The crash of naval gunfire and aerial bombing grew louder. His Higgins boat, one of thousands in the first wave, tossed in the Channel toward the overcast beaches of Normandy before 7 AM on June 6, 1944. Plumes of water shot up around his boat, German shells detonating as they plunged into the Channel. Occasionally, a boat exploded into flame and death.
Staff Sgt. Ray Lambert, leader of the 16th Infantry Regiment’s medical platoon, crouched in the front left seat of the troop compartment. A hailstorm of bullets from German machine guns pelted the sides as the distance to the beach closed. Of the 31 men crammed together that morning, only seven would be alive by dusk.
He wondered about his brother. Bill was the G Company first sergeant in the 16th Infantry, probably scores of boats to the west.
Fear. Adrenaline. Stay calm. Think of something else. The nervous chatter in the boat stopped long ago, as soldiers tried not to imagine what lay ahead. Ray had landed with the 1st Infantry Division in North Africa and Sicily, but nothing compared to the looming violence of this landing. He knew he had to un-ass the boat quickly. As the ramp came down, the open front of the boat would funnel the bullets inside, ricochets tearing through flesh and bone.