Thursday, May 17, 2007

Incidentals to D Day

Incidentals to D Day, are important to me and should certainly be of necessary knowledge to the rest of us. There are some facts that are givens, and never mentioned.These facts are lost.Here are a few that I intend to save for us.
My Company, had a rainbow like arc, painted in bright royal blue, a 3/4 inch wide stripe, in the shape of ,the top half of a circle ,with a 7 inch diameter, and open at the base,on the front of our steel helmets. I never researched the the origin of the colors that were used but the 90th Division personnel had a yellowish, red stripe.therefore assuming them to be other than Brigade, Regimental or Army Corp identity. Some others on the beach had light blue, white, green or shades of red.
Officers had their Bars, Leafs, Eagles and Stars painted in White under this singular,upside down cup shape. These Commissioned IDs were hurriedly removed as soon as it was found to be detrimental to ones health.In addition, many Officers removed all their Brass insignia or wore them under their jackets,making saluting , almost improper. I never found out what the designated colors meant. I'm sure they were important to someone. My C.O. once said in passing, that if there was one thing he would like to know before he got out was, why the Stripe at all, when it had no meaning to anybody.

A few days before going up the gangplank of the SS Pickett we were issued Life Preserver Belts. What is unique about these belts is their adaptability. We found ourselves using them for everything except for "life saving".These contraptions, came in so handy, that in hindsight,
I have to smile whenever they come to mind. Their composition was a soft rubber and cloth combination with two parallel inflatable compartments 48 inches long and approximately 5 inches wide. The thickness being less than one inch made them very transportable.
They were fastened on ones waist, with an adjustable buckle and a couple of snaps.Inside an opening at one end of its length was a devise that punctured a couple of C.O. cartridges. When the carbon dioxide cylinders released their contents, the gas inflated the belt. It became extremely buoyant .Presto! A Life Preserver .
These CO cartridges and the belts could only be used once and then the whole thing was discarded.
That is, until necessity became the mother of invention.
Medics started using them, for making wounded more comfortable while and after they were treated. Even as they waited for transport, the belts added warmth for the injured men who were on the beach.
I recall,later on,there were trucks picking up the discards.These belts made, excellent pillows, and mattresses, and great cushioning in the bottom of your foxhole when you had an extended stay.
At this moment I need a breather.
I would like to get back to the main subject of the landings, if I may.
Bear with me for a few days and my experience at H Hour on June 6th will follow.