Harold Thompson Gunners Mate 2 class
As we approached the beach head of France we met terrific gun fire and bombing. Within sight of the beach we saw large fires leaping from beached L.C.I’s and other hammered invasion craft. Fires reaching magazines on ships sent them up in bold masses of flames and smoke. Large rafts pushing in tword the beach were loaded heavily with tanks, trucks, guns and personnel. These so called rafts were continuosly making those hazardous trips. Some unfortunate craft were unable to unload because of such heaving “Jerry” gun fire from shore. The area was hell on earth as far as the eye could see. The bay was crowded with larger ships of all discriptions awaiting their turn to move in and discharge their cargo. Small landing craft are forever wandering helplessly in the water, some half submerged others scorched from stern to stern. Life belts, army packs, and gas tanks make up the debris floating throughout the invaded waters.
Destroyers, heavy cruisers and other men-of-war were lobbing huge shells inland, destroying German strongholds. With each salvo everything shook and trembled furiously.
The Army and Navy of Allied nations were working together beautifully. The fighting was steady throughout the day. We easily saw the infantry making hard but steady headway inland, from our position offshore.
Dusk was setting in but the firing ceased slightly if any at all. Some of the smaller ships were still moving in from all directions off shore. Throughout the night L.C.I’s, one after the other moved in with fresh troops to carry on the assault. The beachhead was ours now, that we knew. During the night both land and sea units were taking hell from the enemy. Jerries were over trying to knock out our installations. Straffing of our ship was a common scene all during the night. Most of the night our ship stood at general quarters. One particular brave Dutchman brought his JU 88, low over out port bow and made his target a large transport laying about two miles abeam of us. Fortunately he was forced up and out of range by heavy anti-aircraft fire from all around. It was really hot now; tracer shells and star shells filled the sky in every direction. The bay suddenly became day during this confusion. Like everyone else, we prayed silently and plenty hard that we wouldn’t get hit.
Over the beach head area fighting was still in full swing and we could see plenty of anti-aircraft fire directed tword Allied planes flying low over enemy held ground. The Jerries without a doubt had a good anti-aircraft defence set up. Numerous Allied planes came down ablaze. Tracer shells would reach into the darkness and suddenly a flaming plane would drop tword the earth, another German scored a hit. As dawn broke the beach could be viewed for many miles on each side of our position. It seemed as if ever square foot of beach was taken up with ships of all description. Work had been in progress all night and still going strong.
We maneuvered in and out of the ships seeking survivors from the mined and grounded ships. Many casualties occurred at the water edge where we were helpless to give aid. An L.C.P. (British) whose controls had been shot away called to us for help. It was our business to tow him to shore where he was to operate. The sea was running heavy but the job was tackeled promptly. Getting under way through heavy seas and debris was tough. It was our misfortune to collide with and L.C.F. (British). No serious damage but we were slowed down. With a smashed bow we made our way tward shore with our tow where fighting was still in progress. As we entered shallow water our tow line gave way and the L.C.P. continued on to the beach under her own momentum. We weren’t any to sorry about the mishap and immediately left the hot area of the beach to proceed on regular duty assigned.
We had been there three days up to date. Bombing and enemy fire from planes continue on schedule.
We were now competing with enemy mines a dangerous German weapon. L.S.T’s were being sent down to watery graves frequently. We were ordered to get survivors from a mined L.S.T. which was three miles out to sea from the beach. Running to the scene with engines wide open gave us the opportunity to witness a large hull slowly roll over and face downward with the bottom reaching skyward. Fortunately most of the personnel was saved by a near by destroyer.
The fourth day after “D” day gave us this description. The bay was still filled with freighters, tankers, transporters and etc. Directly off of our starboard bow an L.S.T. had sunk; just a small portion of the mast and booms appeared. She also was a mine victim. Dead ahead was another L.S. T. snapped in half from a heavy explosion. On our right is a man made break water of sunken freighters and coasters of every Allied nation working in the big invasion.
To our left the white beach stretches out, dotted with ships some to be salvaged others to rot away.
Clouds of dust form from Army trucks and tanks making their way to the near by front lines. The Allies have dug in quite a few miles now. Those Yanks taking the lead at this particular location. The sky is speckled with barrage ballons to prevent enemy planes from coming in low to attack our ships laying offshore. Every now and then a thunderest explosion sounds from German batteries far inland. Those are not enemy guns firing away but ours shelling German positions. It is a one sided affair at present.
Small amphibious craft called “Ducks” are continuously going and coming from ships to shore with supplies. We have to eat to, so a few Ducks tie along side and Army chow comes aboard for a bunch of hungry lads.
We made our first trip ashore this time. It was quite a thrill setting foot on French soil that had been enemy territory a short time ago. Soldiers were working like ants. We picked our way along carefully observing everything of interest. There were craters from bombs, shattered pill boxes, ruined farms, damaged tanks and many deserted shore guns. (German) We exchanged a few experiences with Yanks soldiers. Everything was well in hand now. German prisoners were numerous. Young and old alike continuously marched up the beach at the point of Yanks rifles and bayonets. Those blank expressions are hard to describe.
Our trip ashore cut short, we returned to our ship and sailed for the United Kingdom for the well appreciated rest.
Back again, this time escorting a convoy all the way. A continuous line of supplie ships reach from the English coast bringing supplies to our boys. German “E” boat opposition is easily met.
Once again we go ashore. This time during the Cherbourg Campaign. There is plenty of hell inland a few miles. We get close to the front lines and grab off a few priceless souveniers which of course is our prize possessions at the time. After witnessing some artillery duels between the Dutchman and Yanks and watching our Mustangs rase hell over Cherbourg we made our way back to the beach and our ship.
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