D-Day 75th Anniversary – A Day to Remember the Sacrifices

Today is the 75th anniversary of the largest seaborne invasion in world history.

June 6, 1944 is known as D-Day. Operation Neptune began the liberation of German-occupied France. And later Europe.

The outcome of this campaign made the Allied victory on the Western front possible. Without it, there is no telling how World War II would have progressed and ended.

A Horrific Sacrifice

The consequences suffered by the Allies on that historic day were horrific. More than 4,400 killed and 10,000 casualties.

Of course, the well-fortified Germans suffered thousands of losses and casualties as well. And those numbers skyrocketed as the campaign continued.

My good friend, Frank Bates, has a direct connection with D-Day. He served on two U.S. Navy ships that were involved in the Normandy landings a couple of decades earlier.

I’m handing it over to Frank now to share some of his Vietnam wartime memories. As well as his thoughts about our active-duty troops and veterans.

Frank Shares His Thoughts

Thanks, Robert.

I was born exactly 370 days after American Forces landed on Omaha Beach to commence the Normandy Invasion.

That invasion ultimately liberated Europe from the Nazis. And led to an Allied victory in World War II.

So, I was not there. However, 25 years later as a young naval officer, I found myself at the conn of a U.S. Navy ship that WAS there. Right in the middle of things.

Landing Ship Dock Delivery

It was an LSD (Landing Ship Dock). You may think of it as a huge seagoing dump truck that shows up at amphibious landings.

That’s for the purpose of delivering and operating the landing craft. (In case you ever wondered how all those little death traps got there.)

Each LSD carried 30 to 40 of these little motorized cheese boxes crammed into a well deck.

Which, as the fun was getting ready to start, could be submerged sufficiently to float the landing craft. And allow them to start their engines.

Awaiting the Signal

When the signal was given, the LSD would open its tailgate and let out its swarm of landing craft to go alongside assigned troop ships.

There they would be filled to the brim with soldiers. They’d line up facing the beach, waiting for the signal to advance.

You’ve all seen the film footage about what happened next. By 1969, so had I.

In Vietnam, the LSD’s job was not so glorious. They hauled assorted junk up and down the coast. And because of their shallow draft and flat bottoms, they could navigate a good ways up the rivers to resupply equipment to remote bases.

I Was at the Wheel

They’d also serve as mobile repair facilities for river patrol boats. And later on, they transported heavily armored and fortified barges full of U.S. Marines to fight in the jungle. While everybody else picked their seats… for the movie.

The one I was on actually carried a couple of landing craft of the original type. Although I can hardly imagine they were original, since they were mostly in one piece.

I drove one a time or two. Think of the landing craft as a big plywood shoebox with a flat, oversized steel ramp flipped up in front. And an elevated wheelhouse shielded by a steel plate in the rear. With a sign that says “Aim Here.”

Landing craft were underpowered and hard to maneuver. And they had no guns and no armor. Other than the front ramp and aforementioned wheelhouse.

A Different Homecoming

I recall quite clearly my first time at the helm. I puzzled over what could possess any young man to climb down a cargo net into one of these flimsy things.

They’d be bouncing around and banging off the side of the ship to motor off with 50 other men. Right into the smoking meat grinder that was Omaha Beach on D-Day. What were they thinking?

I left one America headed to Viet Nam in the summer of 1968 and came back to a far different one at Christmastime in 1969.

When I got back I walked out the main gate at the Long Beach Naval Base for the first time. I was greeted by beautiful young girls (well, some of them were girls).

They were yelling “Baby Killer” and throwing dog feces. I realized too late they were aiming at me.

A Different War

That night I thought about those guys on Omaha Beach. Not the ones who lost their lives while they were still in the boats. Or the ones who died on the beach that day.

Or about those who drowned before they even got there. But rather the ones who made it back home after it was all over.

Would I trade their homecoming for mine? Please. Would I trade their war for mine? Probably not. My odds of survival were actually better.

I was young and somewhat naïve. I mean, I joined the Navy right out of college so I could go to Officer Candidate School (OCS) and chart my own course in how I served my country, rather than getting drafted into the Army and going straight to Viet Nam with only a little basic training under my belt. I ended up getting shipped over sooner than anyone thought.

Believe me, though, I knew the difference between what was at stake in World War II and what was going on in Vietnam even then.

Why Did I Go?

There were many other paths open to me that would have kept me out of Viet Nam… paths that I declined. So, why did I go?

Well, I am pretty sure I went for the same reason those guys climbed down those cargo nets into those boats on D-Day.

It was what people who wanted to be able to hold their heads up high were supposed to do.

Today, many of our brave young men and women are doing the exact same thing in various places around the globe.

Some Americans today don’t have the slightest clue what kind of sacrifice was made for them on D-Day. Or what kind of sacrifices today’s soldiers are making on their behalf.

But fortunately, many do. I know that you do. Thank you for being a vital part of the 4Patriots family.

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