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June 6, 2014 / iDriveWarships

D-Day + 70

U.S. Navy veteran and D-Day survivor, Bob Watson

By Lt. j.g. Paul Sullivan, Beachmaster Unit ONE

To honor the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice 70 years ago today, Beachmaster Unit ONE (BMU-1) commemorated the D-Day invasion at Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, Calif. The guest speaker was Bob Watson who was part of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944. BMU-1 Sailors are direct descendants of the WWII Naval Beach Battalions.

Watson told an audience of 100 guests about his journey as a 17 year old in Massachusetts to later surviving the war in France, “On August 12, 1943, I received a letter from Uncle Sam and reported to Newport, R.I. for boot camp,” he said.

After training, Watson soon found himself in England preparing for the invasion. He left for France on a “great crusade with the best equipped and trained army” onboard USS Henrico (APA-45). When it was time, Watson was told to climb down a cargo net over the side of the Amphibious Attack Transport ship onto a Landing Craft Mechanized, and began steaming towards Omaha Beach. About 1,000 yards from the beach, Watson’s landing craft, carrying 71 Big Red One (1st Infantry Division) troops and four Navy Beach Battalion crews, hit a Teller mine and exploded. In the midst of chaos as he swam to the beach, he put himself to use in any way he could.

He operated a bulldozer to assist in removing beached craft but, “only when the craft were full of wounded.” He also manned a gun on the firing line, was used as a POW escort, and much more.

Watson turned 19 years old on July 1, 1944 while serving on the beaches of Normandy, just three weeks after the D-Day invasion. He discussed his 28-day experience in detail, and in great spirits. His story is an example of personal sacrifice that many have given to this country and continue to do today.

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