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.