07 October 2013

15 August 1944 - The Invasion of Southern France

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.

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