by Lt. Commander Joseph P. Vaghi, Beachmaster, United States Navy, Omaha Beach

At the outset, permit me to define what a BEACHMASTER was and what his duties were. A Beachmaster is much like a traffic cop at a very busy intersection. All sorts of activities were taking place all around you and it was your responsibility to establish and maintain order. The Beachmaster controlled all traffic coming onto the beach – men and material – and arranging for all movement from the shore to ships at sea. It was the Beachmaster’s responsibility to establish radio communication between the beach and the ships at sea. We were responsible for rendering medical aid to injured personnel until they could be evacuated to the ships offshore. In addition, we provided hydrographic assistance to incoming landing crafts – instructing them where to land, placing markers, and such. We had a boat repair section which provided temporary repair to disabled landing craft.

The Beachmaster for each sector of the various beaches, of which Easy Red was one sector, was responsible for all activities between the low tide mark and the high tide mark. The rise and fall of the tide amounted to some 18-20 feet twice a day in the English Channel. Our 6th Beach Battalion was responsible for most of Omaha Beach.

I was the Beachmaster of Easy Red Sector on Omaha Beach, Normandy. I was a Platoon Commander of Platoon C-8 which was one of nine Platoons in the 6th Naval Beach Battalion. The Battalion was composed of three Companies: A, B & C, with each Company having three platoons – my Platoon was one of the three in C Company. The landing craft that my Platoon was assigned to for the crossing of the English Channel was a Landing Craft Infantry (large) or LCI.
A secret report by Lt. H.K Rigg, the Skipper of LCI (L) 88 (our LCI) to the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet of 12 July 1944 contains this statement: “This vessel beached on schedule at 0735B, 6 June, the first LCI(L) on Easy Red Beach.” Platoon C-8 of the 6th Battalion arrived in France at 7:35 AM, British Double Time on June 6, 1944, one hour and five minutes after H-Hour.

My platoon, along with the Commander of the 6th Beach Battalion, Commander Eugene Carusi, USN, some Army personnel, and A.J. Leibling, a writer for the New Yorker magazine, were aboard the LCI 88 when it beached on Easy Red, some 1000/1500 yards from the dune line of the beach. Our ship kissed the sands of Normandy when the tide was at its lowest. As noted above, the tide would rise and fall some 18-20 feet twice a day, thus the greatest distance to the dune line was at low tide.

I was the first person to leave the LCI after beaching. The craft had ramps on each side of the bow for purposes of discharging the passengers. Shortly after leaving the craft, the right ramp was blown away by an enemy shell, causing several casualties both on the craft and in the water.

D-Day, needless to say, was a day of memorable events. I shall attempt to recount a few that were extraordinary. These events occurred along that sector of the beach known as Easy Red Beach which was assigned to our platoon.

The beach was cluttered with thousands of beach obstacles placed there by the Germans to thwart an invasion attempt by the Allies. A Navy Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) had landed prior to our arrival and was successful in clearing away some of the obstructions, so as to permit movement into the beach by various landing crafts assigned to this and other beaches.