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PREPARATIONS FOR THE INVASIONJack Mills, 210 MP Co.
When we moved to Camp Picket, Virginia we started with our "Amphibious Training". We didn't know what it was or meant until later, but we were training for the D-Day landing in Normandy. This was where they took us out from the beach to an old ship anchored off shore out side the breakers in the rough water and we had to climb a rope ladder, it really wasn't a ladder but was a large rope net like thing slung over the side of the ship.
The little LCP (Landing Craft Personnel) boat that we came out in, to the mothership was bouncing around like a cork, riding the waves, sometimes it was closer to the top of the ship and when the big wave passed it would be way down there. Now mind you, all this had to be done in the roughest seas that could be had, and this was done with a full field pack, now a full field pack weighed about 70 pounds and that old long Enfield Rifle, it came in around 9 or 10 pounds, and when we would finally get back on land we had to clean that damned old gun an we never did shoot it, I don't know if it would shoot or not but we cleaned it anyhow.
When the LCP would ride up on that big wave that was the time to grab that net and you had to climb like an ape, because that LCP was trying to get your leg between it and the mother ship. You had to beat the next wave and we would get wetter than a dog, and that water was cold, as it was in late September or thereabouts, then after we had got on top of the ship and we would get warm and dry, it was time to climb back down into that LCP," Landing Craft Personnel", and get wet all over again, this went on all day.
Training continued when we arrived in England. We had Amphibious training all winter, riding those "Ducks" out in the Ocean and climbing those rope nets. I took Pneumonia for the second time and pulled a stint in the hospital. I seen a 6x6 truck one night follow a "Duck" out in the ocean and the Duck just kept going and pretty soon the 6x6 drowned out and was stuck, and there it sat the next morning, just the top sticking out of the water, after the tide came in. We were only allowed to use "cat eyes" on the vehicles and this 6x6 didn't know where he was going and he was just following the tail lights on that "Duck".
The area I was stationed was sealed off from the outside with very strict security measures. No one was allowed outside of our designated area and if caught outside after dark, it was said that we would be shot on the spot. The security was very strict and we marched everywhere that we had to go under guard. One boy went out on a supply truck and mailed a letter to his girlfriend back in Wales and he was only gone for about 2 hours and when they came back the FBI had the letter and was waiting for him. He hadn't said anything in the letter that was of any military significance and he got off with a good chewing out. We just wasn't allowed to write, or talk to any civilians, period.
On June 3, l944 we were loaded in trucks and headed for our ship to load for the invasion. (I am not certain about these times and can't say for sure). It took us about 30 hours to travel less that 20 miles. That was a miserable trip. The trucks would move about 20 feet and stop for awhile and then move another few feet, this went on for around 30 hours and they said the reason for the slow going was that the Germans were coming over at night and taking pictures of the coastline and by the trucks moving so slow it was made to look like that there was a convoy going to the harbor but it wasn't moving much if any but we finally got loaded on the LST "Landing Ship Tank". This is a ship that carries tanks and trucks, the front of it opened in the middle and each half swung outward like doors on hinges and then a ramp come down for the vehicles to go down on.
The best books about D-day. Find them here... Father's day present?
Jack Mills: From leaving the port too approaching the coastWe got under way about midnight of June 4th, 1944 and hadn't gone very far out and a bad storm turned us back. We left again the next night, I don't remember what time it was, on June 5, 1944 and this time we went on to rendezvous with others off the coast of France and laid up until daylight.
During the night as we were anchored at our staging area, we had an air raid by the Germans and the ship we was on was shooting those Bofors ( a 4 barrel gun) and it was really spitting out those shells and the LST we were on got credit for knocking one plane down and it lay about 50 yards from us and burned. Our ship really done some backing away to get out of the light of that fire as it lay there and burned. We didn't see a pilot and I guess he was killed instantly when it hit or when his plane was hit. Our ship got credit for knocking it down. Those bofors were really spitting out the brass.
The first thing that we seen that morning when it got light was a dead sailor floating in his life jacket, he was heading out to sea and no one stopped to pick him up, I don't know what happened to him. He was standing upright in his lifejacket
JJ Mills: Landing on Omaha in the Afternoon210th Military Police Company
I was laying on top of a truck loaded with ammo with one of my buddies and he said we better get off this truck because it might get a hit. I ask him where we would go because if the truck went the entire ship would go because it was loaded with ammo and if it went the whole ship would go and there was no place to go so we just laid there on the truck. We laid there in the water until the afternoon before we off loaded on the LCP boats and we went in and in the meantime before we off loaded, we watched a duel with a U.S.Cruiser or some such ship and German gun emplacement on land.
Our company was Part of the 5th Engineer Special Brigade amphibious, and if I remember right, attached to the 22nd Corp. We were trained for the invasion and was only supposed to be over there for the invasion and come back home but you know the best laid plans of mice and men sometimes go awry. 2 years and 2 months later we come home.
The beach was the best planned defense that could be had and why we had to pick that particular place to make an invasion, I will never understand. The first thing that boats met coming in toward the beach was poles drove in the ground and each one had a mine on top of it. The next thing was the mined beach and then barb wire entanglements. After that was a moat like ditch filled with water and then about a 30 or 40 foot ditch filled with those little round rolly rocks that a truck or tank could not pull through if they got that far. It was really well planned out but even with all that it was finally taken over.
We never went in until late in the afternoon (Omaha-Fox-Red was our destination) and the carnage was such that it is hard to imagine or describe. I had never dreamed that in my life time that I would ever see so many dead people. You could not walk on that beach without stepping on or over arms, legs, heads or parts of bodies. There was bodies everywhere and parts and pieces of bodies, this is the mildest way that I can describe it. I heard that there was over 3000 killed that day there and the total had reached over 8000 that was buried in the cemetery that was established just on top of the hill above Normandy beach. Later on the burial teams stacked the bodies like cordwood awaiting identification and burial and there was a bunch of stacks. This is the only way to describe it and I know it is not pleasant to read about and at times it is not pleasant to try to recall either. That's one reason that I never much wanted to try to recall it. We lost several of our guys that day but I don't remember just how many killed. I guess that we were lucky that we lost no more than we did. Our Captain, tried to hide under a blanket and just lay there crying, "they're gonna kill me". He was scared nearly to death. The beach was mined everywhere and they had a mine called the "S" mine and if you stepped on one and heard a click, you dared not lift your foot because if you did that was when it jumped out of the ground and exploded a few inches above the ground, it was filled with schrapnel or steel marbles. We stayed there on the beach that night and moved inland the next morning. The Germans came back that night with the planes but very little damage was done and our anti-aircraft laid down a barrage like you never seen and knocked one down that I seen. AA got him and he flew a long way before he exploded and went down.