Shreveporter Roy Boyter survived several harrowing experiences during WWII. He shared lessons and wisdom of his time in combat with his nephew, Michael Hill, who recorded them in his book ‘The Best Views of Heaven Are From Hell.’ Hill shared his historical record of what it was like to live through the war and Boyter’s daily struggle for survival at a book sale Wednesday on Barksdale Air Force Base.
Boyter signed up with the U.S. Army in July 1943 at the age of 19. After basic training, he was assigned to the 29th Division, 2nd Battalion, 115th Infantry Regiment, Company E out of Maryland. On D-Day, the 115th was part of the second wave of the assault on Omaha Beach in Normandy. He was the fastest runner in basic training and was assigned to be the runner for his Lieutenant during the invasion, carrying messages between units.
“While on the boat going to shore, he and many of the other men were seasick. They were being shot at. Men were dying around him. He said that when the front door of the boat dropped, the first two rows of men were shot and killed. He also said that the guy standing to his right was shot in the head. The fellow soldier asked Roy if he was ok and took off his helmet. Roy said that half of his head was gone,” said Hill.
Boyter said countless men died all around him in the first hail of bullets, and an incoming tide pushed them towards mines and the Nazis.
“In that moment, Omaha is a disaster, even hell looks pretty. Strewn body parts, my buddies yelling, crying out for help,” said Boyter. “Meeting the enemy head-on, we fight ferociously to the last cartridge.”
He told Hill that a 50 caliber machine gun atop the hill fired on them non-stop and they had to crawl up the beach. “You don’t stand up. If you stand up, you’re dead.”
The entire regiment was awarded a Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation, embroidered “St. Laurent-sur-Mer” for their gallant actions that day.
Hill says Boyter was injured by a bomb, losing his calf muscle. Nazi soldiers discovered him and a fellow soldier walking on a road and beat them with the butts of their rifles, then left the two for dead.
Boyter recalled hearing a rooster crowing and realizing they must be near a house. Once the Nazis left, the couple in the home rescued them, hiding them in bales of hay. He said there were intense moments when the Nazis returned, walking past where they were hiding.
After the Nazis left, Boyter said the couple moved them into the home. The wife cleaned his wounds with Cognac and told the soldiers they had to leave for their safety. However, the Nazis returned, busting down the door and taking the soldiers prisoner.
When Boyter was taken to a hospital, the doctor told him they would amputate his leg. He tried to escape, crawling away because he could not use his legs, but the Germans found him several hours later. Luckily, doctors were able to save his leg.
As he was transferred to the hospital attached to Nazi Headquarters, Boyter could hear the sounds of Allied planes overhead. He told Hill that he prayed their vehicle wouldn’t be bombed.
At the hospital, a nurse named Marie helped care for the POWs, giving them extra food and other items. One day she disappeared, and the soldiers didn’t know why. Hill says it wasn’t until the hospital was liberated that Boyter saw her again, walking down the street.
She told Boyter that the Nazis thought she was a spy for the U.S. but was able to talk her way out of certain death. He spent the day with Marie and her family.
He passed away in 2018 at the age of 92, preceded by his wife Erma, daughter Pam, grandson Danny, his parents, three brothers, and three sisters. Hill recorded his great uncle’s experiences in an interview before Boyter’s death. He published the story in his biography, ‘The Best Views of Heaven Are from Hell’ in 2022.
Hill’s family has a long military history; he served in the Gulf War as a member of the U.S. Air Force. Family members have served in WWI, WWII, and the Vietnam War. He says that his great uncle’s story is the story of the many young men who went to serve in WWII.