D-Day: I Was There
The D-Day Account of Maj. Gen. J. Milnor Roberts
Aide de Camp to General Gerow of the 29th Infantry Division
The first real feeling I had about D-Day was on the evening of June 5, 1944, when we left Portland Naval Base in England, bound for the beaches of Normandy. Looking at the rest of the men on board the USS Carroll, I could not help but think that by the next night, half of these guys would be dead. I hadnâ€™t thought to consider myself among them, but I guess one never does.
At about 0530 on June 6, the Naval bombardment of the German defenses began. Battleships, cruisers, and destroyers opened up with everything they had. There wasnâ€™t anything the Germans could do about it. They just had to sit there and take it.
While the Carroll sat five miles out to sea with the rest of the transport ships during the bombardment, the GIs began to board the LCVPs (Landing Craft, Vehicles and Personnel) that would take the men ashore. Once we received the word to go in, the LCVPs broke for the beach in a ragged line. That is when our hearts stopped, and we just stood there watching them speed toward the shore.
The LCVPs caught fire as they got in close enough for the German guns to be in range. First we were hit with 88s (three-inch anti-aircraft guns fired like field guns, point blank) about a mile out. Then came the automatic weapons, machine guns and such, at about six hundred yards. It was like a summer thunderstorm; a few drops at first, then everything all at once. Only this was lead.
Confusion quickly set in as we were pounded by 88s about two hundred yards from shore. The captain of our LCVP was killed and the crew panicked. We got hung up on a sand bar about one hundred yards out and we were catching the full force of the German guns. Though we should have backed up, the ramp was lowered. We had gone as far as that boat was going to take us. We were now on our own.
Someone yelled, â€œThis is it!â€ and we went scrambling into the water. The water was deep, deeper than we had expected. Men who had been cramped and seasick inside the landing craft were now splashing about in the water, the zip and snap of sniper fire cracking in the air around them. We were overloaded and top-heavy with equipment, and some of the men who had instinctively inflated their life preservers began to capsize and drown.
By this point, I was terrified. It was tough to move and I was having trouble breathing with the water almost up to my mouth. To get ashore, we had to hop along with the waves. The water was becoming red with blood as I neared the shore, rifle overhead, gasping for air. Fortunately, I had decided against inflating my life vest, and I eventually made it to the mangled shore, which was littered with the bodies of my fellow soldiers.