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    Fantastic D Day Souvenir

    Ship's Wheel From the SS David O. Saylor, Scuttled On June 8, 1944 off Utah Beach to Create Sheltered Waters. The SS David O. Saylor was a concrete cargo steamship (or "breakwater ship")built in 1943 by McCloskey Shipbuilders of Hooker's Point, Florida. She was scuttled on D-Day plus 4 (June 8, 1944) along with nine other block ships to create "Gooseberry 1", an area of sheltered waters off Utah Beach. A sailor on board the SS Vitruvius, one of the ships with the Saylor recounted the event. He wrote, in part: "One day Army Engineers came aboard with several cases of dynamite and set up charges in each hold. On June 1 we headed out to sea. About two days out, the Captain called all hands on deck to read a letter from General Dwight D. Eisenhower telling us we would be making history -- participating in the invasion of Normandy. We rendezvoused at Portsmouth, England with the others destined to be "blockships." Crossing the channel on D-Day was not a big problem for us... The coast of France was a sight to behold. Ships everywhere. Battleships with guns blasting the shoreline. Destroyers, destroyer escorts and every kind of landing craft imaginable. The day was cloudy, but occasionally a plane would stick its nose through the clouds and every ship, including ours, would fire their 20 mm. Oerlikons. It was the 4th of July multiplied tenfold. We had a bird's-eye view of landing craft heading for shore, the fighting on the beach and bodies floating in the water. I was sure glad to be on a ship -- even if it was concrete. On D-Day+1 we tried to maneuver to our assigned position, but German 88s started exploding around us. We got out of there just in time. We tried again on D-Day+3 with the same results. On D-Day+4 we went in without any problem. We got off the ship into an LCI and watched army engineers set off the dynamite. A big puff of smoke and she sank quickly in the shallow water with about half the ship still showing." Another sailor witnessing events from the shore was Lieutenant LeRoy Arthur Gemmell, a chaplain attached to the Navy Seabees on the beach. Shortly after the ships of "Gooseberry 1" sank, he boarded the partially submerged SS Saylor and, with the help of a mate removed the ship's wheel, thinking it would make a unique souvenir of the invasion. The oak wheel measures approximately 36" in diameter with a 6" brass spindle. A small circular brass manufacturer's plate mounted to the wheel is engraved "American Engineering Co. Phila." The historic wheel has been in the Gemmell family since 1944. Lt. Gemmell also served aboard the USS General George M. Randall (AP-115), a Navy troopship (1944-1945) and the light cruiser USS Denver (CL 58) from 1945-1946. Included with the wheel are several newspaper clippings, numerous personal photographs and a cruise book for the USS Denver titled Life Aboard the U.S.S. Denver 1942-1945. Laid-in the book is Gemmell's commission document signed by Franklin Knox, Secretary of the Navy. One wooden handle split off and has been neatly glued back together, but does not impact the overall presentation of this unique souvenir of the Normandy invasion.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2014
    7th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 730

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