Donald McKeen Smith

American Coast Guard, Utah Beach D-day

 

November 7, 2002

Donald McKeen Smith served with the American Coast Guard during the liberation of France, below is a short account of his experiences

D-DAY, June 6, 1944

I was on an 83 foot Coast Guard Cutter that was one of sixty that comprised the U.S. Coast Guard rescue flotilla #1 based at Poole, UK.

Our crew consisted of 14 crewmen and one officer.

The 83 foot long boats were originally designed for close to shore anti submarine warfare.

We sailed late afternoon June 5, 1944 from Poole heading west to pick up the convoy of 24 LCTís (Landing craft Tanks) coming east from Dartmouth.

We were "Tail end Charlie" ( 3 miles back of the convoy) in a position for possible rescue operations.

After taking our position we assumed the course for France and UTAH BEACH. Please note that for security reasons we had no charts and only knew after the fact that we were going to UTAH BEACH.

We had orders not to show lights and not use our radar, sonar, or radio.

I was officer of the deck (Don was a petty officer- Boatswain Mate 2nd class) from the midnight to four watch. Shortly after taking over, we observed anti aircraft fire from allied ships on the starboard beam, which we later learned was aimed at the airborne troops flying on their way to the landing sites around St. Mere Eglise.

After going off duty at 4 AM, I went to sleep, and awoke shortly after dawn by activity overhead on the fore deck.

I went on deck to find a LCT (Landing ship tank) with engine trouble, taking water and sinking, with a rescue attempt underway.

We took off the crews of two Sherman tanks (10 men) and 9 LCT crewmen. We found out later that the tanks were part of the relief force for the paratroops at St. Mere Eglise.

We transferred the men we had taken off the LST to the troop transport Wakefield. (Converted passenger liner).

The rest of the day was spent in the UTAH BEACH area looking for casualties to rescue from the water.

Sighted around us, were Destroyers, LSTís, LCIís , the battleship Texas, landing craft of all sizes, troop ships the size of modern day cruise ships, cargo ships, rocket firing converted LSTís, and many other types of craft.

The Coast Guard flotilla of 60 boats rescued over 1500 men on D-day alone.

The night of the 6th we circled in the same area off UTAH BEACH from dusk to dawn on the 7th, continuing our search.

Those rescued were taken to hospital ships or other ships that could handle casualties.

On the afternoon of the 7th we returned to Poole because of very rough seas we couldnít refuel. We made two more trips to the beaches working at UTAH, OMAHA, GOLD, and SWORD.

On the 18th of June a storm hit OMAHA BEACH and wrecked the artificial harbour that had been constructed there to serve as a port.

Our boat was rammed and damaged by a drifting LCT. Both vessels were forced onto OMAHA BEACH quite close to one of the main exits off the beach and our boat remained there for five days.

We scrounged around for something to cover the hole in the boat, and a group of army engineers managed to have a plywood patch placed over the hole in our port side.

The first few days, we slept in foxholes. There was no incoming enemy fire.

The beach was secure. With the help of a warping tug off shore and two bulldozers, the engineers were able to get us re-floated. A sister boat towed us to Poole (our home base) and we were placed in a shipyard for repairs.

Because of lengthy repair time I was relieved and transferred to a LCI based at Weymouth, UK.

The LCI made trips to UTAH BEACH including one that we transported a field hospital group of 80 people, one trip to Gold beach transporting 60 British infantry and finally to Cherbourg after that major French port was opened. My LCI left Dartmouth, England in mid September with 19 other LCIís and 24 LSTís in convoy for the USA

I served in the U.S. Coast Guard for 4 years. (September 13, 1941- September 13, 1945)

I was promoted to Boatswain Mate First Class in September of 1944 while serving on the LCI.

Donald McKeen Smith Born 9/13/20

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