30 October 2013
The last post is the last one I have typed up. Since I am in Los Angeles and the Diary is in Michigan, this has caused a delay in postings. When I go back East for Thanksgiving, I hope to type up some more pages and resume posting regularly.
The last post is the last one I have typed up. Since I am in Los Angeles and the Diary is in Michigan, this has caused a delay in postings. When I go back East for Thanksgiving, I hope to type up some more pages and resume posting regularly.
Posted by E. Belanger at 10:14
07 October 2013
D-Day • H-Hour: 0800
0340:- Up at 0215 -- breakfast -- sick call in Sick Bay, seven patients retained. Phillips brought down from the wardroom to take charge. Mostly gastro-enteritis with two cases of early pneumonia thrown in for good measure. Then down at the chiefs’ quarters to secure for G.Q. Unbearably hot down here during sunset G.Q. last night. Cooler this morning, but it won’t be when the sun rises and heats the ship. Casualties or no, we will keep busy with medical cases: dysentery, heat prostration, acute bronchitis, and early pneumonia, all of which have shown activity prior to this.
We are now secure, waiting for activity. The general plan is much the same as Normandy. We serve a dual role:-- a subsidiary one of acting convoy protection for transports, and a primary function as a fire support vessel for the amphibious landing activity. As such we will commence firing on known targets about H070, knocking out all known targets that threaten the beachhead. Then we will shift to secondary targets somewhat inland which would serve as secondary threats for the landing operations. Our fire call employs main and secondary batteries rapid fire -- both vessel and plane spotted at first, with later control from the Shore Fire Control Party (SFCP). Mr. Earl from the Tusky is a member of our SFCP, -- a mighty hot job. We will leave the assault area every night, going out about 50 miles, and returning early the next morning until all beachheads are secure and the invasion has proceeded far enough inland to need fire support no longer. Good news from northern France -- allied advance moving rapidly. With any luck at all the end should be in sight -- but we will retain our attitude of healthy pessimism. Awaiting developments.
0415:- The sweat pouring in large drops -- and the sun isn’t in sight yet.
0645:- Our target is in sight and we will open fire with our secondary battery in a very few minutes.
0700:- Have opened fire with our secondary battery. Moderately rapid fire. No report of return fire as yet.
0745:- H-15. Both main and secondary batteries firing moderately rapidly. No report of return fire as yet. Scattered comments on the progress of the firing over the short wave. “Delta two calling Yellow dog: Target 280 - fire when ready - over.” “Yellow dog to Delta two: Roger - Salvo - Wilco - Out.” “Delta two and Yellow dog on target rapid fire - out.” -- and so it goes. The results of our firing are not known to us below decks, and probably won’t be until we secure from G.Q.
0800:- There has been the usual pre-invasion softening of the beachhead by “hundreds” of heavy bombers. We have now completed our pre-invasion bombardment and will pick up some secondary target under SFCP direction if we can establish contact. The American assault forces will take over now -- and their progress will be noted as it is known. (Incidentally, this is the longest period of sustained rest I have had in over a week -- and welcome, too.)
0820:- First Army assault wave has gone in -- as of 0800 with no resistance as yet.
0908:- Six waves reported as landed on Green Beach without casualties. Also reported that Blue Beach has been taken. (Blue and Green Beaches lie on each side of Yellow Beach -- a small harbor strongly fortified and filled with mines. We should be able to take this harbor from the sea now.)
1045:- Topside for about 30 minutes. We have not fired since our pre-invasion bombardment. We have contacted our SFCP but there are no targets to shoot at. Latest information discloses that we have taken Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue Beaches. No reported casualties -- almost unbelievable! (And rightly so -- we never did take Red Beach on D-Day.) Great numbers of LST’s and LCVP’s shuttling back and forth between the transports and the beach. Eight mine sweeps just passed our stern bound for the beach. Air coverage is good, as usual, and there is no sign as yet of enemy aircraft. We just moved in an eastern direction and are in a position to fire at point blank range -- but have not fired as yet. This whole operation thus far has an aura of unreality, (Especially after our previous experience.) Knowing nothing, I retain the attitude of expecting anything. We -- in the words of the prophets -- shall see.
1300:- About 1230 approximately 40 B-24 bombers made their runs on the Red Beach dropping strings upon strings of bombs. Went topside directly thereafter and saw the destruction done -- almost continuous rumble from the beach with some dive bombing activity and a good deal of shelling. Our main battery opened up just prior to 1300 and continues to send salvos toward the beach - caught without cotton and beat a hasty retreat through the hatch before my tympanic membranes were completely ruined.
1600:- Straight dope on Red Beach -- landing craft stood off while the above bombing and shelling was going on. It was decided not to land. This beach is actually a good sized town, St. Raphael, and the enemy resistance was too severe at this time, considering that unopposed landings can be made on the Green, Yellow, and Blue Beaches. We will get the bastards tomorrow. The invasion is already being broadcast over the radio. They describe it as being even larger than Normandy. Parachutist and glider troops were particularly successful in establishing salients behind the beachheads with little or no casualties -- compared to the 66% at Normandy.
1800:- Secure from G.Q. Time for Sick Call, a quick shower and shave with a change of clothes before chow.
2030:- Went topside after chow for a little air. Standing on the port side of the gun deck watching ship movements. The greater part of the task force was withdrawing behind overlapping smoke screen which blocked all vision from the beach. There was a good ground haze, what with the smoke of battle etc., and many small low-lying clouds between us and the beach. We had just completed our formation for withdrawal when one of the Cans off the port side opened up on a plane overhead. I caught a glimpse of a single plane for the briefest part of a second before it went into a cloud. After that all hell broke loose with 18 to 20 ships opening up with 40 mm and 5” fire. Tracers were dancing all over the sky and the smoke and noise were something to hear. I ducked under cover in the hangar and then went below for my helmet. By the time I returned, the show was over, and we soon secured and turned in for a little sleep.
Posted by E. Belanger at 08:40
06 October 2013
1030. Tomorrow at 0215 we go in against the Southern coast of France. We are proceeding north-west at the moment in the company of a good sized task force -- consisting of three battle wagons -- the now famous “old ladies” (NEVADA, ARKANSAS, TEXAS), four American heavy cruisers, three British light cruisers, two French light cruisers, and sixteen destroyers. H-Hour is at 0800 but we are prepared to begin firing any time after 0300. We will be employing both main and secondary batteries with anti-aircraft fire ad lib. We will work both with air-spots and with our shore fire control party. Our main objective is the GREEN BEACH in which we will support American assault forces. The enemy has considerable amount of shore-based artillery bearing upon us -- and eight known radar stations. Her air-power is of an unknown quantity -- although there are a reported 145 JU 88’s and Dourniers in the area. All preparations have been made for gas attack.
Had an organization meeting with the boys this morning and at 1200 today we will be ready. Medical cases will present a considerable problem -- especially this dysentery. Total of 12 patients in Sick Bay at the moment. More later from C.P.O. Quarters.
Posted by E. Belanger at 09:02
12 September 2013
1600. Here we are again -- briefed and sealed for another invasion. This time we will hit the coast of Southern France in the vicinity of Cannes -- just west of the French Riviera. Another large-scale operation for which we will supply the firepower. The TUSCALOOSA will find itself in a hot spot again -- promises to be a bit like Cherbourg (and that is none to our liking). D-Day apparently is Tuesday, 15 August. More dope as it is received. Have been working all day on directives for casualties, fatalities, decontamination, etc. Will have a meeting with the boys tonight. Have had one hemorrhoidal thrombactomy every day for the last four days -- quite an epidemic.
Posted by E. Belanger at 09:28
07 September 2013
Another hiatus in our narrative -- this time of considerable proportions. For one thing the medical department has been really busy these past few days -- although I must confess to a few liberties. (Swimming at Mondello). Hitting the high spots, we have:
8/9 - All hell broke loose in the sick bay this evening. Two enteritis cases with high temperatures, one boy with a red-hot belly and a low WBC (Brooking), two drunks, one with a lacerated wrist (belligerent) and the other with a rum-belly (hysterical). Finally turned in about 0100.
8/10 - Attended a medical conference today (1000-1200) aboard the BROOKLYN -- about 30 M.O.’s present, including Mike Dean (Tufts Med ’43, who is on the KENDRICK). I discoursed for a few moments on dysentery -- with that exception it was an excellent meeting. Met Mike at 1400 this afternoon -- went out to Mondello for a terrific game of touch football from which some crawled away -- a good swim, and an evening of rather sustained drinking. First time I had let down the bars since 3 July in Bangor. Had a hell of a good time all around.
8/11 - Routine day -- busy all day long (which makes the day somewhat more than routine.) Mike came over for dinner and the movie tonight. Turned in by 2400.
8/12 - Another busy day -- with a nightmare in the Sick Bay to finish off with. The usual two enteritis cases (most of which are Shigella dysentery, I think -- but as I have no cultures I can’t prove it.) with high temperatures requiring IV’s. About 2100 one of the marines returning from liberty fell off the prow onto the mole -- doing a one and a half -- landing squarely on his head. Rather a frisky evening patching him up -- X-rays, B.P., etc. A damn lucky and a damn tough marine. No fracture, rapid recovery. In bed by 0100.
Posted by E. Belanger at 07:31
06 September 2013
05 September 2013
1110. Battle problem this morning. Abandon ship drill planned for this PM. Will arrive in Palermo about 1600. Heard more talk ashore yesterday concerning invasion. Promises to be even more extensive than Normandy. No straight dope as yet -- but it will be reported as it comes in.
Posted by E. Belanger at 09:00
04 September 2013
2200. Arrived at Naples at around 0800 this AM -- in by the Isle of Capri into Naples harbor with the overshadowing Mt. Vesuvius. The volcano is not active at present, although one can see wisps of steam rising from the crater. This afternoon went ashore in search of some DDT powder and penicillin. Strangely enough, although Naples was the city where they did the phenomenal early anti-typhus work with DDT, there is none available in the city today. Did pick up six ampules of penicillin at the U.S.N. Dispensary. Spent about an hour wandering about the city and having a beer or two, then returned to the ship. Underway at 2000 -- bound for Palermo.
Posted by E. Belanger at 07:35
03 September 2013
2200. Routine AM. Spent a very pleasant afternoon yesterday at Mondello beach -- swimming and sunning. Returned in time for chow and the movie. We have had the movie out on the quarterdeck these past few nights. Very beautiful out under the moon and stars, and such an improvement over the hades-like wardroom. Leaving for Naples late this evening to pick up the Admiral.
Posted by E. Belanger at 19:55
02 September 2013
1145. Routine PM. Feel much better this AM. Left the trundle only once last night -- quite the normal chap once more. Jane’s pictures arrived last night -- now we are really getting somewhere. Quite good -- especially the half-profile -- but a long way from the real McCoy. Planning a swim and some sun this PM, - look like a death’s head at present. Lost about 14 pounds during my mortal illness -- skinny as a damn fence post. Hard to gain it back in this weather.
Posted by E. Belanger at 08:07
01 September 2013
Considerable of a hiatus in our story here. In the meantime Don and I paid one more visit to Mondello Beach (7/22) and visited again with the Brancaleone family. This time our conversation was a bit more adequate and we spent a very pleasant pair of hours in their garden. On Sunday, 7/23, we put out for drill, and Sunday PM I took to my bed with the creeping crud. Diarrhea and abdominal cramps with temp of 101-102° all day Monday. N and V with temp of 104° added Tuesday. Tuesday evening during a second IV I had a pyrogenic reaction with shaking chills, temp up to 108° axillary (109° p.o.) and coma. They brought me back with ice packs and ice enemas, but I was pretty woozy all the next day. Up and around yesterday and today -- still only about 50% present. Dysentery epidemic abating.
Posted by E. Belanger at 12:52
31 August 2013
Routine this AM -- with plenty to keep one busy. Knocked off about 1400 and caught a weapon carrier from the mole (breakwater), drove through town and out to the beach at Mondello. Wide expanses of pure white sand -- clear but rather too warm water -- and thousands of Italians. The Navy officers’ club is an old villa right down on the shore. Changed there and went down the line to the Red Cross Beach. Spent the afternoon swimming, bathing in the heat of the sun, sailing and exploring the native beaches with the Padre. Returned to the club for a few drinks, a steak dinner (other choice - lobster) served out in the gardens beneath the palms -- with the strains of an eight piece orchestra as accompliment. A young Italian lady (aged nine) spent the evening trying to teach us Italian -- and on her invitation we visited her family about 2100. (After sending some cigarettes for Pappa ahead of us.) The family were very gracious -- and we spent a pleasant -- if not conversant -- hour in their garden drinking vino -- and, truth to tell, dancing with Mamma, sister (age 15) and our hostess, Elda. Returned to the ship about 2230 and spent the rest of the evening until 2400 taking care of drunks, one case of total amnesia, and the injured. (What a life!)
Posted by E. Belanger at 08:48
27 August 2013
1000:- Moored at Palermo along the mole at 0800 this morning. Country is exceedingly hilly and rather barren. City itself is a mass of rubble from our bombing attacks before it was taken. More details later after we have a chance to visit the countryside. Planning to do a hemorrhoidectomy this PM -- and will finish the circumcision on Thompson in the near future.
2400:- Routine day. Served as Medical Guard tonight. Expected considerable activity but was pleasantly surprised. Whole sock full of drunks -- but no one requiring much medical attention. Post-operative hemorrhoidectomy having considerable pain -- to be expected. Removed three hemorrhoids.
Posted by E. Belanger at 16:10
24 August 2013
23 August 2013
22 August 2013
Routine duties this AM. Both P.O. patients doing well. Off again at 1630 for the officers’ beach and a swim. Repetition of the joys of the 13th without quite so much sun. Quite a gang from the Tusky over today -- raising hell as usual. One would know this gang anywhere by the amount of commotion it makes.
Posted by E. Belanger at 09:27
21 August 2013
20 August 2013
I pick up the thread of this little quasi-narrative after an absence of six days -- in another port of call, -- Palermo, Sicily. Before coming to that, and for the sake of completeness, it is best to return to Oran, on 7/13/44. After completing the routine duties of the day on that date the Chaplain and I pushed off for the beach. It is indeed unfortunate that my pen is not more gifted, for such days as this are worthy of the best, even in a sketchy narrative such as this. Once again we picked up a taxi at the VULCAN and drove in the open air M.E.K. (Mer el Kairn) taxi up by the old French fort (right out of Beau Geste) via hairpin curves up the sides of the cliffs -- then winding around the periphery with the Mediterranean far below to Ain el Turek, stopping at the Junior Officers’ club. Here we stopped a moment for an American beer, and then down through the patios to a pavilion on the beach (where beer and sandwiches were served), changed into our suits, and forthwith into the water. (Delicious stuff!) Spent most of the afternoon beneath the brine, stopping only for an occasional beer and sandwich and a walk up the beach. The beach is divided into sections -- native, French, Italian (the P.W.’s also serve as life guards) and American. A panorama of nations is ample reward for the walking done. Rode back to the ship in an army truck filled with giggling jeune filles, and so to bed -- rather on the red side.
19 August 2013
D + 36
Busy as fury all morning. Had a circumcision scheduled for 1100 -- postponed because of a pressing demand to treat a multitude of minor ills. Again scheduled the operation at 1400, only to have the captain desire my presence. He was concerned about the effects of this ZCL smoke on the assembled lungs of the task force. So off I trudged -- to the VULCAN and Dr. Leary -- to the senior port M.O. (via telephone), to the AUGUSTA, and the QUINCY. Returned at 1500 and finally finished the circumcision. My good boss was on shore so I didn’t get a hoped for swim today. Shall spend the evening catching up on personal correspondence.
Posted by E. Belanger at 07:41
18 August 2013
Busy as all get out this AM culminating in a dorsal slit on a poor unfortunate with a large indurated ulcer on the penis. (Inner prepucial surface). Left at 1300 for Oran -- being driven there by a Navy “taxi” (a truck with seats). We walked around for about an hour -- interesting to see the natives in t heir fantastic garb, but the overall impression was one of filth and squalor. The place had an unhealthy smell -- you felt that if you took a deep breath the resulting impression on the hippocampus gyrus would be most unpleasant. Returned in due course to the officers’ beach -- very beautiful -- water was wonderful, and the sun the same. Met Dr. McNamara (FITCH) in Oran -- and we ran into Ralph Myerson (Tufts Med, ’42) at the beach. After two or three dips we went up to the officers club -- Murphy’s, no less -- where we met about 14 officers from the CA-37. Had a couple of triple secs, and then returned to the ship for late chow and the movie - (“Cover Girl” -- rugged duty for a lonesome sailor.) The ship’s company got rather fouled up on liberty yesterday -- what with too much sun and too much beer, and we had plenty of business during the evening. Beginning at 2230 and ending at 0500 we had four calls to G.Q. -- the defense forces were igniting Z CL powder to form a smoke screen over us, and the HCL fumes plus the heat plus the lack of sleep made for a rather rugged night of it.
Posted by E. Belanger at 10:28
17 August 2013
D + 34
Passed through the Straits of Gibraltar this morning at 0300 into the Mediterranean. Just come below from topsides. Not a cloud in the sky -- far away on the starboard side nearly hidden in the mist is the coast of North Africa -- on the port side the coast of southern Spain. The water appears to be no bluer than we have been experiencing throughout the past few days. The temperature (at sea) is delightful -- reminiscent of a hot summer’s day on the Cape.
Spent the morning completing the typhus innoculations [sic], inspecting the living compartments, and holding sick call. Department is working with a good degree of efficiency and excellent spirit. We will lose one of our chiefs today (Kirk) when we anchor in Oran, Algeria, North Africa at or about 1830 tonight. Days like this are indeed some compensation for being away from home and medicine.
Posted by E. Belanger at 19:44
16 August 2013
D + 33
Busy most of the day with typhus shots (2nd in a series of three) -- rather heavy sick call, and a couple of minor surgical procedures. Knocked off at 1600 and repaired to the Com deck for some sun (and wind -- mostly the latter). Everybody is beginning to take on a glow of health, the morale has improved -- and each of us feels a hell of a lot better “all over”. Turned in at 2230 for what is to be hoped will be a good night’s sleep.
Posted by E. Belanger at 18:38
15 August 2013
D + 32
Some talk of renaming the U.S.S. TUSCALOOSA. After 1600 today around 1/3 of the officers were out on the Com deck basking in the sun, throwing around the medicine ball and boxing. I threw the medicine ball sufficiently to give myself a sore shoulder and took on the first blush of health. It is grand to get some sun after such a long time without it. Otherwise it was a fairly busy day. We found a hot-bed of scabies in the Charlie Div. Living compartment and spent most of the morning and 1800 sick call cleaning it out. The rest of the morning was devoted to catching hell for running a sloppy ship and afternoon in emergency drills etc. The weather is indescribably beautiful and the ship is as steady as a country lane beneath your feet. We turned due east at 1915 this evening and are due to pass the “rock” at about 0500 tomorrow night. From there up to Oran for a few days, perhaps, and then to Palermo, Sicily. Quite a cruise for a landlubber -- what with the invasion, Cherbourg, and all.
Posted by E. Belanger at 08:00
14 August 2013
13 August 2013
D + 30
2030:- Routine day. Progressing south at a sure course of 180°. Shipping with us now are the AUGUSTA and two other transports. We picked them up at about 1530. The ships are running a wet course today, rolling from side to side in a pretty hard sea. Wonder of wonders I have gained my sealegs -- early this time -- the second day of weather. The sea is a deep purple today, the sky more or less overcast. I have not seen any kind of marine life of note, although people all about me on the weather decks are alway seeing flying fish and things. We are off the Bay of Biscay at the present writing. Message from the ELLISON reports a case of acute appendicitis -- hope the doc can quiet him down with sulfa. It would be hell to transfer him in this kind of weather.
Posted by E. Belanger at 20:24
12 August 2013
11 August 2013
D + 28
Fourth of July! Called up to the Exec.’s office about 2200 last night -- one of our men was reported as drowned in Belfast. Left the ship in the company of the Exec.’s orderly (Mr. Bond) and proceeded to Bangor where we were picked up in a command car and driven to Belfast. Reported there to Victoria Barracks where four seamen from the CA-37 were being interrogated by the M.P. It appears that Thornton in the more or less inebriated company of these four men went swimming in a small river just outside of Belfast, sank beneath the surface and could not be recovered because of the muddiness of the bottom and the approaching dusk. All efforts to recover the body by grappling were of no avail. Rode out to the scene of the accident in a jeep -- recovery operations suspended because of darkness and inadequate facilities (e.g. river boat needed to pull hooks). Returned to Victoria Barracks, finished interrogation, and finally turned in at the A.R.C. about 0200. Up at 0700 and down to turn the case over to the Port Officer for Belfast. Learned that Elliot Emerson was in the vicinity but didn’t get to see him. Had a wild ride back to Bangor -- got lost on the way -- and just made the last boat out to the ship. Sailed at 1130 for the Azores, Gibraltar, and the Mediterranean. (ARKANSAS, NEVADA, TUSCALOOSA, QUINCY and twelve cans including our old friends: FITCH, BARTON, GERARDI, HOBSON, MURPHY, ELLISON, and PLUNKETT. The O’BRIEN has returned to the States for repairs -- a little yard time for Harvey Crockett -- well earned, certainly. We are escorting nine transports which do not appear to be loaded with troops.) It is rumored that we will rendezvous with the AUGUSTA on the Nitro and perhaps one or two limey cruisers tomorrow or the next day. This gives every indication of being a good sized evolution, whatever it may be.
Posted by E. Belanger at 13:16
10 August 2013
09 August 2013
D + 26
Routine sick call in AM. Had planned a trip with the Padre -- cycling through the Irish countryside. Torrential rains dampened our plans but not our spirits. Repaired instead to the A.R.C. in Bangor and spent a very pleasant afternoon and evening with the directors there in the further company of a bottle of scotch. Returned to the ship at 2400.
Posted by E. Belanger at 07:54
07 August 2013
04 August 2013
D + 21
1030:- Cherbourg has officially fallen -- otherwise a very quiet day with sufficient medical administrative work to keep me busy. “Johnny Come Lately” in the wardroom -- excellent picture. Must get busy with some letters now that time affords. Reading LeGrand Cannon’s “Look to the Mountain.” Very well done.
Posted by E. Belanger at 11:10
03 August 2013
D + 20
2300:- Routine AM sick call. No further casualties or complications of action. Visited this morning by Dr. Wildermuth from the GERARDI, now alongside, who brought over a patient for consultation. Rather a busy day with three minor surgical procedures, routine medical work, entertaining visiting officers, etc. We are now a peacetime ship with blues on our backs, fried chicken at the pylorus, and a movie in the wardroom. What a life! Enemy still being engaged in Cherbourg. Not much news today. Turning in now at 2310.
Posted by E. Belanger at 11:57
02 August 2013
D + 19
0815:- Up at 0630. Final preparations made and pts distributed after breakfast. Just set up in G.Q. We will fire about 1030 if they need us, and if not, throw all we have at them at 1200. There are some 30,000 troops defending the fortress of Cherbourg, and this promises to be a tough battle.
1050:- Just topside. We are at anchor about 10 miles off the beach from which can be heard the almost continuous rumble of guns. Our task force appears to be made up of from 23 to 25 ships: one battle wagon, four cruisers, and the remainder destroyers. It is a beautiful day -- the sea is like a mill pond, quite hazy on the horizon. No word as to future developments.
1215:- NEVADA, ENTERPRISE, and GLASGOW forming a front line behind destroyer-laid smoke-screens. NEVADA has opened fire. We are 8-10 miles out from the beach. In Yoke- Easy having coffee.
1220:- Set Zebra.
1222:- Other cruisers have opened fire -- we have as yet not received a target.
1225:- NEVADA pouring it on with 14” and 5” salvo after salvo. Almost completely hidden with smoke -- her own and the smoke-screen.
1230:- We are now in the middle of the smoke screen -- no target as yet.
1238:- We have opened fire. ELLISON reports a ship coming out of the harbor and has been directed to go after it. (A fine way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon.)
1305:- We are attempting to pick up bearing on a shore battery by flash; under forced draft; main deck aft has been cleared as they may fire turret 3 directly aft. When they do, all hell breaks loose down here in the Chief’s quarters.
1330:- Just reported a near miss 60 yards off the bow. From time to time we can hear -- and feel -- shrapnel striking the ship. Just had a shrapnel hit on the starboard side just outside of the next compartment. It is beginning to get warm down here -- in more ways than one.
1355:- Destroyer O’BRIEN reported hit. She is with the ARKANSAS and TEXAS, somewhat separated from our task force. Extent and severity of damage not known. Harvy Crockett is in for a bit of hell -- all luck to him. We are proceeding under forced draft -- whirling, twisting, firing, and being fired upon.
1442:- Five gun salvo -- near miss -- concussion wave hitting the hull sounds like rocks being thrown through a barrel. We are hauling out of here.
1530:- Continue to maneuver -- firing intermittently. Metallic and highly provocative near misses sounding at the rate of every five minutes.
1615:- Secure from G.Q.
2200:- Went up on deck to find us forming a column with the TUSCALOOSA in the lead. Returning to Portland. Disappearing shore line wreathed in smoke. Distant view of splashes dropping astern of the struggling destroyers. Quick survey assures that we have no enemy- inflicted casualties. Returned to sick bay to find one casualty -- man jammed his leg between 5” projectile and hoist -- saved from serious injury by a quick thinking shipmate who pulled him out of danger. Sustained a puncture wound of the lateral calf -- sutured, tetanus booster administered, sent to light duty.
For considerable while there was much scuttlebutt concerning the actual outcome of the engagement. Finally learned the text of the Admiral’s message to ComNavEu. Reported successful completion of mission -- all shore trained enemy artillery silenced -- Army orders us to cease fire as they would takeover. Accounts from topside men and officers substantiate the impression of a hot battle. Quite a spectacular engagement, with smoke, fire, flashes, whistling shells, geysers of waater and sufficient excellent shooting by the enemy to sustain interest. Our old lady did not have many targets -- but there were those who did. Reported damage to our forces: (not duly confirmed) TEXAS: 2 dead, 7 wounded; GLASGOW: 8-10 wounded; ENTERPRISE: 2 slightly wounded (Captain and Exec. by shrapnel); O’BRIEN: 13 killed, 9 wounded; BARTON: hit by a dud, no casualties; LAFAYETTE: hit by a dud, no casualties; ARKANSAS: reported hit, nor further details known. This could have been damned expensive -- the old TUSKY sure is riding her luck. THANK GOD!
01 August 2013
D + 18
1030:- We started across last night for Cherbourg -- but turned back. It is reported that our sweepers ran into mines or gun fire and were destroyed. Col. Campbell returned las night after a tour of the Cherbourg front with General Omar Bradley. Had a very interesting chat with him -- situation very tight over there -- they will need our help before Cherbourg can be secured. More consulation work this morning. Dr. McNamara (Tufts Med. 1942) brought over two patients from the FITCH (see note on 6/6/44) They had a hot time of it picking up the CORRY survivors -- whole ship reported as Unit Citation. Didn’t have much time to talk with Mac as Dr. Knapp from the PLUNKETT was also over with a couple of cases for X-ray, and the ELLISON M.O. with a fractured ankle case (D.U.) Slipped over to the BARTON this AM to see Dr. Whitehouse -- he put in a miserable night, temperature 101° -- vomiting from sulfa drug. Started him on penicillin - he may have to be transferred ashore.
2330:- Transferred Dr. Whitehouse ashore this PM. Left the BARTON about 1900. He was one mad M.O. -- swore a blue streak when I told him the news. They will have to pick someone up off the beach. Poor guy, bet he doesn’t sleep very well tonight.
Turned in about 1600 for a little sleep to make up for the sleep lost last night. We will be sailing for France late tonight. The crew and nonessential officers have not been briefed -- but I had an off-the-record story from one of the radar boys during chow tonight. The defense of Cherbourg resembles a pair of jaws with large radar-controlled 11” guns on the extremities, and smaller stuff within the jaws. The harbor is mined heavily and the artillery formidable. Compared with this evolution, D-Day was fun for the kiddies. I was impressed today by the M.O. off the destroyers. Theirs is a rugged duty -- and they have good and sufficient reason for apprehension. However, on this evolution, the “old ladies” (as Time calls us) will be a bit more behind the eight-ball -- for after neutralizing the large gun emplacements, with the aid of radar-jamming, we will sweep in close after the smaller stuff.
Tonight we were a peacetime ship -- dressed in blues, served on spotless linen (well, more or less), entertained (mildly) by a movie, and finished off the day with a glass of fruit punch. Tomorrow we will be a fighting ship -- stripped for action -- back in our work clothes and ready to go. Had a short meeting with the boys tonight -- reviewing again the lessons of our past experience.
The words of that old hymn were in my mind last night during my nocturnal boat trip, and I sang against the drowning roar of the engines: “We all do extol thee, thou leader in battle, and pray that thou still our defender shallt be.” And MAY GOD BE WITH US TOMORROW.
Posted by E. Belanger at 08:46
31 July 2013
D + 17 Portland
1300:- Routine sick call this AM. One minor surgical procedure -- very pretty little foreign body granuloma in the lateral aspect of the fat pad of the thumb. Wrote a short note to Jane. Visited for a few moments with another destroyer M.O. -- friend of Dr. Mitchell. Am about to turn to on the medical report and some other paper work. Quiet day -- considerable gold braid aboard -- couple of admirals -- seven captains.
0200:- Just returned from a wild goose chase. One of the merchantmen out in the harbor the other side of the breakwater flashed in a medical emergency (D.U.Appendicitis) and after an hour spent opening gates, studying mine fields, and informing everyone that we were on our way so that we wouldn’t be shot at, we started off. In a LSVP we had passed through the gate and were half way to the GEORGE A. CUSTER when we were recalled -- another boat had been sent out from Weymouth. Never did find out what the dope was.
Earlier this evening Dr. Whitehouse from the BARTON came across with a bad thumb - felon with complications. Under novocaine anaesthesia we unsuccessfully attempted to find a localized abscess. A sorry looking mess -- may have further manifestations.
Posted by E. Belanger at 08:56
30 July 2013
D + 16
1030:- Leaving Omaha underway for Portland. We will pick up our entire task force en route. Presumably returning to England to plan the details of our next Evolution -- against Cherbourg unless it falls in the meantime.
2300:- Interesting day today. Arrived in Portland in the early morning. Routine AM sick call. Spent the rest of the morning busy with medical report. Directly after chow dropped out on the quarterdeck for a breath of fresh air -- then planned to return to work and finish the report. There were two destroyers tied alongside -- one, the BARTON, was of the newly commissioned GLEXCHER class. The oyON’s crew to see if, by chance, her medical officer might be one of the boys from Tufts. He wasn’t, but he soon appeared on deck and invited me over for a tour of inspection. Chap’s name was Whitehouse, from Virginia, very nice guy -- suffering at the moment from a felon which he had done up in a massive dressing covered with a condom. After inspecting his minutely compact sick bay we returned to the deck where I found myself face to face with Robert Montgomery, (Now Lieut. Comdr. - executive officer for the destroyer flag of this task force.) We spent a few minutes in what I fear on my part was uninspired conversation (mostly dealing with the incongruity of the doctor’s thumb bandage.) Montgomery appears considerably older than on the screen -- very personable -- and is reported to be “one of the boys.” So much for a pin-point of glamor in an otherwise routine existence. After completing our tour of the BARTON, Whitehouse and myself returned to the TUSCALOOSA where I trotted him around in a like manner -- feeding him some ice cream by way of compensation. After he left, Dr. Mitchell and I worked at and finally successfully removed a piece of shrapnel from the shoulder of one of the ELLISON’s men. (The conquest was Dr. Mitchell’s - who finally grabbed it under the fluoroscope.) That sutured, I shaved and at 1745 pushed off for Weymouth in the doubtful company of the Chaplain. We repaired through the rather pretty streets of the rustic English seaport town to the Gloucester Hotel where we met Capt. Willkie (British Royal Artillery Officer aboard) for a few drinks and supper. Leaving Captain Willkie to meet what I am told is his charming wife, the Padre and self started on a tour of exploration. These wanderings soon led us by a WREN headquarters and the undaunted little minister had us inside those virgin walls and invited to a dance before I knew what was going on. After a few dances with these sprightly representatives of England’s might we returned to await a boat back to the ship. While I was waiting I bumped into an old Tufts man -- Harvey Crocket -- who was one year ahead of me at Tufts undergraduate and medical school. Harvey is M.O. aboard the O’BRIEN (destroyer -- see not of 6/17/44, 0100). He has had no casualties as yet. Likes destroyer duty -- as do most men who have had it for a while. Personally, I duly bless the old Tusky. Returned to the ship at 2300 and turned in. This liberty completes our visit to the United Kingdom (Scotland - Ireland - England) and thus represents a satisfactory complement of liberty for me.
Posted by E. Belanger at 09:18
28 July 2013
D + 15
0200:- At G.Q. We came over late this afternoon to the Omaha area. Quite a sight. In the first place there was a heavy sea running, green and turbulent with long rollers. We pitched and tossed as it in the mid-North Atlantic en route from our anchorage. We passed through and became a part of that large concentration of ships that I have described before as lying east of our regular anchorage. As we came through we passed quite close to shore winding in and out through the thickest concentration of ships I have ever seen. Just off the beach could be seen a long line of closely packed ships forming a sort of breakwater. This is the Mulberry Harbor of the D-Day plan -- and was taking a terrible beating today from the pounding surf. The extremely high wind caused the barrage balloons to dance about like creatures possessed and not a few broke loose to disappear into the blue.
We came over ostensively to have a conference with Admiral Kirk aboard the AUGUSTA. About 2200 we moved out somewhat from the beach and at 2300 went to bed with an ear cocked for the boatswain’s whistle -- which did not keep us waiting long. This area represents the spot referred to on previous nights as “heavy A.A. fire seen from the beach” and we should have some sort of a show tonight. All is quiet at the moment.
0230:- Feeled heavily drugged with sleep.
0235:- Set modified Zebra. Incidentally our troops are reported four miles south of Cherbourg today. No official word from the operations shack -- this is radio report.
0245:- Secure from G.Q.
1430:- Routine sick call this morning. Weather still remains rough with large ground swells -- sufficient to interfere with all landing activity. Up on deck this morning watching a small patrol craft coming alongside. She was pitching and rolling until it seemed as if she could no longer stay afloat. At times only her radar was visible atop the mainmast. One’s stomach would of necessity have to be more stable than mine to serve any such duty as that. Busy this afternoon on a comprehensive medical report for the Fleet News Letter.
Posted by E. Belanger at 09:05
27 July 2013
D + 14
0030:- Secure from G.Q.
1350:- Return to G.Q. Enemy planes overhead. Considerable bombing on the beach as we lay just off shore of the front line between allied and German forces before Cherbourg. No bombing activity as yet (0430) against our ships. For a change we are not the target for tonight. The invasion is now two weeks old. The fall of Cherbourg may be anticipated within the next few days -- although it will be a difficult objective to carry. Whether the Navy will be called on to take a more vigorous part in its conquest remains to be seen. We are not particularly happy over our blatant inactivity of the last few days. The Navy is getting a mild inferiority complex -- and that will never do. (Damn this inexcusable lack of ammunition.)
The ship is tossing and turning like a creature possessed at the moment. Scuttlebutt says that we may do some shooting tomorrow.
0530:- Secure from G.Q. Some difficulty in getting to sleep. When finally accomplished it carried me right through breakfast.
0830:- Routine sick call. At work on medical report 1030.
Posted by E. Belanger at 08:35
26 July 2013
D + 13
0100:- Plane just overhead. Getting sleepy.
0130:- Secure from G.Q.
2230:- G.Q. This has been a quiet day. Regular northeaster blowing topside. Rain and rollers -- making the ship roll as if we were in mid-Atlantic. (And the rolling marks my appetite going -- just the edge, mind you -- still plenty of room left for three square meals a day.)
Report from the front brings us 21,000 yards from Cherbourg on the west coast. The Germans have evidently removed the casements from some of their large guns so as to be able to shoot inland. To go in the front door after them would be second grade suicide -- but we may have to do just that before
Found out today by incidental questioning that Col. Campbell graduated from West Point in the same class with Jack (Pouffie) Connor. Wager that Jack is no Lieutenant Colonel -- knowing for a short time his capacity to get into trouble. When last heard from he had just been expelled from flight training for flying through a hangar. (That was way back in 1938.)
2310:- Report that enemy planes are bombing the beach in rather heavy concentration. (This is fan-tail spotting -- and the facts may very well be that the planes are ours instead of German.)
Posted by E. Belanger at 21:39
25 July 2013
D + 12
0030:- Flares reported close off our starboard bow. Considerable A.A. fire coming from beach directly ahead. Also directly ahead are some float lights that the enemy uses to sight on targets. Just how far ahead is not stated. They may be getting ready to tee off on this concentration of ships. (All of this information comes to us via Patty Duffy on the bridge, -- is broadcast to the whole crew, and suffers from understatement in consequence. For additional information we must depend on talkers from numbers 5 and 6 A.A. gun mounts and on the main deck aft -- 40 mm -- and upon a tie up with the after repair party forward of us. The latter has the more reliable word of the two.
0037:- C.I.C. reports all signals weak (Radar) at this time -- no report on flares.
0055:- Hostile plane overhead -- dove down and deposited something in the water about 50 yards off the port bow. As the bridge dispatches report : “We all ducked.” There was no explosion. (But they have our range.) Unless the above described “something” is a torpedo, as is quite probable - as there is considerable A.A. fire just ahead of us.
0110:- Destroyer O’BRIEN 9500 yards ahead reports being bombed -- six bombs dropped, nearest 100 yards off stern -- no damage.
0115:- Set modified Zebra.
0130:- Secure from G.Q.
2235:- Almost holdiay routine today. Morning sick call, church over the RBO system. We gather every Sunday in the Sick Bay ward -- take up a novel attitude for prayer squatting on the pipe edges of the lower bunks. Don Legg conducts the Protestant services and Ensign Duffy the Catholic services, both with the aid of Phil Spitalny’s all girl chorus and Nelson Eddy (The Lord’s Prayer). The Chaplain is somewhat disturbed because the only records he has left are “Day is Dying in the West” and “Now the Day is Over” -- and the services are always held at midday.
To reinforce the holiday there were letters waiting when we awoke this morning -- (Five from Jane, one from Mother, and one from Olivia.) Two of Jane’s and Mother’s and Olivia’s were written post D-Day
and their spirit was fine. More power to the home front.
We are at G.Q. again awaiting our nightly visitation. There is a high light overcast tonight -- not sufficient, however, to interfere with bombing operations. In the operations shack this evening about 2000 balking with Col. Campbell. Our troops now have a strip completely across the base of the peninsula about six miles wide. No further reports of demolition from Cherbourg. There is no retreat for the German troops in the Cherbourg peninsula now. 20,000 to 30,000 yroops -- and it will be a fight to the finish, as our sea power will prevent any evacuation. Report just substantiated that Lieutenant Barclay, Senior Aviator, has been missing in action over France since 6 June. Our aviators left coast of England via the Isle of Wight where they were given Spitfires to fly and fight. My first roommate, Walt Lathrop, is with them -- a real aviator, Walt, and a real screwball.
2400:- Two of the cans -- one off the starboard quarter, one off the stern, firing at some undisclosed target, evidently low to the water. Land batteries are spraying us with shrapnel every so ofter -- no damage as yet.
Posted by E. Belanger at 15:08
24 July 2013
D + 11
0130:- Secure from G.Q. Poor flying weather because of low ceiling.
1430:- Routine this A.M. Clear and windy day. Quarters for muster at 1315 -- holding general field day throughout the ship this afternoon. Some promise of more activity next week sometime. (Probably an offensive against Cherbourg -- as the Army is already maneuvering into position. This should be quite a
show -- as the city is well defended.) Will go to G.Q. again tonight to await our beloved playmates.
2240:- At G.Q. Standing off just out of sight of land. Sea calm, weather clear. Visibility unlimited. This is the night of nights for bombing attacks. Spent some time in the shack where bombing and artillery operations are controlled under the command of Col Campbell, U.S.A. (Who, incidentally, is my roommate. Very fine chap, -- thoroughly competent.) Shore operations going very well. We hope to cut completely across the base of the Cherbourg peninsula with our advanced units tonight. The Germans have already started their demolition of Cherbourg and it is rumored that the personnel evacuation has already begun. We will carry out a frontal attack of shore based artillery in support of the Army in the very near future.
Fifteen sacks of mail aboard tonight. Several morale boosters probably on their way right now, Grass Gott!
2250:- Waiting now.
Posted by E. Belanger at 08:27
23 July 2013
D + 10
0030:- Time enough to go topside -- not much activity, a few star shells and flashes of bombing in the distance, just in the sack when back to G.Q. we went. Somewhat more activity this trip, but nothing landed really close.
0145:- Secured from G.Q.
1000:- Routine day. Just trying for a short nap. Am reading Hans Zinnser’s “Rats, Lice and History.” Excellent.
2015:- Going to G.Q. at about 2215 tonight.
2215:- At G.Q. Listening to some fairly good stuff on the radio (Bing Crosby, Fred Allen, Jimmy Durante.)
2400:- Some activity along the beach. Germans have dropped some lighted markers lining up the transport. P.T. boats recovering and extinguishing same. Occasional plane overhead -- no near misses tonight. The distant sound (and feeling) of bombs dropping is evident at widely spaced intervals.
Posted by E. Belanger at 19:59
22 July 2013
D + 9
0145:- Secure from G.Q.
0225:- Returned to bed -- just dropping off when the whistle screamed again. Back to G.Q. Enemy aircraft have been dropping flares lighting up the whole sector. Bombing the beach rather briskly -- considerable anti-aircraft barrage from our shore installations. We can here the explosions here below decks. All in readiness -- waiting.
0305:- Quiet -- waiting.
0530:- Secure from G.Q. Daylight. Had a little nap between 0400 and 0530. Returned to bed (again!)
1015:- Up at 0730. Routine sick call. Trying to teach myself to type -- very laborious -- hard to keep awake this morning. This morning’s press news -- that we have temporarily lost Montebourg, Tilly and Troard. Also a note in the news that Secretary Forrestal in his weekly press conference published the names of the ships of war making up this American portion of the Allied Fleet. (Battle ships NEVADA, ARKANSAS, and TEXAS, cruisers AUGUSTA, TUSCALOOSA, and QUINCY.) Now we know -- as we have suspected -- that the people at home are aware of our location and probable function. It is rather disquieting to realize the tremendous concern that they must feel. Wish we could let them know that we are secure -- at least for the moment.
2400:- Prophylactic G.Q. (I hope). Not much activity during this period. Some A.A. fire from the beach and an occasional plane heard overhead. We are now flag for Com. Task Force 129 Made up of the U.S.S. NEVADA, ARKANSAS, and TEXAS (battleships) and the U.S.S. TUSCALOOSA, QUINCY, AUGUSTA, H.M.S. BLACK PRINCE, ENTERPRISE, GLASGOW, and WARSPITE along with about 15-20 cans. Our job will be to support the 1st U.S.A. in the conquest of the Cherbourg peninsula. At present we are all sitting here like clay pigeons -- firing an occasional salvo while the Nazis drop their calling cards at night. Somebody certainly was fouled up when it came to supplying ammunition for this evolution. Imagine planning an invasion and then having insufficient ammunition. (Situation soon corrected.) It is bad for the crew’s morale to sit here just taking it and not being able to dish it out in return. These battle wagons are really quite defenseless against night bombing activity, as radar isn’t sensitive enough to control A.A. fire. So far we haven’t fired a shot at enemy aircraft. The talk among the crew is “Wo ist die Luftwaffe?” -- and the chances are fairly good that we will discover “where” before this is through, for we have some weeks yet to go before our part of the task can be secured.
Posted by E. Belanger at 08:32
21 July 2013
D + 8
1005:- Routine this AM. H-Div. holding field day. Weather clear, rather gusty with overlaying clouds at the horizon. QUINCY firing an occasional salvo. Other than that there is little activity at present. Montebourg reported in allied hands with fierce fighting concentrated around Caen. Laundry has just returned -- looks good enough to eat after three days in one shirt and seven in one pair of trousers. A little later in the day will take a shower and then appear in all resplendent glory.
2315:- In bed -- five minutes before lights out, when a loud concussion was felt off our starboard bow, followed immediately by G.Q. Had removed socks before retiring for the first time since the invasion began (Damn!) Clothes on in a flash and back here in the C.P.O. headquarters in a good deal less time than it takes to tell about it. It is reported that a rocket bomb, (radar controlled, detonation time 1:57 sec.) landed between us and the ARKANSAS -- 100 yards off the ARKANSAS. Must be rather nasty babies to mess with. Waiting with some degree of expectation for what may be coming next. First excitement since we returned from Plymouth.
2327:- Second concussion slightly farther away -- 800 yards off.
Posted by E. Belanger at 13:10
20 July 2013
D + 7
1300:- Quiet day thus far. Allied forces kept up a constant and terrific bombing of the invasion coast last night concentrating on Valognes in this sector. Carentens fell into allied hands yesterday as the progress acros the base of the Cherbourg peninsula continues. News is scarce here -- we get most of our information from the BBC, despite the fact that the news is being created in sight of our directives. Windy topside -- sufficiently so as to interfere with landing operations. Medical department work merely routine -- more watchful waiting. Health of the crew excellent so far, and morale likewise.
2300:- Brings the end of another day. Rather heavy sick call tonight -- turned in three (two CFA’s, one early pneumonitis). Nothing serious. Spent the evening walking with the chaplain, talking with our second case of combat fatigue, and adding a few words to a letter to Jane. All is quiet outside -- 40 mm and 5” guns manned for the night. Lights out -- heading for the sack.
Posted by E. Belanger at 21:35
This is not my story.
I am only the middle-man, acting as a proxy for my family and others. Thus, when there was discussion amongst family members concerning the publishing of this blog, I halted in respect of their wishes.
As of now, I have been given permission to continue. However, if any further issues come up, be assured I would pull this blog in a second.
And so, though it's been over a year, let us continue. Instead of waiting another year to resume publishing on the dates of the diary entries, I'll do one-a-day.
Thank you for reading.
Thank you for reading.
- The Granddaughter
Posted by E. Belanger at 21:33