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Higganum Veteran (1921-2024) Participated in the D-Day Invasion

By Phil Devlin

(May 23, 2024) — As Memorial Day approaches, and as the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of June 6, 1944 follows shortly after, it is most appropriate to remember the service of a recently deceased veteran of Higganum, Neil Blodgett, who died on April 8, 2024 at age 102.

(Photo above, courtesy of Neil Blodgett)

Neil Blodgett had vivid memories of his three-year stint in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Neil served as a gunner’s mate on an LST during the war. He received his training in Rhode Island, then shipped out from Bayonne, New Jersey, where he boarded a naval LST. An LST was basically a large cargo ship, more than 300 feet in length, manned by a crew of about 125 that could carry men and materiel to battles.

Often, Neil’s LST would carry large quantities of ammunition and gasoline to battles, thus putting its crew in extreme danger if attacked. Despite often being pursued by German U-Boats and attacked several times by German airplanes, his LST safely made trips to Africa, Sicily, India, and Burma to deliver its cargo before returning through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea to England to prepare for the D-Day invasion.

Neil’s LST was loaded with small locomotive engines that would fit on French railways, as well as numerous troops in preparation for Operation Overlord. He remembers that the journey from England to the Normandy coast was postponed three times due to adverse weather. Finally, his ship became part of an enormous armada of more than 6,000 ships of all sizes that set out for the invasion early on the morning of June 6, 1944.

Neil said that he had never before seen so many ships in one place in his life; additionally, he saw and heard hundreds of airplanes overhead on their way to the Normandy coast. It was an unforgettable experience. LST 209 finally reached Gold Beach on the morning of June 6th, and unloaded its cargo successfully. Neil said that his ship was then transformed into a hospital ship that would transport wounded soldiers back to England for further medical attention.

Navy veteran Neil Blodgett (photo above by Phil Devlin) understandably took great pride in his military service during World War II. Neil also took great pride that his grandson, the commanding officer on the destroyer USS Barry, continues the Blodgett family’s service in the United States Navy.

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