Memorial Day, 2013

Coast Guard Rescue Flotilla One

Photo: Photo No. 3743 (06-17-44 (02)
Photographer unknown.
USCG-20 (83401) and USCG-21 (83402) off the coast of Normandy.

Great little story about one man’s Coast Guard experience in WWII as CO of an 83 foot patrol boat assigned rescue duty for the Normandy invasion.

“Preserving D-Day Memories with a Tattered Flag,” LA Times

Unfortunately there are many stories of Naval battles during WWII when it seems we forgot to look for survivors after the battle. Fortunately President Roosevelt insisted that Coast Guard boats be sent to accompany the invasion fleet for the Normandy invasion. There were 60 of the wooden hulled gasoline powered boats sent England for the invasion.

Despite their apparent vulnerability, I have never heard of one being lost to enemy action. There were 15 Coast Guardsmen killed at Normandy on June 6, 1944. None were aboard the 83 footers. 11 were on the three Coast Guard manned LCI(L)s, Landing Craft Infantry (Large), that were lost that day: Coast Guardsmen killed in action on D-Day.

Coast Guard Rescue Flotilla One

Photo: No date listed; probably June 1944.
No photo number.
Photographer unknown.

Apparently, with the target rich environment the Germans were presented, they concentrated on the vessels bringing troops ashore and the shore bombardment vessels that were shooting at them.

When we consider how our cutters might be used in future conflicts we might keep this experience in mind.

And lastly a bit of showmanship:

D-Day, 6 June 1944

File:1944 NormandyLST.jpg

A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of the U.S. Army’s First Division on the morning of June 6, 1944 (D-Day) at Omaha Beach. USCG photograph

The Coast Guard historian has an excellent collection (broken link) of stories about the Coast Guard’s participation in the invasion. Virtually all the American made video footage you may see of the Normandy invasion was done by the Coast Guard. The Army Signal Corp lost their footage overboard.

Famous Film maker John Ford, who also filmed the attack on Midway, was in the Navy, but he landed on D-Day with Coast Guard Cameramen. The following is from: “We Shot D-Day on Omaha Beach (An Interview With John Ford)” by Pete Martin, the article first appeared in The American Legion Magazine, June 1964.

Ford was head of the Photographic Department of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) under General “Wild Bill” Donovan. The cameramen in his unit were attached to the Coast Guard and trained for every sort of action. They could drop by parachute, land with raiders, commandos, infantry. They knew about amphibious landings. All Ford had to do was name it. They could do it. He’d hand picked his group of helpers. They were a superb team. Ford was told to head that team up and get both color and black-and-white footage of the invasion of Omaha Beach from start to finish.

“I take my hat off to my Coast Guard kids. They were impressive. They went in first, not to fight, but to photograph. They went with the troops. They were the first ones ashore.”