Despite the German U-boat packs prowling the Atlantic, Seaman 1/C Bob Frazier survived 10 round-trips in the USS Susan B. Anthony, an attack transport, without a scratch taking troops to Europe in World War II.
It wasn’t until D-Day on June 6, 1944 during the focal point of the Normandy invasion that disaster struck.
“At 7 a.m. precisely we hit a magnetic mine with 2,000 to 3,000 troops on board. Ten seconds later, the second one exploded,” the 83-year-old Port Charlotte, Fla. man said. “We were off Omaha Beach when it all happened. We didn’t lose a person on board.”
The first mine hit amidships and blew a hole in the transport’s bottom. The second one went off closer to the ship’s stern.
“There were a couple of LSTs (Landing Ship, Tanks) nearby that came to our rescue. The troops aboard the Anthony went over the side on boarding nets into the waiting LSTs,” he said. “Exactly an hour and a half after the first explosion, the captain ordered us to abandon ship. The 3rd Deck Hand Division I jumped into the water and was picked up by an LST.”
Problem was, the LST that rescued Frazier and his buddies wasn’t due to return to port for a week. As a result, he and his shipmates spent the next seven days hauling troops and supplies to Omaha Beach as part of the LST’s deck crew.
“We had no problems landing troops on the beach all week long, even though the Germans were blowing up small boats all around us,” he said. “We must have lost a dozen of them.”
When Frazier and his shipmates finally returned to London, they were given a 30-day leave and sent home to the United States aboard the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth. With thousands of American servicemen aboard, the venerable ship sailed into New York Harbor in June 1944.
On his return to duty, Frazier was made an Engineman 1/C and sent aboard the USS Montauk. It was an unusual ship built for taking tanks and men to the war zone. Only seven of these ships were ever built. Each held up to 30 Sherman tanks, and the men that went in them.
Frazier and the crew of the Montauk headed for Pearl Harbor and the Pacific war. They island-hopped until they finally reached Okinawa in time for the invasion on Easter Sunday morning, April 1, 1945.
“On D-Day, we landed 30 tanks on the beach on Okinawa without much trouble from the enemy. The first week or so, there wasn’t much ground fighting until our troops moved into the hills,” he recalled. “However, kamikaze attacks began three or four days after we first hit the beach.
“The whole sky was lit up with our ships shooting at kamikazes. It was something else,” Frazier said. “After a week at Okinawa we headed back to Pearl Harbor for more troops and equipment. We spent the next two or three months transferring men and equipment to Okinawa.”
After the Japanese were defeated on Okinawa during the last major island battle of WWII, the Montauk and Frazier headed back to Pearl Harbor. They were still at sea when they heard President Truman’s announcement that an atomic bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima.
“Everyone knew it was over when the second bomb was dropped. After the surrender, we made a couple of trips from Pearl Harbor to San Francisco to bring American servicemen home for good.”
Frazier got out of the service, got married and spent decades living in Brooklyn, N.Y., with his family. He and his wife, Cora, moved to Port Charlotte in 1994.
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Monday, April 6, 2009 and is republished with permission.
All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be republished without permission. Links are encouraged.
Click here to view the War Tales fan page on FaceBook.