Thursday, June 7, 2012

Oldest Military Blogger on Castle Island

Oldest Military Blogger on Castle Island.

Indiantown Gap, was a training experience for the
301st Port Company.
We were given the opportunity to use our hard
won knowledge in a real situation.
We were very familiar with the equipment and
material at our disposal on Base,but...
We had no idea of what we would encounter
Early in December of '43,we were shipped to
Boston, Mass. by rail, and spent some twenty hours
in a crowded Pullman Coach....
The normal rail time from PA.would be closer to
4 hours but the Fortunes of War ordained the
excessive delays because of "security" we were told.
The fact is, we were like 4th class Mail.....
our transport gave way to all scheduled train
passage on our track.
Arriving at our destination at noon in South Boston, our
Company was billeted in a huge warehouse
on Summer Street.
Our area had Bunk Beds with rolled bedding,
neatly placed in rows, on a 10,000 sq. ft.
concrete floor on the second story with a
fire extinguisher, containing water and a
hand pump, located at the head of every
alternate row of Bunks.
Two other Companies occupied the third
and fourth floors.
The Basement was our Mess Hall.
When we finally began our duty to work,
after a week of crude organization and
familiarization with our new home, it was
to be at a place called,
Castle Island..
The men in the Company assigned to work
that night, would leave from the Mess Hall,
fully dressed, under arms, mounting 10 wheeler
trucks, and dropped off at,what we thought was,
"The Coldest Place in The World"....
Castle Island.
We found out about the fact we were not
dressed warmly enough, the first time we went out.
Our Officers and Noncoms alike, froze
their asses off that night and we were cautioned
to "dress appropriately in the future".
Eventually, we clothed ourselves in long underwear,
and our OD's, because fatigues made no sense.
We wore hand made woolen sweaters and scarves
contributed by a local neighborhood Catholic Church.
(my package had a small slip of paper clipped
to the inside of the sweater,inscribed,
"Bless You, Cathrine".)
I carried that piece of paper in my cigarette case
throughout my service .
In addition to the winter overcoats we wore, wool skull caps
pulled down over the ears, a helmet liner and steel helmet,
and the best gloves we could find, in addition to those
issued, but nothing helped.
Our job in South Boston,was to unload Railway
freight cars onto the piers and onto the ships in the harbor.
It seemed, the Longshoremen who were not
in the Armed Services at the time, balked at allowing
us to load the ships, so the Army, in its infinite wisdom,
allowed this to pass.
This resulted in the virtual loss of all our training
from the Gap and we never got, hands-on ship handling in
the States, until we got to Scotland.

We realized later, that the reason we got so cold
on Castle Island was because of the damp fierce winds
coming across this wide open harbor cutting us to the bone.
Everything was fine as long as we kept working.
The problem was, the inactivity and boredom from idleness,
waiting for the changing of the empty freight cars
on the siding with fresh cars, always felt like it
took forever.
We had many occasions of getting to the pier and having
nothing to do for 6 to 8 hours.
We sat huddled in trucks when they were available
and built fires in discarded,empty,50 gallon drums,
often using the packing of loose cargo, and stuff
on the pier for fuel..

Castle Island is no longer an Island.
It has been incorporated into the mainland of South Boston.
After the War, for many years, using it as a dumping ground for
garbage and waste materials, a large part of it
has been reclaimed as a park


phred3176 said...

Great stuff - as always!

Sarah Sofia Ganborg said...

Yeah, it always seems to take a little while before people realize that thermal underwear isn't such a bad idea...!

Most people shake their heads when they see what I wear at home by the fire and that at the same time I don't mind sleeping in minus temps...
But the most important thing is to protect the core temperature, then you're gonna be alright, no matter how cold it gets...

This is a very interesting blog, keep it up! I will return to read more.
Those stories really mustn't get lost and have to get preserved for future generations.

Here's something you might enjoy reading:

Anonymous said...

"Castle Island" sounds romantic. To you and your 301st Port Company, it was far from that...warehouse accommodations, details of work orders, inadequate clothing for fierce winter winds and frigid temperatures. The human touch a hand
knit sweater with inscribed note, "Bless you, Cathrine"....such a warming influence on you, yet unknown to her! Like a talisman of Good Luck, it traveled with you throughout training and the Reality of War!...and to Cathrine, I comment, "Bless you" ! M

Greg Taylor said...

Dear Oldest Military Blogger,

Thanks for your kind comments on my blog "The WWII Letters of William Wellington Taylor, Jr."

I am now a follower of your blog and will be reading all your posts starting with the first one. What I've read so far is great!