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USS Rich DE695 and LST491
Text of a letter from James W. Knox




    I look forward every other month when my copy of "LST Scuttlebutt", the newspaper of the United States LST Association, arrives in the mail. The July-August, 1998, issue had a long and fascinating article: "Unforgettable Day" by Dale E. Malpezzi, Allen Park,MI - about the fate of the Destroyer Escort, USS Rich (DE 695), which was lost at Normandy on June 8, 1944, due to enemy mines (Editor's note: Mr. Malpezzi's article is included in this volume in its entirety). Mr. Malpezzi was able to interview several survivors who told, in their own words, the story of this tragic event.

    The LST491 was there that fateful day and participated in helping with the rescue of survivors. I noted in my book, 'The Ol' Double Trouble", published after the war in 1949, the following:

"On June 7 we moved to the Omaha Beach area as some of our troops and equipment had to be put ashore in that vicinity. This beach we found to be much more active and the Battle-wagons (the Nevada and Arkansas) were throwing big shells inland to destroy the Nazis as they retreated from the beach areas. We succeeded in off-loading the remainder of our vehicles and troops and proceeded to the transport area to await orders. We had not been anchored long when two Coast Guard cutters moored alongside, each loaded with 'casualties from the Destroyer Escort, USS Rich. The Rich had sunk after striking a mine, and all of the casualties were in serious condition. We also received survivors from the SS Susan B. Anthony, which had been sunk as part of the new breakwater operation which was being constructed to protect the beach. We received about 115 glider pilots who were part of the pre-H Airborne assault forces. They had made their way back to the beach area from the interior of France after accomplishing their mission. There were also numerous merchant ship crews taken aboard, as they had scuttled their ships to help build the port of Mulberry and Gooseberry. Late in the afternoon on June 8,1944, we sailed for Portland, England."

    The 491 was turned into a rescue hospital ship after offloading troops and vehicles. We had 6 surgeons and 45 hospital corpsmen aboard. Often we transported as high as 900 wounded military personnel from the Normandy beaches to England. This was not the last time this incident would command my attention.

    On the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of D Day - June 6, 1984, the County of Allegheny (at Pittsburgh, PA) sponsored a memorial observance of this historic event and I was invited to address a public gathering in the courtyard. During my remarks, I mentioned the incident involving the loss of the DE 695 - USS Rich. At the conclusion of the ceremonies, a County police Officer said to me: 'There is a man who would like to speak with you in the audience." I said: "Bring him up on the platform." A man approached, shaking my hand, saying: "I was aboard the DE Rich. I never knew how we all got back to England until today." I was of course surprised. The man's name was Ted Kasonovich. He wrote his address on the back page of my remarks: 2417 Wright Way, Pittsburgh, PA 15203 - which is locally known as the South Side. He also wrote "USS Rich 695". He did not know how he was taken to England or whether he was taken back on the 'LST 491. I have learned that Mr. Kasonovich died in 1984.

    On August 31, 1998, I searched my Navy memorabilia and located the original copy of the list of men received from the Coast Guard, casualties from the USS Rich. It indicates they were received aboard the LST 491 on June 8, 1944 at 1100 hours. A copy of the list is attached. It was my responsibility, as Officer of the Watch, to enter in the log all matters relating to this incident, including the names of the men from the USS Rich.

    I recall the distress of Dr. Jerry Lawrence, who along with Daughtery, worked so hard to save the lives of Ensign John Harold Obenaur and Seaman, First Class Kenneth Kraus. But their injuries were so critical, they died on the trip back to England. All the survivors were transferred at Portland on the Thames on June 9, 1944 at 0930.

James W. Knox
(Former Naval Person - USS LST 491)

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