World War II combat diary of J.J. McAndrews: Dropping eggs by the dozen

The Great Lakes Coast Guard is sharing the story of Petty Officer 3rd Class J.J. McAndrews on his journey across the Atlantic Ocean into the Mediterranean Sea for the invasion of Italy, then to the shores of Normandy for D-Day, in our five-week series “World War II combat diary of J.J. McAndrews.” This series comes from the day-to-day diary written by the boatswain’s mate while aboard a landing ship during the war.

Editor’s Note: Much of the text that follows was taken directly from McAndrews’ diary. Most grammatical and punctuation errors were retained as they were written. However, slight edits were made to enhance readability.

 

McAndrews poses for a photo while aboard the LST. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of McAndrews' family

McAndrews poses for a photo while aboard the LST.
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of McAndrews’ family

There are ten other LSTs lined up close together on the beach with us in Bagnoli, Italy. After we straightened up the ship and had everything secure, about 14 of the fellers went down in the tank deck to play a game of touch tackle football.

 

While we were playing, general quarters sounded.

 

We ran like hell to our battle stations.

 

When I got up on deck, tracers could be seen flying all over the place. It is a very dark night.

 

Immediately the captain ordered the smoke lamps to be lit and told all the gun pointers not to fire until they saw a plane. In other words, they were ordered not to fire into space.

 

It wasn’t a few minutes after I got there, that I could hear the roar of the motion of German planes over head.

 

At that moment they were bombing Naples.

 

The German pilots had dropped flares all over the place.

 

We were just around the bend from Naples, and boy you should of seen the sky, it was filled with tracers going in all directions.

 

Up until now, we had not opened up. They were still dropping flares and now they were only about 500 yards away. The place started to really light up.

 

A few minutes later we heard the roar of a plane coming nearer and nearer. Yes sir, she was coming aft of the stern.

 

Then she was about just about on us about 40 yards off the port side, when we opened up on her.

 

All the LSTs fired at once.

Landing Ship, Tank 326 beached. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of McAndrews' family

Landing Ship, Tank 326 beached.
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of McAndrews’ family

 

Wow! What a feeling it is to see a plane coming at you.

 

Whether or not we shot her down, we don’t know. But it’s a sure thing we much have really riddled her.

 

The captain said that as she went over the hill there was a big explosion. He couldn’t say for sure whether it was a bomb the plane dropped or the plane itself.

 

After the plane passed over, we found out that one of the men on the stern was hit. He was the talker on his gun.

 

Another talker who is stationed outside the 3-inch 50 mm gun was scraped in the arm by shrapnel.

 

I was ducking right beside him when he was hit.

 

One of the officers got a rip in the seat of his pants by shrapnel. He was on the stern with us.

 

Planes were buzzing around for about 15 more minutes and then we secured from general quarters.

 

I found out later that the feller who was really hit, was wounded in his backside seat. The bullet went clean through and made two holes in his seat.

 

Later, general quarters was sounded for a second time. We were at out battle station for 15 minutes and then secured.

 

Oct. 24, 1943: We are out to sea again.

 

Oct. 25, 1943: This morning we anchored in Palermo and then headed back to Bizerte.

 

Oct. 26, 1943: As we pulled into Bizerte today, there was a whole company of chemical warfare troops and their equipment ready to board our ship. As soon as we docked they started to come aboard.

 

McAndrews(right) and another feller pose for a photo with a dog. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of McAndrews' family

McAndrews (right) and another feller pose for a photo with a dog.
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of McAndrews’ family

Oct. 27, 1943: We have set out for Naples again.

 

Oct. 29, 1943: We arrived at Naples and immediately unloaded. We are in the same spot in which the air attacks occurred a few days previous.

 

After we unloaded, we went out into the main bay of Naples and dropped our anchor for the night.

 

Oct. 30, 1943: Two soldiers that we brought to Naples on our first trip here told us that during the air attack the week before, that we shot down the plane we shot at.

 

So folks, it looks like we have shot down our first enemy plane.

 

This news cheered up the crew immensely.

 

Nov. 1, 1943: Today is a day that I know I will never forget and this is why…

 

It was a very clear and starry night out last night. I was down in the crew’s quarters and most of us had a feeling that the Germans would be over here tonight.

 

We were correct, because at 6:45 p.m., general quarters sounded.

 

Everyone ran like hell to their battle stations.

 

When I first arrived at mine on the stern, I could see some of the anti-aircraft guns on shore blasting away.

 

Just about two minutes after we had manned our stations, a white flare was dropped by a German plane directly overhead.

 

Holy cow!

Landing Ship, Tank 326 underway. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of McAndrews' family

Landing Ship, Tank 326 underway.
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of McAndrews’ family

 

It lit the bay up light daylight and before we knew it there were scores of flares overhead and around different sections of the bay.

 

From the shore, guns were blasting like hell at the bombers, who were dropping eggs by the dozen.

 

Boy, what a feeling it is to be just laying there waiting to be hit any minute.

 

Their bombs were just missing us. The spray of the water from the bombs splashed all over the decks of our ship and the boat would shake like hell.

I could see big flashed of light at the bombs hit the water.

 

I still can’t figure out how the heck they missed us, as we were such an easy target with flares giving our position a dead giveaway.

 

The guns from the dock fronts and surrounding beach but up a barrage and kept the fighter planes from diving over the ships.

 

The sky was a mass of light and flashes and then two red flares were directly over our heads. The red flares signified a target, so in other words the Germans were after our hide.

 

Then all of a sudden I heard a plane diving.

 

The plane let go a whistling bomb and flew between us and a British destroyer.

 

I thought for sure this was it and I think I may have squeezed the crucifix I was holding with all my might. Boy, what an awful feeling.

 

When the bomb hit, it made a direct hit on the limey’s stern and tore it right off.

 

I am thankful it didn’t hit us.

 

The Germans dropped eggs for some time after that.

 

(Editor: WW II era bombs were oval-shaped like eggs, therefore dropping eggs became slang for dropping bombs. Planes that dropped eggs became birds and airports were known as nests.)

 

The captain ordered that we start our smoke pots and it wasn’t long before the whole port was pretty well covered with a smoke blanket.

 

Fellers of the Landing Ships, Tank play baseball between two beached LSTs. U.S. Coast Guard courtesy of McAndrews' family

Fellers of the Landing Ships, Tank play baseball between two beached LSTs.
U.S. Coast Guard courtesy of McAndrews’ family

The raid lasted a whole hour. We secured from general quarters at 7:45 p.m., happy that we still had our ship underneath us.

 

Nov. 2, 1943: We left the bay of Naples with limeys and Seabees who were headed to Bizerte too.

 

(Editor: A Seabee is a member of the U.S. Navy Construction Battalion. The word comes from the initials “CB.” Seabees build bases, pave roadways and airstrips and accomplish many other construction projects.)

 

Nov. 4, 1943: We arrived safely at Bizerte. The good part about being here is that we are able to take in a few movie pictures.

 

Nov. 7, 1943: Today is a swell day for me as I met a Rockaway lad. Went to mass here on the base and was surprised to see Ens. Bill Reynolds sitting in front of me. We met after mass and talked about the good old Rock and the latest news from home.

 

On liberty here I went all through the evacuated town.

 

The army occupies it now. Most of the buildings have been bombed to the ground.

 

Also, visited the airport here and saw a lot of English bombers and American fighter and bomber planes.

 

Nov. 11, 1943: We have left Bizerte en route to Oran. No cargo with us. For the trip we are accompanied by 9 other LSTs. We are to pick up more cargo and troops and then head back to the invasion of Italy.

 

Next week, the Great Lakes Coast Guard plans to post the next installment of the World War II combat diary of J.J. McAndrews blog series, titled “A war-torn winter and the Allied invasion of Italy.”

 

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