Saturday, March 29, 2008

another man who served on USS LST-312

I found the following information at a family genealogy site of man named James Joseph Parks (b.1921) who served as medic on five different ships during the war. I am posting this because one of these ships was LST-312. Pat hasn't seen this post yet and maybe these two men might have met at some point in time. Who knows. I don't know how long the 312 was grouped with the other ships but this entry might give my siblings an idea as to what Pat was up to as well. Pat, if you're reading this, please leave a comment or email me comments that I might post.
James Parks grew up in New York City, was taught to drive a car and worked with Avery Fisher (Avery Fisher Hall) in the sales of musical instruments and electronics development. For several years Jim relocated his family to Illinois to take a management position with Wurlitzer Organ Company before moving back to New Jersey to continue his career with Fisher. Jim had the opportunity to work with such Musical legends as Billy Joel, John Lennon and many others. He retired in 1986 from Panasonic Corporation while living in Anaheim, California. During his retirement he became an avid amateur astrologer while living in various areas of Arizona and Nevada. Jim served in the Army as a medic on the warship LST309 during the invasion of Sicily, Italy in World War II. During his military career, Jim served on 5 different ships, LST311, LST312, LST381, LST309 and was deployed into combat on at least 10 different invasions. After returning, Jim stayed in the electronics and music industry until his retirement in 1986.

The following is an account by james of the years spent in The US Navy written in July, 2006:
Hi Lew, Thanks for your letter. Anxious to learn how the scope performs when trying the suggestions. Now about the ships I served on. As you know I was a combat medical corpsman. A team of 250 of us were sent to the Advanced Amphibious Base in Bizerte Tunisia North Africa. We shipped out of Norfolk Va.on the Navy transport USS Tarazed with a contingent of Sea Bees. We arrived in the City of Oran and were taken by trucks to Mers El Kebir where tents were set up. The following day we boarded a British LSI The Princess Astrid. This ship had already participated in significant battles such as the Dieppe Raid in 1942. We stopped off in Algiers to take some men to the hospital and proceeded on to Bizerte. We had a huge Amphibious fleet in the area. The Germans were quite aware of our huge fleet of all types of Navy craft and although our Army had already driven the Germans from Tunisia. We were still vulnerable to bombing attacks. Our landing craft, LST, LCI, LCT, LSM's had never been used in actual landings. In addition to other assault ships Navy transports would be used to carry troops and amunition. The test for all of these ships would be the Invasion of Sicily on July 10 1943. General Patton was in command of the invasion assisted by General Bradley and Generals from the First, Third and Forty Fifth divisions. 66,000 American including Rangers. General Montgomery led the British assault with 80,000 British and Canadian troops. In anticipation of heavy casualties 3 corpsmen from our medical team were assigned to 78 LSTs for the landing. I was assigned to the LST 312 to land with the Big Red One. As we approached the designated landing sites we became broached on the beach and could not get off. We were being bombed about every 30 to 40 minutes after three days on the beach we wound have had over 100 bombing attacks. The technique used was skip bombings. Our sister ship the LST 313 was a few hundred feet off our starboard side and had a 200 pound bomb strike her midship. The skipper of the 311 made a daring decision to save lives by putting his LST to the stern of the 313 now burning rapidly. He received the Navy Cross for his action which saved some 84 men, about 27 were killed and quite a number wounded. Of course this information was from books and literature after the war. The Herman Goering Panzer division had thirty of their Tiger tanks approach the beaches of Gela, the town we landed at. Patton ordered the Navy cruisers Boise and Philadelphia to fire at them and after several 88 shells exploaded near us the cruisers did their job. We made several trips after the invasion bringing in reinforcements. I was assigned to the LST 381 for a trip to Palermo. The next big invasion was the invasion of Italy. For this and subsequent trips I was assigned to the LST 311. We almost lost this battle. The invasion sites were again divided into British and American sectors. We landed under smoke screens laid down by British destroyers. The enemy fire was intense and we hadn't taken the beach. We carried the British 56 Division with Brenn gun carriers. We had to unload as fast as possible, 88 shells were exploading all around us. We went back to Bizerte without escort, and loaded up about 40 tanks of the Seventh armored division. After four days the body count on the beaches were getting frightening. We again landed under black smoke screens. First tank off the ship was hit by an 88 shell and blew a tank man right up through the top of the tank. The lucky guy suffered only a broken arm. Several more trips and we finally took the beach. I was then assigned to the LST309 as ships company. We then formed possibly the largest convoy to bring this huge force to England. On the way we were followed by Nazi submarines depth charges were dropped and as far as the eye could see on the horizon our cruiser and destroyer escorts were patrolling the perimeters. We had been covered by PBY aircraft but when we got out of their range we were vulnerable to air and sub attacks. And they came, off the west coast of France German Dorniers huge bombers we used to refer to as the Flying Pencil, they attacked us with radio glider bombs. We managed to survive and could celebrate Christmas in merry old England. I was sent back to the USA on the HMS Acquatinia, got married to Dorothy. After serving as a first aid instructor as part of a shakedown team for LCI's I was assigned to ths LST 1053 and spent some time at the New Orleans Naval Hospital as a patient and was discharged. Total ships; USS Tarazed, HMS Princess Astrid, HMS Aquatania LST's 312, 381, 311, 309 and 1053. Pretty complete picture Lew. Hope it helps. -Jim
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