SFC. William J. Stanley - D-Day and Beyond
William J. Stanley - D-Day And
This article is submitted by David E. Stanley
for his father, William (Bill) J. Stanley, who was in the first wave at
Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. The following recollections are taken directly
from William J. Stanley's personal memoirs.
Normandy Beachhead, June 1944.
After a month at Fort Dix we were taken to New York and boarded the Louis
Pasteur, a converted French luxury liner. Luxury was hardly a description
of the ship. Ten thousand men boarded her for a nine-day trip across the
ocean. The crossing was rough. Many men suffered seasickness. The ship
was crowded. The amphibious brigade men did not become seasick, but we
suffered the effects of those who did.
We played cards and joked to pass the time. We held each other up emotionally.
After several days of sea and sky, homesickness joined seasickness. The
underlying feeling was fear of the unknown. Buddies became close!
On March 3rd, we sat at Plymouth, England, delighted to set foot on land
once more. I had advanced two grades and arrived in Europe as a Master
Sergeant. The only place for us was in an amusement park where our battalion
pitched tents and tried to cope with the rain and tempers of men living
too close. Men who were anxious to get to war! When we went into town,
there were scuffles with the British servicemen, and the British girls
seemed only to be interested in the Americans with brass on their uniforms.
It was a depressing, miserable three months.
Three weeks prior to departure from Plymouth, they began to pull all men
with past infantry experience out of the boat brigade and put us into
infantry. I was put on a landing craft where I sat for three weeks in
the rain. I found myself trying to keep my head clear.
On June 1st, in the cold rain, with waves crashing over our decks of the
boat, we set out. It was a miserable six days. My fellow soldiers, not
used to the rhythmic rocking of the sea, became seasick. The chill and
dampness bit through my uniform. I was beginning to realize the severity
of war, and we weren't there yet. The sky was dark with hundreds of bombers,
and I remember the fear erupting inside me as the storm and cold played
havoc on my exterior.
At three in the morning on June 6, 1944, we were off-loaded to LCM crafts,
about thirty-six feet long, each holding about 40 men. Each of us occupied
about one square foot per man and carried over 125 pounds of equipment.
We circled for one and a half hours in the storm, then headed for the
beach. One hundred feet from shore, my landing craft hit a sand bar. Thinking
we were on the beach, the coxswain dropped the ramp, which was a signal
to disembark. We ran into twelve feet of water. There was widespread panic.
The weak and nonswimmers drowned. The war ended for them one hundred feet
from the invasion on Omaha Beach. The shock, fear, and reality of what
happened is indescribable.
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was one way to go -- ahead."
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