HYDE PARK, Sunday—A very kind gentleman sent me a letter from a friend of his, Ensign Henry Swain, of Washington, New Jersey, who was on board an LST as part of the landing force in Normandy. We have all read with the greatest admiration, I know, the wonderful story in Ernie Pyle's columns of the past few days about the courageous British airman. I think this letter from one of our young Americans breathes the same kind of "never give up" spirit which wins battles and keeps a world free. There is too much to put into one column, yet I cannot bear not to let you have it all, so there will be two installments.
"Again fate played us a trick," the letter runs,
and it was not till the fifth that we started on the grueling trek over to the far shore. Our cargo was made up of a polyglot assortment of armed forces and vehicles, which ranged from infantry to paratroopers, from jeeps to radar equipment. It was precious, and it was to be in the fight just six hours after the first assault waves were to hit.
The trip across the Channel was not too potent, for we had a speed of only five knots, and that was gruesome, since there was a choppy sea and we waddled like an old duck all the way. To make matters worse, we slept at our stations and had to be on the alert all the time. I happened to have the conn when we first caught sight of the terrific barrage that the big babies were putting up. It was at 12 midnight, and it topped off a day which had been a continual parade of ships of the British and American navies. We would pass a slow convoy of ships—I did not think there was one slower than ours, but I was wrong—and then we would be passed, as if we were stopped, by the heavies moving up.
It was a sight I should have hated to miss, for it suggested such reserve of power which forestalled all apprehension one might have had about beginning the big event. The only thing missing was the brass bands, and the tremendous air umbrella we heard so much about. Until we got right into the area, it was not in evidence. Apparently it had missed us, for hundreds of planes were busy carrying paratroopers to the shore all the time after 2400. We did have a chance to see them brought in by the hundreds the following evening, though, as well as to see all sorts of coverage from Lightnings, Mosquitoes, Spitfires and others.
The morning of D-Day, 6 June 1944, was most beautiful. A brilliant sky was the backdrop for our first sight of the air force in action. We could hardly believe our eyes at the color displayed. Shortly after, it clouded over again, and when it broke, the largest rainbow I have ever seen arched the sky. Could be a good omen.
The whole day seemed particularly quiet, and nary a shot, bomb, or mine disturbed our casual investigation of the great invasion. Frankly, we were disappointed, but not to the point of asking for it. We were willing to leave enough alone. We pulled into our anchorage late in the afternoon in the Baie de la Seine, France. Our 34-hour grind was over.