6 Jun 1944
Private William A Rucker carefully descended down the cargo ropes of the troop transport and towards the assault landing craft known as the Higgins Boat. The cold waters of the English Channel splashed against the hull of the craft with the overwash pooling on its flat bottom. He waited for the boat to rise up against the ships hull then released his grip and dropped a short distance into the transport. He was the last man from his boat section to get in.
“Alright, Private ?” asked Sergeant Dice.
“Good to go Sarge,” Rucker said calmly with a dead pan smile.
Private Rucker was an aid man attached to Fox company but he knew that medics went and did their job for any man at any time under any circumstance. He was loaded down with every possible medical supply kit he could physically carry and still move. Every soldier carried basic first aid kits but Rucker was packed to the gills with the extra things an aid man needed. He was sure he’d need every last piece of medical kit and then some. The other two medics in the company were Corporal Doc Jenkins and Private Lester Monroe. They were in other boats with their platoon.
The entire boat section was on board now, all 32 soldiers. With a signal from the Sargent, the two coxswains throttled up the motor and headed away from the transport to join the formation circling the control ship. Billy glanced at his wristwatch. 0430 hours.
The choppy seas continued to bring water over the sides and Sargent Dice ordered all of the troops to start bailing water with their helmets. The craft’s pumps weren’t in working order. At least the men had something to do besides contemplate what was awaiting them. It was still dark but the senses started to go into overdrive between the rocking of the boat and the bailing of water. Over and above that, the battleships were fully engaged in bombarding the landing areas. Bombers of the Allied Command were droning over the area to release ordnance to soften up Hitlers Atlantic wall. Rucker and the others took a lot of comfort in that. The largest armada ever gathered of air and naval firepower with the capability to flatten cities was sure to take out some Wehrmacht pillboxes. The humming of the Higgins boat motor was a faint sound underneath the bombardment . Rehearsles for this operation had gone on for months. But today was different. Blood would be spilled in a matter of minutes.
The pilot manuvered the boat towards the other landing crafts and began to make large circles in a holding pattern till all the troops could be in the water and hit the beach together for the first wave.
‘Well, here we are Billy, no turning back now.’ Robert Smith said with a forced smile and patted Billy on the helmet. ‘Good thing were buddies. I aint getting hit but if I do, I get first priority’.
Billy looked around at the boat section of men. Most were bailing water but some just seemed frozen. A couple of them were holding the rosary and praying. Others were obsessively checking their equipment over and over. The others bailed water and had a complete look of terror on their face. All except Sargent Dice.
The night before few men slept, including Billy. A lot of guys played cards recklessly, putting in big wagers. Others read in their racks. A few read bibles or V-mail from home. Some wrote letters. 2nd platoon had spent many months training for this and getting to know one another. The air was tense but most had resigned themselves that this was their job and it was time to go to work. Word came out over the loud speaker for the company to report to the mess hall at 0130 hours. Some chowed down on steak and eggs. Very few of them could eat much despite the fact that some men hadn’t seen these staples since leaving the states. The nerves were there even if their faces didn’t show it.
Billy had his pocket New Testament with him at all times and decided to spend his time in the rack reading for a bit and thought that it was best to write a letter to his family. Knowing what might happen on the next day, he knew it was necessary. Hopefully it wouldn’t have to be sent back with his remaining possessions. God willing it would remain safe till the war was over.