LCT 637

Unedited narration of the landing at Normandy by the late Charles Lilly Skipper of LCT 637

This Story was originally sent to me By Charles Lilly Jr. in image format that I found hard to convert for the web site.  In a recent conversation with Joseph D. Graham of LCT 638, he said he had hard copy of Mr. Lilly's story and mailed me a copy. This story was a long time coming, but is now a part of LCT history on the site. When his grandsons find this site and read the stories, they will realizes that their grandfather was one of the many pioneers of the modern amphibious Navy.

Mr. Lilly's Story

My son and daughter-in-law have asked me to compile a journal, or record, of my early life and family history for the benefit of our grandchildren. Since it will be well into the 21st century (The Third Millennium!) when either Beau or Taylor [grandsons] reach majority perhaps it would be good for them to have an idea of what our lives were like in the early part of this century...

...Our move to Lake Charles was in the summer of 1935. I was 13 at the time, and when I started school in the fall, it was in the 8th grade, the first year of high school in Louisiana.

My High School years were happy ones. The other students, most of whom were natives of Lake Charles, accepted me as a new comer, and for the first (rime) I felt like I belonged and had a home town. Back in the days before television young people pretty much made their own amusements and were seldom exposed to the violence, etc. of the real world. Violence was brought home to us in a very direct way in my freshman year, when a parent of one of the boys on the football team came to school one day. While we were all in assembly for a program, he called the coach out of the assembly and shot him, then shot himself. I can still remember the hush that came over the assembly hall when the shots rang out. None of us knew what had happened until the teachers took charge and led us out past the bodies in the hall and sent us home. That was a day that none will forget!

That was the only thing that marred an otherwise idyllic time for me. High School Was great and, as luck would have it, when it came time to graduate, Louisiana State University opened a Junior College in Lake Charles and most of our class took advantage of the opportunity and enrolled there. So, in effect we all had 2 mores years with our High School friends together. For a lot of us, me included, it was a good start toward a college degree which our parents might not otherwise have been able to afford.

Our group was the first and only class at Lake Charles Junior College. When our sophomore year rolled around, the name had been changed to Mc Neese Jr. College. It was still a branch of LSU and since the custom of the time at LSU was for upperclassmen to shave the incoming freshmen's heads (boys only!) we vowed to follow that tradition. However, the problem was that the new class was more numerous than ours and when they got wind of what we planned it was a question of who was going to shave who's head! By dint of trickery and deceit we managed to separate the new boys and do the deed before any organized resistance. Thus was tradition upheld! I don't know if they still do that down there-probably not, it was a foolish custom anyway.

Time passed quickly and June 1941 saw me a graduate from Mc Neese and preparing to enter LSU at Baton Rouge in the fall. The winds of war were beginning to blow by then and most of us hated to see the good times end. We had a feeling that our lives were going to change drastically. As it turned out, Pearl Harbor was bombed in December 1941 and we were at war with both Japan and Germany.

Summer of 1941 was still a peaceful rime, however, and we enjoyed it to the hilt. My close friends at that time were Carl Shetler, an older boy who lived right next door to me; Sonny Riff who lived in the house just behind ours on the next street; and Ed Kihgery who lived a couple of blocks away. Carl was already a student at LSU while Sunny and Ed were my classmates at Mc Neese. We were together a lot that summer, double dating, playing sand lot baseball, or just shooting the breeze on rainy days. When fall came we went our separate ways and rarely saw each other after that.

Fate did take a hand however, and unbeknownst to one another we all entered the service after the war started and in the summer of 1944 all four of us wound up in England prior to the invasion. Sonny was a fighter pilot with the 9th Air Force, Carl was a Captain in the infantry, and Ed Kingery was a Sergeant of infantry. We all participated in the invasion of France and survived. However, luck ran out for the others shortly afterward. Sonny was shot down and killed in France, Carl was killed in Belgium (and awarded the DSC posthumously), and Ed Kingery was killed in the drive toward Germany.

I was the only one of the group to survive that summer and that thought has stayed with me to this day. Perhaps I have appreciated the good things that have happened to me all the more when I think of all that they have missed. In any event it points out just how war effects all of us when a small town in the South lost many of their young men. (There were many more than just those three from Lake Charles who died in the war but their loss was more immediate to me).

The events leading up to World War II caused a military draft to be in effect, even though the US was still at peace. I was too young for that draft during my first two years in college and world events had little effect on me or my friends. However, at the time of Pearl Harbor and our entry into the war I was in the middle of my Junior year at college. By the spring of 1942 the draft age had been lowered to 18 and I was suddenly eligible. I had no desire to be drafted, so along with several of my friends, I applied for flight training in the Air Corps. I was subsequently turned down because of being underweight and told to go home, fatten up, and try again. Not wanting to wait. I went to New Orleans in July 1942 and joined the Naval Reserve V-7 program. I was sworn in, given orders to return home and finish my last year at college-a good deal! I was even given until December 1943 to finish! However, upon graduation in June 1943 I wrote the Navy and told them I was ready. They wrote back and said they were too, and as a result, I reported to the Naval Midshipman class at Columbia University in New York for scholastic work that led to my commission as an Ensign in Nov. 1943. The time then was a great experience, one I have never forgotten. It was my first time really away from home and friends, and while it was hard, I made some good friends there. Every man there was a college graduate. They were from all 48 states (that's all we had then) and from just about every college and university in the country.

After graduation, I had a 30 day leave to go home to visit the folks and show off my uniform t all my friends, etc. I then reported for amphibious training on the east coast at Little Creek, Va. After about 2 months of training we were alerted for overseas deployment, presumably the South Pacific. But after several false alarms, we were sent to Philadelphia, Pa for 10 days and then we got the word we were going to Europe and moved out to New York. We remained there for a couple of weeks during which time we took delivery of our LCTs and saw them broken down into 3 sections and loaded onto Liberty ships for transport overseas. Finally, in early March 1944 we were ordered aboard our troopship and started what, for all of us was a big adventure, but still a sad time. None of us had ever been out of the country before. I still remember the hollow feeling as I saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time and last time as we left the harbor.

Our ship was a very famous one-The Ile de France. One of the great ocean liners of her day (I have a book about this ship and it might make interesting reading for you). As we left New York harbor we were escorted by Navy blimps and planes, but within an hour or so they left and we were alone. The Atlantic was a dangerous place in 1944. The German submarine threat was very real and most ships traveled in convoy. However, our ship was very fast and we traveled alone, following a zig-zag course. No sub could catch us and the only hope they had, was to be lying in our path purely by chance. The trip took 8 days, traveling near the Azores and back up to Scotland. It was no luxury cruise, what with 10,000 men aboard, about half of them seasick. The only redeeming note was that there were some 300 army nurses aboard. Since they were all officers and could not fraternize with enlisted men, it gave us officers an opportunity to socialize and party a little during the voyage. At least until about the 5th day when things were getting a little out of hand and the nurses were confined to quarters under guard! When we finally sailed into Greenock, Scotland it was a stirring sight to see all of the ships, both Warships and Merchantmen. That was surely a busy place during the period before the invasion! We remained in Scotland for 10 days or so, with no duties, awaiting the arrival of our LCTs in various ports around England. We passed the time exploring the beautiful Scottish countryside and meeting some of the locals. We even were able to make some extended trips to places like Loch Lomond.

Finally my LCT was unloaded in London and my crew and I entrained for that city. On arrival, the crew was quartered in barracks near the docks but I was free to go where I pleased. All I had to do was be at the docks during working hours to oversee a civilian crew that was to put the LCT back together. I had heard a lot about the Red Cross Club, inexpensive quarters and centrally located, so I headed there when we arrived. Since it was only a couple of miles from the train station and it was a lovely day, I decided to walk. As I walked along it was awesome to see the devastation that the city had suffered from the air raids. Whole city blocks were in ruins, and in other spots there would be buildings intact with lots full of rubble in between. We had all heard about the big air raids that had been called "The Blitz" that had taken place almost 4 years before, back when I was still a student in college. Yet you couldn't imagine what the people had gone through until you saw it first hand. I walked along, thinking about these things, when it suddenly dawned on me that some of the rubble I had seen was still smoking. That seemed odd, and as I went along I saw even more like that, obviously not from the Blitz of 4 years ago. I stopped the first person I saw and asked when this damage had occurred. "Last night Governor" he said. "We've been having raids for 2 weeks now, up to 2 hundred planes a night-we call it the 'Baby Blitz'."

I found the Red Cross Club, checked in, had dinner and wandered around awhile before fuming in. It was difficult to go anywhere after dark because a strict blackout was enforced. It is easy to get lost in London anytime, but with no lights at all, it was almost a certainty. The locals carried hooded flashlights, and there were a few cabs about with very dim hooded lights, but these were scarce. When I went to bed and fell asleep, I started to dream about air raids. Then I came awake and found it was no dream. The air raid sirens were going and the anti-aircraft guns were starting to fire way on the outskirts of the city. I dressed quickly and went out in the hall. As the guns began to sound closer, everyone decided it was time to head for the air raid shelter. It was quite an experience, my first night in London, to find myself in a shelter with all types of strangers in varying states of dress. Everyone seemed calm enough, but as the guns sounded closer and closer, and then the bombs began to fall, the tension soon became apparent. I'm sure no one was more relieved than I was when the "All Clear" finally sounded. We all then headed back to our rooms to try and sleep. I knew for a fact that we were now in a war zone.

The following days were uneventful, although there were several more raids. The work on the LCT went smoothly and I had little to do, except see that everyone stayed busy. There was plenty of time to see the sights of London and I made the most of it.

One day while they were working on the ship, my crew in dungarees and me in a rather rumpled uniform, a long black car pulled up to the dock. A naval rating got out and opened the door for this rather stooped old man wearing a uniform of some sort with all kinds of gold swords and insignia on his shoulder boards. My training during the 4 months at midshipman's school did not include familiarization with foreign uniforms or military protocol, but common sense told me that his gentleman was not the doorman of the Ritz-not with a chauffeured limousine and sailor's popping to attention. I quickly got my men in some semblance of order and straightened my uniform as best I could because he headed directly for the gangplank leading to our LCT. I greeted him at the head of the walk, and he introduced himself and asked if he could come aboard and look over our landing craft. I showed him around, answered his questions and apologized for our lack of hospitality, we couldn't even offer him a cup of coffee as nothing aboard was yet working. After a brief visit, he took his leave, thanking me for the tour. I still wasn't sure who he was, but as he seemed happy and all had gone well, I promptly forgot it in the press of work.

A couple of hours later a US Navy car came up to the dock and a rather agitated Lieutenant came down to the shop. He asked me if I had recently had a visitor aboard. I said yes and explained the circumstances, wondering what kind of trouble I was in now. He told me that the little old man was Admiral Sir Dunbar-Basmith(spell??) , VC. Admiral of the Port of London and a hero of the British Navy. The Lieutenant said that he had enjoyed his visit and everything was fine. However, as a matter of protocol, I must now pay a formal call on the Admiral at his headquarters in Whitehall! A navy car would be sent to pick me up the next day and would deliver me, accompanied by the Lieutenant, who was an aide to Admiral Stark, USN; to visit Admiral Nasmith(speU??). So that is how an Ensign in the US Navy probably for the first and only time, paid an official formal visit to an Admiral of a foreign navy. Strange thing happen sometimes.

Finally the work was completed and we were ordered to sail down the Thames river to its mouth at the Port of Southend. There we were to await a convoy forming up, and join it for an escorted trip down the English Channel, through the Straits of Dover to our final destination of Dartmouth, Devonshire. The trip down the Thames was peaceful and enjoyable, almost like a holiday cruise. We saw Greenwich, where the world's time zones are reckoned from, as it is an 0 degrees Longitude. It is also the site of the British Naval Museum and rich in history. Also we passed Nelson's flagship "Victory" which had been moved down the river for safekeeping, away from potential air raid spots. When we arrived in Southend, we tied up at a British Navy dock and were given their hospitality during the next 2 weeks, while the convoy gathered. It was quite an experience since we were the only Americans in the area, a far cry from the swarms of Yanks around London and some of the big staging areas. I got to dine with the British officers in their club and also meet some of civilians there. It was all very quiet and peaceful there, although several times at night we could hear the German bombers passing over on their way to bomb London, although it seemed peaceful, the war was all around us. This was brought home to me very suddenly one day. I had met a girl there, the daughter of a World War I American soldier and an English woman. They owned a pub there and we had gotten acquainted, probably because I was American. On this particular day, a beautiful, clear Spring day we had taken a

walk out in the countryside. As we walked along, laughing and talking, we heard the sound of a plane overhead. Curiously we glanced up at it because it seemed to be flying so low. It was a single engine, low winged monoplane, flying steadily inland from the sea and as it passed overhead we could clearly see the two men in the plane looking down at us. And in a flash it dawned on both of us that it had black crosses on the wings-an enemy plane! Before we could react it had sailed on by us, made a wide sweeping turn back toward the sea and headed away from us. It seemed as though they were on a pleasure flight over their own country. In a moment, there was a loud roar of engines and a flight of 4 fighters came by just over the trees and headed for the Germans. In seconds they had overtaken the plane and shot it down into the sea while still in view of us. The peaceful nature of that day had been shattered. It was a German reconnaissance plane and the men in it were very brave or very foolish, or perhaps they some how had gotten lost and thought they were over friendly territory. We will never know.

My LCT had been provided with an English Lieutenant and signal man to accompany us on the journey through the straits. There had been only one other LCT assembled in London prior to ours. It had been allowed to sail alone down the river and through the channel, but the inexperienced American skipper had somehow been confused and instead of proceeding down the channel he had sailed directly across, into the French port of Boulogne-and he and his crew were promptly taken prisoner. The authorities did not want a repetition of that event, hence the navigator and the attachment to convoy. Subsequent events almost made a mockery of those plans.

When the convoy of Merchant Ships was finally gathered, they called a conference of ship commanders to make final plans and give instructions. I was the only American there and amidst all those old grizzled sea captains, I was definitely out of place! LCT skippers don't rate very high on the seafarer's charts. The upshot was that the convoy would leave the next afternoon, it would be an 8 knot convoy of merchant ships and our lone LCT. We would be "Tail End Charlie" in the convoy, and all of us would be escorted by British Navy corvettes.

The next day we sailed about 4 hours before dark and all went well for awhile. Then as darkness began to fall, the current through the channel started to set against us. Our maximum speed was 10 knots and that was it. The larger ships could increase speed to offset the current and still maintain 8 knots through the water. We couldn't and gradually began to fall behind. The corvette kept dropping back and urging us to close up with their bull horn. After a point there was nothing more we could do, and as darkness finally came, the convoy disappeared for good.

The British Lieutenant looked at me and said "Charles, old boy, we've lost the bloody convoy!" I said "no James, we didn't lose the bloody convoy, the so and so's have run off and left us!"

Finding ourselves alone in the Straits of Dover, and knowing full well that the Germans had E-Boats out in the channel nearly every night, looking for stragglers or small craft they could sink and possibly gather prisoners for interrogation on invasion plans, our position was precarious. We finally decided to creep in as close to the English shore as possible and wait for daylight, to continue, when there would be air cover and our chances better. Accordingly we anchored off the coast near the town of DeaL

I posted an anchor watch and the rest of the crew went below to enjoy a meal and rest until dawn. We hadn't been there long when the man on watch came below and said "Skipper, there are two ships coming up to us, they look like torpedo boats." We went to General Quarters, manning the guns and preparing for anything. As I watched the two close in on us through binoculars, they appeared to definitely be the shape of German E-boats and as I watched they separated and came up, one on either side as though to catch us in a crossfire. We were completely darkened, the only light being from a rising moon that tended to silhouette them against the horizon. No communication was attempted by them and I figured we were in for it. However, I told the crew to hold fire until I gave the order. Then the signalmen was told to light the signal light leaving the shutters closed. When I gave the signal he was to illuminate the flag flying from the stem of the nearest one. If it was German, which I expected, we would go down fighting. When the light went on the most glorious sight I ever saw as the British ensign streaming in the breeze. I screamed "Hold your fire", luckily they were pretty sure who we were and didn't fire on us when the light hit them, although they weren't taking chances either. As it turned out, they were two British MTBs sent out to find us and escort us into port. They gave us quite a scare. Having radar, which we didn't, they had an advantage and for some reason they didn't attempt radio contact which would have saved some frazzled nerves. The British were often strange allies 1

The MTBs escorted us into Dover, where we were to spend several days due to mechanical problems causing a delay. We found out later that the convoy we had separated from had been hit by E-boats as they went through the Straits suffering many casualties. Our getting left behind turned out to be a blessing

Dover was an interesting place to be. Most of the civilians had moved up into caves in the cliffs of Dover. The Straits of Dover are only 16 miles wide at that point and the Germans had big guns mounted on the French coast aimed at Dover. They had been shelling the town sporadically since the start of the war. Nearly all of the buildings still standing had shell damage and very little   business activity was still going on in Dover itself. Unlike air raids, there was virtually no warning of shell fire. The English had people posted in the highest spot to watch the gun emplacements and at the first sign of activity would sound a warning. However, that would only give them 2 or 3 minutes to seek shelter, hence the evacuation of civilians.

We spent nearly 2 weeks there, but luckily there was no shelling during that period. One clear day I climbed the water tower in Dover and from that vantage point I could clearly see the French coast through field glasses. It was strange to watch the German trucks and equipment moving around over there, knowing they were the enemy we had come to fight.

As it turned out, when repairs were made, and we were scheduled to leave Dover, I wound up in the hospital with a case of ptomaine poisoning. Although I was fine the next day, I had to remain there for 3 days for observation. In the meantime, the English officer on board got permission somehow to take my LCT on down to Dartmouth. When I got out of the hospital I went to Dartmouth by train and rejoined them there.

It turned out to be quite a flap, because never before had an English officer commanded an American naval vessel, and whoever gave permission to do so had no such authority. It finally came to the attention of Admiral Stark, head of US Naval forces in Europe.' Before it was over, Ensign Lilly found himself dealing directly with Admiral Stark trying to explain how it all came about! Another first for the navy-Ensigns don't deal directly with Admirals in normal times! I got out of it by pleading illness, or insanity, or some such thing. Anyway it all finally blew over. 

From then on we were busy preparing and practicing for the invasion. We had practice landings at Slapton Sands near Dartmouth. Finally as D-Day drew near we were ordered to Plymouth. There we waited for our final orders and were given last minute repairs and modifications.

Although we knew D-Day was imminent, no one knew just when or where it would be. One day the LCT skippers and officers of larger ships were called together for a briefing. There we were told what our part would be, where the invasion would take place, etc. I, along with other LCT skippers, was given a canvas bag containing not only our participation in the invasion, but detailed plans of every unit involved in the operation, Navy, Army, British, etc. When the meeting ended I set off down the street to the docks with a bag over my shoulder containing all the secrets of D-Day! Shortly thereafter we were ordered to Portland for loading. All of the LCTs sailed together, escorted by a single Patrol Craft. Fortunately, it was radar equipped because we encountered a dense fog. It was so bad the only was we could keep contact was by streaming a marker buoy and each LCT playing follow the leader on the other's marker, with the PC leading the way. If any of us had been separated we would have been easy pickings for any German E-boats or submarines. If they had managed to surprise any one of us, they would have had all the invasion plans handed to them before they could have been destroyed. So much for the great security of D-Day.

Fortunately, nothing like that took place and we all arrived safely in Portland. Shortly thereafter we were moved alongside a dock and then commenced loading for the invasion. A large crane was used to load various items for the 5th Special Engineers. This included bridging equipment, jeeps, ammunition, steel matting, etc. This was all scheduled to be landed at H hour + 90 min. When presumably a foothold has been established on the beaches. These men would then lay matting and bridging material for the tanks and trucks in the follow up waves.

As we were being loaded with more and more equipment we began to sink lower and lower alongside the dock. After watching for a while, I went to the officer in charge of loading and asked him just how much material were we scheduled to take. He replied "I have you down for 250 tons." I asked him how much was already aboard and he said "About 210 tons." Then I told him as politely as I could that the LCT specs called for a maximum of a 180 ton load to and hold it right there. This caused another flap, since Army majors don't like to be told "no" by Ensigns. However, I refused to back down and finally won out. Although, they didn't remove any of the excess, they didn't put any more on either. As it turned out, when we finally put to sea we had little positive buoyancy and sailed more through the water than over it.

Finally, after weeks of waiting and wondering when the invasion would take place, we received orders. We were to sail at 0200 on June 4, 1944. All day on the third of June was spent in last minute preparations, and with the things still to be done and the excitement of the moment, there was no rest or sleep for anyone before we sailed at 0200 in the morning, June 4. We got under way in time and soon joined our convoy headed up the English Channel toward the Isle of Wight. The weather was stormy and we had heavy going. Finally, at around 1100 we got a blinker signal from one of the escorts. The convoy was recalled. The invasion postponed! We turned about and began the long journey back to Portland, arriving back at our anchorage around 2000 hours (8 p.m.). We didn't know whether the invasion had been called off or had only been postponed, but everyone secretly hoped it would be a while. We had all had quite a let down after the peak of excitement we had experienced.

However, we soon learned (the decision had been made even before we got back to port) that the invasion had only been postponed 24 hours and we were to sail again at 0200 on June 5. Some of the vessels had to refuel, etc., so there was frantic activity oh their part. We did not, however. Even though we did not have a great amount of things to do, there was no time for rest or sleep before we had to leave.

Again, we sailed at 0200 and again we battled heavy seas up to the area of the Isle of Wight. There we met other convoys coming from different ports and after forming up in the proper order in the area they called Picadilly Circus we set our course across the channel toward the French coast of Normandy. All of this was timed so we would arrive off the invasion beaches before "H" hour. The trip went fairly smoothly as the weather had calmed, as predicted. The sea was still choppy and in the sky were scattered clouds with the moon showing from time to time. Our own situation was complicated by the fact that one of the deck hatches had been sprung during loading, unbeknownst to us and we were taking on water since the decks were awash from our overload. As the water entered the hull we sank even lower in the water. Because of our cargo and crowded conditions we couldn't reach the hatch to repair it and there was genuine concern that we might sink ingloriously before reaching France.

This didn't happen, however, and as dawn came we arrived off our invasion area known as the "Easy Red" sector of "Omaha" beach. As it grew light, the most astounding sight greeted us all. As far as one could see there were ships and craft of every description. The shore bombardment had commenced from the big ships and the first waves of small landing craft carrying demolition people to destroy the obstacles were already on their way. The idea was to destroy the obstacles, beginning at low tide when they were exposed. As the tide came in other, larger landing craft, including ours, were to beach on the incoming tide, unload our troops, tanks, other vehicles, etc., then retract as soon as possible.

The only thing I would like to attempt to covey is my own impression of that morning, mainly because it is so different from what I had expected or anything I have seen written about battle. During the day as we waited our rum to beach we were orbiting offshore fairly close in and under sporadic fire from shore. From that perspective, everything seemed to me have an unreal quality. From where we were there was none of the sound or fury that characterize the Hollywood war movie. Everything outside the arena of battle was curiously peaceful. The sky was blue with scattered clouds, just like any normal day. Gulls circled around seemingly undisturbed. Ashore we could see farm houses and cattle grazing-everything seemed to be in order. Yet in front of us, on the beach were explosions, fires, the crackle of guns. Close inspection with glasses turned up bodies of dead and wounded. Suddenly to emphasize the point that this was not a normal day, an American destroyer moved in near us, in water so shallow she scraped her keel, and opened fire at point blank range at a spot in the cliffs above the beach. In a neat bit of surgery she chopped out a block of cliff, 88mm cannon, machine guns, and other assorted debris. We all cheered as though our side had scored in a football game!  

Later on D-Day we were sent in to the beach. Under fire there we managed to off load our vehicles, but were unable to get off any of the engineers equipment. Still under heavy fire, we had to retreat from the beach before the receding tide left us stranded there. Still later, on our second attempt, we hit a mine which blew a hole in our bow where the vehicles had been. Although damage was severe, we were still afloat. However we couldn't get any mechanical means of unloading to the cargo, so on subsequent beachings we unloaded by hand-a dangerous and difficult job. After unloading and getting some of the wreckage cut away, we were awaiting orders to return to England for permanent repairs. Before this could happen however, we were caught, along with a smaller craft, in the big storm that struck Normandy about a week after the invasion. We managed to ride out the storm for a while, then one of our flotilla LCTs that had lost their anchor, moored to us to keep from being blown ashore. This caused further damage to us and it was several weeks after the storm before we could be towed off the beach and back to England for repairs.

The rest of our story was fairly uneventful. Once repaired we returned to France and our LCTs were used as lighters to unload Merchant shops and ferry the cargo to the beaches. This was the only means of supplying the advancing troops until the ports of Cherbourg and Le Havre were finally secured. When this happened we were no longer needed and in the fall of 1944 we went back to England and waited orders to return to the States for leave and then assignment to the Pacific.

During this period we had plenty of leisure time and I got to explore a lot of Southern England. Also occasional leaves to go to London. At this point the Germans were bombarding London with their V-l Buzz bombs (winged, pilotless jet drones that flew undl they ran out of fuel then dropped randomly somewhere in the London area). Also later on they began hitting London with the V-2 which was the first ballistic missile. This was fired from the continent, reached an altitude of over 100 miles , and then fell at supersonic speeds without warning into the city. These also hit at random, since, they had no guidance system, and were extremely nerve wracking because no one knew where the next might hit. Therefore, leave in London was very exciting, to say the least. I was finally sent back to the U.S. in March 1945. After a 30 day leave. I had an assignment aboard a larger LST then was picked to attend a gunboat command school. These were LCIs converted to heavily armed gunboats for use in the upcoming invasion of Japan.

Fortunately, for me and a million other men, the atom bombs were dropped in Japan and the Nips surrendered. The war was over, no invasion was necessary and I was certainly glad! During this time in the States, I met Ann, fell in love, was married and we did indeed live happily ever after. Any further story of our activities in the early years can now be told by her.

The LCT 637 was known to have been in danang in 1967 during the Vietnam war as YFU 55 and as late as March 2000 she was said to now being used as a cargo boat in the Caribbean.

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