31 July 2013

23 June 1944

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.

30 July 2013

22 June 1944

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.

28 July 2013

21 June 1944

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.

27 July 2013

20 June 1944

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.

26 July 2013

19 June 1944

D + 13

0030:- Quiet.

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 
Cherbourg falls.

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.)

25 July 2013

18 June 1944

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.

2300:- Waiting.

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.

24 July 2013

17 June 1944

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.

23 July 2013

16 June 1944

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.

22 July 2013

15 June 1944

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.

21 July 2013

14 June 1944

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.

20 July 2013

13 June 1944

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.

Message From the Admin: Pauses, Breaks, and New Beginnings

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.

- The Granddaughter