Men of D-Day


    
 Troop Carrier
Michael N. Ingrisano
Robert E. Callahan
Benjamin F. Kendig
John R. Devitt
Arthur W. Hooper
Ward Smith
Julian A. Rice
Charles E. Skidmore
Sherfey T. Randolph
Louis R. Emerson Jr.
Leonard L. Baer
Robert D. Dopita
Harvey Cohen
Zane H. Graves
John J. Prince
Henry C. Hobbs
John C. Hanscom
Charles S. Cartwright
 
 82nd Airborne
Leslie Palmer Cruise Jr.
Marie-T Lavieille
Denise Lecourtois
Howard Huebner
Malcolm D. Brannen
Thomas W. Porcella
Ray T. Burchell
Robert C. Moss
Richard R. Hill
Edward W. Shimko
 
 101st Airborne
John Nasea, Jr
David 'Buck' Rogers
Marie madeleine Poisson
Roger Lecheminant
Dale Q. Gregory
George E. Willey
Raymond Geddes
 
 Utah Beach
Joseph S. Jones
Jim McKee
Eugene D. Shales
Milton Staley
 
 Omaha Beach
Melvin B. Farrell
James R. Argo
Carl E. Bombardier
Robert M. Leach
Joseph Alexander
James Branch
John Hooper
Anthony Leone
George A. Davison
James H. Jordan
Albert J. Berard
Jewel M. Vidito
H. Smith Shumway
Louis Occelli
John H. Kellers
Harley A. Reynolds
John C. Raaen
Wesley Ross
Richard J. Ford
William C. Smith
Ralph E. Gallant
James W. Gabaree
James W. Tucker
Robert Watson
Robert R. Chapman
Robert H. Searl
Leslie Dobinson
William H. Johnson
 
 Gold Beach
George F. Weightman
Norman W. Cohen
Walter Uden
 
 Juno Beach
Leonard Smith
 
 Sword Beach
Brian Guy
 
 6th Airborne
Roger Charbonneau
Frederick Glover
Jacques Courcy
Arlette Lechevalier
Charles S. Pearson
 
 U.S.A.A.F
Harvey Jacobs
William O. Gifford
 
Civils
Philippe Bauduin
Albert Lefevre
René Etrillard
Suzanne Lesueur
 

 

James Roland Argo
Omaha Beach - Pharmacist Mate 1st class for LCI 489

I am 79 years old and for years tried to forget the pain and suffering I witnessed in World War II, particularly June 6th and 7th, 1944. However, in my advanced age I guess I am getting nostalgic. When I read Karl Bischoff's story, I decided to tell you about my memories on LCI (L) 489 at Omaha Beach on June 6th and 7th of 1944. I hope that my story may answer questions that others might have had about their loved ones.

Background:

First, let me give you a little background about myself. I was born and reared in Gadsden, Alabama. I was only 17 when I misrepresented my age and joined the Alabama National Guard. I served in Guntersville, Alabama, Jacksonville, Florida, and Camp Beauregard, Louisiana. When we were inducted into the Federal Army in 1940, all of us guys who had misrepresented our age were given a COG (Convenience of the Government) discharge and sent home. By then I was nineteen and old enough to enlist. My cousin Joseph R. Erwin and I joined the Naval Reserve. My first assignment was at Balboa Park, San Diego. I attended Hospital Corps School in San Diego where I received my Hospital Apprentice Certificate of Graduation on May 21, 1942. After that, I served in Pensacola, Florida at the U.S. Naval Hospital. Then I was stationed at TTSA (Transition Training Squadron Atlantic Fleet) in Norfolk, Virginia. I was one of the first twelve men assigned to what later became the U.S. Naval Amphibious Training Station at Solomon's Island, Maryland. I literally was one of the first 12 men. When I got there, I thought somebody had played a joke on me. No one and nothing else was there. I spent the night in my hammock. In the morning some other men arrived and I knew it wasn't a joke. Some of the other Pharmacist Mates on Solomon's Islands with me were Charlie Sanders, Nils Snelling, Hornsby, Roscoe Brannon, George Van Amburg, Gunn, my cousin Joe Erwin, and Phillip…whose last name I can't remember. Eleven other Pharmacist Mates and myself received an additional period of intensive training in Portsmouth, Virginia related to combat injuries. This training was specifically in preparation for D-day. This training was exactly right on target. We didn't know at that time that it was in preparation for D-day. I learned that later. Pharmacist Mates took the place of physicians on small landing craft such as LCIs. Our group of Pharmacist Mates (Number 28) traveled in convoy across the Atlantic in 1942 on LCIs numbered 487 through 492. I was on LCI (L) 489. We stopped at Little Creek for medical supplies before leaving Norfolk. Roscoe Brannon came later on LST 505, which served as a medical evacuation ship. Most of the memos I received were signed by J Zoole, Surgeon, Lt. Comdr., U.S.P.H.S.

LCI(L) 489:

I served as Pharmacist Mate 1st class for LCI 489. I was the ship's "Doc". The Navy prepared us well for war. As Pharmacist Mate, I received extensive training on wound care, shock treatment, bullet/shrapnel removal, setting fractures, control of bleeding, trauma treatment, stitching, treatment of infectious diseases, dressing and bandaging wounds, chemical warfare first aid, etc. Onboard, everybody got immunizations. I gave typhus fever vaccine every 6 months, typhoid fever every 12 months, tetanus booster as needed, yellow fever every 24 months and small-pox every 6 months. I also served as Chemical Warfare Representative, and Lend-Lease Representative. I completed the required communicable disease reports and sanitary reports. Our commanding officer was H. H. Montgomery, Lieutenant USNR. As I recall, our LCI ship's complement included four officers and between 25-28 enlisted men. Around May 1944 we brought on two additional medical men in preparation for D-Day. These men were Burton H. Hockel, PhM1/C NR, and Harold Alvin Kadle, Hospital Apprentice 2/C. I set these men up in the sick bay to give IVs and plasma. Approximately two weeks before the Normandy Invasion, our LCI was quarantined as a precaution.

My recollection is that our LCI and 5 other LCIs among LSTs, and LCMs pulled up to Omaha Beach just at daybreak on June 6, 1944. Actually, our LCI didn't land up on the beach, which was the goal of LCIs. We hit an obstacle in the water and were not able to get right up on the beach. Chuck Phillips would know the details on that. There was a sandbar and we could not have made it up on the beach anyway. I was on the bridge/conning tower with Lt. Montgomery, Neikerk and Wilson. Another man was on the bridge, too, but I can't remember who it was. Lt. Montgomery was surveying where he wanted to direct fire. Suddenly all hell broke out. Montgomery yelled, "Get off the bridge" and we abandoned the bridge immediately. The German bunkers that were supposed to have been blasted out in an air raid weren't. Fire started coming from everywhere. To make things worse, the water was very rough. We carried men from the 1st Division (the Big Red One) to Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

Wood timbers/cross ties and barbed wire were attached to mines. One of the first things I remember seeing just before all hell broke out was a couple of dead men draped over these obstacles in the shallow water. Later I learned that these men were sent in to clear and mark channels for other landing craft and us. The fighting on the beach seemed to be the most horrendous for the first 5-6 hours. It eased up a little around what I thought seemed like lunchtime, but the shelling continued for two days. You should have seen my helmet. I wish I had saved it for my kids to see. I was told that the Germans wouldn't aim fire directly at men in the Red Cross helmets. A few hours into battle, I took my helmet off because I was certain they were aiming right at that Red Cross. I guess the German's figured for every hospital corpsman they took out, the more overall casualties there would be. Dead corpsmen can't save lives.

During the invasion itself, the sick bay expanded to include the mess hall and the deck. The shipmates on our LCI were lucky. We did not have one single casualty. The mess hall and deck were filled with men from the Big Red One whom our LCI had carried and soldiers who had come in on other landing craft along side us. Travis Wilton Allen (Al), seaman 2/c NR, is the name of the man who secured the lifeline rope that Karl Bischoff mentioned in his story. Al Allen brought wounded men to me all day on the 6th and 7th of June. He never stopped even though he injured his knee. I think he took a surface shot across the knee. He was a good young man. He probably saved more lives than we can count in those two days, literally hundreds and hundreds. I don't know how he maintained the stamina to keep bringing the injured from the beach onto the LCI. I patched these men up the best I could and got the really injured ones transferred to hospital ships. When Allen couldn't get the injured to me, I went to them on the beach. It was so loud with strafing, shelling, and mortar fire. I'd yell, look out behind you Allen. Allen would yell, hit the deck, Doc. We looked out for each other. It seems a miracle now that we did not lose one crewmember on our LCI on D-day. Sometimes the air was so full of fire that is seems impossible that any of us survived. By the afternoon of June 7, disabled boats/ships that were beyond repair had been sunk out away from the beach to make a makeshift harbor/blockade. Other less disabled ships had been pulled up alongside the sunken ships. This reduced the waves a bit and made things a little easier.

I remember when we rescued men from the Susan B. Anthony. When the waves would swell, our ship would rise up and the men on the Anthony had to judge it just right to get the timing right for their jump across. I remember one young man who just couldn't make himself jump. He finally tried and had both legs crushed badly. However, he managed to hang onto the Anthony. I climbed up the cargo rope and slung the young man over my shoulders. I brought him onto our LCI and treated him. I had him transferred to a hospital ship. I never caught his name. I have wondered over the years if he made it home safely. By this time I was 23 years old, in fact, I turned 23 on June 7 1944, the day the Anthony hit a mine. Twenty-three seems young now, but at the time I was one of the senior men on board and these 18 year old fellows seemed terribly young to be fighting. My heart really went out to them.

Around 2 days out from D-Day a group of men from our LCI set out on the beach. I treated men from Omaha and Utah Beach. I believe it was an LST that brought in Ernie Pyle, a war correspondent. I think we were actually on Utah Beach when we met Ernie. We talked to him about what we had seen. We were deactivating German bombs that had not detonated and were checking for any survivors. By this time the fighting had moved inland a couple of miles. But we still got occasional shells. It was about three days out that I was authorized to give each man 2 ounces of Brandy. It was prescribed to help settle their nerves. That was a common prescription in wartime for shell shock.

A few weeks after D-day, we got some leisure travel approved. John Spompanato, about four other guys and I went to Cherbourg, then to Brest, France which was under seize by the U. S. Army. From Brest we went to an island where we visited an abbey called Mont St. Michel.

LCI 489 made many trips across the channel after D-day carrying troops and supplies. I was not on all these trips. I would treat wounded in the mainland dispensaries, Portland, England; Falmouth, Cornwall; Dartmouth, England; etc., flotilla sickbays, or somewhere, that part is hazy to me.

Shipmates:

These are the names of my shipmates on LCI(L) 489 that I am able to remember. My spelling and the ranks may be incorrect as this is from memory. (I am going to be getting a copy of the ship's log and will correct the names at a later date.)

1. H. H. Montgomery-Lieutenant, Commanding Officer from PA
2. Charles McMillian-Executive Officer from Texas
3. William McCone-Communication Officer from South Dakota
4. Chuck Phillips-Engineering Officer from PA
5. W. R. Wilson-Signalman
6. Neikerk-Helmsman
7. Travis Wilton Allen-Seaman from Florida
8. Alexander Wilson Andrews-Radioman
9. Robert Charles Higgins- Motor Machinist Mate from New York
10. Karl Bischoff-Motor Machinist Mate from Mass
11. Merton Mitchell Smith- Coxswain from PA
12. Willie Lee Edwards Jr.-Steward
13. Alexander William Forcinio-Motor Machinist Mate from Pennsylvania
14. Marshall Raymond Murphy-Motor Machinist Mate
15. Robert Clyde Hart-Coxswain from TN
16. Arthur Jovan-Motor Machinist Mate from Maryland
17. M. P. "Marbles" Williams-GM from North Carolina
18. Frances Paul Scavetta-Coxswain from New York
19. Weinstock-Seaman
20. Mike Yakimo-our cook
21. John S. Spampinato-Bos'n from New York
22. Charles Sensabaugh
23. Louis Spadaccino-GM from Phil. PA
24. A. Elliott-Motor Machinist Mate from Mass
25. Paul McDonough-Signalman from Boston
26. Charles T. Stone-SM from Washington, DC
27. Greenslade-electrician
28. Cal Henry-GM from Ohio
29. Troutman
30. Kenneth Golowski-Coxswain from Illinois
31. James Roland Argo-Pharmacist Mate from Alabama

I want to say a word about Willie Lee Edwards Jr. He was a black man from the south. Back in 1944, black people weren't allowed to have many high positions or ranks in the Navy. Willie served as steward for the officers. He was well received and popular among the crew. Willie was a boxer, not professional. He would box anyone willing just for fun. Joe Louis was his hero.

I also remember a fellow, I believe it was Murphy who always took up for me when the men started talking bad about southerners. He would say "Doc is from down East, right Doc? He is not a southerner.

Wilson was a real clown. He kept us laughing.

Hart had a coffee cup in his hand day and night. Whenever you saw him he had a coffee cup. I teased him that it was permanently attached to his hand.

Scavetta was a jockey from New York. His mother used to send us salami.

LCI (L) 489 was decommissioned in Nov. 1944 in Edinburgh, Scotland. I slept on the ground at Vicarage Barracks in Plymouth, England until time to go home. From Vicarage Barracks I came back to New York. I then had thirty days rehabilitation to recover from a back injury I received when I slipped on deck during the Normandy invasion. I was assigned to the Naval Air Station in Atlanta, Georgia in 1944 where I was certified as an Assistant Medical Examiner. I was transferred to the U. S. Naval Separation Center in Memphis Tennessee where I was separated from the Navy on Oct. 9, 1945. H.H. Montgomery recommended me for a commission. I really appreciated that but I was ready to go home.

After the War:

After I came home I graduated from Pharmacy School at Howard College in Birmingham (now Samford University) on June 6, 1949. I married Mary Lee Rushing from Elba, Alabama who served in Washington D.C. as a WAVE during the war. I opened the first little drug store in Millbrook, Alabama. Later I went to work at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Montgomery where I served as Chief Pharmacist and stayed until my retirement. After I retired, I worked part time for Mike Mikell at Mike's Pharmacy and for Harco Pharmacy.

Mary and I had three children. My son Jim has served his country for nearly thirty years. He flew Cobra helicopters in Vietnam. He is an attorney in Georgia. My daughter Carol is Director, International Scholar and Student Services at the University of Alabama in Birmingham and my daughter Lee is Deputy Commissioner of Beneficiary Services for the Alabama Medicaid Agency. I have four living grandchildren: Jason, Jennifer, James and Amy and one grand daughter, Amanda who died when she was nine years old. Last year I received my certificate of recognition for serving as a registered pharmacist for fifty years.

Communication with Shipmates:

I talked with Arthur Jovan in Baltimore in 1945. He had returned to his job at the Coca-Cola plant. Arthur had a tough time with seasickness while on LCI 489.

Charles Sensabaugh wrote to me once after the war.

We weren't supposed to talk about what we did or saw in the war for ten years. I had a very detailed diary but it was confiscated. I was given an address that I could write to after ten years but I lost it and after that time, I really didn't want to talk or think about the war any more. I saw too many men on the beach that I couldn't fix. I tried to save everyone that I treated. The Hospital Corps School and all the training I received were excellent.

I had no further communication with any of my shipmates until Nov. 2000 when I reconnected with Karl Bischoff and Chuck Phillips via the USS LCI website. I am glad I did.

James Roland Argo.    (November 2000)

These memories were published with the permission of James R. Argo's Daughter : Lee Rawlinson who send me these memories.

Lee Rawlinson, Mr. Argo's daughter.