By Tom Quiner
Dad died 34 years ago. I just ran across his recollections of participating in the D Day invasion as a 23 year old young man. He wrote it on the 40th anniversary of D Day, June 6th, 1984, a year before he died.
A few excerpts written by John Quiner:
“Several weeks or so prior to the D-Day landing, I was involved in a mock landing at Slapton Sands, Cornwall, England This was an amphibious military operation consisting of, as I recall, three LST’s, several LCI’s, a flotilla of LCT’s (18 of this type of craft and a hundred or so of LCVP’s and LCM’s).
There was an obvious paucity of protective type vessels such as destroyers or cruisers. At dusk several German E-Boats came across the Channel, one going past the bow of my ship firing torpedoes as they came and sinking 2 LST’S. The ships literally exploded as the torpedoes went into the fuel tanks, setting off ammunition and many large explosives.
I could see the GI’s jumping and falling overboard in mass hysteria. As the E-Boats made their quick turn, returning back to the other side of the channel, we commenced picking up as man dead American soldiers as we could and we had 50 to 60 dead bodies in grotesque positions which we dragged aboard our ship.
At that time we anchored along side the shore for the night and the next morning took the bodies into one of the ports in Cornwall.
I sensed from the expression on the faces of the military personnel under his command, that this might have been their first experience with this type of death as it was with me.”
Bombed a few weeks before D-Day
“One to three weeks prior to the D-Day landing, we were anchored in a port called Portland-Weymouth in Cornwall England, and during the night the German Airfare sent over a group of bomber planes dropping bombs and delayed mines in the harbor.
Again for a young officer of 23 years, I was amazed at the fact that I had again survived after being in the center of a lethal target area. After the confusion of the bombing subsided, we attempted to sleep for a few hours.
Early the next morning we were awakened again by a huge series of explosions and I was thrown from my bunk clear across my cabin, striking my head on the steel bulkhead. My ship which was at anchor, was apparently anchored over a delayed mine which exploded, blowing out all three of the engines of my ship and splitting open the entire hull of the rear section of the craft.
Inasmuch as we were taking on water very quickly, I had my signalman signal ashore and ordered two tugs to come out. They responded immediately and straddled each side of my ship with steel cable and were able to get the ship to the shore and up to a marine railway. They immediately set to work on the ship and over the next week or ten days they completely welded in a new steel bottom and installed three new marine engines.
This was the same ship that I sailed across the English Channel, landing at Omaha Beach on the third wave on D-Day of June 6th, 1944.”
On my ship I carried nine Sherman tanks and the crews of the tanks commanded by Lieutenant Colonel. The colonel was in the lead tank and as he went on to the beach, his tank went over a land mine blowing the track off of it. I saw his head appear out of the tank opening and he was shot by machine gun fire and apparently killed at that point in time — as nearly as I could determine.
There is a God
… there was a disastrously severe storm which occurred sinking hundreds of landing ships and craft including my own. I was washed overboard without a life preserver, in full foul weather gear and heavy boots. I emerged gasping from an 8 to 10 foot wave, full of swallowed sea water and fuel oil.
I was sure I was drowning and felt the deepest despair that I had ever encountered. I was cold, I was sick, and I was fighting to survive. At the moment of my deepest despair, at the moment when I felt that I was drowning for sure, I felt something at my back which turned out to be the top of the mast of an old sunken ship.
At the top of the mast, I saw a metal ring which was fastened thereto, and hanging from this ring was a section of old heaving line or halyard about three to four feet long. At the peak of the wave, I was able to grab the rope and quickly tie it around my waist where I was able to hang for several hours before the waves subsided enough for a rescue boat to get me off.
At that moment, at the risk of being melodramatic, I knew that there was a God in the sky. I survived!”
Does war prove God doesn’t exist?
World War II was supposed to be the war that ends all war. It wasn’t. If there’s really a God, as my Dad claimed there was, why does God allow war?
War’s very existence is proof to some that God doesn’t exist. And yet C.S. Lewis suggests that God allows war for a reason. Here is an excerpt from his story, The Screwtape Letters, where the demon, Screwtape, explains God’s logic:
“This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s [God’s] motives for creating a dangerous world—a world in which moral issues really come to the point. He sees as well as you do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky.”
The indisputable virtue
In a world where forces are at work to redefine society’s virtues, courage remains an indisputable virtue. Our soldiers have gone into battle absolutely terrified at the thought of dying. Their legs shook. They vomited. Their heads pounded. And yet they stormed the beach in the face of enemy fire, in the face of probable death. Watch the reenactment above from Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan.”
Courage is essential for humanity to flourish
Historians called this scene the most accurate depiction of the D-Day invasion in cinema history. However, a veteran who lived through the hell of that day said Spielberg didn’t use enough body parts. They were everywhere, making the reality of war more grisly, more horrific, more demonic.
Mr. Lewis suggests that these examples of courage, that these examples of spilled blood, bear fruit by nourishing something absolutely essential to our humanity: courage.
A different kind of war
Those of engaged in the pro life movement are engaged in a war of a different nature, but indeed it is a war, complete with body parts and grotesque death. Mother Teresa called abortion war:
“The greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”
We’re all tested in life. It takes courage at the “testing point” to do the right thing. Who knows, this day may test you. Remember the examples of our veterans who faced physical danger that most of us will never face.
We salute you, brave soldiers. You gave your best to America.
We need your courage more than ever.
[Tom Quiner is president of Iowans For LIFE’s board.]