I wanted to thank Pastor David Luther for a great program on June 6 at Champion High School for the 70-year anniversary of D-Day. I attended and was ready to tell the story of my experience at D-Day, but I became ill and had to leave, so I wasn't able to tell it. But, I would like to share it now.
I tried to get into the service at the age of 16. When I turned 17, I enlisted in the Navy. After boot camp, they sent us to gunnery school in Virginia. Some 1,300 men went off to Scotland on the Queen Lizzy. We were split into 60-man crews. There were two different boats, one was loaded with rocket launchers and the boat I was on was gun Boat 687. I was a loader on a 5-inch gun and also a gunner on a 20mm.
We were waiting for D-Day, and the weather was bad. We hit the beach at Normandy and had designated targets to hit. Then we were called to Lahar, France, the Army was in trouble and they needed our help. We backed off the beach, we were attacked by enemy planes, and I was able to shoot one down.
That night, we tied up to a French cruiser that was in the bay. What a mistake that was. She was attacked by German E-boats that night. The next day we looked for targets on the beach, but everything looked secure. They were bringing the American bodies and laying them on the beach.
I lost some good friends at D-Day. Once our job was complete, they sent us back to England, and we got word they were sending us home. I got a 30-day leave at home and then received a call that I was to report to San Diego.
I was put on the LST 446, headed for Iwo Jima and Okinawa with a load of Marines. We were attacked by Japanese planes, and I lost more friends. I said to myself, where in the hell have I seen this before?
After that, the war ended, and I stopped in Japan before heading home at the age of 20.
Thank you very much for letting me share some of my experiences.