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 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 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.