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
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
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.
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
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
Que Dieu vous protège."
This was signed by everyone present. Translated,
"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
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
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)