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My Grandfather's Memories Of WWII and D-Day

I was a pharmacist mate third class when I served in the United States Navy. Like most of my ship mates, I was in my teens and had an air of invincibility. It was the 1940s and we all had a patriot fervor and wanted to serve our country. In March of 1944, after boot camp, hospital corpsman school and hospital training at the Charleston Naval Hospital, I was assigned to a naval medical evacuation group designated "FOXY - 29". This group was assembled at Lido Beach, Long Island, NY, where training and shots were given in preparation of going overseas. A group of 40 corpsman and 2 medical doctors were selected as a unit and sent to Bayonne, NJ naval base and depot. Although we were assigned to a Landing Ship Tank (LST), we were not part of the ship's company.

While docked in Bayonne, NJ, the ship's tank deck was loaded with trucks and topside with a Landing Craft Tank (LCT). After the ship was fully loaded with equipment, army troops were taken aboard as passengers.

,, I remember very little about the engineering specifications of the a LST but I know what it

looked like. It was about 220 ft long and 60 ft wide. The bow of the ship had two large doors that opened up to allow a ramp to be lowered on which vehicles gained entry to the tank deck. The crew's quarters were in the stern of the ship accommodating about 60 sailors. Additional accommodations were available on both the port and starboard sides, running almost the full length of the ship. The bunks were attached to bulkhead or stanchions and had to be lashed up when not in use. The officers quarters were topside near the stern of the ship in front of the ship's galley

Leaving Bayonne, NJ, we set a course for Boston, MA, Halifax, Nova Scotia and Finally the British Isles. We only got as far as Boston when we experienced engine trouble. We had to lay over while the rest of the convoy continued on to Halifax. A week later we resumed our voyage and set sail for Halifax. We arrived at Halifax without any incidents and then awaited the assembly of ships to sail in a convoy heading for the final leg of the journey. This

part of the journey was perilous. German Wolf Packs (subs) dogged American convoys, picking off stragglers or other victims sailing on the fringes of the convoy. Fortunately, LSTs have shallow drafts and torpedoes go under the keel of the ship. Sailing the North Atlantic in winter is rough particularly for a ship that hasn't a keel. The LST was designed with a flat bottom in order to land on the beaches. This feature was a disadvantage in the North Atlantic. Three story waves would lift the ship on to their crest and the ship would shutter from the vibration of the screws (propellers) then slam down where the waves receded. Fortunately or unfortunately, the voyage lasted 23 days. Everyone aboard suffered from some degree of sea sickness, the more serious cases experienced nausea and dehydration and could not get out of bed to perform their duties.On the 23rd day, after leaving Halifax, we sailed or floated into Plymouth Harbor. The same port from which

the pilgrims sailed to America. The harbor pilot came aboard our ship and steered to a dock called Tamar Quay, where the equipment and passengers were unloaded. My unit left the ship to go for additional training in a small rustic town in Devon called Fowey. We returned to our ship a week later and found out that our ship was part of a fotilla on a training maneuver when German E-Boats attacked and inflicted heavy casualties. This incident (Tiger) was not reported until recent years. Our unit was happy that we were not on board when this incident occurred even though our ship was unscathed. Sadly, some of my friends on other ships were lost. The weeks prior to the Normandy invasion, life aboard ship was dull because of confinement. The week before D-day, the ship began to load up men and equipment. Now it was a case of hurry up and wait and wait we did. Finally, the day came and we weighed anchor and set sail for the continent. Our army passengers were

members of the 29th Division (The Blue And Grey). This division was originally a National Guard outfit activated prior to Pearl Harbor in case of emergency. These older fellas served in the Alleutian Island for one year before being reassigned to the European Theatre Operation. They had been stationed in England two year prior to this event. These men had been away from home for 3 years without any furlough. The attitude of these soldiers was remarkable. Although they faced great danger and even death, they were fearless and anxious to get it over with so they could go home to their families. We could not show fear in the presence of these brave men. The trip across the English Channel was a spectacular sight. There were thousands of allied ships as far as one could see. Our planes flew above us in such large numbers it seemed that we were spectators at an airshow. The enemy had been cleared from the sea and the sky. The army personnel knew were they were

going to land since maps indicating Vereville Ser Mer Sermer on Omaha Beach as the location. Our forces arrived at Omaha Beach on the morning of the second day. We saw wreckage of landing crafts strewn across the approaches to the beach. German Eighty-Eights were firing cross fire on the troops attempting to secure the beachhead. The battleship New York and the cruiser Augusta were lobbing shells on the German position. Our skipper steered the ship toward the beach but was intercepted by a Coast Guard Cutter who instructed him to turn back because he was endangering his ship and all on board. We turned back to a safe distance where we loaded the army personnel onto our small boats that ferried them to the beachhead. We had no difficulty unloading the soldiers but the equipment was another story. This problem was resolved by providing the CB sailors (Construction Batallion) a case of beer to unload the equipment from our ship. These sailors operated the Rhino, used for transporting equipment to the beachhead. The Rhinos were a

number of platoons welded together and propelled by outboard motor. These courageous sailors did a tremendous job in supporting the troops on shore. Our stay at Omaha Beach was not over yet. We had to wait in order to evacuate casualties. Small boats returning from the beachhead had casualties on board who had to be transported back to England for treatment. Ropes were tied to the stretchers bearing the injured men and then manually hoisted on board. When the ship was filled to capacity we sailed back to South Hampton, England where the injured were taken off the ship and transported to medical facilities. The trips between England and Normandy continued until ports such as Cherbourgh and La Havre became secure for allied ships. The amphibious ships continued their operations in the European Theatre, ferrying men supplies and prisoners to various sectors. Inland ports that were used by amphibious ships were Antwerp, Belgium and Rouen, France. When

the European conflict had ended, many amphibious sailors were reassigned to the Pacific Theatre.