Julius Shoulars

Hometown: Bertie County, NC
Branch of Service: Navy, 7th Beach Battalion
Location of Service: Europe & Pacific

In the latter part of May 1944, we were ordered out of the camp at Salcombe and trucked to a staging area in the English countryside. We were not allowed to write or receive letters, we were not allowed any liberty, nor were we allowed any contact with the outside world. This was pre-invasion time. The staging areas were enclosed with barbed wire and tough gun-toting individuals. If you strayed close to the wire, you were reprimanded by the guards. After a stay of approximately three weeks in the staging area, we were loaded on a truck and transported to towns and cities with waterways leading to the English Channel.

We all knew something was about to happen and looked forward to it with mixed feelings. Some were excited, some were apprehensive and some were scared. My particular group was loaded aboard a sea-going craft and on board we were stacked together like sheep. We then left the harbor to wait in the channel for our trip to Normandy.

A storm came up in the channel and we were all ordered back to port, but were not allowed to disembark. Early on the morning of the 6th of June, 1944, we went to sea again and the invasion of France began.

On the morning of the 6th at “H” hour, troops began landing on the beaches of Normandy. The Americans landed on Omaha and Utah beaches; our Allies landed on the other beaches: Gold and Sword were British and Juno was Canadian.

The US 1st Army landed on Omaha and Utah, with the 4th US Division landing on Utah, and the 1st and 29th US Divisions landing on Omaha. Attached to the 4th US Division was the 2nd US Naval Beach Battalion and attached to the 1st US Division was the 6th US Naval Beach Battalion.

Attached to the 29th US Division was the 7th US Naval Beach Battalion, of which I was a member.

There were underwater demolition teams (UDT) who preceded the invasion. The UDTs consisted of Army and Navy personnel and included some of the Beach Battalion members. These teams had the responsibility of destroying underwater obstacles and mines to create a safer landing beach for the troops. The UDTs had a 60% loss of life.

The 7th Beach Battalion medics and communication people went to the beach with the early waves of the invasion. The balance of the 7th went ashore as needed on later waves. Some of the 7th were sent back to the ships as there was no room for them to land.

I had never before seen or heard tough young men from the streets of large cities, who lived in the ghettoes, putting up prayers to God for their safety.

The first day on Omaha Beach was hell.

As we approached, machine gun fire, rifle fire and artillery were being directed at us. Men were falling all around, either wounded or killed. Boats were blown up in the water and also as they neared the beach. We scrambled ashore and quickly started digging foxholes. The noise was deafening and you could hear the wounded screaming for help.

The beach was littered with burning and wrecked vehicles and with the wounded and bodies of those who lost their lives.

The water at the beach was red with blood on that morning of the 6th.

I remember as we landed we looked overhead and saw the entire sky filled with Air Force planes. There were thousands of aircraft in the sky, going inland to bomb the Germans and help the landings. Also, after we landed there was a brave destroyer captain who saw we were in trouble securing the beach. He ordered his ship in as close as he could, almost with the bottom of the ship scraping the bottom of the channel, and opened fire broadside at the German bunkers, all the time under enemy fire.

As darkness fell, we completed digging our foxholes. Those holes in the beach were to be our private “suites.”

Finally, after an exhausting and terrifying day, we crawled into our holes and fell asleep, not realizing the height of the rise and fall of the tide. We had dug our foxholes close to the water’s edge, thinking it would be safer there.

Later that night, I was awakened by something bumping my feet. The tide had come in and as it came in it brought lots of floating objects to shore. The objects bumping my feet were body parts ~ an arm, a leg, a head.

To say I was scared is to put it mildly; a 19-year-old boy, never having traveled far from home, awakening to this experience.

We picked up troops at Pearl Harbor. From there we went to Eniwetok to refuel, and then to Ulithi and from there to Okinawa, to unload the troops. We stayed there five days.

That was the time of the height of the Japanese suicide attacks. The planes would fly in from the west as the sun was setting, so they could not be easily detected. All the ships in the harbor would begin firing their guns at them. With all of the firepower being put up, it seemed impossible that a plane could get through without being shot down, but a few would always make it through the ack-ack.

The cruiser USS Birmingham was anchored approximately 500 yards to the Karnes’ port. A suicide plane came through the anti-aircraft fire and flew down its smokestack and exploded, setting the ship on fire. We picked up wounded and brought them aboard the Karnes, and our hospital corpsmen and doctors treated them.

The Okinawa harbor mouth was guarded by US Navy destroyers, destroyer escorts, and other Navy vessels. The mouth of the harbor was nicknamed “Bloody Gulch” as so many ships were hit and sunk and so much blood spilled.

We left Okinawa on May 8 and set sail for Saipan, arriving May 12. We picked up more wounded and men returning home for R&R. We left Saipan on the 13th, arriving in San Francisco May 27. We stayed in San Francisco for 11 days, loading supplies and going into drydock for the ship to be demagnetized so it would not attract floating mines. We left Frisco on June 7, and arrived at Eniwetok June 20. We left Eniwetok June 23, reaching Manila July 1.

We unloaded the troops and left Manila on July 10, 1945 after loading wounded, and sailed for Eniwetok, arriving on the 17th of July, for a total of seven days and 3,200 miles.

We left Eniwetok on the same day for Pearl Harbor, arriving on July 23, 1945, for a total of six days and 3,000 miles.

We unloaded troops and went on maneuvers to practice for an invasion of Japan.

THE DAY THE WAR ENDED

On the day the war ended, we were practicing lowering the small boats into the water while under way. This procedure needed to be practiced, as we would have to unload troops while under way. The troops would climb down swinging rope ladders into the small boats.

As we lowered the boats over the side of the ship, one of the cables on this particular boat snapped and turned the boat over, dumping the crew of three into the water.

Two of the crew were sucked into the spinning propeller and were killed instantly. The third crewman was thrown away from the ship and survived. These were the only two men from the Karnes who were injured or killed during our tour of the Pacific.

We left Pearl Harbor Sept. 1, 1945, sailing for Saipan. We arrived at Saipan Sept. 13, 1945, a total of 12 days and 4,500 miles. We picked up Marines at Saipan and departed Sept. 16, 1945 for Sasebo, Japan.

We arrived at Sasebo Sept. 22, 1945. The Marines were to be the occupying forces in Japan.

I was part of the beach party from the ship and we were ordered to go ashore. As we landed at a seaplane ramp, we saw coming toward us a Japanese officer with a white flag in his hand.

He passed the white flag over to our Beach Master, Lt. Sam Byrd, and unofficially surrendered the seaplane base to him.