From Martha’s Vineyard to D-Day, 70 years ago

Key elements of the World War II battle were staged on the Island.

"Aqua Cheetahs" were amphibious Jeeps of the type used in the invasion of Normandy. Here, a practice invasion on Martha's Vineyard's south shore. — Courtesy Tom Dresser

One of the intriguing aspects of the D-Day invasion, which took place
70 years ago this week, June 6, 1944, was how so many key
elements of the invasion were actually staged on Martha’s Vineyard.

In the late summer of 1942, troops from Camp Edwards boarded LCMs
(landing craft, mechanized), crossed Vineyard Sound and landed on the
north shore of the Vineyard. “Invading forces” stormed through the
forests and fields to practice an attack. Paratroopers landed at the
Katama airfield. The general in charge rode in an Aqua Cheetah, a Jeep
which could go in the water. General McNair was very impressed with
the practice invasion.

Off South Beach, in Edgartown, a pipeline was developed, stretching
miles offshore. The intent was to see if a pipe could be placed
under the English Channel, in preparation for the invasion to provide
fuel for Army vehicles. This secret plan was nicknamed Edgar, and was
not divulged until after the war.

Two ferry boats, the New Bedford and the Naushon, were taken by the
Navy, in 1942. This meant Vineyarders were limited to only two trips
off Island per day. The ferries crossed the Atlantic, braving German
U-boats, and were used as hospital ships to accompany D-Day invading
forces. Later the ferries transported troops from England to France.

Who knew?

To learn more about these remarkable experiences, Tom Dresser, Herb Foster,
and Jay Schofield will be reading from their new book, “Martha’s Vineyard in World War II” at
free public talks this Friday, June 6, at 1 pm, at The Anchors in Edgartown or Wednesday, June 11, at 5 pm, at the Chilmark Public Library.