Bootcamp recruits in the 5th, 6th and 7th weeks of training got a break from routine to learn about D-Day. I’m trying to imagine what was going through their heads as Peter Fantacone lectured them.
A World War II veteran who participated in the invasion of Normandy during D-Day recounted his experiences, Saturday, with recruits and staff aboard Coast Guard Training Center Cape May.
Peter Fantacone, 89, of Mays Landing, New Jersey, was a U.S. Navy sailor serving in Coast Guard Flotilla 4/10 aboard one of 18 landing craft infantry ships, or LCIs. Twelve of the 18 LCIs in Fantacone’s Flotilla 4/10 were run by all Coast Guard crews and landed troops on the infamous Omaha Beach. Fantacone still travels throughout the region telling the story of the D-Day invasion as well as a tour guide aboard the Battleship New Jersey.
“I’ve been trying to keep alive the memory of all those who died at D-Day,” said Fantacone when asked why he conducts these speeches.
The recruits from Coast Guard companies Hotel, Foxtrot and India 191 listened intently as Fantacone recounted watching Coast Guard LCIs 85 and 91 sink killing many of the soldiers, sailors and Coast Guardsmen aboard the ship.
When asked by a member of the audience how he achieved a level of peace while waiting to storm the beach, the former sailor answered, “For the most part we were ready to go, but it was an introspective time; a time to turn to, or rediscover, God.” Just 12 hours after Fantacone attended what he thought might be his last Catholic Mass, the troops had a strong hold on the beach, and the Coast Guard had rescued hundreds of people from the water.
All of the crewmembers aboard Fantacone’s LCI 492 survived D-Day.
“Our mission is to instill Honor, Respect and Devotion to Duty into each and every recruit,” said Capt. Todd Prestidge, commanding officer of Training Center Cape May. “The opportunity for these recruits to get face-to-face with someone who took part in that historic day, and for them to listen to what the Coast Guard did, should not only inspire the pride and desire to live the Coast Guard’s core values but to understand what they actually mean.”
According to the Coast Guard’s Historian’s Web site, 214,239 persons served in the Coast Guard during World War II. That number included 12,846 women. The Coast Guard lost a total of 1,917 persons during the war with 574 losing their life in action, “died of wounds” received in action, or perishing as a “Prisoner of War.”
Thank you CWO John Edwards for help with this Blog.