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D-Day June 6, 1944:
Remembering Pinehurst’s Ed Black
My thoughts were about my friend, Radioman Ed Black, a Pinehurst native who was assigned to the ill-fated U.S.S. Rich, DE-695. Eleven months after boot camp, his Atlantic convoy duty ship was unexpectedly diverted to the D-Day invasion. The Rich was ordered to lay down smokescreens as it sailed back and forth off Utah Beach to shield battleships, including the U.S.S. Nevada and the H.M.S. Black Prince, that were shelling strong German gun positions. The night before, Ed had written in his diary, “The Nevada is shelling a town over on the coast with big guns. If we come through this OK, we’ll be lucky. However, our trust is in God to take us through safely.”
On D-Day-plus-1, the Rich steamed to assist the U.S.S. Glennon, which was disabled in a minefield within range of shore batteries at Quineville. As she neared the Glennon, she was warned to beware of mines. At 9:20 A.M., the Rich was about 300 yards from the minesweeper U.S.S. Staff, which had taken the Glennon in tow, when an explosion erupted in the sea 50 yards off its starboard beam. Three minutes later a mine exploded under the Rich. Men on the bridge were thrown to the deck. A 50-foot section of the stern was blown off and set adrift. Survivors clung to this floating wreckage. Wounded men crawled in a thicket of broken scrap and uprooted gear.
A third powerful mine denotated two minutes later, directly under the forecastle, throwing the captain off the bridge. The mast was lying across debris atop dead and badly wounded crew members. All this time the ship was being repeatedly shelled by shore batteries. The Rich remained afloat only 15 minutes, going down by the bow. Ed was blown straight up in the air and into an overhanging metal flag container. His skull was fractured, jaw broken in five places and a leg broken. He remembers saying to Carlie Black, a friend from Thomasville, “Carlie, we’ve got to get out of here!” But Ed knew he couldn’t make it. They locked arms and jumped into the water. “Carlie pulled me onto a life raft,” Ed remembers. There were six of us on it when I passed out.” Four, including Carlie, died.
On the 40th anniversary of D-Day, Ed was standing on Utah Beach, looking out on the waters where his friends died. On the back of his jacket he’d written, “Ed Black, USS Rich.” A man came over and said, “I got you out of the water after you sank. You were more dead than alive!” When Ed visited his savior, Frank Calvo in Connecticut, Frank handed Ed his 40-year-old diary, which had fallen out of Ed’s clothes when Frank had cut them off him. Frank had added a final page: “U.S.S. Rich, 2 PT boats picked up survivors and brought them to our LST 57. We worked like mad taking care of them, and the fellows appreciated it very much. Some weren’t so lucky and 4 passed away.”
The diary is now in a French D-Day Museum. Of a ship’s company of 215, 89 officers and crew were lost and 73 wounded. In 2006 the grateful people of France flew Ed and his cousin, Charlie Black (also from Pinehurst) to Paris where they were awarded the Legion of Honor and presented with a bonus of 1944 Euros. The U.S.S. Rich lies at latitude 49 degrees 31 minutes north, longitude 1 degree 10.6 minutes west, in 40 feet of water. May God bless the brave men of the Rich and look out for all who sail the seas to protect the United States of America.
According to the U.S.S. Rich Association, Ed Black is still alive and well in Carthage, North Carolina.
|Paul R. Dunn is a former naval person. Contact him at: Paulandbj@nc.rr.com|
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