KENNETH R. LYON

Motor Machinist Mate 2d Class | United States Navy

 

Only the whispers of anxious soldiers and the squeaking davits lowering their boats into the water broke the silence on the Samuel Chase.  When engines fired up, diesel fumes permeated the salt air.  The beach was still some distance away and eleven miles of choppy waters laden with mines threatened the small landing craft.  It was 0530 when the first assault wave departed from beside the hull of the Chase toward Easy Red.  Troops of 26th Infantry Regiment became ill quite quickly as the LCVPs bucked in the waters, and no doubt complained like soldiers would.  The general directive was to carry out the assault regardless of difficulties and losses and required all hands for success of the operation.

Each LCVP boat had a four man crew of sailors or coast guardsmen - the coxswain, engineer, signalman, and bow-hookman - the latter two also operated the two .30-caliber mounted machine guns.  The 36-foot long craft was designed to carry 36 infantrymen, or a gun crew or jeep and crew.  Today they were packed with nervous soldiers.  The entire thing was constructed of plywood and protected by a score of patents, but that did not offer much to the men huddled inside.

Holding the rank of Seaman First Class with the special designation 'LC' for Landing Craft, Kenneth Lyon was acting as signalman on Boat #34 from the Samuel Chase.  He hunkered down behind the armored shield on the machinegun peering around the steel plate.  He was a bit cramped in the small gunner's cockpit.  The extra bulk from his life preserver did not help and he was already getting soaked through from ocean spray, chilling him despite his thick deck jacket.  Salt water beaded off of the brim of his helmet and chilled drops kept rolling down his face as he and his crew careened through the surf.

Ahead, the beach was shrouded in mist and plumes of smoke.  Obstacles in the water forced the coxswain to maneuver skillfully for risk of smashing the hull of the boat and drowning everyman they carried.  Lyon was part of the sixth wave and was arriving early, somewhere between 0800 and 0900.  But the time did not matter, and they plowed toward the beach.  Soft lumps of dark olive bobbed in the water around and ahead of them - Lyon realized in shock that they were all bodies, rumps flipped to the surface because of the life belt worn around the waist.  Bullets kicked up sharp plumes of water and shrapnel hummed by .  The world was chaotic - no matter how small he tried to make his silhouette, Lyon was sure was going to get it.

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