My landing ship, the US Coast Guard
LST 27, departed Falmouth, England as part of Follow-Up Force B
and on the 5th of June 1944, we formed Convoy B-3, composed entirely
We had the men of the 175th AT company along with other support
personnel. Also, on board we had a large US Navy medical team with
two doctors, assigned to our ship for the invasion. Our public address
system carried the voice of General Eisenhower throughout the landing
ship. "Standby for a message from the commander of the Allied
"Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force...........He
ended his speech with "And let us all beseech the blessing
of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."
Meanwhile, overhead the endless
roar of aircraft engines drowned out any chances of a normal conversation.
The C-47 troop transports carrying the paratroopers blinked their
landing lights in a "Vee for Victory!" We're part of Task
Force 126, Follow-Up Force "B" under the command of Commodore
It is now the 7th of June 1944 and
we heard that Rome, Italy has just been declared an open city. Shells
from the battlewagons Texas and Arkansas are going over our heads
now and sound like speeding locomotives. Deadly 88mm shells land
in the water as we near the beach area. I can't see the beachhead
as there is a long trail of white smoke covering Omaha Beach.
Wave after wave of C-47s and C-53s
towing gliders have been heading inland most of the morning. B-17s
and B-24s of the 8th Air Force have been dropping bombs near the
beachheads. We can see what appears to be cord wood spread out the
whole length of the beach but a second look with stronger binoculars
reveal they are the bodies of dead soldiers bobbing with the tide.
Like angry bees, a swarm of P-38s, P-51 Mustangs, RAF Spitfires
and Hurricanes buzz low over our heads and disappear into the horizon
in the direction of Vierville. I could see gray uniforms up on the
bluffs near Pointe du Hoc then figures wearing our uniforms attacking
in their direction. It looked like a see-saw battle for a while
then there were no more gray figures moving.
Our LST cannot get in to land yet as there are still plenty of Teller
mines and enemy machine gun fire is spraying the beach area. More
splashed in the water near us as the German 88s seek the range of
ships anchored nearby. A tiny tugboat is hit and a geyser of storm
spurts skyward. After a fruitless attempt to beach earlier, we finally
came in on the 8th amid sporadic sniper fire and 88mm artillery.
The first truck off our ramp
and hit mines, setting another nearby vehicles afire. Soon, the
sounds of horrible screams filled the air as men of the 175th struggled
to free themselves from the roaring flames that had already consumed
the bodies of their comrades. One of our officers pulled one of
the helpless soldiers from the debris scattered beach area and dragged
him onto the tank deck, laying him down where the medics began to
feverishly tear the charred clothing from his body. A sergeant,
his jacket ablaze lunged past the burning trucks and dove into a
large pool of water, sending up a tiny cloud of steam. Our medics
quickly got him aboard and began treatment. A large plume of black
smoke rose from the burning trucks and could be seen far out into
the English Channel. We shut the bow doors so that we no longer
could witness the suffering of those men of the 175th AT who remained
trapped in the conflagration. Their screams could still be heard
the entire length of Omaha Beach. The tide slowly and mercifuly
covered the blackened skeletons.
We unloaded the rest of the
175th several hours later and watched them winding their way toward
the nearest draw leading from the beach. They were to lose more
men to the German S.S. within a short while when a number of them
were taken prisoner. Those men among them who wear a dog tag identifying
them as Jewish were shot on the spot between the hedgerows, so abundant
in the bocage country.
On the 19th of June, we were en route
to land at Utah Beach when LST 523, carrying men of the 300th Engineers,
hit a mine or was torpedoed and hundred of engineers became bits
of flesh floating in the anchorage waters.
D-Day was-indeed-the Longest Day-and
it would not really end for a lot of us until the war was over.
I received a medical discharge in 1946, then was subjected to insulin
shock treatment. Today, my leg is still numb as a result of a mine
explosion on Omaha Beach well after D-Day. The survivors of LST
523 receive a monthly newsletter today and we kind of talk over
old memories via e-mail or by mail.
The screams of those men trapped in
the burning trucks on Omaha Beach will continue to haunt me the
rest of my life.
I am the biggest argument against war there is and I appear on TV,
write war genre books and give talks in the local schools stressing
the futility of war.
Tony Leone US Coast Guard LST
27 (November 04, 2002)