Thursday, June 07, 2012

D-Day

I grew up Air Force and when I enlisted in the Navy my father related to me that he had experienced just a few days with the Navy, during World War Two, and had been favorably impressed.

He had quit flying because the USAAF decided they needed medical officers more than they needed pilots, and he was getting bored. In addition, his quarters in Northern England rather sucked; inadequately heated, no hot water, and the food was terrible. He saw a bulletin asking for medical volunteers for a mission that would be “interesting, adventurous and possibly hazardous,” and decided to apply for it.

He reported a few days later, to a Navy ship; an LST. That formally stands for Landing Ship, Tank, but they were known by their crews as Large Stationary Targets, even though by oceangoing standards they were not all that large. They were certainly large by landing craft standards, and they were certainly slow, but to an Army Air Force Captain the craft seemed very large, complex and baffling.

The crew kept calling him “Major,” and he kept telling them he was a Captain, to which they would reply that a ship could have only one Captain. That confused him even further because the guy they kept calling “Captain” was a Second Lieutenant who was actually, of course, an Ensign.

Nonetheless, he slept in a warm bunk, had a hot shower and ate roast beef for the first time in months. He also drank the best coffee he’d had since he’d been Stateside, so he decided the Navy was a pretty good place to be. Then I told him I was volunteering for the submarine service and he decided he’d raised a complete idiot.

Anyway his purpose was to tend wounded on the return trip from Omaha Beach on D-Day. “Possibly hazardous,” forsooth. He didn’t talk about that part of it, but I did find out that he made some six trips over the next several days. Like most veterans of that war, he didn’t talk about the hard times.

2 comments:

bruce said...

good story. I'd heard about the two captains, I can see why it would be confusing to a non-navy person. please share more if you have them...

Bartender Cabbie said...

A good story and well worth repeating. People are starting to forget the sacrifice that was made on that day.
My father, an old army infranty man, did not understand naval ranks either. He found it odd that our Lt Commander (Major to him( only was in command of about 45-50 people. The fact that he was the captain of a (rather small) ship did not seem to register.

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