Ed Kent was the gunner on an M-7, self-propelled 105 millimeter Howitzer, who landed June 6, 1944 at Utah Beach on D-Day in Normandy, France during World War II. The 20-year-old corporal survived 15 days before being seriously injured by shrapnel from incoming enemy fire, was sent back to England and eventually the States to recuperate.
Even before the invasion of Europe his unit had a serious encounter with the enemy. During a dress rehearsal on April 27, 1944, Kent’s unit: Battery B, 44th Field Artillery Battalion, went ashore in a mock invasion at Slapton Sands, along the southern coast of England.
“’Operation Tiger’ is what they called it. Thousands of troops hit the beach at this little resort town that was similar to the beach at Normandy,” the 86-year-old Englewood Beach resident recalled. “They cleared all the civilians out of the area because they didn’t want the Germans to find out what we were doing.”
Somehow the Germans did find out. They attacked the troop transports moving just off the beach at night with E-Boats, like American PT-Boats.
“Nine German E-Boats got into the convoy and torpedoed several LSTs (Landing Ship Tank) and damaged a third. Despite the fact, some 800 to 1,200 soldiers were killed in the attack that night they went ahead with the landing,” Kent said. “The dead were buried in a mass grave and relatives were only told their son was killed in the cross channel invasion.
“When we got back to our camp they lined us all up and told us we were not to speak to anyone about what happened at Slapton Sands with the E-Boats attack during the practice landing. They didn’t want the word to get out,” he added.
Decades would pass before the general public learned what happened during the practice landing at Slapton Sands 65 years ago.
“During the Normandy Invasion I went across the channel on an LCT, the smallest vessel to cross the channel that night. The sea was rough,” he said.
“At 20 I was apprehensive. But I was also excited and eager to go,” Kent recalled. “I don’t remember being scared. We had been training for this invasion for two years.
“We reached Utah Beach with the rest of the 4th Infantry Division about 6:30 a.m. and went ashore two miles away from our objective,” Ken said. “That’s when Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt, who went in with the first wave, took over.
A 4th Infantry Division book printed after the war picks up his story from there, “Gen. Roosevelt moved from one location to another and rallied the men around him. He personally led them against the enemy. Under his seasoned, precise, calm, unfaltering leadership assault troops reduced beach strongholds and rapidly moved inland with a minimum number of casualties. He contributed substantially to the successful establishment of a beachhead in France.”
Roosevelt would die a couple of weeks later from a heart attack. He was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously. He and his father, Theodore Sr. who fought in the Spanish American War and Gen. Douglas MacArthur and his father, Arthur MacArthur who fought in the Civil War, are the only father and son soldiers to receive the nation’s highest military award for gallantry on the battlefield.
“We drove our M-7 gun off the landing craft into waist-deep seas and onto the beach without any problem, There was a lot of enemy fire on the beach,” Kent said. “Four hours later they we were just getting off the beach. We got onto a causeway behind the beach that led inland.
“Two of our tanks were preceding us down the causeway that ran for about a quarter-mile before it made a sharp right turn in front of a big farm house. The tanks were halfway down the causeway when the whole front of this house dropped down revealing a German 88 gun emplacement,” he said.
“The enemy gun fired one round at point blank range at the lead tank. It went off into a ditch to the right and burst into flames,” Kent said. “The Germans fired another round into the second tank that went off the causeway into a ditch on the left and burst into flames. There were no survivors in either tank.”
Moments later the German gun emplacement was destroyed by American artillery. As Ken and his M-7 moved down the causeway past the two destroyed tanks that were burning.
At the end of the first day in Europe, Kent’s artillery battalion ended up in St. Mere Eglise along the French coast.
Two weeks later they had reached the outskirts of Cherbourg on the peninsula fighting the Germans every step of the way.
“We pulled into this gun position in an orchard along some hedgerows just outside of town. There was a little chapel about two hedgerows behind us,” he said. “My gun was directly between the German line and the chapel when the chapel bell started ringing. My captain called me and told me to check out the ringing bell.
“I sent a couple of men to check out the bell. They were back in five minutes and said there was no one in the chapel and the bell cord blowing in the wind was apparently causing the bell to ring,” Kent said.
“About five minutes later an incoming artillery round carved a big hole in the ground right in front of our M-7. My machine-gunner, who was sitting beside me, said, ‘The next one is going to hit us.’ The Germans sent another round right over our heads that exploded and rained shrapnel down on us.”
Kent got hit in his right arm and his buddy was hit by shrapnel twice in the face and the arm.
“At the field hospital two surgeons talked about removing my right arm. They decided to send me back to England for reevaluation and treatment,” he said. I spent six months in England where they tried without success to get the radial nerve in my arm that operates your fingers, spliced back together. I was sent to an Army hospital in Atlantic City, N.J. where a spent another 10 months recuperating and regaining the use of my right hand.”
It was in Atlantic City at a dance while still recuperating Kent met his future wife, Marilyn.
“I walked into the dance in uniform, cased the joint looking for the good looking girls. There was a nice looking blonde sitting in the corner. I walked right up to her and said, ‘Would you like to dance?’
“She swung around and jumped right in my arms. We’d only taken about two steps when she looked up at me and said, ‘I didn’t have this dance with you, I had this dance with him’ pointing to another guy in uniform.
“’That’s too bad. I just pulled her into my arms and wouldn’t let her go. Six months later we got married. We were married 63 years. Carolyn passed away last October,” he said quietly.
Name: Edward T. Kent
D.O.B.: 14 July 1923
Hometown: Audubon, N.J.
Currently: Englewood, Fla. and Cape May, N.J.
Entered Service: 8 Dec. 1941
Discharged: 18 Oct. 1945
Unit: Battery B, 44th Field Artillery Battalion attached to the 4th Infantry Division, 1st Army
Commendations: Purple Heart, Good Conduct Ribbon, 1 Battle Star. Wounded June 21, 1944 in France, 15 days after he landed on Utah Beach.
Children: Carol Rose and Sandra Federoff
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Monday, May 3, 2010 and is republished with permission.
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EDWARD PERRY KENT, – of Englewood, FL (former long time resident Cape May & Clayton, NJ) died peacefully at Tidewell Hospice House in Arcadia, Florida on August 5, 2015. He was born on July 14, 1923 in Auda-bon, NJ to Frank and Hattie Kent.
Ed grew up on a farm in Hurffville. The day after Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the Army. He landed on Utah Beach on D-day in the 4th Infantry Division, as a tank gunner. He was later wounded in combat receiving the Purple Heart and many other decorations. He was very proud of his book: “My Great Adventure to Normandy and Back”.
In May he received the French Legion of Honor Medal. After the war he worked in the NY Shipyard and was also a carpenter. In the 50’s he started Authorized Business Machines Inc. with his brother in-law, Ernie Beier. They were partners & best friends in business, family and fun.
Ed loved to fish, read, tell stories, play tennis and was an accomplished wood worker. He gave his family and friends many hand crafted treasures.
He was very active in the Englewood Beach Villas Association for the past 25 years & the Charlotte County Purple Heart Society. He volunteered at the Church of the Advent and as a guide at the WWII Tower, both in Cape May.
He leaves behind his daughters; Carol Lyn Rose and Sandra Kent Fedoroff, his son-in-law James Bellino, his grandchildren Colleen Brooker, Kent Fedoroff and Jason Bellino, and great grandchildren Gabriel and Simon Brooker, Amelia and Anthony Bellino. Other family members include; Elinor Beier, Rose and Herman Hopkins, many nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews.
Ed was predeceased by his wife of 63 years, Carolyn and his sons-in law, Nick Fedoroff & Ernie Beier. He also leaves behind his recent best friend Marian Waggoner.
A memorial service will be at The Church of the Advent Episcopal Church in Cape May, NJ on Saturday August 15th at 3 pm. A reception will follow for family and close friends. There will be a flag ceremony in his honor at the World War II Tower in Cape May at 6pm following the reception. In lieu of flowers contributions can be made to: The Captain Nick Fedoroff Community Kindness Fund; 9 Melody Court, Cape May, NJ 08204.