PROPERTY FROM THE FAMILY OF LIEUTENANT PAUL GARAY
In his D-Day message to members of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, the Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower articulated just how high the stakes were on the eve of 6 June 1944, writing: "You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world." Lieutenant Paul Nicholas Garay, assistant engineer and damage control officer aboard the USS Corry, was one of over 175,000-member expeditionary force who received Eisenhower's charge on the eve of the invasion.
The USS Corry (DD-463) was a Gleaves-class destroyer, that was commissioned a week after Pearl Harbor, and was launched 28 July 1941 from Charleston Navy Yard. Prior to her involvement at the Normandy landings, Corry was one of the most seasoned ships in the Atlantic fleet, participating in the 1942 invasion of North Africa, and serving with the British home fleet supporting convoys to Russia. Lt. Garay was transferred to the USS Corry in March of 1943, having served previously aboard the USS Charrette (DD-581).
When night fell on 5 June 1944, the Corry began her initial assignment, slowly and laboriously escorting heavy ships and transports crossing the English Channel. As H-Hour approached, the ship was deployed to shell German defenses along Utah Beach in support of troop landings. Dawn had barely broken when the Corry began exchanging salvos with the heavily fortified German batteries. The destroyer moved closer to the beach in an attempt to eliminate the heaviest artillery battery on the shore. The Allied planes laying a smoke screen between the Germans and the bombardment should have provided cover for the destroyers, but the plane assigned to the Corry was shot down before it could accomplish its job. For a brief period of time, the Corry became the only Allied ship visible to the German gunners, and she sustained a heavy barrage of large projectiles in quick succession. In the course of evasive maneuvering, the ship also struck a mine. Her keel broken, and with a foot-wide crack across her main deck, Corry began to sink, prompting the Commanding Officer George Dewey Hoffman to issue the order to abandon ship.
In Lt. Garay’s firsthand account of that day, he describes the actions he took as the ship was sinking, saving the lives of at least four men, in addition to the USS Corry’s flag: “I was on damage control.. Down underneath the wardroom were the magazines. I went down to the magazine deck and stomped on the floor a couple times. There were four or five people down there. I told them to come on out, that they weren't needed down there anymore. They undogged the hatch, lifted up the lid and got out just in time. Water was pouring in. Most of the people were already in the water by then. As the ship was going down, with water coming up over the main deck, there was a lot to take care of. Several of us were standing by. The captain was right next to me. He was getting ready to go over the side. I looked at him and said, "Captain, you'd better take your shoes off, you'll be able to swim better." So he did. (Many years later he gave me a written piece of paper—it was a joke—saying I still owed him for a pair of shoes.) I happened to come through the wardroom and found the old steaming flag, the work flag. I grabbed it before I went overboard ... A new flag had been put up; later on we could never figure out who had put up the new flag, but he was a brave man.”
Survivors from the explosions that sank the Corry had to endure 54-degree water for more than two hours under constant fire before being rescued. Continuing from Garay’s account: “Shells were landing all around us. I managed to pull a couple of people out of the water. We were on a spar, some kind of an old raft or something. We all had life preservers on, but one guy had swallowed a lot of water. I tied him to the raft and we floated around there for about two and a half hours. We weren't' sure we'd get picked up. Finally, one of the other destroyers came around and got us.” This two hour period of sustained exposure was perhaps the most harrowing for the crew. Taking additional casualties suffered in the water from shelling, drowning, and exposure into account, twenty-four men from the Corry’s crew lost their lives that day. Paul Garay was among the 260 survivors rescued by the USS Fitch. The Corry had been felled in such shallow water, that her mast remained visible even after she sank – a stark reminder of the losses sustained on June 6, with Allied casualties estimated in excess of 10,000 killed, wounded, or missing in action.
In recognition of his heroism in combat, Lieutenant Garay was awarded the Bronze Star Medal on 27 October 1946. His citation from Admiral Harold R. Stark details his courage, tenacity and loyalty to his men. The award citation reads: “After abandon ship had been ordered as a result of shellfire from shore batteries, Lieutenant (junior grade) Garay personally forced open a distorted fireroom escape hatch that held imprisoned two enlisted men, thereby effecting their escape from certain death. Within a few minutes he saved the lives of two other enlisted men who could not swim by assisting them to abandon ship, tying them to a life raft, and watching over them for a period of two hours. A steady bombardment from enemy shore batteries was maintained throughout the entire period.”
Operation Overlord marked the pivotal moment when the tides of World War II turned in favor of the Allied forces. It also represents an important innovation in modern military history: never before had an invasion of this size taken place without the immediate capture of a pre-established port capable of maintaining an army from a distance. British General Frederick E. Morgan decided to break the mold, planning an invasion designed to catch the Nazis off guard; and his plan did so beautifully. Germany expected an invasion in the Pas de Calais. In turn, they increased their defenses in the region rendering an invasion there “militarily unsound.” Overextended and undermanned due to their war on two fronts, Germany was forced to leave their defenses in some of the areas surrounding the Pas de Calais relatively weakly held. Therefore, Morgan chose to invade Normandy, focusing his entire army on the area around Caen, which had a good chance of success due to weaker German defenses and the invention of the improvised port facility, or Mulberry port, which due to its novelty could not have been foreseen by the Germans. The Mulberry port, which was constructed as early as D+2, allowed the Allies to supply their army without having captured a pre-established port, thereby setting the stage for the successful expansion and resupply of the 21st army group throughout the key initial stages of Operation Overlord.
The D-Day landings are heralded not only as one of the most pivotal moments of the second World War, but as but as one of the boldest and most successful large-scale invasions in military history. In June 2002, to mark the 64th anniversary of D-Day, National Geographic published an issue highlighting the “Untold Stories of D-Day” which featured the battle-worn flag of the USS Corry on its cover. As the 75th Anniversary approaches, on 6 June 2019, an international coalition will convene in Normandy to commemorate the memory of D-Day, and the Battle of Normandy.
In further recognition of the bravery of Lieutenant Garay, and of the twenty-four USS Corry crew members who lost their lives on 6 June 1944, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this lot will benefit the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation, whose mission is to provide college scholarships and educational counseling to military children who have lost a parent in the line of duty.
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