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Private Billy Melander

29th Infantry Division - 115th Infantry Regiment - Regimental Headquarters

Omaha Beach

 

Troops aboard these flat bottomed L.C.I.s were sea sick from the rough night trip over. Those that tried to eat breakfast were soon very sorry. These boats where not at all comfortable and handled badly in rough seas.

Because of heavy resistance encountered at the beach, near the Vierville Draw and the les Moulins Draw, where the 116th Regiment had run into this waiting German 352nd Infantry Division. Our late intelligence reports had them listed to be 20 miles inland at St. Lo.

They had been on anti-invasion maneuvers in this area for some time. This placed them firmly entrenched in good defensive positions on the shores and bluff overlooking the beaches. They had months of practice in repelling any invasion force that might come against them. Their instructor was Field Marshal Rommel. They did their work well.

Casualties where extremely heavy and the 116th, was unable to break free. As a result, all forward movement from some of these sectors came to a complete halt. It was then that the 115th was ordered to move up their timetable and reinforce the mission of the 116th.

Navy commanders aboard the 12 L.C.I.s carrying in the 115th. Asked for a change in the landing zone because this area was still under intensive pre-registered shellfire and small arms fire. Plus the beach was heavily congested with wrecked and burning landing craft. There was no way to bring in their boats safely.

Also, the 146th Combat Engineers had been unable to open the eight 50 foot lanes in the tidal flats as had been planned. They had been able to clear only two lanes. The rest of the mined obstacles remained in place, plus the markers had not been deployed to show the L.C.I.s in through the danger zones.

This did not give these large craft much room to maneuver. There was a real danger of hitting these mined obstacles as well as the already wrecked and burning landing craft on the shoreline. These L.C.I.s weighed 246 tons and carried 230 troops. This was one complete rifle company plus liaison and forward observer teams. There was a total of 12 L.C.I.s carrying in the complete regiment. That was a lot of men to put in harms way.

After some considerable confusion, they were all ordered to shift eastward to fox green beach in the 1st Division's sector, where the Big Red One's 16th Regiment was making progress off their beach.

Even then, the 115th did not have an easy time. Two of their L.C.I.s collided on the run in and lost their forward unloading ramps. One L.C.I. was hit with heavy M.G. fire and one of its ramps was damaged badly. While the L.C.I. 553, took two direct hits and the troops aboard, had to move ashore in neck high water. Our L.C.I. 408 (the flag ship) was carrying in company G and the regimental forward command post team. I was one of the runners assigned to Regimental H.Q. Company by Col. Slappey.

L.C.I. 408 ran up on an underwater obstacle and was unable to move. A young sailor went down one of the forward ramps and carried a line in through the rough water. When he reached the beach, the crew sent over a heavier line. This he tied on to a hedgehog em-placed in the sand.

The commander (Lindsay Henry), while this was going on, ordered some of the troops in the forward compartment to move to the rear. In an attempt to lift the bow. Working with the line and the craft's engine, they were able to slide free. They then moved to within 25 yards of the beach. Because of the wreckage on the shoreline, they where unable to beach the craft as promised.

Captain Nevius was the first man in line from our team. Using one of the side ramps and the line left by the sailor, to guide him in. As he moved off, he stepped into a deep hole and went under. Shortly thereafter, I followed him and fell into tbe same hole. The 70 pounds of equipment I was carrying sent me to the bottom. After dumping my load and drinking enough salt water to drown, I struggled to the surface spitting and choking. Finally making my way up to the beach, I avoiding the wreckage fell down on my face and vomited what was left in my stomach. I remember men rushing by me but no one stopped to help me up. I felt abandoned and left behind with the rest of the bodies being washed up on the sandy shoreline.