Phil Cockburn, 2010.Phil Cockburn
Philip Cockburn, 2010.R. J. Brown Studio
"We were lucky enough to come back. A lot of them didn’t."
When D-Day arrived, it was supposed to be on the Sunday, on the fifth of June rather than the sixth of June because the water was too rough they said, so they cancelled. Everybody stay put, just everybody stay where you are until the next morning. The next morning ̶ three times worse. The water ̶ very bad. We were on a tank carrier where they could launch us where they want to. It’s ‘down door’ [landing craft doors opened], tanks are off. Off of that tank carrier that we were on, there were five didn’t make it and our tank did ̶ one out of six tanks. There was five wiped out right there: 25 men, five tanks.
Our tanks hold 160 gallons of gasoline and when you get hit with an 88 mm [German anti-tank artillery gun], and we got hit quite often, not myself, I only got hit once, but it’s a fireball from an 88 and it hits our tank, go through both sides... On the other side, one big hole where it entered: three or four inch diameter hole. And, of course, with that, a fireball, burn them, couldn’t get out. Couldn’t get out of the tank. They burned right there. We had a lot of them.
The water was that rough. Had it been smooth we would probably all have made it, but this skipper that was on our ship, on our boat, he said down door, and we were amazed. What do you mean down door? We were miles away. We knew about where we were – it would be three quarters of a mile or better; and we had a 45 tonne tank with 32 air pillows and 8 struts – that’s all it was. It went 4 knots an hour forward. That’s the two propellers on the back. That’s where they got the DD Tank from – Duplex Drive. It had a Chrysler motors. Three on the bottom deck up and another two on the top; and that was right alongside the driver actually; so when they get hit, with that amount of gasoline, it was just unbelievable. Why did they send a tank full of gas? Why did they do that? Why these brigadiers and all these field marshals, you name ‘em. They’ll fill you full of gas and send you over, and an 88 will blow you up. That’s not a smart move and we just sort of went along our way. We were lucky enough to come back. A lot of them didn’t.