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USCG LCI(L)-88  

U.S. Coast Guard-manned LCI(L)-88

Because of their particular skill with smaller boats and experience in earlier invasions, there were 97 vessels manned by the U.S. Coast Guard at Normandy. Coastguardsman David Cope's duties were below deck with Ralph Gault in the engine room of the LCI(L) 88, the first Landing Craft Infantry (L)arge scheduled to put American amphibious troops ashore Omaha Beach. In the final days of preparation for the invasion, Army combat engineers and platoon C-8 of the 6th Naval Beach Battalion began practice landings from the Coast Guard-manned LCI(L) 88. On 1 May 1944, Electricians mate David Cope, from Philadelphia, wrote the following in his diary:

About 9:30 this evening troops came marching down the dock and stormed the 88. As there are only 143 of them, it means I'll still have a sack on which to lay my weary head. There are more in the ship's crew than bunks in the crews quarters which means I get kicked out of my happy home in #3 troop compartment, everytime troops come aboard. So now a few of us sleep in #4. Of the troops we took on, about 25 of them are not soldiers at all but Navy men. They are dressed and equipped as soldiers but belong to the beach battalion. Their job is to set up beach markers, direct traffic as soldiers land and take care of the initial casualties. They have three officers with them, one of whom is a doctor, a young fellow and a graduate of Temple University. He of course is assisted by several pill rollers (PHARM. MATES).

Half a century later, Coastguardsman Ralph Gault, interviewed for "Navy Medicine at Normandy D-Day June 6, 1944," describes the heroic sacrifice of his LCI(L) 88 shipmates at 0735 on D-Day. While putting ashore Commander Carusi, Dr. Davey and Beachmaster Vaghi's C-8 platoon, exploding 88-mm shells killed Warren Moran, Rocky Simone and Bill Frere. New Yorker war correspondent A.J. Liebling was literally drenched in USCG blood, unable to see through his glasses. Injured later during the morning of D-Day, Dr. Davey remained on the beach until 29 June 1944, performing his humanitarian duties. The following V-MAIL was written from Navy Hospital # 814 in the UK:

Mrs. Mary H. Davey
5637 N. Mascher St.
Phila, Penna.

26 July 1944

My darling,

We spent most of the rest of yesterday playing bridge. In the evening, a couple of us went for a little walk. This noon, just as we were finished chow, who should walk in as a new patient but the skipper of the LCI that took us into France. The first thing he said when he saw me was, "_______ _______, I never expected to see you again; I had given all of you up for lost." I've been hoping to meet up with him, firstly to thank him for getting us ashore so skillfully, and secondly to find out what happened after we left the ship. We had quite an interesting discussion on the latter point. It's a small world, isn't it? After hearing his stories, I guess I can't complain too much about being stuck over here for awhile awaiting transportation. After all, that's a small item compared to not being able to be stuck in such a state.

In the meantime, good scuttlebutt is beginning to be circulated again. Hope it's true, for ~

I love you, Russ

JUNE 1995
Editor: Robert W. Kirsch

Dear Bob,

I received your letter after a three week visit to England and France to attend the D-Day ceremonies which brought back many memories, many sad, of the events of 50 years ago. It hardly seemed possible that this peaceful shore was the scene of such terrible carnage, much of it needless, because the assault on Omaha was poorly planned and so many young, inexperienced boys were slaughtered.

On D-Day, I was CO of the 83416 (CG28) and was with the LCI(L) Flotilla 10 which took such a beating at the beach. I joined the LCI(L) 88, C.O. Henry K. Rigg, in early July and served aboard in cross channel operations until October 1944 when we departed for the States and deployment to the western Pacific where I served as C.O. #87 FF.

On 6 June 1944, while landing troops off Easy Red Beach, Omaha, LCI(L) 88 came under heavy shore based shelling. One large caliber Armor Piercing shell went through the wheel house from fore to aft, missing the helmsman and O.D. without detonating. In the Mediterranean these vessels had armor plate on the wheel house which would have caused the shell to detonate but was removed as it made the vessel top heavy and caused a severe roll.

The first casualty was a young seaman who had volunteered to take the man rope ashore. He was hit at the bottom of the ramp and his body splattered over the ship. Since there were no identifiable remains, he was carried as M.I.A. for a year which perpetrated a cruel false hope for his next of kin. Another shell hit the starboard ramp and I believe caused the deaths of two more men. I am returning to Delaware next week and believe I can furnish the names from some old records.

After being relieved from duty on #88, I believe the C.O. and a man he attempted to rescue, while making practice beachings at San Clement Island, off California, were lost at sea.

The LCI(L) 90 took a Kamikaze hit at Chinmu Bay, Herama Retto on 6/3/45 which injured two officers and about six enlisted men with one or two fatalities one of whom possibly was C.O. in the conning tower.

I will furnish you additional information when I check my old memoirs.


A.B. Vernon

P.S. You might observe that the 90 numbers were a jinx as 91, 92 and 93 were sunk at Normandy along with #88, with 83 & 88 severely damaged.

JUNE 1996
Editor: Robert W. Kirsch

Dear Robert,

I have just received Newsletter #15. I was interested in reading of more experiences of us Coast Guard who survived the several operations in Africa, Sicily, Italy & Normandy while serving aboard our LCI's. It is always saddening to think of all those who did not survive.

I was interested in Al Vernon's account of an experience, as I was a shipmate of his. Also, I was a shipmate, for a short time of Coit Hendley. [LCI(L)-85 commander on Normandy D-Day] They both were assigned separately to the 88 to replace an officer casualty.

I have worked closely with Ralph Gault here in the Chicago area to have a model of the LCI(L) 87, our Flotilla Flag Ship, made and placed in the Academy Museum at New London, CT in memory of our Flotilla Commander, RADM Miles Imlay.

Our skipper, Bunny Rigg, was awarded both the Silver Star and Legion of Merit, as I recall. We suffered extensive damage in the invasion at Licata, Sicily and were forced to abandon ship on the beach, but later came back aboard to successfully repair the damage and get off the beach with the aid of a Navy tug. The Flotilla had written us off.

Our experience at Normandy, Omaha Easy Red were equally challenging with heavy damage and casualties. We were able to successfully withdraw from the beach, however, and return to England for repair.

Ralph Gault and I are currently communicating with a Mr. Kenneth Davey whose father was a member of the Navy Beach Battalion that we successfully landed. He is very interested in anything about the LCI (L) 88 as it may relate to his father, "Little Dr. Davey" and the landing on Easy Red, Omaha Beach, Normandy or the early morning of 6 June 1944.

Thank you for remembering us.

Sincerely, John Kavanaugh, Capt. USCG

Albert B. Vernon
P.O. Box 1019
Sebastian, FL 32978

May 27, 1997

Dear Mr. Davey,

Thank you so much for sending me the information on your father, Dr. Davey, LT(jg) MC, USNR. Although I joined the LCI(L) 88 a few weeks after D-Day, I was C.O. of the CGC 28, Coast Guard manned and was operating off Easy Red, Omaha Beach, France on that fateful day. We were part of RESFLOT 1 and kept very busy rescuing personnel from landing craft, tanks etc., which were under heavy fire from the well entrenched shore batteries. It is sheer wonder that anyone in the initial waves survived. We picked up the sole survivor of a Navy UDT team from a sinking LCT. Another U.S. Army LT had a 50 calibre bullet hole completely through his chest and was still conscious. He asked for my .45 to end his suffering but my sonarman administered morphine and we delivered him to an off shore transport for surgery. To this day, I do not know if he survived, which is doubtful.

I read where your father lived at 5637 Mascher ST. when he joined the Navy. My parents lived less than a block north on the NW corner of Mascher and Chew (5700) and then at 5719 N. Second St., which is just around the corner. That was my home of record when I enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve on October 9, 1941. I spent 15 months as enlisted and was appointed to O.C.S. at the CG Academy in New London, CT. Commissioned Ensign in may 1943 and less than a year later was aboard CGC 28 based in Poole, Dorset, England, preparing for the big invasion. I had a young, well trained crew which gave an excellent account of themselves in the grim weeks to follow.

When I joined the LCI 88, Bunny Rigg, John Kavannaugh and Paul Long became good shipmates as were CmoMM Cope (another Phila. Lad), Gault, Frankel as well as our cook Jules Fassey. Liebling remarked that he preferred to cook on the stove top. During one rough cross channel trip with a beam sea, resulting in a heavy roll, Fassey was cooking steaks on the range top. Every so often, one would slide off into the water sloshing on the galley deck. Fassey would bend down with his spatula, flip it back up to the grill and keep on cooking. We ate the steaks with relish, as we figured the heat would destroy any germs acquired on the deck.

Thank you again and I was sorry to hear that Doc Davey died four short years after surviving Bloody Easy Red. As many have remarked, "It was not EASY but it sure was RED!"

Most sincerely,

Albert B. Vernon
CAPT, USCG (ret)

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