Aug 15, 2017 • Provision Living at Hattiesburg • By: Tom Bedwell
Howard Sessums, a resident of Provision Living at Hattiesburg is one of the few remaining Frogmen of the Second World War. The Mississippi native could be deemed an original Navy SEAL, except his tenure took place long before the term SEAL entered the lexicon of our nation’s Armed Forces. Sessums was among the world’s first underwater demolitionists and our country’s most elite amphibious warriors. They lead the way during the liberation of France, storming ashore the bloody sands of Normandy. Sessums and his fellow Frogmen were also our nation’s most prized special operation scouts and raiders during the final months of the campaign against Japan.
Sessums joined the Navy in 1943 at the age of 17. After six weeks of training he boarded the U.S.S. Bryant. It was a remarkable initiation into military service for the son of a WWI veteran who had grown up on a farm in just east of Jackson in Morton, MS.
Life on the farm consisted of early chores, including milking the cows first thing in the morning before moving on to feeding the farm’s animals and working in the fields during the afternoons.
The transition from farmer to Frogman saw Sessums landing on Omaha Beach. It sounds extraordinary now but Sessums recalls that most young people saw service as a natural step.
“Young people then felt it was their duty to go,” said Sessums.
Aboard the U.S.S. Bryant, which was a destroyer tasked with escorting supply convoys from the United States to England, Sessums experienced an attack on the ship by a German submarine. The sub torpedoed the destroyer and Sessums ultimately received a purple heart for his valor during the attack. Sessums was then voluntarily reassigned to the U.S.S. McCook and during that service Sessums was among the first of the Allied forces to complete the Normandy landings and worked as an underwater demolitionist on the Omaha beachhead.
Sessums remembers, “in those days the men wore full combat dress, and we were taught to operate at night and early morning by wading in the surf water and carrying explosives to obstacles from rubber boats.”
The casualty rate that day was 52%.
The Provision Living at Hattiesburg team is honored to serve Howard Sessums and his fellow veterans, along with all of the residents who call our community home.