Tommy L. Harbour

Portrait of a Coast Guard D-Day veteran

Mr. Tommy L. Harbour began his service to his nation and community during World War II when he was sworn into the Coast Guard on July 5, 1943, and attended boot camp at Manhattan Beach Training Station in New York. Harbour was trained by both Coast Guard and Marine Corps personnel to become a motor machinist or "motor mac" (now known as a boat engineer) for the vehicle and personnel landing craft (LCVP), also known as the Higgins boat. He was then assigned to the Coast Guard-manned attack transport USS Bayfield (APA-33), where he served as a motor mac for one of the USS Bayfield's LCVP landing craft, PA33-4.
During the invasion of Normandy June 6, 1944, Mr. Harbour's landing craft had orders to land soldiers on Utah Beach. However, due to heavy losses, Harbour was instructed to land on Omaha Beach instead. After delivering troops to Omaha Beach, Harbour made several more landings on Utah Beach under heavy gunfire from German shore batteries.
Two months later while preparing his landing craft for the invasion of Southern France, a German airplane dropped a bomb, which hit LCVP PA33-4 while cradled on the Bayfield.  Harbour's coxswain and boat seaman were seriously injured, and his landing craft sustained significant damage.  Unharmed, Harbour then made several landings at Saint Raphael in a different landing craft with another boat crew.
After his European campaign, Harbour continued his assignment aboard the Bayfield and participated in the invasion of Iwo Jima. During the invasion and despite heavy Japanese gunfire, Harbour transported Marines and supplies to the beaches of Iwo Jima. On the second and third days of the invasion, Harbour continued to make landings, hauling supplies such as flame-thrower fuel, mortar shells and hand grenades to Marines who were clearing the island. Additionally, Harbour took part in the Okinawa invasion with a force that simulated landing operations in an effort to confuse the island's Japanese defenders.  Harbour completed a total of four invasions from the Bayfield in a 10-month period. Following his active duty service in the Coast Guard, Harbour served his community as the mayor of Milton, W.Va., a suburb of Huntington, W.Va., for 17 years. He is a member of the Disabled American Veterans, active in the Huntington Veterans Center and continues to advocate for veterans benefits. Harbour is a stalwart supporter and ambassador for the Coast Guard throughout the Ohio Valley and tells the Coast Guard story wherever he goes, and through the years, Harbour has become a friend to many who have served with him at Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Huntington.

I met Mr. Harbour at the ceremony on Utah Beach, Normandy, France, June 5, 2009.