Veteran Stories:
Michael Chaikoski

Navy

  • Shipmates of the HMCS Thunder, Michael Chaikoski is in the back row, middle position.

  • Crew members hold Nazi Flag, all were members of the boarding party who took the Germans prisoner.

  • German Captain on board the HMCS Thunder in 1944.

  • German Minesweeper captured off the coast of Bordeaux. The ship was loaded with cognac. Notice the German sailor with his hands up.

  • HMCS Thunder in North Atlantic

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"But you know what you do remember is the noise and the massiveness of this whole thing. Everywhere you looked there was landing craft and ships and you looked up and all you could see was aircraft."

Transcript

My name is Mike Chiakowski. I was on board the HMCS Thunder. I was on the minesweeper and we were going to Bordeaux, which was pretty well the last German stronghold. We were under the command of the French and we were told we were going to go in and minesweep off of Bordeaux, and then the French cruisers were going to go in and shell it. We did that, we swept, and then we saw a ship coming out of the Garonne River off of Bordeaux. And so we gave chase and we signaled. They finally stopped and surrendered. It was a German minesweeper. I don’t know where they were going, but it was loaded with cognac and we took them prisoner, and there were no other shots fired except I think we fired one shot just to make sure that they understood that we meant business. We took them prisoner and then we towed the minesweeper into Plymouth, England. Again that was the latter part of 1944. D-Day, I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like it again. I was barely 18 I think. I was a stoker. We didn’t, I didn’t, see too much above. Because I was, most of the time down in the stokehold, on watch down below decks. But you know what you do remember is the noise and the massiveness of this whole thing. Everywhere you looked there was landing craft and ships and you looked up and all you could see was aircraft. We schlepped in off of Omaha Beach of course everyone was under the command of the Americans. The Canadians never assumed any command, you out under the British command, I’m talking about the superior command, is that a British or American? This was American. The Americans controlled D-Day. Everything was American controlled. We went in. Our job was to go in and I say we were on a minesweeper and we swept for mines and then got out of the way. Then the cruisers and battleships come in and start shelling. You feel so sorry for these people on these landing barges, the soldiers, it was rough, the weather it was very very rough. I think it was partially raining and the noise was absolutely astounding. You’ll never live to see a moment like that again.
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