKeeby went to visit a relative there.  When they got back McKeeby was busted to Private.  By the time they were ready to jump into Normandy he had gotten back to Corporal.


After the strafing was over another Company B soldier Corporal Tom Goins found McKeeby lying by the side of the road.  Goins dropped down to check McKeeby’s wound.  Goins saw that McKeeby was shot in the lung.  He pulled him up into a sitting position trying to help Ben to breath.


Tom said that Ben tried to talk but nothing came out and he died a few seconds later.  19 other men died in that strafing as well and there are a few more accounts to follow.


The Back Story


This article is about 2 of the men who were in the June 7, 1944 strafing.  The two men mentioned here were Tom Goins and Ben McKeeby both Corporals going into Normandy.


McKeeby tried to join the Navy in 1939 but was rejected, the reason?  When they shaved his head the barber asked what was that mark in the back of his head.  Ben told them that when he was 17 he and a buddy went out hunting for woodchucks.  Ben was a little in front of his friend.  His friend was just about to fire at a woodchuck but Ben stood to shoot at the same time.


He was shot in the back on the head and it didn’t come out.  His sister said that it took a few years for Ben to get back to normal as the doctors had told them he was never going to be right again.  But Ben proved them wrong becoming the First Sergeant for Company B as a Paratrooper.  When they shaved his head in the Army when and asked about the mark on the back of his head he said it was a birthmark!


Tom Goins the other person in the article grew up as an Okie as he called himself.  He like Ben jumped into Sicily and Italy.  After the war Tom told me matter-of-factly that for the first year or two after the war his wife said he woke up screaming about the strafing.  Tom ended up outside of Bremerton, Washington in ship construction.  Tom sold Christmas Trees every year as well.  Tom died of Mesothelioma February 12, 2008 due to the Asbestos he worked with for 40 plus years at the shipyards.



Brian N. Siddall

June 18, 2023

Copyright © 2002-2024 Airborne In Normandy Research - All rights reserved.
Website design by airborneinnormandy