This Compass series chronicles the first 14 heroes the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters have been named for. These men and women, who stood the watch before us, lived extraordinary lives as they lit the way for sailors in times past, braved gunfire in times of war and rescued those in peril at sea. As Coast Guard heroes, their stories are a constant reminder of our service’s legacy. As the namesake of the Coast Guard’s newest patrol boats, they will inspire the next generation of Coast Guard heroes.
With contributions from LTJG Ryan White
On June 6, 1944, Motor Machinist’s Mate First Class William Trump was aboard one of the many Coast Guard-manned ships that landed on the beaches of France on D-Day.
The Coast Guard-manned LCI(L)s, or landing crafts, were 158-feet long and 23-feet wide, and were the smallest sea-going amphibious craft involved in the invasion. Trump was aboard LCI(L)-90, which was commissioned on February 6, 1943 and after months of trainings and exercises the crew sailed across the Atlantic.
Trump and his crew participated in the occupation of Tunisia on June 1, 1943, the invasion of Sicily on July 9, 1943 and the landings at Salerno on September 9, 1943. The crew then sailed for England as part of Flotilla 10, in preparation for the invasion of Normandy.
As a member of the landing craft infantry, Trump studied detailed maps of the terrain and memorized key landmarks along the coastline that would guide them to their assigned landing area.
The crew of approximately 27 men aboard each craft carried 200 troops in the invasion and the crew’s mission was to get the soldiers safely onto the beaches of France. The beaches were treacherous enough, but Trump volunteered for a duty that would put him directly in the line of fire. Trump volunteered to disembark his landing craft and head onto the beach to anchor a line that troops would use for safety.
Already under severe enemy fire, Trump met an abundance of beach obstacles as he waded between the heavily mined beach and dragged an anchor and anchor-line to shallow water. He safely managed to secure the line that acted as a safety line for troops to follow as they transited the beach.
Trump put himself in the line of fire to aide others and due to his valor in action in the assault phase of the landing at Normandy, and was awarded a Silver Star.
A special place in the Coast Guard’s history
There were a total of 99 warships and large landing vessels manned by Coast Guardsmen for Operation Neptune and the Coast Guard lost more vessels that day than on any single day during its history. Eighteen Coast Guardsmen gave their lives in service to their nation, while 38 more were seriously wounded.
Of the landing crafts that were involved in the invasion, seven were lost with three swamped in the heavy surf and four sunk by artillery fire.
John L. Gatton, Jr. I was a Chief Quartermaster on LCI(L)-96 and was assigned there from the date of its commissioning, February 15, 1943, until shortly before the Flotilla returned to the states for overhaul. Gatton remembers the ever-present dangers and complexities of the operation that each crew faced.
“The 96 carried men from the 4th Infantry Division and was scheduled to go to Utah Beach, but, while in the English Channel, on the 6th of June, we were ordered to go to Omaha Beach,” recalls Gatton. “We were armed with four 20 mm guns and during actual landings, two men floated an anchor, attached to a life line into the beach for the troops. Flotilla Ten lost four Units at Omaha Beach.”
After departing Operation Neptune, LCI(L)-90 was involved in other key naval battles and in June of 1945, which engaged in a smoke screen, was hit by a Japanese suicide plane and was forced to departed for repairs. On April 8, 1946 the landing craft was decommissioned after valiant service to the nation.
LCI(L)-90 earned five battle stars for service in World War II and all of the landing craft infantry of Flotilla 10 were retroactively awarded the Coast Guard Unit Commendation for their service in the invasion of Normandy.