5:48 | Mortimer Caplin had deep roots in New York City but when he saw the University of Virginia campus, he decided on that school. After the undergraduate degree and law school, he returned to New York to practice law but before he left the school, Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke at his graduation. This inspired him to apply for a Navy commission.
Keywords : Mortimer Caplin New York City University of Virginia Thomas Jefferson boxing law school Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) Armistead Dobie Wall Street Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI)
As a lawyer in the war effort, Mortimer Caplin was assigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence, but he asked for shipboard duty. Where they sent him was even more exciting, Beach Battalion. This was the unit that commanded the beach during amphibious landings. Intensive training followed for the tight knit group.
Trained as a Beachmaster, Mortimer Caplin shipped out for England on the Queen Mary. His unit had a lot of specialized gear and he had to form a guard detachment to keep other units from walking away with it. After they got it all to the Southern English coast, they participated in the ill-fated Exercise Tiger out of Slapton Sands.
The great invasion of Europe was on and Beachmaster Mortimer Caplin, while delivering a message to a neighboring base, got a sense of the enormity of the enterprise, the many different forces and personnel assembling and loading into ships on the coast of England. Back with his own unit, he found out that his landing craft assignment and attached Army engineer unit had all been changed.
The barrage balloons almost gave the Normandy armada a festive feel. That's what Mortimer Caplin thought as he approached Omaha Beach. It had not yet been cleared so his Beach Battalion had to circle in their landing craft. Once on shore, it was sporadic fire, desperate infantry and bodies all around.
Beachmaster Mortimer Caplin landed a half mile from his intended sector of Omaha Beach. He took care of business where he was and then worked his way down there. His Beach Battalion company had many important jobs, clearing the beach of stuck boats, helping the wounded and communicating with the command structure. It was a well deserved glass of wine when he finally got to a French tavern.
After the unbelievable enormity of D-Day, Beachmaster Mortimer Caplin expected to be shipped back to the United States to train other beach units for the Pacific. But he was told to report to the Commander of Amphibious Bases in the UK. They needed a lawyer and he just happened to be one. This turned out to be a lucky break.
He was a Beachmaster on Omaha Beach and a Legal Officer in post war England and he was back in the United States making a name for himself in corporate and tax law. Mortimer Caplin had both Robert and Ted Kennedy in his classes at the University of Virginia and when their brother was elected President, he became the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.
Looking back on his Navy career, Mortimer Caplin remembers two unusual incidents. The first was during his training when a deputy commander went ballistic over nothing. The second was the striking contrast between the reactions of a British family and a mess table full of Naval officers when the news of Franklin D. Roosevelt's death was released.
He could not see anyone else. In the predawn, he gathered up his parachute and began a futile search for his unit and his gear, including his weapon. Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau joined with an American captain he found on the road and they made their way toward the small Normandy town which was his target. Suddenly, there was the ominous whistling of aerial bombs right on top of them.
After a nerve-wracking mission to bomb Tokyo and a typhoon, B.E. Vaughan and the destroyer O'Brien suffered a second kamikaze attack which killed all three of his hometown pals who served with him on board. Then, began the grim task of collecting the personal belongings of the dead and preparing them for burial at sea.
It was their third mission over Berlin and they were heading home. Four German fighters pounced on the B-24 and it was engulfed in flame and going down. Clyde Burnette fought for consciousness as the other crew in the back of the plane bailed out. He woke in free fall with no idea how he had made it out, and soon he was in German custody. Everyone made it out of the plane except George "Danny" Daneau, the nose turret gunner, who went down with the aircraft.
When he jumped on D-Day, Canadian paratrooper Dennis Trudeau was way off target, but he finally found his unit in the small town of Varreville. Assigned to clear out a German pillbox near a bridge that was scheduled for demolition, his situation went from bad to worse when the bridge was blown.
Two engines were out, a third smoking, and they were were losing airspeed and altitude, but they were flying level and pointed home. Then time ran out for the B-17 and Don Scott had to slip down the hatch into the slipstream. Part 2 of 3.
The first operation for the 4th Division was the landing on Roi-Namur. Lawrence Snowden remembers that, though it was an easy victory, valuable combat experience and important lessons were imparted on the Marines.
Serving in the Air Force, Lammie Spivey served on multiple ships during his time on the water. After being discharged and sent to shore, he stayed on in the Army Air Corps to serve in the air instead of the sea. 6 years in Japan and 3 years in France was good to him, as he got to have family with him while serving.
Departing on the U.S.S. New York to Pearl Harbor, where he transferred to Guam. While heading back to the U.S. on discharge, he had an incident on deck that led to him taking a big fall which he miraculously survived. He decided to start Army Air Corps training, where he stayed for the rest of his service.
When Georgia native William Forbes hears of the attack on Pearl Harbor, his first question is "what's a Pearl Harbor?" He soon develops a keen understanding of what's at stake, and enlists in the Army. The first casualty: his civilian clothes.
On D-Day, William Forbes' platoon storms the beaches of Normandy and fights their way through the French countryside all the way to Cherbourg. After a month of non-stop combat, he leads his team to Saint-Lo, where a bewildering explosion drastically alters his role in the war effort.
Life in the forward engine room is challenging. Willie Nelson and his fellow engineers make the best of the heat and the crazy hours, and form an "arrangement" with the combative galley cooks. (This interview made possible with the support of DALE GREGORY)
Forbes' postwar career takes him from Europe to Puerto Rico, back to Germany, on to Korea and finally to the Pentagon, where he serves under the Secretary of Defense. He retires from the Army to become a writer and a "Beltway Bandit" - and learns to appreciate Single Malt Scotch.
Charles Fallis was in the ninth grade when the war started, but he became part of the effort when he entered the Navy in 1944. Assigned to the beach party on a troop transport, he was surprised when he had to learn to do what soldiers do every day. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
Forbes undergoes extensive training on the road to the European theater, earning his place as a platoon leader. His company trains in England for amphibious landings and strenuous combat. In the weeks leading-up to D-Day, they are moved to a sealed camp to await orders.
The Japanese knew that Okinawa was the last step on the Allied move toward the mainland, so they went all out with suicide attacks. Charles Fallis remembers the kamikaze alerts when he was anchored there. His ship was part of the task force that readied to invade Japan, and then after the surrender, part of the occupation. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
Walter Fleming arrives at boot camp in San Diego, where he trains in boxing, firefighting, and piloting a Landing Craft. During an exercise at sea, he and his crew learn that horsing around can have consequences. (This interview made possible with the support of WILLIE NELSON, JR)
He was seasick the first two weeks, but it went away and he was never bothered by it again. Charles Fallis was on the USS Grimes, a troop transport that ferried troops to Iwo Jima, and then picked up the wounded for evacuation. When a severely wounded Marine died, he witnessed a burial at sea, something he will never forget. (This interview made possible with the support of KENNETH ANTHONY WEST.)
He went home on a 30 day furlough and never went back to Europe. Bob Seeley's leave was extended, his back problem tied him up for five months, and he was shuffled around to different bases until he wound up in Maine. Rather than face the cold, he resorted to drastic measures, reenlistment.
Walter Fleming's first action is the full-scale invasion of Iwo Jima. Over several perilous days, he has many close calls with mortar fire, open-sea collisions, and artillery rounds - all the while evacuating wave after wave of wounded Marines. (This interview made possible with the support of WILLIE NELSON, JR)