I was a crew member of the Destroyer Escort, the USS Rich,
DE 695. Our DE was involved in the Normandy invasion at Utah Beach in June of 1944. We were the protective ship for the Battleship USS
Nevada (BB36) and others. We made it through the action of June 6th & 7th but had a problem on June 8th. Orders came to assist the destroyer
Glennon but when we were nearby, we were waved off. On heading back to our battle station, we encountered an explosion from a mine which burst about 50
yards off our starboard beam. This knocked out all power and communication. When this was repaired, we got under way again. At that
point, another mine exploded directly under the ship. This tore a 50 foot section of the stern off the ship and set it adrift. Many men were thrown into the sea and many others were badly injured or dead on the deck.
In less than 3 minutes there was a 3rd explosion. This almost ripped the bow from the
remaining section of the ship.
My battle station was in the #1 engine room along with 4 other men. We stayed there until we began to take in water and we were told to abandon our station. I was shocked when I came up on deck; men either dead or wounded every where. I heard some one call me and I looked around and saw my buddy H.
B. hanging on the outer edge of the hatch, unable to pull himself up. I got him up and out on the deck. We then headed for the compass room to get our other buddy, Jim
Bollin. On the way there I helped other wounded men the best I could. We had to remove debris which was blocking our way to the compass room. Jim was unable to help himself so
we carried him up and out on the deck. There was a
PT boat pulled alongside so we carried Jim to the rescue boat. By this time, water was starting to cover the deck of the Rich. An officer of the PT boat told us to get on board. As we pulled away, the ship was starting to sink, in just 15 minutes after the first explosion.
There were 203 enlisted men and 12 officers on board the Rich. Of
these 215 men, there were 70 survivors.
The PT boat we were on had to make a sharp turn to avoid a mine. We were taken to an
LST which was being used as a hospital ship. There were wounded German soldiers, American sailors and soldiers being taken back to England from the invasion.
I feel that the praying I did during this time was the reason God protected me. I was
thankful that I was able to help other wounded shipmates.
When we arrived in Plymouth England, the dead & wounded were taken off
the LST. When that was finished six of us walked off the boat. We were met by
English Army officers who asked us who we were and where we came from. We informed them we were off the USS
Rich. One of the officers
summoned armed soldiers who surrounded us and were told to follow them. We were taken to a fort and locked into a big cell. The next day we were released and were told the
reason for our being locked up; they were informed that there were no survivors from the Rich, so they thought we were German agents. Then we were taken to a U.S. Naval Amphibious Base in Plymouth England. We were there about 2 weeks and then
hundreds of us were sent to Scotland to get a ship to U.S. After 30 days at home on
R & R, I was assigned to the USS Bon Homme Richard, an aircraft
carrier, and headed to the Pacific.
Note: Frank was one
of the original crew members who sailed with the USS Rich
from the Defoe Shipyards in Bay City, Michigan, to New Orleans,
Louisiana after the Rich's launch in June of 1943.
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