June 5, 1944
It’s the real thing this time darling. We are on our way in now. We have started sweeping a channel for the invasion fleet to follow. We began sweeping at about 6 o’clock and by 2 o’clock on the morning of the 6th the channel had been swept all the way in to about 2 miles from the French Coast and the fleet was on its way in. All the time that we were sweeping we had an air escort along, and at 11:30pm on the 5th the heavy bombers began to go over and unload their bombs on the beaches and German gun emplacements. The Germans put up a very good A-A (Anti-Aircraft) barrage, but the bombers got through and we could feel the concussion as the bombs exploded and see the great flashes in the sky. The gun emplacements on the beach must have been kept to busy by the aircraft to bother about us, because they didn’t fire at us at all.
All the planes didn’t get away, however, because I saw four come down in flames at different times. One Spitfire came right down over us, and he was on fire. He crashed in the sea just a stern of us but we couldn’t go and find out whether the pilot was alive or not. If he was he would be picked up by some of the other ships coming in behind us. Another plane, I don’t know whether it was a fighter or a bomber burst into flames a couple of miles ahead of us and plunged into the sea. Another was hit over the beach and it crashed on the shore with a full load of bombs and we could feel the concussion and see a great red flash go up in the air as she exploded. It was quite a site, but is too bad that it had to be our own boys that went up.
The Air Force did a magnificent job and they made it easy for us to land our troops. If they hadn’t of knocked out some of the shore defenses we would have lost a lot more men than we did. Our big battleships and cruisers got right in close and polished off the gun emplacements that the Air Force missed. It was a great show and the sea was just covered with ships of all shapes and sizes as far as the eye could see. It was kind of cold and there was quite a breeze blowing and the channel was pretty choppy but it was a pretty good night. There were a few clouds but the moon was out and it wasn’t very dark. We were up and at action stations for 24 hours steady and I tell you darling, I sure hit the hay this morning when we came off watch.
The troops landed at 6 o’clock this morning. The bombers had packed up about 5. We lost a few landing craft but not many. One L.S.T. (Landing Ship Tank) turned over and sank right alongside of us. I don’t know whether she was hit with a mine or was rammed. She had two tanks and a jeep on her and they all went to the bottom of the Channel. The good thing about it and a good thing for us too, darling, was that we had air superiority, and not one German plane got at us. Not one bomb was dropped on our spearhead. Some of the others were attacked because there were twelve spearheads altogether but we were in the middle and not one bomb was dropped on us. We were all quite surprised at this, because we expected to be attacked, but we were quite pleased, if not a little disappointed when we weren’t.
All day long there has been an endless stream of ships coming from the English coast loaded with supplies and men for the French beachheads. We are heading back to England now to refuel and take on supplies and then we have a three week job ahead of us keeping the safety channel swept clear of mines. The Canadian sweepers did a swell job last night darling. They went right into within two miles of the coast. We were lucky that the Air Force kept the shore defenses busy or they really would have peppered us I’ll bet a nickel. Well my sweet I guess I will close for now and get a little sleep. I go on watch at midnight and it is a quarter to 10 now. We are supposed to be in Weymouth at 1 o’clock in the morning and I will have to take her in, so good-bye for now my darling.
All my love,
[Editor’s notes: While dated “June 5” the events described in the letter begin late that day and then continue on to June 6th. Transcription provided by collection donor.]