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Memories of Dan Wescott

Dan Wescott

    Left the States May 12, 1944, after a short stay in the Yards. Then we took a convoy to Londonderry, Ireland. There we sat around expecting to return to the States with a returning convoy, when out of a clear sky we received orders to proceed to Plymouth, England at our utmost speed. We refueled, loaded more ammunition than we ever carried before. Shore patrols then rounded up some of the crew still on liberty. Everyone was in the best of spirits and we anticipated what our assignment was to be. After a record loading of fuel and ammunition, we shoved off and were under way about 2200 o'clock.

    We cruised along at full speed down the Irish Sea. After an uneventful voyage we anchored at the Plymouth base next evening. As the dawn was breaking we beheld a strange sight. The sky was dotted with hundreds of barrage balloons secured to small craft, ships at anchor, and beach stations. The whale boat was lowered and I took the Captain to the Masefield for a conference. We were sure somethir was up. it seemed to be in the air.

    First LCI troop ships would appear and disappear during the day and night. Movements were concealed even to us.

    June 3rd. We moved alongside the Masefield and the battle wagons were in sight. For the first time, the Captain was to talk to us, that night. Silence was everywhere, tension was in the air and at last we were to know.

    He told us we were to take part in the invasion. We were to screen for the Nevada, a small but Important part. Everyone was doing his part to make ready guns. We checked and rechecked life rafts, rigged life belts, checked valuables which we stowed in water tight bags, and we were ready at all times.

    June 4th. That was to be the day, and in a few minutes we were to leave. I was standing out in the whale boat waiting to be hoisted aboard when we received orders to sit tight that the weather would not permit, so D-Day was delayed one day.

    June 5th. I stood out in the whale boat again and this time we got under way. The boat was hoisted aboard in good time and we proceeded slowly. Ships joined tip from all around us. They seemed to appear from nowhere. Mine sweepers cleared the way leaving flares for Channel markers. We passed ships of all sizes and description. it was the largest task force afloat and we were to be part of the greatest show on earth. We were making history and we knew it. We could feel our pulses racing and hearts were beating fast, and nerves were taut.

    We investigated a few small boats we thought were German U-boats but turned out to be friendly craft. The Rich was the first or one of the first to attain position. The Nevada anchored and we took our place 500 yards aft to the post. Now all ships were in position, and we manned our guns.

    At 5:50 on the morning of the 6th, the Quincy opened up. Then the Nevada with 5 and 14 inch guns started. Still we had no opposition. I saw a dogfight and our plane shot down a Jerry. Flak was flying, base gun opened up, the air was electrified and the sky was lit up. Red tracers were everywhere, and the flames from the big guns lit up everything around them. Then the loud reports followed and I thought of home and wondered what the home town papers would have to say, and what the headlines would be. Dawn came fast and I saw a landing boat blown high out of the water. Also our bombers were going in and I saw a 5-inch and one of our bombers meet in mid-air. There was a big flash, a mass of flame and that was over. Our landing boats made the beach all day long.

    One of our DD's was hit by the enemy's shore battery. She was the first ship lost. All this time we remained at our guns. We ate, slept and answered the call of nature at our stations. I hit my sack at eleven. Five minutes later the airplane rescue party was called, the whale boat lowered, for a plane had crashed off our starboard. I didn't see the crash. I was coxswain of the boat and we got underway. We saw a discoloration of the water. it was a green dye used to mark where the pilot had landed. I got one glimpse of him and his orange Mae West jacket. it was only partly inflated. We came close but our first attempt was a failure. I made a turn and we came back. The pilot was fast going down and almost out of sight. We tried with the boat hook but it was all over. We returned to the ship and all this time the transport shuttle had started planes towing gliders. They would go over, release the gliders and return to England.

    As one group returned, more went in, this kept up for quite awhile. Next day, June 7th, we received survivors, and transferred them. I took General Donavon to the Tuskie in the whale boat, had my picture taken as he made his way up the ladder. As we were returning, officers of our ship were shooting at something in the water, with small arms. I was told to investigate with care, but it turned out to be the tail part of a mosquito bomber.

    That night was HELL. An airplane was flying overhead but we couldn't see it then, I heard a bomb dropping and reported it to the Captain. it landed astern of us. General Quarters was sounded. I was one of the first on the gun. All the ships around were firing at it. I had him in the sights, but no orders to fire were given. When the order came it was too late. He had passed over. A torpedo hit a DD astern of us and a torpedo passed under our bow. We then proceeded to lay a smoke screen around the task force. We did a damn good job . The smoke was so thick we couldn't see our hand in front of us. Boy, we were glad to see daylight next morning which was two days after D-Day or June 8th.

    The Glennon was hit as she was heading in to shell the beach. We received orders to stand by her. The whale boat was lowered and I was instructed to pick up survivors. I was standing by her when I saw the recall flag. We started back to the ship. A big geyser of water shot into the air. A near miss. We made the ship and were standing by the boat fallow when the second explosion occurred. I looked aft and I was surprised to see the fantail of our ship gone. One third of the ship had been cut in half and was floating off. I looked to the bridge for orders. There were none. So we took off on our own to pick up some of the boys who were blown into the water. We picked up four or five but couldn't tell who they were as they were covered with oil. As we were back aft, two hits were taken forward and the ship was a mass of twisted steel. No one on deck seemed to be able to stand up. We went along side, again I ordered the boat crew aboard to help the wounded. I left one man with the boat and went aboard. We worked for about thirty minutes, carrying men off, giving morphine. I saw Schmocker. He was OK.! told him we would get him off but when we went back he was gone. The ship was beginning to sink. Water was up to the signal bridge. She gave a list to starboard. I threw a life belt to Pete and then went off into the water and oil. I was picked up by a crash boat. Schmocker was on her. The ship was gone. The crew took my picture. I was covered with oil and shock was coming on from what I had seen. I shall never forget the ship and the brave boys who went down with her.

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