Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Attack on SS Charles Morgan

I received three photos from the Department of the Navy last week. The above image is a photocopy from their order form.

Rear echelon work shared some of the same dangers faced by the front line troops. On June 10, 1944 German bombers struck the SS Charles Morgan. There is no surviving record for casualties in the other companies, or if any beside the 304th were serving on the ship. Dave Weaver requested copies of the 304th's Company Morning reports before they were destroyed in the National Archives' 1973 fire (see image at left). Bruce Kramlich provided me with a document stating that a Pvt. Richard E. Heon went MIA on this day. I wonder if he ever turned up. Also listed as MIA is Pvt. Frank Rodriguez. This was a friend of Irving Sugarman, one of the vets I talk to. He was sad to say Rodriguez was killed.

There were seven 304th Port Co. men killed and six men injured on June 10th, 1994, presumably from the same ship bombing. All casualties to the 519th Port Bn. during the war took place in the first week of landing at Normandy. A total of 10 men were killed and 12 were wounded. The 519th Historical Report states that all of these were due to aerial bombing. However, a couple of veterans told me that at least one man was killed by a booby trap while souvenir hunting.

Bruce Kramlich's diary lists June 15, 1944 as the worst German air raid on the beach. I don't have Company Morning Reports for that day, but I do have a separate record documenting T/4 Willard Begel being killed. They were laid to rest in the Military Cemetary in Normandy. The Army named roads on Utah Beach after the fallen men.

June 10th 1944 Morning Report Figures:
Killed in action:
Pvt. Lionel L. Ridgeway*
Pvt. Francesco Barone
Pvt. James E. Curry
Pvt. Walter M. Slasinski

Wounded in action:
T/4 Ralph F Phelan
Pvt. Dwayne E. Trantham
Pfc. Raymond D. Hankins

Injured in action:
Pfc. Robert J. Ballenger
Pfc. Albert J. Karowski
2nd Lt. John C. Winfree

June 10th figures found on a later record:
Missing in action:
Pvt. Richard E. Heon of Rhode Island
Pvt. Frank Rodriguez of New York
Pvt. George J. Swinehart, Jr. of Michigan

*This summer the niece of Lionel L. Ridgeway got in touch with me. I asked the 304th Port Co. veterans if they remembered him. Remarkably, Dave Weaver did. He sat next to him on the train to Indiantown Gap. I was happy to put the two of them in touch.

National Archives fire of 1973

In 1973 a huge fire destroyed the bulk of WWII military personnel records housed at the National Archives' St. Louis, MO building. Their website states that the 1943 unit rosters survived, and morning reports for the war should be available. Sadly, my reply letter from the Archives said they had nothing for my grandfather's unit!

I've been researching my book on the 304th Port Co., 519th Port Bn. since 2006. Mostly I have been interviewing veterans from the unit (my grandfather included). I received an invaluable unit history from the US National Archives in College Park, MD. Thankfully, before the 1973 fire my friend Dave Weaver requested about 10 morning reports surrounding the D-Day invasion. I would have dearly loved to get more. I was also hoping to get a full roster of the men that served in the unit.

If by chance you have some of these records, please let me know!