Corporal Ernest P. Doucette
293rd Joint Assault Signal Company - 6th Engineer Special Brigade
I submit this story in honor and in memory of my father, Ernest P. Doucette of No. Reading, MA. He passed away one year ago this November 14th, 2002 and as my sister said in a eulogy to him: "Dad left footprints on Omaha Beach and again in the Pacific Theater that marked him as one of the Greatest Generation, and as a hero in the eyes of his family".
My father was a member of the 293’d Joint Assault Signal Company, part of the Army’s 6th Engineer Special Brigade. He trained in England and on 6 June 1944, the 293’d JASCO was drafted and attached to the 115th Regiment. He and his comrades boarded the LCI (Landing Craft Infantry) 91 and headed out to Omaha Beach. Instead of setting up communications as trained, they now found themselves in a combat situation. The LCI 91 never made it in. Both rear landing ramps were destroyed, one hitting a teller mine and the other lost to a bullet that hit the tank of a flamethrower, causing an explosion and fire that lasted two days. Survivors were forced to jump into the English Channel and swim to shore. Like many of "The Greatest Generation" as they have been referred to, he never talked much about the morning of June 6th. He did relay to us that a lot of soldiers in his unit died from drowning because of the heavy equipment they were carrying into Omaha to set up communications between those on the beach and the Navy and Air Force still out in the English Channel. In his own words: "You had to think quick to drop all of your gear in order to get to the top of the water. Then, dodging bullets, we had to swim in and once on the beach, run like hell". When he reached the beach, he picked up equipment as he went along like most soldiers did that morning. He shared a story with one of my brothers once, telling him that when he finally had a chance to sit down for a minute, there was not a part of the beach that you didn't see a dead body or a body part on it. "When I sat down and leaned my hand on the sand for support to rest a minute, I looked down and saw blood running up between my fingers" he told Paul as they stopped in Maryland at a museum on a trip heading back home to Massachusetts.
Several weeks after securing Omaha Beach, dad was asked by a buddy of his, Sgt. John Kmetz of New York, to help him find his brother just outside of St. Lo. before that battle broke out. Sgt. Kmetz had no idea where his brother was except that he was somewhere outside of the city. After receiving proper authorization from their superior officers, the two set out after dark, on foot, catching a ride whenever they could. They finally found Sgt. Kmetz's brother. They were allowed to visit for several hours and then again in the dark and on foot, they returned to Omaha Beach. He remained in Normandy for three months, returned home to Reading, Massachusetts for a 10 day furlough before being sent to Scotland, New Guinea, the Philippines and taking part in the invasions in Mindanao and Luzon.
There are many stories like my father's.. all heroes.. all very humble men and women. My dad shared some of his thoughts on D-Day in an interview after a ceremony on the USS Kennedy back in July, 2000 for veterans from Massachusetts. "I’m no hero. People think we were but I’m not. We had a job to do and we did it and if we had to do it all over again, we would. It’s a different world now than it was back then". He never spoke of the carnage he saw that morning or again in the Pacific Theater except once but whenever he heard his favorite song "God Bless America", you could see the tears well up in his eyes. Our freedom is fragile, but the bravery and efforts of our past, present and future veterans strengthen and preserve it every day.
My dad is gone now but the lessons he taught us.. those of God, family and country, will remain with my sister, my brothers and I for life. Dad's dedication to our country was endless and unquestionable as it was for all those of "The Greatest Generation". My respect and admiration for all veterans runs very deep as I reflect on what they have done; to think about where they have had to go; to try and understand what they have endured and above all, to reflect on the sacrifices they have made to keep our country free. Thank you dad for being the soldier you were, for being my dad, but most of all for the values you gave us growing up. May God bless "The Greatest Generation" of all times.
With deep appreciation to all veterans..
Louise (Doucette) Johnson, a proud veteran's daughter
Copyright 2000 - | Laurent LEFEBVRE - D-Day Historian