USS CORRY (DD-463) Survivors' First-hand Accounts of D-Day

Emil "Moe" Vestuti
Firecontrolman, 3rd class,  USS Corry (DD-463)

(40-millimeter gunner on D-Day)

As we left port, the captain assembled everyone on watch on the fantail of the USS Corry and explained that we were going on a very serious mission and we were expendable.  That word expendable just hit my mind. We were afraid but we didn’t have too much time to think about it because we were getting ready. Well, as we went out the weather was kind of bad and we had almost reached the French coast when we got orders that the operation was canceled. So we started back to England and we had no sooner got back than we had to turn around and go back to France because they decided to start the invasion on the 6th.

As the night went on and we got closer to the coastline and it got closer to daylight, we got spotted and some shore batteries started firing at us. So we fired back and the guns must have made their hits because the batteries were silenced.  In the meantime, there were two planes flying by laying the smoke screens to protect the boats that were coming up and as this one plane was getting ready to cover us, it got shot down and that left us exposed. Then it seemed like everything on the beach just concentrated on the Corry. I could see shell splashes in front of us and behind us. So the captain started to maneuvering the ship around, but we got into a minefield and then everything seemed to quiet. For a moment, I didn’t hear any planes or gunfire until a big hiss let out and the explosion hit.  I looked toward the bow of the ship on the portside, and I saw two crewmembers going flying up and into the water. Then there was a big gush of water and it seemed like we were underwater for an eternity.

The water kept coming down and down, so I grabbed a hold of a rail until the ship settled a bit. It wasn’t long before the captain turned around and passed word to abandon ship. In the meantime, one of the gunners in charge of the 40 millimeters got a hold of me and says come out. We walked across the catwalk and raised the American flag upside down, meaning that the ship was in distress. When I came back to my station, it seemed like everyone was gone. And the next thing I knew, I was in the water and stayed there for several hours. I felt like I was all alone out there until one of the whaleboats came along. It was all filled up with wounded men so we hung onto the cargo net that was floating behind it. And as we were floating around, the German shells were still flying over our heads and they made several more hits on the ship. But finally I got picked up by PT Boat 199, and they took all the wounded first and put them on the boat. And as I crawled on, I heard someone yell, "Vestuti, Vestuti, help. I can’t see." I turned around and it was one of my shipmates, who was from New Jersey. He looked all scalded so he had to have been in the engine room and the steam must have got him. When I went to grab his arm, the skin came off.

Anyway, I got him onto the net where they could pick him up and I found out that several other crewmembers were on that PT boat, which eventually took us to the Fitch. I can still remember seeing the dead bodies laid out on that ship. 

Patrol Torpedo Boat PT-199 delivers USS Corry survivors
to destroyer USS Fitch (DD-462). 
June 6, 1944. 

Corry survivors climbing aboard
destroyer USS Fitch (DD-462)

Well, that day completely changed my perspective. When I was out in the water, I decided that if I came out alive, I would do anything to help the government and our country. Then Korea came along I went back in the Navy and I stayed another 20 years. I still get tied up talking about it to my family even today because those feelings are still inside. But last year, I was fortunate enough to take my wife, my four daughters and their husbands and kids to Normandy. All I wanted to do is to let them see the beach and the cemetery.  It was the best money I ever spent. It made an impression on them, and made them think a little bit more about those guys that passed away. Those are the guys that should never be forgotten.

Emil "Moe" Vestuti
Firecontrolman, 3rd class
USS Corry (DD-463)

(40-millimeter gunner on D-Day)


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