LSTs: Evacuating the Wounded at Normandy
It’s hard to believe we just witnessed the 75th anniversary of that fateful day on the beaches of Normandy. And with so few WWII veterans still alive, we can only imagine what that day was like. Fortunately, many stories have been captured in writing, which will forever place us on those beaches at least one day a year as we remember and honor those who served.
Landing Ship Tanks, or LSTs, played an important role at Normandy, on D-day and beyond. With their decks full of troops and equipment, they made their way across the Channel, and once within sight of the beach, awaited their turn to land and unload on the sand. Their role wasn’t over yet though. Many LSTs, including the LST-388, were designated as casualty ships long before the day on the beach arrived. This meant they were designated to carry the wounded back to England. For this, Army medical personnel, Navy doctors, and pharmacist mates were added to the crew of each LST while preparing for the invasion.
On one trip back to England from Normandy after D-day, my Dad would write this in his journal:
I will never forget our second trip back to England. The USS LST-388 was really a hospital ship. It carried several hundred wounded. They were brought aboard from ducks [amphibious vehicles], LCVPs [landing craft, vehicle and personnel], and LCTs [landing craft, tank]. I helped carry the litters [stretchers] and lay them on the tank deck. Many of the wounded hadn't eaten in days and were hardly given more than first-aid. Many had very serious injuries. It was hard to stay on the tank deck very long and hear the wounded moan and cry in pain.
Our three doctors and twenty corpsmen were very busy all the way back to England. Their operating table was a mess table or a litter stretched across two horses. Many amputations took place while the ship rolled. Most of the wounded tried to help themselves, but others were too bad off to even move a blanket. Many were parachute troops who claimed not to have taken prisoners since the Germans had strung up some of their men.
It’s been reported that the LSTs of Normandy transported over 41,000 casualties over the extent of the Normandy campaign.
A recent article in The Sextant, the official blog of the Naval History and Heritage Command, recognize these LSTs for their medical evacuations, as well as being the workhorses of Normandy. And indeed they were.