Harland Smith

 

 

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“I was born October 11th 1925 in La Belle, Missouri. Close to Kirksville.

I grew up in a dairy farm my Dad and Granddad owned. I had two sisters growing up. I worked milking cows, separating the cream, bottling it up. We drove around in the family Chevy to various homes in the area where i’d go up to the door and deliver the milk and cream.  Whatever money we made, we’d spent it on what we didn’t have, such as sugar, flour, salt and pepper. We made it by ok with what little we had. We never starved. But being a farmer was a benefit. If we were in Kansas or Oklahoma during the depression and dust bowls, we would have been in trouble. They had it the worst out there.

When Pearl Harbor happened, my parents jaws dropped. It was big news because we knew we were going to war. I volunteered for the Navy October 9th when I was 17.. Went to Green bay for boot camp. Shit, it was cold up there.  they would make us stand with minimal clothing during chief inspections.

After boot camp and training in Norfolk, Virginia for operating Landing crafts, I was sent home for a week before being shipped to Louisville Kentucky near the Ohio river. That’s where they would build ships and cruisers, on the Ohio and Mississippi river. Once our convoy was ready, we were shipped out to South Hampton England. This was April 0f 44. We spent the next month in England preparing for Operation Normandy..

There were all kinds of ships, well over a 1’000. There was nothing like this.

Once they announced “Get ready for the Invasion” We hustled. We were behind so we came in during the battle. I was on the ship they called LSt 682..that was my home. there’d be these smaller boats that hold 37 men and take them to the beach. Soldiers came down to cargo net to get in the boat. The water was so rough so we had to have two men hold up the ramp in case it broke. At 18 years old, I was the boss in that landing craft. All 37 men in that boat, as for the others I came back too, relied on me to get them as close to the beach as possible and avoid getting shot at myself!

The Germans had all kinds of stuff in the way..barbwire, barricades.  The  barricades  you see  in the pictures. Once the troops get out of the transport onto Omaha beach, I had to get out in reverse and avoid all the barricades again.

When we got to the beach the first time, the two guys  up front opened up the ramp in the front, and the first few young men that got out of the boat..shot..some others drowned..that happened to a lot of guys… They shot at us all the time.

We did have way more men, and overpowered the Germans. The Army eventually got up and took out the machine guns nest, throwing a hand grenade in.

I had to go back to the ship after the first time to get 37 more men, and go in there a second time. It was seemed  rougher the second time around since they started to direct more aggressive fire closer in my direction. You learn to use your head and faith quick.

The map surveyors, or whatever they are called, the higher ups who designed the map for us to land on that beach, well none of them or us have ever been there before, so we didn’t know about these..pot holes or shallow deep ends..I lost some of my people in the army..they went off the ramp and never came up..they carry 60 pound equipment and a rifle..never fired a shot…I went back and forth delivering troops twice, before going back to the ship after the second drop, my officer said “No more.”

It’s after things calm down you think about what happened..I don’t know how some of those combat troops do it.

I’d spend the next 30 days on that ship delivering tanks and troops from England to France for the ongoing battles in Europe.once we gotten enough equipment and supplies, the Air Force kinda took over in bringing additional supplies. I never saw any more combat.

After that, our ship went home. We went all the way to San Diego, to be sent over to the Pacific on a troop transport, I became Quartermaster, I was navigation. The Captain, his watch was just a tick off he would call me up.

By July 1946, I witnessed the Bikini Atoll Atomic Bomb testing..they told us not to look at it and turn our backs to the blast. Even though it was far, we felt the heat on our backs. .I dread all this nuclear catastrophe. You can’t imagine what they made then, for what they can make now..that Bikini test was to see how much damage this bomb would do to this area and ships they were disposing…anyway I stayed as a quartermaster in the Pacific, we went to the Philippines and this was after the war was over, but really a beautiful country.

I was discharged November the 17th 1947, being in since October 43. Married my wife, lived out in Colorado before moving here in Kansas to be closer to our daughter.

The experience at Normandy taught me to appreciate little things, be more laid back, and value time. I hope others learn that before they would ever experience what I did.”

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