John Casner Jr Story - LST 499

JOHN CASNER, JR. - U. S. Navy – LST 499 - Seaman 2nd Class  Resides in Summerville, South Carolina

      I enlisted in the U. S. Naval Reserves in 1943, when I was 16 years old, at New Haven, Connecticut.  After my 17th birthday, I went on active duty and attended boot camp and gunnery school.  In December 1943, I was assigned to LST 499, and we sailed across the Atlantic from Boston, Massachusetts, to Scotland, and then to England.

      On the afternoon of April 27, 1944, LST 499 left from Brixham to meet other LST’s in Lyme Bay and form a convoy.  In the early morning hours of April 28th, the sea was moderately calm, and it was clear and cold.  I was on watch at Mount 41 as a “telephone talker” on the bow of the ship.  Suddenly, crewmen on watch at the stern saw      LST 507, at the rear of the convoy, go up in flames.  General Quarters was sounded shortly afterwards.  Then I saw the wake of two torpedoes that went under the bow of our ship, and we took evasive action.  At first I did not realize what I saw were torpedoes until the ship just off our port side, LST 531, blew up in a ball of fire.  I remember seeing a crewman flying end over end in the air and then the guard rail of the ship going up in the air.  That was the first time I had ever seen a ship hit and explode.  I will never forget it.  A few minutes later, machine gun fire was directed towards us from the starboard to the port side.   I could see the red tracers coming at us from four light machine guns.  That was when we realized it must be very fast surface boats that were firing at the convoy.   At the time, our captain believed all of this was part of our dress rehearsal maneuvers and not an enemy attack, so he did not give the order to return fire.  By the time the crew made it to their battle stations, the e-boats were already gone.   I did not see it but heard the explosion of LST 289 being hit.  Our ship left the area at the fastest speed possible in the direction of the transport area.   After we arrived safely, we were told by our division officer that we were not to speak about what happened, or we would be subject to court martial.   They did not want the Germans to find out how much damage had been done or about the future plans for D-Day.

            LST 499 went on to participate in D-Day on June 6, 1944, at Utah Beach.  Our LST was unable to unload on the beach due to enemy artillery fire, so the ship remained approximately a half-mile off shore, and we unloaded our tanks and artillery onto LCT’s and LCM’s which went in the rest of the way.  By the time they were all unloaded, it was dark and the weather was stormy.  We stayed in that position until June 8th, when we beached our ship on Utah and loaded wounded on board our tank deck.  Our ship had been staffed with medical personnel to treat their wounds and perform surgeries.  As the ship was backing off of the beach, I was down below on the tank deck talking to a wounded soldier.  When a fellow crew member came up to speak to the soldier, I walked away heading to my compartment through the laundry room.  Two minutes later, our ship hit a mine at the stern.  I was knocked out for a couple minutes.  When I came to, I was laying in water that was coming down from the escape hatches.  I went up to the top deck and then up another level to the 01 deck.  I was ordered to go back down to the tank deck and help with the wounded.  Once I arrived on scene, I realized that the soldier and sailor I had just been talking with had both been killed.   I was in shock, and there was no time to think about it.  I went to pick up a stretcher with a wounded soldier and my left knee gave out.  Until then I didn’t realize I was hurt.   Along with an injured leg, the left side of my jaw was cracked, my mouth was bloody, and I lost some teeth.  I was evacuated from the ship for medical attention.  Fourteen crew members died, but I never found out how many injured soldiers died as a result of the explosion of the mine. 

            After I recovered, I was transferred to LST 515, which carried supplies and ammunition back and forth from England to France until the war ended in Europe.   LST 515 went back to Boston, and we were getting ready to go to the Pacific Theater of operations, when the Japanese surrendered. 

            Fourteen months after I was discharged, I re-enlisted in the regular Navy and served for another 17 years, retiring as a Chief Aviation Electronics Technician. 

                                              See Photograph Below and LST 499's Schedule                    


LST 499 - Second from Left