COVINGTON — After 71 years, World War II Veteran Marion Adams, 92, of Covington, still has dreams about the war zones on the beaches of Normandy, France, as if it were yesterday.
“I lose a lot of sleep over it, I can see everything and it comes to me in the middle of the night,” Adams said. “I’ll never get over it. It’s been too many years.”
Adams was a first class radio operator and mail orderly on the ship LST 491 during World War II and spent a year in the Atlantic Ocean and another in the Pacific Ocean, and made four invasions on the beaches of Normandy and one in southern France.
Adams has his own recollections of how the tragic events unfolded.
Adams joined the U.S. Navy when he was only 17 years old right out of high school on May 8, 1942, mainly because he “didn’t want to wear a tie,” he said. He knew after the war was declared a few months prior to joining the Navy that he was going to be in the forefront of the war.
After being on the wait list multiple times, Adams was inducted into the Navy on Jan. 4, 1943. He went to Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., in May that year for a 16-week course in Morse code theory and procedure.
Eventually, the day came.
“I was there June 6 at 6:30 in the morning, 1944, the day of the invasion,” Adams said.
Adams remembers being on Omaha Beach in Normandy on D-Day when at 1 a.m., 15 American LST ships were alongside each other and were attacked by nine German E-boats.
“It was blacker than the ace of spades,” Adams said of that early morning, “This was my first touch of war. They blew all of the people off of the main deck into the water, but they went down.”
Adams learned in the morning after retrieving mail that seven men died that night, assuming it was from the LST 289.
“I thought, ‘that’s terrible. I suppose they were off of the (LST) 289 since that ship was blown up so bad,’” Adams said.
It was not brought to his attention that two other ships, the LST 507 and LST 531, also sank – he did not realize this until 40 years later that those ships sunk and, in reality, 749 men died that night. Adams and other U.S. military personnel were sworn to secrecy that night about the attack, so the Germans didn’t know the damage they had done. Because of this secrecy, not even all of the U.S. military personnel knew of the damage done.
“(Germans) came across the English channel … they had torpedoes, shootin’ guns, 50 calibers – they had a lot of armor,” Adams said. The Germans heard radio communications in England and planned their attack that way.
Adams shared some little known facts about the Omaha Beach invasion. Many believe that the Americans won the invasion because the Germans were out-numbered from Americans on the beach, when in reality, they were trapped by Americans.
“(The Germans) got word that they were being attacked from the rear, they got out of there, they gave up,” Adams said. “The (U.S.) generals that planned this thing knew football, the Germans didn’t know football.”
Adams said the U.S. militants decided on an end-play — like in football. The plan was to keep the Germans busy shooting people on the beach while other Americans snuck in on the ends of the 80-foot cliff.
Adams said the original plan was for American rangers to climb and take over the cliff that stood on the beach, but the Germans had that area covered.
“It didn’t work because on this cliff, the Germans had machine guns set up, probably 40 of ‘em, and Hitler’s idea was to keep (Americans) off the beach,” Adams said. “We almost lost Omaha Beach, not many people know this, and the Germans wouldn’t give up. On that day, on that beach, there were 2,200 men killed.”
Adams — as he shared many memories and facts on the war — also shared personal memorabilia from when he served. He has two journals full of writings from his experience along with photos of admirals, newspaper clippings from the time, and letters he wrote. He technically wasn’t supposed to keep notes, but said he “worked the system.”
Two of his most prized possessions are of an “out of order” sign he took from a Tokyo hotel and a swastika badge he took from a German prisoner after trading with the prisoner two cigarettes for it.
Adams saw death on a regular occasion, with soldiers wrapped in blankets and bodies taken by stretchers to be put into piles.
“I could see that they were stacking (bodies) like cordwood between two posts in the ground; they were stacking them there in these blankets,” Adams said.
Adams said there were 9,000 men buried at Omaha.
“The first five in the graves were 19-20 year olds – kids,” Adams said. “I decided the person that was buried there wasn’t the name of the person on that tag the way they handled those bodies.”
When asked what it is like to be one of, if not, the oldest generation alive bearing the historical experiences that lives on in his mind around most people who are younger than him, he often doesn’t say anything to them.
“I don’t say anything, because they won’t understand,” he said as a thought he has, “I think every fella should join (the military) to understand.”
It was important for Adams to share his story.
“There’s not many people left that knew what went on, I’m one of the few left,” he said.
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