World War II combat diary of J.J. McAndrews: Limeys and Jerries and Frogs, Oh Boy!

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 (left) poses for a photo with the fellers from the Landing Ship, Tank 326 during World War II. McAndrews wrote the names on the photo. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of McAndrews' family

McAndrews (left) poses for a photo with the fellers from the Landing Ship, Tank 326 during World War II.
McAndrews wrote the names on the photo.
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of McAndrews’ family

Jan. 28, 1944: Last night was really fierce with raids. A liberty ship was blown up. And today is a day that I will never forget.

 

I won’t ever forget today. At 4 p.m. while we were at anchor in the bay, five German planes sneaked through without the radar detectors finding them. They dropped bombs on all sides of our ship and I still can’t figure out how they missed us.

 

We were all down in the crew quarters except for the fellers on watch.

 

When we came topside after hearing the concussions down below we could see the planes shooting away and the big whirlpools in the water where the bombs had hit.

 

Shrapnel dropped all over our ship.

 

Jan. 29, 1944: Last night the Jerries were over again. They dropped glider bombs and sunk an English cruiser and made a near miss on a liberty ship.

 

The cruiser was 500 yards off our port bow. It was quite a thing to see. What struck us all though was to see the ship on fire but still her guns kept blasting until she rolled over and sunk.

 

Our small boats proceeded over to pick up survivors. They said it was tragic to hear the moans of the men who were nearly burned to death all swimming around in the water.

 

They brought back 10 survivors. We later heard that 200 men went down with her.

 

The liberty boat later exploded during the night. It was loaded down with ammunition.

 

Jan. 31, 1944: Had three air raids today. Up to today, we have had a total of 56 air raids.

 

Feb. 1, 1944: We are underway for Bora, a city just around the corner from Naples.

 

Feb. 2, 1944: Arrived at Bora.

 

Feb. 6, 1944: Underway for Bizerte.

 

McAndrews poses with a friend while aboard the Landing Ship, Tank 236 during World War II. U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of McAndrews' family

McAndrews poses with a friend while aboard the Landing Ship, Tank 236 during World War II.
U.S. Coast Guard photo courtesy of McAndrews’ family

Feb. 9, 1944: Arrived in Bizerte.

 

Feb. 14, 1944: “Chips” Roberts, who was out on liberty was killed by a truck. All the crew have took this news bad, as Chips was a swell feller.

 

Feb. 15, 1944: Today the captain held services aboard the ship for Chips. He was buried in an Army cemetery outside of Bizerte.

 

We got underway for Oran. We have a load of broken trucks and navy survivors from ships who were lost at Anzio. They are on their way back to the states.

 

Feb. 16, 1944: The sea is very rough so we had to turn into the port of Phillipsville, Algeria along the African coast.

 

(Editor: Phillipsville is a city in northeastern Algeria. It was known as Phillipsville until the end of the Algerian War of Independence in 1962 and now is known as Skikda.)

 

Feb. 18, 1944: The weather is clear, and we have shoved off for Anzio. Still rough as hell out at sea.

 

Feb. 19, 1944: Rough as hell.

 

Feb. 20, 1944: Arrived at Anzio.

 

Feb. 22, 1944: Loaded up with U.S. Army troops fresh from the states. Pulled out of Anzio and anchored in the harbor at 5:30 p.m. We are going to have practice invasion maneuvers tonight.

 

Feb. 25, 1944: Today we had another maneuvers practice again and beached the ship.

 

March 1, 1944: Today we had more maneuvers practice.

 

The reason for coming to Anzio was to have our compass repaired. It was broken out at sea on our second trip to Anzio, where we had the roughest sea we ever encountered since our whole time overseas. It was lucky we had tanks on our tank deck otherwise we sure as hell would have broken in two.

 

You should of seen the poor soldiers on this trip. They were really seasick and couldn’t wait to get off the old “pig iron.”

 

March 3, 1944: Got underway bound for Naples via Bizerte. We had general quarters that lasted 45 minutes.

 

March 7, 1944: Still underway. Sighted a friendly destroyer. Thought at first it was a sub, so we had general quarters.

 

March 8, 1944: We pulled into Naples and dropped our anchor in the Pozzuoli Bay.

 

March 9, 1944: Pulled out at 6:30 p.m. with a load of personnel, vehicles and ammunition bound for Anzio.

 

March 10, 1944: Arrived at Anzio at 6 a.m. At 8 a.m. we immediately went into the docks and unloaded our cargo.

 

Boy, Anzio has really been bombed to hell.

 

We loaded up with troops who have been fighting since the beachhead had been established and are now going back to Naples for a few days rest.

 

Landing Ship, Tank 326 sits in a mass of landing craft in Bizerte Harbor for the invasion of Sicily. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army

Landing Ship, Tank 326 sits in a mass of landing craft in Bizerte Harbor for the invasion of Sicily.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Army

March 11, 1944: Arrived back at Naples at 5:30 a.m. and moored.

 

Commander Floyd reported aboard this unit for temporary duty.

 

March 12, 1944: Bound again for Anzio loaded with personnel and ammunition.

 

March 13, 1944: Arrived at Anzio. Immediately moored and unloaded. Again loaded up with empty trucks and tired personnel.

 

While we were at anchor, we had quite a few close calls from enemy artillery fire.

 

By the way, with Commander Floyd aboard, we are the flagship of the other LSTs.

 

March 14, 1944: Arrived back at Pozzuoli Bay.

 

Had general quarters tonight, as there was an air raid over Naples. Planes dove over us, and we opened up on them. No luck though, as we didn’t bag any.

 

March 15, 1944: Got underway for Anzio.

 

March 16, 1944: Arrived at Anzio and unloaded. We had three air raids while here.

 

March 17, 1944: Arrived back at Naples.

 

March 18, 1944: Got underway for Anzio with personnel and ammunition.

 

March 19, 1944: Arrived at Anzio, went into harbor and unloaded. Had three air raids. Enemy artillery fire was still pounding the beachhead.

 

March 20, 1944: Arrived back at Naples.

 

March 21, 1944: Pulled out, bound for Anzio with usual cargo.

 

March 22, 1944: Arrived at Anzio and unloaded.

 

March 23, 1944: Again back at Pozzuoli Bay.

 

March 24, 1944: Got underway for Corsica carrying American troops and equipment.

 

March 26, 1944: We have arrived in Corsica.

 

Had liberty here. Pretty good place compared to bombed Italy.

 

March 27, 1944: Got underway for Naples carrying “Frogs.”

 

(Editor: There are many theories of how “frog” has become slang for Frenchmen. One theory is that the English first used it in the 9th century when the French tried to invade England under a flag with three fleurs-de-lis on it, and the English thought the flowers were frogs and started calling the Frenchmen frogs. Another theory is that the French are famous for eating frog legs.)

 

March 29, 1944: Arrived back in Naples.

 

March 31, 1944: Loaded up with supplies, personnel and ammunition bound for Anzio. We have a navy admiral, commander and captain aboard.

 

April 1, 1944: Arrived at Anzio. Had general quarters because of close calls with artillery fire.

 

April 2, 1944: Arrived back in Naples.

 

April 3, 1944: Arrived back in Anzio and unloaded.

 

April 5, 1944: Loaded up and pulled out for Anzio.

 

April 7, 1944: Arrived and unloaded at Anzio. On our way here we sighted two German E-boats. We expected an attack but they did not come near us.

 

(Editor: The German Schnellboot, or S-Boot, meaning fast boat, was the designation for their fast attack craft during WW II. It is commonly held that the British used the term E-boat for “enemy.”)

 

April 8, 1944: Arrived at Naples and unloaded. Then headed to the Isle of Capri for a rest.

 

April 9, 1944: Had liberty on the island. Went to Easter services, good deal.

 

April 10, 1944: We left Capri bound for Naples. As soon as we arrived, we loaded up at 6:45 p.m., and got underway for Anzio.

 

April 11, 1944: Arrived at Anzio and unloaded. Artillery fire still shelling beachhead. Boy, sometimes they really come too close to us.

 

April 12, 1944: Arrived back in Naples, unloaded and reloaded. Set out for Anzio.

 

April 13, 1944: Arrived back at Anzio and unloaded.

 

April 14, 1944: We arrived back at Naples.

 

Coast Guard Landing Ship, Tank 326 underway off the coast of Anzio, April 15, 1944. Photo by Bill Brinkley Photo courtesy of U.S. National Archives

Coast Guard Landing Ship, Tank 326 underway off the coast of Anzio, April 15, 1944.
Photo by Bill Brinkley
Photo courtesy of U.S. National Archives

April 21, 1944: Got underway for Palermo towing LCT 198. The commander and his staff left before we pulled out.

 

April 22, 1944: Arrived at Palermo, moored port side to LST 352, which is moored alongside to USS Delta, a navy repair ship. Our purpose of coming here is to have four 30mm guns put on and our 3-inch 50mm gun taken off and replaced by a 40mm gun.

 

We are also having a radar device put on.

 

April 25, 1944: Some new seamen and firemen arrived aboard fresh from the states. We are working hard at this port as there is plenty of work to be done.

 

May 2, 1944: Captain Saussy left the ship for a new assignment. Mr. Amhler took the captains place and is now the new skipper of the 326.

 

May 11, 1944: Left Palermo, en route to Bizerte.

 

May 12, 1944: Arrived at Bizerte and picked up 20 new crew members. Left for the city of Oran.

 

May 14, 1944: We arrived at Oran.

 

May 15, 1944: Set out for Anzio and went to get our compass magnets checked. After that we went over to Mers el Kebir.

 

May 19, 1944: Got underway bound for England.

 

May 21, 1944: Passed the Rock of Gibraltar. I was on watch in the wheel house and got a good glimpse of her. Boy, am I happy to be leaving Africa, Sicily and Italy. No kidding folks, we spent a hectic time over there with those foreigners.

 

We have joined a large convoy and now there are about 60 ships with us. Three LSTs in the convoy.

 

May 25, 1944: We got word that German aircraft are nearby. Had general quarters but nothing happened.

 

The weather has been foggy, rainy and misty, with a choppy sea.

 

May 31, 1944: The other two LSTs and ourselves branched off from the rest of the convoy and are proceeding to our destination at full speed.

 

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 “D-Day and saying Goodbye.”

 

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