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“I always called us glorified traffic cops--we had to keep things moving.” (Video interview, 53:40)

   Mortimer M. Caplin
Collection image
Mortimer Caplin [detail from video]
War: World War, 1939-1945
Branch: Navy
Unit: 7th Beach Battalion
Service Location: Omaha Beach, Normandy, France; European Theater
Rank: Lieutenant Senior Grade
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As a lawyer with a background in boxing and swimming, Lieutenant Senior Grade Mortimer Caplin brought a wide variety of skills to the Navy. After a stint doing investigative work at the Norfolk Navy Yards, he was assigned to the amphibious corps, and given a specialized role: that of beachmaster for the Normandy invasion. As such, he acted as a nexus between land and sea--coordinating the arrival of ships, clearing the beach of obstacles and debris (sometimes including the wounded), and generally orchestrating the ebb and flow of troops. Nights were spent in foxholes on the beach, dodging bombs dropped from German planes overhead. Following the invasion, he served as a legal officer in England, defending Navy enlisted men.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (6 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (108 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (6 items)
Applying for change of duty; hoping to be given shipboard duty; assigned to amphibious corps; beginning training to become beachmaster (02:40) Role of the beachmaster in the invasion (02:47) Intense pressure prior to invasion; went in on LST and not an LCI, as he had practiced; spending the night aboard the LST; did not land until June 7; near miss when German plane started bombing the ship. (04:45)
Going down cargo nets onto an LCVP; landing on the wrong sector of Omaha Beach; staying where he was (02:43) Witnessing unbelievable carnage on the beach; evaluating the situation; deciding to move bodies off the beach; importance of keeping things moving (02:05) Training helped them deal with stress, seeing casualties; living on the beach; being strafed by Germans at night (02:16)

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  October 26, 2011
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