We arrived in New Orleans and went straight to the docks to board our brand new ship. It was about 11 at night, and we were wondering where we would sleep. We all lined up to be brought aboard the ship, the U.S.S. Rich.
We were supposed to give our name and service number and then be assigned to a bunk. When the officer on duty came to me, he said, "What is your name?" I told him, "Poor". He responded, "Sailor, don't be funny. What is your name?"
I told him again that my name was Poor. Evidently, he had the USS Rich on his mind and would not believe that my name was Poor. I thought: 'Oh, my goodness. I'm going to be put in the brig for being named Poor.'
All of a sudden, I thought about my dog tag and brought it out in a hurry and showed it to the officer. He looked real funny and gave me a bunk number. I wiped the sweat off my brow and went to my new bed.
The next day we went to our gunnery officer, Lt. Frazier. I was
assigned to a One Point One (1.1) four barrel. They said it was a WW I gun and had been gotten out of the storage yard somewhere. It was a
On our first firing only one barrel continued firing. But, the next time all four fired off real well. The drive was electric and every once in a while it would go haywire and scare everybody to death.
We left New Orleans for Bermuda on a shakedown cruise. The only problem we had was when the ship was at full speed, the fan tail vibrated something terrible. I was told the ship ran aground coming down the Mississippi River and bent a screw shaft. This was repaired in Boston. Massachusetts, after the shakedown cruise.
While we were in Bermuda we had to go out to sea to ride out a hurricane. When we first got into it I thought, 'Boy, this is really the stuff.' But it wasn't long before I wanted to get out so badly that I didn't know what to do. I almost got seasick for the first time.
After the ship's screw shaft was straightened out in Boston, we started doing convoy duty between the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Londonderry, Ireland. The last time we were in Londonderry, we were ordered around to Plymouth, England, where we met the task force to the coast of France for D-Day.
I believe it was 6 AM of the first morning when the battleships and cruisers started shelling the beach. Bombers came over to do their job and also the C-47's with gliders attached. The sky was so full of airplanes it seemed like it was cloudy. I felt sorry for all the paratroopers and the men in the gliders going down over France, not realizing that it wouldn't be long before we were having the same problems they were having.
We were given orders to go in closer to the beach to help another ship that had hit a mine. All of a sudden a mine went off on the side of our ship gushing water high in the air. Then another mine went off evidently under the ship and broke the fantail from the ship. Then one went off forward which seemed to lift the ship out of the water.
The gun tub I was in was just forward of where the fantail broke from the ship. It was half full of broken 1.1 shells. It seemed like everything went blank for an instant. Then I looked around and I was the only person in the gun tub. I got out of the broken shells and tried to find somebody else, but I was the only person left on that part of the ship.
I could not believe that the other sailors were gone. They probably were blown off the ship, but I could not figure why only I was left. I jumped over the side and swam to a PT boat. The PT Boat carried us to an LST and the LST carried us to England.
There was one other sailor from the USS Rich on the PT boat. I can't remember how he spelled his name, but it was something like Kasonvich. I believe he was from Philadelphia, PA. We were the only two sailors on the LST. The rest were all Army.
We were sent to an Army hospital somewhere in the middle of England. We stayed there for approximately three weeks and were sent down to Plymouth to join our other crew members.
When we walked into camp, we walked up to a few of our crew members who did not speak. We could not figure out what in the world was going on until we were told that everybody thought we were killed in the USS Rich sinking.
It is strange how things happen. A lady who lived in Woodstock, GA, where I was from, asked my brother who had a store there: "Is Leroy dead?"
She said she and her husband were looking at a monument around Cambridge, England, and my name was listed on it as having been killed in the invasion of Normandy on June 8,1944. Her husband was in the Army at that time. They took a snapshot of the monument and later gave it to me/
After the Normandy invasion I came back to the USA and was sent to Ft. Pierce, Florida. From there I was assigned to the AKA 29 USS Laserta. I stayed on that ship for the rest of my Naval duty.
We went to the Pacific and went to a lot of places - Hawaii, Guam, Saipan, the Phillipines, the invasion of Okinawa, China, Manchuria and then finally to Japan for the signing of the peace treaty.
I enjoyed my Navy duty very much. The experience I gained was really something to remember. I had a couple of close calls, but other than that, I wouldn't take anything for my experience I gained in my three and one-half years in the Navy. May the Good Lord bless all the dead and the living who had duty on the USS Rich, DE 695.
Now about my present life I'm retired from Lockheed Aircraft in Marietta, Georgia, where I was employed for 30 years. I have been retired for 11 years. My wife and I travel quite a hit. We have four sons. Three are married. We have seven grandchildren.
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