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Joseph L. Aun - From Omaha Beach to Iwo Jima

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Born on 5 April 1907 to Sahid and Sophia in Lebanon, Syria, Joseph Lewis Aun would later immigrate to the United States with his family, settling down in Paterson, NJ.

In 1943, at the age of 36, he enlisted in the US Navy. After being assigned to the Gunfire Support Group for training in Scotland, he later served as one of the deck crew aboard the LCG(L)-811 which in the 20 minutes before H-Hour on 6 June 1944 provided direct fire on beach targets situated on the left flank of Omaha Beach. The 811 operated as close as 500 yards from the shoreline and for several hours on June 6 ran parallel to the beach at about 1000 yards out shelling enemy positions. The ship remained on patrol in front of Omaha Beach for 4 days before heading back to England.
 

After the Normandy invasion, Aun returned to the States and on November 9, 1944 reported aboard the LSM-59, then serving in the Pacific Theater. As a .50 cal deck gunner, Aun had a ringside seat for the invasion of Iwo Jima. The LSM-59 landed on Yellow One Beach at 2:45 p.m. on 19 February 1945, the first day of the invasion. Overloaded with men and machinery, the ship’s mission was to unload five tanks and their crew belonging to the 4th Tank Bn., 4th MarDiv. That proved to be impossible because, according to the ship’s log, as soon as the bow doors were opened, “the beach was so crowded with Marine casualties that there was no room for a tank.” As Japanese gunners zeroed in on the ship with rifles, machine guns and mortars, the Captain ordered all deck gunners to take cover. The unloading problem was partially solved by bringing the casualties aboard the 59, thus leaving room on the beach for the tank to disembark. After a second tank was unloaded, a Japanese gun found the range and knocked out the ship’s starboard engine, prompting the Captain to withdraw from the beach. The remainder of the cargo, including two cranes and five jeeps, was discharged two days later.
 

Six weeks after the invasion of Iwo Jima, Aun suffered a broken foot aboard the LSM-59 and spent several weeks in a hospital on Saipan before returning to the ship. On 21 June 1945, while operating about a dozen miles off Okinawa early in the evening, two PBYs approached the LSM-59 from the west. Behind them, hidden from view, were two Japanese aircraft. Completely without warning, one dropped down to within 10 feet of the water and slammed into the LSM-59, ripping through the tank deck into the engine room, tearing a massive hole in the bottom of the ship and knocking out both of it's engines. Almost immediately, the stern was engulfed in flames. Two men were killed and eight others were burned or wounded. In the 13 minutes it took the ship to sink, all survivors had time to enter life rafts, and because there were several ships in the near vicinity, the crew was rescued immediately. Aun lost everything except the clothes he was wearing, which apparently included his helmet. Aun was immediately returned to the States and granted Survivor’s Leave. During that time he applied for discharge, citing the deteriorating situation of his elderly and infirmed parents. His request was granted and he left the Navy in September 1945.

 

He returned to his home in Paterson, New Jersey, where he worked as a machinist for Curtiss-Wright. He eventually passed away at the age 92 in July 1999.

 

Unfortunately as of now, I have not been able to find any photos of Mr. Aun or any of his gravestone, so if anybody is able to help, I'd be very much in your debt. 

 

Hope you enjoy this one as much as I do

 

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Unfortunately I was also not able to find any existing images of LCG(L) - 811. However, a few photos do exist of LSM-59 before it was sunk. 

 

Both of these photos show LSM - 59 off the Invasion Beaches at Iwo Jima. Note in the second photo the water plume from a near miss off of the ship's starboard beam

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101405906.jpg.2f7ca15d096b20894705a77ee46d2f64.jpg

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Awesome helmet and super cool story. This is only the second time I’ve seen from an LCG crewman besides a uniform grouping I used to have and is posted on here. They were important but forgotten ships. I presume this helmet would’ve been his helmet for the LSM, any idea what the 26 would represent?


GEN. David R. Atchinson- MO State Guard ACW

PVT. John H. Drury- Co. A, 27th Ky IR ACW Died of Typhoid

PVT. Henry E. Thomas- Co. I, 17th Ky IR ACW

PVT. Joseph E. Drury- Co. E, 356th IR, 89th ID WWI WIA

SGT. Edward P. Drury- 51st QM Training Co. WWII

PFC. Delmer C. Koonter- Co. I, 142nd IR, 36th ID WWII WIA

SC3c Michael C. Drury- LCS (L) (3) 70 WWII

SGT. Steven D. Koonter- 5th Cav, 1st Cav Div Vietnam

SGT. John M. Drury- 227th AVN Bn. 1st Cav Div Vietnam

 

Contact me with IDd WWII 36th Division, SSI Navy, Aviation, or Kentucky veteran uniforms.

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3 hours ago, 36thIDAlex said:

Awesome helmet and super cool story. This is only the second time I’ve seen from an LCG crewman besides a uniform grouping I used to have and is posted on here. They were important but forgotten ships. I presume this helmet would’ve been his helmet for the LSM, any idea what the 26 would represent?

 

Thanks man! And for sure, 100% agreed, there's not much from LCG(L) crewmen, I think it's especially more rare considering that there were only 9 of them that participated in the Normandy Invasion with 5 at Omaha Beach I believe. 

I would like to think that he may have had this helmet at Normandy as well, but you would never really know for sure. The 811 was decommissioned right after D-Day, so I think there's a fair chance he brought it with him over to the LSM-59. It is 100% guarunteed however that he wore this helmet during the ship's participation at Iwo Jima and later when it was hit by a kamikaze since he returned home on survivor's leave and was discharged shortly afterwards, giving little to no time for him to have been issued another helmet. 

As for the 26, I have no clue to be honest, I imagine it probably correlates to his station which he was assigned to

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3 hours ago, 36thIDAlex said:

Awesome helmet and super cool story. This is only the second time I’ve seen from an LCG crewman besides a uniform grouping I used to have and is posted on here. They were important but forgotten ships. I presume this helmet would’ve been his helmet for the LSM, any idea what the 26 would represent?

The 26 is just a number applied to account for the helmet. 

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