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PT520s Role on June 8th, 1944
Letter from John E. Tallon to Shelton Bosley




    This is a response to your request in the Winter 1996 Edition of The PTBoater, page 25. It appears that you are not aware that a third PT boat also assisted in the removal of personnel from the USS Rich.

    I was the quartermaster on PT 520. On June 8, 1944, we were on station on the Mason Line which screened the Utah Beach end of the landing areas. We received a radio message from the cruiser USS Tuscaloosa, which vessel commanded the various elements of the screening force. The Tuscaloosa vectored us to the location where a Destroyer Escort was in distress and directed us to assist.

    When we sighted the USS Rich, I recalled seeing a German shore battery fire at least one round, probably more, at the Rich. In any event, the firing ceased as we closed on the Rich. We passed a PT boat officer, whom I recognized, in the water on a raft, the type we carried topside on our boats. He appeared okay and declined our offer to pick him up.

    We tied our starboard side to the Rich's starboard bow. The Rich was headed away from the beach, perhaps one mile away, so we were headed toward the beach. Our freeboard at the fantail where we went back and forth to the Rich, was about four feet or so and, Initially, we had to step up about a foot to get on the Rich's deck. This illustrates how far the Rich had settled. We proceeded to remove the men we found in that area of the vessel. There was a large gash, side-to-side and about thirty inches wide, over which we had to Jump repeatedly as we worked. Water was visible down through this gash and a continuous gurgling reminded us that the Rich would not be afloat much longer.

    During our work, Lt. Saltsman, our skipper, called me forward to the cockpit area since one of the DE's officers, using a megaphone, had evidently asked for a signalman. I walked forward and looked up at this man on the DE's flying bridge. He asked that I signal Tuscaloosa of their plight. It was obvious, both to me and Mr. Saltsm an, that he was experiencing some form of shock. We did nothing as the officer went out of view.

    I recalled two men whom I helped to handled. One we found hanging partially out of a rectangular hatch in the foredeck wearing only a pair of dungarees. He appeared to be dead but did not have a mark on him. He was placed on the bow of PT520. I thought the Rich might have taken the mine at the bow as the man was coming topside as the result of an earlier explosion.

    The other enlisted man was fully dressed and conscious. It was, I believe, his right leg that was almost completely severed about three inches below his knee. I could have clipped the flesh with a pair of scissors. We placed him, head toward our bow, on the starboard of our deck near the fantail. The PT crewman who carried the shoulder-end of this man and I hurried aft. However I was aware that I had left this injured leg with the lower portion pointing outward about thirty degrees from the upper part of his leg As I moved away, he called: "Sailor, can you straighten my leg?" I immediately returned and did what I should have done in the first place, grasped his shoe and lined up the lower part of his leg with the upper part of his back, the leg would look normal. I do not recall significant bleeding but he did have the M for morphine on his forehead which our executive officer was administering in conjunction with the application of first aid with which he was kept busy. Our Exec was Mr. W. F. Ryder who was killed in an automobile accident in Beaumont, DC, In the fall of 1976.

    All available deck space was covered with dead and wounded. We cast our lines off and pulled away slow as the Rich's rate of settling accelerated. I remember Mr. Saltsman a the wheel surveying the deck in front of him saying: "They're all so young." (He was about twenty-five.) We must have gotten about one hundred yards. The Rich was going down very quickly, and we noticed a swimmer moving away from where the bridge would have been and, generally, in our direction. We informed the skipper. We reversed course toward the swimmer but the swimmer quickly went under. We got to where he had been but found no sign of him. By this time, the Rich was gone except for her mast. A few feet showed above water. I have always felt that the swimmer was the officer who had asked us to signal the Tuscaloosa. He had stayed with his ship until the last.

    We proceeded to a hospital ship were we unloaded the casualties from our deck by means of wire stretchers lowered to us from the main deck. I can still see the medical personnel, men and women, looking down from about twenty feet above us.

    I have wondered about the sailor with the severely injured leg. Did he survive? He seemed to be holding up well. If so, how has he fared in life?

    I have enclosed a copy of a newspaper article that my mother sent to me, not that she knew that I was at the scene. I believe that it came from the New York Daily News. The articles states "...which were to send her to the bottom In a matter of minutes." PT 520 must have been alongside for twenty or thirty minutes. The articles mentions the foremast toppling. A mast extended above the surface after the Rich had sunk to the bottom.

    Mr. Bosley the foregoing account is as accurate as possible. However, I can't guarantee perfection. As for the two Ron 34 boats, I believe that both of them were on the opposite side of the Rich from us and more to the stern.

    I am sending a copy of this letter to two crewmen who were also on PT 520 at the time: Paul Lovino and Clyde Pohlman.

Sincerely,

John E. Tallon

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