A Social Network for Navy Veterans of the United States of America
by David W.Asche
The stuff you don't read about in the History books or see in many movies.
On that day so many years ago, it began for my father this way:
At about 01:00, he arose and dressed, went and had breakfast. They were serving steak and eggs instead of the usual cheaper breakfasts that morning. After breakfast, he went to check on his boat, an LCVP, one of many that were riding in the cradles on the USS Charles Carroll (APA-28) still anchored off the coast of England. He had to be sure the boat was fueled and all the things for the engine and drive train were in order. At about 02:00, the ship weighed anchor and began the trip across the channel to the coast of Normandy, France.
An LCVP was 37 feet long and had a crew of three men. One coxswain's mate who steered the boat, a Machinist's Mate that tended to the engine and the other things such as cleaning the sand traps and a "Bow Hook" who operated the bow door
Most of the troops had already been loaded aboard the ship and had to endure an extra day/night on the ship due to the weather and the invasion had been set back a day. The troops were elements of the US Army 29th infantry that were all crowded down in the troops quarters. The holds of the ship were loaded with tanks, jeeps, guns, ammunition supplies, food, bazookas, Bangalore Torpedoes, and all the things needed to invade the hostile shores of NAZI occupied France.
It took about two hours for the Charles Carroll to cross the channel and she dropped her anchor in the assigned moorage and began unloading her boats, which meant that my father was one of a crew of three men and he had began his day on the water.
He had done this same thing many, MANY times, as they all had to do training assaults with loads of troops and equipment, and the Charles Carroll had already done landings in North Africa, Sicily and Salerno, Italy some time before the June 6 date off Normandy. My father was what is known as a "Plank Owner" which is a member of the very first crew of a new ship. He made all the landings of the Carroll, including all the training landings made at friendly beachheads.
The boats did their little "circle jerk" in four groups around the ship until all the boats were in the water, then began the dangerous and time consuming job of each boat coming to a specific area alongside the ship and having troops loaded with their packs and rifles and other gear to climb down the nets and get into the boats.
As each boat was loaded, they went back to their "circle jerk" stations and went around in circles until all the boats were loaded.
MEANWHILE, the s*** had began to hit the fan for the Germans on shore as battleships, cruisers and destroyers all had begun shelling various places on shore to destroy the gun emplacements and machine gun nests that had been engineered by Erwin Rommel and had been designed to stop any attempt at any kind of invasion. The racket of the shelling was deafening and the shock waves of the big guns going off would shake a mans insides out in a small landing boat.
Not only were there gun emplacements, but there were mines and all manner of obstacles built and placed on the beach that would rip a hole in a flimsy plywood LCVP, or maybe just blow it all to hell with the mines.
At the appropriate time, the first wave of boats started for the beaches based on the vague maps each boat coxwain (driver) had and all the boats had to stay in line and keep going, no matter what happened to the boats on each side of the one my father was in. I say "vague maps" because some of the maps were not very clear, AND some of the landmarks the boats were supposed to use as guides, church steeples and houses for example, were being blown all to hell by the shelling from the ships.
As they approached the beach, the men in the well deck all were getting sea sick and puking up their breakfast from either being seasick or scared or both, and the deck was slippery and gross from the mess. As they came closer to the beach, bullets began hitting the boats as they had started from a few miles off the beach, and now they were coming into range of everything from the infamous 88 millimeter high velocity guns to the MG 42 machine guns which were known to shoot almost a thousand rounds a minute. The only protection the men on the plywood LCVP's was the metal bow ramp/door that would soon be lowered so the troops could get off the boat.
My father had to man one of the .30 cal machine guns mounted in the rear of the boat and he also had to duck down into the engine bay to make sure the engine still worked and he had to empty the sand traps that provided the engine with cooling water from the sea. He had to do this while the Germans were desperately trying to kill him and all of the others who were attempting to land on the beach.
The section of Normandy beach my father was assigned to was Omaha Beach, the worst one of the five beaches the Allies would be landing on.
They landed at low tide, which means the beach was about three hundred yards wide and the troops had a long ways to go before they had any kind of relative safety up along the steep cliff. After the boat was empty, it had to back out of its location and get out of the way of the next wave of landing craft coming in.
The boat would then go back to the ship and get another load of troops or other gear and make the long trip back to the beach. Once at the beach, they would unload the gear, then get a load of wounded soldiers and take them back to the ship where they would be unloaded and then the boat would get a fresh load of troops, etc.
This went on all day long.
A lot of landing craft did not return to their home ships, along with a lot of my father's shipmates and friends.
Late in the afternoon of June 6, 1944, the USS Charles Carroll (APA-28), after unloading all of the men and equipment it had carried to the beach, hoisted its anchor and got underway back to England where the wounded aboard her were taken to better medical facilities ashore to be mended and sent home if they were wounded badly enough. Some died before they made it this far.
After the Normandy invasion, the Charles Carroll was sent back to the Mediterranean to invade the South Coast of France.
When done there, the USS Charles Carroll was assigned to the Pacific and was at Okinawa on April 1, 1945. The Carroll carried the famous war correspondent Ernie Pyle and my father was one who got a chance to talk with him while on the cruise.
Such was they way it was for my father and I was taught about his war experiences by him. A lot of men did not return. My father never got a scratch.
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