August 25, 2012  World War II Beachmaster Joseph Vaghi Dies At 92

compiled from multiple sources

WASHINGTON — Joseph P. Vaghi Jr., a World War II veteran who was one of the last surviving U.S. Navy beachmasters who landed at Normandy on D-Day to direct troops, has died. He was 92. 

His son, Joe Vaghi III, said Mr. Vaghi died Saturday at a retirement home in Bethesda, Md., near Washington.

Mr. Vaghi was the youngest of 18 beachmasters who went ashore at Omaha Beach at 7:30 a.m. on June 6, 1944. There he directed landings of Allied troops on the shore amid German gunfire and helped treat and evacuate wounded soldiers. He later wrote about his experience.

Kenneth Davey, a retired teacher whose father served with Mr. Vaghi, said he didn’t know of any other surviving beachmasters from the Allied invasion based on his research of military records over the years.

Joseph Vaghi (C), a US Navy ensign, chats with residents of Colleville-Sur-Mer in June 1944 after Allied forces stormed the Normandy beaches during D-Day. D-Day, 06 June 1944 is still one of the world’s most gut-wrenching and consequential battles, as the Allied landing in Normandy led to the liberation of France which marked the turning point in the Western theater of World War II. (credit: /AFP/Getty Images)

Mr. Vaghi was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions at Normandy. He later worked as an architect near the nation’s capital.

In 1995, Mr. Vaghi accompanied Vice President Al Gore to Europe to mark the 50th anniversary of victory in World War II. AP


Obit of the Day: The Last Beachmaster

On June 6, 1944 across the beaches of Normandy, eighteen Naval officers were assigned as “beachmasters.” The beachmaster would guide the traffic of men, equipment and vehicles as they moved from the English Channel onto the beach and from the beach further into France.

Only 23 at the time, Lt. Commander Joseph Vaghi, Jr. was the youngest beachmaster during the invasion. He landed with the U.S. 6th Naval Beach Battalion at 7:35 a.m. on Omaha Beach, a little over an hour after the first troops had come ashore. The bombing of the beach was still in progress with the platoon coming under constant attack from German soldiers. At one point Lt. Cmdr. Vaghi’s clothes caught fire from a nearby explosion.

He and his platoon remained on the beach for 23 days as they handled the administration of the largest land-sea invasion in the history of the world. Following the work in France, for which he received the Bronze Star, Lt. Cmdr. Vaghi was reassigned to Okinawa where he participated in the ground invasion.

Following the war Joseph Vaghi, Jr. returned home and enjoyed a career as an architect. The last of the D-Day beachmasters died at the age of 92.

Sources: Chicago Sun-Times, The 6th Beach Battalion Page (which includes Lt. Cmdr. Vaghi’s own description of the D-Day landing)

(Image of the officers of the 6th Beach Battalion prior to D-Day in 1944. Lt. Commander Joseph Vaghi, Jr. is in the back row, second from the left. Courtesy of, from the Ken Burns’ documentary, The War.)

Joseph P. Vaghi with his caregiver August 2012

Of the 18 beachmasters at Normandy, he was the last to survive.  

For the last three years he wore his USS Neshoba APA 216 hat proudly just about every day. 

During the wake his hat was proudly displayed on his left side. He was buried with that hat in his casket. 

This photo was the last picture that I took of my father 38 hours before his passing. 

We had just returned having dinner with him. He is pictured with his care-giver Fridda.   Joseph P. Vaghi III