JUNE 6, 1944



Editor's Note: The following article was originally published in the May 2024 issue of "LST Scuttlebutt" Magazine.

June 6, 2024  8:00 AM EDT



8 1 LST 292 Normandy
USS LST 326, USS LST 292 and USS LST 543 on Omaha Beach, Normandy, circa 1944. (Photo by Ceylon Dearborn, EM1/c, USS LST 982; navsource.org)



The destinies of two great empires . . . seemed to be tied up in some goddamned things called LSTs.
—Winston Churchill (Letter to General George Marshall)1



The Eyes of the World Are Upon You

JUNE 6, 1944, may have been the most important day of the twentieth century. On that day eighty years ago, more than six thousand Allied ships carried over one hundred thousand soldiers across the English Channel to finally open the Western Front, in order to liberate France from four years of Nazi rule during WWII. “It was going to be difficult enough even with surprise,” according to renowned author and historian Stephen Ambrose. “Amphibious operations are inherently the most complicated in war; few have ever been successful,” he wrote.

But the Allies had the decisive edge on the evening of June 5, the day before the invasion, also known as “D-Day minus-1” (or D–1 Day). Thanks to the US Army’s Eighth Air Force—the “Masters of the Air”—the Allies controlled the skies. The Allies had also cracked Nazi Germany’s enigma code. And most importantly, the Allies had something no other civilization in history had: a massive amount of mechanized and capable landing craft of all different varieties, including the most important ship of all—the LST (Landing Ship, Tank). And by some miracle, the Allies had maintained the element of surprise as to where they were landing.

The LSTs and the rest of the Allied Navy steamed across the English Channel as part of the largest seaborne assault the world had ever seen. Those ships carried the American, British, Canadian, and French citizen soldiers that would end up storming the fifty-mile-wide strip of the Normandy coast and smashing through Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. Many of those young men that debarked from the ramps of LSTs would later rest beneath a sea of crosses in the cemeteries atop the bluffs that overlook the beaches—forever becoming monuments and reminders of the true cost of freedom. However, even against the greatest of odds, their astonishing blend of skill, faith, and valor lifted the men from the valley of death to incredible victory. On the eve of the invasion, General Dwight D. Eisenhower distributed a letter addressed to each man of his 175,000-member Allied Expeditionary Force. It began with the lines: “You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you.” On this 80th Anniversary of D-Day, we remember the LSTs that fought at Normandy and once again cast the eyes of the world upon those brave LST sailors who manned the ships.


We were side-by-side [another LST in Plymouth Harbor, England] with so many crafts, a man could have jumped from one deck to another for a half mile or more. Toward the sea we could see destroyers and larger ships at anchor. The harbor was just jammed with boats.
—Lieutenant Ralph Eastridge, LST veteran2


Trains to Cherbourg

The LST proved to be the single most important factor in the successful invasion of France, not only for its tank landing ability, but for its other roles as well. LST 351 veteran Robert Jagers described one of those roles in his book, Whales of WWII, when he wrote, “There was a need to move some of the supplies by rail instead of by truck. The width of the railroad tracks in France was different from those in England. Therefore, a number of railroad cars with the proper track width were assembled. The British solved this dilemma. There were also a number of LSTs fitted with rails inside the tank deck. The newly assembled railroad cars were put aboard special LSTs. The LSTs then crossed the channel to Cherbourg. The railroad cars were pulled from the LST directly onto a connecting track to the French railroad. However, before the railroad cars from the LST could be transferred a special device was necessary to facilitate this exchange. This idea saved countless hours in the unloading and subsequent transportation of the military supplies. One railroad car could hold the equivalent contents of several trucks.”3


8 2 LST 392 Cherbourg
In the first such attempt, using a specially constructed ramp, the Army Transportation Corps unloads freight cars from USS LST 392 in Cherbourg Harbor, 1 August 1944. Once the Allies captured Cherbourg, France (to the west of Normandy) and moved further inland, some “special LSTs” like the LST 392 were essentially employed as railroad cars to supply them. (US National Archives photo No. III-SC 192961, originally a US Army Signal Corps photo)


In his book, veteran Robert von der Osten of LST 388 referred to those special LSTs as the “trains to Cherbourg,” writing, “Motor convoys along the roads in France could no longer keep up with the supply needs of the troops, and rail was to be the answer. However, much of the railroad equipment in Europe had been destroyed in pre-invasion bombings. . . . It was railway engineers who came up with a solution. They devised a plan to land the trains on the beaches in France by first laying railway tracks in the bottom of the LST’s tank deck. Next, in Cherbourg, they laid railway tracks down to the beach, to the hards on the water’s edge. When the LST beached, these ground tracks were connected to the tracks in the LST. The railway cars would simply roll out of the ships.”4


Hospital Ships

Almost immediately upon the first waves hitting the beach on D-Day, the LSTs were needed to serve the critical role of transporting wounded casualties off the beach and back to England. Seaman Ferris Burke was a 16-year-old on LST 285, which served as a hospital ship. “The doctors were outstanding,” he said. “Just unbelievable. They worked for hours, amputating arms and legs, removing shrapnel, patching bullet wounds, and trying to calm down some men who were completely out of their minds.”5 Many lives were saved in the aftermath of D-Day due to the hard work of the men aboard LSTs.✪


8 3 LST 134 4 80 G 252777 
USS LST 134 and USS LST 325 beached at Normandy, 12 June 1944, as jeeps driving along the invasion beach carry casualties to the waiting LSTs. The LSTs will bring the casualties back to Britain for hospitalization. (National Archives photo No. 80-G-25277; navsource.org)


8 4 LST 134 3 80 G 252785
USS LST 134 carried the casualties back to Britain for hospitalization. (US National Archives photo No. 80-G-252785; navsource.org)


Every man who set foot on Omaha beach that day was a hero.
—General Omar Bradley6




1. Gordon A. Harrison, The United States Army in World War II: The European Theater of Operations, Cross-Channel Attack (Washington, DC: Department of the Army, 1951), p. 64. See also Stephen Ambrose, D-DAY June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1994), pp. 43–44. The same quote also appears on page 166 of Craig Symonds’s book, Neptune: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings.
2. Ambrose, D-Day, pp. 39, 170. Note: Ambrose lists Eastridge’s ship number as LST 459, however, that ship served in the Pacific, not Europe.
3. Robert Jagers, Whales of WWII (Carrollton, TX: self-published, 2000), pp. 142–143.
4. Robert von der Osten with Barbara von der Osten, LST 388: A World War II Journal (Atlanta, GA: Deeds Publishing, 2017), p. 153. See also Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1948), p. 322.
5. Ambrose, D-Day, pp. 392–393. Originally from Ferris Burke’s oral history at the Eisenhower Center for American Studies (EC) in New Orleans, Louisiana.
6. Omar Bradley and Clay Blair, A Generals Life: An Autobiography, p. 249.

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