Casualties of War

Blue and Gray symbol of the 29th Infantry Division

Blue and Gray symbol of the 29th Infantry Division

When John Gallaher McConnell was old enough to go to war his father told him two things: one, he would be going to England for the drive on France, and two, be careful of Scots, they anger quickly.

John’s father, Alfred, was a coal miner who had experience with Scots. He had married one. Together the elder McConnells raised John and his three older brothers in Moundsville, West Virginia. The town was tight knit, and diverse. Native West Virginians lived with and intermarried people from Germany, Austria, Poland and Hungary.

John's letter to his mother January 2nd 1944: Dear Mom, If you do not get this letter let me know and I will mail it. I cannot tell you where I am because I am not there. I can't tell you where I am going because I haven't gone yet. I am not back yet because I haven't gone yet. I don't know what I am going to do because I haven't done it yet. Well all joking aside, I am in New York City on a pass. I am stationed at Camp Shanks N.Y. and don't know where I am going nor when. I hope I go where Paul is but I am not that lucky

John’s letter to his mother January 2nd 1944:
Dear Mom,
If you do not get this letter let me know and I will mail it.
I cannot tell you where I am because I am not there. I can’t tell you where I am going because I haven’t gone yet. I am not back yet because I haven’t gone yet. I don’t know what I am going to do because I haven’t done it yet.
Well all joking aside, I am in New York City on a pass. I am stationed at Camp Shanks N.Y. and don’t know where I am going nor when. I hope I go where Paul is but I am not that lucky

When John joined the army he was sent to the Infantry. He spent New Year’s 1944 in New York City. By February he was sailing overseas. John’s father’s guess was correct. John went to England. John wrote his family. He saw his brother in London and experienced the wartime blackout. He sent his money home and invested in war bonds. He wanted the money to start his own small business when he was back in West Virginia. He wrote his father asking him join him in business. He didn’t want either of them to worry about someone else telling them what and how to do things anymore. The nineteen year old had  plans for his future. He just had to survive until he could make them happen.

Private McConnell was assigned to Company C, 175th Infantry Regiment of the  29th Infantry Division. They wore a blue and gray yin-yang symbol on their shoulders and helmets. The blue and gray represented the Union and Confederate background of the states from which the men came. The 29th Division had been in England since 1942. The 29th impressed the generals in training enough to be picked for the first wave of the D-Day assault. The generals weren’t worried about the beaches anyway. The navy and air force would destroy any defenses before the men got there. The tough battles would be inland.

John McConnell landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day plus one, June 7th. The 175th was the reserve regiment. They had waited offshore as other two regiments of the 29th landed on June 6th. The day after D-Day Omaha Beach was still not secured. Machine gun and sniper fire came in on the men and landing craft exploded when they hit underwater mines. The shore was covered with metal remnants from the invasion. Bodies floated in on the tide and littered the shore. The dead were 29th Division men. Men who had trained two years to fight and died within minutes. They lay in contorted forms in their own blood. The only thing the men of the 175th could do for their comrades was try not to step on them.

The helmet John McConnell wore through the war

The helmet John McConnell wore through the war

In Normandy, the nineteen year old from Moundsville was thrown into small towns like Gruchy and Isigny.  He fought his way across the Aure River. As the army advanced from the shore towns to the hedgerow country, the terrain changed to sunken lanes and massive walls of brush that blocked out the light. Dead cattle lay bloated in the sun alongside bodies of soldiers. The Germans waited in the hedgerows until the Americans were at point blank range before opening fire. The 29th took heavy losses; some companies losing almost every man within weeks of the invasion.

29th Division men rest during the battle for Brest, France

29th Division men rest during the battle for Brest, France

John learned how to act in combat. He learned the hard way: making assaults on towns and flanking farmhouses through open fields under machine gun fire. He learned to kill or be killed. He survived. By July he was promoted to Private First Class and took part in the attack on St. Lo. He fought in the French port of Brest in September. By October he was a Staff Sergeant, one of few original men left. The kid whose brothers used to tease him about being a brat was a squad leader. The “brat” now commanded men in battle.

On November 19th, 1944, the 29th Infantry Division was fighting through West Germany. The 175th was attacking the town of Schleiden. John’s Company C gave fire support to other 175th men who moved forward with chemical mortars and tanks. The enemy was not eager to surrender. It had taken two days of killing before Schleiden was in U.S. hands. The town was no different than the dozens of small towns the 29th had gone through in six months of fighting. It cost the lives of friends and exterminated those of the enemy. The shattered streets and smashed houses held mangled bodies or death from a hidden enemy. Schleiden was no different from the towns before and the towns after. They all smelled of death.  For Staff Sergeant McConnell, Schleiden was the last fight. After six months at the front he was labeled a non-battle casualty and was sent to a hospital off the line.

GI's advancing in towns walk by dead comrades

GI’s advancing in towns walk by dead comrades

When the war was won, John went back to Moundsville, West Virginia. He got married and took a job at Columbia Southern Alkali. America was entering a new age of prosperity but John McConnell had a hard time settling down. Maybe he had trouble at home or perhaps he could not forget what he had seen and did as a nineteen year old in Normandy, Brest, Northern France and the Rhineland. In 1952, at age twenty seven, John McConnell hanged himself.

A picture of John's captioned "My Squad"

A picture of John’s captioned “My Squad”

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Gunshot

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The war was almost over. Germany in March 1945 was cold and crisp, with a pale gray tint over the ruined countryside. It was quiet as Lieutenant Hecker’s jeep drove down the road. Europe was a hulk of shattered cities. The Third Reich was in ruins, its soldiers surrendering by the thousands to the American Army, but still Germany fought on. Lieutenant Hecker rode with his men, Private First Class William L. Piper and James Wardley.  They had been together through Northern France, the Hurtgen Forest and the Battle of the Bulge. Now they drove in the enemies heartland. Hecker knew the end of the war was in sight. He knew all they needed to do was stay alive a little longer. What he didn’t know was his jeep was driving toward a buried land mine.

Norbert A. Hecker

Norbert A. Hecker

Norbert A. Hecker was a not a soldier by trade. He hadn’t planned on knowing things like range, targeting and trajectory. He was a clerk who compiled reports on factory labor costs and production. When  he graduated college he thought he would be behind a desk not leading men into battle. He entered the army in 1942, and was assigned to the 8th Infantry Division’s 28th Field Artillery code named “Gunshot” .

Lieutenant Hecker was a Forward Observer. His mission was to report where artillery strikes landed and find new targets to attack. Forward Observers had a short life span on the front lines.  It wasn’t just the enemy that was dangerous, if the observer made a mistake and the coordinates were wrong, or someone else was careless, the called in artillery could land short, right on him.

When the 28th Field Artillery sent out fire, they radioed “Gunshot on the way!”. “Gunshot on the way” was friendly artillery that stopped the advancing waves of enemy armor and infantry, “Gunshot on the way” took out gun emplacements slaughtering pinned down American GI’s. It was that call that could make the winning difference on the battlefield. It was men like Norbert Hecker who brought the gunshot down on the enemy. He knew men were counting on him, that he must complete his mission at all cost. His radio calls could mean dozens or hundreds more men going home alive. It was men like Norbert Hecker who made small towns all over the United States proud of their boys.

Lieutenant Hecker in Dress Uniform

Lieutenant Hecker in Dress Uniform

In Hecker’s home town of Menasha, Wisconsin, the local paper followed news about its 1,384 residents serving in the World War. The daily paper got the residents atuned to where its boys were fighting and what they were doing. It gave folks the little picture they wanted to see of the big show; the news about the boys they used to see on the streets and in church. The paper spread news of men and women who had been promoted or seen action in big battles. When a local boy got a medal for heroism, the whole town knew. They also heard when a man was wounded, or when a someone’s son would not be coming home.

If Norbert Hecker and his men had been walking, they would have been safe. The mine in their path was a teller mine; a circular, anti-tank device filled with five and a half kilograms of TNT. It had a high pressure fuse and needed a vehicle to set it off.

Hecker’s jeep exploded when it ignited the weapon.  James Wardley, by some miracle, was unhurt. Bill Piper, was wounded but alive. They found Hecker covered in blood with his eardrums blown out. But he was breathing. The three men helped each other up.  Hecker’s helmet had a huge dent on the top from the exploding debris. Their jeep was destroyed and two of them were wounded. Hecker put his helmet back on, looked at his men, and they continued to the front.  The war wasn’t over yet. Until it was finished, Norbert Hecker would see his mission to the end.

Norbert A. Hecker's wartime mementos.

Norbert A. Hecker’s wartime mementos.

The dent on Lt. Hecker's Helmet

The dent on Lt. Hecker’s Helmet

The Phantom Renegade

 

The crest of the "Phantom Renegade"

The crest of the “Phantom Renegade”

The first puffs of flak appeared at 20:00 hours, thirty minutes to target. The explosions were far away and sporadic. There were no enemy fighters, just the drone of four-engine bombers and their P-51 and P-38 escorts in the long summer evening. It was six miles southwest of Paris. Across the English Channel, thousands of ships and men sat ready for the largest seaborne invasion in history. They would land four days later, on June 6th. In the sky above France, a B-24 Liberator, named the “Phantom Renegade” was making its way toward the war.

 When he was twelve Charles W. “Bill” Getz rode his bicycle out to Smith Field in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. From nine he had an interest in aviation. Being older he wanted to make it a bigger part of his life. Bill washed aircraft, sold tickets and did anything that gave him a reason to be there. The local pilots paid him by taking him into the air. When they felt he earned it they would allow him the control stick and let him guide the plane as it soared above Indiana.

 The boy was more than just a blind eyed enthusiast. His mind was logical, decisive and calculating, soaking up new information. Skills that would later serve him working with the first computers, in the fledging ballistic missile project, and earn him a PhD. 

 There was also an attraction to disclipine in him.   When other boys wanted to be sports stars or cowboys, Bill wanted to be a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Everything from that point in his life would direct him to that end. He talked his parents into sending him to a military boarding high school in Chicago. To pay for tuition, he waited tables, did kitchen work, and cleaned and delivered laundry at the school. He worked the manual telephone switchboard on weekends and traveled in summer with the school commandant, finding new recruits. When the war started he got signed permission from his parents to enlist. He soloed at seventeen, and was a commissioned officer at eighteen.

 B-24 pilot Charles W. Getz (photo courtesy of Bill Getz)

B-24 pilot Charles W. Getz (photo courtesy of Bill Getz)

By nineteen, he was commanding a crew of ten men—four officers including him and six enlisted men. The officers first met in a cow barn turned barracks in Salt Lake City, Utah, and they met the enlisted men on the train ride to crew training. They were a group of teenagers and guys in their early twenties. A few months ago they were civilians, kids in high school or college. Lieutenant Getz would turn them into a team of warriors. They were assigned to the 852nd Bomb Squadron of the 491st  Bomb Group. In Pueblo, Colorado they got their airplane, a brand new B-24J Liberator serial # 42-110186.

The Getz crew decided they didn’t need the frivoulous names and naked ladies other men painted on their planes. His crew wanted a coat of arms and a motto. Proper crests had latin, but no one knew any. Instead they pieced together French from a dictionary. They named the ship “Le Simulacre Renégat” which was supposed to mean “The Phantom Renegade”, the motto: “L’esprit Des Ceux Que Nous Animous” was meant to be “In the spirit of those we love”. Their crest bore a cross, and a bottle of moonshine, since spirits could be either holy or drunk, a 50. caliber machine gun, and a bomb to symbolize the weapons of war. The coat of arms decided, Bill had patches printed on white leather for the crew.

 A month after he turned twenty years old, Bill was flying lead position in the low element of the 852nd Bomb Squadron, 491st Bomb Group. The Phantom Renegade was one of thirty seven 491st B-24’s sent out. It was their time first over enemy territory. The mission was easy, as simple as running to the store for a bottle of milk: an airfield in Bretigny out of range of the flak guns guarding Paris. The 489th Bomb Group was in front. They had flown their first mission three days previously. Now they were leading the seventy-seven B-24’s of the 95th Combat Wing into battle.

The crew of the Phantom Renegade: standing left to right: Voyles, Getz, Crow  front row left to right: Picariello, Turnipseed, Howser, Souter, Hawks. (photo courtesy of Bill Getz)

The crew of the Phantom Renegade: standing left to right: Voyles, Getz, Crow
front row left to right: Picariello, Turnipseed, Howser, Souter, Hawks.
(photo courtesy of Bill Getz)

At 20:30 hours, the sky was black with exploding shells. The 489th had missed the turn at the Initial Point planned to take everyone around the flak batteries protecting Paris. Instead they were taking the direct approach, leading everyone into one of the biggest anti-aircraft concentrations in Western Europe. The 489th opened their bomb bays as they began their bomb run. Bombers were getting hit, pieces flying off; B-24’s exploding in mid-air, their debris falling 19,000 feet to the ground below.

 If Bill Getz was the worrying type he would worry about what a flaming piece of metal would do if it hit the 500 pound bombs and gasoline the Renegade carried. He might worry that enemy fighters would swarm their formation. He might worry his crippled plane might spiral into the clouds without a trace and all his parents would get would be a “missing in action” telegram.

 But Bill Getz wasn’t planning on War Department telegrams or getting shot down. He had faith in himself and his crew. They had discipline, discipline he spent a quarter of his life learning.  Second Lieutenant Getz was a commisioned officer before he could vote or buy a beer. He knew his men would follow his instructions without question. His instinct and training told him a crew with disclipine was a crew that would make it home. The only thing that ran through Bill Getz’s mind on a mission was flying his plane in formation and mentally reviewing what to do if an emergency arose. He knew with focus, discipline, and preparation he’d be o.k.  He figured that whatever happened,if the Renegade got hit, he would be able to assess it and decide the best, logical course of action.

B-24's flying through flak

B-24’s flying through flak

But going through a field of flak is not logical, it’s random. You don’t know when or where the flak will hit you, or how badly. Whether the shell will expode far away or right in the cockpit. The only certainty is you will get hit and the rest is up to chance. In Bill Getz’s rational mind, chance was the deal breaker. It threw all the logic out the window and replaced it with sheer terror. He knew the reality of reaching an escape hatch, burdened down with heavy flying clothing, in a spiraling or burning B-24 was very small. But Bill Getz didn’t dwell on it. He was an optimist.

 The 489th could not find the target. Clouds were seeping in, obscuring the airfield. Only three quarters of the planes could drop their bombs. The 489th headed to a secondary target, farther north.

Clouds from the nose of  the Renegade (photo coutesy of Bill Getz)

Clouds from the nose of the Renegade (photo coutesy of Bill Getz)

 The 491st began their bomb run. The distant rumble of exploding flak drew closer. Four miles below, the Germans were shooting at them. The muffled rumble of anti-aircraft guns shook the whole bomb group as the planes flew straight and level, unable to deviate from their course. Cordite filled the cold air, flak edging closer to the formation with each explosion. The Renegade went into a dive. The engines whining as the plane dove, gaining speed. Everything not screwed down went to the ceiling. Bill Getz looked to Co-Pilot Johnny Crow who had jammed the stick forward. Crow pointed his left thumb skyward. A B-24 fell on them, its cockpit shattered, a flaming hole of metal and pipes in the wing where an engine had once been. The drone of the dying bomber grew louder and louder. In the top turret, Marion Turnipseed let out a scream as he saw the approaching wreck. Then it was silent. The burning bomber missed them, clearing the Renegade by a few feet before it trailed down into the clouds. Bill Getz rejoined formation and continued the bomb run.

A B-24 hit by flak, breaks up.

A B-24 hit by flak, breaks up.

 

It was getting darker. Cloud cover prevented most of the 491st from dropping their bombs as well. They followed the 489th to the secondary target at Creil. The 489th again chose the most direct route, this time over Paris. The blacked out Champs-Élysées and Eiffel Tower stood as dark beacons in what was once The City of Light. Through the shadows of the veiled city lights flickered as flak batteries brought their sights upon the bombers, ripping into their formation. Orange flashes of exploding shells illuminated the twilight sky. The flak followed them over Paris, all the way to Criel and bombs away. The 489th again deviated from the flight plan and led the formation home over the heavily defended areas over Beauvais, Rouen and Dieppe.

 By the time the 491st returned home, the green and brown patchwork fields of England were fading into the darkness. Flying over Selsly-Bill, they could see the supply depots and thousands of ships that lay in the harbors waiting for the invasion of Europe. As the Renegade taxied to the hardstand, her engines sputtered and died. Of the B-24s of the 95th Combat wing sent out, two crash landed, and fifty nine suffered damage, one severe. Sixty one out of seventy-seven planes were damaged. Five were shot down, with fifty men, a loss of seven percent. It didn’t take much analysis to realize that seven percent losses on each mission gave an individual crew no statistical chance to complete the thirty missions required  for a tour of duty in 1944.

The Phantom Renegade comes in for a landing (Photo courtesy of Bill Getz)

The Phantom Renegade comes in for a landing (Photo courtesy of Bill Getz)

 Some men decided they were on borrowed time and decided to enjoy what they had left. Bill Getz was not one of those men. He held onto his optimism. He was focused on the job he had to do and the discipline he needed to accomplish it. He flew again on June fourth, and completed two more missions on the sixth, D-Day. The pace of the war was quickening, attacking the enemy relentlessely as they retreated deeper into the Reich. There was talk it would be over by Christmas. The 491st flew combat at an exhausting  pace after D-Day. Bill Getz finished his tour of duty on August 10th,1944, flying thirty-one missions in sixty two days. The second fastest record in the entire 8th Air Force. He could go home, a combat veteran of the toughest theater of the air war.

 There were two problems for Bill Getz when he completed his tour, both related to each other. First, he didn’t want to go home. His brother was an Army medical doctor with Patton’s 3rd Army, serving in a field station somewhere in France. Bill didn’t want to be out of the fight while his brother was still in it. This led to a second problem: he didn’t want to fly another bomber tour. He already beat the house and won his life, why bet again? He needed something to do to stay in the European Theater of Operations. He heard about a new group being formed. A scouting force of P-51 Mustangs flying ahead of the bombers. He decided to apply for it.

 It was mid-1944, Europe was still at war and First Lieutenant Charles W. Getz, had just got there.

Greetings from the Mighty Eighth

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On Monday, August 17th 1942, twelve American bombers took off for Rouen, France. They were the main force of eighteen bombers sent under Royal Air Force fighter escort. Their target was a marshaling yard. They returned to base at exactly seven in the evening. Not a plane was lost, and the only significant damage to them was inflicted by a pigeon colliding with the nose of one ship.

 
That Monday was a great celebration for the Americans. It was the first US heavy bomber raid for a unit called the Eighth Bomber Command. It proved, at least in the minds of the Americans, that heavy bomber raids could be successfully carried out in daytime with minimal casualties. August 17th was the first sputtering of a machine that would later become the US Eighth Air Force. By the war’s end, the Eighth would be the largest air force of its type in the world, able to send 2,000 bombers and 1,000 fighters on a single mission. Of the 1.5 million Americans to pass through Britain during World War Two, 350,000 of them belonged to the Eighth Air Force. Their mission was to take out the German military, not in the field, but at home, depriving it of the ability and desire to make war. Their battleground would be the skies of Europe, and their front line, the green fields of East Anglia.

 
It was England and the English that had the largest effect on the daily lives of the Eighth Air Force. It was a country most of them had not known outside of books or geography class but a place that would become their home for their duration of the war. It was the fields of England that would say goodbye to them and greet their return from a mission, it was England that wounded planes and desperate men prayed to reach. At night, or on days off, the Americans would leave their bomber fields and bicycle down old roads into towns, drinking warm beer and meeting admiring ladies and school children. When these men were lucky, they could get a pass into London. There they could see a show, watch a movie or meet a girl and perhaps forget about flying for a bit. When night fell, and the city went black and the air raids sounded, the men would go to a shelter packed with women and children and remember why they were fighting.

 
England would leave an indelible mark on the lives of the Americans who served there. They in turn would leave their mark on England. Their legacy would be left on the men and women who met them, the children who grew up with them, and in the towns and fields of East Anglia, where the young Americans lived, played and died.

 

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Somewhere in London, someone bought a handkerchief and sent it home to loved ones, where it was kept as a reminder of England and the largest single air force in the world, the Mighty Eighth.

Christmas wishes from the Second to None

2nd Infantry Division Insignia

2nd Infantry Division Insignia

It seemed like the fighting in Europe was almost finished. The American Army was in Germany. In the east, the Red Army was in Romania, Yugoslavia, and Hungary, and the Canadians had entered Holland.

Now a group of men sat in a German basement less than 450 miles from Berlin. They had landed with the 2nd Infantry Division on Omaha Beach on D-Day+1. The men were proud of their division, which they called “Indian Head” after their shoulder patch. They were proud to be in a unit where their dad’s fought at Belleau Wood and Château-Thierry. They were proud of their motto “Second to None”. In four months they had travelled more than 400 miles from the hedgerows of Normandy, to St. Lo and the port city of Brest. By September 29th, 1944 they had passed through Belgium and took positions at St. Vith. Four days later, they had entered Germany.

Soldier of the 2nd Infantry Division writing Christmas cards

Soldier of the 2nd Infantry Division writing Christmas cards

The air was thick with moisture and laced with the smell of mildew and wood, wet leather and sweat. The floor was cold, with ammo and empty ration tins littered about. There was a wooden ammo crate that the men sat around. On this makeshift table were Christmas cards, printed by the division, and they took turns writing theirs, getting ready to mail them so they could reach home in time for the holidays.  Their fathers had written their parents from Europe on Christmas in 1917, in a different war with the same enemy. Now their sons did the same for them.

In 1939, Hitler gave a speech saying “No foreign soldier shall ever set foot on German soil.” The 2nd Infantry Division remembered that speech. They put it on their holiday cards and added their kicker: “Nevertheless, from somewhere in Germany, we wish you a Merry Xmas.”

By Christmas, the men of the Indian Head were no longer in Germany; they were in Belgium, near an area called Elsenborn Ridge, in a battle where 19,000 Americans would die. There, the Indian Head performed what General Eisenhower would later call “One of the finest divisional actions of the war” holding back the German 6th Panzer Army in the Battle of the Bulge.

In November and December, till the end of the war in 1945, the US Army would suffer more than 450,000 casualties, including more than 133, 000 killed in action, almost as many as the Army had lost in 1941,1942,1943, and until October 1944 combined.

A GI in that basement had written his family, before the German offensive, when the war seemed almost finished and another holiday away from home was ahead. He wrote them with pride and loneliness: “I guess Adolph had never heard of the Second to None. Have a big ‘Xmas and drink some for me, Love J.P.”

2nd germ with mark2nd with mark

The Sinews of War

The landings at Omaha Beach

The landings at Omaha Beach

When the darkness fell in Normandy on June 6th 1944, it gave time to reflect on what had happened that day. In the East, the British had secured their beachhead sectors at Gold and Sword, with the Canadians in the middle at Juno. To the West, the Americans had taken Utah and Omaha beach and scaled the steep cliffs of Pointe-du-hoc. Further inland, British and Canadian Airborne soldiers were dug in around the Orne Bridge. American Paratroopers banded together around towns like St. Mere-Eglise and St Come-du-Mont. Nearly 160,000 Allied soldiers had landed in France, another 197,000 were offshore. Now they waited for daybreak.

 
In later days, some people would call June 6th the “Beginning of the end of the war in Europe”. On this Tuesday night, that end was still a long way off. The Allies had gained a foothold, but completed few of their objectives. Hitler’s Armies had not been brought into action yet. His Armored Divisions and elite units of SS and Paratroops were still alive and well, lurking somewhere in the darkness. They too waited, to see what the next dawn would bring.

Helmet of Chief Carpenter's Mate Kennedy, 108th Naval Construction Battalion

Helmet of Chief Carpenter’s Mate Kennedy, 108th Naval Construction Battalion

On that night, Chief Carpenter’s Mate Bruce Kennedy pondered his fate around Omaha beach. He and his men had arrived in Rosneath, Scotland in October 1943. Over the next eight months they traveled from Rosneath, to Plymouth and Netley in England. They knew why they were there. All of South England was alive with men and material bound for the assault on Europe. They also knew they would be a part of it.They had painted their helmets with a blue band to identify personnel on the invasion beaches. Bruce and his group would come ashore on Omaha Beach, becoming part of the 73,000 Americans to land in France on D-Day.

 
The job given them was not glamorous or romantic or even heroic. They would not storm beaches and fight for ground inch by inch. Their task was mundane, a thankless job, but a dangerous and vital one. They were the men of the 108th Naval Construction Battalion (Seabees), and it was for them to feed the invasion, overpower the enemy not with brawn but with supplies.

 

Seabees watch trucks roll onto an Rhino ferry in Normandy

Seabees watch trucks roll onto a Rhino ferry in Normandy

Today, on D-Day, their work was curtailed by heavy seas, mines and beaches not cleared of enemy action. Tomorrow they would land more vehicles and material on flat ferries called “Rhinos” and set up piers and bridges along the shore. Tomorrow too, the Germans would start to shell them with 88mm guns, and the Luftwaffe would strafe them on the beaches.

 
As the Allies moved farther inland in Normandy, the men of the 108th Naval Construction Battalion stayed on Omaha Beach; spreading the thin trickle of supplies to the flood that eventually pushed Hitler back to Berlin. In October of 1944, the 108th was sent back to the USA and inactivated. Chief Carpenter’s Mate Kennedy would be transferred to Saipan and serve with the Seabees until November of 1945. He and the men of the Seabees were not the men in the foxholes and trenches, the men winning awards and adoration. They were the men that made the war go, made it move in a mechanical fashion ever forward, men without which battles would not be fought, and wars could not be waged. They were the men who provided the power behind the spear, the arm to the fist. They were the body without which an army could not move and support itself: the sinews of war.

Welcome to my blog

Welcome to Echoes of a War. I have had a keen interest in the Second World War since I was a child. In my blog I hope to share history, personal stories and artifacts that will be of interest to the historian, collector and anyone who likes to learn about and share history.

I am new at this so I hope to learn more about blogging as I go along and connect with some interesting people.

Thanks for reading.