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On D-Day at Normandy in 1944, Art Lohman of the Tracy Ferry area, was at work with the U.S. Navy aboard LST-496 in the second wave of personnel and small vehicle deliveries to Omaha Beach.
"I've never seen so many ships in all my life," says Lohman.
The landing was successful, as was the evacuation of the first dead and wounded soldiers from the initial assault at Normandy.
"I still have problems with the dead. ... Our soldiers stacked up two and three bodies high for the 200 or 300 yards I could see," recalls Lohman.
The seaman shakes his head in disbelief.
"Nothing like that ever happened on our shores," said Lohman.
"I remember they (the German forces) had a cannon on a rail in a cave that they would roll out, fire and roll back in and hide until the USS Missouri put a big one right in the hole," said Lohman.
"I remember most of the boys were terribly seasick, and I really felt sorry for them," he said.
Three days later, Lohman would get a second look at the carnage of war as a moored German acoustic mine would find the hull of LST 496. The blast blew a hole in the ship from the hull all the way through the deck, killing and mutilating scores of the ship's crew in-between.
Debris from the blast went straight up and fell straight down on the ship's deck.
Lohman was knocked unconscious briefly in the explosion. "I cracked my head a little," he said of the injury that landed him in the hospital in Bristol, England, for a few days.
He remembers climbing through the wreckage to the ship's deck that was covered with blood and body parts and debris. The ship listed suddenly in the shallow waters near shore, and Lohman fell and slid off the side of the ship into the sea, where he was rescued by the crew of a passing mine sweeper.
Lohman said one of the last things he remembered as he hurdled over the side of the ship was the broken torso of a crewmate entangled in cables at the side of the ship.
Lohman was a machinist assigned to the LST-496's first engine room. The vessel's staff numbered 125. Eighty-eight crew members died in the blast.
When the mine hit, the ship was full of the tanks assigned to the U.S. Army's 25th Tank Division.
"I have two bad days every year," said Lohman, "June 8, and the day my ship sank."
Lohman said the late Vada Sheid — a former state lawmaker and longtime Mountain Home businesswoman — had been his sole confidant for discussing the D-Day experience before deciding to talk publicly. He's talking now to "give the people some understanding of what the hell the price tag was" for ridding the world of a German war machine that was dedicated to conquer and rule the world.
Of the German people, Lohman said, "They were no small fools, except for letting a man like Hitler come to power."
Lohman was reassigned to LST 306 after the 496 explosion and remained with LST 306 for more than 60 transports in World War II campaigns in Europe and the Pacific. He was awarded the Purple Heart, the WWII Victory Medallion and several other citations and medals, including the Presidential Unit Citation and campaign medallions for service in America, Europe, Africa, Mideast, Asia and Pacific.
He also received the U.S. Navy's Unit Citation for Good Conduct, which means "They didn't catch me," he said with a smile.
Editor's note: Arthur E. Lohman passed away at his home, Jan. 23, 2005, at the age of 79. Shortly after his story was published, Lohman was asked to help the U.S. Navy Historical Center Underwater Archaeology Branch in Washington in its research of Navy ships lost in World War II landings at Normandy.
Lohman was buried in the Grandview Cemetery in Austin, Texas.
After his military service, Lohman worked for 25 years with Hormel Foods Co. before retiring to the Mountain Home area.
As a fisherman, Lohman worked for conservation of the White River Basin and once was presented the Federation of Fly Fishers' national award for conservation for his opposition to a federal proposal to build a fifth dam on the White River below Bull Shoals Dam.
Source : http://www.baxterbulletin.com/article/2 ... maha-Beach
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