June 8, 2015

1956. A Letter from an Old D-Day Comrade

LST 287
LST 287, later transferred to the Philippine Navy and renamed the RPS Samar Oriental (LT-502)

Bill Downs was aboard Landing Ship, Tank 287 at Gold Beach during the Normandy invasion. One of its crewman, Chief Engineman Fredrick Freeman Leister, wrote briefly to Downs twelve years later recalling the experience. It is unclear whether the news release which Leister mentions is the same as the first broadcast Downs was finally able to deliver on June 14, 1944.

To: Bill Downs

From: Fred F. Leister

September 20, 1956

Mr. Bill Downs
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. Downs, 
Each time that I have heard you broadcast for the past few years I have intended to drop you a line. You will probably be surprised to hear from me after so long a time. 
I am the ex-Chief Engineman aboard the L.S.T. 287 that we were both aboard in the Normandy invasion with Chief Engineer W.A. Wilson and Captain F.P. Eldredge. I often think about that morning when we were all in the main engine room making our wills of motorcycles and so forth to each other. I was certainly glad to hear that everything turned out O.K. with you. 
After the (?) I was transferred to the South Pacific and was a very lucky person myself. 
If you could find the time I would be very glad to get a line from you and I would like to give almost anything I own for a copy of your release to the news of the invasion that you were on with us aboard the L.S.T. 287. 
If I am ever around where you are broadcasting I will certainly look you up. 
Yours truly, 
Fred F. Leister 
San Diego, California