Friday, June 7, 2013

PaPa Survived The Landing At Omaha Beach Normandy, France Sixty-Nine Years Ago

                                 FRANCE SIXTY-NINE YEARS AGO

     I wonder what was on PaPa Reuben's mind as the USS Susan B. Anthony cruised through the swept channel off Normandy, France, the morning of June 7th, 1944. It was the day after the initial invasion of June 6th, that secretly brought the Allied troops to a small section of beach where the Nazi Germans least expected them to invade during World War II.
                                            USS SUSAN B. ANTHONY
     Reuben was from the farm/ranch lands between the small towns of Shiner and Yoakum, in LaVaca County, Texas. After graduating from Yoakum High School, he attended The University of Texas. It was probably the first time he ever left home. Like his father, he too excelled in mathematical engineering and also helped his family farm and ranch. He made it until the age of 30 without traveling far away from his homeland and was still single when he joined the Army.
     At 8:00 AM on the 7th of June all Hell broke loose on the ship which had been converted into the military ship, The Susan B. Anthony. It was carrying almost 3,000 people to assist in the operation which had begun the day before at Omaha Beach. The battle was winding down some, but the beach was not yet secured. The noise and confusion must have been tremendous when the mine hit. The lights went out, there were a couple of explosions and fire broke loose and spread into the engine and fire rooms. The ship began to list to one side and the Captain ordered all occupants to move to the opposite side of the ship and it began to upright its position. But shortly he realized that the holes in the ship were taking in tons of water and the ship was sinking. There wasn't enough time to try and save the ship and he knew his first obligation was to save his passengers. He ordered all to evacuate the ship immediately. There was no time for the passengers to gather belongings or pick up weapons. They barely had time to slip on their life vests. There was no time, as well to bring out the rafts and small boats. The Captain's focus was to save as many lives as possible.
     He told his soldiers to survive by grabbing the weapons off the dead bodies lying on the beach and floating in the water and to move inland as fast as they could. Some of the passengers who could not swim clung to their life vests and were rescued by nearby mine sweepers. Others swam to the shoreline as well as they could, through the bloody waters and the dead floating from the battle the day before. By 10:00 AM, two hours after the ship was hit, it sunk.

                                           Dead Bodies on Omaha Beach

     My father Reuben made it to the beach and did as instructed, with some of his
buddies, and then traveled inland. One of his buddies later said that if it hadn’t been for Reuben with his keen engineering skills and knowledge of topography, they never would have made it as far as they did.  
     I’ve thought of Reuben all day and cried from time to time, thinking of the heroic
deeds that he had to perform. I am proud that he was part of “The Greatest Generation”who fought for our country so valiantly.
     Today, the USS Susan B. Anthony is buried in the water off the shores of Omaha near Normandy, France.
                      The Sunken USS Susan B. Anthony Near Normandy, France