John A. Hardy (April 3, 1924 – )
The following information was taken from a phone conversation with John Hardy on July 13, 2011. Many thanks to John (he asked me not to all him “Mr. Hardy”) for taking the time to call and share memories from his life and service:
After arriving onboard LCI(L)-11, John Hardy was shortly transferred to the Naval Hospital in Little Creek, Virginia (I forgot to ask him why) on January 10, 1943. Even though there were no doctors onboard, he insisted on sailing across the Atlantic on LCI(L)-11 from Bermuda to Bizerte, Tunisia, in North Africa. In Bermuda, one of the liberty ships capsized, because American ships were not allowed to navigate the British waters [At about 2100 on February 27, 1943, a liberty boat returning from Hamilton, Bermuda to the USS Mattole was swamped, losing 23 men and 1 officer.] LCI(L)-11 picked up Italian prisoners in North Africa on the way to Bizerte.
Upon leaving the Mediterranean, after the invasions of Sicily and Italy, they didn’t know where they were going until they turned north. They then realized they were in for another battle. They docked in Brighton, England and John remembers frequenting a pub there. On the way to Normandy, John felt so bad for the Army soldiers, because they were so seasick due to choppy water conditions. He remembers praying for the soldiers and the seas calming at that instant. John recalls several tense moments during the landing and retreat due to the various minefields they had to maneuver.
John remembers going on liberty in North Africa and England. He drank too much wine one night and became quite ill. John never drank wine again after that. Several men from the LCI went ashore in Anzio, Italy to visit a chapel, but were warned of enemy snipers in the area and had to return to their ship. He also remembers getting caught “hopping ship” for liberty and losing pay and rank in Captain’s Mast with some of the other men (probably my grandfather included!)
John had a terrible poker face and frequently lost money at cards onboard. Some of the crew did, however, owe him money afterward. He kept a list of these men and crossed-off the names when they paid. Some of the names were never crossed-off. Thankfully, my grandfather wasn’t one of them.
John remembers a photo of his future wife that he kept under his mattress. One day while they were “airing-out” their mattresses on deck, the photo slipped out and into the water. He dove in after it and was helped out by some of the crew. The photo survived and sits in a frame on a table at his home.
John called my grandfather, Ralph Williams Jr., “Ralphie” and “Willie.” He said Ralph was very sharp, always had his collar up, didn’t wear his white sailor’s cap (we assumed so as not to mess up his hair), and always had a cigarette in his hand. He remembers an incident where they were attempting to charge a battery aboard the LCI. John thought my grandfather very smart in able to figure things out.
Charlie DuBose, the only black man on the LCI crew, was initially made to sleep on the kitchen table at night. John remembers him and other men taking exception to this, thinking it wrong to make him sleep alone in the kitchen, separated from the rest of the men. Mr. DuBose was later moved in with the rest of the crew to sleep.
John also remembers some of the men escorting John Pelle, who they called “Pell-ee”, to church in Italy (John Pelle was born in Italy and later moved to The Bronx.) The sailors left money in the collection box, as they were the only ones in the service with money. There was a commotion in the back of the church and John Pelle realized some of the Italians were stealing their money, due to the fact he spoke Italian.
John Hardy remembers working on the stern of the LCI with Jake Bekkering. Jake was a “big fella.” They had arranged to meet in Kalamazoo, Michigan after the war, but unfortunately were not able to get together. John also has fond memories of Jack Schraa, Dick Cole, and Red Bechtel. John, Red Bechtel, Dick Cole, and Donald Robb attended a spaghetti dinner at a civilian’s home in Anzio. They weren’t supposed to go, but went anyway with Red Bechtel bringing food from the LCI.
After leaving the LCI, John served aboard LST 138 and eventually returned to the states. He was assigned to a repair ship and sailed from Seneca, Illinois to New Orleans, Louisiana via the Mississippi River. John was later discharged from the Navy via the points system. He married his wife, Brenda, who he knew from Boston, in 1945, and they are still together. He has children and grandchildren, whom he loves dearly. John was a firefighter and currently lives in Stoughton, Massachusetts.
John attended several reunions of the LCI Association and was often teased there was no #11, because he was the only man from the crew that ever attended.