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
 

 

John H. Kellers
GM 3/c on LCT 539 - Omaha Beach

I enlisted in the Navy in June of 1943 at the age of 17, and was part of the twelve-man LCT crew #5126 trained at Little Creek, Virginia on LCT(5) 443. We were shipped out of New York in March of 1944 on the troop transport Fredrick Lykes to Glasgow, Scotland. We travelled by train to the Royal Naval College at Darmouth, Devon, UK.

We were split into two groups of six and assigned to LCTs already in training. I was one of the six assigned to the LCT(5) 539. We moved to various ports as amphibious training progressed--our final port was Plymouth, England, where we prepared for the Normandy invasion.

We had, onboard, troops of the 16th Infantry of the 1st Division and the 37th Combat Engineers. Life on the night of 4 June, 1944 seemed quite normal as only a few of the troops were veterans of combat in Italy. The rest of us had no idea what to expect as we had never experienced combat.

Referring to the logbook of the LCT-539, our skipper, Lt. (jg) Linwood Rideout ordered the engines started at 0300 the morning of 5 June. We had set a course for Normandy but we ordered to return to base due to the weather conditions. That night of 5 June, before the invasion, was very tense onboard as we had already embarked at about the same time the night before. On the morning of 6 June, 1944, we set course for the shores of Normandy, France. Referring to the logbook, the LCT-539 proceeded towards Easy Red, Omaha Beach, in the 8th wave with an escort of mine sweepers.

At 0730 we hit the beach. As a gunner's mate, I was assigned to the port 20mm, with Howard Ledford as the loader, and Ira Tiller on the stern hook. We were under intense fire from the bluffs above the beach and suffered numerous hits from 47mm and 88mm projectiles. Our log entry states: "It being well guarded received two shells from 88mm. One in starboard locker, one in skipper's quarters. One 47mm hole in starboard bulwark. Two soldiers killed, two badly hurt. One 47mm thru port ramp extension."

We were fortunate that all of the hits we took were armor-piercing (AP) and not high explosive projectiles. The ship log goes on to describe the situation that morning at Omaha Beach:
0734: Retracted from beach.
0800: Cruised off shore to find a more accessible landing place-all too well guarded.
0830: Underway to keep out of range of German gunfire.
1000: Allied fighters overhead.
1100: Gunfire from ships batteries.
1200: Destroyers scanning beach for gun placements.
1230: Destroyer knocks out remaining guns.
1330: Infantry ashore to blast tank traps.
1500: Beached-Army ashore with vehicles.

After we landed and disembarked the troops, time was spent hosing down the deck of the blood of those killed. It was a terrible experience. We then loaded wounded from the beach-a Navy cameraman was taking pictures of us carrying stretchers but I have never been able to locate them. We also took on a couple of wounded German prisoners, both sixteen years old, and proceeded to the Sam Chase to deposit both the dead and wounded.

Dick Rung, a motor mechanic on the 539, had the opportunity to return to Normandy for the 50th anniversary. He viewed the beach from the bluff overlooking Easy Red and later remarked to me that it was a wonder any of us survived. In a letter to me, he described that he was "scared to death out there." He also commented, "You remember the sounds of the infantrymen being hit. I will never forget the blood as we finally unloaded and washed down the deck."

Referring again to our logbook, we had casualties of two soldiers killed and two wounded. Our XO Ensign Slager was also wounded but it was never logged in. He came onboard shortly before we left England and was evacuated the day of the invasion so we never became acquainted. After all these years I can still hear what sounded like grunting noises made by the men who were hit. One of the soldiers who was killed was hit in the head-which literally exploded-parts of his skull and brain making a pink shower in the air that covered us. It was a horrible experience I shall never forget.

On the next day, June 7, we had the opportunity to spend time on the beach. I remember the rows of dead and actual piles of arms and legs with no other remains. There were some casualties still on stretchers that had drowned when the tide came back in. There were so many casualties that on one of our later beachings, we pinned a British Soldier who must have floated from the British sector. We had to secure his body with a line until he could be retrieved when the tide came back in and allowed us to refloat.

We spent the next few months transporting troops, supplies and vehicles from supply ships to shore and remember in the quiet evenings the sound of the large shells making a "swishing" sound as they passed over our heads when the ships fired at targets inland. I also remember the obsolete ships being scuttled to provide a breakwater harbour, and concrete units floated from England to provide further breakwater protection.

The LCT-539 was craned onboard the LST-309 for its return to the States. After overhaul, she was transported to the Pacific theatre atop the LST-309. We were in Leyte Gulf, still atop the 309, when the Japanese surrendered. As part of the LST compliment, we transported occupation troops to Otaru, Japan.
Other ports of call in the Pacific included: Eniwetok, Ulithi, Cebu and Samar (Philippines), Saipan and Guam. LCT-539 was still in service as late as 1974 as LCU-539, being used to train UDT personnel in San Diego.

Today, I keep in touch with several of the former crew of the LCT-539 including Dick Rung (MoMM 3/c); Chet Rutkowski (MoMM 3/c); Millard Sipes ( MoMM 2/c); and our Normandy skipper, Mr Rideout. I also keep in touch with Mr Larry Bondi, XO of the LCT-546 at Normandy who later became the skipper of the 539 in the Pacific.


John H. Kellers     (02 October 2004)