Patsy J. Giacchi
Survivor of Exercise Tiger, LST 507
Clifton, N.J., April 25, 1998
Patsy J. Giacchi was in a quartermaster railhead company during World War II. On April 28, 1944, the LST on which he was taking part in the practice landing known as Exercise Tiger was torpedoed. In 1998, his daughter discovered the interview with Angelo Crapanzano on this web site. Angelo was a crew member on the 507. He and Patsy didn't know each other during World War II, but for 40 years they shared a terrible secret: that they had survived a tragedy that "didn't happen."
Aaron Elson: Where did you grow up?
Patsy Giacchi: I was born and raised in Hackensack, New Jersey.
Aaron Elson: Where did you go to high school?
Patsy Giacchi: I went to Hackensack High School for a couple of years. And then I quit because things were rough in those days, to make a living. I helped the family out. I met [my future wife] Emily, and then Pearl Harbor was bombed, the war broke out, and I turned 18 years old and I got drafted right away.
Aaron Elson: How did you meet your wife?
Patsy Giacchi: In 1940, I met her in Lodi, New Jersey.
Aaron Elson: How did you meet?
Emily Giacchi: On a blind date.
Patsy Giacchi: I met her on a blind date.
Emily Giacchi: So it worked out, didnt it?
Aaron Elson: Did you get married before or after the war?
Patsy Giacchi: I got married after the war. She waited for me.
Aaron Elson: What happened after you were drafted?
Patsy Giacchi: I went for my physical in Newark, New Jersey. Id say there were ten busloads that went from the Bergen County Courthouse in Hackensack; whats the capacity of a bus, 35, 40? The buses were full.
I passed my physical. Some of my buddies that I grew up with failed, who had this, who had that. Then they gave me about ten days to clarify things, like I was working in a supermarket, to tell them that Im going into the Army.
Then I went to Fort Dix. I stayed there about a week. Then I went to Camp Lee, Virginia, where I took my basic training, which was 13 weeks like all other soldiers.
After the 13 weeks were up, they gave me a furlough for 17 days. I came home, went out with Emily, had a good time. Then I went back to Camp Lee, and within one week I moved on to Chenango, Pennsylvania, and thats where they issued me my steel helmet, the carbine gun, a gas mask and everything else.
We stayed at Camp Chenango about another week. From there I went, at one or two oclock in the morning, on a troop train that was all boarded up; you couldnt see anything. Everything seemed to be like confidential. So we knew something was up.
From Chenango we went to Orangeburg, New York. From there we took a ferry across to a big ship called the Mauritania, which was waiting for us. That was a Cunard liner.
It took a couple of good hours to get on this troop ship. My number was 13, Ill never forget it. And as they get to Number 13, youve got to call your name. I said, "Patrick J. Giacchi!" And as Im getting on board, theres military police on each side so you cant escape. And youd see some of the guys break down, they dont want to go, but you have to go.
I was on the boat that night, then the following morning before you know it, it starts to take off. You go outside the limits of the United States. Before you know it you dont see any more land.
The Mauritania took us to Liverpool, England. I stayed there for a while, and we started to train, train, train. Then, after six or seven months, they take us out and then bring us to a marshaling area.
I said, "What the heck is a marshaling area?"
"Well," I was told, "thats supposed to be confidential. Theyre gonna give you special training."
Then they started to examine my teeth, they started to examine my eyes, and if I needed a pair of eyeglasses it would be made special to fit the gas mask, in case the Germans dropped gas.
We did a lot there, and before you know it, from this marshaling area they took us and they sent us to Brixham.
I said, "What is this for?"
"Were gonna be in a program called Tiger Exercise."
"Whats Tiger Exercise?"
"Were going to make a fake run to go on land in Slapton Sands."
"Wheres Slapton Sands?"
"By the time we get down there youll see what it is. What were gonna do is were gonna have a fake problem."
But on the ship, they load us up with all tanks, we got the Ducks [amphibious vehicles] and everything else, as though it was a real invasion. And there were three or four companies of the boys. I was in the 557th Quartermaster Railhead Company. So we got on this LST, and the first thing I did, I went down to the tank deck. They said, "Go find a place where youre gonna sleep." We slept on top of the trucks. We slept anywhere we could find a place. I found a stretcher on the side where the two big doors open up. I stayed there in a corner.
Up above there was another stretcher, and my friend Patty Moreno took that. He was in the motor pool, and was from Brooklyn. We start talking, in the meantime you look at the ship and the ship is about 300 feet long, about 50 feet wide. You see all the tanks and the trucks and everything down there, and the guys are all sitting down, whos writing to their loved ones, who was playing the harmonica, a ukelele, little things, just to pass the time because theres nothing to do. We were gonna be on this ship for three or four days.
All of a sudden, were sitting down there, I was sitting at the edge of the bunk and talking to Patty, "Ahhh, when I get back Im gonna do this, Im gonna do that," and by that time Id heard some funny noises. But I paid no mind because this was supposed to be an exercise.
Then I heard another noise, like a scraping, and it knocked me out of my stretcher. I saw little puddles of water, where the big doors are and the big chains. I fell down. I got up, and I started to panic. I said, "Patty! Somethings up!"
"Nah, this is a dry run!"
In the meantime I put my steel helmet on. I turned around and looked and I saw all the guys, shooting dice, playing cards, everybody, a thousand soldiers. So all of a sudden I picked my helmet up, took the gas mask, dropped the gas mask, went for my life belt. I started to go up the stairs, and as Im going up I can see on the sides of the ship the silhouette of what was like fire. I said, "Whats this?" As I got on top, I couldnt believe it. The ocean was on fire. Other boats were hit. I couldnt believe it. It was the real thing. I said, "This cant be a joke!" Behind me comes another guy, his name was Bradshaw, and we look around. He said, "Oh my God! Whats this?"
Then we got a direct hit. BOM! And I knew that who was down there, forget it. I knew right away because I flew up, ten, fifteen feet, I came down. Bradshaw landed on the side of me. I hit the corner of a piece of sharp, square metal, I dont know what it was. I hit that and I started to bleed. But I said, "Im all right! Im all right! Im gonna make it!" I was dizzy. I got up. Bradshaw looked at me. We turn and look and we can see the ship, the 507, was in half. So it was going down.
He says, "Pat, weve got to get off of here."
So we suddenly wowww, it seemed to be about like 40 feet, oh my God! So we had to go. We inflated our life jackets, held hands, we hit the water. Boom! You go down, salt water, about 40 degrees, oh! Cold. Then we started to drift away. The water was on fire. All around us you could smell the oil and the gas. Then you see all the soldiers and hear their death cry in the water. Who was hit. Who had an arm and a leg missing. As I looked up I saw a couple of sailors wrapped around a 40-millimeter gun, their heads hanging like this, blood, they were dead.
We started to drift away. And as were pulling away, pulling away, pulling away, we held hands together, and we could see other guys in the water. Ill never forget, the water was on fire, there was a gasoline smell, but the [worst thing was the] death cry of the sailors and the soldiers, "Helllp! Helllp! Helllp!" And theres nobody to help. These are guys that were wounded. I was all right. I mean, compared to those guys. The blood was coming down, but I didnt care, I knew what I was doing. So we held on together, Bradshaw and I, and we started to drift, drift, drift, and by that time, you could see the difference between us. He looked at me and said, "Patty, hold on, were doing fine." [Mumbling] "Yeah, I know..."
We kept drifting, drifting, drifting, drifting. Everything was quiet. Off in the distance you could see the stern or the bow, whatever it was, of the 507 still up there, and then you could see all the guys out there, its getting further away from us, and were drifting. We could see other guys in the water, hanging onto a liferaft or something like that. I said, "Lets stay where we are, dont pick up nobody else."
We kept drifting, drifting. All of a sudden off in the distance you could see a spark, like a little light. "No, no, youre imagining." Before you know it, its right on top of you, and it was a big British corvette. They got down a big special wire with a big bucket. They sent it down, and my friend was in better shape than I was, so he put me in the bucket first. They threw me in the bucket, and it pulls you all the way to the top. They pull it inside, and its a big corvette, oh, what beautiful red rugs and the British pictures of Her Majesty the Queen and everything else.
"Hiya Mate," they said, "Well take care of you, Mate, right away." They took off my clothes that were soaking wet for hours and hours, they gave me a needle, they gave me a shot of scotch, they gave me dry British clothes. Then they picked up my friend. By that time it was almost morning, and as were going in, the British corvette cant help it because theyve got quite a few soldiers that they picked up. As theyre going in, you could hear the boat hitting the bodies in the water, with the corvette going through. "We cant help it, Mate, weve got to go, we cant help it, Mate."
Before you know it, its the next morning. Me and this friend of mine, hes the only one I remember with me, together. Were in this room, and theyve got a big tremendous table set up. And on the the table theres all wallets that theyve picked up, because they had two colored companies going out, graves registration, with grappling hooks to pick up bodies. And on the table they had all kinds of wallets with money and pictures of loved ones, pictures with their wives and their kids. All kinds of money was piled, singles, soaking wet with the salt water. Singles, the fives, the tens, the twenties, hundred dollars bills. Loads, I mean big loads. They asked me, "If theres anything that belongs to you, take it." A big pile of false teeth, eyeglasses, you name it, yes, they were there. Nothing was mine. Because I couldnt believe it. The only thing I had was that I had a feeling that, Jesus, like a garbage can going down a hill, when that second torpedo, whatever it was, hit, ohhh, what a noise it made, when I flew up. What a feeling that was. But I knew Id be all right. I was afraid of the water, because I always feared water. After I got torpedoed I said, "Now, into the water I have to go." Well, I did that.
But now were on land. Were at the port. They had sent an LST out to pick up some bodies, and they came back and opened up the two big doors. You looked in there and you could see piles of soldiers and sailors, dead. They closed the doors right away because the port was loaded with English police and civilians, and they didnt want everybody to see what was going on because it was supposed to be hush-hush. This was a tragedy. It should have never happened, especially with D-Day five or six weeks away.
So they chased everybody away, and they took us and put us into another company. They didnt say anything to us, so we thought we were coming home, because every time, at the slightest noise, oh, I went crazy, the noise. Bradshaw would say, "Youll be all right, youll be right."
I said, "Yeah, Bradshaw, I think were gonna go home."
"Were finished," he said. "We saw our action."
Then, a few days later, a buck sergeant came and said, "Survivors of the 507, follow me."
We follow him. Were waiting for him to tell us, hey, were going to go home.
We went into a truck. They gave us whatever we had. We lost everything when we got torpedoed. So they take us, and we ride, we ride, we ride, before you know it, were back in the area of Brixham.
I said, "Holy God! I can smell the gas! I can smell the oil. I can smell the water! What is this?"
The sergeant says, "Sorry, boys. My orders were to deliver you here. Youre going on an LST. Youre going back."
"Going back WHERE?"
He says, "Were going to invade in a couple of days."
This was May 28th. So all of a sudden its two or three days later, were on a LST again, and then before you know it its the following morning, you look out there, and by the thousands the LSTs are all lined up. Then they waited till it got dark that night, which became June 6th. So were taking off. I go on the tank deck of the LST. I stood there. The officer comes out, he says, "Soldier, what are you doing here?"
"Oh," I said, "I-I was told that I could stay here, Im one of the survivors."
"Oh, oh, okay, okay." He says, "Do you feel better?"
"Yes," I said. "Please."
By that time everybody started to gather around me, all bunched up. Then the chaplain comes up. And by that time, the boats are all going. You could look out, its starting to get light, "What the heck!" By the thousands! LSTs lined up. Which one I was on to make the invasion of D-Day I dont know, but I know I was with the 94th Quartermaster Railhead Company. So were going, and theres the priest, he says, "To all faiths, to all you service boys on this ship, to Catholics, Jews, whatever your faith is, may God speed, may God bless you, and lets hurry up home!"
So were starting to go. By that time, we start to look out again, its lighter and lighter and lighter. Then we start to hear it, "Boom! Boom-boom-boom-boomboom! Rat-tat-tat-tat." And as you get a little closer, it gets louder and louder because youre getting there. Before you know it, its almost, "Oh my God you cant believe it!"
Okay. Were starting to come in. The LST goes as far as it could go. They have the ropes on the side. Big, thick ropes. I start to come around with a full field pack and coming down, someone gets his foot caught and is hanging in midair, "Forget him! Theyll get him down! You keep going!" Because the Germans are strafing us.
As were going in, guys are being hit and we say, "Oh my God, I hope the next ones not for me, not for me, not for me." You keep going in. As you get onto land you can see the engineers with the minesweepers, theyre trying to get the land mines because they had them all around there. And then you see the medic guys trying to put up a big Red Cross hospital. As theyre putting it up, a Luftwaffe comes down and strafes the hell out of them, right near us. Were running on the side. But luckily, no bullets hit us. So we kept on going. And they got those guys who were setting up the hospital.
Then as youre coming in, youve got to follow the rest of the guys, they tell you where to go. Then we hit on the side like where the big hedgerows were. We laid there, and we were soaked and wet, and in the meantime theyre firing away. Then we stayed there for one or two days. We woke up. Then they told us to move, and as youre getting up you looked out, and you can smell all the dead bodies. Ugh, the Germans and the Americans. They tried to pick up the Americans as fast as they can because it knocks the morale down, when you see an American soldier there.
From there, they didnt say too much to us, who I was assigned to, what company. I know it was Utah Beach, I was with the Fourth Division, I didnt know too much.
Aaron Elson: What was your rank?
Patsy Giacchi: I was a Pfc. We had a lot of guys who were noncoms. I didnt care to be an officer. I was a Pfc and then I was gonna become a corporal.
Aaron Elson: Going back a little bit, did they mention Utah Beach when they said that Slapton Sands resembled Utah Beach, or did you learn that later?
Patsy Giacchi: No, after we got torpedoed they said it was supposed to resemble Utah Beach.
Aaron Elson: What kind of training did they give you for the life jacket?
Patsy Giacchi: I would say, my honest opinion is, they gave me training. Whats right is right. A lot of these guys that wrote about this said the boys werent equipped, they didnt know what they were doing." I knew what I was doing. I knew that. If you put it [around your waist] and you inflate it, itll capsize you in the water. Youve got to put it underneath your armpits and inflate it and then hold it there.
Aaron Elson: And the wrong way was around the waist?
Patsy Giacchi: Yes. That would capsize you in the water. But everybody panicked. The guys downstairs, had they knew it was the real thing, they would have moved with me because I screamed. I said, "Im going up! Im going up!" I said that to my friend, Patty Moreno. He went down with the boat when it got torpedoed. Dr. Eckstam even says that when he started to close the hatches, he had one hatch he opened up and he looked inside and he heard the death cry of all the soldiers, when he said that on "20/20" I knew what he meant. I didnt see it, I was already on the top deck. Had I been down there I would have never been here, thats the truth.
Aaron Elson: You mentioned two people, Patty Moreno and Bradshaw.
Patsy Giacchi: Yeah. I was gonna look up the Morenos, it took me fifty years, there are a million Morenos in Brooklyn. I never did. I wanted to tell his family exactly what happened.
Aaron Elson: What was he like?
Patsy Giacchi: He was a very nice guy. He was a corporal or a buck sergeant, I forget his rank. He was in the motor pool.
Aaron Elson: What was the first sound that you heard before the torpedo hit?
Patsy Giacchi: Like a scraping, and the whole ship jarred a little bit. A scraping sound. According to [Angelo] Crapanzano, when you interviewed him, he says that the bottom of an LST is flat, so the torpedoes were going underneath. And then this German guy who was the captain of the E-boats, he said he elevated it high, and thats when that one hit the 507.
Aaron Elson: When you flew up, were you still on the stairs?
Patsy Giacchi: Oh no, I was off the stairs already.
Aaron Elson: Was the ship hit by two torpedoes?
Patsy Giacchi: Well, actually one torpedo. The other [explosion] I thought was a torpedo but they tell me it was something else. It wasnt a torpedo. But whatever it was, had it been a moment earlier, as I was coming up the steps, I wouldnt be here, because the stairs are so narrow. And everything on the ship, on an LST, is nothing but steel, so that concussion, when that torpedo hit, how long are those torpedoes? Eighteen feet, twenty feet long? I dont know. How big in diameter? The German E-boat torpedoes, theyre terrific. They were deadly. When it hit the ship, oh! But had I been down there Id have been with those guys, but I knew it, when I came down and landed, I stood like this, "Pat, youre breathing," I said. "Im okay."
Aaron Elson: You were bleeding from the forehead?
Patsy Giacchi: Right here, up on top here.
Aaron Elson: Did you feel any pain?
Patsy Giacchi: Oh yeah, I had a lot of pain. There was a big gash.
Aaron Elson: Was your helmet on?
Patsy Giacchi: No, I lost the helmet. When I went up, I didnt have it locked. I had it with the strap loose, and when I went up and I came down, it fell off. And then I remember another thing vividly. We had a bugler, his name was Eintracht, and somehow or other he was near us at the edge. On the edge of the LST youve got a bar that goes around, and to jump off youve got to get over to go over that bar. So all of a sudden this bugler is coming near me and anything you do, if you dont do it fast, youre gone, youre in a daze, you cant move, youre like doped up. All of a sudden hes coming by me and hes trying to grab my belt, because he had no belt. And Im trying to push him away. I didnt have much strength left, but Bradshaw gave him a push, and he fell down. So we went over the side. I dont know what happened to Eintracht.
Aaron Elson: He didnt have a life belt?
Patsy Giacchi: He didnt have a life belt, and he was trying to take mine. Yes. Oh, it was just in a split second. Some guys were brave but some guys, theyd kill you to get that life belt.
And then the guys that were jumping in the water, wed see, theyd jump on top of another soldier instead of jumping in the water away from the body. You couldnt believe it.
Aaron Elson: Now, this was in the middle of the night. It was 1:45 in the morning...
Patsy Giacchi: Give or take, whatever it was. Close to 2 oclock.
Aaron Elson: And you said that all these guys were sitting around playing dice and doing things. Was there enough light on the tank deck?
Patsy Giacchi: Yes, the lights were on. And no matter where you were you had to be careful because it was so crowded with soldiers. You could hear guys saying, "When I get back home Im gonna do this, Im gonna do that." And the soldiers, who had his shoes off, nobody had their helmets on because youre inside the ship there, and they all knew that it was gonna be a dry run, a fake problem. That was what they knew. But they never knew it was the real thing. And you look around, you see guys talking, some guys are sleeping. And I was scared. I didnt sleep that night. I lay down on the stretcher. Patty Moreno was writing a letter to his grandfather, and I was looking at the two big doors, and I could see little puddles of water where the big doors open up. And then I looked around and I said, "Let me see now, the steps are over there, just in case," and then, boom-boom-boom, I heard a couple of noises, boom-boom, whatever it was, outside. I dont know what it was, the guns were shooting, other LSTs were shooting. I waited a while, and then the second time I heard something, when it jarred the ship, I said, "Paddy, Im going."
"Aw, Pat, dont go! Its only a dry run."
I put my helmet on. I took my gas mask. I said I need the lifebelt, and I put that on, and I checked it. And I started to go up to the stairs, and as I got to the top, I couldnt believe it. I saw the ocean was on fire. I saw a Navy man, because they had the gray helmets, we had the green ones, he was wrapped around a gun, dead. He was dead, poor guy, he must have been firing the gun when the torpedo hit. He was wrapped around the gun and there was blood all over him, he was gone. I saw him when I came up, after I went into the water.
Aaron Elson: When you saw that, what did you think? Were you in shock?
Patsy Giacchi: Yes, I was. I was 20 years old, but I knew it was the real thing, and somehow or another, I saw a vision of my mother. She said to me, "Save yourself!" in Italian. "Save yourself!"
I said, "I will, Mom! I will, Mom!" This is the truth. The feeling I had.
Aaron Elson: You saw a vision?
Patsy Giacchi: A vision of my mother telling me, "Save yourself! Save yourself!" "I will! I will!"
Aaron Elson: At what point did you see this?
Patsy Giacchi: As I got up to the surface, Bradshaw was on the side of me, and as I turned around I saw the Navy man killed on the 40-millimeter gun. As I turned around I saw the ocean on fire, then a split second, wow! It was like an angel. And my mother said to me, "Patsy, save yourself!" in Italian. "Save yourself!" I said, "Mom, I will!" I never said nothing to Bradshaw. I was too excited. And I feel this I never gave up. I never gave up. I hit that water and never gave up. And I was never a good swimmer. I feared water. That belt saved me. I respected that belt, because without it Id have been gone, you couldnt stand it. When we hit the water I swallowed so much salt water, because I wasnt prepared for that part. I swallowed a lot of water. And then we started to drift away, and every now and then youd see something like a shadow off in the distance, it could have been an E-boat going back, they dropped their torpedoes, then they left and went back, whatever it was. But the four or five hours seemed like four or five days, the feeling you had, when youre in that water by yourself, you and this other guy.
Aaron Elson: Just the two of you?
Patsy Giacchi: Just the two of us. And he was a year or two older, about 22 or 23, and you know how the Southern boys speak very softly, "Patsy," he says, "youve got to grab it and hold it," he says. "Were gonna beat thing."
I said, "Oh yes, Bradshaw, oh yes, were gonna beat this, were gonna beat this, oh yes!" But I had that doubt in my mind, "Jesus, what happens, nobodys gonna pick us up, what if were gonna drift into the middle of the ocean? I dont know what part of the Channel we were in, we just drifted away. Then we saw that light off in the distance there, and it came close, oh, we were saved. And we didnt care even if was the Germans. This is the feeling I had, I told him, I said, "I dont care if its the Germans. Weve got to get out of this water or were gonna die."
He said, "All right Patty. If its the Germans, well go. Well do what they tell us to do."
Aaron Elson: What did you and Bradshaw talk about in the water.
Patsy Giacchi: We didnt say too much. He kept saying, "Were gonna beat this. Were gonna beat this." And I wouldnt say nothing. I would agree with him. Id say, "Yeah, were gonna beat it. Were gonna beat it." But any minute, you know, they said that some of the other guys, like Crapanzano says some of the guys just gave up. You do it. There were some times I said to myself, "No, hold on, hold on, dont, a little more to go, a little. Mama said, Save yourself! Save yourself! And I held on for dear life. A couple of times, you automatically, youre in the water so many hours, and it seems like days, the feeling you get, its cold. You couldnt believe it. Your skin is all wrinkled up because of the salt water."
Aaron Elson: Did you think about sharks?
Patsy Giacchi: To tell you the truth they never entered my mind. Its just that I knew I was in the water. I knew I was deep. I knew I was in the English Channel. I realized that much, ohhh, every time I think of it. Just to keep on going, going, going. To try to make it, you know what I mean?
Aaron Elson: Did you get hungry or thirsty?
Patsy Giacchi: No, nothing like that. I had no appetite. The only thing is, I do realize that I survived it so far. I was alive. I remember that part, and every now and then my mother would say, in Italian, "Save yourself! Save yourself!" "Yes Mom! Yes Mom!" To myself. I looked at Bradshaw, and I didnt say nothing. And if you said to me, "Patsy, did you think you were gonna make it?" At times, I didnt think I was. It was so cold, and a couple of times I was ready to give up but I never gave up. And then, when I got picked up, I couldnt believe it. I said, "Bradshaw, theres something this coming this way. Even if its the Germans, we dont care. Lets get picked up."
He said, "Okay, Pat. You go first."
"Bradshaw, I dont care."
Aaron Elson: He offered to let you go first? That to me is heroic.
Patsy Giacchi: Oh yes. Oh yes. He was something else. We stayed together. But it was something. Theres a lot that I probably left out that I just cant dig it up, I forgot about it, but its amazing. Its amazing how they did it, and everything was hush-hush. We didnt get too much information about D-Day; it was coming later on. I heard a lot about D-Day after I got torpedoed, that it was coming on any day now, they didnt want the Germans to know. They said they were gonna land in Calais but it was along the Normandy coast.
Aaron Elson: When did they tell you not to say anything?
Patsy Giacchi: After I got off the British corvette. MPs came and got us and took us someplace. They had an Army doctor there. "Okay, youll be all right." And you couldnt put in for a Purple Heart, because it was supposed to be hush-hush. I dont know how Crapanzano and some of these other guys got medals, a lot of them got medals. I got nothing. But I wasnt looking for that. I was looking to beat the rap, to save myself.
Aaron Elson: On D-Day, what did it feel like to be back on an LST?
Patsy Giacchi: What a feeling it was to get on an LST, because it seemed like maybe a week before that I was torpedoed. I said, "What the hell are you guys doing?"
The sergeant said, "We have strict orders."
These guys, they were MPs, they had .45s. And we had to get on the ship, we had to make the invasion. "We need every goddamned available man," they said. "Every available man. We cant spare nobody."
Bradshaw looked at me and I said, "What are we gonna do? We have to go."
Aaron Elson: Was he scared also?
Patsy Giacchi: You could say, yes, but he didnt show it as much as I did. You know, I figured, and its the truth, I thought I was finished. I said, "What the hell am I gonna do? I couldnt grab a gun now." I couldnt believe that I survived that torpedo.
Aaron Elson: When you were on the on the LST going into D-Day, did they ask you what happened?
Patsy Giacchi: Oh, yeah. Some of them from the company I joined, the 94th, they knew about it. Somebody must have said something, that we got three or four survivors there were just two, me and Bradshaw of a ship that was torpedoed. But nobody actually came up to me and said, "What happened?" They didnt ask me. They looked at me, stared at me. They probably had orders to leave us alone or dont say nothing, because they were trying to be nice, but they needed every available man. And they were short on LSTs. But the guys didnt ask me questions as to what happened. They knew that I was a survivor. Theyd give you a seat, they figure, "Oh, this guy saw action already," you know, I didnt see nothing. Cmon. It was nothing like some other people saw.
Aaron Elson: What does a quartermaster railhead company do?
Patsy Giacchi: Okay. Ammunition, food, gasoline, our job was to go down to the LSTs, they had big cranes on there, and we would go down with the amphibious Ducks, the big crane would take this big pile of K rations or whatever it was, and put it on a Duck. The Duck would drive from the water, then when it gets on land, it drives away. They would bring it back to our area, and we would stack the stuff and cover it with camouflage. Our job was to bring the supplies to the boys. And you know, we werent rear echelon, we were right up there with the guys. We werent actually in combat hand to hand, but we were right there. They were doing the fighting, the infantry and the engineers and so forth, and we had to supply them. We had to go up there with them.
And a few times, Ill never forget, this was later on after me being torpedoed, they hit an ammunition dump. Ho boy, you ought to see that thing go up. All kinds of ammunition, the big blockbusters, they used to store it, and we used to dig holes around it, just in case there was a fire, so it wouldnt go beyond that big, big deep hole.
Aaron Elson: These were German planes that hit an American ammunition dump?
Patsy Giacchi: Oh, yessss. The Germans, they knew. I dont know how they knew, whether they had reconnaissance. Sometimes you could hear a plane and everybody would look up, "Rrrrrrrrrrr," youd hear it, and you know damn well its not an American plane. You know your motors after a while, the P-51 Lockheed, or the, theres a 38, whatever they are, the Mustangs, the P-38, you could hear that. But you could hear the Germans, "Rrrrrrrrr," probably taking aerial shots. Many times, oh yes. And then a couple days later, Bang! They hit that ammunition dump. They were good. The Germans were good fighters. Their guns were perfect. Their 88s were good.
Aaron Elson: What would you do when these attacks would come?
Patsy Giacchi: Youd run for the nearest hole. You had a foxhole, youd go into it. Automatically, you go for shelter, you do. You hide. You put your head down and you hope to God the next ones not gonna be in your area. If theyre dropping a bomb or if theyre strafing. Many times they strafed. I never got hit by a strafing bullet, but sometimes it was awful close.
Aaron Elson: Did you hear stories when you were in the quartermaster section, when soldiers would come off the front? What would they talk about?
Patsy Giacchi: I remember, we went through Ste. Mere Eglise. Now, we were quartermasters, we went through with the guys we were attached to 18 or 20 days after D-Day. But the paratroopers landed there H-Hour, thats before D-Day, it could have been the 82nd or the 101st, we used to hear stories about those guys, that theyre coming down, the Germans were strafing them, they had them like sitting ducks. A lot of them got killed as they were coming down. And we heard that a lot of them drowned. The Germans opened up the reservoirs or something like that, and when they were dropping, they drowned, because they had a full field pack, and they drowned in water four or five feet deep. They found a lot of paratroopers the next day bloated up from drowning. Ill never forget that, I heard those stories.
And then we used to hear stories of how the Germans with their artillery gun called the 88. The 88 was so damn accurate they used to pick up an American soldier walking maybe two or three miles, they could pick him up by himself, thats how accurate their guns were. We used to hear this every day. And we knew that their burp guns were sensational, their machine guns. Everything they had was more superior than us. Im getting away from this Tiger Exercise. I remember I thought, "Jesus, wow, the wars just started, weve got a long way to go." And then, every now and then wed see maybe three, four, five hundred German prisoners, they were taking them away and bringing them to England. Theyd be saying, "No! No! We want to go to America! Because in America theyll spare us. The English will kill us."
Aaron Elson: Really?
Patsy Giacchi: Yeah. They were very afraid. We were right there. And then Ill never forget on D-Day I saw some Japanese in German uniforms, when they captured the Germans along with Japanese, the Japanese were with the Germans in German uniforms. They were Japanese, Ill never forget that. I saw that.
But then along the beach on D-Day you see all kinds of LSTs there, and then you see the barrage balloons all over, so that the Germans cant get in with their Luftwaffe to strafe them, to keep them high above and away like that. And then every night at the beach there, while we were having our K rations, or youd be trying to walk down the beach, they used to drop flares. The Germans would drop flares that used to make our area look like Broadway, and if it lit up they told you, no matter what youre doing, freeze, because if you moved they could spot you with the planes.
Then I pulled guard duty on D-Day. I was scared. They go by alphabetical order, my name is G, Giacchi, and mine was the last one to be picked. They said, "When your name is called, fall out."
In the meantime everybody, me, you, everybodys scared on D-Day. You could hear the guns going bom-bom, tat-tat-tat-tat-da-da-da. Like that. Everything. All of a sudden I pulled guard duty. And my job was to go up there and watch the K rations. There I am with a steel helmet on, Ive got the gun like this here, and then they said that if you hear anything, therell be another soldier near you, just give your call. We had the signal, we had the little information like the cue card to tell us what to say. All of a sudden, they started to bomb up above us, and the flak was coming down, you could see the hot flak, and were standing there, holy cow! The flak coming down, a piece of shrapnel comes down and started to light a fire on the grass. I put it out. I was so scared. The Germans are here! So finally, thats it, one hour, it seems like about 50 hours. The corporal comes. "Pat? Its me. Corporal Gray. Yeah. Youre gonna be relieved."
"Oh, thank God! Oh, thank God!"
Another guy asked me, "Pat, how is it?"
I was scared, scared, because there were Germans all around us. But I was lucky because if I ran into a German I dont know what my reaction would have been because. If they told me to stay awake, I would stay awake, the guys that were sleeping, that I would never do. I would never fall asleep on guard duty. You couldnt. Because there was too much action there. But I wasnt firing my gun, nothing like that. I was just holding and protecting it.
Aaron Elson: Did you have trouble sleeping?
Patsy Giacchi: Oh, God. Oh, God. You would be on the beach. The shoes, I think the first time I took my shoes off was after about 21 days. So when some of the guys took their shoes off, uggh! Things like that. Some guys had swollen feet. But with me, we used to wear the paratrooper boots, because I was assigned to the combat engineers. I was quartermaster, but these guys always were right near the front.
Aaron Elson: What was your job in the quartermasters?
Patsy Giacchi: I was a loader. I would lift up stuff and put the rations onto the trucks. All of us, we had to do it. We had to bring the supplies up to the guys. And every now and then, at times, this is going off the subject, every now and then somebody would come in, some soldier maybe got drunk, he wound up getting some cognac, somebody would come in, theyd have two chickens, somebody would say, "Ill kill them, give them to me, Ill kill those chickens," and wed eat them. Because we never had chicken like that. We always had the K rations, the special chocolate thats got vitamin this and vitamin that.
I was in the service almost for three years, but from the time I left the States, I couldnt believe, everything happened so fast to me. I went in one day, a week later Im in Pennsylvania. Im there, the next day Im in Camp Lee, Virginia. Thirteen weeks of basic. Come home. Take a furlough for 17 days. Go back. Before you know it, I cant believe it. Im on the high seas, going overseas. They said over the loudspeaker, "Okay, we can tell you where you are, now that we are outside the jurisdiction of the United States. You boys are now going to the ETO." What the hells the ETO? ETO means Europe Theater of Operation. "Oh, thank God, we aint going to fight the Japs." Cause the Japs are dirty, they dont care. The Germans are more civilized. The Germans were better than the Japs, because they used to value their lives too, the Germans. But they were good fighters. And like I say, 21 days to cross that, I couldnt believe it. Before you know it were in Liverpool.
Aaron Elson: What was the crossing like? Did you get seasick?
Patsy Giacchi: Yes, very bad. I got seasick very bad. I pulled KP on the Mauritania. Im not trying to make you laugh, I pulled KP, my second day on this big, large, tremendous ship. Ive got a picture of it. I pulled KP, and here I am with all the other guys, pulling KP, so Im downstairs in the kitchen, all of a sudden "Boom-boomboomboom-boom!" I dropped that pot. "Man your stations! Man your stations!" Oh God! Youve got to go by a certain station where the lifeboats are, in case. It was a fake drill, to show us what to do. But in the meantime, theyre shooting at something, theres still something out there, "Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-tat-tat." Wow. They were accurate. They were good. Because theyd been fighting, you know, the British, compared to us.
Then they told us while we were there to turn around and look at the back of the boat, whatever they call it, the bow or the stern, look at the back of the boat, and you could see the path in the water. It was never a straight line. It was zigzag, zigzag, zigzag. You cant torpedo a boat zigzagging like that.
I said to a couple of British guys, "Tell me the truth, are we being chased?"
"Are we being chased? Theyre on our tail!" The German submarines, they used to come, I dont want to exaggerate but they came close many times near New York. I dont know if you heard something like that. They picked up strange noises. And I believe the Germans could do that. They were accurate. They were so good. That they came probably close to New York many times. Probably they followed a lot of the boats going out. Because LSTs were a sucker for those, oh, they were beautiful, they used to eat those things up. And they knew LSTs carried a lot of stuff. The Germans knew that. They carried troops and ammunition and supplies. Theyve got the flat bottom and they knew all about it. Like we knew about them, they knew about us.
Aaron Elson: Were you in a convoy, or was the Mauritania by itself?
Patsy Giacchi: The Mauritania was all by itself. No escort. But it was loaded with all those big guns.
Aaron Elson: Now, you said you got seasick. What was that like?
Patsy Giacchi: Thats a funny feeling. We had some of the soldiers get so sick that actually they started coughing up blood. They were really sick until we got to England.
Aaron Elson: Did you smoke at the time?
Patsy Giacchi: Yes, I smoked. I admit, I used to smoke. So did everybody else. You pick it up. I never smoked before, but you pick it up in the Army. You have nothing to do, you go crazy. You pick it up. And guys that never drank before, youd be surprised what happens, how you change. You cant help it. Not that youre gonna be deadly, commit suicide or go out and shoot somebody dead, but certain things, you say its a bad habit, but it could be worse. Oh, some of the soldiers were bastards. Ohhh, yes. Some of the guys were perverts and sick.
Aaron Elson: These were front line soldiers or quartermasters?
Patsy Giacchi: No, they were quartermasters.
Aaron Elson: Off the front a little bit, all sorts of stuff must have happened.
Patsy Giacchi: Oh, yes, oh yes. It was a tough life. For my part, I did what I had to do. I was a good soldier. I should have had more rank, they told me. I didnt want to mess around with stuff like that. I was a Pfc. Then I became a corporal, and then they were supposed to give me stripes and we got torpedoed. I was supposed to get stripes after we came back from Slapton Sands, I was gonna be a corporal, but when we got torpedoed all the records went down.
Aaron Elson: Your parents, your mother spoke Italian?
Patsy Giacchi: My mother spoke Italian.
Aaron Elson: Did you speak Italian?
Patsy Giacchi: Yes, but I spoke a dialect, which was Sicilian. And they were picking up English pretty good. We used to kid them around back in Hackensack, "Hey, Mom, look, youre in America, speak English. If you want to speak Italian, go to your county."
Ah, I gonna learn. I gonna learn."
"Speak English. This is America."
Aaron Elson: And your father?
Patsy Giacchi: My father the same thing. Well, he was going to night school, in Hackensack. Mrs. Micalini, Ill never forget her, she was an oldtimer then, she used to say, "Your fathers coming along fine, hes doing nice. Hes writing his name nice." He used to write his name, L, like Luigi, Lllllll. It takes him five pages to write L. No, make a small letter. And things like that. He started to pick it up.
Aaron Elson: Were your patents married in Italy?
Patsy Giacchi: No, they got married in Paterson. In those days, the boat would come in to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, and they separated them there. They went to Paterson. I heard the story from my older sister and brothers, theyre all gone now, theyre dead, but I would hear the story that they had come to Paterson. Then they moved to Hackensack.
Aaron Elson: And your father, what did he do?
Patsy Giacchi: He was a farmer. He used to work in Teterboro, years ago there used to be big farms there, he used to work for a lot of those farmers, when it was the season. When it was tomato season and celery and so forth, he used to make so much a week. Of course their pay was very little then for farming, but long hours.
Aaron Elson: How many brothers and sisters did you have?
Patsy Giacchi: I had two brothers. My brother Johnny died of a heart attack. And Joey is my other brother, hes about now 68, because Im 75 and Johnny would have been about 80 if he was living. Then I had five sisters. Half of them died of bad hearts and whatnot. Because in those days they didnt do much about rheumatic fever and murmur of the heart, youd die. Today they can almost conquer it, they can live. And my mother died when she was about 80. My father died while I was in Germany, in a town called Schweigenhausen. My father passed away, and the thing that I want to say is that my mother was always a sickly person. She was the one that had a stroke when I was 12 years old, she had rheumatic fever. So when my sergeant came to me and said, "Captain Ashley wants to see you," I said, "Ohhh, God, dont tell me I made corporal again. Look, I made corporal again!" So when I went there they slept in the pyramidal tents; we slept in a foxhole, they slept in a big tent. It was up in the line.
All of a sudden he chased everybody out of the tent. It was just me and the captain. So hes got a letter, and its all burnt on the edges. So Im nervous.
He says, "Patsy, how long have you been in my company?"
"Well, Sir, from the time I, after I got torpedoed."
And he says, "Now Ive got to tell you something. Youve been a very good soldier "
"Well, gee, thank you, Sir."
He says, "Well, Ive got a little sad news for you."
I go crazy right away. Some guys could take it. I just cant. I looked at him, "Sir, is it my father or my mother?"
"I know. My mother." But it wasnt my mother. He told me it was my father. But I thought it was my mother. Because my mother was always sick. He says, "This letter is addressed from your parish, St. Francis Church," which is in Hackensack, on Lodi Street, its a Catholic church. He says, "Ive got a letter here from the priest. He says your father has passed away."
I said, "Gee, I know, she was very sickly."
He says, "No, not she. Its your father."
"Oh, Im sorry, Sir."
"No, your mothers living, its your father."
He opened up the letter. He showed it to me, it was all burnt. But the letter was already seven months old. My father was dead seven months. They couldnt get to me because we used to move up so goddamn fast. When he showed me the letter, it said that the priest said, "Patsy, were very sorry to inform you that your father has passed away," but this was seven months later they brought it to my attention! My father had been dead and buried for seven months. And I said to myself, "No wonder Im not getting any mail from my sisters and my girlfriend" she was my girlfriend then, Emily, that I married. Because they were writing to me. But then when I got the mail, whoa! They had a whole special truck for me alone. "Patsy! Weve got a big box for you alone!" From Emily, loads and loads of letters, from my sister Jane and everybody else, they said they tried everything to save my father but they couldnt. At that time they didnt know too much about cancer of the throat. He smoked. Here I thought it was my mother. And they were good about it, my company was good. They sent me back to the rear echelon and gave me two weeks off. Then I came back and kept on moving. By that time, I didnt realize it but we were getting closer to the end of the war.
When the war ended, I was in Germany, in a town called Ulm, U-L-M, we say Ulm, but they say "Oohlm," the Germans. Out of the clear blue sky over the loudspeaker they say, "The war has ended! The war has ended!" Here I am in a foxhole talking to one of my buddies. "What did they say?"
"Pat! The war has ended!" Youd see there were some of them out there going crazy. Guys were shooting each other by mistake! GIs, yes, they were shooting themselves, from the excitement. They tried to tell everybody, "Calm down! Be careful!"
And I was in a foxhole down there, "The war is over! The war is over!" I was crying in the foxhole from joy, I couldnt believe it. The following morning they called formation outside, they said, "The following names, please step forward." Finally, "Pfc. Patsy Giacchi!" I step forward.
"Okay," the captain says, "you guys are all going home. "
Boom. One guy passes out from the excitement. I couldnt believe it. I think I was 21 years old then.
The following day, it was a clear blue sky, "Cover up your foxholes." Before you know it, they put us on trucks, the big Army trucks, they load you up in there, hold the back door, the driver takes off, and hes going for miles and miles and miles, before you know it, youre riding almost a whole day. You ride from one part of Germany to another part. You bivouac. Five in the morning you get up, take your tents down, they give you coffee. Boom! We start to travel. Before you know it were deep into France. Another couple of days were in Le Havre. And theres the big liberty ships waiting. But before all that they had to give you the inspection, because a lot of guys caught venereal disease. If you had a venereal disease, they took you out of line. They put you in the hospital, and they cured you there, then they would send you home. A lot of guys were pulled out, who had syphilis, the clap. A lot of soldiers caught VD over there. They taught them how to use prophylactics, but a lot of guys were stupid, they got drunk
Now Im on a liberty ship coming home, I cant believe it. All of a sudden, after about a week, they said, "Here it is, boys." We come around a big bend, and they say, "You guys want to see it? Go up on the top deck, you can see it."
What is it? Were hitting Newport News, Rhode Island. And you look, as you come in, you cant believe it, the United States. And a big sign that says, "Welcome home, boys! Well done!" Im on the deck there, Im crying, I cant believe it.
All of a sudden you start to line up. I said, "Pat, be careful now, Pat be careful, you made it through the whole war. Dont get killed, dont fall off the ship or get hurt." Careful. Careful. Then they call your name, you step down. So when I got off, I did what they all do: I kissed the ground. I cried.
Then, "All the guys from New Jersey, line up one one side, youre going to Fort Monmouth." All the guys from another state, they line up somewhere else.
So I went to Fort Monmouth. The following morning we had to go to a big church. You had the organist up there playing songs.
They said, "When your name is called, step up, salute the officer whos giving you your discharge papers, make a turn, go back, youre discharged from the Army."
"Pfc. Patsy J. Giacchi."
"Pfc Patsy J. Giacchi!"
A guy goes, "Hey, thats you!"
"Oh, yeah! Yeah!" I go up there, nervous. They give me that paper. I walk back.
"You dont go back and sit down! Get the hell out of here, youre discharged!" I see an officer go by, I salute him. He says, "Youre not a soldier anymore."
"Im sorry, Sir."
So Im the only guy thats coming towards Hackensack. They told me where to get the next bus to go from Fort Monmouth to Newark.
Im on the bus a couple of hours, and then the driver says, "Newark, Penn Station!"
"Penn Station!" I remember that from when I was a kid! Penn Station in Newark.
I got off the bus. I went to a telephone booth. There were many guys there. My time came. I took out my wallet. Now, I didnt know my phone number, because when I left it was three years ago. So I opened up my wallet to look for my phone number. I had my mustering out pay. They gave me three hundred dollars when I got discharged, plus I had another two hundred dollars. Thats 1945. Thats a lot of money. So Im nervous, all of a sudden, "Hello, who am I speaking to?"
"Youre speaking to Nellie." Now Nellies one of my sisters.
"Nellie, please, now dont get excited. This is your brother Patsy."
Boom. She dropped the phone. She passed out.
Jane picks up the phone, my older sister, and she "Whos this?"
"Jane, pleease, its your brother Patsy. Please, dont get excited, Im in Newark, New Jersey."
"Oh my GOD!" Well send somebody."
"No, no, no. Im coming home. Ill take care of it. Im coming home."
"Patsy, please be careful. Oh my GOD!"
I left. I couldnt believe it. I left the wallet there. This is the gods honest truth. I had some change in my pocket, and a couple of bills. I got on the bus. I took the bus from Newark to Hackensack. Then from Hackensack on Main Street I took a taxicab to West Street, where I lived.
As Im coming around the corner, theyve got the thing lit up for me in front of my house, "Welcome home, Patsy!" All my neighbors are waiting for me. All my Italian neighbors, theyre all waiting for me. I get out of there, and theyre grabbing me, my mothers trying to grab me, my father, no, my fathers dead, my mother was trying to grab me, my sisters were there. The neighbors were there. Across the street the DeLorenzos. "Ohhh, Patsy, its good to see you" and everything else. Whos pulling me here, whos pulling me there.
After about two hours, some of the neighbors disperse, we go inside, we started talking.
Then Jane says, "Gee, Patty, have you got any pictures?"
"Ive got one or two pictures. JANE! My wallet! I left it in Newark."
"Oh my God! How much was in it?"
"Five HUNDRED?!!!" Then it was like five thousand.
We call up Newark. They say, "Would you please come on down?"
We get down to Newark. I go where I made the telephone call from. Behind the counter, theres a couple of cops there, security or something else. They said, "Soldier, we get this every day. Youre going to have to give us some real good detail. Everybody tells us "black wallet, brown wallet," something like that. Tell us if you can whats in your wallet.
"Well," I said, "Ive got a couple of this, a couple of that."
"Keep on going." The other guys writing it down.
I said, "Okay. Ive got it. Okay, now look." There was a picture of my girlfriend in it.
I was always excited. "Take your time now," he says.
"Okay. Youll see a picture of my girlfriend, an Italian girl with long black hair. Shes got a dress on" I bought her this dress, and the dress has got an emblem of a little parrot."
That did the trick. They gave me the wallet, with the money in it and everything else.
"Sir," I said, "who returned this for me?"
He said, "A little old lady. She said, Some poor little bugger left his wallet here with all his money. Please see that he gets it. "
I said, "I cant give her a reward?"
He said, "She doesnt want a reward. Just take care of yourself, she said."
Whoever the old lady was. Five hundred. Nothing was touched. Somebody else could have took it, I dont know why. They saw pictures of me in uniform, they must have felt sorry.
Aaron Elson: All this time, when you would write home, did you write that you had been torpedoed?
Patsy Giacchi: I couldnt say, no, I couldnt say nothing about the torpedo. In fact, it would be censored. Because everything there was V-mail.
Aaron Elson: So did anybody at home know what you had gone through?
Patsy Giacchi: No, because when I got home, I told them exactly what happened. They started to go crazy and cry, "Pat, we didnt know nothing. We thought everything was always fine. We knew that you were seeing a lot of action," but when I told them the whole story, how I got torpedoed, they couldnt believe it, nothing was ever said, no letters, no nothing. It was hush-hush. For years and years.
Aaron Elson: Did you keep in touch with Bradshaw?
Patsy Giacchi: No. When we got off the liberty ship, I shook his hand, and I had papers, I lost his address, he didnt write to me, I didnt write to him, and it just dissolved like that. What part of Alabama he was from, I dont know.
Aaron Elson: Going across Europe, when you would talk with your buddies or would have a quiet moment, would you tell people what happened?
Patsy Giacchi: About being torpedoed? I shut up. I never mentioned it. They had me baffled on it, this is the truth, but I knew, we knew, that they made a booboo, it should have never happened. Everybody that was involved, whoever, starting from the big brass, Eisenhower and so forth, he should have come out with the truth. He should have told from the beginning what happened to our boys.
Aaron Elson: Did Eisenhowers name come up when they were telling you not to say anything?
Patsy Giacchi: Oh yes. "Ike wouldnt like this. Weve got to keep this quiet. We dont want anybody to know about this. We dont want this information to get back to the Germans."
Aaron Elson: Who said that?
Patsy Giacchi: It was a colonel who said it to me. They had orders to throw their voice, they werent just calm like that.
Aaron Elson: Did they say it to you individually or to a group?
Patsy Giacchi: To a group of us. They went more or less like this, "You, you, you, you This is strictly confidential. You dont say a word as to what happened. Forget about what happened yesterday." And yesterday we were torpedoed.