Going into the beach it looked like the beach was covered with driftwood when we got close we realized the beach was covered with bodies. When unloading the 1st division, some of the LCI (L) had to be stopped because the living could not climb over the dead. So well did the German 88's do their job that "the guns concentrated on the ramps and forward part of the landing craft" that it was impossible to get past the pile of dead and wounded. Some had to back off the beach and small boats came alongside and finished unloading the men who had not been able to get ashore.
Our Skipper, Lt. Hutchinson, found his way to the beach, which was barred by obstacles. A small boat took away thirty-six of the infantrymen. Before another boat could take off a load a shell killed three more men and wounded thirteen. He decided to try to jam through the obstacles again, when a mine blew a hole in the bottom and forward part of the number one troop compartment, injuring and killing a few more men. We grounded on the beach, dropped our ramps, and the rest got ashore. We abandoned ship and went ashore with the troops. After the tide went out and while under fire, we patched the landing craft as well as we could. When the tide came back in we retracted her and with pumps working constantly took her to England for repairs.
I will now try to tell you a little about each LCI in my group:
The LCI (L) 83 my ship found the way to the beach barred by obstacles. A small boat took off thirty-six of the infantrymen. Before another boat could take off another load. a shell killed three men and wounded thirteen. Our skipper. LT Hutchinson had decided to try to ram through the obstacles again when a mine blew a hole in the bottom and forward part of the number one troop compartment. This injured and killed more men. We grounded on the beach, dropped our ramps and the rest got ashore while under continuing machine gun fire from the cliffs. We abandoned the ship and went ashore with the troops. We were lucky (or Someone was watching over us).
The Germans, thinking that we were disabled and could not get under way. stopped shelling us. When the tide came back in our crew started to patch our landing craft. The firing started again but we were able to get off the beach and under way. With all pumps working constantly, we took her back to port for repairs. After repairs we carried supplies to the beaches and returned with wounded and with German prisoners.
The LCI (L) 85 approached the beach hitting the wooden obstacles from time to time. As she ground to a halt, a mine exploded tearing apart the forward compartments. To complicate mailers, the German artillery began to find her range and soon at least 25 88mm shells found their mark. The German 88's did their job well. The guns were concentrated on the ramps. The ramps were blown to shreds. It made it impossible for the troops to get past (lie pile of dead and wounded at the foot of the ramps.
The 85 backed off the beach. A LCVP came alongside and took off a few of the troops who were still alive. I hen the LCI K5 caught fire and began to list badly. Swinging about, she made an attempt to make it hack to the Hospital Ship, the USS Samuel Chase, anchored 10 miles offshore. The 85 with pumps activated in a vain effort to remove the water that was filling her damaged hull went alongside the Samuel Chase and began a feverish attempt to unload her dead and wounded. After unloading her wounded, she moved away from the Chase. The flooding proved to be too much however and the crew scrambled off as she capsized and sank.
The LCI (L) 88 beached on "Easy Red", OMAHA Beach. Soon after touching down. she was hit by German 88mms and raked with heavy machine gun fire. She was severely damaged but managed to unload her troops. She was ordered to return to port for repairs.
The LCI (I-) 91 grounded her troops and disembarked. As she moved out. the tide was coming in and she struck a mine. The Germans found the range and repeatedly hit her w ith 88mm fire. One 88mm exploded in the forward troop compartment and killed everyone there. With the ship on fire. the crew leaped into the water. The 91 burned most of the morning. Most of the crew and officers made it to other ships or were picked up by the USCG 83 Footers.
The LCI (I.) 92 went in under the cover of the thick smoke from the burning 91. The Germans found her range and soon the 92 was struck by the German 88mm shells. The 92 burst into flames. The crew fought the fires while unloading the troops. The crew finally had to abandon ship and go ashore with the troops.
The LCI (I-) 93 delivered its first load of troops and returned to the Samuel Chase for another load. She took i-iboul 300 each time. On the second trip, she grounded on a sand bar and took 10 direct hits from German artillery. The LCI (L) 93 had to be abandoned. Thus, as you can see, in the first few hours of the engagement, 4 CG LCI (L)s were lost after they made it to the beach. Seven of the Coast Guard crew perished and eleven were wounded.
Below are some things that still stay with me even today, 59 years later. They will stay with me forever
• The bodies of those who fell during the initial assault on that terrible day, June 6, 1944.
• I still hear the screams of those troops trapped in the flames of the shell-racked landing craft.
• Machine guns swept the beach repeatedly killing men and young kids.
• Some stepped in deep holes and drowned under the weight of their backpacks. We did our best to pull some out.
• A Navy Corpsman lay bleeding to death, his Red Cross was visible. Some Medics attempted to reach him but were cut down.
• The bloodstained sands were turning the shallow water a crimson red.
• The men who leapt from the ramps of bullet riddled LCVPs. Most of them never made it as they tried to dash across the beach in an effort to reach the safety of the sea wall.
• Our landing zones were "Easy Red" and "Fox Green." The beach ran red with the blood of the 1st Division Infantry. They were mowed down like wheat in the field at harvest lime.
• While waiting for the tide to come all the way in, the Channel tide rocked the LCI from side to side. 'I lie blood spilled onto the wet sand below.
Leroy C. Bowen Jr. RM 3/C LCI (L) 83.
Remember each and every sacrifice, made for your freedom!
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