Our Visit with Arthur Brooks, and His D+6 Landing on Omaha Beach

Posted: January 23, 2014 in 1944, Men of the 111th Ordnance Company
Tags: , , ,

Ed and I had the pleasure of spending several fascinating hours this past weekend in Florida with Arthur T. Brooks, one of the five surviving members of the 111th Ordnance Company. He joined the unit as a lieutenant in late 1942 and was promoted to captain and commanding officer in late January 1945. He is a vibrant man of 96 years old, and he regaled us with many stories of his time in WWII. We also enjoyed talking with his lovely wife of 67 years, Judy, and their daughter Louise. It was a wonderful weekend.

Art Brooks and Andrea, Judy Brooks, seated

Art Brooks and Andrea,
Judy Brooks, seated

Ed video-recorded nearly three hours of interviews with Art, which we will edit and send to the Library of Congress for its Veterans History Project. We learned so many new things about the 111th that it will take days to absorb it all, so in this posting I will share one of the stories, relating to their time in Normandy, France, shortly after D-Day. (In the next posting, I will describe how the 111th played a role in helping the U.S. defeat the German troops during the Battle of Normandy.)

This story is about the near-disastrous landing on Omaha Beach of the serial led by Lt. Brooks. His was the slower convey leaving Wales because he was leading the unit’s larger vehicles. Their LCT crossed the English Channel a day later than the rest of the unit.

The 111th unloading on Omaha Beach

The 111th unloading on Omaha Beach

The 111th officers: Goessel, Kent, Witt, Brooks, Goode, Lewenthal, Errington, in Normandy summer 1944

The 111th officers: left to right, Goessel, Kent, Witt, Brooks (center), Goode, Lewenthal, Errington, in Normandy, June 1944

On D+6 (June 12, 1944), as Brooks’ LCT approached Omaha Beach, the Navy man in charge of their LCT stopped it and told them to unload. Brooks was in the lead jeep, and he and his driver were sure they still were too far from shore. They found a pole to check the depth. Sure enough, they were in 10 feet of water. Had they followed instructions, the first vehicles off their LCT would have sunk and men may have drowned. Brooks recalls that he and his driver yelled “No way!” to the sailor and told him they needed to move to a better spot. The spot was found and all went ashore safely.

The best part of this story is that two days before Art Brooks told it to us, I had talked by phone with another 111th veteran, Roger Rickon, from his home near Cleveland. He had told me the very same story, except that he couldn’t recall the name of the officer he was with. And Art couldn’t recall the name of his driver. So we were able to match up the two men! They talked by phone after our visit and relived that memory of nearly 70 years ago. How we would have loved to listen in!

Update, Jan.25: We received a note from John Raisler, a 111th surviving member, saying that he recalled the same landing experience:

“The account of Capt. Brooks’ landing in France sounds very familiar. You see, I was supposed to be the first to load [the LCT], which would have me last one off. No way, there was room for my small truck to fit, so my assistant and I would be first off [presumably after Brooks’ jeep]. The deep water bit, then moving over…well, needless to say we made it, got a little wet but up and away on the beach.”

At first we thought all three men might have been on the same LCT, but after Brooks and Raisler talked by phone a few days later, they sorted it out and determined they were on different LCTs.

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Comments
  1. StephieD says:

    How wonderful to have met them and brought the two together. I hope they enjoy reliving their stories together. Great job!!

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