Albert J. Berard, a Taunton, Massachusetts native, discusses his World War II service in the Navy as a signalman, including a detailed account of the Normandy Invasion. Berard talks about enlisting in the Navy, boot camp in Newport (Rhode Island), attending signalman school, attempting to volunteer for submarine duty, and assignment to the Amphibious Forces. After amphibious training at Camp Bradford (Virginia), he talks of being shipped to Great Britain, assignment to LCT 538, and spending a year in Salcombe (England). Berard recalls practicing landings during Exercise Tiger and hearing of the loss of LSTs to German submarines. He describes terrible weather while crossing the English Channel on D-Day, having the invasion postponed, and not knowing what to expect. Berard details his part in the invasion of Normandy: having sick Army troops aboard, delivering Navy frogmen to Omaha Beach near Vierville-sur-Mer, having to back off because combat was too heavy, discharging tanks on the beach, and hitting a mine with the LCT. After swimming to shore, he talks about finding shelter along the seawall, getting the LCT patched up between tides, and ferrying supplies and troops from the transports to shore. Berard states he did not carry a weapon and the hours while waiting for the boat to be repaired "seemed like an eternity." He reflects on being able to talk about his experiences after joining the VFW. As a signalman, Berard portrays the sights he saw during the invasion: neighboring LCTs getting destroyed, blood in the water, and bodies piling up. He describes personnel disappearing into the water and claims one of the biggest mistakes was a lack of lifejackets for soldiers. He speaks of seamen who volunteered to tie ropes around their waists and test water depth, and he reveals the depth-tester on his craft was drowned when the boat had to back off from the beach. Berard reflects on his mental state during D-Day. He describes German artillery fire and mentions sending the message to the Navy that requested the destruction of the church steeple in Vierville, which was being used as a German observation post. Berard talks about delivering supplies to an artificial pier, getting beached again during a storm, and returning to the States for a thirty-day rehabilitation leave. After attending advanced signalmen's school, he states he was assigned to Destroyer Escort 684. Berard discusses doing patrol duty around Cuba for six weeks before getting transferred to the USS PCER 860. He talks about loading supplies at Pearl Harbor, stopping at several of the Mariana Islands, and rescue patrol duty. Berard describes being attached to a flotilla of minesweepers, his ship's duty of detonating surfaced mines, and, after the war ended, clearing a channel into Tokyo Bay. He speaks of having liberty in Japan, seeing the destruction in cities such as Nagasaki and Kobe, and his impression of Japanese civilians. Berard states that British and American soldiers on liberty together always ended up fighting, and he reflects this was partly caused by resentment because the Americans would give the British women luxury gifts, like chocolate and silk stockings. He mentions that when the crew of his small ship had liberty they stuck together, even the officers.
Interviewed by Geoffrey Bond Hinman on December 9, 1996.
Property rights owned by the Wisconsin Veterans Museum.
Forms part of: Stephen E. Ambrose's WWII Oral History Class Project, University of Wisconsin-Madison.