Paul Arnone, WWII Navy Veteran: D-Day Veteran Discusses Normandy Invasion – Post-Journal, September 16, 2016:
The weather was bad and the sea was treacherous when Paul Arnone started the trip from Southampton, England, to Normandy, France, in June 1944.
Arnone was the signalman on a U.S. Navy landing ship, tank, also known as an LST. The vessels were created during World War II to support amphibious operations by carrying vehicles, cargo and landing troops directly onto shore. On Wednesday, the 92-year-old Arnone talked about his experience on the LST during the D-Day invasion at the Fenton History Center as part of the Vets Finding Vets program.
”The weather was bad. (General Dwight) Eisenhower didn’t know what to do,” Arnone said. ”We got the word to go. The weather was still bad.”
Arnone said by the time they reached France, the weather improved and the seas abated making for calmer water conditions. However, the war was about to start for the enlisted petty officer, first class. The LST Arnone was aboard was one of more than 1,200 ships in the English Channel for the June 6, 1944, invasion of Normandy.
”Everywhere you looked, you got ready for a collision with another ship,” he said.
Arnone said his LST made 27 trips between England and France during the invasion, landing on three of the five Normandy beaches. He said they brought food, medication, ammunition and clothing to the troops when they landed on the shores of Normandy. On return trips to England, the LST would carry injured soldiers to hospitals for medical attention. In talking about his experience, Arnone admitted to getting sick by the brutality of war.
”Being a kid from Jamestown, I was never exposed to anything like this in my life. I got sick,” he said. ”We didn’t realize what war was. How could we?”
During his time on the LST, Arnone talked about how the anchor once got caught on a mine and how the experienced captain on board the vessel knew how to disengage the explosive device from the ship so there would be no damage. He also talked about seeing an air raid at night, with lots of tracer fire lighting up the night sky.
”It was 10 times more brilliant than the 4th of July (fireworks),” he said.
One of the worst sights Arnone experienced was seeing 20 U.S. service men floating dead in the water.
”It was one of the things that really upset me. That is what war did to me,” he said.
At the end of World War II in Europe, Arnone said they celebrated in Ireland and then traveled 19 days across the Atlantic in the LST to return home to the United States. Arnone said he got 30 days leave before returning to duty to take a long trip through the Panama Canal on his way to Hawaii. Once on the island state, Arnone said they started preparing for the invasion of Japan, which didn’t occur because the United States and the Axis nation reached a peace agreement.
In 2014, he returned to Normandy during the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. He said it was surreal returning to Normandy, seeing for the first time the wide open and mostly empty beaches, which seven decades before was a crowded sight of soldiers, tanks and ships.
The Vets Finding Vets program is supported in part by a grant from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. The program, which was started Veterans Day 2014 allows free access to the Fenton Research Center for veterans, active military and reservists. It allows the veterans to use the research facility, resources and assistance to begin or further their family history search, locate old service comrades or to help the volunteer research staff to collect information regarding the soldiers buried in Chautauqua County cemeteries. The veterans in the program are encouraged to contribute their military record, photographs and memories of their service so they will be preserved and shared.
The Vets Finding Vets program plans to present up to four Veterans stories each year to further share the local history of local veterans. Anyone interested in joining the program is encouraged to call program manager Barbara Cessna at the Fenton History Center at 664-6256 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in joining Vets Finding Vets visit: https://www.fentonhistorycenter.org/vets-finding-vets/ to learn more.
Join us the second Saturday of every month for the Fenton Canteen: https://www.fentonhistorycenter.org/fenton-canteen/
Learn more about the Vets Finding Vets Upcoming Talks and Outings: https://www.fentonhistorycenter.org/upcoming-talks-and-outings/
Discover stories featuring some of our Vets Finding Vets members: https://www.fentonhistorycenter.org/veterans-in-the-news/
Learn more about Project 22: A Message of Hope: https://www.fentonhistorycenter.org/project-22/