On June 7, 1944, an El Dorado Hills man turned 18 years old. The previous day, he was manning the throttle of a landing craft tank, dropping off men and vehicles on the beaches of Normandy for the D-Day invasion.
Ed Salata, then a Motor Machinist 2nd Petty Officer with the 103rd Combat Engineers, manned his 120-foot-long LCT Mark 6 at 8:30 a.m. on D-Day, part of the third wave of soldiers to hit the beach.
“It was a rough go across the Channel,” he recalled. “They were supposed to have the channels clear, but it was near-bedlam.”
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower had recalled the landing the previous day, but June 6 saw the landing, despite poor conditions. It took four attempts for Salata’s LCT to reach a spot with no mines in the water and unload on a section of Omaha Beach designated Easy Red. Off went supplies for the engineers and Jeeps equipped with anti-tank guns. Then, the troop transport returned to HQ. Salata would go back and forth three more times, all under fire.
“It was pretty tough. We were piled against the beach,” he said. The men on the beach had trouble getting over a small bluff, making it hard to unload more.
There was no sleep for 48 hours. Between air raids, the soldiers faced a German submarine the day before the actual landing and dive bombers; everyone was on alert. Despite the 3,500 men lost within the first four hours of the landing and the 29 LCTs damaged or lost, Salata and his LCT remain unharmed.
“It was a tough go, I’ll tell ya,” he said. “They almost called it off due to casualties.” But then naval destroyers came in, shelling German pill boxes and motor encampments. The USS Arkansas, which had been at Pearl Harbor, sent 14-inch shells over his head, he said.
Salata retired from the Navy as a Petty Officer 1st Class, of what is now called Diesel 1st Class, he said. Before retiring, though, he drove a newer, 350-foot-long landing craft at Okinawa, using anti-aircraft guns to shoot down kamikaze pilots.
Although reluctant at first to recount his story of D-Day, Salata said that he thought it was for the better to “get it out there.” As this year is the 70th anniversary of the invasion, he wanted younger generations to hear the story and remember what soldiers went through not just on D-Day but in World War II.