Home History D-Day: My Dad and His LSM Bombarding Omaha Beach

D-Day: My Dad and His LSM Bombarding Omaha Beach

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LSM

 

My dad commanded a Landing Ship Medium (LSM) in the Pacific for much of WWII but on June 6, 1944 he supported the landings on Omaha Beach in Normandy. Six months prior to the invasion he had gotten orders that sent him first to Hawaii, then to California, then to New York and from there to England.

In 2000 I interviewed my dad about his war time experiences. He was a career U.S. Navy officer serving 35 years. I grew up surrounded by the images of his ships and training units and he was always the proudest of those from his time in World War II. Dad passed away in 2005.

As the Allied planners prepared for D Day, the commanders of the invasion had decided that it would be necessary to bombard the beaches closer in than had been planned. Ariel and off shore heavy bombardment would not be able to reduce the embedded fortifications sufficiently and equally important keep the German forces, sequestered in bunkers, pinned down while allied forces established beach heads.

Hurriedly a number of LSM’s were modified to provide supporting fire to the beaches.

They were fitted with rockets and cannons to aid the bombardment of the German defenses and support the landing of troops on the beaches 1,000 to 4,000 yards off the beach. They were to deliver fire in a high trajectory that forced the enemy to dig in and go underground. Since they could take on positions on the reverse slope of the beaches facing away from the British Channel they would be invaluable. But, crews had to be assembled and some were drawn from the Pacific Theater.

Dad had just graduated from college with plans to join his father in his construction business in Florida when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. His older brother and he enlisted. His older brother, Al, became a Naval Aviator and went missing in action in the Pacific on a reconnaissance flight. My dad became an amphibious landing craft junior officer and then rather quickly, as casualties in the early landings were very high, a commander of an LSM.

The ship’s complement was 5 officers and 75 enlisted. Length: 203 ft 6 in (62.03 m). Beam: 34 ft (10 m). Displacement: 758 long tons (770 t) light; 983 long tons (999 t) attack; 1,175 long tons (1,194 t) fully loaded.

It carried 50 or so Marines and 5 to 15 medium to heavy vehicles including tanks, LVT’s and DUKW’s. My dad was informed that while he was in command, the Chief Petty Office was “in charge.” The Captain who led his squadron told him that the most important words he would say on the bridge of his ship in his first six months in command were: “What do you think, Chief?”

Dad was in operations in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands in 1943 and 1944. He was among the “experienced” officers dispatched to service for D-Day.

“I was one of the ‘old men’, a veteran of successful, but very costly, landings. I was 25 and a Lt. Commander. I had one boat shot out from under me in the Pacific and was forced to land with the Marines on a beach on an island in the Marshall’s that was  only by a number because it was so small. We spent a day pinned down by fire from the jungle. A Marine sergeant kept us alive by giving ‘suggestions’ to me and a young Marine lieutenant about digging in and  waiting for heavy support.”

When he got his orders to report for transport to Pearl Harbor he had no idea what was happening. It took a month to get him to England. At Portsmouth he was assigned to a modified LSM, now referred to as a LSM(R).

“It was insane. I and a chief had to to train a crew of sailors to handle the ship in the English Channel while Marine crews trained to work the guns. Only the chief and I had any experience. Conditions for training were not good. We had to maintain secrecy. We had to compete with other crews for training time. We did our best to simulate the conditions we would face but there was no way we could really do it. The weather was awful.”

Very little went as planned during the landing at Omaha. Sea conditions made navigation difficult especially for the lighter landing craft- the ones most of us think of with ramps dropping and troops pouring out. The defenses were even stronger than had been anticipated. My dad recalled that he had a series of battle orders to cover possible situations. “I remember thinking that we would probably have to get close to the beach to cover a retreat. Things were going that badly. Most of our guys were hit really hard when they got close to the beach. A lot died, more were wounded. It looked like everyone was pinned down. Eventually we were ordered to get close to support one channel where assault troops with engineers were clustered as they prepared an assault on the bluffs. They were dug in, getting shelter where they could and there were way too few of them.”

Artillery support from the big guns of the battleships and cruisers far off the beaches could only concentrate fire on the flanks of the beaches for fear of hitting U.S. forces. The destroyers were able to get in closer, but “We were able to get even closer and direct fire at specific targets. Of course that made us a target too. But we controlled the air and the Germans did not have a lot of heavy artillery so we were generally ok. My biggest worry was getting beached if we got too close.”

Dad’s ship turned parallel to the beach and cruised from East to West, guns and rockets blazing at targets of opportunity. “I kept thinking that we should have hit them harder and longer from the bigger ships before the landings but the weather was always a worry and the landing craft could not handle heavy seas. I don’t know. At one point we were asked to lay in rocket fire just in front of the engineers and infantry as they advanced on a large cement wall built between two huge dunes. Blowing it out of the way would require heavy charges at its base but the engineers had to get close. We didn’t have the fire power. The destroyers did but that would lay in fire too close to our own guys. I remember being relieved when I saw troops moving off the beach in narrow streams when the German fortifications were breached, but it seemed to me that there were not enough men left to really reach the objectives. We did our best, son, we did our best.”


Yeah, Dad, I am sure you did

 ***************************************************

PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT’S D-DAY PRAYERMy Fellow Americans:

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt – June 6, 1944

Hear it at http://www.historyplace.com/…Cross Posted at PlanetPOV (http://planetpov.com/) and HPRefugees. (http://hprefugees.groups.msnbc.com/…)
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Proud to be an Independent Progressive. I am a progressive- a one time Eisenhower Republican (from 1965 through 2004)who is now a Democrat. I live in a very RED STATE and am a community activist with a very BLUE AGENDA. I was a professor of history, and am now a researcher and gentleman farmer. My political positions are mixed - thus my preferred identification as a Progressive Independent. I am conservative on matters of military intervention, in regard to abortion, immigration, the public school system, gun rights, taxation, voter ID. But I am a traditional conservative, a Buckley, National Review, Eisenhower Republican..... I am a liberal on matters of health care care, funding education, taxation (yes one can be both liberal and conservative on this), civil rights, and alternative energy development/climate change.

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docmackayWembleMurphTheSurf3Fergie1cognitogrrl Recent comment authors
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docmackay
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docmackay

Dear Sir,
I honor and respect your father’s service, however, I must advise you that no LSM(R)s nor LSMs ever served in the European Theatre during WWII.

My history book on the LSM(R)s of WWII will be published soon by McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.

Sincerely,

Ron MacKay, Jr.
Historian,
USS LSM-LSMR Association

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Wemble
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Wemble

My own father was a heavy machine gunner and was just 23 when he landed on Omaha Beach. He had already fought in North Africa and Sicily before he landed in France. I have a letter he wrote to his father just days later and he said, “you almost had one less son today”.

He fought his way all the way to Germany and in November he was wounded for the 2nd time and the war was over for him. Back then they didn’t know about PTSD, but who could be completely sane after years of heavy fighting? His wound sent him home from Germany and eventually he was 100% disabled, but it really took 25 years for it to kill him.

My mother left my father when I was 4 and never really talked of him. I saw him once more when I was 10 and he died when I was 18, just starting college, so I never got to talk with him about much of anything, especially his wartime experiences. His service and because I was the dependent of a 100% disabled veteran sent me through college, but I can never imagine the hell he went through as a young man at Normandy and all the rest of the fighting.

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Nirek
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Wemble, so many of our fathers had their lives altered from what they may have been because of war. PTSD was called “shell shock” or “battle fatigue” back in those days. Even in Vietnam it was known by those names. After the Vietnam war so many of us were affected by PTSD they started calling it that.
Welcome to the Planet , btw.
Peace.

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Fergie1
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Fergie1

Murph, thank you very much for sharing your Dad’s up close and personal experiences of what was a terrifying task in the face of annihilation. No reporting or historian can capture what those brave men faced and endured during their time while putting their lives on the line with the realism of war, it’s horrors, and in this case the liberation of Europe. To imagine your 25 year old Dad having this responsility and to have accomplished what he did is remarkable. [actually, I’m at a loss to find a word to describe the feats of these men]. Most assuredly your Dad “did his best” Muph. This statement exemplifies the incredible humility that accompanied their courage and determination to win the war. A war that had to be won.

One of my uncles is buried in Arras, France (WWI), others came back. I am lucky enough to have haunting photos taken by them and personal written accounts of their experience. Three cousins (like brothers and sisters to me actually) were in the theater of war in North Africa and Europe in WWII under General Patton. I don’t ask them about their experiences. Although mentally as spritely as can be, they are in their 90s, very involved in the VFW in their respective cities, but from what I understand, even watching the D-Day commemorations were emotional for them. I’m 30 years younger but they are still my first cousins. My Dad was born in the late 1800s and died when I was 5 years old.

Thank you again Murph for a wonderfully personal article and account from your dear Dad. I’m sorry that you lost him in 2005. R.I.P.

Very best wishes to you.

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cognitogrrl
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cognitogrrl

Thank you, Murph, for sharing your father’s words and experiences, and also for the text of President Roosevelt’s radio address. My mother and aunt worked in war plants that built planes. My father-in-law was a radio operator on a bomber that flew missions over Germany. My mother-in-law was a WAC clerk-typist.

We must remember always what it took to keep this nation, and the world, from being under the Nazis’ heel.

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SearingTruth
Member

Gentle friend MurphTheSurf3 your father and you are treasures of humanity.

You honor him by continuing his quest for justice, and compassion.
ST

“Perhaps one day a god will save us, rather than commit us to death.”
SearingTruth

A Future of the Brave

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monicaangela
Member

Wonderful article Murph, imagine having someone in your family that can recount the actual happenings during that battle, imagine all your dad must have seen, imagine the insurmountable joy, anguish, and pain he must have suffered all in a group of mixed emotions. We owe a debt of gratitude to your dad, and all those who have served this country.

It makes me sad when I see what politics have become today and how those that have gained the most from the sacrifices of the men and women of Omaha Beach and so many other blood soaked battlefields appear to believe those sacrifices had nothing to do with how they got to the positions they are in today:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MU9V6eOFO38&src_vid=XnB0NZzl5HA&feature=iv&annotation_id=annotation_786897

Many of those who fight in the wars of this nation are a part of that 47% Romney is talking about, and he isn’t the only one who feels this way. Many of those in the GOP, and yes even some who are wealthy democrats believe they have made this nation, and everyone who isn’t a part of the 1% has for all intents and purposes been nothing but a drag on the nation. I wonder if Mitt and his friends think about sacrifices like that of your dad and others who weren’t lucky enough to return from the battlefield. I wonder if they consider them a part of that group they call the takers, you know, the group they feel has done absolutely nothing to help get this country into the position it is economically in the world today and thereby helping them and their families build the fortunes they now possess. I wonder…

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Nirek
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Murph, my Dad joined the Army just before the US got involved in WWII. He landed the second day and took a tank across Europe. He was there for the whole war and when he got home he went into the National Guard. His Guard unit was activated for the Korean War. He stayed in after that and we lived in Germany, Panama, and all over the Eastern US.

Sorry the story you told got to me. Our Dads were real good people and we should honor their memories. I know I do.
Peace to you , my friend.

I wish peace for all people.

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Miles Long
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Miles Long

Great interview and story, Murph.

My dad came to the war from a different route. He enlisted from a Japanese Internment Camp in Utah where he was imprisoned along with his family and thousands of Japanese Americans who were swept up along America’s West Coast.

The only way he and his brothers were allowed out of the camp was by enlisting into the US Military. My professorial father became a Drill Sergeant in order to leave the camp and eventually ended up in the almost completely Japanese American 442nd in Europe.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/442nd_Infantry_Regiment_%28United_States%29

Miles “Yeah, I Still Got Issues” Long

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cognitogrrl
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cognitogrrl

Hi Miles, I was just a young girl when I heard about the Japanese internments, and it made me sick to think of how unjust our country was to the Japanese-Americans. It should not have happened. Thank you for your father’s service and that of so many other Japanese-Americans.

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monicaangela
Member

Lest we forget…..Thank you MilesLong for reminding us. Sorry yet happy to hear of your dad’s dilemma during the war. You should be proud of him. You express your dad’s actions as his willingness to join the military to get out of the camps, but I see it as his willingness to prove that he was a true patriot, an American, not a Japanese American, but a true American who chose to serve his country.

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Nirek
Member

Miles, there are no words to express how I feel about what happened to the Japanese Americans. Injustice? Unfair?

Your Dad and his fellow soldiers were brave and wonderful people.
I hope nothing like that ever happens again.
Peace, my friend.

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Kalima
Admin

Just like you, I was remembering my father’s D-Day June landing on Gold Beach in Normandy, the beach further north of Omaha beach.

He didn’t say much except that the fighting was fierce and he saw friends die.

By the end of the day, 25,000 British soldiers had landed on Gold. 413 men had been killed or wounded on the beach.

I also remember that the meeting up with American troops that day was impossible and happened much later. He made an American friend there and they kept in touch for many years.

A wonderful tribute to your father that you have remembered so many details. My father was a man of few words about his experience, and I learned not to pressure him to relive what I later felt was a time that haunted him until the day he died two years ago.

All that is left for me to say is, thank you America for coming to Europe’s aid, and for those who sacrificed their lives for us; we will never forget you.

My father eventually returned to Germany to marry a German woman with a two year old child, my mother, and later gave me his name. It was the most precious gift I have ever received and I thank him daily. Thank you, you wonderful Welshman!

Peace to all.

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Nirek
Member

Kalima, our Dads were part of the greatest generation. Truer words were never spoken. They proved it over and over, and our Moms had to take care at home while the men were off fighting. The women did nontraditional jobs and excelled at them.
Peace.

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Kalima
Admin

They certainly were, Nirek. Mine spent the rest of his years firmly opposed to wars. In everything he did in life, he was a peaceful man who tried to bring people together.

Yes the women left behind were strong and deserve recognition for all they did and all they endured.

Peace to you and yours.

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Nirek
Member

Kalima and Murph, I am proud of all our fathers. I too have been against war since my experience.

Murph, you say the the Gulf War was the only just war since WWII. I agree!
Peace.

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Nirek
Member

Murph, that story hit me hard, my friend. Very powerful.

I’ll write more in a while when I dry my eyes.
Peace

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