||James W. Tucker
Warrant Officer - 299th Combat Engineer Battalion.
Over Sixty years ago, a young
warrant officer named James W. Tucker arrived upon a hellish stretch
of beach called Omaha and survived to tell about it.
There were fires everywhere.
A wrecked landing craft, still loaded with tanks, burned fiercely.
Ammunition exploded. There was shellfire, noise, confusion... and
bodies all around.
Waves of men and boats swept
in from the sea, a part of the mightiest invasion armada in history
and from the heights, German gunners tore them apart.
I was one of the lucky
ones. Jim Tucker said. I never thought I would live
On D-Day he was a proud member
of the now famous 299th Engineer Combat Battalion, in charge of
eight armored bulldozers. The Battalion's job: clear invasion paths
through the network of German-built beach obstacles.
Since late 1943, the 299th had
trained at Fort Pierce, Fla., to blast out concrete pillars, deadly
mine-tipped angle beams and logs and great steel crossarms called
Tucker and his men hit the sector
of the beach called Easy Red in advance of the first
wave of infantry at 6am under a rain of sniper fire from the enemy.
Miraculously, all eight bulldozers got ashore in running order.
Tucker stood on the beach, directing them as they rolled off the
landing craft and through the surf. They struggled against time
and a rising tide to blow out the water obstacles.
Landing craft blew up or broached
or sank. Men drowned, pulled down by heavy combat gear. The dead
washed up onto the beach amidst the wreckage.
It was a sad picture.
he said. There were bodies everywhere. You couldn't see anything
The morning wore on. German shellfire
became sporadic. New waves of assault troops came from the sea.
The 299th continued to clear obstacles and mines.
It was three days before they
were to move off the beach.
THE NEAR-MISS: Shells
started falling around me. I was near a blown-out landing craft.
I hit face down. Shell fragments slashed the back of my pantlegs.
It was like I'd cut myself on barbed wire.
THE TANK: I found
a tank with a dozer blade mounted in front. The crew had bailed
out. So I climbed in it and ran it, clearing obstacles. Finally,
I ran over a mine. It blew a tread.
THE CORPORAL: I
overheard him talking to an officer. He said that there were six
men left in his entire infantry company of more than 200 and he
was the highest ranking person. He was in Command.
THE GRAVE: "Part
of our crew began clearing the beach of bodies but there was no
place to put them. Orders came down to dig a temporary mass grave.
I had one of my dozers do it. The driver kept going back and forth
until he had a big enough trench. The Chaplan and I gathered men
to collect the bodies. They all got sick leaving only the Chaplan
and I to finish. Then the bodies were stacked in there, like cordwood
and covered over with sand. I understand it was the first American
graveyard in Normandy WWII."
Half of the 299th Engineers were
killed or wounded on Omaha Beach. Those who survived were to move
inland on June 9th.
In 1957 James Tucker went back
to Omaha Beach with his family. He told them about it while the
kids played in the German pillboxes.
They visited the cemetery nearby.
From a bronze plaque, he read the names of the 299th's dead.
I could recall every one
of them. He said.
James W. Tucker went on to fight
through the Battle of the Bulge, into Germany and win five battle
stars and a Bronze Star.
His Bronze Star Citation says:
In a two week period, Warrant Officer Tucker, by his marked
ingenuity and untiring efforts, converted eight heavy tractors into
armor protected equipment to be used in removing underwater and
beach obstacles during the invasion of the European continent. On
June 6, 1944, in the face of sporadic artillery, mortar and small
arms fire, he personally led his crew onto the invasion beach and
supervised the removal of numerous obstacles. By his technical knowledge,
fortitude and devotion to duty, Warrant Officer Tucker reflects
credit upon himself and the military service.
James W. Tucker was buried in
Arlington National Cemetary with full military honors in 1983.
The "Famous 299th Combat
Engineer Battalion" also received the Presidential Citation
for Outstanding Gallantry on D-Day in Normandy.
Submitted by his daughter Jeannie, (September 28, 2007)