A Letter From Jack R. Wilson, Battery “A”, 111th Field Artillery Battalion and D-Day Veteran
I was a member of Battery A, 111th Field Artillery Battalion, 29th Division. I was in command of the battery when we landed at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Obviously a very memorable day for all of us.
The sea waves were very high that day and all but one of the “ducks” we were in with sunk. Our howitzers sunk when we left the L.S.T. Shortly thereafter, the Navy did a wonderful job of rescuing all of the men that were on the “ducks” that were sunk. The “duck” I was in had a 105 Howitzer with 12 men and was making its way toward the beach but received a direct hit from a German 88, I think. It hit the “duck” in the center, killing all men aboard except myself and the driver. One of our members was alive and hanging onto a board. He was injured and I tried to rescue him but he said to leave him alone. His name was Capt. Sabitino, a medical doctor. Fortunately, I was able to make it about 1,000 yards to shore, but I was exhausted. I recall a man I recognized as a “tanker” who pulled me from the edge of the water. He pushed me behind a log and saved my life. Sadly, I don’t know his name or whether he survived. When I got rested behind the log, we acted as infantry. I later took part in clearing out St. Lo.
The remaining men of my battery with trucks and other equipment landed later on a “Rhino Ferry.” I met them and took them to a rendezvous area where we were equipped with new howitzers and other lost equipment. We continued our mission in support of various companies of the 116th Infantry Regiment.
I am one of the luckiest men—The Lord was with me. I never received injury. I had many close escapes from artillery shells as an infantry forward observer.
This is the first time I have told this story. Now at 82 years old, I regret not contacting any of my comrades in arms—just didn’t have the heart or guts to do it. I wanted to forget it but as you can see I couldn’t.
I would like to get more information needed to go on the Summer Study Trip. I have never had the guts or will to return to Normandy until now and it’s one of the last trips I will probably take.
You can publish this if you want. Obviously, I would love to hear from any of your readers, particularly any members of the 111th Field Artillery Battalion.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and giving it your consideration.
Lt. Col. Jack R. Wilson
169 El Pajaro
Newbury Park CO 91320