As I prepared to return to Normandy in the spring of ’96, my thoughts of D-Day surfaced once again. I remembered the two-day crossing of the Channel; the starts and stops, the pitch darkness, the seasick troops. We reached the coastal waters off Normandy at dawn, 6 June. Our deployment for Utah Beach came on Wave 13 – on LCT 456. One hundred feet of steel, a crew of eight, one 50 caliber gun and my “45.” Wave 13 consisted of two LCTs, alone in miles of water. One enemy battery in particular, in the hills toward Cherbourg, got some target practice. LCT 456 received only one direct hit. The other LCT was hit several times.
We steamed ahead mightily at full speed toward the beach. After getting one balky bulldozer started just minutes before landing, we hit the beach and discharged the men and equipment in two feet of water. We retracted immediately. To avoid the heavy automatic fire, we tried to stay on the leeward side of the pilothouse for protection. Men were falling on the beach and bodies floated in the water along with wrecked vehicles and many triangular obstacles designed to snag boats and tanks.
We received a signal from the other LCT. “Steering cable severed by gunfire.” We responded immediately as the craft drifted rapidly down the beach. After towing it to deep water we learned that the area had not been swept and was full of mines. One LCT in Wave 14 hit a mine, which lifted and turned the craft over. Only one crewmember survived. He had been on the bow. From then on, that spot on the bow became a popular place on the LCTs to “meditate.” LCT activity was minimal after the sinking until an unsuspecting boat came by heading for the regrouping area. All of the LCTs quickly followed in its wake.
After the initial landing, the LCTs shuttled between cargo and other ships and the beach, unloading equipment, supplies, ammo and troops. On one trip we spotted a floating mine almost upon us. All engines stop! We manned the gunnel and carefully pushed the mine from one person to another, preventing the spines from hitting the ship. The daylight hours of D-Day ended, but our work continued through the night, 24 hours a day for many weeks.