breaking news

Watch live: PBC parents, students talk to the school board about safety

POST TIME: Fort Pierce base helped military train for D-Day


Readers: Friday marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Fort Pierce Amphibious Training Base on Jan. 26, 1943. Here’s more from a 2001 feature article:

When the flat-bottomed landing craft stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944, and spilled seasick and terrified soldiers into a rain of gunfire, their drivers steered with experience gained during training in South Florida. And the squads sent in on the first wave to destroy hidden obstructions planted to impale landing craft, also had trained at a teeming base on a quiet stretch of beach near Fort Pierce.

The Navy SEAL Museum, at Pepper County Park on North Hutchinson Island, is one of St. Lucie County’s largest tourist attractions, with more than 90,000 visiting annually. The museum displays photographs, documents, plaques, newspaper accounts and captured memorabilia. Its grounds are scattered with several actual Vietnam War patrol boats, but also a replica of the boats that ferried troops ashore in France on D-Day.

In those same types of boats, men practiced such landings on the deserted beaches. Cargo nets were draped over scaffolds so troops could practice climbing down the sides of battleships to the landing boats.

Also on the property: some of the obstacles placed offshore so boat drivers could practice eluding them and teams could practice blowing them up. They are exact copies of the obstacles America knew, from reconnaissance, that the Germans had planted to repel the invasion. Set just below the water line, they would impale landing craft, sending weighed-down soldiers to their deaths in deep water.

There are concrete pyramids the size of dishwashers, with tangled metal bars jutting from them. There are the dreaded “hedgehogs” — assemblies of metal bars that looked like gigantic children’s jacks but were deadly in their efficiency.

One Fort Pierce-based unit lost 33 men, about half its force, at bloody Omaha Beach, although it managed to blow five large gaps through the obstacles.

More than 140,000 military personnel trained at the St. Lucie County base from 1943 to 1946. Then, all of St. Lucie County had fewer than 20,o00 residents.

Even after D-Day, the U.S. military continued training near Fort Pierce for Pacific landings, including the invasion of the Japanese homeland that everyone knew would be a bloodbath.

After the war, the Fort Pierce base shut down and stood dormant. The military left the obstructions in the water, where they stayed until the federal government fished them out during a 1991 nationwide cleanup of former military sites. At the museum’s request, the items were handed over and displayed on the grounds.

Private donations are its major support. The state owns the museum and leases it to St. Lucie County, which then subleases it to the museum’s foundation.

NATIONAL NAVY UDT-SEAL MUSEUM: 772-595-5845. Web page: www.navysealmuseum.org/

Submit your questions to Post Time, The Palm Beach Post, 2751 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach, FL 33405. Include your full name and hometown. Call 561-820-4418. EK@pbpost.com. Sorry; no personal replies.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

‘You can make your days count’ — Billy Graham’s message in WPB address
‘You can make your days count’ — Billy Graham’s message in WPB address

Evangelist Billy Graham, who died Wednesday at 99, spoke of life’s brevity when he addressed then-Palm Beach Atlantic College’s graduates in West Palm Beach in 1997. “Not one of us at any age has a clue as to how long we will live. You can’t count your days. But you can make your days count,” Graham, then 78, said. &ldquo...
Boynton Beach has timetable for final downtown pitch
Boynton Beach has timetable for final downtown pitch

Boynton Beach’s 16-acre Town Square redevelopment plan received another nod of approval from city commissioners, but not from all. Commissioner Mack McCray voted against the project because he doesn’t know how the city will pay for it and Commissioner Joe Casello is still not happy with the location of the new police station at High Ridge...
Fair housing group sues owner of Boynton complex for discrimination
Fair housing group sues owner of Boynton complex for discrimination

The owner of a small apartment complex in Boynton Beach has been sued by a fair housing group, claiming he refuses to rent to families. In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, the Fair Housing Center of the Greater Palm Beaches accuses Alan Beigel, owner of BB Apartments on Southeast Third Avenue, of violating the Federal Housing...
Broward school shooting: Walkouts, demonstrations dot South Florida
Broward school shooting: Walkouts, demonstrations dot South Florida

Throughout Palm Beach, Broward, Martin and St. Lucie counties, students took to social media and showed the many ways they were remembering those killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on its one-week anniversary. On Wednesday at 10:17 a.m. -- a full week to the minute of the shooting which took 17 lives in Parkland -- there was...
UPDATE: More than 1,000 students march on Boca Raton City Hall
UPDATE: More than 1,000 students march on Boca Raton City Hall

At least 1,000 students from Boca Raton High School, Boca Raton Middle School, Omni Middle School, Olympic Heights and West Boca Raton High School converged at Boca Raton City Hall to urge for gun control. Nicole Auchinleck, a 17-year-old at Boca Raton High, said she helped coordinate the massive rally using the social media app Snapchat.  &ldquo...
More Stories