95-year-old veteran recounts vivid memories from D-Day
REDMOND, Wash. -- Lynden Benshoof doesn't want to develop deep friendships in his Redmond retirement home, because the 95-year-old knows they won't last. Most of his Navy friends have died too.
"I lost most of them, I'm the only officer left on the ship," said Benshoof. There are so few left from his crew, they've discontinued WWII reunions.
Lt. Benshoof was a 25-year-old college grad who'd landed a job at Boeing when his Landing Ship Tank, USS LST 392, anchored off the beaches of Normandy. He laughed remembering his ship's nickname: "Large Slow Target."
Of June 6, 1944, Benshoof said, "Every direction you look there's a ship, every direction. There was 100 LSTs there that D-Day." On board his ship that day 70 years ago were more chaplains than normal, an Army and Navy doctor, no troops, and two black books detailing attack plans.
"We had all the intelligence people. Our ship was a command post for the Army," recalled Benshoof.
He remembers reading intelligence charts and then looking through binoculars to watch the fierce fighting at Omaha Beach.
"We saw all the guys stacked like cardboard on the beach and we could see all the trouble happening," he said.
Courier boats carried their crew from ship to shore.
"There was so many bodies in the water they couldn't dodge them all," he said.
The retired U.S. Navy officer remembers feeling more apprehensive than frightened and wondering, "Are you gonna make it, are you gonna live through it?"
Benshoof's ship made 57 round trips between England and France, hauling casualties and prisoners.
"One thing I learned is you can't tell a man's bravery by just looking at him," he said. He remembered a crewman who locked himself in a cabin, too afraid to come. He remembered a soldier coming home as a casualty, embarrassed that it wasn't a war wound but the mumps that earned him a ride back.
Benshoof said he has no regrets. He credits the war and the D-Day invasion with teaching him what he was made of, something he didn't know going in.
"I had a job to do over there," he said. "I'm satisfied I did a good job."