At the site of the Knights of Columbus (bad choice about the uniforms, men, very) magazine, Columbus, there is a seriously moving account of D-Day and the storming of the beaches of Normandy. HERE
Then the coxswain said, “DeVita, drop the ramp.” I didn’t hear him because of the roar of the guns and the two big diesel engines in the back of the boat.
Then he yelled louder, “DeVita, drop the ramp!” For a few seconds I froze, because I knew when I dropped that ramp, the machine gun bullets will come into the boat.
And then for the third time he yelled, “G— d— it, DeVita! Drop the f— ramp!” I dropped the ramp and the bullets that were hitting the ramp came into the boat. About 15 or 16 GIs died immediately; many were wounded, some very seriously.
Everybody thinks when you go to die, you pray to God. But when you’re about to die, the only word that comes out of your mouth is, “Mama! Mama!” That’s what they were saying.
I’m in the back of the boat, where the handle was to lower and raise the ramp, so I actually had some protection. The troops who died in front of me were absorbing the bullets that probably would have hit me.
Near me were two stragglers, two young boys. One took a round in the belly, but somehow he survived that day. He was very lucky. The second kid had red hair and was maybe a foot away from me. The machine gun took his helmet and part of his head off. He was not so lucky.
He was screaming, “Help me! Help me!” But I couldn’t help him. He fell at my feet, and I didn’t know what to do. I had no morphine. The only thing I had in my possession was the Lord’s Prayer. I started praying over him, and when he heard the words, it seemed to calm him. Then I reached down and squeezed his hand because I wanted him to know he wasn’t alone. And then he squeezed my hand a little bit, and he died. He was just a little boy. Just a little boy.
When we got to our ship, I had a big decision to make. Do I go back? And I said to myself, “Why should I send somebody in my place to be killed?” So I went back with the second wave.
Altogether, I made 15 trips to the beach.