06 June 2007

My own connection to the 6th of June

As I write this it is the 6th of June. This date is pretty historic for a number of reasons, just historical items that occurred today:

  • 1862- The Battle of Memphis occurs in the American Civil War.
  • 1918- The Battle of Belleau Wood begins during the First World War. It was during this day that the USMC was award the name "Teufelshunde" from their German opponents. "Teufelshunde" roughly translates into Devil Dog.
  • 1942- The second day of operations during the Battle of Midway. The Japanese fleet is trying to retire and Spruance and Fletcher are conducting searches to make sure that another part of the Japanese fleet is not sneaking up on the two carriers left following the strikes on the 4th and 5th of June. Meanwhile the USS Yorktown is taken under tow by a fleet tug and they are attempting to make either Midway lagoon or Pearl Harbor to make repairs.
  • 1944-Operation Overlord or the Invasion of Normandy, France begins.

It is with moment in history that I have my own connection to this historic event. On my mother's side of the family, both my grandfather and his brother (my uncle) joined the Navy during World War 2. My grandfather served as a Aviation Machinist Mate in a training squadron in at NAS Corpus Christ, TX. Meanwhile my uncle went to pharmacists mate and went to serve in the Atlantic. In as far as I have been able to track he was assigned in 1943 to a pre-commissioning crew for LST-280. Sailed with LST-280 to England and in 1944 loaded up for the big invasion. He was the Pharmacists Mate on duty that morning when the LST made her run into one of the American beaches on day. Though they didn't deliver their cargo until well after the beachhead was secured that day. After that they were part of the run to deliver more troops and supplies to the beach head over the next few weeks. It on one of the return trips to England that his ship was attacked by a German U-boat. According to the the family story as my aunt has told me, my uncle's ship was part of a convoy of transports and supply ships heading back to the English coast on the night of 15JUN44. His ship was transporting some wounded men from the fighting on the Normandy coast back to better hospitals in England. He has just assumed the watch in the LST's sick bay when a torpedo struck the side of the ship. The torpedo hit the compartment that my uncle slept in and his relief just laid down in. Killed him and according to the family story, along with some of the other men asleep in their bunks that night in the compartment. A couple hours of fire-fighting and damage control efforts later the fire was out, the hole in the ship of the ship patched enough for the ship to continue on back to England and made port. The dead were taken ashore to be buried and life continued on for the crew of this LST. Near the end of 1944 he went home to the east coast and was transferred to a Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Virginia for the rest of the war.

Unfortunately for me, my uncle passed on due to a heart attack a few years before I was born. So the most I have to run on is family stories from my grandparents and my aunt. Those along with some stories from some of my great-cousins are about all I know of the man. We have pictures as well, that though just isn't the same. The thing I would love to do when I get the time is file a request with the US National Archives and Records Administration for his service jacket and create a shadow box of all his awards, duty stations, ranks, and put in one corner a folded up American Flag and in another corner a picture of him that she has in his dress blues as a PH1. Give that to her for a birthday or Christmas. Now I just need to dig up his original service number and his full name, to do all of that.

Anyhow, that is my little connection to the 6th of June and the invasion of Normandy.

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