William A. Wilch: World War II veteran's unlikely friendship with German soldier he shot

It's the unlikeliest of friendships: An American World War II soldier and a German paratrooper he shot at Normandy.

In one of the most improbable bonds, these wartime enemies became best friends.

William A. Wilch, a Middletown, Ohio native, joined the Army in 1943 when he was just 19 years old. He was soon shipped overseas and was one of many soldiers who stormed the beach at Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

RELATED: Middletown World War II veteran recounts D-Day in Normandy, France

At the same time Wilch was fighting for his life in battle, Adolf Huf, a German paratrooper, was fighting for his.

The Battle At Saint Lo

In June 1944, Huf's Sixth Fallschirmjager Regiment was assigned to help in the defense of Saint Lo, the same battle Wilch was fighting on the other side of the enemy line.

 

 

 
     

   

                                                                                       (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images)

 

 

 

In the book, "Don't just kill them, murder em," Wilch recalled the flamethrowers German paratroopers used to burn soldiers out of the hedgerows. He described the horrible "hiss" the weapons made when the Germans attacked.

"We didn't have flamethrowers approaching Saint Lo, so we knew they were Germans when we heard the hiss on the other side of the hedgerow."

Wilch's 115 Regiment and Huf's Second Parachute Division fought each other mercilessly, with fire and guns.

 

 

 
     

"They wounded and killed some of our men, but we finally held them off," Wilch said. "When we turned the fighting back in our favor, these damned German paratroopers began to retreat, running back over the hedgerows. We shot them in their backs as they ran away."

 

 

 

Wilch killed several men and remembered shooting one soldier in his backside, knocking him over. After the battle ended, the American soldiers followed their enemies' escape route.

As Wilch checked the German soldier he had shot last, he looked at his face but saw no sign of life.

"I noticed he had a bad scar along the side of his face that ran down to his chin... I left him where he laid to help the medics called forward to care for our wounded," Wilch said.

The man with the scar was Huf.

Years after Wilch put his gun down he recognized the same scar a world away from battle.

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