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
 

 

Albert J. Berard
Omaha Beach - Signalman 3rd class - LCT 538

It was around 5:00am that we approached the area where the LCT's were to form columns to approach the beach for landing. It was about 5:30am when I was given the order from the Skipper to hoist certain flags that indicated forming one single column Upon lowering the flags the LCT's were to break away and head for their respective landing area.

The LCT 538, Skippered by LT.JG Hamilton Adams was the lead craft in the column of 8 LCT's -- numbered from the 538 to the 545. The 538, 539, 540, 541 and the 542 were to land at EASY RED SECTOR and the three other LCT -- the 543, 544 and the 545 I believe were to make landing on FOX GREEN SECTOR. We were all to land at around H-hour which was around 6:00 or 6:30 am. The shelling and machine gun fire coming from shore was so heavy that it made it very difficult to make a good landing to be able to allow the troops to leave the craft.

The ramp was lowered but it was immediately raised as we had to back off without any vehicle having a chance to leave the LCT. In the short time that we were at the landing site we had been hit several times by German 88mm gunfire along with machine gun fire and all this caused the loss of several crew members.
To add to our woes, as we were backing off the beach, the current caused us to drift into an obstacle with a mine attached to it. The explosion caused damage to two or three watertight compartments on the bottom of the LCT and the flooded compartments caused us to almost get permanently hung up on the beach and getting completely blown out of the water. We did finally get off the beach and started looking for another area in which to land. With the bottom compartments flooded it caused a bad starboard list and prevented us from making a landing close enough to shore to allow the vehicles to safely disembark.
We did finally get to another area to unload the troops and vehicles but because of not being able to get close enough to shore, most of the vehicles didn't make it to the beach. They were blown up before they got near dry ground.

When we landed the first time it was total chaos with bodies floating around as well as body parts flying thru the air. The LCT 539, Skippered by LT.JG. Linwood Rideout, made landing to our Port side and their initial landing was no better than ours...They went thru the same as we did, suffering direct hits from the 88MM guns and also casualties as well. The 539 also had to retreat from that area and look for another place to make the landing. The LCT 540 Skippered by LT.JG. Fredrick Nye Moses rammed the beach and suffered NINE direct hits from the German 88's killing the Skipper in action along with several other crew members.

It was shortly after our second try at landing that the engineers were able to repair the compartments so that we could properly manoeuvre the craft. After that we were able to resume our mission which was to go out to the anchorage area where the Liberty Ships were anchored and start bringing new troops and supplies to the beaches as re-enforcements...This we continued to do until night fall.

One of the things that I will always remember about that morning, was that horrible whining noise of those German 88 projectiles whizzing be over our heads. Believe me there was an awful lot of other noises. By this time the bombing had stopped because of our troops on the beaches. The shelling was in full force both from the shore batteries as well as from our own Naval Warships...EASY RED SECTOR of Omaha Beach was directly under some real menacing shore battery. The Germans were hitting us with great accuracy so much so that it made you think they were looking right down at us. It was thought that they were using the church steeple as an observation post. As that became apparent our Skipper somehow got a message from a tank commander on the beach asking if we could help them by getting a message out to the ships asking if they could help them by destroying the steeple on top of the village church in Vierville. The message was handed to me and at the skippers' request, I signalled the nearest ship to us which happened to be the Destroyer Harding and I relayed that request. It took a few moments for them to get approval from the higher up but when it finally came we could see the guns begin to swing around toward the steeple and the shelling started and in no time the steeple was gone. Soon after that we immediately started to notice that the shore battery shelling was now very erratic with no where the accuracy they had earlier... We later found out that in the process of shelling the steeple there were American casualties. It seems some of our troops had gotten thru and were in the area and already had started firing on the steeple. As nightfall came down upon us it became apparent that our ground troops had made enough headway to make the beach area much safer to be around.

This account was written as remembered by Albert J. Berard Signalman 3rd class of the LCT 538.


Paris

After the Port of Cherbourg was captured, cleaned up and put to use by the US Army, it drastically changed our situation work-wise. It became very boring because of our not having to bring supplies into beach. Things became so boring that a couple of us from the ship, along with a couple others from our sister ships, decided to see what it was like in Paris.

There was a trucking supply line that was shuttling supplies from our area to the front lines where the fighting was going on. This route was called the Red Ball Express, and it was steady line of trucks. Some truck driver picked us up and off we went; we were on our way to Paris! Well, it was late at night when the convoy arrived just outside the city and that is where we were dropped off. There we were, in the dead of the night in a town called Neuilly sur Seine, looking for someplace where there might be life. After walking around we finally came to a building where we saw a crack of light. We pounded on the door and after awhile someone did come to the door. He opened the door and told us to get inside quick. We were all in our dress blue uniforms, so he probably wondered what the hell we were doing there. He sort of felt more at ease when I started talking to him in French. I started to explain to him how we got there that we were looking for a place to stay for the night. Because of the late hour he was pretty sure that we wouldn't find anyplace, so he told us that we could stay there if we didn't mind sleeping on cots. At that point we were ready to sleep anywhere. He led us into this large room with concrete block walls and a ceiling that was about sixteen feet high. The room had about twelve cots in it all set up. By this time we were all pretty scared and wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. There were two doors to this enclosure and no windows at all; it was very dimly lit, just about enough to be able to walk. He led us into this room through a door that was made of steel and greatly oversized. There he told us we could sleep on the cots, and that he would be back in the morning, and not to worry because we would be safe there. After this, the huge steel door closed; it sounded like it was being locked. We didn't get too much sleep that night just thinking that we had been led into some sort of gas chamber, and that this was going to be the end for us.

Well, six o'clock came the next morning and suddenly this enclosure became flooded with light; at about the same time this same Frenchman that had let us in was at the door, asking me if we had any idea where we were. My response to that was, "No." He then said, "Follow me and I'll show you." We followed him through the other door down through a corridor, through another door that opened up into a huge factory. There in front of us were assembly lines where they made small recognizance planes that the Germans used. He took us into this other area which was like a machine shop and there were many machines with the logos "Milwaukee" and "Brown and Sharp" -- all machine tools made in the USA! We just stood there speechless. After that, we were fed breakfast and then he pointed us in the right direction to get to Paris. We walked down this large main avenue and there at the end of it was the Arc De Triumph. What a sight to see! We spent four days in Paris, and met some great people. We stayed in their homes, and it was just great. The family that I stayed with went so far as to write a short letter to my parents. All the time we were there it was just one party after the other.

Initially, as we had been walking down the Avenue de Neuilly toward the Arc, we decided to enter a pharmacy to pick up some items that we needed. As I was able to speak French quite fluently, I immediately became a friend. The woman in the pharmacy told us where we could find a place to stay. Getting this information was the reason for entering in the first place. So off we went in search of the place which was the equivalent of a YMCA in America. We signed in and got a room. Later on that same day when we returned to the place, the attendant handed me an envelope with a logo in the left corner which read "Pharmacie du Pont de Neuilly" with the address 174 Avenue de Neuilly, Neuilly sur Seine. Under this was listed the name "J. Juillard, pharmacien de 1st classe." It was addressed "A quatre amis Americains." I opened it and read:

"Nous serions très heureux mon mari et moi, si vous vouliez nous faire le plaisir d'accepter a souper avec nous demain soir Mardi -- je vous prie de bien vouloir venir demain matin à la pharmacie donner votre réponse et chercher mon adresse.

Un cordial souvenir.
Blanche"

All that amounts to is an invitation to their home for supper. Actually what it says is,

"We would be very pleased, my husband and I, if you would accept an invitation to have supper with us tomorrow evening. Please come and stop by the pharmacy with your answer and while there I will give you my address." All this was a "cordial remembrance."

We accepted and what we'd thought was to be supper with them turned out to be a banquet in our honor. These people just couldn't do enough for us.

Another invitation was soon to come from a couple that was there on the following evening. This was another banquet that turned out to be a fantastic evening.

Here is what was written on a postcard to be sent to my mother:

"Paris, 6 Oct. 1944 H. Chevalier
142 Ave. de Neuilly
Neuilly (Seine)
France

Madame,

Nous avons le plaisir d'avoir ce soir près de nous votre fils Albert avec trois de ses camarades. Nous vous en faisons compliment, car il parle agréablement le Francais, est correct, gentil et de la meilleure éducation. Sans vous connaitre, nous espèrons que vous avez de très bonnes nouvelles de tous vos enfants et que vous et votre famille êtes tous en bonne santé.

Ce soir, une famille française a passé une très agréable soirée et communié sincèrement avec vous par dela l'ocean. Nous avons bu plusieurs coupes de Champagne àvotre sante et votre honneur.

Que Dieu vous protège."

This was signed by everyone present. Translated, it reads:

"We are pleased to have with us this evening your son, Albert, along with three of his comrades. We would like to compliment you on the pleasant manner in which he speaks French, in a manner which is correct, well-bred and educated.

Not knowing you, we hope that you will receive good news from all your children that might be in harm's way and that all return in good health.

This evening this French family is experiencing a very good time and sincerely holds you in our thoughts. We have already raised several glasses of champagne to your health and honor.

May God protect you always."

The other people present who signed the card were mostly members of the French underground and a couple of men were from the FFI. One of the men insisted that I be awarded a medal. All he had was a medal that his father had been awarded for his service to the French government during World War One, and he insisted that I take it. I presently have it stored in a box of mementoes.

The rest of our time in Paris during the day was spent being shown the sights and being introduced to some very important people in the government, including Charles De Gaulle. I was introduced to him on a visit to the Palais du Justice. He was a very big man, four times my size which was 5'3'', 116 pounds.

I could go on and on about our experiences in Paris, but I'm afraid it would take too long. That is another city that doesn't sleep. There was one nightclub in which we were treated like royalty, "le Chat Noir." That place was fantastic.

However, after four days of being AWOL, we decided we'd better get back to the beach area. We went back in the same way we first left, Army trucks on the Red Ball Express. Naturally as we approached the ship, we started to wonder what was going to happen to us. As it so happened after the skipper and exec officer heard all about what happened to us, we were dismissed for now; we would talk about punishment later. The next thing we knew, they decided to steal or borrow a jeep and off they headed to Paris themselves! I guess that by the time we left Omaha to head back to England, the rest of the crew had taken turns and gone to Paris. There was no further talk about punishment. This saga took place sometime in October. The ship was to eventually return to South Hampden, England sometime in December, 1944. We'd left England back in June, from Plymouth if my memory serves me correctly.

The one thing that stands out in my mind is that shortly after our return to England we had to prepare the ship for inspection. We got the ship in the best shape we could in spite of all the damage and shell holes. The inspection was kept pretty quiet, because we were to be inspected by the king of England, George VI. The skipper, Mr. Hamilton, was awarded a commendation medal, and the rest of us received the Navy Unit Commendation, and I received my full stripe as a signalman third class. Shortly after that, the crew was all broken up and on our way back to the States. The crossing on our return was very rough and stormy. I finally reached home about a month after Christmas for a thirty-day leave for rest and rehabilitation.

Albert J. Berard     (July 21, 2003)