||Robert M. Leach
Omaha Beach - Motor Machinist Mate 3rd class - LCI(L) 553
Like so many G.I.s
that day, I was on my way across the English Channel early on the
morning of June 6, 1944.
I was aboard LCI(L)
553 that was commissioned in Perth Amboy, N.J. on February 15, 1944.
We left Norfolk, Va. after training for 6 weeks on March 24, 1944.
I did not know then that I had chronic seasickness. After 13 days
on April 5 we landed in the Azores Islands and I had lost 35 pounds.
We left the Azores on April 7 and landed in Falmouth, England on
April 12. Then on April 17, 1944 we engaged in T-6 Exercise Tiger
practice landings at Slapton Sands and I never knew about the loss
of life; that night LSTs were torpedoed by German subs.
This brings D-day June
When we arrived about 6:30 a.m. at Omaha Beach the pillboxes had
not been knocked out so we sailed back and forth parallel along
the beach. We saw destroyers go in very close to fire on the big
guns but they could not silence them. Light and heavy cruisers took
turns and the box on the west was knocked out. Then a battlewagon
came up and fired 16" guns over us. We could see the projectiles
going on and the concussion caused the LCI to keel over to a steep
angle before righting herself. She finished the last box. Somewhere
around 8 a.m. to 9 a.m we turned for the beach and we must have
hit the beach at flank speed.
My battle station was
the stern winch an I let the anchor go when told. We unloaded the
29th Engineers without a hitch and the order was given to retrieve
the stern anchor but it never grabbed ahold and I retrieved it and
secured it. Then LCI 555 came in and shot a line in 3 times but
the wind was so strong the line did not reach us. The Executive
Ensign Milliken dove into the water and retrieved the line but LCI
555 could not shake us and since the German 88 had gotten
our range, the Captain cut the LCI 555 loose to get them out of
danger. Captain Don DuBrul saw to it that Ensign Milliken was awarded
the bronze star.
I was sent to the engine
room to secure the generators and engines and watch for fire. Scottie
(Roland Scott) the QM had gone to the engine room with me. Everyone
abandoned ship and took cover on the beach. A few minutes after
they left we came up from the engine room and we went on the beach.
He went one way and I went the other. I crawled under a half track
and coxswain Stephens was there.
Shortly after I got there one the 29th Engineers told us to move
out because it was loaded with ammno. I seemed to be in a spot I
was not trained for; we agreed to leave the beach which was 100-150
yards to the water as the tide had been going out ever since we
had landed. Again a 29th Engineer told us to avoid the little puddles
of water because they were mines. As we ran toward the water I could
see spurts of sand at regular intervals as the sniper sprayed the
We stopped about 50 yards from the LCVP boat to help a wounded G.I.
to the boat. We helped him aboard and we scrambled on but we were
broached so Stephens and I jumped out and pushed the VP off the
sand. When the boat coxswain was free he gunned it and we grabbed
a handhold to hang on; others helped us aboard as we headed out
to LCI 94.
They took us out further to LST 316. I was given pants and shirt
and told to take a shower. Since we were in the salt water and were
wearing gas proof clothin, the green dye bled onto our skin. No
amount of salt water soap and salt water shower would remove the
dye from our skin; we looked like frogs. We were given chow which
was the first since 4 a.m. Then I went up on deck, it was dusk and
looking toward the beach we could see the flashes and hear the big
Sometime after midnight
we got underway and landed in Portland, England at a British base
and given more clothes and a shot of rum. We were driven by truck
to Plymouth on June 8. As far as we knew Stephens and I were the
only survivors but then we got orders and were moved to Vicarage
Barracks on June 20 with the rest of the crew. Two shipmates were
in the hospital. Stephens and I may have made a wrong move leaving
the beach, but we were alive.
I boarded the Queen Elizabeth on October 24 and started on 33 days
survivors leave on November 4. Even though I had chronic seasickness
put in my records by the Executive officer, when I came back from
leave they said my records were lost and I had to take all the shots
again and was put in a training crew at Little Creek, Va. for a
Robert M. Leach LCI 553 MOMM/3 (May 07, 2001)