Nov 8, 2016
I was born in Brooklyn, New York on May 16, 1926. Some memories of my youth involved playing baseball and I was signed as a “Bonus” baby with the Brooklyn Dodgers for $2000 in 1940. I attended Lincoln High School in Brooklyn, New York and left early to join the Navy.
On May 1, 1942 I joined the Navy, I was two weeks shy if my sixteenth birthday and my Mom had to sign papers for me to join. I first went to Great Lakes Naval Station in Wisconsin for boot camp and was assigned to the USS Herzog (A Destroyer Escort).
Now, while on the Herzog, a bunch of us fellas swiped some cherries from the wardroom. One of the guys made wine out of them. Since we had no place to put the wine, we poured out the emergency water in the life raft water caskets and used the caskets to house our wine. This worked well until something unexpected happened.
The Herzog encountered a German U boat in the Atlantic and both were sunk. I can still hear the Captain yelling, “Ok, who put the wine in the water caskets?”. Actually, none of us really minded much.
The survivors were picked up by an American Aircraft Carrier and transported back to the states. I had fifteen days of layover in Miami, Fl and because I had lost all of my uniforms when the ship went down, I only had a set of borrowed dress blues to wear in Florida in August. I spent most of the time in my civvies.
From Florida I was assigned temporarily to an APA(Personal Carrier) in Virginia and then went on to the invasion of Normandy. I drove a LCVP(Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel) dispatching the United States Army Ranger Assault Group during Operation Overlord at Pointe Du Hoc in Northern France. It was situated between Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east, and stood on 100ft tall cliffs overlooking the sea. Marking it the western end of the Omaha beach sector. The Army Rangers lost approximately seventy percent of their assault group before landing was complete. The Rangers used grappling hooks to ascend the cliff but were finally successful when they found an alternative route.
My job included delivering fresh recruits, supplies, and to transport the wounded. There were sometimes as many casualties as there were new troops. On occasion I would leave the landing craft and carry supplies ashore. I was there about a week at Pointe Du Hoc. By now, I was eighteen years old.
The German guns pointing towards Normandy were put out of commission by our use of thermal grenades. The grenades melted the breech of the guns.
Word came down the pipe that if you volunteered for hazardous duty you would receive thirty days leave and since I hadn’t had any amount of leave since boot camp I took advantage of this offer. After I signed up for the offer I was sent to Bristol, England where we were trained by the English Commandos in underwater demolition. By the way, I never received that thirty days leave.
From England I was shipped to Houston, Tx and caught the Landing Ship Medium 125 and was sent to Guam in time to invade Okinawa on April 1, 1945. The UDT4 unit was dropped off from the LCVP’s and we swam approximately two miles to shore, the purpose of this mission was to determine landing conditions, to locate as accurately as possible all obstacles, reporting their number, size, and nature, and to set buoys to mark the extremities of the beaches. And we also left a couple of signs for our Marine pals welcoming them to Okinawa.
When we swam back out to the pick up site there weren’t any LCVP’s to pick us up, so we swam back to shore and hooked up with a Marine company. We didn’t have anything better to do so we stayed and fought with them from April until sometime in August.
Someone noticed the LSM125 that was suppose to pick us up back in April so we swam out to it. It’s captain asked us, “Where in the heck have you guys been, we listed you as missing in action.”. We just told him that we had found this house full of cute Japanese girls that we decided to hang out with for a while.
I was in Okinawa until August of 1945 and then was assigned to the LSM125 to prepare for the invasion of Japan. We didn’t make it to the invasion because of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. We stayed on the LSM125 and were part of the Occupation of Japan and Korean forces. The LSM125 earned one battle star for WW2 and two battle stars for the Korean War.
I witnessed the damage caused by the atomic bombs in Hiroshima; there was nothing left.
The Navy discovered my true age and I was entitled to serve an additional year. I was discharged in Brooklyn, New York in 1947.
I went to California in 1947, got married and drove a delivery truck for Weber’s Bread and Carnation Milk. I was a pilot and flew my personal aircraft to the Salton Sea to fish with none other than Zippo Marx.
I retired from the South Union School District and then moved to Bend, Or in 1991.
I am Petty Officer First Class Leonard Premselaar , a member of the first UDT, Nowadays they are called…..Seals.