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World War II Memoirs of Lloyd G. Peters, Jr.

Part Two

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Why I Became a Gunner

An event that happened to me on board the USS Lci (L) 29 in either 1942 or 1943:

My job on all the earlier invasions was to go down the right hand ramp (the starboard ramp. I had to do this (as another sailor went down the left hand one (the port ramp). It was potentially a suicide job.

We had what we called a Davit on either side which were swung out by the ramp motor which also then pulled the ramp out past the front (bow) of the ship and were used to pull each ramp out to the front. This was done just prior to grinding up on the sand. The ramp brake was then released dropping the two ramps on to the beach. Infantrymen then went down these rams and most of the time running into pure hell on earth. This ramp had to be pulled back up and back into its position aboard ship. The operation had a glitch. The steel cable that pulled the ramp out and dropped it on the beach had to be taken off the pulley on the ramp so that it could be pulled up taught and then raised. A man had to go down each ramp following the last Infantryman to pull this cable off the roller. On the starboard side this man was me.

On many of the landings there would be injured, dead or dying Infantryman draped over the steel railings on the ramp. I was not about to leave them in a position where the pulling of the ramp could dump them into the surf where they wouldn't have a prayer. Once the ship backed off, it was swung around to leave the beach. The bow of the ship would have probably ground them into the sand and surf.

I was only 18 + and small, and the Infantrymen had their equipment and many were large men. I did not have the strength to pull them back up the ramp, so I gathered them under their arms from the rear and pulled them down onto the sand where they at least had a chance of survival where their medical personnel was. I would never take the cable loose until I had them all cleared. If I had done so, I would probably have been left on the sand without so much as a weapon.

The ship's Skipper raised cain about me doing this, claiming that I was endangering the entire ship. I simply told him these were human beings, and anything I could do to contribute to their survival, I was going to do.

In recent months I got to wondering why I had been pulled off the ramp and made the gunner on the bow 20mm. I remembered this in a dream.

To be continued...