|This story was originally published on Thursday, October 12, 1944 in The Hockley County Herald Levelland, Texas.
Thursday, October 19, 1944. THE LAMESA REPORTER
Lamesa Boy Finds Rough Times Aboard LST
Following is a story concerning Thomas J. Slover, formerly of Lamesa who is now stationed aboard a Coast Guard manned LST in the European theater of operations with the rank of boatswains mate second class. He was employed at the Richardson’s store at the time he went into the service.
Slover came to Dawson county with his parents when a small child, graduated from the Lamesa high school, and enlisted in the coast guard two and a half years ago. He is a nephew of Mrs. J. M. Peterson of the McCarty community.
A letter from his mother, Mrs. Saidee L. Slover, states that his first overseas action was in the North African area and around Sicily during the invasion there. He has had shore leaves on the Island of Ceylon; Bombay, India; Cairo, Egypt; London and other places in England. He has never mentioned things he has undergone In action, only to say that on 1ast July 4th he was out in his little boat and for dinner had a tin of cold army K rations.
The story published in the Hockley County Hera1d is as follows:
ABOARD A COAST-GUARD MANNED LST IN THE EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS. There is still a giant's share of activity going on along the Normandy beaches, even now that it is four months after D-Day. There is a lot of thankless, dangerous labor being done along the naked landing areas, while headlines have moved inland with advancing allied armies.
One small boat crew attached to an LST was just released from activity along the Normandy beaches and has returned to the mother ship for a rest. The crew of the Coast Guard small boat includes a Texas boatswain’s mate, Thomas J. Slover, 22, boatswain’s mate second class, of Levelland.
They were in their craft for a month and a half, eating army field rations getting an occasional dose of lead from snipers and on one occasion a Nazi strafing plane, sleeping in wet hammocks (when they slept) watching wounded men die, and generally feeling over worked and under privileged, seasick and homesick. Briefly, these men know now that war is hell, afloat or ashore.
The adventure began on D-plus-one” when the man in charge, Slover, was called in by his executive officer and told to get, his boat ready. "You're going to get a little vacation” was the way the exec put it. The four coast guardsmen set, out, almost believing the officer’s words for a while, but they hadn’t been out long before they found themselves targets of snipers lingering behind the retreating Germans.
Slover relates that his boat was pushing a “rhino ferry” into the beach and he and Hudson, the motor mechanic, were perched atop the engine cowling so they could get a good view of what was ahead. A couple of thumps forward had made them curious and that curiosity was quickly satisfied. As the Texan tells it, “I heard one of the bullets sing over my head. It just takes one like that to teach you. Both of us dived into the cockpit and didn't get up on that cowling again. We hadn’t been wearing our helmets before, but I had mine on every time my head was poked above the gunwales afterwards."
When they got time to check over their boat they found three holes and one good dent in the steel ramp that forms the craft’s bow.
‘Worst scare of the whole time came, the next night. All hands had enjoyed their "vacation" by keeping the boat churning from ship to beach and beach to ship for better than 24 hours, towing other disabled email boats, carrying officers and evacuating wounded to hospital ships. They were so tired that they didn’t even awaken to the air raid alarm sounded by one of the command ship.
So when a Jerry raider swooped in they didn’t even see him. The target was a command boat near their LCVP. The plane opened up its machine guns just in time to catch the little coast guard boat and then continued into the main target. To make it a good job, the Germans tossed out a small bomb, and its blast almost swamped the landing craft before the men recovered from the shock of strafing.
The boat lurched, almost throwing Slover out of his hammock, which was strung from one gunwale to the other. When he grabbed the railing to keep from being thrown overboard, he felt water along the top edge of the boat. So once again he decided that the lower you are the safer you are. He cut down the hammock and spread it on the wet bottom of the boat.
Then he fluffed up the kapock life preserver he had been using for a pillow only to see a gash it and imbedded in the stuffing was a piece of shrapnel that had missed his head by a miraculous half inch. A more thorough inspection the next morning showed that the Nazi plane had put a hole in the fuel tank in the stern.
As if man-made troubles were not enough, nature stepped into the picture with a torturous twist of her own. A four-day storm blew up, putting all the small boats out of action for that time and destroying a number of them in the churning seas.
During these tossing, tumbling days the, crews had only the cold army field rations—the Bufflame burners never seemed to. work— and those rations didn’t always stay put. They got seasick every time they ate anything, so it didn’t take long to just give up trying. The miserable ones rode out the storm trying to keep up their flagging spirits any way they could.
The visitation disappeared during one early morning and the peaceful aftermath of clear skies and sunshine brought with it the first real taste of homesickness, but there was little time for homesickness there. With the lifting of the storm their thoughts again turned toward the job at hand and food.
It was quite a time the crew agrees, like so many war experiences, not one to be repeated. They are back on the comparative quite of their LST now, placidly shuttling back and forth between Britain and the French beaches, ready to head for home shores, or new battlefields, as required.
US NAVY PAGES
TOM AT NORMANDY