A Crusader I tank emerges from a Landing Craft Tank (LCT 124), April 26th 1942.
Credit: Imperial War Museum (Copyright expired)
Mr. Truax was on a LCT when he landed at D-Day
"The next morning was 4:00, 0415 I think it was. And then they came after us. Then it was hell there times over. No rest, nobody rested in our squadron for 72 hours."
Before we landed, the weather was terrible on D-Day and so the navy took over. They didn’t care whether the weather was good or bad. And the air force was out of business when we landed because of bad weather. So the navy had taken over. This is like 4:00 am, June the 6th, 1944. And as we landed, and before we landed, the navy softened up the beaches, if you know what I’m saying. In other words, gave it such a bombardment that it made it much easier for us to get inland.
It was just hell, that’s all it was. The bad part was that we had a skipper on the LCT [Landing Craft Tank] which was, he was running the ship and he was on command from the British Navy, Merchant Navy and he was put in charge. He couldn’t say anything without swearing at least one word when he spoke to me, a Scottie. And he put the boat right up the bow onshore when we landed. Normally, in training, we went into as much as six to seven feet of water, and then would go along the bottom to shore. On D-Day, we hardly got our tracks wet and we were thoroughly waterproofed because his LCT, which was a couple of million bucks, was expendable on D-Day. In other words, he could lose it without being charged.
There were six of us at least aboard and when they put the gate down, I don’t know whether it was my brother officer or myself, I know this, we all tried to get off the ship as soon as we could. And the bad part was, that a lot of the infantry were beside us and they were ordered to get off the, what do you call it now, LCI, that’s Landing Craft Infantry. Nothing to do with tanks, these fellows were all armed with rifles and light machine guns and stuff like that and they were ordered off. And there were more drowning I think on D-Day with the infantry by far than what, what we had. Because we hit bottom when we got off the landing craft and the other ones would land and force their men off in about three feet of water, which turned into seven feet of water. Now, how are you going to keep a, a rifle, a machine gun and swim at the same time? Half the guys couldn’t swim. So they drowned. It was just plain hell.
A tank is waterproofed. It has waterproofing so that no water leaks in. The turret can be underwater, and we had them all waterproofed, and we had to go ashore and tie a, a rope onto a tree or something like that, to disconnect all the, the fabric which waterproofed the tank. So we had to rip this all off. So the enemy, when we landed, took such a heck of a pacing with the navy that the Germans retired, they actually retreated. But that was their savoir faire all the time. They would take off, regroup and then come at us double or triple the, the force they had.
Well, D-Day, they didn’t come en masse with us because they had no tanks where we were at Juno beach until D plus one, that’s one day, the next morning. The next morning was 4:00, 0415 I think it was. And then they came after us. Then it was hell there times over. No rest, nobody rested in our squadron for 72 hours. You fall asleep standing up. That’s how bad it was. We had to keep waking each other up and letting another fellow take a bit of rest and change guard all the time.
D plus one, I was the last junior officer in our squadron. Not everybody was killed. I had one shot by the SS, one blown to hell, another one left for dead on the beach, and two others were wounded. So I was the last one, we had to get new reinforcements right then.
It’s one of the first orders we got from the colonel: “Burn all haystacks.” What the Germans did, they built a frame and parked the tank under like an open garage and then piled it over with hay, and we would go past and they would break out of the haystack with their tank and blow us to hell. So we had to burn all the haystacks and when you found out why we did it, then it’s perfectly logical.
My corporal in the corporal’s tank, he was tank number three in my troop, we were in England, and he came back one day with a kit bag and I said, “Where are you going with that body?” He said, “Sir, you didn’t see that, did you?” And I said, “Yes, I did.” And here’s their little dog’s head sticking out of the kit bag, see. And I said, “You’re not allowed to have that.” He said, “Did you see anything?” And so I said, “What are you talking about? What do you mean? You’re carrying a kit bag, so what?” Well, this little dog, a Heinz 57 variety, was very, very amourous and she landed in Normandy with us. And she produced 24, I said 24 offsprings on the way to Berlin. She got as far as Berlin, I didn’t get even close, but she got there and she was made the regimental mascot, and when we were in Normandy on the way over, you talk about the haystacks, we had been through a fight and there was a big pile of hay where we were going to stay for the night, and she got quite a shock I guess, and here she was, burying her pups which she had just produced underneath the hay to protect them. And she was taken and made the mascot when she got to Berlin, and she was brought home after the war and buried in an animal cemetery in Toronto, without military honours.