Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oldest Military Blogger in Ghent, Belgium

I am stationed in Ghent, Belgium.
It's May 1945.
The War is over!
It's August,1945!
We get leave to go to Paris.
Lloyd, Okie and I get a lift on a Company truck
to Paris.
We meet some Black Marketeers.
They buy everything I carry including my toothpaste.
I keep my B Bag, some socks and 4 cartons of
They pay us with counterfeit Script!
The ink on the last letter of the Serial Number
is Smeared.
A bartender, later that day points it out to us.
We look over the rest of our ill gotten gains.
All smeared, but hardly noticeable.
The bartender will accept the counterfeit money
if we double the payment!
No Problem!
We do the rounds in Pig Alley including the Follies.
No big deal for a guy from New York who was
familiar to Burlesque.
Astonishing to the others, who decide to stay
in Paris while I want to go back to Scotland.
I get a ride to Etretat, a seaport in France, for
a Boat Train to England.
I spend a couple of days in London and take the
Royal Scot Express with its large windows
and very comfortable seats for a ten hour train
ride to Glasgow,and a bus to Gourock, a small
seaport on the West coast, where I first came
ashore from the S.S. Argentina..
Adda and her family have relocated.
The house is gone and so is most of the street.
It's time to start for home.
The weather turns ugly.
I arrive in Southampton in a pouring rain and
dense fog.
I wait twenty hours for a Boat Train to Etretat.
Southampton train station is jammed with
101st Troopers on leave.
Everyone is standing or sitting on their gear.
An announcement on the PA system tells us
the Boat Train delay will be another 3 hours.
6 hours later, another excuse for 2 hours later.
A huge Trooper jumps up on a nearby booth
and then, onto a counter under the Information Sign.
He pounds the heel of his Jump shoe on the gleaming
counter-top for attention!
Some eyes turn toward the disruption of the unusual noise.
The trooper bellows, above the sounds of the seething audience.


The din in the Terminal seems to mellow.

"FORTY NINE" he oozes out in a loud screeching,
breaking voice, with his arms raised above his head.

Much quieter in Southampton Train Station!


Not a Sound!

Then starting with a swell:
800 GIs IN UNISON roar their displeasure!

The roar shatters the corners of the terminal,
long and drawn out,starting with a lower register
moan and building to a crescendo,reverberating from
the 50 foot rafters, ending in this emphatic statement

" S O M E S H E E E T "
Less than an hour later, I was on the first
of many boats crossing the Channel in a dense fog,
so darn proud to be an American ..

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oldest Military Blogger Goes Back to 2007.

Some people my age are not very Computer literate.
Where is the stuff about D Day they ask?
How can I find it?
The posting process is such that the newest
postings appear first in my Blog.
My D Day experience was posted in 2007.
I thought it might be a good Idea to reprint
the posts from 2007 as an easy way to solve
a huge problem.

Actually, I enjoyed reading them again.
I hope you do too.

Oldest Military Blogger 5 Days before D Day.

D Day Minus 5 days

I left England on June 1,1944 on the Liberty ship, SS George E. Pickett.
This was the third dry run we thought,so the speech we got before we went aboard, by some nameless General, was taken in stride.
After being under sail for 12 hours we started to consider the possibility
of this, being the real thing.The following day still moving around in the Channel or off the coast of Brest more vessels joined our group.We kept moving together.A convoy without any visible Naval escort. We all stayed on deck as much as we could because it wasextremely hot below.
All the hatches were covered but we finally found that our cargo was composed of Sherman tanks, Jeeps with trailers, filled with gear,DUKWs piled high with rope cargo nets, two and a half ton trucks with canvas covers tied down and thousands of 5 gallon Jerry cans filled with gasoline.
You asked me for something to chew on. Well, it looks like I may have bitten off more than I can chew on at this moment.
Give me a day or two till, I get my shit together.
It turns out that the General with no name turned out to be Ike, who I wouldn't know from a hole in the ground, and later realized it was he, when his picture was in the Stars and Stripes.


D day minus 5 Hours

In the afternoon on the 3rd of June, many more vessels could be seen and an occasional Destroyer raced by. We were called for a briefing on deck and we found that sections of Infantry from the 90th Division were our shipmates.The briefing was about cutting off the Cherbourg Peninsula with an initial assault from the NW and then one from the opposite side of the peninsular.These forces would join in the middle and then move toward the town of Cherbourg. Historically, some of this occurred, evidently the fierce weather on June 5th may have made some of this cumbersome. We were getting seriously bored.We played cards,shot craps, wrestled, slept and ate when we could keep it down.Dusk on the 3rd we were under full sail. I didn't know where I was but from the suns position I thought we were sailing South East.With daylight on th 4th there were hundreds of ships in view but as the day wore on foggy weather, or man made fog, the storm closed in.That night, in a storm tossed sea very few could sleep.Someone was sobbing and crying in my sleeping area.I climbed down into the engine room stairwell and the sound of the boilers and pumps hammered me to doze off.The tossing of the Pickett continued for most of the morning of the 5th and then it cleared as it got dark. Suddenly the sky was full of tracers. Full of heavy Naval fire. everyone on deck realized, tomorrow we go.

Oldest Military Blogger on the S.S. George E Pickett on D Day

D Day on The S.S.George E. Pickett

Oh yes. They knew we were coming. The 82nd Airborne had been dropped the day before. They fought their way back to the beach.They did not know that the landings would be delayed because of a little bad weather. I'll bet they were outraged beyond anything I could imagine,
wondering how they were supposed to hold their objectives without the backup they had been promised, to be right behind them. Waiting for the sound of bugles signifying that the Calvary was en route, to the rescue.
To say the least,they were upset. They were tired.They were lucky.
Let me explain where I'm going with this.
People get killed in wars.
Soldiers get killed in war.
We are not trained to see the whole picture.
Our superior officers tell us that we are a small link in the whole chain ,of what the fighting is all about. Don't get negative thoughts regarding your orders.Why are we going to do this,this way,when it seems so much easier to do it that way? It's not exactly like
they issue a rain check to some outdoor activity and everyone isinconvenienced for a few days.
This activity has men's lives in the
balance.We should not have delayed the landings and sacrificed those men of the 82nd,101st, without a chance of relief as they expected.Somehow I suspect that the delayed landings came about because of some bad inteligence,at the last moments of this operation.
I suppose the early jumpers were told to hold their objective and we would get to them as soon as we can.
Just as these Divisions carried out their orders without question, we would have done the same and gone ashore on the 5th, in the storm, because we trained to respond to our orders without question and because we were immortal.
Men who have never been in a combat situation may think about death, but not about their own.
You cannot realize or perceive your own death,that only happens to someone else.
Combat changes that.
One day you understand.
A guy could get killed out here.
When you've seen enough bodies of friends or enemies, you stop running for cover when there is shelling from 88s, you get scared of getting out of your foxhole because one of your skittish neighbors is quick on the trigger.You start thinking a little differently.Your existence depends on how good the guy next to you in the field is. He and the others who are still alive, start thinking pretty much the same way. Don't worry about yourself so much, just watch out for your fellowmen, because they are the only thing that is keeping you alive.
Here we are, more than 60 years after this event and I defy you to tell me how many casualties the pre-D day invaders suffered. I'm sure that this figure is best kept with the overall population of American and Allied losses.

TUESDAY, JULY 31, 2007

D Day.First Light.

D Day. First light revealed, an LCT nestled up against the S.S.Picketton the port side,amidships,next to the No.2 hatch. No.2 is the largest hatch on a Liberty ship and contained the heaviest units. The booms on No.2 are rated for 50 tonnes, so the order was to place our tank cargo aboard the LCT along side. The Landing Craft Tank, can deliver its freight by dropping its ramp like bow, right on the beach and tanks are driven off, each with its own driver,one after the other.During the loading process we were taking fire from shore and the bridge of the LCT was hit by an 88 shell from a German gun.We found out later that a Naval Lt.on the bridge was decapitated. The crew was replaced and the LCT cast off,beach bound.The empty spot was taken immediately by another vessel.The action on the starboard side was used for offloading, fuel, ammo and Infantry into LCVPs.(Landing Craft Vehicle Personnel). The SS Morgan went down by the stern, 200 yards off our port side,as the daylight increased and it got lighter. My outfit went ashore via an LCVP coxswain who was out in the open at all times. He brought us safely to the beach without incident, then he dropped the ramp, and we debarked in waist deep water.As soon as we were ashore he backed off the beach to get another load.We landed on Utah beach. 10 hours later I returned to the Pickett to help finish unloading the ship and get our gear. The Naval bombardment destroyed almost every fortification on shore.The Atlantic Wall where we landed, was a myth. Fortunately for my outfit, we were put ashore 1000 yards northwest of our initially assigned area, and it was very lightly defended.
There is a Film called "A Walk in the Sun", with Dana Andrews and John Ireland to name a few of the stars,that comes to mind. John Ireland writes letters to his sister about his well being, after the invasion of an island off Italy. All through the movie, he writes or narrates letters to her, optimistically not knowing, if they will ever be read .
Their mission is to take a well fortified farm house which is serving as an observation post. Completing their assignment, after a huge loss of life, John Ireland's character under a shade tree, paper and pencil in hand,he grimly muses about the contents of a letter to his sister at the close of the film .
"Dear Sis,
Today we took a farm house. It was so easy."

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Oldest Military Blogger in Carentan

The Newest Confliction

Why not!
These are my experiences in the Military that
have nothing to do with the shoot-em-up syndrome
that everyone expects and certainly not worth
writing about.
When the War was over in MAY,we were taken
out of Antwerp and shipped to Carentan, France
and assigned to a prisoner of war hospital where
some 850 Germans were recovering from wounds
after being treated, then housed and being
rehabilitated to normality.
We took out groups of those in good physical
shape to do some sort of manual labor to ease
their boredom and to keep them busy.
They helped widen narrow brooks in the area to
provide freer flowing water to farmers who used
the streams for irrigation of their new crops.
The prisoners also did maintenance to wooded areas
that were heavily damaged by shelling.
My first day on arrival, I had a group of ten Germans,
lead by a German Sgt.with a yellow armband to
signify his seniority, who was going to hand out long
handled shovels to the others, asked
me with a bow and a gesture to the shovels, "O.K.?"
I nodded in affirmation.
Each of the men came up to the truck, took
a shovel, shouldered it and followed
the Sgt on a hardly visible trail into the woods.
I was at the end of the line!
In a moment the Sgt. was out of sight!
Alone with my Carbine and 10 armed Germans
leading me into the woods like a sheep
to the slaughter.
Apprehension turned to anxiety when they
started singing in perfect unison a stirring
Wagnerian melody that sounded like a battle
cry to me.
As we got further into the brush, anxiety
turned to sweat when I realized they were
gaining on me!
Suddenly, we came to a narrow stream that
was carrying a large volume of water
very rapidly.
The Yellow armband pointed for me to go
under a tree and said, "Bitte", asking me
to please sit, with a hand motion and a knee
bending, partial squat.
I wasn't gong to sit!
I had to be on my guard!
I watched them deploy, 5 on each side of
the swollen brook to make the channel wider,
moving away from me, downstream, as a unit.
Two hours passed and they stopped for a
break at the command of the Sgt.
They produced food from nowhere and ate
while they sat on the higher bank of the
swirling waters on their unfamiliar route.
The leader offered me a sandwich of some
kind which I refused..
I ate a chocolate bar from my K Ration.
Break over,they went back to the section
that they had cleaned out, finished it off,
thoroughly, in a very German fashion, neat
and clean.
Outside of the footprints in the very soft
soil there was no evidence of anyone
having ever been there.
Beautiful day!
Plenty of shade!
I noticed that the men were wearing rubber
overshoes that were nearly invisible.
They were happy to be alive with 3 meals a day
They would be going home soon.

The Yellow Armband shook my shoulder!
"Bitte" he said.
I stood and followed them back to the Hospital.

On weekends they had a Bazaar,sanctioned
by the authorities but run by the Germans.
..As were their kitchens.
In fact, we used to go to the German Mess
where they had the same Rations we had
in our kitchens, but the preparation was like
comparing McDonald's to the Waldorf.
GIs came to the Bazaar to buy and
exchange stuff with the Germans.
When Okie and I went to to the large open grounds of
the Bazaar, in addition to the fact that we
were amazed by the industry and the neatness
of the area, there was a Barber Chair with a
GI getting his hair cut.
Seeing that the Barber was removing the
sheet wrapped around the man sitting in
the seat, I was prepared to be next.
The GI turned out to be an American
Captain with a Caduceus Insignia on his collar.
He gave the Barber the going rate,two cigarettes.
I sat down.
Carbine on my lap.
The hair cut was swift and clean taking a
few minutes.
When I stood, the German asked me with
an amusing smile,
"Shave, Sargent?"
He started stropping a straight edged razor
on a leather strap hooked on the side of the chair.
I looked into his dancing blue eyes,
glanced at the Carbine in Okie's lap,
then at Okie.
Okie shrugged, and slammed a cartridge into
the chamber.
"Yes" I said.
I sat.
He shaved.
I gave him 2 cigarettes, which he took
with some humility.
He half saluted with a little nod and said,
"Danke", we left.

Later I recalled.

There were much more than 100 people
in the area making lots of noise with
conversation, clatter and laughter that we
are familiar with in a gathering of this sort.

When that Round was loaded by that
Bolt Action, Time stood still.
There is something in the sound of the bolt
action loading a rifle that spells imminent Death.

The prisoners in the Hospital were immune
from further bloodshed after being treated
and tendered too and now with the war over,
no threat of any bodily harm.

The sound of the rifle action brought the
whole situation back to reality.
Someone could die here!
No one knew who it could be.
Everyone was happy when it was not him.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Memorial Day "What is A Vet"

I am going to post a statement by a Vietnam Veteran
who has given me permission to post same, by saying,
"You have my permission to use this but you really don't
need my permission. You're a Veteran, you don't need
anyone to give you permission to do anything."
I only know him by the name of, "ICEDVD".

I wish all Veterans had his passion.

What is a Vet?
He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating
two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run
out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose
overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic
scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She (or he) is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep
sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another - or
didn't come back AT ALL.

He is the Parris Island drill instructor who has never seen combat -
but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks
and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's

He is the parade-riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals
with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass
him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose
presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the
memory of all anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them
on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now
and aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a Nazi death camp,
or the old guy greeting you at Wal Mart who watched from afar as the
Viet Cong cut off the arms of the children they had just vaccinated.
And they wish all day long that their wives were still alive
to hold them when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being - a person who
offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his
country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to
sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he
is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the
finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just
lean over and say Thank You. That's all most people need, and in most
cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or
were awarded.

Two little words that mean a lot, "THANK YOU."

It's the soldier, not the reporter, Who gave us our freedom of the press.

It's the soldier, not the poet, Who gave us our freedom of speech.
It's the soldier, not the campus organizer, Who gave us our freedom to

It's the soldier, Who salutes the flag, Who serves others with respect
for the flag, And whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows the
protester to burn the flag.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Oldest Military Blogger's 65th D Day Anniversary

My calender tells me. 
Honor Veterans.
Fly The Flag.
D Day.

My 65th Anniversary.
Almost over.
My Thoughts to all Service Men And Women.
Thank You.
To all Veterans I add,

Thank You For Your Service.   

Monday, May 25, 2009

Oldest Military Blogger. Memorial Day!

My son called this afternoon and wished me a happy
 memorial day and in the same breath asked why 
I neglected posting stuff on my blog for almost a month. 
I told him that I was conflicted.
"Great!" he said, "Write about your conflict 
and why that is so."
I replied, " I've had many experiences that I
 just couldn't write about."
"For instance?" he questioned."
Well, there was a time where I had a detail
 to guard a train out of the city of Cherbourg with a load 
of cigarettes, to the freight yards of Fontainebleau
a famous town, outside of Paris.
The train of 12 cars of the infamous 40 N 8ers that were 
on a narrow gauge track was to leave at the early hours 
of the next morning under great secrecy.
Cigarettes were the foundation of the French monetary system.
Okie, Porter, Lloyd were under my charge to deliver 
this most important cargo to all the impoverished 
Yanks who would use this booty to finance their Wine, Women 
and gambling needs....
Hey, the war was almost over and there were thousands 
of GIs on R and R in Paris without any 
American issued French Francs.
Cigarettes, when available,were in the PX at the 
army price of $1.80 a carton with a 2 carton limit
and could be exchanged in the mainstream civilian population
 for $20.00,  in French currency.
You did not have to be a smoker to buy at the PX 
but you were a fool if you did not make those 
two cartons the highest priority of your agenda.
When we entered the rail yards at our destination, 
during a brief stop, a First Lt. and two enlisted men 
approached me and told me they would take over the train
 and we were relieved.
When I asked him for papers after I saluted him smartly, 
the Lt .became irate. 
Putting his hands on his hips near his holster 
he said,"That's an order Sgt."
I turned to look over my shoulder pointing 
to the top of the caboose where Okie was sitting 
with a 50 Caliber machine gun aiming down at us.
The two enlisted men, turned, and walked away....
the Lt. smiled at me and followed them.
Twenty or so minutes later ,the train went deeper 
into the yard and a full chicken Colonel 
and Major released us from duty,, with the proper papers.

That's my conflict !
Who's going to believe this experience!
This is not a story!
There have been references to my Blog as a few "stories" 
Stories are easily written.....These memories are not easy.

"I may be able to think of some experiences 
that are more believable for my Blog later..
so be patient." I explained to my Son,
before I hung up.

After our conversation, which always ends
with, an, "I love you", I thought about the greeting 
of "Happy Memorial Day, Dad."

This day is to remember those who never made it home....
Those, whose efforts are keenly remembered by
 their immediate Family, Friends and loved ones.

It is a Happy Memorial Day for my Son Phil and I. 
We share this moment with you and to remind us  of 
those that cannot.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Oldest Military Blogger...Remembers...

The first few days we were ashore we ate K Rations.
These were individual wrapped and packaged 
with waterproofing heavy wax paper
and  indestructible without a sharp knife.
The packages contained variations of 4 ounces of 
plum pudding in a can, an instant coffee package,
a bar of chocolate,a dehydrated soup packet, some 
unrecognizable can of fish or meat.
four cigarettes and toilet tissue....
This ration was generally issued before
a mission as a supply for a couple of days.
Water treated with iodine for safety
was brought to the Company area by Battalion trucks
and hung in a large bag, with a spigot, for any individual to
to fill their canteens..Canteens were carried on our 
Garrison utility belts at all times.
The reason I mention these facts is when we went out to 
a Liberty cargo boat we took our K rations with us.
The ships galley was off limits to us but the cooks and crew
who had meals from an up to date kitchen, took one look at our 
K rations which we were heating up on our steam winches, and it
kinda turned their hearts to invite us to what ever they had available..
Fresh eggs and cookies were an extreme benefit sometimes...
if we asked.....for some fresh milk for our coffee ...
When the ten or so days had passed our Company
set up a reasonable kitchen on the beach  and was serving C rations...
Pretty much standard Army chow except for the fact
we had no tables or chairs, so we took our 
mess gear and food back to our foxholes. 
Most of the ships we serviced were Liberty ships or Victory
ships..The Victories or C2's as we called them, were 
faster than the Liberties and less prone to submarine attack.
They also used Electric Winches to unload their hatches.
Occasionally we found ourselves aboard a Hog Islander which 
had 3 specific decks higher than  the hull line. We thought that 
the name Hog Islander was with reference to these three 
raised decks.
All these ships carried ammunition and war supplies,food and fuel
not necessarily with the above priority.
There was a vessel called a C4... A Reefer.
A Victory C4 was an ocean going boat with complete refrigeration 
capability to transport fresh meat and ice cream, etc. etc.
The C4 had a vastly different configuration than all the others because 
the cargo hatches were all in the forward part of the boat and covered 
with water tight hatches to keep out seawater.
When we unloaded a Reefer we might celebrate in our Kitchens
for a few days with the stuff that "fell off the truck"..
Most of these boats were in the 10,000 Tonne 
dead weight category where her cargo was concerned.
The most unique vessels we unloaded were called, Coasters...
They were one third the size of the Liberties and Victories,
About 125 or so feet long compared to 400 to 450 of the others.
They generally delivered their 700 tonne cargo by running aground 
at high tide onto a beach that had no harboring accommodations.
At high tide as they entered the beach area they would 
drop a trailing anchor,and play out sufficient cable to allow 
them to get as close as possible
for the next high tide to float them off again..
then,using the anchor and cable to winch them out to deeper waters. 
When they beached, land trucks would take their cargo 
directly to land storage places for distribution.
When the tide came back in and she was afloat ,empty, the Screws," propellers"
which are completely encased for protection from the sands could 
take them into deeper waters with help from the cable and anchor. 
One night a Norwegian Coaster with a cargo of mortars arrived 
at low tide and was unable to beach.We were sent out to unload
 her before she beached in the morning.
When we boarded, a German aircraft that we called Charlie, 
who dropped a few bombs almost every night was in action again.
He dropped two bombs beside a Liberty we could see all lit up 
because our orders were to keep our lights on when we were unloading,
even under attack, Fish in a Barrel, we called it.
The plane then circled our coaster.We could not see 
it but we heard it very clearly.
We watched two bombs hit the water 2 or 300 feet on our right, amidships.....and one bomb 100 or so feet in the waters to our left.
We watched the explosions and didn't move.
We had no place to hide! THE WATER WAS DEADLY.
The concussion of that bomb in the water would have killed anyone NOT aboard the Coaster.
Nevertheless, not knowing if Charlie was coming back, and we, sitting atop tons of explosives, covered ourselves with the,tarpaulin
that secured the hatches,and went to sleep,
waiting for the tide. 


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Le Caliente Cafe, Antwerp, Belgium

One of the questions I've been getting regarding my Blog
is whether inquiries come from readers I served with.
The truth of the matter is from the time
I finished Basic Training until my actual
Honorable Discharge, very few of the members
of my outfit knew me by my given name.. to most
I was just known as Finnegan.
Yet complicated....as many simple things are!
Before completing my basic training in April of 43,
our Commanding Officer began dealing with
the issuing of passes for the Easter and
Passover Holidays which overlapped that year.
His solution was to split the Company roster
down the middle and give Easter passes to those
with names starting with A to N.
The remainder would enjoy their passes during
the following weekend.
Frank Simone and I were the only men in our
Barracks who were left out of sorts.
When Frank Simone asked the Company Clerk
about switching to the Easter weekend,
Frank was told to make the best of it...
The C.C. could not be bothered to change
and keep track of all the requests for these
changes of convenience because assignments
for details for the men who were not on pass
had been made.
In an earlier blog posting I indicated the
irresistible force of the Company Clerk.
When he made a decision, it was irreversible.
When Frank Simone and his Chicago cronies
found out that Solomon Fein was in the
Easter group they very swiftly persuaded
me to change so that they could have Easter
with their families and friends.
I needed little persuasion....but if I made it
look too easy they might not do a reasonable
job of covering for me when I was gone.
Easter came and went..Every morning at Revelry,
a designated some one, in a rear file of the platoon,
would respond with a "YOH" when Frank Simone
was called out ..
Not Here!
Not Present!
Just, YOH! NOT BY ME, Of course. My name was not on the List.
I did not fall out with the Barracks for Revelry.
Someone in our Barracks covered for Simone on every Detail Assignment.
Frank Simone returned from Holiday,
gave me his 4 day pass and assured me not to worry ...
The 5th day,before my pass expired,
I arrived in Harrisburg PA by train after
my holiday,took a bus to Indiantown Gap
and walked through the gate with a handful of other men,
flashing my pass at the disinterested guard,
at 7:00 AM Monday.
Walking down the narrow cinder road, coming
toward me some hundred yards away was
a column of troops.
When they got closer I knew them to be
my Company marching out to the rifle range
and led by my First Sargent.
Nowhere to hide
I stopped and stood there.
When they got to me
the First Sargent recognized me.
Holding up his left hand and using his whistle
with his right to halt the men.
"Where Were You! " he bellowed.
Standing there in my Class A Dress uniform,
I simply said "Home."
"You're AWOL. You're under arrest!" he furiously
motioned to his Staff Sgt.to escort me
and confine me to my Barracks.
That afternoon,I stood for a
Summary Court Martial and sentenced
to 7 days of hard labor......
Tuesday morning, orders came through
transferring me to a Unit of Cook and Baker
School Graduates, who were due to go overseas
in the next few days.
Some of the guys from my outfit came over
to see me and commiserate with me
about my plight and how unfair it was
that the Company Clerk had told Frank
Simone, to work it out, any way that he could .
In addition to that, no one outside
of our barracks knew that Simone
was involved in my AWOL machinations... and
how much fun it was for everyone
during the few days I was gone.
It seemed when inquiries were made as to
my whereabouts, they were told ,
"I think he is in the barracks"
When the search was made in the barracks
they were told, "I think he went to the PX"
Finally one orderly after being misdirected
too many times exclaimed,
"In again! Out again! What is it with this Fein guy!
I might as well be looking for a,
" in again, out again, Finnegan"
The reason the First Sgt was upset with me was
because he took the roll call that Monday
morning before I showed up.
Someone had YOHed me in .........
and he took it personally.
Thursday morning the Cooks and Bakers shipped out.
Only 15 of Us GFUs who were left, were reorganized into
a Cadre for the for the formation of a new unit
of Instructors. ??????????
The right way, the wrong way, and the Army way.
The deal was enhanced with Corporal stripes
for each of us and I sadly waved goodbye
to my old unit two weeks later when they
left Indiantown Gap.
The rest of my time in the service, everyone
in the company including the officers,
thought the whole thing was laughable
and called me Finnegan.
Some might think in a negative manner.
I wore my Alias proudly because of my
close association with these brave men
who served with me in the 301st and called me Friend.
Willy Dick Bradley, N.Y.
Jack (Jake) Ryan, Wheeling West Virginia,
Meridith Williams, San Antonio Texas,
George Gable, Gene Autrey Oklahoma,
Bob Marcott and Robert Cary, Oak Park Illinois,
and that, occasionally, one or more of us, was rescued
from Under the Table in Le Caliente Cafe in Antwerp.
I think about these men often and wonder
if they have survived to enjoy their
well earned Senior years.
Ironically, I don't suppose they might think,
that their cohort of many escapades,
is the Oldest Military Blogger.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Red Ball Express

The 301st Port Co. was listed under the auspices
of the Transportation and Supply Administration
out of General Eisenhower's Sheaf Headquarters.
Our job was to deliver the the goods to the front
lines via ship to shore operations..
When the lines move forward the solution
fell to the Red Ball Express to deliver the goods.
The Red Ball Express was composed of units of
White troops and units of Black Troops working
independently of each other.
The U.S. Army was segregated during the assault
on Normandy and for many years later until 1948.
The Red Ball Express became very important two
months or so after the Landings...The rapid
advance of the invading forces stretched their
supply lines until they ran out of gas.
This is no pun. The Red Ball Express was an
integral part of the success,of the victory,
after solidifying the beaches and the
closing the Falaice Gap.
More than 5500, ten wheelers, 2
and a half ton trucks, were used over a
period of ten weeks to bring 800,000
Gallons of gasoline a day to the
stalled front lines to feed the Tanks and
the other hungry guzzlers of the
1st and 3rd Armies.
These 10 Wheelers were driven day and
night, many times without using their
headlights because of the fear of enemy action.
Picture 900 trucks a day in a never ending
row 50 feet apart driving at night with tiny
slits giving off slivers of light shining through
their electric taped, covered head lamps
They became so efficient that there were
days of 1 million gallons a day being delivered,
until the distance from the beaches was
so great that the trucks themselves were using
almost 2o,ooo gallons each day.
The gas was transported in a 5 gallon
Yellow Container, called a Jerrycan.
There was no pumping of gas needed.
The ships were loaded in England with
Jerrycans full of gas, the DWKS were
loaded from the ships with Jerrycans
and then loaded on to the Red Ball trucks
to be taken to the front lines.
The truck had a crew of two in the cab
and an occasional mechanic or Officer
who may have required transport ...
There is so much credit given to the
Tuskegee Airmen for their contribution
to the war effort which I cannot justify here,
because I only know what I read about
I am not doing this Blog, to disparage
the Airmen, but it seems to me, that
they slept on clean bedding every night,
ate 1st class rations, and had plenty of
fresh water, all of which made their
risky job a trifle easier.
It, seems to me.
The truck crews drove through enemy
territory every time they went out,
slept in their trucks when they were
empty on their way back and on
the ground or in the truck cab when the
equipment broke down under the
constant pounding it had to withstand.
Think about sleeping in a disabled truck
filled with gasoline or 105mm ammo
with a bypassed enemy in your area.
I have never read anything about the
casualties R.B.EXP Crews suffered but
their bravery is indelibly written in my
I knew these men and their accomplish-
ments first hand.
In 1943, I taught African American troops
who were in Port Companies, in
Indian Town Gap Penn.
When I was a Cadre member
(but thats another story)of instructors
there, the Port Companies came for
actual experience of ship loading in the
middle of a virtual Desert.
In 1944, I watched some of these Port
Companies unload Liberty Ships..tossing
around Jerrycans full of gasoline
into cargo nets, like they were sacks of flour.
The loaded nets were placed into the
Red Ball Trucks for delivery.
Talking of unsung heroism.....
I say, take a look at the Red Ball Express.
The Original Delivery Experts, Under Fire.

I've witnessed segregated
U.S.Army Black Troops in 1943.

I've witnessed Their
New Commander in Chief,
The First Black President of
The United States, in 2009.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Insignia for the Armed Forces

The American Insignia Co. manufactured
costume jewelry prior to WW ll.
In 1941, instead of ankle bracelets and lavalieres
they started producing Army, Navy, Marine
and Coast Guard Official Insignia.
The firm had a room full of stamping presses
and die makers to supply them with authentic
approved dies .
The jewelery line was phased out and I
found myself employed by the largest producer
of insignia in the US.
My job was to solder the joints,
(pins with a pivot base) catches ,
(Latches to hold the pins)
and posts ( gizmos that penetrated the
clothing and were secured by tiny spring locks)
to the backs of the insignia stampings which
were used for fastening to uniforms .
Soldering, required a torch, that used
illuminating gas and compressed air, to heat
the stampings and melt the silver solder
to secure the findings.(pins and catches)
I guess you now know where this post is heading ..
The soldering was done on Asbestos boards
8"X14" and one inch thick.
We placed the findings under the
flame of the torch with steel tweezers.
The tweezers we had, were ten inches
in length and used to locate the findings in
their proper place on the stampings.
We used our tweezers to keep time with
the music, that played on the Muzack, by
beating them on the asbestos board to
the tempo of the sound while we waited for
the silver solder to melt.
Plenty of asbestos was airborne, while
we hunched over the decaying board with the
air pressured flame, while we were
innocently breathing in the hot residue.

Here I am telling you, how lucky I am, that
after 4 years of doing this work, I am free of
mesothelioma, Asbestos Poisoning.

There are thousands of Navy personnel
that may not be so lucky.

The Navy used asbestos-containing products
as fire resistant compounds in their vessels for
many years, until 1970.
After that, less amounts of asbestos-containing
products were used on newer ships.
Many Servicemen serving aboard these
ships were in addditional peril of
Mesothelioma, asbestos poisoning.

Asbestos.com/ has a list of all naval vessels
that may have contained contaminants.
A Veteran must provide proof to the V.A. that
their disease is asbestos related, and that
exposure occured during military service.
in order to receive any benefits..
A Veteran unable to prove to the V.A. that
their asbestos exposure is limited and related
to service will be advised to seek
compensation from asbestos manufacturers.

Asbestos.com has a list of Naval vessels with
asbestos contaminants that may have
threatened your health.
Your best bet is to inquire of the
Veterans Administration
if you think you are at risk.

Friday, February 13, 2009

42nd Street inThe 40's

The summer of 1940 found me working
in a Whelan's Drug Store on 42nd St.
Diagonally across the street was
The Commodore Hotel ..
At my station behind the counter,
I could look uptown toward ,the east side
of Grand Central Station, emptying
into Lexington Ave.
It was a very busy place.
My friend Barney told me of a job
vacancy in the West 50's
When summer ended, I left Whelan's
and started at The American
Insignia Company.
AMICO, as it was known to us,
was closer to my High School,
Haaran High, on 59th and 9th Ave.
I was hired, part time, as an apprentice
With high school behind me I began
full time at Amico, as Senior Solderer.
I worked there until I left for
the US Army early in 1943 .
At the completion of my Service I returned
to Amico in 1946 by contractual agreement,
with a raise in salary.
Four months later I married Bea, in
Broadway Mansions with 50 couples
in attendance.
The cost of the Wedding was 400 Dollars
and my Salary, $34.00 a week.

Today 34 dollars would be,
cab fare to the Hall, 3 miles from
42nd Street.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

My Father Loves Me

On Feb. 14th 1995 I had an insight that
was quite remarkable to me.
After 52 years I came to realize that:
My Father Loved Me, ..Very Much.

I got out of bed at 2 am
wrote this on a legal pad, in pen and ink
longhand, sitting in my underwear.
I still own the pad today.

It was late afternoon in Oct. 1943 ..
I was in the Army, stationed in
Indiantown Gap, PA.
An Orderly came to tell me that my father
was on the base. The Orderly had
instructions to bring me to Battalion
Headquarters in his Jeep, because,
civilians had to be detained for Security reasons..
A uniformed Escort had to be provided
to accompany the visiting Civilians
on the base.
It was explained to me that my Visitor
was in the company Master Sgt.
Charles Hart, who was my 1st Sgt.
He was awaiting my arrival at the
Sargent's Office with the Officer of the Day.

During the ride, I had the most agonizing
thoughts trying to understand the reason
for this unexpected, and unusual
circumstance of allowing personal visitors,
who were only permitted on weekends
for enlisted men.......but the ride was short
and when we arrived, we were told ,that
my First Sargent had taken my Father to
the Mess Hall, and we were to meet them there.
\As I turned to look toward the Mess Hall,
from where I stood, I could see the enlisted men
in the Chow line, most in green fatigues
about 100 feet away .
Outstanding was the dark blue outfit
among the olive drab, restlessly waiting.

The blue figure with the brown fedora had a posture
that identified this entity as my Pop....
and I ran toward him.. He turned to see where
all the shouting was coming from...
and saw me running...he left the waiting line
and ran in my direction..

When we met there was an awkward moment,
of no embrace, no hugging or kisses...
just some very Macho back slapping and
hand shaking ...and I remember that
wonderful smile on his face that announced to me
that he was not the bearer of bad news.

The thing of it is, that, for over Fifty Years,
until this particular night,
I had never made sense out of the look in his eyes.

They saw me with sparkling admiration
and good humor, a tearful trace of concern and
a careful appraisal from head to toe....And
with what I understand now, AS MUCH LOVE !

The kind of love I hope my children can
see and apprise, when they notice
me looking at them, NOW.

The kind of look I had seen in my Mother's eyes
many times and knew, what that look of
adoration was all about.

Strangely, I never equated that thought
with my Father until this moment.
My Father Loved Me.

Evidently, we do get wise, as we age.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Veterans and Their Families

This is really an old story of mine
posted in a previous Blog.
The chaos created to the Families
of caught up National Guardsmen
and Army ,Navy and Marine
Service men by the nature of the Iraqi
War was devastating and swift.
Combined with the threatening
economic turn down and the
deplorable Housing situation
for them is despicable.
Now ,they are being asked to
pay taxes on the pensions they receive

There are as many as 20 wounded
for every man or woman lost
in action or Illness.
They say we have 35 to 40 thousand
wounded and over 5 thousand mortally
wounded and dead.
I am inclined to say,it is more like
What about the many thousands
who are denied treatment
and consideration for
open wounds that don't bleed.
Think of the returning Viet Nam
Veterans inflicted with Agent
Orange who were not recognized
with a service connected disability
until almost 10 years later.
Those wounded will never be
included in the final count taken
after 1978.
They will be added with an Asterisk

Our National Guardsmen are
Volunteers who enlisted to protect
The United States and its shores
from Terrorists.
What about the state of mind
of these wonderful men and women
who find themselves, thrust into war
to find non-existing weapons in
a country, Thousands of Miles
From Their Families, for a "tour
of duty" of 1 to 3 years.
Think of the anguish of this personnel
and their Wives,Children,Mothers,
Fathers, Siblings, (yes the caps are mine
because that's how important
THEY are to me) extended family
members and neighbors and friends
relating to this occurrence
The Guardsmen,with desire,
to defend America from Terrorists,
are shocked when
they are sent on what
turns out to be an exercise in frustration.
Don't you think that will affect the
Services with supreme stress and traumatic
conditions, in addition, to Worry
of a roadside explosion that kills
without selectivity ?
I do!
You have to think that , after a while, we
should abhor the horror of armed conflict
because there really is no winner.
At the conclusion of a battle, we are
supposed to be elated when the enemy
has a huge body count compared to
a smaller loss on our side.
Factually, the lesser loss, is magnified
by the Multitude that Mourn The Loss..
That is what war is!
I have earned the Right to Say So !

Will They Never Learn!

Let not them, without child to serve in war,
Beckon, our Sons to go.

Let them commit, their Sons,
Then, our children will follow.

To submit a comment please click on
"Publish" at the very bottom of the
dialogue box.
Sorry ...It should really say "Submit"

Many people have asked me about
their comment and were disappointed
to find out I never received one.
They told me they saw the word
publish, but were reluctant to make
any changes to my blog.
Let them rest assured,
The box, Publish, will be moderated
by me and added to the comments.
It will not affect the Blog at all.

I want to thank all you Bloggers
for Your Submissions