Dave Butenschoen of Bellingham had three brothers who saw combat during World War II: George, in the Navy; Oscar, a tank commander in the Army; and Robert, in the infantry with the Army. This is George's story:
George Butenschoen enlisted in the U.S. Navy on Aug. 13, 1942. After basic training in Illinois, he trained on LCTs (Landing Craft Tank) in Virginia.
George was assigned to LCT-221, a 114-foot landing craft with an 11-man crew, three diesel engines, cramped crew quarters just above the throbbing engines, and a top speed of 10 knots.
LCT-221 and her crew rode to North Africa aboard a larger LST in a convoy that arrived in Algeria on April 13, 1943, to train and load ammunition for the invasion of Sicily. On July 10, about 2:30 in the morning, the first invasion fleet hit the south coast of Sicily at Gela.
LCT-221 was in the first wave and, according to the daily log that George kept throughout the war, they were "right in among the firing. Pretty hot stuff with shells falling all around our boat - but we made it."
George returned to North Africa, where they began preparation for another invasion, this time Italy. LCT-221 was loaded with British infantry and equipment and, on Sept. 9, hit the beach at Salerno under severe enemy shellfire. One German shell exploded directly over the tank bay, killing a British major and wounding eight others. Three of the crew was injured, and a total of 81 holes were placed in the hull, including one that destroyed the starboard engine. Two crew members received the Silver Star Medal for their efforts to offload troops and equipment in the intense fire.
After Seabees made temporary repairs on the LCT, it stayed in the harbor delivering supplies from merchant ships to the beach. On Oct. 12, they sailed to Sicily for more repairs, and then to Bizerte, Tunisia, to prepare for the invasion at Anzio, Italy.
On Jan. 22, 1944, LCT-221 went ashore on the invasion beach at Anzio. Ground resistance was light, but air raids and mines sank several LCT's, one LST loaded with troops, killing all but 90 of 600; plus several merchant ships and a hospital ship with a load of nurses.
Germans moved into hills surrounding Anzio and continued to shell the harbor until they were finally pushed out by the 5th Army. Crewmen on the landing craft never knew when a round would hit their boat or when a German dive bomber would drop one in their laps. George's skipper was severely wounded by a .50-caliber slug from an airplane in a dogfight overhead.
LCT-221 stayed in the area, delivering supplies from Naples to the beachhead until April 7, when they returned to North Africa. On April 29, LCT-221 and her crew were loaded aboard an LST on the way to Plymouth, England, to prepare for the invasion of Normandy, their fourth in less than a year.
Instead of becoming part of the invasion, George was assigned to unloading the wounded from the LSTs from Normandy and transporting them to England, where they were taken to the hospital. On June 15, nine days after D-Day, George arrived at Normandy to haul supplies to shore.
Finally, on Sept. 9, George was given orders to return to the United States. After a well-needed leave, he was assigned to another landing craft to train for the war in the Pacific. Fortunately, the war ended before he had to go.
George and his wife, Shirley, were married while he was home on leave from Normandy, and raised 11 children. They reside at Mt. Baker Care Center. George is 91.
Dave Butenschoen lives in Bellingham