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"We had trained so much that everything came quite natural, except one thing we didn’t do in training is to allow people to die." (Video Interview, 14:54)

   Joseph Peter Vaghi
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Lt. Commander Joseph Vaghi off Omaha Beach June 6, 1944.
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Navy
Unit: USS Neshoba (APA 216); 6th Naval Beach Battalion
Service Location: Notre Dame, Indiana; Boston, Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Radford, Virginia; England; Omaha Beach, Normandy, France; Okinawa Island (Ryukyu Islands); Philippines; Japan
Rank: Lieutenant Commander
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Joseph Vaghi was a Beachmaster at Normandy on June 6, 1944, a job he described "much like a traffic cop at a very busy intersection." Beachmasters controlled the flow of men off the ships, communicated with men already on land and ships at sea, and oversaw tending of the wounded. Vaghi was the first man off his LCI (Landing Craft Infantry), which soon afterwards took a hit from an enemy shell. That day, he witnessed many acts of heroism, saw the oldest man in his company killed in an explosion, and ran into a college classmate who asked him, "Hi Joe, what the hell are you doing here?"

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (13 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (88 min.)
»Omaha Beach: Easy Red Sector
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (13 items)
Splitting high school between Bethel and Danbury, Connecticut; got a scholarship to Providence; Pearl Harbor interrupted his education; enlisted in Navy; to midshipman's school at Notre Dame; chosen commander of building he was living in. (03:19) To Camp Radford, Virginia; assigned to Beach Battalion group, made a Beachmaster; trained in Florida and Virginia; trained with Army in England; composition of Beach Battalion, which was responsible for the men up to the high water mark of Normandy Beach; from there the Army took over. (03:21) Ready to go on June 5, but bad weather stopped them; landed at 7:35 a.m.; training helped everything come naturally except for the deaths; things went easy after the first day; was there long enough to celebrate his 24th birthday, June 27, on the beach. (01:47)
Back to the States; stationed in California; made an instructor, but he didn't like it; asked to ship out again; worked on landings in Pacific; Tokyo Rose broadcast predicting the date of the Okinawa landing on Easter Sunday; kamikaze attacks; set for invasion of Japan until atomic bomb ended the war. (03:27) Recalling where he was when he heard about Pearl Harbor; that same day, a fellow student drowned when he went through the ice while skating. (01:15) Not knowing when and where the Normandy invasion would take place; put into a sealed marshalling area and briefed about details of invasion; seeing photographs of the landing area taken by Allied submarines; first night on beach, rumors of a counterattack that didn't come off; Hitler's miscalculation on location of landing; Vaghi guessing the date of the invasion by the tide charts; big difference in high and low tide on those beaches; soldiers drowning in the surf because of the tide. (07:30)
How the soldiers’ life belts when inflated with their heavy back packs tipped them forward and drowned them; not covered in training; why the decision was made to go in at low tide. (02:41) Training of great help to doing their job that day on the beach; didn't think about himself; concentrated on the job he was to do; his platoon lost only one man who was hit by a jeep that had been thrown into the air by a shell; he was knocked unconscious by the impact; Germans calculating coordinates for their big guns. (05:54) His duties on the beach; communicating between land and sea and making sure everyone was doing what they were supposed to be doing; using flags and radios to communicate; relying on training for automatic responses; Germans strafing the beach at night; one man wounded in a slit trench and evacuated. (03:46)
His unit staying on the beach after D-Day; beyond that, the Army was in charge and it was their turf; mission was over June 28 or 29; LSTs kept coming in, but a port to the west was open for most entries; a big storm came through and destroyed many ships. (03:17) Landing at Okinawa was simple; Tokyo Rose had predicted it; they were more fearful than they should have been; kamikaze pilots thwarted by smoke from fires intentionally set; taking out a gun placement in a cave; were meant to be a decoy landing force for the invasion of Japan. (03:58) Going into Japan; seeing “Kilroy Was Here” painted on a jetty in the bay outside of Tokyo; evidence of bombing destruction; visiting another town, greeted with warmth by locals; an encounter with a bidet; transporting troops back to the States; his promotion. (05:56)
After-effects of war; not plagued by nightmares; goes frequently to reunions; stays in touch; does not talk about war; seek to promote Navy's role in D-Day. (02:14)  

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  October 26, 2011
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