THE WORKHORSE OF NORMANDY

Benjamin Curtis
Landing Ship Tank 539, US Navy
Omaha Beach

What “Ben” Curtis saw on that day was a lot of destruction.

Aboard the Landing Ship Tank 539 of the US Navy, Ben told himself not to remember anything he saw at Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. But, he remembered everything. 

The fire on the shores of Normandy was quite intense. When the ship came in and anchored offshore so that the LCT(Landing Craft Tank) could come up, he could see a lot of things. There were a lot of dead bodies - soldiers mainly - and blood in the water. Some ships, mostly destroyers, hit mines and were actually destroyed. Soldiers and crew were thrown out of the water, either dead or wounded. 

Their shipline was unique. The Landing Ship Tank where Ben was on was like a hospital ship, too. There were three army surgeons and 21 corpsmen. They were there to do just what they did. 

The LST 539 also had two torpedo boats. They came in and ushered the wounded inside. It was not good.  Ben had to get them up on stretchers and put them on the mess tables. If anyone had to go down to the wardroom and get something out of their locker, they would see this. The surgeons operated on them down there. They were just cutting off arms, legs, and whatever it was that’s needed to be cut off. 

Ben made the scene something that he used to think about when he’s supposed to wear his maywest all the time. But then later on took it off and just had it beside him after he realized, “If I get blown up like that, I just want to go.” He doesn't want to come back to go through what they had to go through.

There were around 23 of them. And out of the 23, only eight were alive when they got back to England. The rest, all died. 


Ben Curtis may not have fought in the frontline but what he did, along with his fellow Navy, was a great contribution to the success of Operation Neptune. In fact, the role of LSTs in medical evacuation was tagged, “The Workhorse of Normandy” as the primary Allied casualty transport, evacuating nearly 80 percent of them.