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
 

 

Jewel M. Vidito
Susan B Anthony AP-72 - Radioman 3/C USNR

For two of three weeks prior to D- day, June 6th, 1944, our ship had been anchored in the Irish Sea, practicing for the invasion of Europe. We were aware that something big was about to happen but what, when or where, we did not know.

On about June 5th, a convoy was formed and things started to become more organized and since I was in the radio gang, this could also be detected by the increase activity in the radio transmissions being received and of course other shipboard awareness. On June 6th ships started moving out and sometime that day the world knew that the invasion of Europe had begun.

On June 7th, we were on our way across the English Channel, single file, with 2300 troops with their battle dress, battle ready. We were following a channel marked with buoys on either side. Two channels were available, one going to the beachhead and the other who had unloaded their troops and supplies and were returning to England or the United States for additional supplies and soldiers. There Were thousands of ships involved, ships of all kinds. These channels had previously been sweep of German mines by British minesweepers and supposedly were free of danger. Not so!

It was about 8 AM on June 7th. We had been called out earlier to man our battle stations to protect ourselves from enemy air attack. The airfields of Germany had previously been heavily bombed by our air force and the German air force had virtually been eliminated. My general quarters, battle station, I was a gunner on a 20mm anti-aircraft machine gun. Since no German aircraft had made an appearance, the skipper had secured the battle stations about 7 AM and I had gone to the mess hall for breakfast. Finishing about 8 AM, I was returning to my quarters for a little rest since I had been on watch since midnight and was called out to general quarters immediately after. My sleeping quarters was on the aft end of the ship below deck. This was covered by another, poop deck, where two 20 mm and one 3 inch gun was located. As I approached the ladder to go below, a tremendous explosion occurred followed by another immediately after. It sent me flying upward, going so high that my head hit the deck above. Then again, about the time I hit the deck, a second explosion occurred, equally as intense, sending me flying up again. It threw equipment and men all over and guns were torn from their bases but there seemed to be no loss of control on anyone's part. I was wearing neither life jacket or helmet. It seemed that after being environment for awhile that one becomes complacent and careless. Before setting out on the invasion, the skipper had the deck crews place extra life jackets in every imaginable location, so I grab one of the extras stored nearby and started working my way through debris and personnel;, attempting to reach the radioshack, which was a couple of decks up and a little more that halfway forward. The army had abandoned their gear all over the deck because they didn't want to go into the water with 60 lb.. of gear on their backs which would cause them to immediately sink. All kinds of equipment including hand grenades, rifles and ammo belts were scattered all over the deck and one had to walk very carefully to avoid stepping on them. After reaching the radioshack, I helped other members of our group load deciphering equipment into weighted sea bags and through it over board, to avoid it reaching the hands of the enemy which probably was something very unnecessary since we were sinking fast anyway.

In the mean time several ships had pulled alongside and the troops from our ship were boarding them by going across on cargo nets which had been attached between the ships. Not one soldier was lost in the process which was probably very unique in itself. One of the ships that had pulled alongside was a salvage tug, The USS Pinto, that was attempting with a six a inch pump was attempting to keep us afloat as long as possible but the hole blown in the side of the Anthony was the size of a boxcar and the pumping was useless. One of the individuals on the tug was a diver, James Neff, who was a classmate at Jamestown, IN high school. He was one of the divers who had boarded our ship, placed a pump in the holes in their attempt to save us. Though we were probably within a few hundred feet at the time, neither of us knew it until months later when Jim read about the experience in the local newspaper and realized that it was my ship he had boarded . Ten of thousands of men on that invasion and out of a graduating class of ten we had been so close without knowing it.

I was picked up by a destroyer escort. After transferring all of our troops to other ships , our skipper gave us orders to abandoned ship. By this time the ship was afire. She was burning furiously, the flames coming up midship around he stacks. The flames were so hot that supposedly fireproof paint was melting and running down the sides of the stacks in flame as if it were kerosene. We were trying to get a cargo net across, between us and the destroyer. The heat was so intense that we could hardly withstand it. A fire boat pulled up close enough that she could turn her fire hoses on us to keep us cool. It was a struggle to get the net across and when it was secured, I thought to myself, it is now up to everyone to save himself. I dived on the net and scrambled my way up to the destroyer. As I approached near the side of the ship, someone grabbed me by the nap of the neck and the side of my uniform and literally through me on to the deck in the middle of the ship. I was grateful for this rough treatment. Shortly after, the Anthony listed heavily towards the destroyer, catching her fantail under the Anthony. The destroyer skipper gave it a quick (full speed ahead) and it broke clear. As I looked back at our ship, I seen one of our signalmen jump with life jacket on but he also had a machine and ammo belt around his shoulders. He immediately went completely under despite of the life jacket. This does have a happy ending for about five weeks later he showed up in the survivor camp. As I saw him walking through the camp I said to him, "I thought I would probably never see you again." He said " I thought so too until I realized that the gun and ammo belt was pulling me under, and I finally had presence of ,mind to rid myself of it, an I popped right back to the surface." Also shortly there after, the ships fantail sank beneath the surface, the bow straight up and she sank. A large whirlpool on the surface was all that was left with sum debris. Off in the distance, I could see two men swimming away from the ship and realized it was the skipper, Captain Thomas Gray and his boatswain mate. True to tradition, the skipper had been the last man to leave the ship. Previous to his naval duty he had been a merchant marine captain on the same ship and he showed true naval bravery to the last. No naval or army personnel lost their lives in this sinking . However there were several injuries. None to seriously.

The destroyer that picked me up stayed around the beach for a few days then I was transferred to an LST who's duty was to pick up survivors and return them to England. The LST stayed near the beach for about three days and I could see the battle raging on the beach. A pleasant sight to see was the sixteen inch shells from a battleship go screaming overhead on their way to the beach and it was comforting to know that they were ours. A German machine nest was located in the steeple of a church. It was some sight to behold to see this ship eliminate this nest as it took off the steeple on the first shot, half of the building on the second salvo and completely eliminate it on the third. This nest would let the beach fill up with American soldiers, then shoot them time after time. The battlewagon eliminated it. She slao hit a German ammo dump and when it blew up it formed a perfect smoke ring in the sky a mile wide. While aboard this vessel we were only given one meal a day because of limited supplies and they were not equipped to handle this many men. We had about 700 survivors aboard. Since they only had enough knives and forks the crew, we had to eat the food with our hands which is nothing to complain about since at least you are being fed. The beach was still a very dangerous place and German 88 shells occasionally fell around us but we were never hit. Even with all of this I felt very fortunate to have served in the Navy instead of the Army. Those guys were the real heroes.

After about 3 days we were returned to Plymouth England and then on to a survivors camp in Scotland.

Jewel M. Vidito     (July 25, 2003)