Army Experience

D-Day Invasion

Reflections of the War


[Annotator’s Note: Interviewee refers to notes throughout segment] James Mathews [Annotator’s Note: born in 1917] grew up in New Orleans [Annotator’s Note: New Orleans, Louisiana]. He graduated from Jesuit High School [Annotator’s Note: Jesuit High School in New Orleans, Louisiana] in 1934. While attending Jesuit, he went to a Civilian Military training camp for four summers. It was a military program where the campers lived in tents, learned about weapons, map reading, and other military subjects. He also took a 10 series extension course with the hopes of becoming an officer. Participating in the military camp gave Mathews something to do for several weeks of the summer. He felt it gave him another dimension in life. He played football at Jesuit, and later received an athletic scholarship to play at Loyola [Annotator’s Note: Loyola University of New Orleans, Louisiana]. He played for the university while he attended classes. When he graduated from college, he taught at Jesuit for two years but did not enjoy it, so he found a job at South Central Bell as a mail boy in 1941. He stayed with the company for a short time until he decided to enlist in the army as a second lieutenant due to his past military experience. He signed up to serve one year, but remained on active duty until 1946. Mathews had indication that the United States may go into war, but thought any military experience would benefit him. The Army sent him to England in 1942 as an operations officer in the Transportation Corps. He was responsible for loading the ships for the D-Day invasion [Annotator's Note: D-Day; the Allied invasion of Normandy, France on 6 June 1944] when he became the director of operations. He was in Southampton [Annotators Note: Southampton, England] and recalled 20,000 soldiers bivouacked in the area waiting to board the ships. A couple of V2 rockets [Annotator's Note: German Vergeltungswaffe 2, or Retribution Weapon 2, ballistic missile] were sent by the Germans. No military personnel were affected, but there were some civilian casualties. Mathews was awarded several medals including the Bronze Star [Annotator's Note: the Bronze Star Medal is the fourth-highest award a United States service member can receive for a heroic or meritorious deed performed in a conflict with an armed enemy]. After his service in World War 2, he attended general staff school and retired as a full colonel.


James Mathews was an officer in the Army prior to the D-Day invasion [Annotator's Note: D-Day; the Allied invasion of Normandy, France on 6 June 1944]. He was stationed in England and went to London [Annotator’s Note: London, England] several times in connection with the job he had in the military. He enjoyed associating with the civilians of the city because they were so jovial even though they were in a war zone. He also interacted with the civilians in Southampton [Annotator’s Note: Southampton, England]. The civilians were happy to see the Americans around and participating in the war efforts. Mathews, as the Director of Operations in the Transportation Corps, was responsible for calling up troops from the staging area and loading them onto the vessels for deployment across the English Channel. Many of the ships were LCTs [Annotator’s Note: landing craft, tank (or tank landing craft)] and LSIs [Annotator’s Note: Landing ship, infantry (LSI) or infantry landing ship] because they could land closer to the beaches. The troops were then able to disembark on the beaches and invade up inland. During the invasion he kept communication with London. Mathews recalled some of the ships were destroyed on their way to the invasion. He oversaw the logistics of loading all the equipment and supplies onto the vessels, including the troops. He saw very little complaints from the men who were loaded onto the vessels. Most of the men were ready for the job, and displayed bravery that helped get the job done. There were very few that were not prepared. After the D-Day invasion was complete, he oversaw the logistics of bringing the wounded men back to the United States for the next eight months. There were medical and passenger ships to bring troops home. Mathews returned to the United States shortly after war in Europe concluded. He recalled that on VE-Day [Annotator's Note: Victory in Europe Day, 8 May 1945], it was complete chaos in London.


James Mathews was very impressed with what America did during World War 2. He believes there should be institutions like the National WWII Museum [Annotator's Note: The National WWII Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana], and we should continue to teach World War 2 to future generations. He is so happy that The Museum is in New Orleans and is a great tribute to the men who contributed to the war. Mathews thought about making a career out of the military, but instead to chose civilian life because he wanted to raise a family. He is proud to have served in the military and participated in the D-Day invasion [Annotator's Note: D-Day; the Allied invasion of Normandy, France on 6 June 1944]. He is happy to receive the many decorations for his service. After he was discharged from the military, he returned to his job with a telephone company. He worked there for several years and moved up in the organization. Mathews is very thankful to the Lord for giving him the opportunities that he received. He is also thankful to the Lord for giving Americans the talents they needed to win World War 2. [Annotator’s Note: Interviewer asks a man off camera about interviewee’s experiences in the war.] Mathews stayed in the Army Reserves until 1964, and retired as a full colonel. His unit was called up for the Korean War and went to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey where he trained for several months. Mathews was not required to go to Korea and his unit was not required to remain in operation, so he went home. He enjoyed his dedication and the tours he had in the military. Mathews was so proud to be in the Army that he influenced his son to serve in the military.

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