An Interview with Jocelyn Cook, Founder and Executive Director of SPUR

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How many years have you been doing the SPUR Backpack Drive?

Our first year of the backpack drive was 2016. At that time, we supported 513 students. This year we aim to support 662!

How have your numbers grown as far as needs? How have they grown as far as sponsors and money raised?

The need is great! If we were able, opportunity is present to support more students but we strive to be optimistically conservative while still ambitious in the potential for what we can accomplish with active and engaged support. Our donor base fluctuates.

Our first year we were shy of our goal of reaching full-funding so SPUR covered the nearly $8k gap. While grateful we had the revenue to do so from general fundraising efforts, it meant for the 2017 year our service opportunities and program development didn’t achieve all our hopes but we were able to strategically table some efforts and run hard after them the following year. In 2017/18 we saw matching gifts and sponsorship from local businesses enter the mix, which helped to fully cover all the bags. Overall, we have seen fewer individual donors comparatively and an increase in larger gifts from businesses and family foundations.

In the end, no matter what way this is sliced, it’s a massive effort taking participation from many to make it possible. For a portion of the sponsors, this drive is their exclusive annual involvement with SPUR. For others, it’s their introduction while others engage actively in an array of volunteer offerings and giving opportunities that reflect the array of work SPUR does in the area.

Who do the backpacks support?

Backpacks support students attending school in Marblehead, Salem, Swampscott and Lynn. Essex County Community Foundation latest details report that in our area, approximately 20% of children are living below poverty line ($24k annual income for a family of 4). It’s not uncommon that people express surprise about financial needs in the area. In Marblehead alone this year, we are supporting over 170 students.

How do you identify needs?

We rely on our strong partnerships with local schools and programs through our other work to identify students who will receive support.  Local school counselors, food pantry directors, homeless education liaisons and social workers review their clients, identify students who have barriers to accessing school supplies and submit the requests to us.  This year, we are supporting 16 different schools, pantries, programs across the 4 towns.

What specifically inspired you to start SPUR?

One of my favorite conversations, and I’m always open to coffee with anyone who would like the full story. The short is, I had recently stopped working a career of international aid work and had a newborn at home and a heart to continue work of connecting and serving. I believe our hearts long to do, it’s simply a matter of finding what makes our heart happy.

After exploring the North Shore and listening to individuals about why they do or do not volunteer, I recognized a need for an organization that could inspire people to SPUR one another on toward love and good deeds. I hoped to offer an array of multi-generational volunteer opportunities and youth enrichment programs, so that we might empower our next generation of leaders while providing a platform for individuals, families, retired professionals and groups to make a tangible impact in the community around them.  Our name, literally, is intended to be a reminder our works purpose – to be a catalyst, a launch pad, a chain reaction of goodness to SPUR more of the same.

What’s next and how can people help?

In the immediate we have a meal service coming up at Lifebridge where volunteers are invited to cook and/or serve. We are also joining forces with Sustainable Marblehead for a unique harbor cleanup, aiming to mobilize volunteers on paddle boards, boats, kayaks and on land to clean trash and debris from our harbor. Daily, we have our food rescue program running trips of food to local agencies from Shubie’s and of course our garden, where we grow fresh produce for local food pantries.  Our team works hard to offer varied, thoughtful and impactful engagement opportunities, understanding what speaks to me may not speak to you…and because of that, we also always welcome ideas for volunteer projects or other community engagement activities.

I’m always available to talk,

How people can help: engage with us, follow on social media (facebook / instagram), spread the word about SPUR, what we do and how easy it is to get involved, give us feedback, what would you like to see, what could we do to better, subscribe to our newsletter to stay abreast of our activities and news.

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d-day remembrance

In Honor of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day


d-day remembrance

In honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, here is a chapter from Sean M. Casey’s upcoming book “One Town’s War” about the Marbleheaders who served at home and overseas.

Chapter 19: Overlord

June 5-6, 1944 in Europe

Yankees of the 116th

In late 1940 President Roosevelt had activated all of the National Guard units in the

country and brought them into the United States Army. These units served as the

foundation upon which the war-size army would be built. Many of the units – of

various sizes and shapes — had a linage, and could trace their origins to state militia

units from earlier wars. As units were brought into the army, and as the army grew

and organized itself in 1941 and 1942, the once-National Guard units were

augmented by draftees to bring the units to full strength. Thus did William Haley

find himself a member of the “Essex Troop” of the former New Jersey National

Guard; and Daniel Lord found himself training alongside midwesterners as a

member of the 84th Infantry Division, made up from parts of the Indiana and Illinois

National Guard.

But perhaps the quirkiest example of this phenomena is how five Marbleheaders –

Yankees all – found themselves assigned to the 116th Infantry Regiment1 of the 29th

Infantry Division.2 The 116th had been part of the Virginia National Guard, and 82

years before had been Stonewall Jackson’s Brigade in the Confederate Army. The

five were: Ralph Messervey, Bill Hawkes, the Boggis Brothers, Porter and Clifford,

and their cousin, Willard Fader.

Ralph Messervey was 27 when he was drafted in early 1942. Stocky, with red hair,

and an outgoing personality, he was known as “Freckles” to his friends and family.

Messervey had been working on the town dump truck when called up two months

after Pearl Harbor. After induction and basic training he had been assigned to the

116th. And after joining the 116th he made it home to Marblehead once before

shipping out to Great Britain in late September 1942. Like many of his generation,

between joining the service and shipping out for Europe, Messervey married a local

girl, Marie Brophy.

Willard Fader’s path to the 116th was almost identical to Messervey’s. Fader was

born and raised in town, graduated from high school, and married a local girl,

Barbara Doliber, before heading overseas.

The Boggis brothers were unique for the town of Marblehead – they were the only

pair of brothers in the same army unit. When they enlisted Port was 24; Cliff was

two years younger. Both brothers had gone to Marblehead High, and afterwards

Cliff had been a pitcher for a semi-pro baseball team in town while working as an

accountant at A. W. Hilliard and Sons in Boston. Port was working as a fryer at

Winslow’s Potato Chips factory in town.

The Boggis brothers, Messervey and Fader all went into the service on the same day,

being part of an early February call up.3 The four arrived at Fort Devens together,

shipped out together to go through basic training, and then went together into the

116th at Ft. Meade in Maryland later in 1942.4

Hawkes came to the 116th later than the other Headers, being assigned to the unit

almost a year after the others had been shipped off to Great Britain. He was 21

when he was drafted in the fall of 1942. He was about to graduate from Essex

Agricultural School, and was working as a self-described “gentleman farmer” on a

tract of land in Ipswich, up the coast from Marblehead.

Over There

The 116th had been stationed just outside the town of Dartmoor in the county of

Devon5, in the southwest corner of Great Britain for over a year, when word finally

came in late May 1944 that they were moving out. The men of the 116th didn’t have

far to go, traveling less than 100 miles along the southern coast of England to

Weymouth in County Dorset. Hawkes, a private in F Company of the 116th 6,

described the scene: Every port was jammed with naval vessels of all kinds. The

Germans must have known about it. They expected an invasion but they couldn’t pin it

down to when, and they couldn’t pin it down as to where.i

The Atlantic Wall

Indeed, everyone everywhere knew an invasion would come in 1944, and within

certain bounds, everyone suspected the invasion would come along the French

Atlantic coast. The US and its allies had been building strength in Great Britain for

over two years, and by the spring of 1944, over 1.5 million US servicemen were

stationed in the United Kingdom.

In occupied western Europe, the Germans had worked feverishly to build “the

Atlantic Wall:” a series of defenses from Norway to the French border with Spain.

The Atlantic Wall extended over such a large area (1,670 miles) because the

Germans were uncertain as to where the attack would come. In early 1944 the

overall command of the Atlantic defenses were put under the command of Field

Marshal Erwin Rommel – the famed Desert Fox of North Africa. Rommel greatly

expanded the defenses at the shoreline – building concrete pill boxes overlooking

the beaches and creating vast minefields as well as water-borne obstacles that

would challenge an invader from even reaching dry land. Rommel’s plan was to

meet any invasion, and defeat it, at the waterline.


The decision on the invasion site – one of the best-kept secrets of the war – had its

origins in a May 1943 conference in Washington, where the senior military and

political leaders of the US and UK agreed that an Allied invasion against the Atlantic

Wall would be launched in 1944.ii

After weighing all the issues, the planners had settled on a 50-mile stretch of

coastline in western Normandy, between the Vire Estuary and the Orne River. The

location was ideal for transporting troops from the English southern coastline; and

it was within range of fighter planes operating out of English air fields.

It was also just a bit out-of-the-way; and Allied planners saw that as an advantage. It

was less-heavily defended than some of the more obvious landing locations, such as

the area around Calais, further up the coast. Because it was less heavily defended, it

was hoped that a foothold would be easier to achieve. By June of 1944 the Allies

completely controlled the skies over that part of occupied Europe; and the thinking

went that air power could significantly hamper the Germans’ ability to respond,

allowing the Allies time to consolidate and build up their foothold.7

The Crossing

The 116th Infantry Regiment boarded USS Thomas Jefferson (APA-30) the afternoon

of June 5th. The Jefferson was an attack transport, designed specifically to launch

landing craft for seaborne invasions. She carried 33 such landing craft, each

designed to carry 30 men, that could be loaded on-board and then lowered into the

water, rather than have the soldiers climb down the ship’s side. For the crossing of

June 5-6, she carried 1,000 infantrymen for the initial assault.

Hawkes: We left in daylight before dark, but most of the crossing was in dark. It was

quite a highly-planned operation. They had little bitty light markers in the channel to

show a path that was clear of mines and we were just slithering along there. The

weather was essentially bad but that particular day it let up and that’s when

Eisenhower decided to go – the channel had been pretty damn rough for a few days.8

But it didn’t seem that bad to me; and it wasn’t that bad, so we crossed.

There was little sleeping during the crossing – and for the men of the 116th, the

option never existed. The 2nd Battalion of the 116th – which include all five

Marbleheaders – had been designated as the first infantry unit in the United States

Army to land on the beaches of Normandy. The very first. And those first units

were scheduled to hit the beach at 6:30 in the morning, an hour after sunrise near

low tide.

At dawn, at low tide…

A number of factors had gone into the date and timing of the assault. Because of

Allied air superiority, the landings were planned to maximize daylight; both to

protect the landing forces, and suppress German reinforcements from responding.

Therefore, the initial assaults were planned to commence an hour after dawn9, and

near the summer solstice.iii

Although it might seem counter-intuitive, the ideal timing of the initial assault would

also be at low tide, with the tide coming in. The German defenses along the

waterline had a number of wood and steel obstacles – standing, pretzel-like objects

– many with mines attached to their tops. They were heavily scattered across the

tidal flats – visible at low tide, but just below water at high tide. The plan, therefore,

was to land at low tide, and as the initial infantry units attacked, engineering units

would clear lanes for subsequent landing waves to land further up the beach on the

incoming tide.

In the daylight-heavy months of late spring and early summer, there were three

options to meet the tidal criteria: May 21-23; June 5-7 and June 19-21. General

Eisenhower had initially chosen June 5th, but because of bad weather, the attack was

pushed back a day at the last minute.

Getting Ready

The troops began their day shortly after midnight. We were called to breakfast not

much after 1 in the morning on the boat, and it was regular navy – no chairs, Hawkes

recalled, referring to the cramped standing dining format common on troop

transports. I don’t remember what we ate, but we ate, and there was very little

conversation going on on that breakfast. Damn little.

Following breakfast the troops readied to be loaded into the landing craft. Each man

wore an assault jacket, with large pockets and built-in packs on the back. All of the

clothing had been treated in case of a gas attack. It made the fabric waxy and stiff.

In addition to personal weapons and special equipment, each man also was outfitted

with a gas mask, a life preserver, 5 grenades, a half-pound block of TNT with

primacord fuse, and 6 one-third rations (3 K-rations and 3 D rations).iv There was

more, as Hawkes recalled: We were told we were on our own for at least one whole

day as far as medical help. Each man had a little package of morphine and extra

bandages so we could take care of our own guys. And we were warned “don’t anybody

get the idea to try some of that morphine where you’re going – you wont be good for


They started loading the landing craft before 3:00 a.m. Men were arranged the same

in each landing craft. The 116th assault craft were loaded so that the first to land

would be a section leader and 5 riflemen armed with M-1′s and carrying 96 rounds of

ammunition. Following was a wire-cutting team of 4 men, armed with rifles; 2 carried

large “search-nose” cutters, and 2 a smaller type. Behind these in the craft, loaded so

as to land in proper order were: 2 BAR teams of 2 men each, carrying 900 rounds per

gun; 2 bazooka teams, totaling 4 men, the assistants armed with carbines; a mortar

team of 4 men, with a 60-mm mortar and 15 to 20 rounds; a flame-thrower crew of 2

men; and, finally, 5 demolition men with pole and pack charges of TNT. A medic and

the assistant section leader sat at the stern.v

While seemingly planned to a fine level of minutia, the loading arrangements would

cause problems on shore. To load the boats with the mix of weapons desired,

existing platoons were broken up, and one-time-only “boat teams” were assembled

for each boat. After training with their individual units for over a year, soldiers

often found themselves next to strangers, with unknown officers leading them. And

the boat teams were temporary. Once ashore, original units were expected to reform.

It did have an effect said Hawkes, fowling up the normal communications and

the normal command of guys that you knew.

The entire assault for that morning had been similarly planned with exacting details

– precise points of landing, precise targets to attack, and elaborate coordination

between units. Each unit had dozens of objectives with timetables down to the


It all went to shit in the first minutes.


By 4:30 that morning the landing craft, loaded and launched, had reached their

rendezvous area several miles off the Normandy coast, where they idled in the

choppy seas awaiting the dawn. The naval bombardment began a little before dawn,

and pounded the coastal defenses for nearly an hour, and then changed their

targeting further inland as the assault craft headed for shore.

The 116th was to land in the middle of the five designated landing beaches. It had

been code-named Omaha Beach.10 Omaha Beach itself was six miles long, and Allied

planners had divided it up into sectors and sub-sectors, with six sub-sectors being

the main target of the landings. They were designated (west to east) Dog Green, Dog

White, Dog Red, Easy Green, Easy Red, and Fox Green. Hawkes’ company – F

Company, which also included Ralph Messervey – was suppose to land on Dog Red

at exactly 6:30.

While the timing of the assault made sense in the larger context, it was not much

comfort to the men of the 116th Infantry Regiment that had been assigned to the first

assault wave. Bill Hawkes, reflected on the strategy as his landing craft headed for

the beach: We never got the order to head for shore until broad daylight. And I said to

myself “oh my God, here’s the coast of France as plain as day,” and I said “obviously,

we’re just as plain to them as what we see.”

It wasn’t just the daylight that worried Hawkes as his landing craft headed in. The

men were burdened with “super loads” – amounts of equipment and ammunition far

in excess of anything they had trained with. Hawkes was part of a mortar team, and

he was responsible for carrying 12 mortar rounds in addition to his rifle and other

equipment. At the last minute, he was given four extra rounds to carry. As he

remembered it: It was just a hell of a load. And I knew I was in some trouble getting

that into shore, and with all the other stuff. After trying unsuccessfully to get

assistance, the 120-pound Hawkes took the precaution of putting the four extra

rounds in a separate bag, in case he was unable to carry the entire load across the

beach. It was a prudent decision: When my feet hit the sand, my knees buckled right

down – just automatically –woop! So now I start up the beach and I didn’t go more

than [ten feet] before I just dropped the small bag [with the extra mortar rounds] and

said the hell with that. If I can get the main charge up I’ll be doing well.

Dog Red

F Company’s six landing craft touched the shores of Dog Red at 6:31, a minute later

than planned. It was one of the few units to land anywhere near its target landing

point that morning.11

The shelling and bombing that were supposed to soften up the German defenses had

varying degrees of success across the Normandy shoreline that morning. In

preparing for the assault Hawkes had been told the shelling would explode German

mine fields, rip open the barbed-wire entanglements, and create shell holes you

could jump into. But Dog Red was untouched. Not one single shell hole did I see,

recalled Hawkes.

Hawkes’ landing craft came ashore at one of the single worst spots in all of

Normandy: a heavily-defended position named les Moulins draw. It was defended

by one of the few crack German units stationed along the Normandy coast – the

352nd Infantry Division.12 The six landing craft of F Company were not close to each

other as they came ashore, and each boat and the troops they carried were in an

isolated world of their own. German mortars rained down and German machine

guns raked the beach. Casualties were heavy and immediate.

It was two to three hundred yards across the beach to the first possible point of

refuge – a slight sloping band of smooth, rounded sea rocks roughly the size of

bricks. They were called shingles13; and looked remarkably similar to the rocks on

Usher’s Beach in Marblehead.14 Hawkes described the first moments on the beach:

It was pretty much everybody by himself, for himself. There were no officers yelling

and hollering. Not that any officers were needed to tell the men what to do.

Hawkes again: Every damn man knew that his first job was to get his get his ass

beyond the high water mark first. You’re dumped at low tide. The tides coming in

behind you, so you have no options of turning back, and you’re under fire all the way

going in.

Anyone that stood up for more than a few strides was cut down. The beach

obstacles afforded marginal protection, and men used them for shelter as best they

could; but the tide was coming in, and to stay in one place meant drowning. And if

multiple men gathered behind the same obstacle it immediately caught the attention

of German gunners.

The Germans dominated the area in front of that part of Dog Red primarily with

machine guns. Hawkes could not see them, but he could hear them distinctly, and he

could see their bullets strafing across the beach. The German Maschinengewehr

1942 was a devastating weapon, with a range of greater than a half mile, and

capable of firing over 1,200 rounds per minute. The rate of fire was so high that the

sound of individual shots could not be distinguished by the human ear – instead, the

MG-42 sounded like a buzz saw or a loud zipper when it fired. Anyone who ever

heard it remembered it the rest of their lives.

Because of the high rate of fire, the MG-42’s barrel had to be changed frequently so

that it wouldn’t overheat. Although, the barrel change was a quick operation, it

offered brief respites. Hawkes quickly picked up on the pauses in the German

machine gun fire: I was trying to get the rhythm of the friggin’ burst of machine gun

fire. And I’d pick my spot not too damn far away and at the [right] moment I would

jump up and run like hell to that spot and hit the sand again.

Hawkes had no idea how long it took him to reach the shingle,15 but it was the point

of salvation he strived to reach that morning. The shingle was at the high water

mark; upon reaching it the threat of drowning would be past. The shingle also rose

ever-so-slightly, providing potential refuge from direct German fire – if you could lie

flat enough. Upon reaching the shingle Hawkes moved the smooth stones as best he

could to create a slight depression to lie in.

As he took stock of his situation, Hawkes realized he was alone on his own little

piece of Normandy.16 There were several other soldiers within talking distance, but

most of the men that were in his boat team, and in boats that landed near his, lay

behind him, dead or bleeding on the sand and incoming tide; or were somewhere

else out of sight.

Easy Green/Easy Red

E Company was supposed to land on Easy Green to the left (east) of Dog Red, at 6:31,

but strong currents pulled the six landing craft east of their landing point by almost

a mile, where they came ashore in the subsector designated Easy Red. They came

under small arms fire while approaching the beach,vi, 17 but the overall opposition

was lighter than on Dog Red. Porter Boggis’ landing craft hit shore close by another

of the six E company landing craft, and the men from the two boats initially

advanced across the tidal flats without being fired upon. That changed as they

approach the high tide mark, where they came under fire from a pill box three

hundred yards to their left. 50 men, Boggis included, took refuge behind a sea wall,

pinned down by the pill box.

A bazooka team among the 50 men came forward and silenced the pill box with an

accurate – and wildly improbable – shot. With the respite in the German fire, Port

Boggis crawled forward to a gap in the sea wall and started cutting the wire blocking

the way off the beach. It took him ten minutes to complete, where upon the massed

troops crouched low and ran through the gap Boggis had cut. They were off the tidal

part of the beach and into the “beach flat,” an area with trenches and minefields;

beyond which were heavily-defended, steep bluffs. It was just past 8:00 a.m.

Battalion HQ Company

The 2nd Battalion Headquarters Company was scheduled to land on the far right

hand (west) end of Dog Red at 7:00.vii There was supposed to be troops already

there ahead of them, but when the five boats of the Battalion HQ Company arrived,

only a handful of tanks18 were there; the preceding infantry units having come in

somewhere else.

The boats drew little fire coming in, but upon landing in shallow water, they came

under heavy and very accurate mortar, machine gun and sniper fire. The five boat

teams took heavy casualties wading between the landing craft and the beach, and

those that made it to dry land instinctively sought out the protection of the tanks.

But it turned out to be false safety, as the Germans were trying to take out the tanks

with artillery, and the shells took out most of the men massed around the tanks.

Somewhere in the carnage of those first few minutes, Willard Fader was killed by a

wound to head.

Mid Morning

The US plan for exiting the beach was via draws – natural breaks in the beach

topography that created an obvious roadway inward. The minute-specific planning

had called for the initial assault wave to overtake the draws, and following waves to

pass through and assault the bluffs beyond the beach.

But as was the case with les Moulin draw on Dog Red (designated D-3 by US

planners), the Germans had not been blind to what the draws represented, and

across Omaha Beach the draws were stubbornly defended as the morning


As succeeding waves arrived on the Omaha beaches their points of egress were not

yet open, and units that they were suppose to connect up with were rarely there

when they arrived. More often units landed in locations other than where they had

studied and planned to attack. Engineers were behind their timetable for clearing

paths to the beach, and between sunken landing craft and still dangerous obstacles,

there was congestion in even getting to the beach. Bill Hawkes described the midmorning

looking back from the shingle bank: The beach was full of people and

equipment; dead, wounded, and some in shock, in semi-shock; and dazed sort-of; and

disorganized. All landings were suspended at 0830 by order of the commander of

the 7th Naval Beach Battalion,viii and senior US command seriously considered

pulling the plug on the Omaha invasion. Things were that bad.

Hawkes and the handful of survivors from his section of F Company remained

pinned down by sniper and machine gun fire on their isolated stretch of shingles.

They kept their heads down and waited for the situation to evolve.

Twenty-five to thirty feet to Hawkes’ left Edward Gillingham from Indiana lay

seriously wounded. Most of Gillingham’s jaw had been blown away coming across

the tidal flat but he had somehow made it to the shingle bank. With only a piece of

his jaw hanging, Gillingham still managed to call out, “Hawksie, Hawksie.” Hawkes

sprinted the 25 feet to Gillingham, exposing himself to fire as he ran. There was

nothing Hawkes could do except administer morphine, which he did, using

Gillingham’s supply (as was procedure), and then scramble back to his own little

depression in the shingle bank. Hours later Gillingham called Hawkes again, and

again Hawkes went to his aid – the second time using his own morphine.19

Up to the Bluffs

But there was slow progress for the Americans as the morning went on.

Units had been scattered piecemeal because of both the boat team loading plans and

the inability of almost any landing craft to come ashore where intended. But in case

after case groups self-organized, formed by men from different units that found

themselves in close proximity to each other. Thus Porter Boggis’ section from E

Company of the 116/29 teamed up with an equal number from G Company of the

16th Infantry Regiment of the 1st Infantry Division. The group of roughly 100 men

would fight together as a cohesive unit for three days.

Across Easy Red and Easy Green the men of E Company and other units began

pushing beyond the tidal beach. It was not through the draws as planned, but more

often between the draws: over sea walls, and through barbed wire. Cliff Boggis was

part of a bazooka team that found itself hurrying across the beach flat beyond Easy

Red hoping to reach some refuge at the base of the defended bluffs. As they crossed,

a land mine exploded behind Boggis, who was cut down by the shrapnel across the

entire left side of his body.

Messervey at the crest of the bluff

Men were pushing through on parts of Dog Red as well. Out in front was Ralph

Messervey. It came as no surprise to Hawkes: He was rough and tough… the kind of

a guy that wins the battles.

On that day, Messervey, down the beach from Hawkes, had been among a number of

small groups of men that managed to get across the beach flat, and were fighting

their way up the bluffs. The bluffs were defended by a series of trenches connecting

dugouts that could be used by mortar teams and machine guns. Barbed wire was

everywhere, and aprons of it were spread in front of the strong points.

Late that morning Messervey’s group had fought their way through the initial

trenchworks and were nearing the crest of the bluff. He was out in front going after

a dugout at the very top of the bluff that was defended by a handful of Germans.

Tangled in the barbed wire apron ten feet from the dugout, Messervey was firing

away at the Germans when they tossed grenades down at him. Unable to move

quickly in the wire, he was killed by the blasts.


Just before noon, at high tide, Marblehead’s Elliot Roundy steered his 115-foot barge

onto Omaha Beach — the beach was a mess, recalled Roundy, there were bodies all

over.ix Roundy’s slow-moving barge – LCT (5) 413 – a Landing Craft Tank – was

making its second run of the day, bringing in additional men and equipment of the

29th Infantry Division to the rough and dangerous shores of Omaha Beach. It was

mayhem along the waterline. The beach obstructions were terrible. How we ever got

through I’ll never know,x Roundy noted.

Roundy’s day had started before 4:00 a.m. when he rendezvoused his LCT with an

attack transport ten miles off the French coast. As the name suggests, the landing

craft tank, was a shallow-draw boat designed to bring heavy equipment directly

onto to beaches. The morning of the 6th, Roundy’s first cargo was three amphibious

assault vehicles called DUCWs loaded with elite Army Rangers, and firemen’s

ladders. Roundy’s target was the cliffs that separated Omaha Beach from Utah

beach. The cliffs were called Point-du-Hoc, and the Germans had positioned the

high point with artillery pieces capable of raking both Omaha and Utah beaches.

1/8 of a mile from shore, Roundy’s LCT launched the DUCWs, that then dashed to

shore. By 7:30 the LCT was pulling away from the coast and headed to pick up men

and material for their next run – which was to Omaha Beach.

At noon on Omaha Beach, Roundy quickly unloaded and headed to sea to repeat the

operation. It amounted to an obstacle course under fire – a course Roundy would

run all afternoon and into the evening. Somewhere in his trips to and from Omaha

Beach that afternoon a long strand of barbed wire somehow managed to entangle

itself in one of Roundy’s propellers, forcing him to shut down one of the three

engines that powered a propeller each. But LCT (5) 413 continued to operate – as

an even slower target. There was never any thought of stopping for repairs so long

as the boat could float and be steered.

The Long Day Wanes

Sunset was after 9:00 p.m., with the day’s second high tide coming two hours later.

When the long day drew to an end US force held Omaha Beach, but it was barely a

foothold. They had advanced inland as far as a mile and a half on one part of the

beach, but in some places the perimeter was less than a mile inland. Plans had

called for all of that area to have been captured relatively early in the morning, and

for US forces to have been considerably further inland by nightfall. But it had been a

desperate struggle to gain what they did hold.

While almost all of the infantry that were scheduled to be landed on the first day

had made it ashore; only small percentages of equipment and material did. Plans

had called for 2,400 tons of material to be unloaded on Omaha Beach, and by

nightfall only 1,000 tons had been.xi Ammunition was in critically short supply, and

tanks and artillery were scarce20. Over 2,000 US servicemen had been killed on

Omaha Beach – the highest proportion of casualties being to the elements of the

116th Infantry Regiment that had made the initial assault.21

The beach was a mess – the Navy had lost 50 landing craft and 10 larger vessels,

with a much larger number of all types damaged. Getting to the beach, especially

with ammunition and heavy weapons, was problematic at best. Elliot Roundy’s boat

was one of 36 LCTs that made up Flotilla 18 that morning. Only nine, including

Roundy’s damaged LCT (5) 413, were fit for duty by day’s end.


Medical units had been late in getting to the beach. It hadn’t been until 2:00 in the

afternoon that elements of the 61st Medical Battalion had come ashore on Easy Red,

and set up collecting points on the beach and begun collecting casualties and

administering first aid to the wounded.xii As night came, many of the planned

locations for initial medical facilities and field hospital were still in German hands,

and much of the medical equipment had yet to reach shore.

While the medical battalions were too late for many of those wounded in the initial

assaults that morning, an amazing number had survived because of the skill and

bravery of the medics assigned to the infantry units22 and to Navy beach medical

parties. In those first few hours, medics administered first aid, and as quickly as

humanly possible put the wounded men on any available landing craft headed back

to a larger vessel off shore.

Because of the actions of army medics and navy and coast guardsmen manning the

landing craft, that evening, as night fell, Cliff Boggis was alive and under doctors’

care on a ship off the coast of Normandy.

F Company

Bill Hawkes finally met up with other men from his unit shortly before dusk, as the

devastated F Company tried to re-group. One of the company’s South Boston

Virginians had been sent out to scavenged for men and ammunition, and a small

group of them grabbed what they could and headed up the bluffs where they were

placed in defensive positions in German trenches. There were dead Germans in the

trench. They just tossed them out, and we rolled them down the hill, Hawkes


It was a sleepless night for Hawkes – his second in a row. I didn’t get any sleep –

didn’t even have a place to lay down. We were just crouched in a fairly deep trench

with an open top. But Hawkes, along with the remainder of the 116th was on French

soil, and they had no intention of being pushed off.


For their actions that day, the 116th would receive the Distinguished Unit Citation.23

It had been almost two and a half years to the day that Germany had declared war

on the US. There were 330 days of fighting ahead of them in Europe.


(Image Credit: Smithsonian Institute)



New Listings in Marblehead/Swampscott — Week of Monday, 12/10

Here are the new listings in Marblehead and Swampscott that came on the market this week.

There were no new homes coming online in Swampscott. In Marblehead, new listing prices range from $1,695,000 to $449,900.

Please don’t hesitate to let us know if you’d like us to arrange a private showing at one of these (or any other available) listings at your convenience.

181 Washington Street


72 Front Street

16 Ramsay Rd