#11-State Side

When the Dickman arrived at San Francisco, I was transferred. Told to report to the C G Base , for further assignment. My next assignment was on a 56 ft Patrol Boat, working in San Francisco Bay.  We tied up at Fishermans Wharf, which is a Famous tourist attraction, then patrolled, from the Golden Gate Bridge, to Alcatraz, then to the Wharf. We had a three man crew and stayed on the boat for 24 hrs., then had 24 off. Were in Radio Contact with the Base and they would call us for special assignments. Like the day, a lady decided to jump from off the Golden Gate Bridge and we joined in a search party. One of the boats found her body, was a mess. We had two Jumpers while was on this tour, must be a Thing To Do. I read there have been 1558 Jumpers, since the bridge opened in 1937.

On another occasion had a call, that a prisoner had escaped from Alcatraz and to be on the Lookout. Seems the Army Post at the Presidio, sent clothes to be washed by the Prisoners on Alcatraz. A prisoner stole a uniform and mingled with the troops sent on a boat, to pick up the clothes. The Sergeant in charge noted he had a stranger in his detail and apprehended the prisoner.

Were on patrol one evening and had a call from the Base. Someone had reported an Oil Pot loose in the Bay, near Alcatraz, so we went on a search. . Ships use these large containers, to discharge their waste Oil, while in the harbor. We located it, floating near Alcatraz, it was loaded  and just about all of it was under water. We tied a line to it but could not handle all that weight, so we called for a Tug. The Pot was drifting towards Alcatraz and I didn’t feel comfortable running too close. because there were signs on the Island that read, ” Anyone Approaching This Reservation, Does So At Their Own Peril” . We turned on our lights to illuminate our Identification and waited for the Tug.

It was Aug.15, 1945 and I was downtown in Frisco, checking out Market St. Walked into a USO to listen to the news, because it was reported the war in the Pacific was about to end. Had a date that evening, with a student nurse and had time to kill, so went to a movie. When I exited the theater, all hell had broke loose on Market St. The War had ended and people were celebrating, if you call destroying property and looting stores Celebrating. Saw one group break in a Liquor Store window and clean it out within minutes. Saw people carrying all kinds of stuff out of stores. Never saw a policeman. Nothing was running on Market St. If a trolley started to move, someone would pull down that third rail. I found my way to a side street and a trolly that was running and made it to St. Francis Hospital. The girls heard what was going on down on Market St. and wanted to join the fun. but fortunately those in charge decreed a Lock Down and the ladies had to entertain their dates in the student lounge.

The Celebrating went on down on Market St. for a second day and according to the news, was about to go on for a third, when the Mayor called the District Navy Commandant for help.Damage was reported at 65 Million. Most of those doing damage were Military people.  He massed about 100 Shore Patrol and a dozen trucks and sent then down on one end of Market St. They all paraded up Market St and when they saw any Military Person, was told to Immediately return to their Ship or Base. and if they didn’t, they would be picked up bodily and thrown into the trucks. That ended the Celebration.

While out on patrol, saw the Dickman heading out to sea and we rode over and waved at the crew. I’m sure they were a happy bunch, because they were scheduled to participate in a landing on the Japanese mainland. I know there are many different opinions about dropping The Bomb. but one thing I am sure of, It Saved a Lot of Lives.

I heard my Ole Skipper was now in charge of the Philadelphia  C.G. District. so I wrote and asked if he could get me transferred back to the East Coast, since I planned to make the Coast Guard a career. In a very few days my transfer arrived and I was on my way back East, and by Pullman First Class. When I arrived at the Philadelphia Base, was assigned to an 83 Footer working out of Port Richmond. Was nice duty and nice guys in the crew. Had a Chief BM in charge and I was Second. We didn’t have a cook and the crew were all Lousy Cooks. Each night when we took the garbage can to the Dumpster on the Dock, it was full. Then one day a Filipino Mess Attendant showed up, asking for the Chief. The fellow had 30 years of service and was sent to us on Temporary Assignment . He came aboard and checked out the galley, then said I Cook, but wash no pots,pans or dishes. Was no problem for us, we would clean up if he cooked. Turned out the guy was like a Magician , we ate like Kings. If we had something one day, might have it again on the next but no one knew it. He baked bread, pies cookies and all with no effort. and when came time to take the trash to the Dock, was very little in the Garbage Can. Then the Sad Day arrived, his transfer came through and we had to return to eating what we cooked. Our assignments were varied, we had to Patrol the Schuylkill River and the Port of Philadelphia. Had an interesting assignment, was told to report to the Delaware Bay , to arrive at a certain buoy and wait for a Submarine to appear and do whatever they asked. We reported and waited, saw nothing till out of the water comes this Sub. and called us over. Gave us a paper which read , they were the SS 222, had on board 3 engineers and the regular crew. and were going to do some Test Dives and we were to keep boats out of that area. Also said in case of emergency a yellow flare would come up and we were to immediately inform Groton Conn Sub. Base, .that they were in trouble. A red flare would also come up. along with a box containing a phone, so we could talk to those below.  After an uneventful couple hours,  the sub came up and headed out to sea, all the while sending messages with the light. We followed and I kept repeating IMI , trying to get them to slow down. since we didn’t have a Signalman aboard. I could copy the light but not at the speed they were sending. Finally they slowed down and I read, that they were thanking us for our help, and dismissing us.. We then returned to Port Richmond.

Then April 15, 1946 arrived and was time for me to reenlist. Unfortunately my Dad became sick and Mother needed me at home, so that ended my career in the U.S. Coast Guard,


#10-Pacific Theater

Arrived at Boston and went into the yard for some repairs, then steamed South to the Panama Canal. Had to drop the boats that were in the outboard davits, because the Dickman could not pass through sections of the canal, with them in place. The boats had to follow the ship through the 51 miles ,till we reached Balboa, then taken back aboard, while the crews reported to Sick Bay, most were pretty well toasted from the sun. We then steamed to San Francisco, arriving Jan.14,1945. where we picked up troops , then were on our way to the Island of Espiritu Santos in the New Hebridies Group.

On Feb.5 ,the ship  passed the 180th Meridian and His Majesty Neptunus Rex came aboard.

According to Wikipedia; Crossing The Line, is an initiation rite that commemorates a Sailors first crossing of the Equator. Sailors who have already crossed the Equator are nicknamed Shellbacks, often referred as Sons of Neptune, those who have not, are nicknamed ( Slimy) Pollywogs. The  event is a ritual, in which previously indoctrinated crew members are organized into a Court of Neptune, to introduce the Slimy Pollywogs into the Mysteries of the Deep. After crossing the line, Pollywogs receive subpoenas, to appear before King Neptune and his court, to receive their sentence, which includes all members of the crew and passengers, no matter their rank.

Since I had never Crossed the Line, I was ordered to appear before King Neptune and there were two hefty members of his court with me, to make sure I didn’t get lost. I was sentenced to report to the Royal Barber and receive a haircut and a shampoo. Was seated in the Barbers Chair and he proceeded to run his clippers through the center of my hair. Then came the shampoo, which was with a large glob of Axel Grease. The barbers chair was hinged at the bottom and he gave me a push , so that I landed in a large tank of salt water. Those in the tank held me under  for what seemed to be hours, then I had to Run the Gauntlet, between a group of ten Sadists armed with paddles and they showed no mercy. I was found worthy and issued a Shellback card.

There were many Innovative sentences handed out that day. one pollywog had to stand watch in the crows nest with a pair of soda bottles for binoculars, the Ships Band had to perform in the Fire Room, Mess attendants had to serve with their clothes inside out,  while others had to crawl through a canvas tunnel filled with rotten garbage. Was a Fun Day but I must Give Thanks that I wasn’t a sailor back in the Old Sailing Days, when they would Keel Haul you for initiation.

After debarking troops at Espiritu Santos we steamed to Guadalcanal. I was assigned to an LCM. The Dickman carried 4 LCM barges  They were 56 ft. long, with a 14 ft beam and powered by two 250 HP Gray Marine diesel engines. While at Guadalcanal had to do a lot of running to an Island named  Tulagi, hauling Seabees, vehicles and stores. The water is much different than most areas we worked. In the S. Pacific the water is crystal clear and as you ride around, you can see to the bottom, the beautiful white coral and the sea life swimming around. One evening I had the Midnight watch at the gangway. We were anchored out and the ship was dark, except for one light at the gangway and we had one LCVP tied up alongside. While leaning at the rail, about half asleep, I saw swimming by,  an enormous eel or maybe it was a snake but was nearly as long as the 36 ft. LCVP. I called the Officer of the Deck to come over and look,  who agreed that was the biggest Creature he ever saw. The following morning had to haul some Seabees to Tulagi and after dropping them off, had to wait till they finished and return them to Guadalcanal. We ran the boat off shore and dropped the ramp, so the crew could swim. I usually was one of the first in the water but not that day. One of the crew called and asked why I didn’t join in. My answer was, after what I saw last night, I was not about to go in the water

A large Amphibious Force was assembled and our next landing was to be at the South West corner of Okinawa. It was decided to land at Okinawa because it was only 340 miles from the Japanese mainland and it was planned to use it for a Base of Operation, for the planned Invasion of Japan. Carrier aircraft and surface ships pounded the island for nine days, prior to the landing.

On April 1,1945 our Amphibious Group arrived off Okinawa and at 0540 we were headed to the beaches. To every ones surprise, there was only sporatic mortar and shell fire, as the troops landed. Seems the Japanese decided to do their fighting inland and that they did. Four Divisions of the U.S. Tenth Army, fought on the island and the fighting was fierce. The battle for the island resulted in the highest number of casualties, of the Pacific Theater. Japanese lost over 100000 soldiers, who were either killed, captured or committed suicide and the allies suffered more than 65000 casualties. Similarly, the number of civilians that died, was staggering.

We encountered problems with with our landings on the beaches. Had to time our arrivals to make landings at high water, because at low tide the coral was exposed and could damage the boat bottoms. We had additional planks bolted to the bottoms of our barges,  to protect them. The fleet took a beating from the Kamikaze and suicide boat attacks. During this operation, 6 ships were sunk, 7 were heavily damaged and 4 slightly damaged. We would work during the day, then at dusk the ships would move out to sea , then return at daylight. The Kamikaze attacks usually came at dusk, while the suicide boats were active during the night. While the ships were out to sea, the barges had to find a place to hole up. There was a stream alongside the beaches and during our first evening we followed it up to a town named Naha. Wasn’t much left of it, but we strolled the area. Learned that the Okinawans place their dead in caves, then after the body decays, the bones are stored in urns, that occupy a place of honor, in the home. Seems were a few from Boat crews, that entered the caves and brought out the skulls, which they mounted on boat hooks and paraded them around the harbor. On the following Sunday , during his sermon,  Chaplain Day ( An Episcopalian Priest ) was not very kind, to those that participated. Fortunately none were from the Dickman.  On our second evening we rode up the stream again and found a place to tie up, then settled back hoping to get some sleep. As we looked up, we saw an American Hellcat Fighter Plane. He was flying low and slow, following the stream, apparently lost. He tipped his wings to show his markings but to no avail., Those trigger happy guys in those anti-aircraft gun emplacements, blew him out of the sky and he crashed about a mile from us. Was a sad thing to see.

The Dickman worked in the area for 6 days. landed 1368 troops, 79 vehicles and over 83000 cu. ft. of cargo.and without a casualty.. After a successful operation the Dickman left the area and steamed to Saipan, then on to Pearl Harbor. before returning to San Fancisco. I was transferred when we arrived to Frisco, while the Dickman went into the yard to have some conversion , in preparation for landing on the Japanese Mainland.



#9-Southern France

In between Landings, we had Troop Transport assignments. One of those was a trip to Glasgow , Scotland. to deliver 2000 troops. We were steaming up the Clyde River and was a nice weather day. The Clyde is a narrow river and the banks were lined with people waving at the troops. We arrived at a sparsely inhabited area and there was one small bungalow and standing alongside was a young lady and she waved. Then for whatever reason she lifted up her skirt. The troops responded and somehow those on the Starboard side heard about the show and rushed over to Port This resulted in the ship listing to Port.  The Captain was heard on the PA System. Said,OK men, the show is over,lets trim ship.

Our next landing was to be at the French Rivira.. This landing was originally planned to coincide with the Normandy Invasion but had to be postponed because it was found, there were not enough landing craft to do both. Have read much about the debates among those in charge , as to where the next landing should take place Churchill was against the Southern France landing, arguing it would divert military resources from Italy but Gen. Eisenhower overruled the British and set the date for Aug.15. The invasion began with a parachute drop by the First Airborne Task Force.Followed by an amphibious assault by elements of the U.S. Seventh Army.  Followed a day later by a force made up primarily of the French First Army Conditions turned out to be much better for  this operation and we landed 1079 troops,136 officers,80 vehicles and 10 tons of stores, without damage or casualty. Only 11 action casualties were treated on the ship ,2 were French civilians, 2 were Army and the rest were enemy prisoners. They were treated and turned over to the Army at Naples.

Despite being a large and complex operation, the Southern France invasion is not well known, it came in at the later part of the war and  was overshadowed, by the earlier, larger Normandy operation.

We loaded for a follow up trip to the beach head , this time to Marseilles delivering members of the French Army, men and women. The Top French General that came aboard had a lady companion and requested accommodations, so they could be together but the Captain turned him down and his friend had to stay with the rest of the female passengers. Marseilles was a mess. When the Germans left, they scuttled just about every ship in the harbor.

I was assigned to the Captains Gig. Was God Duty. The Motor Mac and I spent every day looking after the Gig. It had to be ready to go, to wherever .he wanted to go. One morning was called and told to have the Gig at the gangway in half an hour, to transport the Captain. Wasn’t told where he was going, so told the Motor Mac to see to the Gig, while I went to the bridge. I visited the Quartermasters, to find where the ships were located, that he might want to visit. I checked for the Flagship and where his friends ships were. I then returned to the Gig and then the Captain arrived, said he wanted to go to the Flagship. I felt good, knew where the Flagship was berthed. I drove to inside the harbor and with all the scuttled ships, I got confused. I was just about to tell the Captain I was lost, when I saw the Flagship and ran over to the gangway, The Captain said to wait, so we had to find a place to tie up. The Admirals Barge was at the Boat Boom, and it’s a no-no to tie up alongside. With all the scuttled ships I could find no place to tie up and I had to stay where I could watch the gangway. Was nothing to do but run around in circles and we did just that for 8 hours. Wad to break into the Emergency rations for something to eat. Even broke into the Emergency Water keg and the water tasted awful. Finally the Captain showed at the gangway and we returned to the Dickman. After delivering the Captain, we called to have the Gig pulled up in No. 1 Davit. When we arrived on deck the Master at Arms was waiting for us and told us to report to the Mess Deck. When we arrived, we learned the Captain had ordered Steak for the Gig’s crew.. We ate like Kings.

Our European Theater involvement ended with liberty at Naples.A group decided to visit Pompeii and with us was shipmate Phil Patania, who was well versed in Italian. Had to go by train and was a 20 mile trip. The train was crowded and Phil noticed there was a fellow with a guitar, and asked if he could play . He began playing those old Italian songs, that everyone knew and all joined in. Soon everyone in that car was singing and Phil was conducting. When we arrived at Pompeii we hired a guide and he was worth the price, spoke very good English Were told the town was partially destroyed and buried in 12 to 20 ft. of ash, in 79 AD,  from the eruption of Mt.Vesuvius.. The guide told us to note that some of the buildings in the town had deep ruts in the cobblestone out front. This was where the Brothels were located.


We returned to Norfolk, it was New Years Day 1944 and I was granted leave. Was able to get home and enjoy mothers Great Cooking. While on leave, ran into Les Saunderlin , a fellow I knew who lived in Quinton and we swapped  Sea Stories.Learned he was on the Destroyer Rowan, when it took a hit by a German Sub and sank. Said was then assigned to the USS Henrico, APA 45, which was in our Fleet. Found out we were traveling together and did not know it.

When I returned to the Dickman, we took on cargo and returned to England, at Slapton Sands,  where we began preparing  for the Normandy Invasion. We practiced small scale landings on the British coast and made five full scale landings at Slapton Sands, where the beaches were similar to those at Normandy.

On one occasion, a group of our barges had delivered troops to  the beach and were returning to the ship. In the area, were four British Spitfire Fighter Planes and they decided it was Fun Time. They would dive down over the barges and came so close, we could see the pilots faces, as they laughed. On one of the passes, one of the planes flew too close and when he banked, his wing tipped the ramp of one of the barges. He lost control and dove into the water, resulting in a big ball of fire.The rest of the group disappeared. We drove over to where the plane went down but a couple of British Crash Boats arrived and shooed us away. I have often wondered, what kind of report was made on that incident.

General Dwight Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Commander for the Normandy Invasion and he set a date for June 5,1944. The landing was code named Neptune, which included five assault areas,named Sword assigned to the British troops, Juno to Canadian Infantry, Gold was also British, Omaha was American ,as was Utah. While the Allies were preparing an assault on the French coast, the Germans were preparing to push them back into the sea. The Germans knew there was to be a landing but did not know where or when. The French coast was well fortified. On the beach they planted obstacles, consisting of sharpened wooden poles and three steel bars welded together called hedgehogs. Behind the beaches they planted mines and built concrete reinforced pill boxes, to house their artillery. Allied Intelligence kept a pretty close watch on the German preparation and noted a couple of errors. First they planned their defences to repel a landing at High Tide, so that they lay exposed at Low Water. It was decided the first waves would land at low tide, with Army Engineers,whose task it was to clear the obstacles and mark  paths, so that the in coming barges would have a clear run to the beach. The other error was their defences were concentrated in the Pas de Calais area, which was only 24 miles from the British coast, while Normandy was 80 miles across.

On May 24 we reported to Falmouth , England, which was our base of operations. On June 2, 130 officers and 1800 enlisted men, were embarked for the coming operation. Falmouth was a small port and had no room for the many ships, loading for this operation. The Dickman had to load troops using barges. We would pick up the troops, then they would climb aboard, via the nets.

Preparations continued. The Army Intelligence group came aboard and gave a last minute report on what was on Utah Beach. They had Charts. Photo’s and Models of the beach. and we received a detailed briefing. After they left, all ships were placed on Lock Down. No one was permitted to leave. Security was tight.

Turned out weather was a big factor, was stormy with rough seas in the channel and Gen Eisenhower decided to delay the landing until June 6, since conditions were predicted to improve. At 4:00 AM on June 6 all boats went in the water. Those in the Davits were loaded, then dropped in the water, while the rest were loaded via the debarkation nets. No easy task in rough seas. All barges ran over to their assigned areas, then ran around in circles, waiting till all boats were loaded. The troops in the boats were taking a beating, were not used to bobbing around in heavy seas and most were sick, along with getting soaked by the seas coming over the bow. At 0500 the signal was given and we headed to the beach, had 12 miles to go. The ships were anchored off shore, out of he range of the guns on the beach. We passed the Battleship Nevada, on our route and they were firing their 16 inch guns. Could see the projectiles, as they left the muzzle and sailed over our heads. As we got closer, saw more Navy Ships firing their big guns. Rockets from the Rocket Firing Barges were Swishing overhead. and we prayed we didn’t get hit, by those falling short. The sky was covered with bombers heading to the beaches. I read one reporters description, said it was,” the Greatest Fireworks Display Ever ” and I totally agree. Was hard to believe there was anything left on beach, after that pounding but there was fire coming from those pill boxes and boats were getting hit.  We passed troops clinging to wreckage  but could not stop to pick them up. At  1000 yards off the beach, our Wave got the signal from the Control Boat and it was full speed to the beach. Fortunately we were able to to give our troops a good landing but other boats were not so lucky, landed at spots with giant holes, caused by the bombing, resulting in troops having to wade through deep water.

After debarking the troops we backed down and headed to the Dickman. On our way we picked up four troops out of the water. All but seven of our boats made it back, were either swamped or damaged by gunfire. The ship took on thee dead and 154 casualties that were treated in our Sick Bay. We left Utah Beach and returned to Falmouth, where we unloaded the casulties and took on cargo, to return to Utah. This time conditions were much improved .


#7-Salerno Bay Landing

Made a couple Troop Transport runs, then returned to Mers El Kabir and liberty was granted, The nearest town was Oran, in Algiers and there were many Army trucks on the road , so was easy to hitch a ride. Our Ships Doctors suggested those going on liberty, take along a water canteen, since Dysentery was a concern. While in Oran I visited a USO and checked out the Guest Register and found Ed Howell had signed in . I asked Army guys about his unit and was told they left the day before. Would have been nice to meet up with someone from Salem. Walked by some stores and saw one named Athens Deli, so I walked in. French was the language of the area, which I could not speak but thought I might make out with Greeks. Talked to the owner and his wife that were from Greece and we got along well, I even got an invitation to their apartment for a nice Greek meal. They even  gave me a bag of Baklava, to take back to the ship.

We  had a briefing and was told our next landing would be at Salerno Bay, which was on the Italian West coast, North of Naples. The troops that came aboard were the U.S. 36th division and we held practice landings. On Sept. 8, we were heading up the coast of Italy and and it was announced that Italy had surrendered, so we figured this landing would be a Piece of Cake. At 3:00 AM on Sept 9, all boats went in the water and were loaded with troops. Seas were calm and we ran to our assigned areas and waited for the signal to head for the beach. The Sgt. in charge of the group came over and we chatted. There was no bombardment of the beach, guess those in charge thought it was not needed. We arrived at 1000 yds., we were in the first wave. The Sgt. and I wished each each other luck and he took his position at the bow. We got the signal and headed in, was no fire from the beach. All was quiet till we dropped the ramp, then all hell broke loose. I landed right in front of a gun emplacement and they began firing. Saw the Sgt. and others go down on the beach and there were three down in the boat. Could see the next wave coming, so had to back down off the beach and headed back. The crew checked the wounded and had no response from two but the third took a hit to his knee and was in great pain. We had First Aid Kits on the boats, so we wrapped the leg. Also had Syretttes of Morphine, so he we gave him  a shot. but he was still screaming. We gave him a second shot and this time he lay quiet. Whenever the ship was assigned a landing, we would take on extra doctors to help in the Sick Bay. On shore the Medics would bring the wounded to our boats and we would haul them to the Dickman. We were a Mini-Hospital Ship.

Were out in the boats for 12 hours, so a relief crew took over while we came aboard to wash up and get something to eat. I was on my way to the Mess Deck and took a short cut by the Sick Bay. The Medics had forgot to pull the curtains at the Operating Area and it was the first time I had seen a leg amputated. I lost my appetite, so did not report to the Mess Deck.

After completing our assignments, all boats returned to the ship. We had work to do to get our boat back ship shape, were a lot of bullet holes that had to be filled, even at the area  that I stood. The Good Lord looked after us that day.

We returned to New York and went into the Yard for some repairs.It was New Years Day 1944 and I was granted leave, so went home where I enjoyed my mothers great cooking.

#6-Invasion of Sicily

While in the Yard at Norfolk, the Teak Wood decking on the Dickman was removed. Those beautiful decks were part of her, when she was a Luxury Liner but all were ripped up, leaving exposed steel decks. It was feared if the ship took a hit, the splintering of the Teak, would result in more casualties than the steel.

After leaving Norfolk we proceeded to the Chesapeake, where we participated in Drills and maneuvers. We would just about fall asleep, when the General Quarters would sound. and needed to find our way to our assigned stations, in the dark. Had to report to the Starboard side davits, get in our LCVP and prepare to be lowered into the water. After were in the water, would run to our assigned area, all in the dark. Needed to learn to identify the ships in our fleet. by their silhouette. Spent a lot of time in the boats, most of the time loaded with troops. We learned to handle our boats in all situations, running up onto a beach, then backing off and to maneuver while loading or unloading cargo. Found that operating a flat bottomed boat,  was a bit different than one with a keel. On one occasion we were retuning to our ship, while the Carrier Intrepid was out on a shakedown cruise and her four engines were running Full-Bore. We got in her wake and felt like our boat was going to hit the bottom of the Chesapeake.

On May 10, 1943, we left and headed to Europe, via the North Atlantic, where we ran into stormy weather. We were loaded with troops and  running in convoy.  Seas were breaking over the bow and as I watched the Destroyers, that were our escort , looked like they were under water more than on top. One night I had the midnight watch and had to report to the No.1, 40 MM gun, which was in the bow.of the ship. Seas were breaking over the bow and crashing over the Gun Shield, which we were holding on to.  Could not see two feet in any direction and all we did was hold on. I called Fire Control and asked to secure No, 1 Gun because was afraid we were going to get washed over the side. In a bit, was called and had permission to secure the gun, so we went below. In the morning, I went topside to check and saw the Gun Shield, which was made of 3/8 inch steel, was flat to the deck.

We debarked the troops at Mers El Kebir in N.Africa, then returned to England to prepare for my First Landing. We took on troops and I found they were the famous Ranger Battalion under Col. William O. Darby. They were quite a group, up every morning before breakfast doing Callisthenics. We hauled them on maneuvers and during one exercise, noted something I had never seen. After we hit the beach and dropped the ramp, the group of Rangers charged out on to the beach. In front of them was barbed wire, so the first Ranger ran and laid on the wire, making a bridge while the others ran over his back. I was impressed!!

The maneuvers and training continued into July . I then learned the landing was to be made at Gela in Sicily. The Intelligence people came aboard and briefed us on the operation. We learned we would land on the beach at Gela . There was a long pier in the center of the beach and we would land the Rangers on the left,  while a group of British Commando’s would be landed on the right. There was a gun emplacement on the end of the pier and one of our barges was assigned to haul a group,  to  take care of that. We were also told that there was a sand bar close to the beach front and to be sure and not drop the ramp, till we crossed that bar. At 0045 on July 10, we began lowering boats and completed at 0125. Twenty four boats were preloaded at the davits, while all others received troops via the debarkation nets. All boats ran in circles at assigned areas, till all boats were in the water, then we headed towards the beach, led by a Patrol Boat. Had 10 miles to run. At 0500 we were 1000 yards off the beach and when we got the signal from the patrol boat, it was full bore to the beach. As we passed the end of the pier,  was no fire coming from it, so the guys did their job but there was lots of fire coming from those buildings along the beach ,along with search lights playing up and down. As I proceeded in towards the beach, I felt the boat slow down , then lumber over the bar into deep water. We hit the beach and dropped the ramp, then the Rangers charged on to the beach. As soon as the last one was out, I signaled to Lynch to wind the ramp and at the same time backed down. Being a bit shaken, I forgot about that sand bar and jammed the rudder, so could not steer. There were two of my crew,  in the Gun Wells, so I called for them to Open Up the Emergency Tiller Cap and for the Motor Mac to get the tiller. Those in the Gun Wells thought I said, Open Up on those guns firing from the buildings and began firing the 30 Cal Guns. Took a few minutes to stop the firing and get the tiller installed and we finally got off the beach.  Had a few bullet holes in the boat but no one was hit. .

When got back to the ship was taken aboard and got the steering repaired , then went back in the water. I took on a load of bombs and headed back to the beach, then waited to get unloaded. While waiting I looked up and saw several boats coming in and sitting on the bow of one, was none other than General George Patton, had three stars on his helmet and a pearl handled revolver at his side. Several cameramen jumped into the water and headed to the beach to set up cameras, then cranked away as the General walked to the beach. As he stood with a pair of very large binoculars, looking out over the sea, a German Stuka Dive Bomber arrived, bombing the beach. I dove to the bottom of the boat , not thinking of the load of bombs we had , till the Stuka passed. I then looked  to see where the General went and don’t think he had moved more than two feet from where I last saw him. Guess he must have been quite a guy.

While on our way back to the ship, heard an awful explosion and saw flames and smoke heading skyward. It was the SS Robert  Rowan, a munitions ship that was anchored  near the Dickman. that took a hit from a bomber. The Dickman weighed anchor to clear the Rowan, that  was 1000 yards off the stern when she blew. Boats from our ship had removed it’s crew.

After a successful operation, we returned to England



#5-Landing Craft

Landing Craft are boats and seagoing vessels, used to convey a landing force (infantry or vehicles) from sea to the shore, during amphibious assaults. The USS Joseph T. Dickman had on board 36 Landing Craft. Thirty One were designated LCVP ,along with four LCM’s. and one that was converted for use as a Captains Gig. She was the largest Amphibious Assault Ship in the fleet. designated APA13.

Landing Craft  had evolved over the years. The first were boats that were rowed ashore. These rowing boats were sufficient but inefficient. During WWI, mobilization of troops with rapid firing weapons made such boats obsolete. Many designs of motorized craft were introduced.The British built and used powered lighters as early as 1926 . Were they were used to land men and horses in the Gallipoli Campaign .

Andrew Higgins with a company based in New Orleans, was the main supplier of U.S. landing craft. He built boats for the private sector but when the Navy expressed an interest, he worked full time to design barges they could use. No less an authority as Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower declared Higgens Boats to be crucial to an Allied victory. Higgens kept improving his design. It was found that the Japanese were using a shallow draft  Daihatsu class landing barge, which had features Higgins incorporated.

The Dickman barges were two types, LCVP and LCM’s. The LCVP, to which I was assigned, was made of Plywood,  36 ft. long, with a 10 ft. beam and propelled by a Gray Marine 225 HP Diesel engine. Had a flat bottom with forward draft of 2ft. and 3 ft. aft. It’s top speed was 12 Knots ( 14 MPH ) ,designed to accommodate 36 troops. in it’s cargo well and had a steel ramp. The LCM was made of steel,  56 ft long, with a 14 ft. beam and powered by twin 225 HP Gray Marine Diesel engines. Could accommodate a 25 ton Army Tank in it’s cargo well.

My main assignment, as a member of the Dickman crew, was to see that my barge was ready to go in a minutes notice. I became  proficient with a paint brush and very good with a wash bucket. Also assigned to each barge was a Motor Mac. Ed Lynch of Youngstown, Ohio. was with me for all landings and he did an outstanding job. Aboard ship were a group of Carpenters and Mechanics that were ready to replace a stern section or an entire engine in a barge and did just that, on several occasions. While under weigh, the boat crews had to also stand watches, I could be found standing watch at  No 1 40 MM anti-aircraft gun  or as a lookout, from the ends of the bridge.

While in port, each ship had to send ashore Petty Officers for Shore Patrol duty,  to help  those permanently assigned that duty in a Liberty Town. . Being s Boatswains Mate I got that duty many times, it wasn’t one of my favorite assignments. While the ship was in Norfolk I got my first Shore Patrol assignment. I had to report to the Shore Patrol Station located on Granby St. which was Wall to Wall saloons, a favorite hang out for many servicemen. The Officer in Charge told me to sit and wait, I would be given something to do in a bit. In a few minute the phone rang and the caller said there were some sailors fighting,  inside one of the saloons. The O C called one of his Permanent SP’s and introduced me. He was a huge fellow, in civilian life a Chicago policeman. We got in the Paddy Wagon and he drove to the saloon , he knew each one by name. As we entered, there were six sailors going at it but when they saw us all but one left and went outside. The one that stayed became belligerent , using some foul language and threatening us. My partner and I tried to calm him with no success. Finally my partner grabbed the sailor, spun him around and held his arm up his back. He handed the sailor over to me and then unlocked the Paddy Wagon’s rear door. My pardner then grabbed the sailor and threw him into the wagon. When the guy turned to get out, he hit his head on the door window and cracked the glass. On our way to the station our passenger continued ranting. We arrived at the station and placed him in a cell . My pardner then took down a clip board and wrote down the charges. There were many listed and each charge had a number. Number 1, using profanity, 2 resisting arrest, he went on and on, till came to number 10, which was destroying Government Property,  because of the cracked door glass. I often wondered how much time he spent in Portsmouth Prison.

#4-USS Joseph T. Dickman

On Dec. 3. 1942 I packed my Sea Bag and was transported to the Navy Yard in Norfolk Va. In the dry dock I saw the Joseph T. Dickman . She was having some repairs and I learned that she was going to be my new home.

Much has been written about the Dickman but I would like to begin my report  by posting sections of a journal written by Capt. Q.R. Walsh USCG,Retired. Being one of the original crew  I figured he would be the best source of information. The ship was built in Camden in 1922 and named USS President Roosevelt. For many years operated as a First Class Passenger Liner, then in Oct. 1940 was taken over by the War Dept. and converted into a troop ship. It was at that time her name was changed to USS Jos T. Dickman, in honor of Major General Jos. T. Dickman, a distinguished WWI Veteran. .  Her overall length was 535 ft., had a 72 ft beam and a draft of 31 ft. On Jan.10 1941 she was commissioned and maned by Coast Guard personnel. Lt Commander C.W. Harwood was in command. Capt. Walsh wrote he came aboard about the time the ship was converted and was still in possession of her furniture, beautiful mirrors and other fittings, in the passenger compartments for her first class passenger service. Certain holds had been converted for troop service with bunks etc., on the berth decks. Many requests were made, to remove all that furniture etc. to get it out of the way of the workmen. It was decided to move it all from below deck and stow it on  the outboard weather deck . There was literally tons of furniture, beautiful sofas, upholstered chairs, beds etc. Nobody did anything about moving that furniture, till one day several flat -decked barges showed up alongside the ship and everything was thrown over the side, from a height of about 30 ft. into the barges below. It was a sight to behold. The broken mass must have been worth several hundred  thousands of dollars.

Capt. Walsh wrote, there were thieves among the workmen in the yard. The silver napkin rings in the Ward Room were taken, even a personal one, with my name inscribed. The lockers in the crews quarters were also broken into, It was a disgrace. Finally one day 8 crewmen secreted themselves on one of the berth decks, while the crew was having their noon day meal. Sure enough the workmen started to break into the lockers. They were jumped on and roughed up, then taken up to the Officer of the Deck, who called the Yard security police. That seemed to reduce the theft.

The Dickman then left New York and arrived at Hampton Rhodes, where it took part in some Amphibious Training. Had 28 landing craft on board, 18 which were the old spoon bow Higgins boats, which were cradled under the worn screw davits. The davits had not been changed from when the ship was a passenger liner and the boat falls had to be worked by hand. The balance of the boats were located on the weather deck aft, or on the forecastle and were handled by the overhead gear and jumbo booms. It took several hours to get the boats in the water.The davits were not strong enough to take the boats. The worn gear davits bent and froze and were useless. It was a common occurrence to drop boats from the davit heads.

The troops that came aboard were the 26th Division under Col. Theodore Roosevelt Jr. Among the 2400 troops was then Private Winthrop Rockefeller, it seems his friends inveigled him to join. The troops wore the vintage WWI uniforms and when landed on the beach, had to jump off the spoon bow of the landing craft, quite a feat, with a full pack and a rifle in hand. Everything was an innovation,trial and error but the knowledge gained led to perfection of tasks, that proved successful for future amphibious operations. In August the ship went into the Navy Yard, where we  picked up new boats and had electric davits installed.

The Captain wrote amphibious training was interrupted and all ships were ordered out to sea, for maneuvers in formation. We ran at night in close formation. It was quite an experience for all. but became routine after the war started. The Dickman pulled into Charleston S.C. and had liberty. It was here that Rockefeller announced he had rented the entire 3rd floor of a hotel on the battery, so anyone could take a shower. All persons on the Dickman had been on water hours since leaving New York . Everybody got 2 buckets of water per day, per man. However most of the officers and crew of the ship took advantage of the frequent thunderstorms , to take a shower. The Army thought we were nuts but later on started doing it.

The Dickman returned to New York, then moved to Boston for further conversion, remaining until Oct. 1. Stores were loaded, after which the transport proceeded to Halifax and loaded British reinforcements. It was while transporting the British troops, that we learned about the attack on Pearl Harbor and that the U.S. was at war. The Dickman arrived in Bombay, via Trinidad and Cape Town on Dec. 27.debarked troops then retraced it’s steps, arriving at New York Feb. 28,1942. The Dickman, during June was assigned to carry reinforcements to Caribbean Bases, then spent  July in the Chesapeake, preparing for the invasion of N. Africa. On Oct. 24 left Norfolk to take part in it’s first Amphibious landing, the first ever landing across an entire ocean. Arriving at Fedela early Nov.8, she began debarkation. The surf conditions were rough, resulting in the ships loosing many boats. The Dickman lost five landing barges and two coxswain. She remained off shore till the German Subs forced her seaward. The successful invasion was consolidated and the Dickman  entered Casablanca on Nov 15 and completed unloading. Two days later was underway, arriving in Norfolk Nov.30, 1942.  ( End of Capt. Qentin R. Walsh’s notes)

After arriving on board, I was assigned to the Boat Division and told I was a Boat Coxswain of spanking new LCVP.

#3-Nags Head

For a reason known only to those in charge, I was transferred from Parramore Island. to Nags Head C.G. Station, on the N.C eastern shore. The station was similar to the one I just left, just a different location At that time in 1941, there were just a few cottages along the beach , now there are wall to wall Condos and gigantic Hotels. Nags Head is in an area called the Outer Banks, known for it’s large Sand Dunes and Kitty Hawk, where the Wright Bros. made their first powered airplane flight.

At Nags Head Station our duties were similar to those at Parramore Is., with the addition of the patrols of the beaches. At that time the German U boats were raising havoc off the coast and we would see oil slicks and debris on the beaches.  We  walked our patrols till it was decided we could cover more area, if we rode along the beaches.The Cavalry was disbanding  and sent a dozen horses to Nags Head. Stables. were built to house them and then they were  used to ride beach patrols. I had never ridden a horse but we had several crew members that were from Texas and volunteered to ride. I stood my watches in the Tower and at the switchboard. On one Sunday some of the crew decided to go Horse Riding and I was invited. Thought I would try riding a horse, so one was selected and I was instructed in the placement of the saddle and how to steer the critter. We all mounted the horses and then the guys took off down the beach. I tried to hold back but that horse paid no attention, it wanted to join the crowd. All I could do was hold on and pray. After what seemed to be hours, we returned to the station and I was Sore. I sat on a pillow for a week and declined future horse riding invitations.

Had a lot of work to do at the station along with standing watches,  participating in drills and responding to rescue assignments.  We also had  time off for fun, enjoyed entertaining the young ladies that vacationed in the area. Manteo  was a small town a few miles from the station and that was our Liberty town. For a small town, there was a lot of activity. Each summer, actors and singers performed at the Waterside Theater, in what was billed as the Nations Oldest Outdoor Drama, “The Lost Colony” I was told 117 men, women, and children sailed from Plymouth, England in an attempt to settle on Roanoke Island and they vanished, The Lost Colony is their story , told with romance , dancing and drama.Many of the townspeople were involved in the theater. I spent a lot of time at the local library, which doubled as a USO and I met a young lady who was an actress in the show, so I had some incentive to visit Manteo.

Each year Coast Guard Day is celebrated and the main event  was a lifeboat race, with several of the stations competing. The course was set up off shore, covered one mile from start to a marker,  then a return to the finish line. The oarsmen had only a life jacket and an oar in the boat . The race began with the firing of a Flares Gun and at some time during the race, each crew had to stop , ship oars, all oarsmen would get to one side of the boat, turn it over, then right it and  continue the race. The coxswain that was stationed at the stern,  would ship his steering oar and ride around too. In that year  Nags Head won and the  crew  consisted of 8 Surfmen and the Chief in charge, that was the coxswain.

One of the crew was from Hatteras and several times invited me to go home with him for a week-end. and I accepted.  Were no roads on Hatteras Island. in those days, had to wait for low tide and drive on the beach. We hitched a ride with a fellow that delivered the mail and it was interesting riding along the beach and seeing  those hulks of wrecked ships. Off shore the warm Gulf Stream collides with the colder Labrador current, creating ideal conditions for powerful ocean storms . The area is famous for the storms and all the many ships that ran aground due to shifting sand bars. While in Hatteras, we took a walk up to the top of the 200 ft. Hatteras Lighthouse, an Aid to Navigation that can be seen 20 miles out to sea. My friend had many relatives living in the area that made for a nice visit.

When Dec. 7, 1941 arrived,  we sat glued to the radio, listening to what went on at Pearl Harbor. On Dec 8th we listened to President F.D. Roosevelt give his, ” Day That Will Live in Infamy” speech . and  wondered how we would be effected by what was going on. After a few months we found out, the Navy took over the Coast Guard and several of us were transferred.

#2-First Assignment

After finishing Book Camp, all graduates received their assignments. Mine was to report to Parramore Beach Lifeboat Station, located on an island off Wachapreague in Accomac County in Virginia. The station was established in 1883 and rebuilt in 1937. It was manned by 16 enlisted men, with a Chief in charge. The station’s main mission was Search and Rescue and to respond to all Maritime Emergencies. We had a 44 ft.Self Righting Motor Lifeboat, designed with special features for rescuing people in peril, at sea or in the estuaries. The boat house also housed a lifeboat which was oar-propelled.

Drills were a part of each days activities. One session was the Breeches Buoy and Life Cart Drill. There was a cart that included  all the equipment used in that drill. Included was a small cannon used to fire a lead line over a ships Masthead. ( We had a simulated ships mast on the beach) Those on the ship were supposed to grab the lead line and pull the hawser that was used to pass the Breeches Buoy or the Life Cart back and forth,  from the ship in distress  to the beach. Another drill was with the oar-propelled lifeboat  We practiced launching the lifeboat into the heavy surf. No easy task  but those Surfmen were up to the task. Several in the crew were rated Surfmen, part of the original Coast Guard Lifesaving Service.

All crew members had to stand watches, either at our telephone switchboard, at the Communications Station or in the Tower. My first Tower Watch was from 4:00 to 8:00 AM. Was instructed to log anything unusual and if I had an emergency, to press the Alarm button. All went well till about 6:00,  while looking out towards the horizon I saw what looked like the ocean was ablaze. The German Subs were raising havoc off the coast at that time and I thought I saw an explosion.  I set off the alarm but nobody responded. Then I found  it was just the sunrise. Those Old timers knew there was a rookie on watch in the tower and expected the alarm to sound.It gave the crew something to laugh about, during the day.

We responded to calls from the local Watermen that needed a tow and others in distress. On one occasion we intercepted a call from a 125 ft. Fishing Trawler that had engine trouble. She was about 10 miles off shore and when we arrived,  the trawler was wallowing in heavy seas. Our lifeboat was too small to help, so we called for a tug and then stood by till it arrived. While circling  I noted a seagull flapping in an oil slick. near the trawler, and about the same time a seaman on the trawler also the gull was in trouble. He went over and picked up a net with a long handle and scooped up the gull, brought it on board and with a towel wiped it clean, then let it fly away. There are lots of nice people in the world and that sailor is on my list.

There were many fishermen working in that area and when off duty a couple of us would go to the beach and help them haul in their Seine Nets and they. would respond by giving us a basket of a fish they called Spot. We would give them to the cook, who did a good job preparing them. We ate a lot of fish, then the extra were cleaned and salted and placed in a keg for future reference. I acquired a taste for seafood but those old timers were ahead of me, was the first time I ran into people eating fish for breakfast.

Was also a lot of game on the island. One day all had gone ashore and the cook and I were the only ones at the station  The cook saw a group of ducks in the water a few feet from the Boat Dock. He called me and said he had to stay in the kitchen , but wanted me to take the shotgun and sneak behind the Gas Drum and fire into those ducks and we would have duck for dinner that night. I had never shot a shot gun but sounded good to me, so I sneaked over in back of the drum ,were about a dozen ducks, sitting only about 10 ft. from me. I came out from behind the drum and fired, both barrels. Saw a lot of feathers flying around but no ducks in the water, I never hit a singe duck and the cook was mad.. He didn’t speak to me for two days and the crew had something else to laugh about.

We would get liberty and most of the crew had family in the area. I would rent a room and stay in Wachapreague on my days off. I met some nice people and always had invitations to dinners.I kept in touch with a few,after I was transferred, till they passed away but still talk to the son of the local barber I visited.  He is retired and still lives in the area,

After 6 months  was told I was being transferred. Guess all good things have to come to an end.