Sample Memories

Norman A. Black, Maj. USAF (Ret) (PDF, 120kb)
Lt. Cmdr. Vernon T. Atkinson (PDF, 104kb)
Helen M. Bailey (PDF, 1.1MB)
Joseph D. Beam, Jr. (PDF, 232kb)

Since its launching, the Marshall Foundatin's World War II-Korean War Memories Project has received many letters, telephone calls, e-mail responses, and gifts from veterans and civilians who wish to preserve their personal war-time stories, photographs, and artifacts in the Marshall Foundation¹s Library and Archives for the benefit of future generations.

The first recollections shared with the Memories Project reveal an interesting diversity of subjects and experiences, including life aboard the USS Herndon, as related by Radioman Third Class Angus S. Schmelz, at the invasion of Normandy; the experiences of marine corporal Jack F. Fick, who became a Japanese interpreter on Okinawa; the anxious days and nights spent by Roger M. Nordby, an Army staff radio officer aboard the headquarters ship USS ANCON at the September 1943 invasion of Italy; and the daily routine of AD3 Richard J. Kamienski, a sailor and photo interpreter on the USS Aventinus in Japan, 1952-54.

Individuals who knew, worked with, or received letters from General Marshall have also shared their memories. Harry S. Birnbaum, who had four brothers in the armed forces during World War II, presented the Memories Project with a personally signed letter from General Marshall to his mother, on August 24, 1942, expressing condolences at the death of her son, Morris.
Helen McShane Bailey, who worked in General Marshall's office during the entire World War II period, shared some of her memories, noting that "to secure information and assistance anywhere in the War Department, I had only to say on the telephone, 'this is Miss McShane in General Marshall's office,' and the response was immediate."

Leonard A. Gibson was a member of the Honor Guard for General Marshall and Averell Harriman at the 9th International Conference of American States in Bogota, Colombia, in April 1948, at the beginning of the revolution in that country. He shared a letter of commendation signed by General Marshall, which included the statement, "I wish particularly to compliment the members of the Delegation upon their coolness and courage during the events of April 9th and 10th. It was gratifying to receive reports on the high morale and complacency of the Delegation members during those trying hours."

Marine Corps Colonel Francis I. Fenton (later Brigadier General) is shown kneeling at the gravesite of his son, Marine Corps Private Michael James Fenton, who was killed in action on Okinawa on 7 May 1945. The photograph was donated to the Marshall Foundation¹s World War II-Korean War Memories Project by Mary M. Curry of Lexington, Virginia, whose husband, the late General M. Lamar Curry, knew General Fenton during their Marine Corps service.

D-Day Memories
Getting Ashore in Normandy
Dick Stodghill, a U.S. Army combat veteran, offers this excerpt from his personal memoir, Normandy 1944: A Young Rifleman's War.

We had been trained to go down cargo nets suspended from a ship's deck to a landing craft. . . . The wind was brisk and cold, the night dark. . . . Our LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle Personnel) was a good ten feet beyond the railing. To reach it we had to crawl along a foot-wide board. This had to be done with everything a man possessed either hanging from his cartridge belt or slung across his back. That included a rifle and bulky blanket roll. Accomplishing this in the shortest time possible was the goal of every man, but once on the board, he found that speed was impossible. The ship was rolling from one side to the other with nary a second when it remained horizontal with the landing craft. First I was trying to climb upward while looking at the sky above. The next instant I was holding on for dear life, staring down at the LCVP and the dark water beyond. It seemed like hours had gone by before I finally was close enough for a sailor to grab ahold and pull me unceremoniously aboard.

Being lowered from the davits to the water was another adventure. Once this was accomplished, the tiny craft seemed no match for the waves that tossed it about like a piece of kindling. Soon half the men board were seasick, but at least we had pulled away from the ship and were headed somewhere, hopefully to shore. Water may have its purposes, but infantrymen are happiest with both beet on solid ground.

Stranded on the Beach
From Lt. Peter Millaras, US Navy:

This is a story about the big storm of June 19, just after D- Day, that hit the channel; worst in 80 years. Those who were there will recall it.

We arrived off the coast of Normandy with a full load after a rough passage from London. Arriving at the beach (Juno), we had to stand by as the seas were too rough to attempt a beaching to unload. To wait out the storm, we anchored a few miles off the beach. . . . [Later] having drifted towards the beach, we hit bottom with an awful bang. All attempts to move forward or astern were negative. . . . We were tossed up on the beach, high and dry. The next morning the storm had subsided enough that we were able to unload, but we were nowhere near any water. High and dry, we stayed that way for almost two weeks.

Fear Mixed with Excitement
Army veteran Kalman Isaacs recalls his first experiences in Normandy:

I landed on Omaha Beach June 9, 1944, D+3, as a replacement. My unit trekked up over the coastal cliff along a single-file path that had been mine-swept and marked out by tape. Then we continued inland along a dirt road. As a nineteen-year-old private, I was scared to death, in awe of everything I saw; vehicles of all types along the road and in the fields, soldiers digging in and raising camouflage nets, weapons and equipment abandoned and strewn everywhere. I felt as though I was on the cutting edge of history. Fear mixed with excitement.

The Seabees
My name is Hugh S. Keenan. I was in the Seabees, 81st Battalion. At first we built campgrounds in Scotland, England, and Wales, until we became a pontoon outfit. The pontoons were called "Rhino Ferries" . . . and we were towed behind the Liberty ships over to the invasion of France. Our first assignment was to unload a LST. They lowered their ramp on our barge and we brought the equipment and supplies on D-Day at Utah Beach. We had a man from our outfit on our beach on a bulldozer. As we unloaded the cargo, he would push us back out to sea. The first day we landed American soldiers, marched German prisoners with their hands over their heads, with water up to their waists, and put them on small crafts to transfer to larger ships.

We operated our Rhino Ferries for about a month ... then we went on the beach in foxholes. Other Seabee outfits built causeways so the ships could unload their cargo. We heard that the Seabees brought the most equipment in under enemy fire in thirty days.

Do YOU have a World War II or Korean War story - or do you know someone who does? The Marshall Foundation's World War II-Korean War Memories Project would like to hear from you.

1-800-578-8524, Ext. 300

Joellen K. Bland, Director, Memories Project
George C. Marshall Foundation
P. O. Drawer 1600, Dept. "M"
Lexington, VA 24450