My name is W. Garwood Bacon, I was born June 26, 1920 in Camden, NJ. I enlisted in the Navy on Navy Day, November 11, 1941 as E-5 which is in the Naval Intelligence Branch in Philadelphia. My rate as E-5 was 2nd class yeoman.
On December 7, 1941 I called the custom house in Philadelphia where I was to be assigned and they told me they would be in touch with me for active duty. I went on active duty in February, 1942. I served as a driver for the officers investigating waterfront activities, I also boarded Spanish and Portuguese speaking vessels off of Lews, Delaware going out on the pilot boat and then going up the Delaware to the port of Philadelphia and ask questions of the crew. I examined all the way into the bottom of the ship to see whether there was any evidence of them possibly refueling German subs.
At one point, I thought it would be more exciting to be a flier. I applied and passed the physical and mental for Navy air, but then was told because of my importance to the Intelligence Branch that I would have to be put on a long list. So at another point I decided I would want some action and it just seemed like I'd entered the service early but yet the other kids were leaving, coming home and going away and I was coming home in civilian clothes and not very understandable to the neighbors.
Anyway, in 1943 I was transferred by request to the fifth Naval District and got boot training at Bainbridge, MD where I was assigned by request to the beach battalion program in Virginia. Because of my rate I was in the leading naval beach battalion which had about 50 officers and 500 men. It was my responsibility to take care of all of the paperwork of the transfers, incoming people, captains mast, court martials and so forth.
Commander L.C. Leever was our commanding officer, the man came from Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was an enlisted man in WWI, owned a good sized boat and was in the flotilla in the Hudson River and he became an officer to lead our group. We had many practice invasions besides the normal workout to stay in shape on the beaches at Solomon's Island, Camp Bradford, and then we went to Fort Pierce, Florida, began for similar training and to Ledapees, New York where we were for a short while before leaving for England in March 1944 on the
Maritania which is sister ship to the Felicitania.
It was an English ship and I was quartered in the fourth deck below and it was only my guitar that saved me from being seasick the whole trip. We finally landed in England and was stationed in Devonshire, England where we did some combined exercises with the army at a place called Slapton Sands which had similar surface and ties that we would be landing in Normandy.
Actually it was shell and rocks anywhere from 2 inches to four inches in diameter and it was impossible to dig a normal foxhole. On one of the live ammunition practice landings at Slapton Sands. We saw what was to be one of the surprise weapons of the war. There were some tanks which had canvas bottoms so they would float but when the got in the water they actually did look like a small boat.
There were 32 of them on the invasion and I believe only 4 made it to shore. The rest were either sunk or shorted out because of the heavy waves.
May 15, 1944, 7th Naval Beach battalion
left our training bases for the marshaling area for the invasion of
France after 9 months of intensive beach battalion training and dry runs at Camp Bradford, Fort Pierce,
Solomon's Island and several practice invasions on the English coast, under realistic conditions of live mines on the beach and naval gunfire from supporting ships of the British and American navies.
As the trucks loaded down
with the battle clad men and tons of medical communications, boat repair and hydrographic gear rumbled noisily out of the strangely quiet and vacant camp the feeling of "this is it" was evident on the grim faces of the veterans of previous invasions and all of the inexperienced men. We could all sense the fact that this is not just another dry run but would be the test for all of the training and individual initiative that we possessed in a battle to obtain a foothold on a European
As we careened crazily down the narrow country lanes of Devonshire towards our unknown destination some of us started to sing some old songs to break the tension. Since most of our battalion consisted of young men averaging about 19 or 20 years old, it wasn't long before our entire company of trucks and jeeps were yelling away lusty on such refrains as Marching Along Together, and a beach battalion song some of the boys had composed a few months before.
It was a relief to get rid of the pent up energy caused by the weeks of waiting. At Painton we disembarked from our trucks and boarded an awaiting troop train. Everywhere the British people gave us the
"V" for victory sign and they too saw that something was up. They had been waiting for a long time for this occasion since 1939.