Marion Adams, 91, a retired farmer from Newton Township, Ohio, says of June 6, 1944, “I try to forget it. No one has a right to know. They wouldn’t believe it anyway.”
Those of us who watched PBS on Memorial Day of this year don’t need a description: we saw the horrors of Normandy in black-and-white on our televisions.
Adams was aboard LST 491 as a U.S. Navy radio operator on D Day. In response to the question, “Why did you live when so many died?” he said, “The whole thing has to do with fate, not faith, but fate. Every person has a god within himself or herself. Things happen that the individual has nothing to do with.” Adams was to learn later how very true that is.
Of the war in Europe, he says, “I could see myself going over, but I couldn’t see myself returning home. Throughout six months of training, we were told we were going to die. It was drilled into us. We took that in. We were all young, 25 and under, even the officers. I was 20.”
Adams reports that “Everything we had read let us know that Adolph Hitler wanted to be the boss of the world. If they took England, the next step would be the U.S. We were going to face them head on.”
Adams had trained to be a beach master at Northwestern University (IL) when a messenger came one morning at 7:30 a.m. and told him he was to report to the administration building. A radio operator aboard an LST was late in returning from leave, and Adams was appointed to take his place. He was chosen because, as he puts it, “The military does everything in alphabetical order, and I was at the head of a list.”
When he arrived at the naval yard in Maryland, his mentor Ensign James W. Knox said, “As of today you are Radioman Third Class aboard LST 491.” Adams had no idea what an LST was. His on-the-job-training commenced quickly as he learned that his LST was a 328-foot landing ship tank built in Evansville, IN, commissioned on December 3, 1943, and designed to hit the beach, open the bow door, drop the ramp, and off load men, vehicles, and equipment.
After a voyage across the Atlantic, on May 31, 1944, Adams’ LST arrived to a staging area and was parked in England “up a little stream that opened into the English Channel. and the ship was then sealed.” Sealed means that for security reasons no one was allowed to come on the ship or leave it.
June 1, 1944 the tide came in and LST 491 moved to Brixham, England, a small fishing port where fishermen and their boats had been evacuated to create space for LSTs. With a crew of 120, including enlisted men and officers, they began the loading process which took three hours. What was loaded? Members of the 101st Airborne equipped with only rifles and ditty bags. They had been left behind because there were inadequate gliders and planes to take them to their location for the invasion of Normandy. Infantrymen, drivers and their crews, cooks and their kitchens were also uploaded as were heavy artillery, tanks (the tank deck could hold 23 Sherman tanks), jeeps, and supplies such as ammo, food and clothing.
June 2, 1944 There was room in the Brixham port for only two LSTs, so LST 491 moved into the Brixton Bay close to Portland, England.
June 3, 1944 Waiting
June 4, 1944 Waiting with an order to delay for 24 hours with no indication of why. The delay order was verified when Captain Richardson, a “four striper” arrived in a small boat to confirm the order.
June 5, 1944 In the evening the order was to go. Adams reports that he was scared, and those who were not were stupid. He said he was wondering what he would be doing the next night and “I thought I’d be dead.”
June 6, 1944 Arrived at 6:30 a.m. at Omaha and no beachhead had been established. They were located one mile out behind the U.S.S. Battleship Texas, a ship with fourteen-inch guns, small for that day.
Waiting. The 101st paratroopers descended from the LST on a rope ladder and boarded a LCVP as they were anxious to rejoin their group.
Adams stood on the port side next to the galley that day watching with his own eyes and hearing with his own ears. The guns of the Texas returned fire when they saw flashes of gunfire on the beach.
At 3 p.m. the LST 491 received orders to go to Utah Beach where a beachhead had been established. They pulled up anchor and arrived at Utah at 5 p.m.
Radioman First Class Marion Adams survived that day and in the days that followed as his LST moved from beach to beach. He says, “I survived. In war you have time to think about what you want to do if you live. I decided I wanted to farm, to be my own boss, to be responsible for things growing.” He married and had one daughter and five sons. Two sons served in the U.S. Navy.
While Adams was involved in the war in Western Europe, he had no idea that six million Jews were being exterminated. He was to learn that later when the atrocities were made known to the entire world. In 1974 Adams’ stint at farming ended when he had a heart attack. The cardiologist who attended Adams following his heart attack was Dr. Schuster, a Jewish orphan to Hitler’s genocide. According to Adams, both of Schuster’s parents were murdered in the Holocaust.
Send comments or suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.