Statement written for The Sun/Sun Herald April 24th 2006. According to this article Steve Saldon's name is spelt 'Saldon', although some of our archive material shows it as 'Sadlon'. For the purposes of this article, we have stuck to the spelling shown.
STEVE SALDON’S STORY
Extract from Don Moore’s article.
Petty Office Steve Saldon (Served as radio operator aboard LST 507)
I was alseep in my sack when I was awakened by a scraping noise along the side of our LST. It was a torpedo that didn’t explode. General quarters sounded a moment later and I ran for the radio shack. I sat down in my chair in front of my typewriter and was starting to get the radio going when a second torpedo hit right below where I was in the auxiliary engine room. I was thrown out of my chair by the concussion from the exploding torpedo. My head hit the overhead bulkhead and knocked me out. One of the radio transmitters that was as large as a refrigerator toppled to the floor beside where I was sprawled.
When I woke up after the torpedo hit us, sometime later I staggered from the radio shack through a companionway into the wheelhouse. All hell was breaking loose aboard ship. Fire was everywhere, ammunition as well as gas cans were exploding. Sailors were running all over the place. The skipper couldn’t get any of the pumps or the engines going because we had lost all electricity. We had nothing, we were a floating, burning hull of a ship. Finally, the skipper said ‘Let’s abandon ship!’
Our signalman was standing in the stern with the rest of them [soldiers and sailors who had gathered there to escape the fires on board]. He told me, ‘Steve, I’m not going to jump into that cold water.’ I pointed to the fire and explosions behind us on the ship and told him, ‘Take your choice: You either burn to death on the ship or you freeze to death in the sea.’ That was the last I saw of him. He stayed aboard ship and apparently burned to death. [At this point Saldon removed his shoes and dived into the water.]
There were hundreds of guys all around us in the water screaming for help. There were dead bodies floating everywhere. We got past the burning water, the dead people and the people yelling for help. I floated by this officer who told me to save my breath and stop screaming for help like the rest of them, because nobody is going to help us. I quieted down and my flotation belt slipped up under my arms. My head fell on one shoulder and kept my face out of the water as hypothermia started taking control of my body in the 42-degree water. Just before I passed out, I can remember seeing my mother’s face. She was holding me in her arms and protecting me. I was a little kid again.
I woke up on another LST. I was lying on a mess table in the crew’s quarters with 10 Army blankets over me. A corpsman patted me on the shoulder and said, ‘You’re a lucky guy. We were piling up dead people from your ship and you were foaming at the mouth. So we picked you up and started working on you.’ The next thing I knew I was in an American military hospital in England. I got rough treatment from the medical staff. One of the pharmacist mates told me: ‘The orders from the doctors were to treat all of us who survived the torpedoing like they were vets.’ In other words, we were considered dogs.
[Once out of the hospital, Saldon together with a few other Exercise Tiger survivors, was sent to Plymouth] They made three or four of us unload ammunition at night from ships in Plymouth Harbor in our borrowed Army uniforms. They kept us isolated, unloading ammunition only at night for a month or more. A couple of weeks before the D-Day invasion, they told me to pack up my stuff and they sent me to LST-500. When I went aboard, the executive officer immediately took me below. ‘Here’s your Purple Heart,’ he said as he handed me my medal. ‘You’re supposed to get a ceremony, but you’re not getting nothing.’ I leaned over and pointed my finger at him and said, ‘You get me off this boat as quick as possible!’ He said ‘Guess what? You’re going with us on the invasion.’
In comparison to the E-Boat attack, Utah Beach was a walk in the park.
Petty Officer Steve Saldon USS LST 507