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Casualty Letters II  

"Action is Fun — Afterward," Wounded Comdr. Carusi Says

Reprint from "The Washington Star" - June 1944

At H-Hour plus 65 minutes, Comdr. Eugene Carusi, 39, of 4850 Dexter Street NW, plunged from a landing craft [LCI(L) 88] into freezing waters about 75 yards off the Normandy beachhead.

Bullets ricocheted around him. Army infantrymen and the Navy Beach Battalion he commanded were hit and sank in the shoulder-high water. Comdr. Carusi struggled onto the beach safely and "raced at about 3 knots" up 100 yards of hard sand to cover. One of his seamen dropped beside him. "How old are you son?" Comdr. Carusi yelled. "Eighteen, Sir" the seaman replied. "I wish I were." The Comdr. panted.

Flown Home From England

Comdr. Carusi, former assistant chancellor of National University, told this anecdote yesterday a few hours after he had been flown home from a hospital in England. Today a Navy casualty list announced he had been wounded.

An American bullet accidentally passed through his shoulder and back during a German night air-raid four days after landing, Comdr. Carusi said. The interview was interrupted constantly by friends congratulating him on his three years active duty around the globe.

"Yes, action is always fun," the commander commented grimly after one of these interruptions — "after you get back."

Speaking wearily and obviously weakened by his wound, Comdr. Carusi fiddled with the heavy black sling on his arm as he tried to describe his feelings during the invasion.

Calls It Indescribable

"It's like a woman trying to tell about having a baby," he said. "You say, 'how horrible.' But you can't know what it was like and I really can't tell you."

A member of a family long prominent here, Comdr. Carusi lives with his wife and two daughters, Cecil, 9 and Lalitte ("Lollypop") Carusi, 4, at the Dexter Street address. Graduated from the Naval Academy in 1928, he was assistant United States District Attorney here from 1935 to 1939. He then became dean of the school of economics and government at the university founded by his grandfather and later headed by his father, the late Charles Francis Carusi, who also served as president of the District Board of Education. Articles by the commander's sister, Mrs. Helen Lombard, appear in the Star.

Praises His Men

Starting active duty in March 1941, Comdr. Carusi was on a munitions carrier at Pearl Harbor on December 7th. Later he asked to be transferred to the 6th Beach Battalion which he described as composed of Navy Radiomen, Medical Corpsmen and other technicians to coordinate Army and Navy landing operations.

Praising the "gumption" and quick wits of his men under fire the Comdr. related an invasion incident of infantrymen drowning as they plunged from a landing craft into water too deep for non-swimmers. A Beach Battalion man realized the situation instantly, Comdr. Carusi said, and strung life preservers into a floating line that saved many lives.

Although he has found an ignorance of war conditions here that irritates him, Comdr. Carusi said, there is something good about comparative freedom of this country from the real horror of the conflict. When he saw tiny Londoners board trains to escape robot bombers, Comdr. Carusi said he thought of his own two children safe on Dexter Street.

Eddie Gorski - WIA 6 June 1944

To:      Ens. J.P. Vaghi, 6th B.B. - B.B.S., Oceanside, Calf., Aug. 29, 1944

From:  Edward W. Gorski S1/c, U.S. Naval Hospital F-7, St. Albans, L.I., N.Y.

Mr. Vaghi,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am still alive, and live in the states again.

Mr. Vaghi I don't believe I'll ever come back to the outfit because I believe I'm up for a discharge. You see Mr. Vaghi I got hit bad. In fact all the doctors tell me that I'm a very lucky guy to be alive. I had two operations so far, and as yet they haven't been able to get the slug out of my stomach, because it is settled somewhere in my back muscles and would be too dangerous to operate again in order to get it out.

Was wondering where my sea bag and records are? Could you help me as to where they may be? Are they in England or still with the outfit? If they are with the outfit could you contact the office and have them send them to this hospital. You see, Mr. Vaghi, they won't give me any gear because they say the only way they can give gear is only when the gear is officially lost. If they are not I would have to wait until they were traced and in the meantime couldn't get any gear, or unless I bought them myself. If you'd be kind enough please give as I know where I stand.

Gee it feels lousy to be separated from the outfit. No kidding I miss the guys a lot. As for me I never had a chance to put my work to good use over there. I heard the outfit got a bad beating but did a remarkable job. A doctor, whose rank was Captain told me of how the outfit worked like hell and did some of the most impossible things on D-Day. Did our platoon lose any men in the invasion besides me? If I could be told I'd like to know for that's one question that seems to stay in my mind and can't shake it out.

I heard about Dr. Davey and took it really bad, because it was he that saved my life. I still feel pretty weak and taking special treatments in order to get me back to where I was. I still have to stay in the hospital for about three more months.

Mr. Vaghi, this letter is so confused. I hope you can get every point in this letter. I have so much to say and yet don't know how to express it on paper. I would like to hear from you if it isn't too much. Give the gang my love and ask them to write me a few lines. By the way do I rate that thirty day leave? If so, please tell me just how I can get it. Until I hear from you may God bless you and the outfit on your future combat, which I hope there isn't anymore.

Yours truly,

Eddie Gorski

August 15, 2001

Dear Mr. Davey, [Dr. Davey's son]

My dad never talked about the war as I was growing up until after my Mom passed in 1973. Maybe a tragic and early death brings back these terrible memories in one's life. The story was almost always the same one about when he landed on the beach of Normandy.

I believe his ship landed on the 3rd wave and this is how the story went: the beach was deserted except for Dr. Hall, Rickenbach and Dad. They were walking very slowly in a straight line, Dr. Hall led, Dad was next and then Rickenbach. They were oblivious to their surroundings, maybe it was fatigue, maybe it was shock, when suddenly Dr. Hall realized that there was shelling going on all around them. He yelled to Dad "run Wojo." They started to run and Dad turned to yell to Rickenbach to hurry but when he turned around, Rickenbach was hit and his body exploded right then. Every time he told me this story, it was like I was hearing it for the first time because he would just stare straight ahead and included every detail as though he were reliving it. I could see in my head the whole thing playing out as though I was actually there. And that's all he would say about that incident. The story ended there.

In the early 1990s, Dad told me he had a strong desire to visit Rickenbach's grave site. I did some research and found out that he was buried in a Burlington County, NJ cemetery by the name of Beverly National Cemetery. It's about an hour and a half from our home. That started our yearly ritual. On June 6th of every year that was to follow, Dad and I would go and visit Morris Rickenbach, Jr. at section F, grave # 1560 at the Beverly Cemetery. Mr. Rickenbach's date of death was June 6, 1944. We continued that ritual until the year Dad couldn't walk anymore.

My dad enlisted in the Navy on January 10, 1942 until December 10, 1945. He was a Pharmacist's Mate First Class. I hope this helps you Ken. And if you ever get a chance, would you send that letter from Rickenbach to Dad.

Thank you,


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