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
 

 

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 6, 1944.
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 beach.
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 guns.

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 LSM.

Robert M. Leach LCI 553 MOMM/3     (May 07, 2001)