Lester Leonard McLean, my grandfather, was a supply sergeant in the U. S. Army, 618th Ordnance Ammunition Company, 6th Engineer Special Brigade, under the 74th Ordnance, attached to the 29th Infantry. His company was sent to England for training. Most soldiers were billeted in civilians homes while they trained and waited. Friendships and bonds were made. While in England, replacements and support personnel were added.
On June 6, 1944, D-Day, the 6th ESB landed on Omaha Beach at Easy Red sector between 10:00 and 10:30 am on the third wave. According to my grandfather, artillery shells landed and exploded to the left and to the right of his landing craft. He told my dad, "I just knew the next one would hit us. All I could do was pray." My grandfather's buddy, Ralph Fancher, who was in the same company, told me the shells were going right over their heads. They rained down, exploding and sending water up into the sky. Tracer bullets bounced off of the landing boats.
The scene at the beach at that time was described by a lieutenant in the 6th Engineer Special Brigade as follows: "I noticed that nothing moved on the beach except one bulldozer. The beach was covered with debris, sunken craft and wrecked vehicles. We saw many bodies in the water. Then we saw that the beach was literally covered with the bodies of American soldiers wearing the blue and gray patches of the 29th Infantry Division. Burning tanks and boats lined the water's edge. There was the sound of screaming and agony. Dead bodies rolled in the surf.
The men had to descend the ramp of the landing craft (some were transferred into a smaller boat and brought right onto the beach), carrying equipment, supplies, and ammunition. The company's original mission was to establish a beach dump near Vierville-Sur-Mer near the D-1 Exit. Rough winds and heavy seas had created confusion in the landings, so the dump they created ended up being near Les Moulins, near the D-3 Exit. This area was basically the dividing line between the 1st Infantry Division and the 29th Infantry Division. They were in charge of supplying ammunition to the infantry on the beach.
Ordnance also does quick repair jobs. They would take good parts off one gun and place them on another, making a good rifle &endash; ready to be taken to the front. In essence, they made it possible for the infantry to fight the Germans.We would not have won without them. At least, that's how a proud granddaughter sees it.
My grandfather was one of the lucky ones who made it home. He went on to become a minister and did so for many years, until he died. He was married, had three children, four grand- children and one great-grandchild before he passed away of heart disease. I know he's looking down on me now, and I hope he knows just how proud I am of him. I will do my very best to make sure we never forget what he and the other brave men and women did for us.
Sgt. Ralph T. Fancher
Sgt. Harry Wainer
Master Sgt. Robert Seabolt
Sgt. Fred Rufty
Markley & Fancher
Fancher, Wainer, Ruben & Bizzarl
McLean & Unknown Soldier
McLean & Unknown Soldier
His granddaughter Kim Johnston
Engineer Special Brigades were amphibious forces of the United States Army developed during World War II. Initially designated engineer amphibian brigades, they were redesignated engineer special brigades in 1943. The 1st, 5th, and 6th Engineer Special Brigades were assigned to the European Theater of Operations. The 1st Engineer Special Brigade participated in the landings in Sicily and Italy before joining the 5th and 6th Engineer Special Brigades for the invasion of Normandy.
The 2nd, 3rd and 4th Engineer Special Brigades were assigned to the Southwest Pacific Area, and participated in the campaigns in the Bismarck Archipelago, New Guinea, Leyte, Luzon, the Southern Philippines and Borneo campaign. The 1st Engineer Special Brigade fought in both theaters of the war, participating in the Okinawa campaign near the end of the war. The 2nd Engineer Special Brigade remained active after the war, and served in the Korean War before being inactivated in 1955.
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