Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oldest Military Blogger Goes Back to 2007.

Some people my age are not very Computer literate.
Where is the stuff about D Day they ask?
How can I find it?
The posting process is such that the newest
postings appear first in my Blog.
My D Day experience was posted in 2007.
I thought it might be a good Idea to reprint
the posts from 2007 as an easy way to solve
a huge problem.

Actually, I enjoyed reading them again.
I hope you do too.

Oldest Military Blogger 5 Days before D Day.

D Day Minus 5 days

I left England on June 1,1944 on the Liberty ship, SS George E. Pickett.
This was the third dry run we thought,so the speech we got before we went aboard, by some nameless General, was taken in stride.
After being under sail for 12 hours we started to consider the possibility
of this, being the real thing.The following day still moving around in the Channel or off the coast of Brest more vessels joined our group.We kept moving together.A convoy without any visible Naval escort. We all stayed on deck as much as we could because it wasextremely hot below.
All the hatches were covered but we finally found that our cargo was composed of Sherman tanks, Jeeps with trailers, filled with gear,DUKWs piled high with rope cargo nets, two and a half ton trucks with canvas covers tied down and thousands of 5 gallon Jerry cans filled with gasoline.
You asked me for something to chew on. Well, it looks like I may have bitten off more than I can chew on at this moment.
Give me a day or two till, I get my shit together.
It turns out that the General with no name turned out to be Ike, who I wouldn't know from a hole in the ground, and later realized it was he, when his picture was in the Stars and Stripes.


D day minus 5 Hours

In the afternoon on the 3rd of June, many more vessels could be seen and an occasional Destroyer raced by. We were called for a briefing on deck and we found that sections of Infantry from the 90th Division were our shipmates.The briefing was about cutting off the Cherbourg Peninsula with an initial assault from the NW and then one from the opposite side of the peninsular.These forces would join in the middle and then move toward the town of Cherbourg. Historically, some of this occurred, evidently the fierce weather on June 5th may have made some of this cumbersome. We were getting seriously bored.We played cards,shot craps, wrestled, slept and ate when we could keep it down.Dusk on the 3rd we were under full sail. I didn't know where I was but from the suns position I thought we were sailing South East.With daylight on th 4th there were hundreds of ships in view but as the day wore on foggy weather, or man made fog, the storm closed in.That night, in a storm tossed sea very few could sleep.Someone was sobbing and crying in my sleeping area.I climbed down into the engine room stairwell and the sound of the boilers and pumps hammered me to doze off.The tossing of the Pickett continued for most of the morning of the 5th and then it cleared as it got dark. Suddenly the sky was full of tracers. Full of heavy Naval fire. everyone on deck realized, tomorrow we go.

Oldest Military Blogger on the S.S. George E Pickett on D Day

D Day on The S.S.George E. Pickett

Oh yes. They knew we were coming. The 82nd Airborne had been dropped the day before. They fought their way back to the beach.They did not know that the landings would be delayed because of a little bad weather. I'll bet they were outraged beyond anything I could imagine,
wondering how they were supposed to hold their objectives without the backup they had been promised, to be right behind them. Waiting for the sound of bugles signifying that the Calvary was en route, to the rescue.
To say the least,they were upset. They were tired.They were lucky.
Let me explain where I'm going with this.
People get killed in wars.
Soldiers get killed in war.
We are not trained to see the whole picture.
Our superior officers tell us that we are a small link in the whole chain ,of what the fighting is all about. Don't get negative thoughts regarding your orders.Why are we going to do this,this way,when it seems so much easier to do it that way? It's not exactly like
they issue a rain check to some outdoor activity and everyone isinconvenienced for a few days.
This activity has men's lives in the
balance.We should not have delayed the landings and sacrificed those men of the 82nd,101st, without a chance of relief as they expected.Somehow I suspect that the delayed landings came about because of some bad inteligence,at the last moments of this operation.
I suppose the early jumpers were told to hold their objective and we would get to them as soon as we can.
Just as these Divisions carried out their orders without question, we would have done the same and gone ashore on the 5th, in the storm, because we trained to respond to our orders without question and because we were immortal.
Men who have never been in a combat situation may think about death, but not about their own.
You cannot realize or perceive your own death,that only happens to someone else.
Combat changes that.
One day you understand.
A guy could get killed out here.
When you've seen enough bodies of friends or enemies, you stop running for cover when there is shelling from 88s, you get scared of getting out of your foxhole because one of your skittish neighbors is quick on the trigger.You start thinking a little differently.Your existence depends on how good the guy next to you in the field is. He and the others who are still alive, start thinking pretty much the same way. Don't worry about yourself so much, just watch out for your fellowmen, because they are the only thing that is keeping you alive.
Here we are, more than 60 years after this event and I defy you to tell me how many casualties the pre-D day invaders suffered. I'm sure that this figure is best kept with the overall population of American and Allied losses.

TUESDAY, JULY 31, 2007

D Day.First Light.

D Day. First light revealed, an LCT nestled up against the S.S.Picketton the port side,amidships,next to the No.2 hatch. No.2 is the largest hatch on a Liberty ship and contained the heaviest units. The booms on No.2 are rated for 50 tonnes, so the order was to place our tank cargo aboard the LCT along side. The Landing Craft Tank, can deliver its freight by dropping its ramp like bow, right on the beach and tanks are driven off, each with its own driver,one after the other.During the loading process we were taking fire from shore and the bridge of the LCT was hit by an 88 shell from a German gun.We found out later that a Naval Lt.on the bridge was decapitated. The crew was replaced and the LCT cast off,beach bound.The empty spot was taken immediately by another vessel.The action on the starboard side was used for offloading, fuel, ammo and Infantry into LCVPs.(Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel). The SS Morgan went down by the stern, 200 yards off our port side,as the daylight increased and it got lighter. My outfit went ashore via an LCVP coxswain who was out in the open at all times. He brought us safely to the beach without incident, then he dropped the ramp, and we debarked in waist deep water.As soon as we were ashore he backed off the beach to get another load.We landed on Utah beach. 10 hours later I returned to the Pickett to help finish unloading the ship and get our gear. The Naval bombardment destroyed almost every fortification on shore.The Atlantic Wall where we landed, was a myth. Fortunately for my outfit, we were put ashore 1000 yards northwest of our initially assigned area, and it was very lightly defended.
There is a Film called "A Walk in the Sun", with Dana Andrews and John Ireland to name a few of the stars,that comes to mind. John Ireland writes letters to his sister about his well being, after the invasion of an island off Italy. All through the movie, he writes or narrates letters to her, optimistically not knowing, if they will ever be read .
Their mission is to take a well fortified farm house which is serving as an observation post. Completing their assignment, after a huge loss of life, John Ireland's character under a shade tree, paper and pencil in hand,he grimly muses about the contents of a letter to his sister at the close of the film .
"Dear Sis,
Today we took a farm house. It was so easy."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Oldest Military Blogger in Carentan

The Newest Confliction

Why not!
These are my experiences in the Military that
have nothing to do with the shoot-em-up syndrome
that everyone expects and certainly not worth
writing about.
When the War was over in MAY,we were taken
out of Antwerp and shipped to Carentan, France
and assigned to a prisoner of war hospital where
some 850 Germans were recovering from wounds
after being treated, then housed and being
rehabilitated to normality.
We took out groups of those in good physical
shape to do some sort of manual labor to ease
their boredom and to keep them busy.
They helped widen narrow brooks in the area to
provide freer flowing water to farmers who used
the streams for irrigation of their new crops.
The prisoners also did maintenance to wooded areas
that were heavily damaged by shelling.
My first day on arrival, I had a group of ten Germans,
lead by a German Sgt.with a yellow armband to
signify his seniority, who was going to hand out long
handled shovels to the others, asked
me with a bow and a gesture to the shovels, "O.K.?"
I nodded in affirmation.
Each of the men came up to the truck, took
a shovel, shouldered it and followed
the Sgt on a hardly visible trail into the woods.
I was at the end of the line!
In a moment the Sgt. was out of sight!
Alone with my Carbine and 10 armed Germans
leading me into the woods like a sheep
to the slaughter.
Apprehension turned to anxiety when they
started singing in perfect unison a stirring
Wagnerian melody that sounded like a battle
cry to me.
As we got further into the brush, anxiety
turned to sweat when I realized they were
gaining on me!
Suddenly, we came to a narrow stream that
was carrying a large volume of water
very rapidly.
The Yellow armband pointed for me to go
under a tree and said, "Bitte", asking me
to please sit, with a hand motion and a knee
bending, partial squat.
I wasn't gong to sit!
I had to be on my guard!
I watched them deploy, 5 on each side of
the swollen brook to make the channel wider,
moving away from me, downstream, as a unit.
Two hours passed and they stopped for a
break at the command of the Sgt.
They produced food from nowhere and ate
while they sat on the higher bank of the
swirling waters on their unfamiliar route.
The leader offered me a sandwich of some
kind which I refused..
I ate a chocolate bar from my K Ration.
Break over,they went back to the section
that they had cleaned out, finished it off,
thoroughly, in a very German fashion, neat
and clean.
Outside of the footprints in the very soft
soil there was no evidence of anyone
having ever been there.
Beautiful day!
Plenty of shade!
I noticed that the men were wearing rubber
overshoes that were nearly invisible.
They were happy to be alive with 3 meals a day
They would be going home soon.

The Yellow Armband shook my shoulder!
"Bitte" he said.
I stood and followed them back to the Hospital.

On weekends they had a Bazaar,sanctioned
by the authorities but run by the Germans.
..As were their kitchens.
In fact, we used to go to the German Mess
where they had the same Rations we had
in our kitchens, but the preparation was like
comparing McDonald's to the Waldorf.
GIs came to the Bazaar to buy and
exchange stuff with the Germans.
When Okie and I went to to the large open grounds of
the Bazaar, in addition to the fact that we
were amazed by the industry and the neatness
of the area, there was a Barber Chair with a
GI getting his hair cut.
Seeing that the Barber was removing the
sheet wrapped around the man sitting in
the seat, I was prepared to be next.
The GI turned out to be an American
Captain with a Caduceus Insignia on his collar.
He gave the Barber the going rate,two cigarettes.
I sat down.
Carbine on my lap.
The hair cut was swift and clean taking a
few minutes.
When I stood, the German asked me with
an amusing smile,
"Shave, Sargent?"
He started stropping a straight edged razor
on a leather strap hooked on the side of the chair.
I looked into his dancing blue eyes,
glanced at the Carbine in Okie's lap,
then at Okie.
Okie shrugged, and slammed a cartridge into
the chamber.
"Yes" I said.
I sat.
He shaved.
I gave him 2 cigarettes, which he took
with some humility.
He half saluted with a little nod and said,
"Danke", we left.

Later I recalled.

There were much more than 100 people
in the area making lots of noise with
conversation, clatter and laughter that we
are familiar with in a gathering of this sort.

When that Round was loaded by that
Bolt Action, Time stood still.
There is something in the sound of the bolt
action loading a rifle that spells imminent Death.

The prisoners in the Hospital were immune
from further bloodshed after being treated
and tendered too and now with the war over,
no threat of any bodily harm.

The sound of the rifle action brought the
whole situation back to reality.
Someone could die here!
No one knew who it could be.
Everyone was happy when it was not him.