Omaha Beachhead, Preparations & Results, Good & Bad, as Seen by a Top Secret "BIGOT" Card Holder
I was the Junior Officer on the Liaison Staff for the Flag Staff, that's the Admiralty, at the landing of the first 60,000 troops on Omaha Beachhead. That was the 1st Division, reinforced with the 29th Division, reinforced as the 2nd Division to go in. My combat report, as a 2nd Lieutenant from invading North Africa, included my recommendations for a new communications company, I was offered a liaison position on the buildup for the invasion called "Operation Overlord." I was in Africa at the time.
The Pentagon accepted my suggestions and produced at least four Joint Assault Signal Companies, abbreviated as JASCOs, at Omaha Beachhead. My JASCO's earned the most number of Presidential citations of all of the units on that beachhead. The Navy liaison staffs for both Omaha and Utah beachheads had tables of organization of 15 Army officers, but no enlisted persons. Utah had the fifteen officers in theirs. Omaha's started with 6, dropped one quickly, then our military school Lieutenant-Colonel moved to the 1st Division, so four of us continued doing the work that called for 15 officers, the top of the level being of the General Staff. Two of the officers claimed that they were in over their heads, that they could not comprehend the complexities of their multiple duties. At an even assignment, each of the four of us would have had 375% of normal duties. This left Major George Perish and myself to be very busy.
Frequently, in the preparation phase, there were movies in the Ward Room for officers at 10:00 p.m. And frequently, I couldn't get there because I would work until 1:30 in the morning.
I remember needing to work until 4:30 one desperate morning. I had no enlisted men to do the menial work. The clue was in that the Admiral had a running dispute with the General. The Admiral was to unload troops to that General, as the Beach Master ashore. Just after that function, they both used me as a confidential messenger to carry on their vindictiveness, arguments to blame each other for the "missing manifests" of ship-hold placements of all the goods on all the thousand cargo ships.
By the time that General Bradley complained directly to Ike, on D plus 11, I went back to England, illegally, and solved the "missing manifest" problems. I counted 18 court-martial charges which, together, could have had me shot. It is mentioned in General Omar Bradley's book "A Soldier Story," page 305 and so forth.
Daily, after the troop landings, I represented the Army to the Navy and to the Air Force in the Joint Command Room, but only from midnight to 6:00 a.m., as I was the Junior Officer. One version of the table of organization called for 4 Lieutenant Colonels, 4 Majors and 7 Captains. I was a Lieutenant in the Signal Corps. The Admiral did not hide that he hated the Army.
In the planning for the invasion operation, a master book was made to be distributed, one copy to each ship. As soon as the ships were sealed offshore, they were to be delivered. In this was a critical decision. "When should the second of these two triple-sized divisions go in?" Each division was enlarged to way over twice normal size to about 30,000 men and 4,000 vehicles in anticipation of many casualties.
The problem was, "when was the second unit, the 29th Division, to follow the 1st Division into the beachhead?" Just for a number, to fill the page space, it was set, in pencil, for D plus 2 ½ days or so. It was known to me that there was to be a joint meeting of all the general grade officers, admirals, generals, and the like concerned, in the Navy and in the Army both, to meet and to decide this extremely critical time.
Therefore, it was real that if the operation began a second Dunkirk or Dieppe failure this time, Hitler would not let many Allied troops escape, as the British escaped back to England from Dunkirk. The careers of all those General Grade Officers, who made the decision for whenever, would be collapsing and ending in ruination.
Hence, I knew that they never did meet because, and hear this, they "could not come to an agreement" as to whether to meet on Army or Navy terrain, so, therefore, they never could have a meeting, and not being able to have the meeting, they couldn't make a bad decision, which bad choice could effect their careers, one way or the other, forever.
I was one of the 163 persons holding a "BIGOT" card, which was overprinted with large red letters spelling out "BIGOT" so that we would not show it to anyone because a bigot is a real nasty personality, and it was nothing to gloat about, was it? Anything important would be over stamped with the word "BIGOT." This card meant that I was entitled to all D-Day secrets, as I had to work with them. I believe that I was the only lowly Army Lieutenant with a BIGOT card.
I knew that the timing for the 29th Division to follow the 1st Division was not yet decided. The detailed information book printing was directly below me on the top secret end of the ship. A runner came up and asked for that "timing" for the 29th Division.
I couldn't contact anybody else who would know the information because there had not been the meeting! I knew that it had not been decided, and why it would not be decided, and so on, so I asked, "How much time do I have left to find the decision information for you?" The runner ran down the deck and rushed back up and gasped, "Four minutes sir." "What?" "We had five minutes when I was here a minute ago, sir. We've got to get all these off to every ship before dark."
I went out of the room, wrote down "The 29th Division will immediately follow the 1st Division into the beachhead." I remember those words specifically. I knew what I was doing. Yes, I did sacrifice another 1,000 killed and 3,000 wounded or so in the 29th Division, but we saved the remains of 30,000 men of the 1st Division which was pinned down to immobility with every mortar shell, at least one per minute, killing and wounding more men.
We made several serious blunders, as should be expected with such a large operation. Number one, for example, we should never have landed on a shore under a high bluff where we became trapped. While they were in less than 5% exposure to our fire, we were 100% exposed to their fire, stupidly.
Number two, our planes approaching the beachhead above the clouds instead of below, so wasting 100% of these bombs on useless inland targets instead of troops facing us on the beachhead.
Number three, our intelligence did not know that there were no cannons, guns left up there, so we ridiculously assaulted the beachhead there with a Ranger battalion and lost 75% killed in two hours. A totally useless waste of flesh. You want to cry over things like that. The enemy had the favorable 5% to 100% ration, again.
Number four, we preceded our first landing wave with DD tanks - DD was Double Duty. It was secret to me at the time I put them down, which I drew on to our total landing chart. I made up the landing waves charts personally, not knowing what the DD's were.
I was told to put them ahead of the first wave. They were floating tanks, almost all of which were lost, almost none came ashore. Most of the crews were lost, sank way out there. And being in the first coming ashore, they were picked off easily by machine gun firing. I don't believe any of them got fully ashore past the large, white, round, stone, tank-rolling stone traps. I saw those white stones on our photos of our beaches taken 3 weeks ahead.
Number five, we almost lost the fire power of our rocket launcher flotillas because the first day delay, when Eisenhower had to delay it, when the slower flotillas, with an advanced start, were turned back by a radio signal. They didn't know whether to go again, or not. They didn't know. They had "radio silences." They didn't have any other receivers tuned in to any other frequencies, just the operating frequencies. And there was radio silence at that time, anyway. We had gone through many radio silences, so you couldn't figure out which was which.
To find out if the rocket launcher and frogmen were on their way 24-hours ahead of the time on the English Channel, I had to leave the sealed Headquarters Ship, which was forbidden, and travel on restricted roads, which was difficult. Every MP at every corner stopped me. I traveled for many miles to get over to Southampton, from Wrington.
I had to talk my way onto a Navy craft, to approach the sealed ships to take me to the sealed ship Flotilla, in Southampton Bay. Then I had to convince the Commander there to repeat his start exactly 24-hours later. Then I had to return to my ship, also, before our anchor was pulled up. 43% of all of those men were lost. The next morning almost all of their frogmen, who swam in and had blasted the beach obstacles, never returned to their flotilla, or were never found alive on the beach.
Number six, somewhere in the process we confused the procedure for getting the manifest that showed what materials were in which of the five decks, of which of the five holds on which ship, in our huge flotilla of cargo ships, off the beaches at Omaha beachhead. Those records were called "Manifests of the Ship Loading." Each supply ship should have had a manifest listing of what items were on each of 5 decks of each of 5 holds, but none had such a manifest, which did exist!
The ships were not "at anchor" because of danger of submarines and they wanted to be able to move in a hurry, just in case. If hit, they might come ashore while still sinking and ground, to save the merchandise. The items were critical and of course we feared depleting certain critical supplies, certain types of ammunition, medic supplies, things of this sort. And, it was affecting us seriously because going after critical supplies, we would go to a ship, unload the top several decks of the five holds, take what was necessary, and put the rest on the deck of the ship, then run out of deck space, and then start throwing the good merchandise over the side to make room to dig in for the critical supplies.
This was, of course, a very serious sin of supply, and it was to the attention of the Beach Master General. It was to the attention of my Admiral. And my Admiral on D plus 2 decided to send me ashore. I was already going ashore. He sent me ashore to take care of the problem by going over to the Beach Master General and telling him,
"Yes, sir, just a moment, I'll get a piece of paper and pencil." "No, Lieutenant, you won't have any written record." "Uh, oh!" I thought quietly as I realized it was something that shouldn't be happening, and so I paid attention, exactly, and went in ashore.
In addition to my other duties, I went ashore and saw the Beach Master (Engineer) General and explained the Admiral's position as to why the General was responsible for those "Missing Manifests" that were wasting our total effort. And, the General explained to me, very carefully, very methodically, why it was the Navy's problem to get those Manifests over to us to pick and choose from which ship and which hold and which deck. And I would bring this reworded message back and forth.
This went on until D plus 11, when I finally got the chance to go overboard and leave because the Army Headquarters had moved ashore.
I was being sent back to England. Well, we didn't have permission to leave the theater of combat due to another failure of communication. So, I authorized a PT style runner boat, when I no longer was in a position to authorize it, and we went back to England and I got on the telephone. I called every invasion harbor from memory, as I had not planned ahead to do this illegal correction of General Grade Officers' gross wastage of men and materials.
I "authorized" each duty officer on duty that night. It took me from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. standing in the British telephone booth. And, I had each of them fly over the missing Manifest through a Captain with a Piper Cub I knew in England. Which the Captain did, and they got there. So, I got the "Missing Manifest" flown over to a field, just above the Beach Master. I had him fly over once a day, at noon time, and to take all of today's "A" copy and all of yesterday's "B" copies with him each day. And the "C" copy (which they didn't have, and they had to make up, overnight, by hand), I ordered the "C's" to be kept on hand at each harbor, in case they were called for, due to a missing little Piper Cub airplane.
The pilot was a Captain in the new Transportation Corps. In my new duties, I had met him and remembered how to phone him. A year later, he and I were in an all-officer photo, on the steps of the Rheims Cathedral, in one noontime, for our photographs. He was up from Captain, past Major, to Lieutenant Colonel. He knew me, called my attention to himself, and the missing Manifests, and disappeared in the crowd.
I was a "Field Inspector for the Office of the Inspector General," which called for a Majority, but I was still a Lieutenant in the Signal Corps. I got my notice to go home that afternoon. Apparently our Beach Master General had given him a field promotion from Captain to Lieutenant Colonel when he brought over the "Missing Manifests."
I was running away, in hiding, because I had counted up eighteen court martial charges against me, for doing what I did to get the job done, that either the Admiral, or the General, could have done by picking up the radio phone and saying "Get those things over here. I don't care how you do it, but get them over here and you call me back in a couple of hours and tell me what you proceeded to do, and you call me back every few hours until you get them here." He could have done that. Either the Admiral or the General could have done that.
Neither one was going to do it because they were blaming each other. This was a personal fight between [an] Army General and [a] Navy Admiral who detested each other because they had met on a harbor somewhere else. The Admiral outranked the General, in promotion, and therefore they had hated each other because the Harbor Master General told the Admiral where the Admiral was going to dock his ship and the Admiral said, "I am not going to follow your orders, I am in charge here. I am docking where I want to." They never resolved the argument, if that was their only one, which they were carrying this argument on.
It was costing us blood and men because critical hospital supplies were short. Critical ammunition for certain weapons were short. Sure it was missing, we ran out. And so whether they knew it or not, I knew these things were critical in the shortage. Finally, 3-star General Bradley spoke. General Bradley complained to 4-star Ike and a whole two days later, according to General Bradley's book "A Soldier's Story," Ike answered with, "Someone had better perform, or he's going to be without a job."
Which meant that the General Eisenhower was ready to relieve from duty a General grade officer, or more, for not getting those Manifests over here. I never admitted it, until long after the war was over, that I had a hand in it. General Bradley's book tells how it ended: "Suddenly the Manifest came through without explanation or apologies." I wasn't about to explain or to apologize. I could have been shot if it had gone wrong, and those odds were 18:1 against me.
However, there are a lot more things that went on there that I could tell about, let me think of them. One of the other, of the four of us officers, was a limited assignment Captain in the Rangers. He had been injured and could not be an active Ranger anymore. His expertise was in Rangers. On D-Day afternoon, he got a hold of me and told me of the high casualties there of the Rangers. And they needed, amongst other things, more handy talkies, a lot more batteries, and I had to go get them. So I did. And he told me that night, when he came back, "75% of them are dead." Unnecessarily, of course.
Then my duties on the liaison staff ended up as me being the adjutant which called for a majority position in the Adjutant General Division as G-1, and I was a Lieutenant in the Signal Corps. I was also assistant G-3, which is Plans and Training.
Also, at the same time, I was assistant G-4, which called for another Captaincy in Transport Quartermaster Corps, ship loading and so forth. Amongst other things I had had a 9-foot model of a LST, Landing Ship Tank, with all of the exact scale models, replicas, of all the derricks, cranes, trucks, vehicles of all kinds, salvage equipment, vehicles, of all the jeeps, and 2 X 4's, 4 X 4's, and so on. And in the preparation plans, for many weeks, I worked on those, putting in where each vehicle would be. I had to roll them up onto the elevator and shift them up to the deck and to put them on where they mechanically could be, and not in the way of other vehicles to move in and out.
And then I would get through one bunch after another, knowing exactly what they had and another order would come along to my liaison staff saying such and such a LST, one which I had already worked on, was reserving a circle of twenty feet around for such and such a gun that was being put on the top deck. Or two of those guns. Then I would have to go back and rearrange all the loading for that top deck again.
That 9-foot model of a LST, which is the large landing ship that had two doors that opened in the front. And vehicles can drive out over the ramp onto the shore, and the elevators take them from the top deck down to the lower deck, and so forth. When I brought that 9-foot long LST back to the original top secret N-2, Navy Intelligence, location, I brought in on the jeep, all by myself, as I was bringing it in to the G-2, which was restricted to BIGOT card holders, to their intelligence room.
Then, I saw my Admiral and four other Admirals standing over there, by a landing ramp, about 75-feet away. They did not pay any attention to me. Nobody else was around, just five Admirals. Where were their aides? Admirals don't associate with other Admirals without their aides. Wow, I thought, this is something unusual. Here they are over towards the water. I could see out over the water. So, I tried my motor, and deliberately tried the starter without the key turned, and it would not work.
So I then had an excuse to open the hood of my jeep. And I did get around in different positions in the jeep and thereby watch the five Admirals, while pretending to work on my jeep. And I could hear them. They were lining up and moving back and forth, and "When do you rank?" "April 3." "Well, I'm April the 4th." "Oh well, then we will change positions." They change positions, two of them, for one day of rank! In other words, they were lining up by rank, no Admiral's aides with them, nobody else around, and they are standing in a line going out towards the water, facing my left.
Suddenly, here comes a big Landing Craft Tank, LCT, to the beach. It lowers the ramp and out walks this Admiral, whom I then recognized as the British King, George VI. And there was a grand salute by these Admirals of each other, and then King George came along, gave a singular salute with the 1st Admiral, then shook his hand, said something of "God bless you and God bless your men." And went to the next Admiral and went through the same procedures, turned around, went back towards the landing craft.
Stood again, faced them, they all saluted each other, the King turned, went up the ramp, got into the craft. The ramp went up, the craft pulled away and, by coincidence, I tried my motor and it started perfectly. I saw a small touch of history that nobody else saw. Just for my point of amusement.
When I was going to get the rocket launchers and frogmen to sail again, 24-hours after the false start cancellation signal, two little incidents, well maybe three. I was over an hour on the landing craft going out to the Southampton flotilla and I was down on the bottom.
The noises prevented my shouting to the two sailors whom I talked into an illegal trip to the "sealed flotilla." When I crawled up the ramp to look out to see where we were, I slipped down. Those are 1-inch square tread cleats all the way across. I had got up pretty high to try to look over the top to see where we were because I couldn't talk to those two sailors up on the top deck.
The noise was too much from down where I was, where vehicles were hidden from view from the distance. It was 8-foot walls there. So I climbed up there and sure enough, on the next wave I slid down and tore both knees open, and had scabs on both knees and torn trousers from that one. We got over to the flotilla and the sailors said, "It's kind of rough. We can't tie you up over there. But we'll swing by and you can jump over."
I said, "Fine, get me a life jacket, in case I fall down." "Well, we have only got two life jackets and we're required to wear these ourselves. We can't give you any of these, but we'll go by as many times as you want, until you want to jump." By this time, the headquarters ship, with the Commander on it, whom I knew, was watching us, wondering what was going on. They were in a state of fright. I had bought a newspaper, enroute, because the mud from the road that was covered with track displaced mud onto the road, and the rain was causing a mud slick and the jeep was just sucking in these particles, drops of mud on the inside of my windshield and mucking that up and I needed some paper to wipe it off with. And I used some of it around my raincoat to save the mud getting on my raincoat.
So I had this newspaper stuffed in my pocket and they were asking me questions before I jumped. "Is the invasion on?" By this time I jumped over, I said, "Everything is okay, everything is okay." "What's okay?" I realized they didn't have broadcast receiving radios. So they couldn't listen to those, and because they were afraid of radiation, in those days, from receivers that would alert an enemy. A very slim chance but… So, I explained everything.
"Do you have enough fuel to do the same trip 24-hours later, which is starting very soon?" "Yes, we do." "Did you get the cancellation signal, you must have or you didn't start." "We started, but we got a cancellation signal." "Do you have enough fuel?" "Yes." "Okay, so everything is all set. You can take off 24-hours later. Everything is still going." "Well," the commander says, "you just can't leave yet." I said, "Why not, I am in a hurry, I have to get back there. I go on my ship too, you know." "No," he says, "you can't leave without going down to sick bay. You do need to go to sick bay."
I said, "Why do I need to go?" "Because our operator is down there." "What operator?" "Our radio operator." "What?" "He's the man that got the cancellation signal. We had been badgering him, incessantly, almost for 24-hours now, and did he recognize the signal? Was it the same signal strength as usual?
Was it, did it, have the 'fist' quality that radio operators recognize? Was it at the speed you would expect it to be at? Was it exactly on the frequency? Was there any clue that it might be an enemy trick? If we are over here and the operation is going on over there, we are all in trouble. We all are going to be court-martialed." They had worried this radio operator sick, into bed, and he continued to insist that he was right.
He recognized the correct cancellation signal. He was not doing it to escape going into combat, and so on. And I had to come down there and tell that radio operator, personally, that he had done the right thing and that I was proud of him, and I was. And I shook his hand. When I got down there, he was pale white, lying flat on his back on a bed. Totally exhausted. And before I left, about 60 seconds later, he was standing up and had some color in his face and was trying to smile, through tears of satisfaction.
So I left, and talked my way back on the "sealed" ship again. The ships were all "sealed." I talked my way off. I talked my way on back and forth. I had to be a salesman to do that, believe me, when the ships are sealed, they are sealed. Even the Admiral, especially the Admiral, could not leave his "sealed ship." I got on the ship again when they were pulling the noisy anchor up. They were ready to leave without me.
I went to bed and, of course, everybody else had been on "sealed ships" for several days by this time. They had caught up on their sleep and I hadn't very well. The invasion started around 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning, I woke up about 7:00 in the morning. I was probably the only person asleep on any Omaha beachhead ship at 7:00 in that morning. And I had been the only one out working the day before.
So we had all kinds of little problems. We had an executive officer there who was a very good man, who got caught in a sexual compromise by the British police, and nothing was done about it. We could not afford to get rid of him. Very good man. A year earlier, my recommendation in my combat report in Africa was for a better assault communication company, which became the Joint Assault Signal Company, JASCOs, as I mentioned.
And it had my name hung on it, as some Major 20 miles away in Africa, mentioned it to a Lieutenant, who had been a former Sergeant of mine. And that Lieutenant brought the story to me to find out, "What was the Joint Assault Signal Company." Then that Major, the Army Signal Officer with our 6th Fleet, did not want to get his opportunity to go up to England because he was in a position to get a promotion where he was. It probably wouldn't be so easy up in England.
So he said, "You're qualified to do better than I am in this job, why don't you take it?" He gave me time to figure it out and my Captain said, "Sure, George, anything you want to do, you have been good with me, I will be good with you," and away I went. Up to England, and I immediately came down with the malaria, one more time.
Eventually the ship's doctor said, "You have been sleeping here except when we wake you up for your meals and one more time to go to the bathroom, the next time in another month or so, when it gets you one of these mornings, you just won't wake up." Unless you can find a cure. I did some inquiring for 10 minutes and between the two of us, we worked up a plausible cure. I tried it. My malaria was coming about every 4 weeks, then. It worked and I never had malaria again. It cost 13 cents. It was a procedure type of cure. Quite simple.
There are over 2 million people a year who die of malaria. But no one will listen to me because I don't have any doctors' degrees. Nor are there other malaria cases around this part of New York state. I very recently learned that my malaria cure is a patentable "method" invention.
Now, back to Omaha beachhead. The structure that I joined, for Omaha 5 months before D-Day, was supposedly 15 officers. One version was with a Senior Colonel, 4 Lieutenant Colonels, and 10 more of Majors and Captains. These are general staff corps to represent the Army to the Navy and the Air Force and other nationalities in the Joint Communication Room. There were three visual screens there, one for each of these services, and these screen messages would pass off the screen but they would also be printed out and laid out on a stack accumulating, and so every six hours each liaison officer is supposed to be in there and catch up on all of the last communications screens: Army, Navy and Airforce.
Army on the left, Navy in the middle, and of course, Air Force off to the right side. We didn't have those 15 officers in the first place. We had one Lieutenant Colonel who left us and joined the 1st Division to go in. That left us with a Major George Perish and two other Captains, one in Quartermaster and one as a Ranger (who got a promotion when I did, but our Admiral did not deny his as he did mine, because the Admiral "did not want too much Army around"), who were supposed to do plans and training and transport quartermaster work, and I was an assistant to each of those and so I filled those two Captaincy vacancies and, as the adjunct personnel G-1, I was supposed to be a Major. I was not.
In preparation months, in addition to my other duties, I was supposed to go ashore from the ship. We were anchored in the bay. We were too big to dock there. So, occasionally, I went ashore. I brought in the Colonels and the Admirals and the Generals and I get them to the right office on the ship and get them back and forth. I remember one time I was running around with the usual long list of things to do, and I was already half-way through, or so, all the way to "E," and the Major said, "George, where did you put the General? I can't find the General." I said, "Oh, well, he's down here at H on the list I am only to F. I will get to him pretty soon."
"Wait a minute," he shouted, "you have got a General. He has been waiting. Look at the time. He has been waiting three hours on the dock. I'll get the General. No! He'll be mad as hell. Drop everything. Give me that list and you go get the General." I got over to get the General at the dock and he said, "I am sorry to see you come. I was having such a good relaxation here. Nothing to look at but sea gulls and the wind and the waves. It was so relaxing. No phone calls, no questions to answer. I am sorry you came so soon. You should have stayed away a little longer." I had explained to him that I was regretfully late because I was so burdened down.
One of the other foolish things that happened one day on the ship. It was an air-conditioned ship, necessarily, and the order was out, from the Admiral, that, "All Officers of This Command will Wear Blouses Today. Very important person, VIP, expected aboard;" which had nothing to do with me directly. So the Colonel and I were working on something and the air-conditioning went out of function. It got hot. The Colonel took his blouse off and hung it up on some little hook up there.
Well, I was way junior to the Lieutenant Colonel as a Lieutenant, and so I took my blouse off and hung it up. And sure enough, a few minutes later, in comes the Admiral. He looks back and forth between the two of us, introduces me, as the Colonel, to General Montgomery, commanding officer of the British forces, and then he introduced the Colonel, as me, to General Montgomery and they both stomped out of the room. And, of course, my Colonel was furious, fit to be tied. I did not dare say a thing before, during or after the incident.
One little foolishness as it happened that I remember. This may have helped the Colonel to decide to transfer to the 1st Division, which was going in first. He left, soon. Another time, there were only two chairs in our little office, which was probably 8 feet by 12 feet. It had a stand-up desk at one side, for working on large pieces of paper, charts, diagrams. On the other side there were two seats, a bench, some sliding bookcase, sliding doors type, charts and tables and all that sort of thing, maps, files and so on. And just the two chairs there.
So as I came in one day, there was someone sitting in one chair with his back to me, and as I got closer the shiny things turned out to be three stars, on each shoulder. Well, I can recognize a Lieutenant General. And so I slumped, I figured he doesn't want to jump up or do anything, so I just slid into the chair next to him and said, "Good afternoon, sir, what brings you here?" "Oh," he said. (Of course I recognized him, he was General Omar Bradley.) He said, "I brought my team over to see how your team is going to be functioning. I don't want my team asking you to do things that you can't do. And I do want my team to ask you to do things that they know that you can do better. So they have to be over here and see what your limitations and qualifications are. They are in the next room learning all those good things."
And, of course, I had to sincerely compliment him on being so thorough. And then we discussed other important things like what a nice day it was, and soon it was time for him to go. And, of course, I stood up and smiled as he left.
He was one of our great Generals. All in all, in four years, I had official conversations with eighteen general grade officers, including a Marine general (who used me as his only aide for our 3-day trip to see the newly developed weapons, rockets, developed secretly by the University of California. He liked my technical simplifications.), a French general, several Admirals, and I had a few words here and there with them, and like seeing and hearing General Montgomery, and the King of England, and so forth.
There would be different officers coming in, with mud on their combat boots, and there I was in dress trousers, low quarter shined shoes and on a nice, clean ship. They would look around and say, "Lieutenant, how do you get a nice job like this?" So I would say, "Well, first you be in the Reserves so that in less than 24-hours of Pearl Harbor your duties are assigned to you and all mimeographed and post marked. And then you come on and get into your liaison work and do amphibious work for thirty months, and you go into combat and then you write a combat report and you recommend a new organization and that will get you kicked upstairs. If the Pentagon accepts it, of course."
One time I insulted the Admiral. Seeing as how I did have my 30-months amphibious duties in by that time, my promotion papers from Lieutenant to Captain had gone initiated by my Major on up through the Colonel and off to the Admiral and top deck and then from there to the U.S. Navy Headquarters in London on over to the U.S. Army Headquarters. "Ah, that is the old form for promotions. Now we have this new form for promotions, so send it back, with a new form, over to the Navy," over to the Admiral. Then over back down to Major, the Major picked up the paperwork, OK'ed it, and sent it upstairs, and the Admiral says, "No way. We got enough Army promotions. Just had some go through." Whether he did not want to, or did not need to, or did not understand or remember, to this day I do not know, but he presumed that I did not need a promotion. They did not understand that I had been promoted.
My Major could not make it clear, somehow or other, I did not get the promotion cleared. Well, I was unhappy. Here, as a Lieutenant, I was doing the job of two Captains and a Major and sometimes, quite often, knocked off work at 1:30 a.m. to get back at 8:00. And go around the clock some more, continuing by the week. Once I remember it was 4:30 in the morning before I got to bed. And I felt I was doing alright. My promotion papers were, originally, approved here and were official, but on the "old forms," so were sent back to be copied over, but my Admiral refused to sign it again.
By then, my parents had mailed me Captain's bars that I could not find in England. I never wore them. Then an ALLNAV came through, an All Naval units, on an order that said that All Naval Officers, equivalent to my First Lieutenant grade, who did not have any bad remarks about them in their files, would automatically get a promotion at the end of 28 months. If they had 28 months, all of those would all move up to the next grade, which would have been equivalent to my Captaincy.
And three of those officers had gone ashore in a boat, such as I had, and they had gone and got their gold braids stitched onto their sleeves, for their promotion, that had come through. And we were coming back in the landing boat because the Admiral did the courtesy of swinging by the dock, where enlisted men, as well as officers of the ship, could get a ride back to the ship. And the Admiral would come by in the Admiral's Barge and ask, "Would any of you gentlemen prefer to ride with me back to the ship, or would you rather wait with enlisted men?" And, of course, we officers would always step forward.
In this case, conveniently, there was just the few of us officers, the three with their new gold braids on their sleeves, and the water was choppy and the boat was swinging around. The Admiral was standing with two hands holding on to the rail ahead. We were not inside the boat. We were on top deck of the boat with our Admiral hanging onto the window showcase up ahead. And the other officers were hanging on behind, except that I was very unhappy. Here was this Admiral who had refused my promotion after he had already accepted it.
So I stood with my feet apart, so that I would not fall down, and I just folded my arms across my chest and I was frustrated. The water was rough, but my father had owned Perch Lake, the largest privately owned body of water in New York state, when I was a child, and we had storms out there. I had learned a little bit about boating. So I knew I could hold it, in spite of this choppy water. I wouldn't go over the side, but the Admiral looked back at me. And, of course, he is responsible for me. Regardless how badly I am performing, he is responsible for me. He looked back at me and, very properly, he said, "Lieutenant, shouldn't you hang on. I would hate to have you lost over the side." And suddenly I realized here was my chance to get back at him, and I did. And improperly, I am sure.
I said, "No sir, we Army officers get cocky this way after thirty months amphibious duties." Well, this was a slam at those officers because I had just explained to those 28-month officers that, no, they don't have to shield their gold braids against the ocean salt water. It won't destroy the shine on the gold, that is why it is gold is because the salt water would ruin anything else. So they did not have to worry. So they knew that I knew and the Admiral should have known too that I knew that they had 28 months in the Navy and I had had thirty months amphibious duties in the Army and I was not allowed my promotion, which was already on record. They had just got theirs so it was sore and irritating me.
Of course I got off last back at the ship, and that was late in the day. Next morning, Major George Parish, with his face red, came up to me and said, "What in the hell did you do with the Admiral? I never seen a man so angry in my life." I said, "Oh, that. I squelched him when he needed a squelching." And, I mentioned about the promotion, the 30 months and the 28 months, and I had more amphibious duties, plus other Army duties, where I was shot at and where I shot at the enemy and I lost 10% of my men. Now these non-combatant guys were getting promotion and I was not. Many had been killed, probably illegally.
My Major said that, "The Admiral wants me to get rid of you, but I said, I can not, for there is just four of us doing the job of fifteen. Not when Admiral Moon's place has 15 officers. So I had promised him that once the Colonel went I could get the job done but I am depending a lot on you, George. You know what the other two officers can do and that is why I come for aid to you, so directly, so often. You can get the jobs done. I had to tell the Admiral that if I get rid of you, I would have to retract my statement, I cannot get his job done. Because I do not have enough men and there is not enough time to retrain someone to fill your three positions. These other officers can not do it. You know what is going on.
"So," he continued, "I made a deal that I would get rid of you as soon as the operation is over. Send you back to the Army in London." "Okay." "All right," the Major says, "so you see the Admiral as little as possible, do not get in his way. We will make out. The Admiral accepted my bargain that I would get rid of you as soon as the operation is over." So time went on, and we were into the Omaha beachhead operation, and the argument between the General ashore and the Admiral afloat came up. I was going ashore each day, in order to get information that did not come by communications, and bring that back on to the persons in the Communications Joint Operation Room, and report that information, verbally, clearly and out loud, so that everyone would hear.
I would hope that enough people would get it, so that some information would be taken. I had gone ashore with a Coast and Geodetic Survey Boat, that was going to check out the position there in the British sector. The edge of the American sector was near Port en Besin, a mile into the British sector, where we were going to lay the pipelines for diesel and gasoline fuels to be piped into the operation. We arrived and I had talked with the British soldiers. They were getting civilians out of houses because the soldiers were going to blast some of the German obstructions out of the way. And I talked, in French, to some of the little girls and ladies to get them away from the windows, get out of here, and go up the hill.
Then two little boys came along and tagged along chatted with me up and down. I had 3 years of French in school and a year in French North Africa. Then there was one and then just the other one, then just the first one, then just the other one. I thought, mistakenly, that they were playing some kind of game with me, running back and forth. I went up the hill and I had to go across a woods to get in the American sector, and this was my first day in. I had shined shoes and pressed trousers. I did not wear a weapon belt, nor carry a gun, and I did not go in with combat boots because I went on a boat. We pulled up to a dock and we knew what were we going to do.
So I went on up the hill and, sure enough, there was the church. I had memorized the maps. The proper thing to do is to stop at the church and say a prayer for the dead and dying. And I did, while I heard a commotion behind me. When I went in, there was nobody else in the church. The door was not locked. As I turned around to come out, there was a whole crowd of French people there looking at me. When I tried to get through them, no way, they were not going to let me get through the door. They wanted a "piece of paper." I did not have much with me deliberately. When you go ashore, in enemy territory, you don't bring in anything which might help the enemy.
It finally got around to "identification," "photograph," and I pulled out my Navy card which did not have a photograph on it. A U.S. Navy card, and here I am in Army clothes, but about that time in come two British soldiers with loaded guns with bayonets, helmets, combats, the whole thing. And then the conversation was between me and them. Seemed that how the French had captured me. And that day these British soldiers had shot two Germans on sight, and yesterday they shot three on sight. The Germans were probably shacked up and leaving, realizing something was going on, and tried to leave town.
And, if I had not been in the church, they would have shot me on sight. So I was captured by the French Underground, tracked by two "Resistance" boys, turned over to the British to be shot on sight, and escaped because I was in the church. And told to go down, and turn left, and go along through the woods there, the thick woods on that blacktop road, and I would be back to the American sector. All of which I knew because I had memorized all those maps, conditions, everything else there.
So I took off and went through the woods. It was a nice walk through the woods a half of a mile, or something of that sort. I do not remember. It was nice overgrown ground. I suppose a lot of people could hide in there. Well, I got to the far side of the woods and the landscape cleared out into the gulleys. And out of the gulley came this big American sergeant, grabbed me by the shoulder, pulled me down into the ditch, and kept hollering, "Where are they, how many of them, where?" "What are you talking about?" He said, "The Germans, how many are on which side of the road? How many did you see?" I said, "I did not see any."
Finally, we figured out that I had walked through the Germans that were pinned down by the American machine gun fire up the road. They had seen me. They had been watching me. They wondered why I was not shot. The Germans might have been confused as to who I was and whether I was worth shooting. We finally [decided] that I was not worth shooting and that is why they did not shoot because it would expose where they were. I was not carrying a gun nor a gun belt.
So I had been tracked by the French Underground boys, turned over to the French Resistance, given to the British, and sent through a German pocket of troops, and then captured by the Americans, all in less than one hour. I was not proud of my adventure. And then two other officers, the next day, decided that, "Hey, Bonadio is the only guy going in as a tourist. He goes in as a tourist every day. Let us go in and 'tourist.'" The net result of that was they were both shot. The British Captain died in a foxhole, and one of my seven bosses, a Navy Commander, I watched him while the ship's doctor took the bullet out of his butt. I said nothing.
So the Admiral put out an order, "No officer, or man, of this Command will go ashore for any purpose whatsoever, excepting Lieutenant George Bonadio." In other words, I became expendable, officially and in writing, signed by the Admiral who illegally killed my promotion after he had approved it. I was going ashore each day.
And I had a few more close calls. Amongst other things I did find a body in the sand just by a shiny, brass belt buckle. I kicked the buckle, then I pulled on it in the sand, and I got the salvage man to come over and pick that body out, that was going to disappear forever under the tide.
I did a number of things which had something to do with the overall outcome of Omaha beachhead. First, I prepared [a] recommendation that became the Joint Assault Signal Companies in World War II. Several of which were at Omaha beachhead and they carried on communications on the beachhead, between beaches and beaches, and beaches backwards to the Navy, and forward to the Infantry, upward to the Air Force. They were my Joint Assault Signal Companies. They received the highest number of Presidential Citations of any units in the Omaha beachhead operations.
Second, when the Lieutenant Colonel and I were working on the chart for the invasion waves to go into the beach heads, there were a number of little attack waves that had been prepared before I got on to it. And I tried to talk the Colonel into putting it into larger, singular waves with masses of boats coming in all together rather than staggered. Because staggered, just a few guns on the shore could pick off many of those boats coming in and we could lose the whole wave by it being too small. Whereas if we come in with a large frontal attack of many boats, it would mean that a larger percentage of boats would miss being hit by heavy enemy fire power, due to limitation of enemy firepower, we hoped.
The Lieutenant Colonel did not see this. At least he did not want to see this. He was a Military School officer and, of course, knew much more about the military than I did, naturally, and of history, military battles, certainly. So I had to fix up to his negative comment on that. That night I was so infuriated with this disregard for these men going in and the safety of the operation on the whole, that I couldn't sleep much and I thought of all kinds of things. What can I do? What can I do? What can I do to convince this Colonel?
Finally, I decided I could not convince the Colonel of my good idea. Instead I was going to have to convince the Colonel of his good idea. So, I would have to confuse him. So the next day I spent all day long coming out with perhaps a dozen different ideas, some of which were really stupid, but being quite tired and looking fatigued from a recent malaria attack, and news that my only brother had died. He was the weight (balance) control Navy Aviation Engineer, and his 6 and ½ day week was too much, and I suppose I got away with it.
I was with a dozen different ideas in there, as to what we can do here, what we can do there, and so on. Sometimes I would talk myself out of them, and sometimes he would talk me out of them. And then the third day, with almost no sleep by now, I came with the "question" and finally got around to ask the Colonel, "Of all these ideas, you had a good one in there Colonel. What was that good one you had?" And after several trips to his office and back and forth, he managed to remember one of putting these waves in solid front instead of in piecemeal coming in, and so I put his ideas into rearranging those waves to come in - in unison. What good it did I don't know, but I slept better.
After the first landings, the Admiral and the General ashore, the Beach Master carried on an argument back and forth, by using me as a non-writing, non-recording contact, to blame each other for the ship loading Manifests not having come across. I was relieved because the Headquarters moved ashore by then on D + 11. I went back to England and I counted 18 court martial charges I had assumed by countermanding the high command orders and getting these Manifests flown over by Piper Cub and to what is now a cemetery over the beachhead.
That Captain I had fly them over and I met some 14 months later. He was then not a Captain, not a Major, he was now a Lieutenant Colonel. We were being photographed in front of the Rheims Cathedral. Then, in the "liberation," my duties included every six hours totaling up the killed, wounded and missing, and putting it on a chalkboard, of all things. It was a real crude beginning, in Joint Operations. And there were two different map tables of different scales.
One was mostly our beachhead, and the next one included Cherbourg and quite a ways on up toward the English Channel. And I had to keep up those positions of markers of regiments and battalions, divisions and corps, and all that sort of stuff as to who was where, according to the latest reports that I had to thumb through. So every six hours I was busy there. From midnight until 6:00 a.m., I represented the Army, which was not very busy, to the Navy and the Air Force at that early hour.
And then in the afternoon, I would go ashore and find out what information was necessary and brought it back and expounded that to the officers and men in the Joint Operations Room. It was during these trips back and forth that I carried on these particular messages.
There was the time when the D-Day was postponed from June 5 to June 6th. Major Parish came along and said, "Do you know Commander so and so?" "Yes." "Do you know where he is?" "Yes." "Where is he?" "He is with his flotilla out in Southampton Bay and about 50, 75 miles down the road." So he reminded me that was the flotilla with all the rocket launchers on, and the frog men on, and they were slower than our flotilla, and so they had started sooner than ours will have started, and then there was the cancellation signal that went out by radio, but did they hear it?
"Did they accept it? Did they use it? Did they turn around? Did they go back? If they went back, do they know that it isn't in the book for them to go 24-hours later? But everybody is going to go 24-hours later but do they know that? Are we going to go in there without their benefit of throwing in those thousands of rockets and sending in their frogmen to get rid of the demolition for the boats coming in?
Lieutenant, do you say you can get off this sealed ship?" "Yes." "You have to get off this sealed ship. You have to get a vehicle out of our garage ashore. You have to drive 75 miles over there and you have to get yourself a boat and get out to the sealed ship and see the Commander out there. Will he recognize you?" "Yes." "Then you have to explain to him what is going on. Find out if he has got the signal and certainly that is the most important part. God help us if he opens the front 24-hours too soon. That would cost us thousands of more casualties.
Then get on back here because the anchor goes up at a given time and you have to be on board before that time." So he calmed down and said, "That little girl I have seen you dancing with at the tea dances downtown. Do you know where she lives?" "Yes." "If you have plenty of time on the way back, don't forget to stop in there and be seen by the neighbors and all that and be casual. Don't be in a hurry. Just be as casual as possible and be back here before the anchor goes up." I got back just in time to hear them take the anchor up.
On that trip through, everything had been delayed. Big vehicles had dug up mud and carried it across the road. It was misty and raining. And my wheels picked up the mud in the water and got it into the air and it circulated on the back side of my windshield. So I got a newspaper to kind of wipe it off with and shield myself with. Every crossroad was a MP standing there because that was where he was going to be. And he questioned every vehicle moving as to why it was moving and the first one stopped me and said, "Lieutenant, you're not allowed to drive in the UK, the United Kingdom."
And, of course, I explained to him that that isn't an Army vehicle, this is a Navy vehicle, if you notice the identification. "Fine, sir, but officers are not allowed to drive in the UK." "We can with the Navy vehicles." "Well let me see your trip ticket." I said, "The Navy does not have trip tickets." "Okay!" I said, "get out of the way because I have got work to do." But I shortened it up as I went along because every corner was another MP and he wanted to know why was I driving a vehicle when officers don't drive vehicles in the UK and so on.
This is over and back the same deal which slowed me down a bit. Then I had to argue, and plead and cajole in order to get the boat ride out to the sealed ships. And then I saw those men who seemed to be boys, that were to have 43% casualties in the next 24-hours. Mostly dead. Then I managed to get back on time. I don't know of anybody else who could have done that. Others would not know who they were going to need to see.
They did not know enough information about who, why, where, timing, familiarity, and this was the problem of not having the 15 officers available in a staff. So the Admiral was dangerously deficient in not wanting "too much Army around." Sometimes I thought in terms of meeting another officer in the passageway and saying, "You look like 'too much Army' to me." Something of that sort. But I resisted that. Then, oh, the ship was nice. It was a Panama Line luxury ship. And we each, each officer's room had two bunks and Beauty Rest mattresses, and all of the water, including in the showers, was distilled water.
That was getting to be a problem on the ship in England, not enough distilling capacity. And we had lock-up safes and a dial telephone in each room. It was great convenience. We had five telephone lines to the shore from the buoy.
When we were at Plymouth, I used to date a very nice British girl who was a WREN, Women's Royal Enlisted Navy. I was introduced to her at a dance, when I met a British Captain in the paratroops. He introduced me to his sister, who was this WREN. So every Tuesday and Thursday nights, if I was not busy, we had a standing date that I would take her to Lady Astor's dances. Lady Astor put on quite a show. All you needed was a uniform. And so the Captain went on and I stayed there.
Their father worked in the dockyard. So, one Thursday, I took her home after the dance and asked her at the door, "All set for next Tuesday? I will pick you up at the same time." She did not answer me. We talked on. Eventually, I asked her again. And the response then was, "Who do you think you are fooling?" "I don't know, fooling what?" She said, "You are not going to be here." "I am not going to be here? How do you know? I don't know that. How do you know?" She said, "Your ship leaves at 9:00 Sunday morning." "I do? We do? How do you know?" "Dad." "Oh, that's right, he works in the dockyard." "Yes," she said, "Your ship's buoy is going to be available at 9:00 on Sunday morning."
So you see how the civilians could have information that would surprise a security person. Put things together and so there we were. Of course, we left at that time. That was over in Plymouth. I never saw her again, but an overflow of a wounded "British soldier" who had an accident out front of the hospital was subsequently put into my ward. I heard him from his back and screamed, "Ron! What are you doing here?" He was the WREN's brother. We talked for hours.
Several months later, I had a long letter from the WREN and her mother. Ron had written a long letter about our day together, and then he parachuted into Holland and was killed. I cried. Then there was something in foolishness that went on there.
Oh, there was a Navy ranking system. When another officer, of importance, would come aboard the ship, all us officers would have to move down one room. Off towards something or other. A bunch of rooms that are all alike. You could not just have the front moved over to the rear. Everybody had to move down for one room. There were all kinds of mumblings and grumblings, over this, but we did it. A number of times we were told to not put any laundry or dry cleaning out into the town because we might be pulling up anchor and going for this or that operation.
We had all kinds of arrangements of tests here and a test there for different troops on the different landing hards, a hard surface put over a soft beach. And we would have radio silences that would include all of the communications. So if the Germans tried to figure out a pattern, there was not a pattern. It could happen at any old time. All our radios would go silent and then they would all start up again so many days later. So the Germans could not figure out from our pattern when the operation was really starting because they could not figure out from the radio communications what was going on.
So there were times when, in practice, when nobody could use the radios. But smart operators could have, if the Germans had been smart enough, they could have gotten the information from the different hards there in the neighborhood of activities tightening things up. And put it all together when all of them did something all at the same time, that would be it. Because these other operations never all went at the same time because we did not have the facilities. We wanted to do it all at the same time. So we had a weakness there.
We had sealed ships for days before planned day June 5, then the one day delay. German spies could have caught on, two days earlier, at least. There was another weakness that I was aghast with in security. We did have, of course, the charts, maps and everything else the books, the bookcase, but there was actually information which tied the phase of the moon, you could put it together and figure out when the invasion was going to be. And this was locked up in our safe underneath our tilt table, stand- -up table. And I thought I was honored, one day, when the Colonel told me, "You have proven out and you are being given here this combination to the safe. Go over and try it out and make sure you know how it goes." So I did.
And, of course, in there was valuable information to any enemy. Now I knew that I could because I had done it. I could leave the ship and go ashore and meet the Officer of the Deck I had never met before. Go ashore, just on my say so. Come back, get aboard, any time of the day or night, on my say so. It often was so dark and black out that the Officer of the Deck could not tell whether I was wearing an American or a German uniform.
Then I found, for ventilation purposes at night, quite often, the top secret - the main door of our level was left open for ventilation purposes. And with a guard sleeping, on a cot, in a noisy ship, that meant nothing because anybody could walk past him. I did. And so, sure enough, the next morning, after I was given the combination to the safe, what did I find out when I got there? The safe had never been locked, all night long.
Theoretically, someone could have come in, picked up all the papers, take them, bagged them up, and left the ship with them and gone ashore before breakfast. Actually they did not. But the weakness was there, and it bothered me. There was no real security! In fact, they had a sliding name board system for either "Officers Aboard" or "Officers Ashore." And when I had gotten onto the ship, in the last week of January, 1944, they had run out of slots.
I think I was the last officer aboard, and so they never did put one name board up for me. So I went ashore and came back often and the Officer of the Deck would look. "I am not on there." And he would just ignore me. So, no one knew when I was aboard or afloat. I could have done any kind of espionage work, for any kind of pay off, and they would not have been the wiser for it. This was shattering to me. The other officers were faithful and true, and sincere and honest, and I had no worries about them.
One amusing thing happened. Major Parish came and said, "George, here is the address of a taxi company in town and you have got to go in there and pay off my damages. I had a little too much to drink and apparently crinkled his fender a little bit. I saw it. It wasn't bad. Go in there and pay it off and get me a receipt of some kind." So he says, "You're going ashore anyway today." This was before D-Day of course. I went into shore and at those prices it was $315.00 for a little wrinkle in the fender that he could have had fixed probably for $50.00 of American money in those days.
Multiply all those by ten now he could have got it fixed for $500.00 the wrinkle. And he wanted $315.00. So naturally I did not pay. I came ashore. The Major says, "Where is the receipt?" I said, "I did not pay him." "What do you mean you did not pay him?" I said, "Well, look at the price. He is asking - it's a fifty dollar deal and he is asking $300, I would have given him maybe $200.00 but not $315.00. No way. Well, he says, "You get me that thing." "No," he said "You take it. You know where he is. Go pay him off. I can't afford to have that type of thing. I was drinking at the time. And I had to get some relief from this pressure, here."
"Yes, that is true. Well, okay, I will go ahead and pay it. I have got enough American money with me." So I did and he escaped that problem.
One time I had hung my trousers up in the ship, in there, in my cabin. We had segregation enough, in 1944, so that there were black enlisted men who did the chamber cleaning and waited on table. I had my trousers hung up with British money in one billfold and American money in the other billfold, in my hip pockets. I came in one day and it looked like my billfold was in crooked. Sure enough. It was in crooked and there was no money in it.
They had gotten the smaller of the two and did not realize there was another pocketbook, on the other side of the trousers, with most of the money in. Can't trust anybody to make good choices.
Normally, I carried my camera with me all through the war and brought it home with me. It was a small camera. I could carry it in my pocket. I used to keep that in the bottom of my musette bag, which I did not close up. I left my dirty underwear on top of my camera. Few people would look for a camera under the bottom of a pile of uncovered dirty laundry. There was a custom that I carried on.
The chef was under orders that he had to have available, toast, butter, coffee, etc. available at any hour, day or night, for any officer that came along that needed something. So I always brought incoming and outgoing officers together over to get a quick snack, warm toast, and real butter, and good coffee with distilled water. It tasted good to these officers.
I remember one load was fifteen colonels, all these were what we call "full chicken colonels." You know, the eagle insignia looked like a chicken. And so we renamed them. A whole boat load of them I brought in one time and for some kind of a meeting. I did see Admiral Nimitz whom I thought was over in the Pacific Theater. He was there for one quick meeting, early in the preparations for Omaha beachhead. I don't remember just when, but I remember seeing him from the back. I could recognize him from the side and the back as he turned a little bit, from photographs I had seen of him. Although I did not have any contact with him, but he was there.
Flier Rickenbacker of Pacific flying fame stopped in at Kinetria, Port Lyautra, in North Africa to see my General Lucian B. Truscott.
The background I had had. I had been a reserve officer. I was called up and sent into the 44th Infantry Division as a 2nd Radio Officer, not knowing anything about the Army. And we soon went down into the south land, down into Louisiana, where we got an order requisitioning a radio officer. So naturally, I was the undesirable, least desirable radio officer they had with no knowledge of anything, and they already had another radio officer, so I got shipped out as an undesirable and available to fill the qualification.
And we went into Texas where all of us rejects showed up, and made a company of 275 enlisted men and ten officers, a major, a captain, and eight lieutenants and we substituted for communications personnel in the Marine Corps, Amphibious Corps, of the Pacific fleet. It started as the Amphibious Force of the Pacific Fleet, San Diego, changed to Amphibious Corps of the Pacific Fleet.
We Army did their communications work until after we learned the Japanese radio code, amongst other things, then we immediately shipped out to invade Africa. It was in that invasion of Africa that my combat report suggested the Joint Assault Signal Companies. The Joint Assault Signal Company was into the hot bed of things, of course. And the great writer for the GI Joe was Ernie Pyle. I have some stamps around here of Ernie Pyle as an American hero. He wanted to be where the action was, and he was, and eventually he popped his head up one morning and a Japanese sharp shooter killed him instantly. Bullet between the eyes, Ernie Pyle, good man.
Ernie was, at that time, with one of my JASCO's. There was an awful lot of good men lost in the war. There was all kinds of heroes, deliberate, unannounced and unnoticed and uncounted and unrewarded and they went to their deaths for somebody's mistake, not their own. They were doing their best, and of course, there were also the bums, and the cowards who also got killed but it seems like such a horrible waste of man power.
And I realized when I moved the 29th Division in closer, that I was going to sacrifice maybe a thousand or two or more of the 29th Division at least to an earlier grave. Change the names and addresses of the widows and orphans, but it was necessary to get those troops in there as soon as possible, because the first is with the most, yes, that is true. But under those conditions of the enemy peeping down at us all the time, it was going to be difficult for the 1st Division to do anything, I figured, and the 29th coming along might have some more fire power and see where the objectives were and fire in. It was almost that way when it came out.
Actually, the movie "The Longest Day" showed a Colonel in the 29th Division, you remember the 1st Division was pretty much ignored there because they were in pretty bad shape up against the sand dunes. Because every mortar would come over and pick off somebody, kill somebody and wound some more. And so the 29th Division came in a little bit fresher and one colonel was hollering and screaming, "We are being killed here on the beach head let's go inland to get killed." And he got enough activity with bangalore torpedoes to knock out a path, on through there. They went up through a gully, which is the most sacrificial way to go.
You are much better off going up over the blunt of a hill, the circle of a hill, because that gives you some hiding space. They have to stand up to see you. Where, in the gully, you have attack area exposing you to several directions of fire and no hiding cover. But they actually went up a gully. The "draw" it is called. I thought it was all wrong. I believe it was D+2 the first time I went across the whole of the beach-head. I got over to Point du Hoc, depending upon which map you read, where you saw President Reagan dedicate a memorial to those men who sacrificed their life for virtually no point at all, seventy-five percent of the battalion, probably 400 men killed. Whatever.
I got there and I found a straggler, a GI with no ammunition, no helmet, no weapon, no ammunition and no gun belt, that's what I am thinking of. And I saw there was an opening to the underground enclosure and I thought in terms that I have been through Mine Booby Trap in Demolition School in North Africa, I should know enough to how to go in here. And this guy wanted to follow me and I said, "Okay, you do exactly like I say and you do not touch anything, until I look it over. I have got a flashlight. You follow me and when I tell you to freeze, you freeze. They may have booby traps and so forth here."
They did not have booby traps. They were in pretty bad shape. In combat you don't set booby traps like that. But, sure enough, there was an unexploded released American hand grenade right at the entrance. We had to step around it to get in. Because if you kick it, it might go off. So we went inside with a flashlight, this and that. They had butter on the table and food. They apparently had been interrupted in the middle of their meal, in and out, trying to get a little food.
I found what looked a white handled bone handled knife. And when I got it out it as a souvenir it was marked like it was made in the U.S.A. but it looked to me that it was an infringement of manufactured in the United States. I don't think anything in the U.S.A. would have been that flimsy. I still have the knife. But on the way out, I had this guy go ahead of me and, sure enough, what did he do? He kicked the hand grenade. Well, we were lucky. It did not go off.
On my first trip to the beachhead, I saw the LCI, Landing Craft Infantry. It had something like 75 enlisted men to come in on and run down the ramps and be ashore and that would loosen it up and it could float out again, easily. Instead, it got hit by the Germans, by a shell, right in the front compartment. There were 29 bodies that, when I came along, German prisoners were taking them out. That was D + 2.
There are pictures of it in various publications of history of the war. There was all kinds of waste of course. One sign of the times. The first time I went over to find General Hoag, the big Beach Master General with a message from the Admiral, I had come off from the ship with a lunch of turkey and gravy and dumplings and peas, I think carrots and all the gravy and cranberry jam you wanted. And I think we had ice cream. I am not sure about the ice cream, now. But it was certainly filling and delicious and all that.
I was furious because we had taken on some Army personnel, including the Beach Master General and some of his men, for the last part of the invasion preparations. And then they were to go ashore that same first day. Which they did do. There was only a few, maybe a hundred or so.
It was a big ship - forty thousand tons - that is equivalent to 27,000 automobile weight. That is a lot of weight. It was a 40,000 ton ship, like the Titanic. The quality of the Navy food that we were eating went down while the Army was boarding with us and soon as they left, just a few of the officers you see, about four of us, something like that, then the ration picked up and we had the turkey. We could not give those guys who were going in, facing death, the turkey? Well, I was pretty aghast. I ate it and then I went ashore and caught up with General Hoag.
And he said, "Come on in, it's time for my lunch." I did not tell him that I had mine earlier. "Yes sir." And so he signaled to somebody, "Heat up two." So very soon after that, they gave me a spoon and a knife and the General gave me a hot can of "C rations" which I preceded to eat, on top of my nice turkey dinner which I just stuffed myself with. I did not dare mention to him that I had had a lunch with turkey and dressing and all extras that go with it. Cranberry sauce too, I believe. So I saw some things I did not want to see.
I did not actually have any fear for my life in spite of everything. I do recall now that in one of the D-Day celebrations on TV where they had a number of persons talking about the operation. General Eisenhower was talking. They showed some boats going in a circle, in sunlight, which was probably made off from a ship looking down at it, but I doubt it was at D-Day, but it was a similar operation.
The General was complaining that someone had put the 29th Division in so close in time, so that the beaches were so loaded with so many troops and vehicles, that some of the boat loads had to circle for hours out there getting the enlisted men sicker and sicker. That is true. I did that. I had the 29th Division immediately follow the 1st Division into the beach-head. I think they would have lost it if they had not gotten there in the first daylight. If they had waited until D + 2 it would have been hopeless.
They were there late in the first day and the battle reports in the movie, "The Longest Day", you might recall, there was no communications back to England from the 1st Division on the beachhead because they were pinned down. They were hopeless, helpless, they could not get to their objectives. They could not retreat. They could not go forward. They could not come backwards. They did not know whether they had a chance to go down the beachhead to join the British. They did not know whether the British had been successful. They did not know if whether the other beachhead had already surrendered or was this another Dunkirk in which they were going to be chased out into the water but only this time the Germans would be trying to get them in mass and we would not have gotten away with it.
So I think they were waiting to see if they had to put in either a voluntary surrender to save the rest of the lives or to call for Eisenhower's permission to be withdrawn. And you do not make a quick decision on that at times like that. And so there was not any communication for a long time. I am glad that I got the 29th Division to go in two days early. I hate to think what might have happened if they went in at D+2. They might have found out that the 1st Division had surrendered.
Running out of food and ammunition and medical supplies and hopeless [they] could not get to their objectives. Could not assault the enemy. Could not run down the beach. Could not go back to the ships and so had to surrender to save lives. They would have been in a hopeless position. Then what would the 29th Division had done?
Would they have landed and gone through the same performance? If they did not land, what would the British and the Canadian troops do up the beachhead? Would they hold and try to retreat and produce another Dunkirk? What about Utah beachhead then? Would we just go in then at Utah and expect the victorious Germans to not push us out of Utah Beach? Would we have to withdraw all the way across?
If Omaha Beach would have been a failure, it would have demoralized the other beachheads, and the paratroopers. And then what would have happened? Well, if we had to withdraw, there would be no way that we could have made another invasion attempt in the same year. It had taken us a year to get ready for that one. And with so much material lost and so forth and troops and amphibious troops and so forth lost and you just can not prepare all these replacements in summer time which was already into the highest sun. So it would have delayed the invasion to the next year.
By that time we had the atomic bomb ready for the Japanese. We might have decided to use it on Berlin. It could have changed the whole complexion of the war. It could have changed a lot of things. Well, it is the old story, one that goes back in the old cavalry days. "For a want of a nail, a horseshoe was lost; for want of a horseshoe, the horse was lost; for want of the horse, the rider was lost; for want of the rider, the message was lost; for want of the message, the battle was lost; for want of the battle, the war was lost."
Well, that is a lot of coincidences, but there was something going on there. We did make it and the casualties were very high because we went into the wrong kind of place. We should have gone into flat land like Utah beachhead, on what the British and Canadians went in on. We should not have gone in where they could look down on the top of our heads and shoot us like ducks in a puddle. Like ducks in a shooting gallery. So go up to the beachhead and take pictures of the graves up there. Those were all brave men to go in. And there were a few cowards in there but they also gave their lives. They could not give any more.
So when it came time for me to figure out, George, the Admiral and the General are still arguing, you know that the storm is coming in. And we are going to be very critical to supplies so we are going to lose both the 1st and the 29th Division because we do not know where the supplies we need are, and we are running short of hospital supplies, medical supplies, certain ammunition. We cannot push the Germans back now that we did get up there. We cannot do these things without the special supplies so ... I have seen where all kinds of men had given their lives and health and were casualties one way or the another in this effort.
And I saw where there was only two persons in the world who could get this Manifest deal straightened up. It was the Admiral who did not want to because he wanted to blame the General for it not happening. And the General could have but he did not want to do it because the situation was that he wanted to blame the Admiral for the failure and so this was going to continue. And there was one other person who could get the job straightened out and get the Manifest across, and that was me.
The only way I could do it would be to lie and cheat, and deceive and risk all kind of court martial charges. So I started counting them up because I was relieved at noon on D + 11 and told there would be a boat coming along and I could get in on time. So the boat came along and lowered my one bag, that is all we took on the ship from the hotel. And I went overboard and got down there, it was a PT boat, outfitted for this operation without torpedoes. And, they said, "Yeah we go back to England pretty soon, I have got to make a few more stops." We made a few more stops at different ships, and I said, "Captain when are we going back, you can see this storm is coming in, the waves are getting bigger and I have seen the weather reports. It is coming in. It is going to be pretty severe."
He said, "I cannot find permission to leave. This is the theater of combat, I want to go back to the zone of communications. And I cannot just go. That is cowardice in the face of the enemy. It is desertion." He said, "I have to have authority to go." I replied, "Well, have you been to such and such?" "Yeah." "Have you been to so and so?" "Yeah." "Have you been to there?" "Yeah. They all tell me no, they cannot authorize me to go back." I said, "What kind of an order do you need?" "Well, at this time, I would take anybody's order. These men been out here fifteen days or more, bobbing around, never a stopped moment, motors going all the time, and the motors need servicing, too. They are going to break down pretty soon. They cannot run fifteen days continuously without a little servicing.
And, yeah, I got some fuel here and there. Even the men have to go back. They cannot bob around for two more weeks out here. They got to go back and get reconditioned and come back here. We've got to go. Everybody thinks we are going back, but we do not have authority. I have got to have authority to go back."
I said, "Well, how about some verbal orders?" He said, "Oh, I would take any kind of orders now, verbal or written, it does not make any difference. I would take anything at this point." I said, "Well what about assistant G-4 of the Liaison Staff for Com Eleventh Phib, which is the Commander of the 11th Amphibious Force, which was the commander, my Admiral?" I was talking about myself. He said, "That would be fine." Well, I hesitated and said, "Or the assistant G-3 of the same staff?" "Oh, fine, either one of them would be fine." "Okay, how about the adjutant of the liaison staff or commander [of] Omaha out here?"
I said, "I am all three of them." Which was not true. I had been relieved of those duties at noon and here it was about two thirty in the afternoon now. He said, "Well, I will take anything now, just give give me the orders." I had hesitated long enough. My conscience was clear. I was the only person in the world who could do this. It is needed. Do it. I said, "Captain, have you got enough fuel?" His man at the wheel nodded his head in the affirmative fashion, "Yes, we have got enough fuel to get back." "Okay," I said, "what is your harbor to go to?"
He said, "Portland, Weymouth." I said, "That is very desirable as that is where I want to go to. That is where my hotel is with all my gear. I have got to go back to London." So I said, "Captain, take your crew and boat back to Engl -" I never finished the sentence. Zoom, the boat motor roared in there. We dug a hole in the water, with those propellers spinning like mad, and we took off for England.
It was rough because the waves were getting large and we were hitting them hard so that we could not stand up and we could not sit down because the vibration would just kill us. If we were straight up, our knees could not take it, and sitting down, our rear could not take it. And then there was another function that was interrupted too.
Every fifteen to twenty minutes we would get in line and hand over hand, we would never let go with two hands at once. We would always hang on with at least one hand. And we went and took our turn at the back of the boat, relieving ourselves into the water, because your kidneys were working over time, and that vibration just shakes all the water out of everybody. We were all dehydrated.
So we got back to England and I stopped in to a tea place and bought all the small phone change they had. Bought a little tea which I do not like. And went to the telephone booth there outdoors and started calling from memory.
First I called the Transportation Captain, who had a Piper Cub airplane to fly the "Missing Manifests" to the flat land above General Hoag's beach. I saw it. It's OK. When you get there you tell them what extra trees to cut down for windy flying.
Then I called each of the "Hards," those are beaches, practice operation beaches, where troops recently left from, and I talked to each of the Duty Officers to explain the situation and that they were to get copies A, of today, and copy B, of yesterday, and store copy C, and funnel them, by courier, on a daily basis to arrive at just before noon at Captain so and so's at the Transportation Corps, over here, because he is going to take them immediately, over to the airport and fly them over at noontime and be back before sunset. And that to time their schedule to bring the latest Manifest, including all the old ones, that were all ready afloat over there, we needed those in particular.
So I went by phone from harbor to harbor to harbor. I got to the last. I got farther out in towards Land's End out there. And communication was poor, if you are familiar with the old British telephones at that time. The signals were weak and the distortion was high and the quality was poor. And I am hollering at this officer and telling him, "This is Lieutenant George Bonadio. I am adjutant on the liaison staff for Commander of the 11th Amphibious Force, Force Omaha, and I am back here because we are in difficulty. The manifests are not coming through, and we need you to help as follows."
And I told him about getting these things flown over by going over to that particular airport with a jeep runner and to make it a daily program, and so he says, "Well, I am Major so and so, and you are just another voice on the telephone to me." Here I had dragged up, what I had counted, seventeen court martial charges against me and maybe this guy has got the medical supplies that we need, and he is not going to follow through. It is eleven o'clock at night and I am sick at heart. Sick of frame. Beat to death. Dehydrated. Tired because [after] eleven days of insufficient sleep you get tired, and because I had duties every six hours, amongst other things. Half recovered from malaria.
And from noon to six, midnight to six a.m. I was on specific duty where I could not lie down anywhere. And this guy was not going to follow through. I had to think fast. I complimented him on his caution, and so forth, and if he would check he would find the other Invasion Hards were doing the same thing, because it was necessary, and they recognized me in some of these places, just because he did not, that was okay.
So I said, "Just for the record, let me go through this again, specifically, so that you do not miss anything. Let me explain it to you. My name is Lieutenant-Colonel George Bonadio. And my position is Assistant G-3, Assistant G-4, Com 11th Amphib Force, and we are in great distress, out there, because of this." By this time he recognized that I was a Lieutenant-Colonel and he was only a Major and he said, "Uh yes, I do believe we can do all that for you Colonel." Well, I pretended not to hear the "Colonel." But I did hear it, and recognized that I illegally outranked him, and coerced him to do this. So I really was in hock.
Number eighteen, court martial charge I had estimated against myself. So we got the job done and I went off to my hotel and slept 16 hours, longer than I have ever slept before in my life. I was dehydrated by the bouncing PT boat trip, so badly that I could sleep for 16 hours. Remember that if my Admiral had not voided my promotion to Captain, I could not have tricked that Major from Captain to Lt. Col., but I tried from Lt. to Lt. Col. and it worked. And in the process somewhere later in Military HQ in London, I tried to get a job, anywhere.
The Army spent thirty or forty days not having a job for me. Eventually, they put me in the 5th Infantry Division. Saw some interesting things there. Our men coming back. We had gotten to Verdun and our scouts had come back and the Germans were all on the far side of the Rhine River (which our history avoids telling, how we blundered a quick finale), and it was not until after that until they came back at the Battle of the Bulge.
We had run out of fuel and that was our problem and I could write a book about some of those things. Oh, at Omaha, I did go ashore with a Navy order, Navy Intelligence N2 had me escort their man ashore to find out about these rocket launcher sites. They had found one. And the infantry troops had reported back. And so I brought them in to show them where it was because I was privy to all this information.
It was a requirement that I, in liaison, had learned all of everything that happened, that was going on, so I had to read everything. I was nervous and so I brought them in. They had intelligence saying that it weighed 80 tons and we got to this field that was probably just over an acre, it had trees around it, and it had in it this square plot about the size of a bedroom, good size bedroom, of a hard concrete foundation and some metal inserts into the foundation for a heavy load, but there was no other structure there.
And we could see that the foot work in the grass was done in such a way that they would use a different path all the time. They did not make any path that could be seen from the air. So they would not tread the grass, but they had all kind of work going on underneath the trees to build this thing and there was some steel work around. We could not estimate how in the world this little launch site could put out an 80 ton vehicle into the sky. It would smash it all to pieces.
Well, what we were looking at was a 2 ton V-1 launch site and the intelligence had to do with the V-2 which were 40 times bigger and could not take a small site like that. We did not know that at the time. So, I was always the offbeat. I never seemed to do anything that agreed with anybody else. I was always the oddball doing something different. I was not doing things that others were doing.
One time I had a platoon of 85 soldiers, and 35 Marines, 115 men, and I was the one officer. On the ship over someone said, "We have broken out here some new rockets. Who wants to fire one of these in the ocean for us? Read the instructions and do it." So I volunteered. So I was one of the first American troops to fire one under combat conditions. We were probably under fire for German submarines and such. And, oh, a lot of things went on.
One of the funny things was at Camp Elliot, named after Elliot Roosevelt, the President's son (whom I brought a Signal Corps message from his father!), in San Diego. We had a show come on, Eddie Canter came along with a beautiful girl singer and so forth and he put on a show for 5,000 Marines. We Army officers and wives, and I was not married, sat in the front. Why? Because we were guests of the Marines and they always go out.
And so Eddie Canter got this beautiful girl to get out there with this great big fur stole on so you could not see her. He knew what he was doing. And finally Eddie, while she was singing beautiful songs, Eddie came over and pointed to the stole, and made motions to the 5,000 Marines. After the song, there was a chant, "take it off, take it off," so finally she handed him the stole and he tosses it down to the officer's wife next to me. She said, "What am I going to do with this?" I said, "I'll take it." So I took it and waited and waited on him and towards the end of the show Eddie came over and indicated he wanted the stole.
And so I got up and walked over to him and I pointed to him and shook my head. Why? Because I knew I was not on a microphone and I pointed over to the singer sitting back there and nodding yes to her and no to you, so Eddie was smart. He reached down and kissed me on the forehead to get a little reaction out of the crowd, which they did react to with their laughter.
And so Eddie started back and motioned her to come over and she came over towards him, and he whispered something to her, and she nodded, yes. And she came over and reached down for her stole, and then quickly grabbed me by the ears and kissed me on the lips, which she was going to do to somebody, anyway. This was the occasion of course and so there was all kinds of "ohs" and "ahs" and this and that. She was a beautiful girl. I did not hear her name. So I had had it.
My ears must have been as red as they can be and I walked around the side of the stage and out to the back. Then, apparently, she went back to her seat and sat down, and the Marine guard standing there with his rifle and bayonet next to her. The Marines! He leaned over and whispered something to her and she stood up and screamed, "Hey Eddie, he is not a Marine." Talk about volunteers! They filled the stage and she had escaped through the back and she came out and she told me what was going on.
I said, "I can hear on the microphone and the loud speaker there." She said, "It is getting a little cool." And, I said, "Well, the sun is going down. That's my car if you want to sit in there and wait." She said, "My manager will be along here pretty soon. It will be okay. He won't leave me alone long." I said, "Okay, I am sorry I did not hear your name? What was your name?" She said, "Oh, it is Dinah Shore." A very nice Jewish girl, I heard. Eddie Canter, of course, was a Jewish boy. Things were going along fine.