“Going into the beach it looked like the beach was covered with driftwood—when we got close we realized the beach was covered with bodies,” noted U.S. Coast Guard Radioman 3rd Class Leroy C. Bowen, Jr., crewman aboard LCI 83 that landed Allied forces and extracted wounded from French beaches 60 years ago Sunday.
Bowen’s landing craft was one of many Coast Guard-manned ships that participated in the D-Day landings June 6, 1944—a day that would prove to be one of the bloodiest in the Coast Guard’s long history. According to Coast Guard Historian Scott Price, of the 99 Coast Guard-manned warships that participated during D-Day missions, six were lost and many others seriously damaged; 18 Coast Guardsmen died and 38 others wounded.
VADM James D. Hull, the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area Commander is in Normandy and will represent the service during D-Day commemorations there Sunday. Elsewhere, Coast Guard units around the world will take a moment to reflect on this significant moment in its service’s history before returning its focus on securing the nation against terrorist attacks.
Coast Guardsmen manned transport ships that carried soldiers from England to French shores; manned landing craft that delivered soldiers to French beaches and extracted wounded under heavy German small arms and artillery fire; and manned patrol craft that
escorted U.S. and British landing craft to and from beach landings and plucked wounded sailors and soldiers from the churning, bloody surf.
Many heroes cemented their legacy in U.S. History that fateful day and among them were several Coast Guardsmen. To view the list of decorated Coast Guard D-Day heroes, visit http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g%2Dcp/history/Normandy_Heroes.html.
As for Radioman 3rd Class Bowen, his landing craft, LCI-83, contacted a mine that blew out a portion of the bottom and forward part of number one troop compartment. He and his shipmates abandoned their ship and raced to the beach with their just-landed infantry passengers where they waited until low tide. While under heavy enemy fire, Bowen and his shipmates returned to LCI-83 and patched the hull well enough to rush back to England for repairs.