My Military Experience Part I: Another Time

Zearl Black - GWRRA

I’m proud to say that during WWII, I served with the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and the U.S. Army. How did this happen?

I joined the Navy June 26, 1943. Boot camp was in San Diego. Then it was to Hospital Training School where I learned to administer medication, give shots and do the work of today’s hospital techs. I worked several months in an orthopedic ward in New Orleans. The officer of the day saw me in a fist fight. So, I was given a choice, either a Navy court martial, or I could volunteer for service in Europe.

So, I then became a part of a company of 20 hospital Corpsman and two doctors on an LST crossing the North Atlantic in February of 1944. Cold! Yes, sir! The spray coming across the bow was freezing before it hit the deck. We spent several months in the ports of Cardiff, Wales, and Falmouth, Weymouth and Portsmouth, England.

Sometime in May we loaded rolling stock; tanks, trucks, jeeps and others into the hold. Crates of food, water, medical supplies and ammunition were put top side, covered and lashed down. Then units of the 1st Army came aboard and we put to sea.

On the third day at sea, we were told that we would be a part of an invasion into France at a place called Normandy. On the fourth day, we began to see the sky filled with bombers, some going toward France and some returning to reload.

On the night of June 5, we moved to a position about two miles from shore. The bombers were still in the sky. About midnight, we heard the loud boom, boom, boom of the battleship 16-inch guns. The battleship was behind us, we could see the fire coming out of the guns with each boom. They were shooting over us at the beach.

At 2 a.m., we began to load supplies and troops into LCVPs on the lee side of our ship. As soon as each one was loaded another would move in. The LCVPs circled and waited until the designated hour. The hour came. They went to the beach in waves. Some made it, some didn’t.

Returning LCVPs brought dead and wounded. It was time for our medical team to go to work. A triage was set up on deck. Dead were sent to a separate cabin. The wounded went to a specific cabin depending on the care they would need. We were not set up for surgery.

By noon we were filled to capacity. We were ordered to return to Portsmouth. On the way I saw an LST about 300 yards to our starboard side hit a mine, break into two pieces, and sink.

This is my most horrible memory of my military experience. I saw dead and wounded men in the water. Some of the wounded were waving for us to rescue them but our captain had been ordered not to stop in the channel.

After unloading the dead and wounded, our LST took on more supplies and troops and left for Normandy. We arrived on D-Day plus six (or June 12). The beach was secure so we were able to nose onto the beach. Troops and equipment went down the ramp into France. The dead and wounded were brought aboard and we went back to Portsmouth.

Our job was done. A troop ship took us to Boston. And after a 30-day leave, we were to report back to Boston for further assignment.

That’s the Navy part of my military experience.

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