World War II Biography

of

Salvatore J. “Sam” Favazza

 


Salvatore J. “Sam” Favazza

Lieutenant, Junior Grade – US Navy, WWII

DOB: April 7, 1923

DOD: November 7, 1976


Written by his daughter, Karen Favazza Spencer

December 2005

ed.  7/29/2011


Some of this history is from my childhood memories, some is from Dad’s official WWII naval records. Much is from his best friend’s memoirs. Joe Graham was in midshipmen’s school with Dad at Notre Dame, in Dartmouth, England training for Operation Overlord in 1944, on Omaha Beach for D-Day and beyond, and traveled together to the same tent on Samar in the Philippines in 1945. Some of the Samar pieces are from Lowell Burton’s letters to his wife Kathleen. “Burt” and Dad shared a tent together in Samar and was Dad’s

other best friend.



Dad joined the Navy on October 20, 1942 while attending college at Boston University. Because of the war, his education was foreshortened. He received his degree in Business Administration, after only completing 2 years at BU and one semester at Notre Dame University in Indiana. Dad received the rank of Ensign (D-V) G on January 20, 1944 along with his BA as one of WWII’s “Ninety Day Wonders.”  This was standard practice across the country as part of the Allies’ efforts to get the manpower and the leadership into the conflict as fast as possible in anticipation of the assault on the Atlantic Wall.


The 90 Day Notre Dame program was a condensed version of the 4 year Annapolis program. Dad’s term, and active duty, began Sept 30, 1943 in a class of 1,250. Up at dawn for calisthenics, then on to classes of Navigation, Seamanship, Engineering, etc. and more physical training, the only break they had was Saturday night in town where “the bars were so crowded, you couldn’t get close to them to get a drink.” (Graham, 18) 


Dad and his classmate from Notre Dame, Joseph D. Graham of West Virginia,  received the same orders to report to the Commandant, 3rd Naval District, NYC on January 29. They roomed together for a couple of days in New York before reporting to their ships on January 30, 1944. The father of another friend of theirs, treated 6 or 8 of the newly commissioned ensigns out on the town, night-clubbing both nights.


The convoy left New York harbor on Feb. 1, 1944 at 1300 hours. The convoy was made up of military and civilian ships. The civilian ships were fitted with 40mm and larger guns and had civilian crews. German U-boats were aggressively patrolling the Atlantic at this time, blowing up any Allied ships they found in their efforts to stave off the impending Allied invasion of Europe. Joe writes:


  1. We had a submarine alert just as we were leaving NY harbor and that didn’t do much to settle our nerves…Our course took us out past the Canary Islands and north along the north coast of Ireland and down into the Irish Sea where we disembarked at Avonmouth near Bristol, England on the 12th of February 1944.


  2. Next day, we proceeded under orders by train to Plymouth, England where we stayed overnight at the Q.A.B. On the 14th, we proceeded, by Navy truck, to Dartmouth South Devon to the Advanced Amphibious Base headquartered at Dartmouth Naval College. Along with me were Favazza, Coleman, Cutting and Canfield, all Ensigns from my class at Notre Dame. We were assigned to room number 20A at the college along with several small boat officers. While quartered there, we experienced one air raid warning during which we all left the College and made a dash for the wooded areas nearby. Fortunately, the raid must not have been aimed at Dartmouth and we returned to the College after the all clear had sounded. (Graham, 19; Graham in LeFebrvre, 24)


From Feb. 15 to March 31, 1944, Dad was assigned to LCT 541 as a LCT Officer in Training. On April 1, 1944, he was designated as the Executive Officer of LCT 541. He held this position through June 30, 1944. Executive Officers on LCTs were more commonly called Relief Officers and shared the command with the Officer-in-Charge. His reporting officer was L.B. Pruitt, Commander of Flotilla 19.


There was a distinction made in the Navy between ships that were commissioned as a ship and those commissioned as a group. Commissioned ships had commanding officers and small ships like LCTs had Officers-in-charge. Ours was LCT Flotilla 19 and was commissioned as a Flotilla so that only Commanding Officer was the Commander of our Flotilla who was L.B. Pruitt. (Graham in LeFebvre, 24)


During the day, they prepared for Project Neptune, the Naval
component of Operation Overlord, the invasion of western Europe. Dad, in LCT 541, Flotilla 19 participated in the Slapton Sands dress rehearsals for D-Day, just north of Dartmouth. Joe specifically remembers Flotilla 19’s participation in the Duck II or Duck III Operation which was conducted in an English Channel pea soup fog. These Duck Operations were held in late February and early March. The Duck exercises were followed by a series of other rehearsals, such as Operation Cellophane which focused on the movement of cargo and equipment between LCTs and shore.


Dad participated in several of these rehearsals. During Operation Tiger, held on April 27 and 28, 1944, a German E-boat sunk 6 landing ships and damaged 6 others, killing over 750 American servicemen and wounding 300 more. (Time, 20-21)


There was lots of activity in England in these months leading up to the invasion. Sailors and soldiers and equipment moving back and forth along the coast and in and out of London. Dad took a train trip to London on at least one occasion during this period. London was still being bombed, and there was debris everywhere, but that didn’t stop anyone from enjoying life.


  1. Whole city blocks were in ruins, and in other spots there would be buildings intact with lots full of rubble in between. We had all heard about the big air raids that had been called "The Blitz" that had taken place almost 4 years before, back when I was still a student in college. Yet you couldn't imagine what the people had gone through until you saw it first hand. I walked along, thinking about these things, when it suddenly dawned on me that some of the rubble I had seen was still smoking. That seemed odd, and as I went along I saw even more like that, obviously not from the Blitz of 4 years ago. I stopped the first person I saw and asked when this damage had occurred. "Last night Governor" he said. "We've been having raids for 2 weeks now, up to 2 hundred planes a night-we call it the 'Baby Blitz'." (Lily)


I remember Dad talking about seeing the White Cliffs of Dover while preparing for the invasion. I remember he had visited the town of Dover where the people were living in caves, and wanted to go back some day. The LCTs were all over that area of England getting ready for the invasion. Ensign Charles Lily, now deceased, was one of the other ensigns training with Dad at Dartmouth for Project Neptune. He writes about his experiences in Straits of Dover on his way to Dartmouth:


  1. My LCT had been provided with an English Lieutenant and signal man to accompany us on the journey through the straits. There had been only one other LCT assembled in London prior to ours. It had been allowed to sail alone down the river and through the channel, but the inexperienced American skipper had somehow been confused and instead of proceeding down the channel he had sailed directly across, into the French port of Boulogne-and he and his crew were promptly taken prisoner. The authorities did not want a repetition of that event, hence the navigator and the attachment to convoy. Subsequent events almost made a mockery of those plans.


  2. When the convoy of Merchant Ships was finally gathered, they called a conference of ship commanders to make final plans and give instructions. I was the only American there and amidst all those old grizzled sea captains, I was definitely out of place! LCT skippers don't rate very high on the seafarer's charts. The upshot was that the convoy would leave the next afternoon, it would be an 8 knot convoy of merchant ships and our lone LCT. We would be "Tail End Charlie" in the convoy, and all of us would be escorted by British Navy corvettes.


  3. The next day we sailed about 4 hours before dark and all went well for awhile. Then as darkness began to fall, the current through the channel started to set against us. Our maximum speed was 10 knots and that was it. The larger ships could increase speed to offset the current and still maintain 8 knots through the water. We couldn't and gradually began to fall behind. The corvette kept dropping back and urging us to close up with their bull horn. After a point there was nothing more we could do, and as darkness finally came, the convoy disappeared for good.


  4. The British Lieutenant looked at me and said "Charles, old boy, we've lost the bloody convoy!" I said, "No James, we didn't lose the bloody convoy, the so and so's have run off and left us!"


  5. Finding ourselves alone in the Straits of Dover, and knowing full well that the Germans had E-Boats out in the channel nearly every night, looking for stragglers or small craft they could sink and possibly gather prisoners for interrogation on invasion plans, our position was precarious. We finally decided to creep in as close to the English shore as possible and wait for daylight, to continue, when there would be air cover and our chances better. Accordingly, we anchored off the coast near the town of Deal.


  6. I posted an anchor watch and the rest of the crew went below to enjoy a meal and rest until dawn. We hadn't been there long when the man on watch came below and said "Skipper, there are two ships coming up to us, they look like torpedo boats." We went to General Quarters, manning the guns and preparing for anything. As I watched the two close in on us through binoculars, they appeared to definitely be the shape of German E-boats and as I watched they separated and came up, one on either side as though to catch us in a crossfire. We were completely darkened, the only light being from a rising moon that tended to silhouette them against the horizon. No communication was attempted by them, and I figured we were in for it. However, I told the crew to hold fire until I gave the order. Then the signalmen was told to light the signal light leaving the shutters closed. When I gave the signal he was to illuminate the flag flying from the stem of the nearest one. If it was German, which I expected, we would go down fighting. When the light went on the most glorious sight I ever saw as the British ensign streaming in the breeze. I screamed "Hold your fire", luckily they were pretty sure who we were and didn't fire on us when the light hit them, although they weren't taking chances either. As it turned out, they were two British MTBs sent out to find us and escort us into port.


  7. They gave us quite a scare. Having radar, which we didn't, they had an advantage and for some reason they didn't attempt radio contact which would have saved some frazzled nerves. The British were often strange allies.


  8. The MTBs escorted us into Dover, where we were to spend several days due to mechanical problems causing a delay. We found out later that the convoy we had separated from had been hit by E-boats as they went through the Straits suffering many casualties. Our getting left behind turned out to be a blessing. (Lily)


Dover was an interesting place to be. Most of the civilians had moved up into caves in the cliffs of Dover. The Straits of Dover are only 16 miles wide at that point and the Germans had big guns mounted on the French coast aimed at Dover. They had been shelling the town sporadically since the start of the war. Nearly all of the buildings still standing had shell damage and very little business activity was still going on in Dover itself. Unlike air raids, there was virtually no warning of shell fire. The English had people posted in the highest spot to watch the gun emplacements and at the first sign of activity would sound a warning. However, that would only give them 2 or 3 minutes to seek shelter, hence the evacuation of civilians. (Lily)


On their down time, Dad and Joe enjoyed partying and dancing every opportunity they got. While in stationed in Dartmouth, they went to either at the Officers Club or the Royal Hotel in nearby Torquay. Joe remembers dances where they would link arms, six people across, and dance around the room. Dad probably celebrated his 21st birthday on April 7, 1944 in Torquay.


  1. During this time, two officers would have liberty on alternate nights. Sam and I would go to Torquay on the nights we had liberty and we would do all the hotels and pubs there. There were plenty of women, orchestra and booze. We learned to drink orange gin, which I first thought an abomination. We also learned to down English beer that was as warm as the pubs that served it. (Graham in LeFebvre, 25)


  2. It was wartime and there were women all over the place. The bars did a raging business and there were orchestras playing in every spot we entered and there was much gayety for a country deep in the throes of war. Sam and I had a wonderful time in this set-up! 1 (Graham, 22)



Of course, it couldn’t last:


  1. On May 6, we were ordered to sail for Plymouth accompanied by a British Minelayer…. arriving in Plymouth in the late afternoon. Next day the LCM was in a small convoy. From May 10 to May 16, we made some needed repairs and alterations to the LCTs. Sam Favazza and I resumed our evening excursions to Torquay. Torquay was full of nightlife and a welcome change from the routine of LCT life. There were plenty of girls there and Sam and I made the most of the time we could spend there. When in Dartmouth, we would alternate nights to Torquay with the other officer aboard (our respective LCTs 541 and 638).


  2. On May 16th we were ordered to Plymouth for lading for the invasion and that put an end to our visits to Torquay. We sailed next day at 0500 hours in a convoy with LCTs 637 and 538 and upon arriving were ordered to Saltash where we took on fuel and fresh water and then on to Victoria Wharf and Millbay. (Graham in LeFebvre, 27)


On May 29th, the last preparations began with the loading of the ships (Graham, 22).  Raymond Bednar of the US Navy reports:


  1. They had this big open mess area where they had all the guns. Every officer got a .45 and a carbine, every enlisted man got a carbine. Then we were outfitted from head to toe. New helmets, new helmet liners, underwear, shirts, all army equipment, new boots, foul weather gear, parkas, blankets, mess kits, and most of all we got this gas impregnated clothing. That was the last When we got that we started to wonder, ‘Hell, where are we going now?’ We were quite upset when we had to carry that everywhere. (Bednar in Bastable, 37)


Dad was intelligent and thoughtful and had a sense of history. Every young man, must have been deep in thought on the eve of the invasion.


  1. I remember trying to think what this really meant to me, and all I could think about was the fact that I was (21) years old, and still single and a college graduate, and whether this was to be all of my life and really what for.


  2. I was thinking about the meanings of democracy and that sort of thing, but it doesn’t have any meaning to a man in a situation such as that. The only thing that meant anything to me was: as long as I was there and my two brothers were not then maybe we could get this mess over with before any more of the family had to be dragged into this situation…..


  3. I had a conversation…. – whether I was equal to the task, I remember vividly his response to me:

  4. “Well, the only way this war is ever going to end- we’re going to have to cross the Channel and we’re going to have to end it. It’s obvious this is the only route, and the quicker we get at it, I suppose the better everyone will be off……” (Sgt. Alan Anderson in Bastable, 61)


Joe writes:

  1. On June 3rd we had our final briefing for the invasion. On June 4th, we set sail for the Normandie Coast …. and at 0800 hours were turned back to port due to a delay in the invasion ordered by General Eisenhower. Spent the night in Portland Harbor again and next morning (June 5th) we set sail for the French Coast again.  (Graham, 22)



The armada that rendezvoused at “Piccadilly Circus” off the Isle of Wight. It  was 6,939 ship strong – 1,213 warships, 4,126 landing barges, 736 supply ships and 864 merchant ships. Above their heads, the sky was criss-crossed with the vapor trails of 11,590 aircraft: 5,050 fighters, 5,110 bombers, 2,310 transport aircraft, 2,600 gliders and 700 reconnaissance craft. In terms of manpower, 132,715 men went ashore on D-Day, to join the 15,000 American and 7,000 British paratroopers dropped behind enemy lines the night before by 2,395 aircraft. (Internationalism)


They headed south along ten four-hundred yard wide mine-swept lanes. Dad and everyone of the men aboard those ships knew they were sailing into history. And not a one, knew whether he would live to see tomorrow.


Ensign Lily, Officer-In-Charge of LCT 637 writes:


  1. …We were to sail again at 0200 on June 5. Some of the vessels had to refuel, etc., so there was frantic activity on their part. We did not, however. Even though we did not have a great amount of things to do, there was no time for rest or sleep before we had to leave.


  2. Again, we sailed at 0200 and again we battled heavy seas up to the area of the Isle of Wight. There we met other convoys coming from different ports and after forming up in the proper order in the area they called Picadilly Circus we set our course across the channel toward the French coast of Normandy. All of this was timed so we would arrive off the invasion beaches before "H" hour. The trip went fairly smoothly as the weather had calmed, as predicted. The sea was still choppy and in the sky were scattered clouds with the moon showing from time to time. Our own situation was complicated by the fact that one of the deck hatches had been sprung during loading, unbeknownst to us and we were taking on water since the decks were awash from our overload. As the water entered the hull we sank even lower in the water. Because of our cargo and crowded conditions we couldn't reach the hatch to repair it and there was genuine concern that we might sink ingloriously before reaching France.


  3. This didn't happen, however, and as dawn came we arrived off our invasion area known as the "Easy Red" sector of "Omaha" beach. As it grew light, the most astounding sight greeted us all. As far as one could see there were ships and craft of every description. The shore bombardment had commenced from the big ships and the first waves of small landing craft carrying demolition people to destroy the obstacles were already on their way. The idea was to destroy the obstacles, beginning at low tide when they were exposed. As the tide came in other, larger landing craft, including ours, were to beach on the incoming tide, unload our troops, tanks, other vehicles, etc., then retract as soon as possible. (Lily)


Dad was the Executive Officer on LCT 5412 part of Flotilla 19 under Command of Lt. Cmdr. L. B. Pruitt, as it set off for Omaha Beach. In 1964, when I asked if he was in the first wave, Dad responded:


  1. The first wave? It seemed like we were the first ship to reach Omaha Beach! It was still pitch dark when we reached our coordinates off of Easy Red. The rest of the armada was no where in sight. We had somehow become separated from our flotilla and in trying to catch up, got out ahead of our group.  We tried to stay close to shore, but not too close, and hoped and prayed we weren’t spotted while waiting for our air cover and the rest of the fleet.


According to D-Day historian, Mssr. Laurent LeFebvre, "The LCT of your father was attached with the 16th RCT (Big Red One), was scheduled to land H+60 on Easy Red. The landing table of the 16th RCT show that LCT was loaded with: 16th Inf., Cannon Co.: 8 personnel and 4 vehicles.”  Further research confirmed Dad’s LCT for the 16th Infantry Cannon Co. attached to the First Division was transporting 4 x Half-track M2 (I had remembered it as “half-trucks”). H+60 was Wave 8.


  1. Simply put, the Half-track M2 was a hybrid between a jeep and a tractor with wheels in front and tracks in the rear. The half-track car M2 was based on the M2A1/M3 scout car, and was intended to be used as a reconnaissance vehicle and artillery prime mover. The front wheels could be engaged for cross-country travel. On either side of the car, just behind the driving compartment, was an ammunition stowage compartment. The top shelf of these compartments could be accessed from inside the vehicle, and the lower shelves were accessible through bottom-hinged doors in the side armor. The fenders were one of the ways to differentiate between the various types of half-track, and on the M2 they were thick in cross-section.
    (Half Track Website)


The Allies had expected the 4 mile long Omaha Beach to be thinly defended and easily taken. The assault was timed to take place at low tide (on one the world’s widest tidal plains), so that the mines and obstacles would be visible. The air cover and first wave at H-Hour, 0630, was to clear the beach and secure the four “draws” (ravines) carved in the 100 foot high bluffs that were at the head of the beach. These were the only exits from the beach. Once the route was secured, the Half-tracks with their troops, artillery and munitions were to travel the several hundred yards of beach up the draws to the top of the bluffs at H+60. Unfortunately, the Allied intelligence was out of date.


The Germans had significantly increase the number of beach obstacles and heavily fortified the draws. The first men and vehicles to land that morning were either blown up or pinned down. Most of the DUKWs didn’t even make it to shore. They were swamped in the choppy seas. And those vehicles that did make it to shore in the early hours were blasted by the Germans. None of the plans were proceeding as planned. At 0830 the Naval officers on the beach, seeing the congestion and destruction at the waters edge, put a hold on further landings. The St. Laurent Draw off Easy Red was not secured until 1300, high tide. (Time, 50-57)


The 16th Infantry Cannon Half-tracks on LCT 541 were scheduled to land in tandem with other ships transporting the First Division Regimental Combat Teams (RCT)3. I remember Dad saying that the timing was crucial. He explained that his cargo, the half-tracks were supposed to be there simultaneously with other personnel and cargo from other ships so they could traverse the beach and up the bluffs together– but those other ships were not succeeding in landing. I believe it was the ill-fated DUKWs with their howitzers and personnel that were specifically supposed to hook up with the half-tracks on the beach for transport up the draws.


The Cannon Company of the 16th RCT [Regimental Combat Team] got its half-tracks ashore at 0830 after two attempts, but they could not move more than 50 yards through the litter of disabled vehicles. Its 6 howitzers were loaded on DUKWs, which were swamped one by one in the heavy seas with a loss of 20 personnel. (Omaha Beachhead)


My father’s sister Mary remembers Dad telling her that the Officer In Charge of LCT 541 was either injured or killed early in the day. Dad had to take charge that morning. He told her that he would tell the men to move the boat, and immediately after they moved, a bomb would drop on where they had been. He told Mary that someone in heaven was looking out for him that day.


According to Signalman 3rd Class, Albert J. Berard of the LCT 538, Flotilla 19, Dad, in LCT 541, was part of this group and landing experience:


  1. …Five LCTs from 538 to the 542 were to land at Easy Red Sector and the other 3 LCTs in the group were to land at the same time, but at Fox Green Sector. That was the last of our being together.


  2. As we were approaching Easy Red Beach, there were already hundreds of bodies floating by the ships. As the ships’ ramps were being lowered, the troops leaving the ships were getting machine gunned right there and falling into the water. Many of the ones that made it drowned because their upper torsos were heavily weighted with their rifles, hand grenades and all the ammunition they were holding overhead to keep from getting wet. In addition, any soldier who went off a ramp and whose feet didn’t hit bottom was immediately turned head-down and drowned. All these poor soldiers had a “life belt” about six inched wide hung low around their bodies, which caused them to flip over. You could see them floating by with their legs up out of the water. As other soldiers noticed what was happening, they would remove the life belt and go in without the life preserver.


  3. One thing that I’ll never forget is the sound of the shells going by overhead, as well as the sound of those hitting the ship. Those German 88 Projectiles would make an awful, whining noise as they went by. They were being fired at us from very close range. One of the projectiles hit us at the starboard side of the gun tub, and it must have hit at such an angle that it didn’t detonate, but went round and around in the guntub, until it just lost all of its energy and came to a stop without exploding. That saved the gunners that were at that station.


  4. We had hit the beach at around 7:30 a.m. and because of shelling from shore had had to back off almost immediately, already with severe damage and casualties. As we were backing off, the current caused us to drift to the starboard and into an obstacle with a mine attached to it. We ended up getting off the beach with damage to two waterproof compartments; because of being flooded, we began to list. Later on when we tried to beach again to unload troops and vehicles, we couldn’t get close enough to solid ground….. When we landed the first time, it was total chaos, with bodies floating all around plus body parts flying through the air.


  5. The LCT 540, skippered by Lieutenant (Jg) Fredrich Nye Moses, suffered many direct hits and the skipper was killed in action. The LCT 539, skippered by Ensign Linwood Ridewout, hit the beach at our left and went through the same conditions, having to back off and look for another spot to beach and unload. My craft, LCT 538, was out of service until the engineers were able to weld and repair the holes and had pumped out the compartments. After that, we were able to go out to the Liberty Ships and shuttle in more troops and supplies. (Berard in LeFebvre, 198-199)


Also in that same group as Dad and LCT 541, was LCT 539 Gunners Mate 3c, John H. Kellers who writes:


  1. We beached at the 0730 in the 8th wave at Easy Red Omaha….We were under intense fire from the beach and suffered numerous hits…..after we landed and disembarked the troops, time was spent hosing down the deck of all the blood of those killed. It was a terrible experience. We then carried wounded from the beach, took on a couple of wounded German prisoners, and then proceeded to an LST to deposit both wounded and dead. We had casualties of two killed and two wounded soldiers (after all these years, I can still hear the sounds of the shells hitting, the near misses, and the sounds made by the men who were hit). For terrible details, one of the soldiers who was killed was hit in the head with what must have been a very large shell as his head virtually exploded. Parts of his brain and skull made a pink shower in the air and covered us with this material. It was a horrible experience. (Kellers in LeFebvre, 199)


I remember Dad saying that in addition to the struggles of getting their cargo and troops to the right piece of beach at the right time in concert with the other ships through the German obstacles while under fire, the Navy had to contend with the maritime terrain.


  1. One of the problems at Omaha Beach was the sandbar. When the tide was about half way out or in - all the landing craft (LCTs, LSTs, LCVPs and LCMs) had trouble getting their loads ashore. If you got stuck on the sandbar and you had vehicles of almost any kind they could get swamped trying to get ashore on the other side of the sandbar where the water might be 10 feet deep or more… At high tide you could put a vehicle or a soldier ashore without getting the tires or feet wet and the same thing at low tide when there was no water beyond the sandbar…..a half track M-2 or any vehicle (tanks, trucks, etc) could and many did get ashore that day under their own power if the vessel did not get stuck on the sandbar. I believe that low tide was around 0530 so that vehicles could be unloaded as far away from the beach obstacles as possible … later ….the sandbar would have come into play….


  2. In the early hours assault personnel were trying to get in and blow up the beach obstacles so that the landing fleet could get in. The Germans had the beach completely blocked with these obstacles and mines everywhere and they were not at all completely gone at the time Sam was supposed to go in.… there were a great many craft milling around looking for a place to get into the beach - just any place, so many loads went to beaches that they were not supposed to and there was great confusion. So the hold-up as I saw it was mass confusion due to the extreme resistance by the Germans that had not been anticipated. (Graham)


I believe Dad was grounded on a sandbar for part of that longest day and lost its navigational controls. Commander Byron S. Huie, Jr., USNR in charge of Salvage Operations5 wrote in his memoirs that on D-Day,


  1. At 1745, (Arikara) repaired the main control lines of LCT 541 and dispatched her and her cargo to the beach.  (Huie)


Donald Erwin, another LCT skipper, remembers:


  1. As I tried to get in close, I remember seeing the water starting to splash ahead, and I thought the battleship firing behind us was firing short. But no such thing. The Germans had started to open up with 88mm guns and mortars.


  2. We dropped our ramp to get our troops and equipment off, and then all hell did tear loose. We came under intense fire, as did the LCTs to the right and left of us. Most of the fire seemed to be rifle, machine gun, and mortar fire. But I found I still couldn’t get the soldiers and equipment off because the water was too deep. We spent about an hour trying to get our landing craft closer to the beach, and then as I recall, a couple of bullldozers were driven off our ramp in pretty deep water. They did reach the shore, only to be blasted by German gunners with phosphorus shells which started them burning. …..


  3. The shell fire had become more intense, and the sea continued to get rougher. The pandemonium seemed to be everywhere with lots of smoke and explosions. There were bodies floating in the water…..


  4. Orders came over the radio from our command ship to retract from the beach…..at about this time, we rescued four or five sailors from drowning near our landing craft by pulling them out of the sea. They were completely fatigued, and as I remember, as blue from the cold water as any living human being I’ve seen….. They had had their LCVP blown out from under them while they were trying to get ashore.


  5. Finally, around 2 o’clock that afternoon, we got the orders that we should proceed to the beach and attempt once more to get our troops and vehicles off.  This time around, the German shelling and gunfire had been much reduced.


  6. We still had trouble getting in close enough. We never did get all of our troops and vehicles ashore. (Bastable, 121-123)



Ensign Lily, Officer in Charge of LCT 637 on D-Day writes:


  1. During the day, as we waited our turn to beach, we were orbiting offshore fairly close in and under sporadic fire from shore. From where we were there was none of the sound and fury that characterize the Hollywood war movie. Everything outside the arena of battle was curiously peaceful. The sky was blue with scattered clouds, just like any normal day. Gulls circled around seemingly undisturbed. Ashore we could see farmhouses and cattle grazing. Everything seemed to be in order. Yet in front of us, on the beach were explosions, fires and the crackle of guns. Close inspection with field glasses turned up bodies of dead and wounded. Suddenly to emphasize that this was not a normal day, an American Destroyer moved in near us in the water so shallow that she scraped her keel, and she opened fire at point blank range at a spot above the cliffs above the beach. In a neat bit of surgery, she chopped out a block of cliff, 88mm cannon, machine guns and other debris. We all cheered as though our side had scored a touchdown in a football game.  (Lily)



Joe was the Officer in Charge of LCT 638, which was one of the ammunition ships. Although it seems strange the Navy would put a country boy ensign in charge of a ship, Joe was actually a few years older than most of the ensigns. He had been out of college for 3 years, had a degree in chemistry and had been working in munitions. Joe writes in his memoirs,


  1. Our entire Flotilla of LCTs were in a convey together. On June 6th 1944, we (LCT 638) were eight miles off the French coast at 0600 hours near Vierville Sur Mer. We are too far out to see what see what is going on but the invasion of Europe begins. We can hear the guns of the big battleships and Cruiser and see the flashes as they pound the beach with heavy fire. We note the LCT 637 has a very bad list and wonder what is wrong. We circle the rendezvous area until; 0900 and then leave the line of departure for the beach as planned through supposedly mine swept waters. About 3000 yards off the beach, we are stopped and ordered to lie to by the beachmaster patrol craft. From here we can see everything that is on the beach….the Navy had put large lettered signs on both sides of our ship with the word “Ammunition” so that there was no mistaking what we were carrying. Quartermaster Bean and the Army Lieutenant in charge of getting the truck off as soon as we reach shore both advise laying to farther out from shore, but finally Ensign Schwartz agrees with me that we should stay where we are. My feeling being that we should be available if needed. We have the first load of small arms ammunition to be unladed on Omaha Beach and without it they may lose the beach so we are going to stay put. Every craft on the beach looks as though it has been hit and we are all speculating about whether the beach will hold at all.


  2. The Jerrys have the beach in crossfire with their 88mm guns which are in concrete pillboxes overlooking the beach. They do not so far seem to be trying to hit anything in the water, but are concentrating on knocking everything off the beach and doing a pretty successful job of it. The right flank of the beach looks the hottest. Through field glasses, we can see LCTs, LCMs, LCIs and LCVPs afire and abandoned on the beach. All of a sudden a couple of 88mm shells land about 200 yards off our port side and I finally agree to lay to a little farther out. One of the control boats stays in pretty close to the beach to be the eyes for the big wheels stationed out on the battle wagons. A tin can (destroyer) is really giving the Jerrys hell in their bunkers. Every time an 88 lets go at something on the beach, that tin can lets go with a salvo from its guns at the bunker. Then the 88s are quiet for awhile. This destroyer go so close to the beach that she was a grounded for about an hour of hour and a half and she blazed away all that time at those 88mm gun emplacements. The tin can deserves a lot of the credit for holding the beach today.


  3. Towards evening, we got orders to anchor out for the night as the beach is not secure enough for us to try to get in. The control ship tells us that if (LCT 638) got hit we’d blow up half the beach and all the people on it….. About 2300 hours that night, the Jerrys came over and were met with the most terrific anti-aircraft barrage you can imagine and probably the biggest there had ever been up to that time…..Everyone was just throwing ammunition into the air hoping it might hit something. Quite a few of our own barrage balloons were shot down. They were balloons tethered with steel cables to larger ships to try to trip enemy aircraft sneaking in at low altitude over the hills.


  4. After the air raid was over, no one could go to sleep right away…..


  5. On June 7th we beached at our designated landing area at 1000 hours, but the shelling is still very heavy. We were getting a lot of sniper fire and kept our heads below deck all the time we were beached. AT 1300 we beached again and started unloading our cargo onto the beach ourselves since the beachmaster had no Army personnel to unload it as per the invasion plans. We got about half of it unloaded by midnight when the tide came in and allowed us to refloat and retract from the beach for the night… at the next high tide around noon (June 8th ), we beached again and unladed the rest of our cargo of ammunition. From the 8th until the 19th, we unladed vehicles, personnel, and ammunition from transport ships standing offshore. I estimated that we put 1,200 tons of ammunition on the beach with our ship alone. (Graham. 23–25)



After the battle, Dad remained stationed on Omaha Beach through November 30, 1944.
He would have participated in the building of the Mulberry/Gooseberry Harbors, and the constant transfer of men and equipment from ships to shore. Men were going in both directions, the wounded back to England, the whole to battle across Europe. By June 18th, 14,500 tons of cargo per day was being processed through Mulberry A at Omaha Beach (Giangreco & Moore, 199).


Dad was at sea during the infamous Storm of the Century in late June that wrecked so much of the Normandy operations. Joe writes:


  1. On June 19th, the weather really got bad. In fact, it became a full blown storm of major proportions. Part of the invasion plans was to bring a lot of old ships from the British coast and scuttle them along with some concrete caissons which were also scuttled to make a breakwater or harbor for the small craft like ours to hide behind during a storm. They created an artificial harbor in this manner. The French coast is very shallow for many hundred of yards from the shore at Omaha Beach and they sunk the ships at a depth that allowed their decks to still be above the water but far enough from shore to allow small craft to be between them and the shore. We were anchored behind this a artificial breakwater, but just barely. There was insufficient room for all the craft working the beach and we were getting more of the force of the storm than most of the other craft.


  2. At 0800 hours on June 20th, with the storm at its peak, a British LCT cut across our cable and chewed it up pretty good with its screw. I radioed my Commanding Officer for advice as to what to do if the anchor cable parted completely. They told e to beach my ship if that happened. The cable did sever completely shortly thereafter. I maneuvered the ship in close to shore but the surf is so high, I am afraid it will bash us to pieces so we stayed underway just off the shore waiting for the high tide to start receding so that we will be left high and dry ashore as quickly as possible. We were fortunate enough to find a piece of the beach all to ourselves where we did not hit any other ship that were already on the beach.


  3. ….For 2 solid days while the storm raged, we sat in the melee of ships just grinding each other and being pushed farther onto the shore. The jolting and the jarring had most of us seasick and most had never been seasick before. We were out of food and living on C rations saving what little fresh water we had for drinking so there was no such thing as a bath.


  4. On June 23rd, the storm subsided and we inspected the ship for damage. There are great holes I the sides (both port and starboard) which allowed water to leak into watertight compartments. Both sides of the bow are caved in and the starboard corner of the stern is torn and mangled badly. Every watertight compartment on the starboard side has a hole in it. The bulkhead in the head, galley and crews quarters was stoved in and two of our three engines have sand in their cooling systems. In order to cook I the galley we need to run one of the generators to supply electricity to the electric stove…….. electricians got the stove repaired and we got enough bilge water to run off the generators.


  5. On July 1st, a Lt.(jg) form NOIC (Naval Beach Headquarters) came aboard with orders to bivouac the crew at the CB camp on the beach by noon and that failure to do so would result in arrest…. I later heard that General Patton had inspected the beach that day and told the Navy to get these wrecks off the beach or he would blow them off….We were told that the reason for being billeted at the CB camp was unsanitary conditions on the ship, but we were a hell of a lot cleaner than the CB camp. The CB camp was located at the far northeast end of Omaha Beach near Coleville Sur Mer. Men lived in pup tents, two to a tent and ate in the CB mess, but the food is not as good as we could get for ourselves drawing rations from landing LSTs. Living in pup tents is not as comfortable as sleeping aboard ship in good bunks. However, the crew are all excited about it and enjoying the change.


  6. From July 2 to the 5th, we lived like this, standing watch aboard the ship and cooking whatever we liked aboard the ship, but sleeping at the CB camp. (Graham, 25-29)


According to official records, the LCT 541 received a battle star for its service at Omaha Beach, but there is no further record of its history or final disposition after June 25, 1944 (Naval Archives). It was most likely damaged in the storm to the extent that it was determined the best course was to sink it out of the way of the ship traffic. In any case, Dad was transferred on July 1, 1944 to the LCT 6374 (Lily’s ship, which was back from England after repairs) as Officer-in-Charge. He most likely had an identical experience as Joe for the period between June 19th through the first week of July.






















LCT 541 Omaha Beach, Normandy June 1944

Photo from US National Archives Tape No. 31-4359 (Naval Archives)



From Dad’s naval records:

March 31, 1944

This officer has shown a natural talent for ship handling which is far and above what is to be expected of one so inexperienced. His character is good.

Signed, John E. Reinburg, Jr. Captain, USN.


November 30, 1944

Ensign Favazza was one of the outstanding LCT Officers during the Assault and the build-up phase of the Invasion of Western Europe. He proved himself to be reliable, energetic, and resourceful. This Officer is forceful and personable and qualified for a larger command. He kept his crew and ship clean and well organized under extremely arduous conditions of the Operation Neptune. He has performed his duties well and is recommended for promotion.

Signed, L. B. Pruitt, Lt. Comdr., USNR


Over 1.5 million men came ashore at the Normandy Beaches in June 1944. The next few months, the beaches continued to hum with constant activity as ships and men crossed the English Channel. Dad remained on the beaches as Officer in Charge of LCT 637. Joe took the damaged LCT 638 back in England in July, returning to France in September.


Joe writes:

  1. On October 3rd, we had another huge storm which lasted until the 7th, and we just “laid to” inside the breakwater unable to operate. On the 7th, we were ordered to Isigny and as we were leaving the breakwater we hit a wave that stripped us of our bow ramp swamping us with waves that ran clear from the bow to the stern, so we were forced to return to the breakwater. On the 8th, we were used as a tug to pull off other LCts that had been beached in the storm. We pulled off the 626, 641, 637 (Sam Favazza’s ship) and the 648. We had the LCT 637 alongside all night to give them power since their generators were loaded with sand. …. (Graham, 35)


I remember one story Dad told that occurred in the fall. By then, life on the beaches of Normandy must have become rather tedious. The American Mulberry Harbor had been cannibalized for the English one, and as the French ports were now in Allied hands, the flow of equipment and men through Omaha Beach had slowed. Dad’s story goes something like this:


  1. By fall there wasn’t as much for us to do. We were very excited about the Liberation of Paris, and had heard the stories from the GI’s who’d been there. There were many unofficial trips to Paris from the Normandy beaches, then. We decided that 2 men at a time from our LCT would go into Paris for a couple of days. Since I was the Officer-in-Charge, my buddy and I were the last two to head out for our unofficial holiday. We were in sight of the city when we were stopped by 2 MPs. We did a lot of fast talking, and they gave us a break. We were lucky they remembered and liked the LCT crew that brought them ashore at Omaha Beach. They told us to get back to Normandy and don’t let them see us again, or we’d be in the brig and court-martialed. We got back to our ship as fast as we could and didn’t step foot off that beach again. I never did get to see Paris.


Joe writes:


  1. On November 15th…..we set sail for the English Coast in a convoy of LCTs. En route we had water fuel troubles and just had a hell of a time keeping up with the convoy. Seas were rough and we pulled into the Isle of Wight for overnight. Since Salcome is to be our home port for awhile, we spent some time cleaning out voids and repainting. Sam Favazza and Ensign Shedd and I were given five days leave to go to London on the 23rd and we had a ball! This is where Sam and I met Hetty Witty and Bobby Anderson and three little Welsh girls whose names I do not recall. We returned to the ships on the 28th and had a Captains Inspection of the Flotilla on the 30th. (Sam and) I received orders that  (we) were relieved of command and (were) to report to Vicarage Barracks in Plymouth to return to the United States.  (Graham, 36)


From December 2-15th, all the LCT skippers of Flotilla 19 stayed in Quonset Hut #23 in Plymouth. On December 16, 1944 Dad and Joe found themselves assigned to the same compartment aboard the USS LeJune, which would transport them back to the USA. Joe writes:


  1. We stayed in port until the next evening, leaving after dark on the 17th. We were in a large convoy consisting of 8 or 10 tankers, a couple of cargo ships, another troop ship and a small aircraft carrier. The trip was uneventful but very rough. All officers stood watch in the crews quarters 4 hours on and 24hours off. We slept most of the time we were off duty and played cribbage and hearts. We were given two meals a day and some were so seasick that they couldn’t eat that. Sam made the acquaintance of Chief Radioman Mulholland, a good egg even if a hooligan (slang expression for Chief). We had entertainment on the afterdeck several afternoons with Butch Phillips as Master of Ceremonies. On Christmas Day, one of the Destroyer Escorts came up through the convoy with her loudspeakers really blasting and her crew singing Christmas Carols. The sea was very rough and she was diving into one wave and out another, and I had to marvel that the crew were not too seasick to sing or that they could all get near a microphone while they were being tossed about like that. We docked at Pier 83 in New York about 1700 hours. Sam and I took a room in the Barkley Hotel and Chief Mulholland and another Chief took a room in the same hotel.


  2. On the 28th, we reported to 90 Church Street with our orders and were instructed to call in once each day to see if they had orders ready for us. From the 29th until January 1st, we did the town. Saw “Carmen Jones” and thought it was very good and saw Mae West in “Catherine the Great” and we both thought it stunk. Had dates with a couple of waves and with a couple of Italian girls. Sam and I were in Times Square on New Years Eve and I have never had a desire to do that again, but there was a terrific celebration. On January 1st, we both (Sam and I)  received orders to take a 30 day leave and then report to San Francisco so I said goodbye to Sam and left for home. (Graham, 36-37)


Dad came back to Gloucester, where his mother Antonia greeted him with an enthusiastic, and I’m sure tearful,  “Figghiu miu!” Joe went to
Sisterville, West Virginia to be with his family. After their leave, both headed cross country to report to Commandant, 12th Naval District, San Francisco on Feb 6, 1945. 


  1. In Chicago, I got on the train to San Francisco, and who should be in line ahead of me but (who else) Sam Favazza! Neither of us had been able to get a sleeper so we were just going to have to stay up or sleep in our seats as were a lot of other people. Almost everyone on the train was in uniform. Both of us had offers to share bunks with someone else, but neither of us took the offers…. We both just felt better staying up.


  2. It was a long ride to Frisco, and we spent the time playing cards. There were two female Marines who cleaned the clocks of most of us playing poker. They should have gotten rich on that trip! I don’t remember how much they got from me, but it was more than I could afford to lose….


  3. Sam and I and an Army Lieutenant named Milton Hagmann were some of the big losers and when we got to Frisco, we took two adjoining rooms in the St. Francis Hotel and Sam and I reported in to the Commandant’s Office on February 6th and every day until February 21st when they issued us orders to sail.


  4. In those two weeks, we got to see a lot of San Francisco when we were sober. We sure did tie up with a bunch of heavy drinkers. Sam and I would take tours of the city during the day and at night we visited night spots including the “Top of the Mark” which was the top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel where Freddie Martin’s Orchestra was playing and I don’t think there was a night club or a bar in the city that we missed in those two weeks!


  5. There were plenty of girls in Frisco and we managed to pick up our share….. All three of us got sailing orders on the 21st to report aboard the USS Gosper for transportation to Hawaii. It was a troopship and I sneaked a couple of bottles of booze aboard, which is strictly against Navy regulations and after we got aboard, I didn’t’ know where to hide them. I can’t imagine why I did that. Must have been talked into it by Sam or Milt.  Anyway, I hid them under the covers of the bunk that was assigned to me and we headed out to sea. When we got out far enough for the ship to start rolling, those bottles rolled out of the bunk and onto the steel deck and they broke and the whole cabin smelled of booze. There was a chief petty officer of some sort in charge of our quarters and he was mad as hell. He tried his damnedest to find out whose booze that was and only Sam and I knew and we were innocent as new born babes. He never found out, of course, and I got away with it that time, but I never tried that again! We arrived in Pearl Harbor on February 27 after an uneventful trip during which we played cards and stayed sober – very!


  6. Upon arrival in Hawaii (Honolulu), we (Sam and I) reported to the Commander Amphibious Forces (Hawaii). We were  assigned to a Naval Officers Barracks and we tried to see some of Honolulu in a very short stay. Many things were off limits and we were hampered by having to contact the base every few hours to see if they had new sailing orders for us so that I do not recall seeing very much. The weather was fine, though, and we enjoyed that and got our alcohol level back up to San Francisco standards. (Graham, 38-39)


On March 1st,  Dad and Joe both received their orders to sail for the Philippines. This time they were on different ships, but in the same convoy. The convoy made a couple of stops along the way. One of which was Ulitihi in the Carolines. Just about every ship to transverse the Pacific made a call at Ulithi between October 1944 through April 1945 – which was when Leyte Gulf was finally deemed secure.


For a time, Ulithi was the biggest and most active naval base in the world. It served as a staging area for in the Pacific, much like Dartmouth served as a staging area for the invasion of Europe. The location of this Pacific staging area was supposed to be a secret. The Japanese knew, though. There were daily attacks, but miraculously, no major assault. Ulithi had a lagoon of 186 square miles, but only land of a little less than 2 square miles divided between 4 islets, every inch of which was in use. So, on a rotating basis, the men on the ships were given 3 hour shore leave and 2 bottles of beer. Joe still has his tickets for the Officers’ mess on Ulithi. Dad would have visited Mog-Mog, the islet set aside for recreation, while there.


  1. From an Ulithi  website bulletin board:

  2. Ulithi, the biggest secret in ww2 yeah, tell me about it and all of those
    suicide pilots making daily courtesy calls, and especially Piss Call Charlie
    every 2AM. And those submarines that somehow got in. But most of all the
    green beer and those funnel looking things sticking in the ground, did I say
    ground? For all those who served GOD BLESS. There always will be an ULITHI.

  3. -- Wayne Dalton


  4. I was aboard the Battleship USS Wisconsin when it joined the 3rd. Fleet at Ulithi in Dec. 1944. I too recall the Kamikaze attacks while in the anchorage and liberty on MOG MOG. Palm trees, sand and thousands of drunken and fighting sailors. I also recall the awesome typhoon we encountered when we set sail for the Philippines.

  5. --Charles Wiggins, Seaman 1/c




850 miles east of the Philippines, Ulithi Atoll provided the Navy an idyllic protected
anchorage as the U.S. Fleet fought its way ever closer to Tokyo Bay. This partial view
of the fleet at anchor was taken late in 1944 when Ulithi saw its optimum use. A few
months later the world's largest naval facility became a ghost town.






The Beer Garden. The sailor with the white tee shirt with his back to the camera, looks like Dad – and probably tens of thousands of other soldiers and sailors who enjoyed a warm beer on
Mog-Mog during their brief 3 hour shore leave.







However, as an officer, Dad would more likely have visited the Officer Mess, along with Navy pilots like these relaxing at the officer's bar on Mog-Mog Island in February, 1945


(Spangler)





When they arrived in the Philippines, March 23, 1945, Dad and Joe were assigned to the PhibsPac Replacement Boat Pool in Samar (SLCU #28). Samar Island is part of the Leyte Gulf, the site of the largest naval battle in history in the last days of October 1944.


Samar is just across the narrow San Juanico Strait from Leyte Island. One of the most easterly islands in the Philippines, the southern coast of Samar forms the northeast shore of Leyte Gulf, protecting the Gulf from the Pacific typhoons. Samar is 5,185 square miles large and one of the most rugged of the Philippine Islands. The jungles are home to monkeys and to pythons that grow up to 30 feet in length. The base was at the exposed tip of the peninsula at the mouth to Leyte Gulf, about 10 miles away from the only town in that area, Guiuan.


Five hundred Japanese soldiers were still inhabiting Samar when Dad and Joe arrived. The Japanese were so desperate and brazen as to sneak into the Philippine mess tents for a meal. Joe remembers they slept with a hand on their .45 sidearm under their pillows at night, in case of trouble. (Graham, 39-40)


Just as unsettling as the 500 desperate Japanese on the island, was the “base”. They were quite taken aback when they arrived. Their base was a piece of rat infested jungle. They were given a cloth tent and told to go pitch it. Dad and Joe were roommates once again, with a couple of other ensigns, Lowell Burton of Michigan, and Larry Ascione. Joe at age 87 still remembers using a flame thrower to clear a piece of land for the tent and seeing the large jungle rats scurrying away with their backs aflame. After clearing the growth, the first thing they did was build a small wooden platform to get the tent off the jungle floor.  Joe writes:


  1. Life got a little easier after we were there for a few days. We set up a volleyball court and played it strenuously in the sun and heat of that jungle. We had one telephone line strung through the trees to Guiuan, which was the nearest thing a town on that end of that God forsaken island…..When you were OOD, Officer of the Day, you were supposed to call Guiuan every four hours just to make sure the line was in operation. (Graham, 39-40)


Joe was transferred out to the LC(FF) 786 on May 7th as Communications Officer, on kamikaze duty in the outer ring around Okinawa. Dad and “Burt” stayed in Samar. They built a baseball diamond and eventually replaced the tent with a more comfortable Quonset Hut.


It was during this period of time that the Japanese were immolating their remaining POWs. Dad would have been well aware of all of this. The Japanese were increasingly desperate in those last months and there was fighting going on. Kathleen Burton says they saw a lot of badly wounded soldiers go through that base on Samar. That Dad and Burt transported the wounded from shore to ship for medical attention. They also moved cargo ashore and repaired small craft like PT boats.


Once, when Burt and his wife, Kathleen, visited Dad in Gloucester, they reminisced. There was a lot of laughter during that visit. I remember the “coconut" story:


  1. Burt and I found a hill with a wonderful view. We sat down under a coconut tree and were thinking this wasn't so bad, we could enjoy being stationed here for the rest of the war, when the sirens went off. We hadn’t intended to stray so far and only had our .45s with us. As we jumped up to run back to base, a coconut fell and bonked me on the head. We rolled and tumbled down the hill like a scene from the Keystone Cops! We couldn't get back to base fast enough! The alarm was a false one. We didn’t leave camp without being fully armed again. Nor did I sit under another palm tree without checking for coconuts, first!


Apparently, there were lots of false alarms during this period in that area. Warnings that the Japanese were going to attack a location, a week after they already had. In other words SNAFU, “Situation Normal, All Fouled Up!”


Dad loved the popular 1960 TV comedy series, McHale’s Navy. He told me he was on a PT boat in the Philippines. When I asked where in the Philippines, he answered,  “everywhere, all over”. The PHIBOC was back-up for the battles, and Dad often went out on the PT boats in response to the frequent alarms. Dad never engaged in any fighting while in the Philippines. He said they always arrived a day or two after the fighting had ended. Again, Dad transported the wounded to the hospital ships and would otherwise assist with post-battle duties.


In September of 1945, he was promoted to Lieutenant, Junior Grade. His Naval records show he was Watch Officer at the Samar base from Sept 20 to Nov 24, 1945. November 25 to December 6, 1946, he was assigned as “Hydrographic Officer in charge of Hydrographic office issuing charts, etc.” at US Naval Operating Base, Leyte Gulf, ULOD.


Between December 6, 1945 and February 1946, he hitched a ride to China before heading back to Gloucester. He told Joe, it was a shame to be so close to China and not see it. I don’t believe he actually went ashore. I have a dim memory of him saying he saw China from a ship. I do clearly remember a popular saying of his was “by slow boat to China” which he always accompanied with a wry head shake. He arrived back in Gloucester in mid February 1946.  He received his Honorable Relief from Active Duty on March 9, 1946.


The St. Peter’s Fiesta had been discontinued during the war years. That June 1946 celebration was a special one as Gloucester was filled with returned servicemen. As the highest ranking returned Italian serviceman present, Dad led the Sunday Procession with Richard Cardinal Cushing.


Like most returning servicemen, Dad remained on inactive duty through the early 1950s. Those were busy years for all the servicemen as they made up for lost time starting careers and families. Dad, Joe and Burt remained in touch during these years. There were several visits between Gloucester, Michigan, Atlantic City and Illinois which included their wives.


Dad opened an Insurance Agency on Main Street, “Salvatore J. Favazza, Insurance.” He spied Mary J. Aspesi of Rockport walking her route from the business where she worked in the Fort to the bank. He managed an introduction in August/Sept 1947. He proposed Christmas Eve. They were married May 9, 1948. Mom went to work for Dad in the agency until she became pregnant with me. Dad joined the St. Peter’s Club and was in charge of the St. Peter’s Fiesta Procession for 26 years. In the 1960s, he was a member of ICNAF, the North Atlantic Fisheries Commission. When that fizzled, he campaigned for the 200 mile limit. He was the first Executive Secretary of the Gloucester Fisheries Commission. Mom ultimately became the recording secretary of that organization. Dad and Mom visited Paris  together in 1972, when they traveled there on fisheries business. Dad also saw Germany on that trip. Mom died in 1975, Dad in 1976. They had a happy life together.


Dad didn’t talk about his war experiences like some do,6 although we watched war movies and shows when they were on TV. I only know what I know from the occasional reference. I remember asking him once about Normandy. This was in 1964, during the heavily televised 20th D-Day anniversary. He answered my questions, but, at age 10, I had a difficult time understanding both the degree of detail he offered and the military vocabulary he used. I remember I had a speech impediment and struggled to pronounce Omaha. He became frustrated with me and left the room. I remember Mom calming him, “She’s only 10, Sam.”


Mom would get him to go to the beach maybe once or twice a year. When Dad went to the beach, it was like a scene from a movie set in a Bedouin camp. There was excellent food, wine, music, and Mom waiting on him hand and foot. But invariably, after awhile, Dad would jump up and say, “Time to go. I got to go.” I remember him practically fleeing the beach in a cold sweat and then gripping the wheel tightly on the way home. When I would ask why we had to leave in such a hurry, the answer both Mom and Dad gave was, “Dad doesn’t like getting sand between his toes.” Sand between my toes didn’t bother me, and I wondered what they weren’t telling me. When I was older, Mom explained that when Dad got sand between his toes it triggered memories of the Philippines and Omaha Beach.


  1. Medals, Ribbon and Awards

  2. European African Theater Campaign Medal with One Battle Star

  3. American Theater Ribbon

  4. Asiatic Pacific Theater Campaign Medal

  5. World War II Victory Medal

  6. Philippines Liberation Medal



Acknowledgements

During the writing of this piece, I was in both phone and email communication with Joe Graham. I also was in email communication with D-Day historians Laurent LeFebvre of France who provided the landing table and Jonathan Gawne of Framingham, MA who explained the role of Half-tracks and howitzers at Easy Red. I was also in phone and letter communication with Kathleen Burton. Lowell Burton, at this writing, is in ill health in the final stages of MS. I am grateful to them all for their generous assistance in the piecing together of Dad’s Story.

* Both Joe and Burt died in 2008.



Footnotes:

1: Girls - In 2005 Joe reminisces, “Both of us were brought up in a different era than young men today and picking up girls meant taking them somewhere to dance or to eat and usually a drink and maybe some smooching, but that is as far as it went. We did pick up girls. We were far from home and we needed that….I think I was with Sam every time he had leave of any sort (except I didn’t get to Paris with him) and I can truthfully say there never was anything more than what I described above.”


2: LCT 541Landing Craft Tank (Mark 6) Class:  From the Naval Archives: Laid down, 6 September 1943, at Bison Shipbuilding Corp., Buffalo, N.Y. Launched, 19 September 1943 Delivered, 14 October 1943 During World War II LCT-541 was assigned to the European Theater, LCT Flotilla 19, LCDR Pruitt in command, and participated in the:

  1. Invasion of Normandy, 6 to 25 June 1944

Placed out of service (date unknown) Struck from the Naval Register (date unknown) Final Disposition, fate unknown. LCT-541 earned one battle star for World War II service


Specifications:
Displacement 143 to 160 t.(lt), 309 to 320 t.(fl)
Length 119' 1" (ovl)
Beam 32' 8"
Draft 5'; (max)
Speed 10 kts.
Range 700 nautical miles at 7 kts.
Complement 14
Cargo Capacity 150 short tons
Armament 2 single 20mm AA gun mounts, 4 .50 cal. machine guns
Armor 20lbs wheelhouse, 10lbs gun shield
Propulsion 3 Grey Marine Diesels, 3 propellers, Shaft horsepower 225 per shaft



3: First Division – Included the attached 16th Infantry Cannon Company.
From First Division website:  

“The 1st Infantry Division, in early 1944, was one of the U.S. Army's most experienced and battle-tested infantry divisions. The 1st (or Big Red One from their distinctive insignia) had fought and distinguished itself in North Africa and Sicily during 1942 and 1943, as part of the Allied attack in the Mediterranean Theater. In late October 1943, the division began its redeployment to the United Kingdom to prepare for the Normandy invasion and participated in the extensive rehearsals held in south Devonshire in preparation for its key role in the initial assault on the Calvados coast of Normandy.


The Allied assault plan designated the 16th and 18th Regimental Combat Teams of the 1st Division, together with the 116th and 115th Regimental Combat Teams of the 29th Division plus the 2nd and 5th Ranger Battalions as Force "O" for the initial attacks on Omaha Beach. These units comprised the 1st Division for the assault. On D-Day morning, the 16th and 116th RCT’s made the first landings.

…..

The assault units on Omaha Beach immediately ran into intense and devastating fire from the German forces on the high bluffs which dominated the entire beach. Casualties in the initial assault wave were high, and it appeared the assault might flounder. Many units suffered losses of over 60% and could do nothing but seek cover. Many landing craft did not make it to their assigned beach sectors, unloading wherever they happened to land. Communications equipment had been lost or destroyed, therefore contact outside the beach was not possible. General Omar Bradley, commander of the American assault forces, even thought of diverting follow-up units to Utah Beach. On the beach, men were confused and many of the junior and senior officers had been killed or wounded. Colonel George Taylor, 16th Regimental commander, saw men bunched up taking casualties from artillery and mortar fire. He exhorted his troops: "Two kinds of people are staying on this beach, the dead and those who are going to die. Now, let's get the hell out of here." Slowly, several troops began to move and force their way up the bluff. Company G, 2d Battalion, 16th Infantry, led the way off beach sector Easy Red, up a draw through a mine field to the bluffs beyond.


At about 1130, General Bradley received a report that the deadlock had been broken and the troops were moving inland. The 18th Regiment landed during mid-morning and by late afternoon, most of the 1st Division had made it ashore. The "Big Red One" still had plenty of resistance to deal with, but by the end of the day, it had helped secure a hold on "Hitler's Fortress Europe." The devastation on "Bloody Omaha" was appalling, but the 1st Infantry Division, together with the other units on Omaha Beach, had done their job. The success of Operation Overlord had been assured.”


  1. Dad watched movies and documentaries about D-Day, the Philippines and the invasion of Sicily very closely. We had to be very quiet when those shows were on. The rest of the war genre, not so much. I knew he had been in D-Day at Normandy and later all over the Philippines, but I didn't understand why he was just as intent, maybe even more so, when watching shows on the Sicily invasion. I assumed it was because our heritage was Sicilian. 


  2. When I discovered that Dad had transported 8 personnel from RCT 116th, the Big Red One, and four half-tracks, I realized it was something more. Those soldiers were the most seasoned at D-Day, having taken Sicily and fought through Italy. Dad would have gotten to know those soldiers pretty well. He would have heard their stories. He would have respected them a great deal. I think my Dad's interest in the history of the Big Red One in Sicily and Italy was out of respect for those brave men who he last saw on Omaha Beach. 


4: LCT 637 - Fate of the LCT 637:

The LCT 637 was known to have been in damaged in 1967 during the Vietnam War as YFU 55 and as late as March 2000 she was said to be in use as a cargo boat in the Caribbean.


5: Salvage - Narrative by: Commander Byron S. Huie, Jr., USNR.

Salvage ships Operations in Normandy Invasion. Commander Huie was in charge of salvage operations off the Normandy beaches in June and July 1944.

  1. ".... Priority "A" provided that we should undertake all salvage work
    necessary to permit operations on the beaches and later in captured ports.
    We were to remove at once any vessel in danger of sinking or forming an
    obstruction.... Accordingly, our first priority was not to save ships, but to
    keep them from sinking in a position where they would obstruct traffic. It
    was made quite clear that, if necessary, we were to take sinking ships and
    tow them out to deep water and sink them there ourselves before they could
    drift in and form an obstruction. ...Our second priority was to attempt
    to save every ship damaged by enemy action or marine casualty, but not to
    interfere with the first priority. …

  2. (June 6, 1944) ...At 1745, (Arikara) repaired the main control lines of LCT 541 and dispatched her and her cargo to the beach. " (Huie)

6: First Hand Accounts – Dad had been a faithful correspondent during his time overseas. He wrote weekly or bi-weekly letters to several family members and included photos of Omaha Beach and the Philippines. Unfortunately, to the best of my knowledge, none of those letters or photos survived. I am sure if he had lived, he would have put pen to paper again to record his experiences (or more likely used a computer. He would have loved the technology!). Consequently, I used other first hand accounts, mostly of his fellow ensigns and other sailors in Flotilla 19, to fill in the details of what Dad experienced in Europe. He was only 53 when he died in 1976.


Terminology:

Battle Concepts -

Atlantic Wall – Hitler constructed over 2,400 miles of fortifications made up of concrete bunkers, barbed wire, tank ditches, landmines, fixed gun emplacements, and beach and underwater obstacles from Norway  through Belgium, Holland, Denmark and France. These obstacles were designed to
rip out the bottoms of landing craft or blow them up before they reached the
shore. The strongest section of these defenses was on the French Coast, bordering the English Channel. (D-Day Museum) 


Operation Overlord – Code Name for the invasion of western Europe, which began at Normandy on June 6, 1944. This 50 mile wide invasion site was divided up into Sword Beach (British), Gold Beach (British) , Juno Beach (Canadians), Omaha Beach (American), Utah Beach (American). The bloodiest Beach was Omaha Beach, and perhaps the bloodiest section of Omaha Beach, was Easy Red.


Project Neptune – The Naval Component of Operation Overlord. The American 4th Division landed at Utah Beach and the 1st and 29th Divisions landed at Omaha Beach. The 2nd and 5th US Rangers assaulted the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc between the two American sectors. 


Boats – Allied

Flotilla 19 – LCTs under command of L.B. Pruit. They landed on Omaha Beach, Easy Red & Fox Green. LCT: 206, 538, 539, 540, 541, 542, 543, 544, 545 546, 547, 548, 550, 623, 624, 625, 637, 638.


DUKW – “Duck” 30 foot long six wheeled amphibious truck for troop transport. Could carry 25 fully equipped soldiers and make 50 mph on the roads. Now used as tourist rides in Boston and Gloucester. Most of them were swamped at Omaha Beach, but had better success at other Normandy beaches on D-Day.


LCI – Landing Craft Infantry. Large troop transport carrying 188 men and had long bow ramps that could be lowered.


LCTLanding Craft Tank. Flat bottomed motorized barge-type ships with a series of water tight compartments. Difficult to control, but able to get into very shallow water to unload troops and cargo. At 119 ft. they could carry three 50-ton tanks, side by side, to fire over the side of the ship prior to disembarking.


LCVPLanding Craft, Vehicle, Personnel. Designed by Andrew Higgins and first used in the amphibious assault on Tarawa in November 1943. General Eisenhower said they won the war for us. They were able carry 8000 pounds or 36 men and land right up on the beach to unload troops and cargo.


LSTLanding Ship Tank. At 328 feet long, they could carry the smaller LCTs and LCVPs when necessary, as well as men and cargo. After bringing in troops, they were converted to hospital ships for transporting the wounded back to England.


Rhino Ferry – Low wide, slow moving, 176 foot long pontoon barge that transported cargo and men from the LST to the shore.


Boats - Axis

E-Boat – “Enemy” ship; mid-size cruiser.


U-Boat – “Underwater” ship; submarine.



Harbors -

Gooseberry Harbor – Shallow water shelter made with unused Mulberry Harbor materials.


Mulberry Harbor – An artificial harbor specifically conceived and created for the Allied Forces on the coast of Normandy. Constructed with a complex series of sunken ships with their decks above the waves, caissons, and floating piers (Whales). Much of it is still in place off the coast of Normandy.


Miscellaneous -

Quonset Hut – Half-drum shaped metal structures used by the military for barracks, offices and other purposes.



Bibliography:

Bastable, Jonathan; Voices from D-Day; David & Charles; UK; 2004.


D-Day Museum Website

http://www.ddaymuseum.org/education/factsheets_history.html


First Division Website

http://www.normandyallies.org/1hist.htm


Giangreco, D.M, Moore, Kathryn; Eyewitness D-Day, Firsthand Accounts from the Landing at Normandy to the Liberation of Paris; Union Square Press; New York; 2005.


Graham, Joseph; Unpublished Memoir.


Graham, Joseph; Saga of LCT 638.

http://ww2lct.org/history/stories/saga_of_lct638.htm


Half Track M2 website

http://afvdb.50megs.com/usa/halftrackm2.html


Howitzer Website

http://www.shsu.edu/~his_ncp/Omaha.html


Huie, Byron S.; Salvage at Normandy.

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USN/rep/Normandy/Salvage-Huie.html


Internationalism website

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/118_june1944.html


LeFebvre, Laurent; They Were on Omaha Beach; France; 2004. 

Books are only sold through his website: www.AmericanDDay.org

laurentlefebvre@Americandday.org

Laurentlefebvre@libertysurf.fr


Lily, Charles; Unedited narration.

http://ww2lct.org/history/stories/lct637_by_Charles_Lilly.htm 


Naval Archives; LCT 541.

http://www.navsource.org/archives/10/180541.htm


Omaha Beachhead (6 June-13 June 1944) American Forces in Action Series. Historical Division. War Department (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, Facsimile Reprint, 1984), excerpts pp. 35-87: http://www.shsu.edu/~his_ncp/Omaha.html 


Spangler, George; Ulithi website

http://www.laffey.org/Ulithi/Page%201/Ulithi.htm


Time Editors; D-Day: 24 Hours That Saved the World – 60th Anniversary Tribute; Time Inc. New York; 2004.



Addendum:

Berard, Albert J. Paris Memories: http://www.6juin1944.com/veterans/berard.php


Chapman, Robert. DUWK Experience: http://www.6juin1944.com/veterans/chapman.php


Mahlman, Lou. LCT 540 Heroism: http://lct540.blogspot.com


Slapton Sands Footage: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1152964/Secret-footage-unearthed-American-troops-practising-Normandy-invasion.html


YouTube. “Into the Breach: Saving Private Ryan.” Part 1 includes D-Day film and interviews with

D-Day veterans.


Cover Photo: Gloucester June 1946 - Sam Favazza, Lt. JG,  as the highest ranking Italian service man present, leads the first St. Peter's Procession after WWII with Richard Cardinal Cushing. The old woman is Arita Zangara Frontiera, a cousin. The police officer is Roland Chaisson. The young lady in front of the officer is Irene Marques Barratt.


  1. Author’s Note: Since publishing this webpage, I have been contacted by essentially all

  2. the men referenced and/or their families. The reach of Dad’s WWII Story stretch from naval

  3. headquarters on the island of O’ahu to Staten Island, and from farm land in the Midwest to

  4. the desert of the Southwest. I like to think it reaches all the way to heaven where Dad and many

  5. other veterans rest content with what was and what is.  

 

Sam with Richard Cardinal Cushing

St. Peter’s Fiesta Procession

June 1946