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.

Home Up Eye Witness 2

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