Now we would see water and sky and just wait, wait, BS and we played cards till I just didn’t feel like it anymore so I walked away and laid down to rest and think. As I lay there it came to me: “I wonder out of us who will be killed or wounded?” Will it be Sgt. Collins or Tercutto (who was wounded at Salerno), my pal Macie, maybe Tarbini (the company joker) then I would feel my throat lump and my body chill. No! Maybe it will be me, me killed or wounded. How would my family take it? My Mother with her bad heart could be fatal. Then I would force myself to get up and go back to the card game to relax but I could see other fellows doing the same – like Cole who almost lost his leg at the invasion of Sicily (was eventually killed in France). As he played you could see his hands shake as he dealt the cards and laughed.
Finally I fell asleep when suddenly my pal Macie shook me awake. He said, “Get up Amador and start getting ready. We’re going over the side in about an hour.” I looked at my watch and it was 5AM, June 6th. I thought to myself: “It’s almost time.” I hurried, put my pack together, my towel, soap, cigarettes, candy, socks (I put the cigarettes and a pair of socks in my helmet in case everything else got wet). I tried to think if I had done everything right for what might come or happen. I took a last look at my family pictures and then I wrapped my wallet in cellophane from the “K-rations” so it wouldn’t get wet. Now everything was ready on the side of my pack. I laid my ammo and TNT for our missions. I took a last look at my rifle to see if it was oiled and working O.K. then I waited until we were told to come up on deck. I put my straps over my shoulders and then strapped the TNT over my neck and put my ammo bandoleros over my shoulders. Now I picked up my rifle and followed the boys up the ladder.
Up on deck there was sort of a heavy mist but we could see France miles away. There was the coast and to one side of us was the “Nevada” blasting away with its 16 inch guns and in the early dawn it seemed to light up the sky every time it let a salvo go. The shock would make waves throw our little LCI around like a cork. When went past it as we headed for the beach. As we neared the beach it seemed quiet but to the rear miles we would see flashes as a result of the big boat’s guns. Then in the mist about 2 miles from the beach the LCI stopped. This was it! The Navy boys lowered rubber boats over the side then held them with ropes, then with a sort of mixed feeling, in groups of six, we went into the rubber boats. (NOTE: 531st landed at Tare Green Sector) No one was saying much and just headed for the water and the distant roar of the big boats guns nothing was heard. As we started for shore we suddenly hear the roar of planes overhead and everyone said “I wonder whose they are.”
Soon we heard them going towards land and in the distance we could see “ack-ack” going up at them and we knew they were ours. Now in the mist the beach was a few yards away and we could now see our mission. The rails sticking out of the water had mines on top but the beach itself looked quiet. Quickly we jumped into the water which came near our shoulders. Everyone moved fast before we were discovered as it would mean a certain end for all of us. We laced our charges around the rails in a manner for best effect of destroying them.
To clear the water for the boat of the following waves which at this minute were on their way in. As soon as all the charges were set we waded to shore to dig in on the beach and wait for the first wave in order to set off the charges moments before they got them, then move forward with them. As we settled in our holds the Sarge said “Get down in 30 seconds – I’m going to set off the charges and our Navy is going to turn their guns on the beach. We waited until suddenly the blast from our charges went off and almost a second later the first shell went off near a pillbox on top of the sand dunes about 1000 feet in front of us and it was followed by more and more. We looked back and could see our mission went off swell as we could see rails flying hundreds of feet as a result of the blast. Nothing was happening in the distance. Over the waves we could see the first wave of troops coming and the pillboxes on the beach in front of us opened up on them. The ground trembled as our Navy kept throwing in their heavy shells at the beach and we were praying the “Jerrys” didn’t shell us or that our own Navy didn’t drop any of their shells short. The sky suddenly filled with flashes of shells and all over the beach the smell of powder.
We could see the first boats getting on shore behind us and the first troops coming towards us. Now the ground shook something awful and the “Jerrys” began throwing shells around us. I felt last as if any second a shell would land in our hold and I heard yells of fear as the guys who were being hit by the deadly 88mm shrapnel. I was frozen with fear. Now as I looked over the edge of my hold, I could see more and more troops all over the beach and the water full of men wading in from the hundreds of boats coming in wave after wave, crawling and some digging as soon as they got on soil, but one made a move to advance.
The beach was a mass of men all in one small spot, to stay here was death for some, one every time a shell landed. It was a sure thing every time a shell landed I could hear screams and yells of agony. The fact was too many men in one spot. Soon I looked up and there was the stern face of a Colonel hollering at the men and pleading, almost begging saying “Boys if we must die let go in land and die with a fighting chance. Here on this crowded beach we haven’t a change. Come on! Men forward and as he stood there in the sand, the men realized the cold fact they needed to move forward or be wiped out for sure as we there was not protection from the deadly shell fire on German’s were throwing at us. Now a few men started to creep up forward and as soon as we could, we started coming out of our holds.
A mortar crew which had just come in off a boat set up their mortars just a few yards from the waters edge and started to fire at the machine guns in the sand dunes in front of us. As we moved forward a mortar shell landed on a machine gun nest in front. Now we were just below a pillbox firing a 40mm at the fellows coming off the boats. As we lay in the sand below it a 4th Div. came up with a bazooka and fired two shells, the first landed over the opening and the second went in the opening followed by an explosion and then all remained quiet. Men were scattered all over the beach and along the beach the forts began to go out of action. Sgt. Tercatto waved to me and I saw my pal Macie beside him. I ran and jumped beside them and told Macie our Lt. Fortrell was dead and was lying by the sea wall below a fort.
As we spoke, Sgt. Chapman was running towards us when a shell exploded and seconds later he was lying in the sand kicking, but we saw it was bad as it seemed, almost half his neck was gashed open by shrapnel. Sgt. Tercatto spoke again telling us the machine gun guarding a forts flank was knocked out. We could sneak up to see if we could put the fort out of action. We were able to crawl on top of the fort to an air-vent which led into the fort. As we got there suddenly I felt I was no longer scared but now excited. Sgt. Tercatto said “Amador! When I break the air-vent get along side and drop a couple grenades down. Now I was shaking with excitement and I crawled and dropped the first grenade and dropped another and another. All I could hear was muffled noise inside the fort and the 40mm that had been firing was stopped.
We had done a good job and as we started to crawl off, I saw a kid from the 4th Div. crawl to the entrance of the fort. He had a satchel charge which he pushed to the steel door and as he pulled the pins from the end of the pole we ducked down and heard a loud blast from under us. Then a fellow that was alongside of us jumped down next to the entrance. We trained our M1’s on the entrance and we soon heard a cry from inside saying “Comrade, Comrade.” We shouted “Komen Heir” and he came out with one arm in the air and the other arm hanging limp at his side. We told him that if there were any other “Comrades” to come out. At that, two more came out scared, even shaking. Their entire bodies trembled as they came out.
Macie and I pushed one of them back into the fort. As we entered I saw the awful damage I had caused with my grenades. There in a small hall leading to the gun room were nine soldiers of the “Furhers Super-Army” lying on top of one another – all were dead, full of holes and horrible gashes on their wide-eyed faces and their clothes smoking from the phosphorous grenade I had dropped. The three survivors were alive because they were in the gun room at the time of the grenade blast. The other nine were in the hall for protection when down the air-shaft over them came the first grenade. As we came out of the fort all the forts along the beach wall seemed to be clear of Germans and I first noticed about 50 prisoners in a sort of large sand hold in the middle of two forts. We led our three prisoners and push them down in with the rest of the scared Germans and there was a big 4th Div. guy with a tommy-gun trained on them. We began to look around and the shell fire was still heavy down by the waters edge where troops were still coming in the many boats.
We looked forward and I saw for the first time what a mine was. There was a field behind these forts of about 300 yards where was what seemed to be a road by a farm house. From there kept coming machinegun fire but across the field ran hundreds of soldiers towards the road and every once in a while an explosion would go off and a body would fly in the air. Over to one side lay a sign which said “Achtung Mines (meaning Attention Mines). It was a warning for German soldiers. We heard a roar and as we looked we saw 8 tanks rumble across the sand from the waters edge. They had just come off one of the LST’s which were now coming in. A few yards from the waters edge a blast knocked out a tank sending the treads high in the air. A fire trapped the crew, if alive, inside. Our next mission was at hand. Lt. Condan waved to us to come over and in a minute we were there.
There were some of our fellows around and the Lt. told us that TNT had been brought and we had to blow a gap in the sea wall in order for the tanks to get in to help the 4th Div. boys. I saw Garbini putting a charge by the wall they had picked for the gap. I picked up a load of TNT and went over to place it beside Garbini’s charge, suddenly a shell landed near me and I thought for sure it had hit Girbini but I soon saw Garbini get up again and he was O.K. As I got along side him I asked where Walters was. He told me Walters was dead. A piece of shrapnel got him in the heart. Now Macie was there with another load of TNT. The Lt. and Sgt. Tercatto came over and set a fuse in it and when we got down there, there was a blast and there was a hole in the concrete wall. Soon the first tank came roaring through and there was a blast.
Monico was one of the men who opened the first hole through the sea wall. The Utah Beach Museum the museum was built right next to hole that Monico helped open and that hole still exists today.
The second tank through the gap in the wall was hit. A young Lt. lay on the sand where he was blown from the tank. There was a sniper in the farm house picking away at us when a tank stopped, set his cannon at the house and the sniper was knocked out. Our next mission was to clear a field to make roads as the U.S. Army was moving in. The sky was full of transporters coming in from the sea with paratroops and soon we saw them circle around and drop their loads in the woods behind the road when the Germans had their mortars trained on us.
Soon we heard a rat-a-tat and bang-bang of the hand to hand fighting. Soon the 4th Div. moved forward with more tanks that had now come in now even anti-air craft guns mounted on half-tracks could be seen coming through the gap we had blown in sea wall.
The day was almost over for us. We stayed on the beach clearing mines to make more roads and we had made the beach head. Even the shells didn’t come over so often just every once in a while one would go off. In the distance we could hear shells and gun fire more on in the advance on Normandy. It was dark now and my first day of war was almost over and over for good for a lot of American boys! Guards were put up on an ammo dump and we tried to rest. We heard the roar of guns for those who got no rest. Down by the beach could be seen boats of all sizes, knocked out jeeps, tanks still burning. “Duck’s” wounded being carried aboard ships whose ramps were open on the beach as wounded was being taken in. Over to one side there was a first aid station where wounded were cared for and over a few yards laying in rows could be seen hundreds of bodies lined up beside each other. There were Navy, 4th Div., 82nd Paratroopers, 101st Paratroopers , 29th Div., Rangers, 1st Div., 1st Brigade (us), Air pilots that were shot down all lined up along side each other.
Medics were still bringing in bodies and laying them in rows. This was the cost of the invasion. There would be many others but we had made it and I wasn’t in those rows – not yet. Just a few miles away we looked at the sky and the flashes and the sound of shells filled the air. Yes, we were the lucky ones – we were left behind.
June 10th, The Worst Day
Now the days begin to pass and the terrible war was leaving us behind. Every day we waited anxiously for news of how our boys were doing. Then came June 10th, one of the worse days of my life, a day I will never forget. It was about 2PM, the sun was high and it was a hot day in Normandy, France. I was in my sandy fox hole with a shelter half over it to keep rain and sun out, when a fellow moved me and said “Amador, Lt. wants to talk to you.” I was sleepy after guiding motor convoy through the mine fields all night. I came up and Lt. was seated on a sand pile. He was in a quiet mood and said, “Sit down.”
I knew something was wrong for this was unusual, then he began, “Amador, I don’t know how to begin. When was the last time you heard from your father?” “Two weeks”, I said. Then it hit me – something had happened to my Pop! As he kept talking he said “The Red Cross has been trying to find you since before we left our home camp at St. Austell, England. Finally, it got to our Brigade. Chaplain would have liked to tell you instead but he phoned and told me to tell you. All he knows is your Father died on April 21, 1944. How or from what we have no other information. I’m sorry, Amador.” I sat on the ground dumb, lost, I couldn’t think. It seemed impossible, I just couldn’t believe it. How could this be? The Lt. got up and walked away and I just sat there not being able to realize the truth. I must be dreaming.
The days passed and I prayed. Then towards the end of June outside of every day having a Gerry plane come down and taking a few fast shots at us we kept to our jobs of guiding in coming troop convoys across the beach mine fields and the outgoing convoys of poor torn, beaten up bodies of American wounded. Soon, our first batch of mail came in and I got the news from home. Nance wrote saying everyone was find but told me Pop died from Appendix operation. (I found later this was not true). I felt bad and wondered how Ma was taking it, then tried to get it off my mind.
Pvt Monico C. Amador
Dad’s Journals were put into print and interpreted by long hours spent by Jeanne Amador. Many thanks to her. Jim Amador edited and added the photos and artwork. Photo of Uncle Mele from Chris Equihua.