Volume Five. World War II Stories from Online Readers
Subject: Life in the USA during WW2
From: "Jordan J. Gardner" email@example.com>
I can't answer for everyone...but I can tell you what it was like for me...(what I remember...VBG) I was born in a place called San Diego, California, in 1936, in my mother's aunts house....in an area that is refered to as "Logan Heights"..my father was in the Navy...having joined in 1934... "Logan Heights" was and still is a multi racial area...consisting of mostly black, hispanic and white races..
We walked to school, which was about a mile away, in all kinds of weather...(there were only two kinds) wet and
dry...VBG...no snow... In the middle of 1941, my father was transferred to Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York and assigned to the USS NORTH CAROLINA...
The family moved there (Mom, and brother Kenneth ('38)) and we lived in an apartment building that had one bathroom on each floor that was shared by all the tennants of that floor.... I remember parades on Saturdays of soldiers marching down to the ships going to Europe...I also remember subways (the first time I had seen them).. I remember "Prospect Park" and the wading pool, the smell of the river and the brewery across the river...I remember snow and "Moxie, a soft drink.. I remeber being at the movies when the war started and all service people (military) were to report to their duty stations....I remberChinese food, for the first time (chow mein)...I remember visiting my uncle Verne and my aunt Elsie while we were there...
In April 1942, my father was transferred to the USS JUNEAU...JUNEAU went to sea and my mother and us two kids returned to San Diego... Back at San Diego the three of us spent a lot of time with my aunt and my mothers people (my father was from Missouri, and all his people were there)...
Everything was rationed...tires, gas, oil (if you were fortunate ?? enough to have a car)..I don't ever remember my folks having a car until after the war....sugar, meats, and a lot of other things were rationed....I remember going around collecting newspapers, old clothes, rags, scrap metal to have money to spend...
Mom used to grow flowers...and my brother and I would sell them around the neighborhood...we did odd jobs, anything to have a little money..and little it was... My brother and I used to play "hookey" from school in those days...and get into different mischief...
My brother and I also used to go fishing at the docks on the bay...the fishing industry was big in those days...the tuna boats would come in and unload their catch, the fishing was great on the docks..VBG....even IN the water....
In November 1942, the JUNEAU was sunk and my dad was reported as missing...then in January 1943, we found out that he was still alive...He was transferred back to the states and was transferred to Bremerton, Washington...mom and the two of us boys went there and lived in a mobile home that had no bathroom...there was however a central bath and laundry area in the middle of the trailer park that everyone used...
After a year or so we moved back to San Diego and dad went over seas again... After the war (1946) dad was transferred to the USS CADMUS at QuonsetPoint, in Newport, Rhode Island...by this time there were four of us"indian braves" running around.....
That's it for the "war" years from this family...I'm sure there was quitea bit that I left out..but not intentionally...
Subject: WWII Story
From: Brett Hope firstname.lastname@example.org
In 1945, I volunteered for the Navy, and was sent to Bainbridge NTC for boot camp. I stayed there for eight months, then was sent to another base until my discharge in 1947. In the ensuing forty-five years, I was never anywhere near Bainbridge, until one day in 1990 while driving from Philadelphia to Baltimore on a whim I turned off I-95 to locate Bainbridge. The attached piece was written after that visit as an attempt to recall what it was like in boot camp, and a description of the sad homecoming that found Bainbridge all but deserted.
Brett Hope, Jr.
P. O. Box 958
Interlachen, Florida 32148
I went back to Bainbridge the other day, after an absence of some forty-five years, on a nostalgic journey to a place well remembered from the days of youth. Bainbridge is not a city, or a town, or even a county.You can findit on a map, if you know exactly where to look, as a small, red square that is described as "Points of Interest" on the map legend. It sits on top of the high granite bluffs of the mighty Susquehannah river, just outside the tiny, quaint village of Port Deposit, Maryland, and a few miles from the little town of Perryville. The site is a lovely one, with a view overlooking the beginnings of Chesapeake Bay just beyond Perryville, where the river widens to become the very top of the great bay, and in another direction, the river stretches to the huge Conwingo dam.
But the fame of Bainbridge comes not from the view, but from its history as a training center for the United States Navy in World War II. The Navy had a number of giant training centers, Great Lakes at Chicago and San Diego in California, plus some smaller bases such as Jacksonville and Memphis, but Bainbridge was feared as the toughest of them all. New recruits dreaded their first orders, lest they be sent to the place known as the Navy's "hell hole".
Boys of seventeen and eighteen arrived at Bainbridge by the busload during the war, they were passed through the impressive main gate, and taken to the receiving barracks. Here they were punched and probed by myriads of doctors and hospital corpsmen, and if the collective wisdom was that the boy would survive the Navy's basic training, he was accepted as an apprentice seaman and prepared for his first duty - basic training, known as "boot camp".
A succession of ill-tempered sailors stripped the recruits of their dignity and all their civilian possessions, issued them a seabag full of Navy clothing, shaved off all their hair, and sent them packing to one of the training companies that would occupy one half of a barracks hard by one of the great quadrangles that made up the training center. There they became full-fledged "boots", as all trainees were known. Until the recruit had completed basic training, he was required to wear brown canvas leggings, or "boots" that, along with his lack of hair, identified him as a raw recruit. There were several of these quadrangles, each one about three hundred yards long and a hundred yards wide, paved with asphalt, and surrounded on two sides by long barracks that held about two hundred men each. On one end was the mess hall, and one side was formed by a long building that housed the indoor training facilities.
In this setting, "boots" were trained for thirteen weeks to be sailors,
during which time there would be no liberty, and every hour of every day
was to be lived by the Navy schedule. Reveille was at 5:30 each morning,
and company muster was at 6:15 in front of the barracks. At morning
muster, each recruit would be shaved, bathed, and dressed in spotless
uniform, to answer "Here" when his name was called. Before he left his
bunk in the barracks, it must be made up with clean sheets, his blankets
folded neatly at the foot of the bunk, and all his personal belongings
stowed neatly in his locker. At 6:30, the company marched to the chow
hall for breakfast, and at 7:30 the second muster was held to signal
the beginning of training for the day.
Each day was monotonously the same - close order drill for two hours,
training for two hours, lunch, close order drill for two hours, physical
training for an hour, then either more training or more drill until
about 5:30 P.M. At 6:00 there was another muster followed by a march
to the chow hall for dinner, after which the recruits were free to clean
the barracks, wash clothes (by hand, no washing machines here), and
maybe enjoy a little quiet time until lights out at 9:00 P.M.
If a recruit had guard duty during the night, it made no difference, he was required to appear at 6:15 muster, and train with the company even though he may have had only three hours sleep. Friday night and Saturday introduced a different routine. Each Friday night, the entire company would "turn to" for "field day" in the barracks, which meant moving all the bunks to one side and thoroughly scrubbing the floors, cleaning all the latrines (bathrooms) from top to bottom, including the ceilings, until the entire barracks gleamed. For Saturday morning was Captains Inspection, where each man stood in immaculate dress white uniform by his bunk, at attention, while the commanding officer inspected the barracks and each man for any suggestion of a lack of cleanliness.
After inspection, all the companies assigned to a quadrangle paraded around the drill ground, executed the required maneuvers, and passed before a reviewing stand where a phalanx of officers stood to judge the performance of each company. The company that was judged the best in close order drill was awarded a pennant which was carried proudly wherever they went for the next week.
Close order drill was the training activity that made the most lasting impression on the "boots", partly because it took up so much of their time, and also because it was a colorful exercise that created a sense of unity in the company, and was more fun than dull training exercises.
The marching beat for drill was called by the drill instructor, usually a grizzled chief bosun, who would call the rhythmic cadence:
"Hrr-lep, Hrr-lep, Hrr-lep Right Left, Hrr-lep, Hrr-lep, Hrr-lep Right Left".
Then there would be the chants, called by the drill instructor, and answered by the entire company:
"You Hadda Good Home but You Left"
"You Wanna Go Back but You Can't"
"But Now You're Living the Navy Way, and Will to the End of Your Life, So
"SOUND OFF, CADENCE COUNT ONE TWO THREE FOUR, THREE-FOUR"
Each company had its own sing-song chants, but there was one that was a favorite with all:
"I've Gotta Gal in Perryville"
"I'VE GOTTA GAL IN PERRYVILLE"
"She Won't (pause) but Her Sister Will"
"SHE WON'T (STOMP) BUT HER SISTER WILL"
"CADENCE COUNT ONE TWO THREE FOUR, THREE-FOUR"
After thirteen weeks of this stringent training, the "Boots" were awarded the rank of seaman, second class and were sent to serve the navy at other bases or at sea. Some of them, very few, became genuine heros who performed deeds of bravery above and beyond the call of duty. Some became heros by dying on faraway islands with strange names like Kwjalein, Okinawa, or Tarawa, or went down on mighty ships carrying familiar names like "Arizona", "Yorktown", or "Indianapolis". Most, however merely went where they were sent, obeyed orders, and did their duty. These, the vast majority, were not heros, but just American boys who served their country, and contributed to the ultimate victory.
Bainbridge is a very different place today, but still some of these boys, grey and elderly now, come back to re-live their rite of passage from boy to man.
The great main gate looks much the same, but instead of bustling sailors with sidearms guarding the gate, only a lone civilian woman prevents entry. The guard shack looks deserted, with windows boarded up with plywood, and the Master-at-Arms' office building looks deserted and forlorn, with fading green paint. Only a single Ensign represents the Navy there, and he is on duty just on week-days from 8:00 until 5:00. Replacing the great sign that proudly proclaimed "UNITED STATES NAVY
TRAINING CENTER" is a sagging little proclamation of "Chesapeake", whatever that means.
The giant parking lot at the main gate seems strangely small now, and instead of being full of Navy busses, trucks, and grey staff cars, there are only two sad, faded dun-colored busses used by the Job Corps, and an ancient jalopy that sits forlornly on two flat tires.
The quadrangles that once rang with marching feet are deserted, with grass and weeds pushing up through the asphalt. The barracks show signs of neglect, with peeling paint and loose boards, and the chow halls haven't served a meal in many years. Where the finely manicured lawns once grew, only weeds and underbrush ramble now.
But Bainbridge is still inhabited, peopled by the ghosts of long dead heros and the spirits of thousands of men still living that served there. No matter how lonely and quiet it is now, the old men still come to remember, and as long as even one of them still lives, the breeze that blows off Chesapeake Bay and rustles the unkempt grass will carry the faint, high-pitched cry:
"I've Got a Gal in Perryville".
Brett Hope, Jr.
Subject: More stories from my father
From: email@example.com (Noel J. Tominack, UCS, X3861)
While on vacation with my father, we sat down to watch PBS's "Battleground" which happened to deal with the Western Front. So I asked my dad things along the way. My father, Cprl Ivan Louis Tominack, was a mechanic with the 445th Infantry, US 7th Army. He went right from the US to France, landing in Marsailles in the fall of 1944.
Whenever they would show maps and such, I would ask "were you there?" and most of the time the answer was that he was to the south of most of the action.
When they showed footage of US soldiers training for combat, I asked my dad if he had to do that. He said nope, he was trained to work on various wheeled vehicles.
One of the places his unit set up a repair facility was the Apostlebrau Brewry in Worms (once given supplies by the US Army, they began to make beer again, which every had with every meal). He also mentioned later in the war they set up in the Messerschmit factory were Me-262s were produced.
The only real amusing story I got out of my dad was after seeing wreckage of tanks on the road I asked "Did you see burned-out tanks like that?" My dad said no, by the time he got there they had been taken to a common area as kind of a junkyard. He said one day while scrounging parts off the tanks, he happend to look into a French tank and saw a leg--with the boot and sock still on, in the driver's area.
One of these days I am going to try and really get more info out of him.
* Noel J. Tominack (firstname.lastname@example.org) |
* University of Maryland Baltimore County |
* All opinions are mine mine mine!
Subject: Re: More stories from my father
From: bob walczak email@example.com
My uncle, Leo Walczak, joined after Pearl Harbor Day, and was involved in N. Africa, Sicily, Solerno, S. France and then into Bavaria when the war ended. He was an anti aircraft gunner and luckily never got nicked. He came back with lots of pictures -- a close up of Mark Clark ("A good guy but everyone knew he didn't know what the f he was doing."), burned out tanks, fields full of dead animals, etc etc, including a great shot in Berchtesgarten. He has lots of stories, which I guess is the point here. The worst experience he had was on an LST pulled up on the beach in Solerno, in a line of 10 or 12 LSTs.
He said the Germans flew so low you could see the expressions on the faces of the pilots. A bomber came over and dropped a stick of bombs -- one landed between each of the LSTs. Had the pilot toggled a fraction earlier or later, a bomb would have hit every ship...he said he shook for a few hours after that.
Another point is the number of reminisences being published now by WW2 participants. I just picked up a thing by a guy named Tatum called Red Blood, Black Sand, an Iwo Jima thing. Terrifying. He published the book himself so he clearly thinks it is important we have records of such events from the ground level. Wm. Manchester has Good By Darkness, also terrifying.
He was Marine rifleman at Tarawa. There are lots of others which I enjoy reading. But to have a relative tell the stories is quite something else...
Subject: War Story
Here is a story about my father and some combat he was involved in during the war. My father, William F. Goodwin, Jr. was a PBY pilot in the Pacific. At the time of the story his squadron was into flying night missions attacking Japanese shipping in the Southwest Pacific.
In the early evening of September 28, 1944 PBY No.08233 from Patrol Squadron 101 took off from the sheltered waters just off the island of Morotai, Dutch East Indies. They were going out on a nightime Black Cat bombing mission looking for Japanese shipping. This Catalina flying boat was commanded by Lt. John (Jack) Schenck, USNR. When he got his plane in the air and trimmed up, he pointed its nose to the west and flew out over the Molucca Sea towards Borneo. Jack Schenck's crew was no different from any of the other PBY air crews of the Pacific War. It consisted of three commissioned pilots and six enlisted crewmen. The three pilots were Lt. Schenck, Lt.(jg) William F. Goodwin, Jr. Ensign Arthur W. Kuhlman.
This Black Cat night mission for Schenck and his crew would turn out to be the most successful Black Cat mission for any PBY in VP-101 during the squadron's third and final combat tour of duty in the Pacific. After nightfall they started their patrol up and down the east coast of the huge island of Borneo. At about 11:00 that night they flew into Darvel Bay on the northeastern coast of the island and checked on the Japanese held port town of Lahad Datu. There they found four enemy freighters moored alongside the dock. The dock itself was piled high with war material being off loaded from the ships. They could also see a large concentration of barges moored close by. Schenck went in to attack for what would turn out to be a long and eventful battle.
Schenck's first run-in was a strafing attack using their two 50 caliber and two 30 caliber machne guns setting the stores on the dock and a few of the barges afire. They flew out to sea and circled back around for another attack. On the next attack they hit the dock with one 500 lb. bomb and scored a near-miss on one of the freighters with another. The stores on the dock turned out to be ammunition and gasoline which soon exploded, spreading fire and destruction to all four of the large ships and to a large warehouse close by. Schenck came in again and dropped his last two 500 lb. bombs and all four of his 100 lb. bombs into the blazing inferno. He cicled out to sea again and then came back in a forth time and sunk six more barges with heavy
machine gun fire.
This attack lasted two hours, during which the Japanese fired everything they had at this lone intruder. The PBY was hit at least 50 times, knocking out the auxiliary power unit, slightly damaging one engine and cutting some of the control cables. Miraculously, none of the crew were hit. When they finally headed out to sea with all their ordnance expended, they left the
four freighters and all the barges sunk, the dock and warehouse totally destroyed. As they headed back to base they could look back and still see the resulting fire from 75 miles out to sea. With the exception of Jack Schenck and Paul Schilling, everyone on board the plane that night would be awarded the Air Medal for this engagement. Schenck received the Distinguished Flying Cross for this action and Schilling received a Gold Star to go along with an Air Medal he had received for a previous action with another crew.
Jack Schenck noted the damage to his plane from this mission in his log book. He wrote "50 holes in plane, 3 in fuel tanks, two in starboard engine, elevator controls severed." He logged the night's mission as taking 14.8 hours. The entry in the back of one of the other crew memberÆs log book best summed up that night's mission with: "Our plane got holes in hull, engine, putt-putt, wing and elevator cable was shot away. NO ONE WAS HURT, THANK GOD!"
Three days after this mission my father and the rest of this crew were shot down and captured while on another Black Cat mission. A few weeks later they were all executed by their Japanese captors. The above story is taken from one of the chapters in my book I wrote about the death of my father and the PBY crew he was flying with. For those who might be interested, the book is called SHOBUN, A FORGOTTEN WAR CRIME IN THE PACIFIC published by Stackpole Books, 1995.
Subject: Re: More stories from my father
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (DvdThomas)
Our family became separated in 1950 and I managed to locate my father about 4 years ago. We spoke of his service with the 34th Division in Italy, and he recounted a number of stories, some quite bad. Here's a lighter one.
He took Latin in high school, which made learning Italian a snap, and he was fairly fluent in the language. They had taken a town after many continuous days of hard combat, and everyone was filthy. While trying to liberate some wine (a priority in each town they went through, I am told) he came across a barber shop with the proprietor on the premises, and negotiated with him for the luxury of a shave and haircut. The guy was about half finished when another local ran up to the door speaking rapidly in Italian, telling the barber that the Germans were coming back. Dad said he knew enough about the situation to know this was BS, and told the now panicked barber to finish the shave. The man wouldn't hear of it, telling him to leave so he could shut up his shop. At that point a .45 was produced and the shave was completed at gunpoint. And the Germans indeed were not ounter - attacking. He would not have shot the man, it was just a convenient and effective method of persuasion. There's a god-like
power wielded by men in war situations that causes many of them to have hard times adjusting afterward, as he did. Despite the horrors, many combat veterans will speak of their experiences as the most vivid and aware times of their lives.
"Just think of the tragedy of teaching children not to doubt."
- Clarence Darrow
Subject: WWII story
From: Randy <email@example.com>
Unfortunately, my father passed away a few years ago, so the stories that he had can no longer be shared first hand. He rarely spoke of his experiences in the war, and I can only remember him talking about two different stories. I feel that the following story is worth sharing.
My father was a Marine stationed in the South Pacific. On an island, things got boring in a hurry for a group of young Marines looking for action, and not a tan. Their base was looking good, but they decided that they could do better... in more ways than one. The various roads and paths were lind with the numerous coconuts that were growing on the island. To add a 'touch of
class' they painted all the coconuts white. The effect was quite nice.
To add to their entertainment value, the Marines had opened a small hole in each coconut, added a few well chosen ingredients, and then closed the hole with a tight fitting plug. As these coconuts sat out in the tropical sun, nature took over and the frementation process started- 'Jungle Juice' was the product. SO here, in the middle of a 'dry' island these marines had a
brewery going right under the noses of their superiors.
A general came to inspect the base- undoubtedly on his way to somewhere more important. As he walked along the lined roadway he commented how nice these white 'road markers' looked, and gave one a tap with his foot. The pressure in the coconut was released as the plug was dislodged from the general's tap, and a stream of jungle juice sprayed out all over the general's uniform.
The marines were ordered to pickup ALL the coconuts and deposit them in a waiting dumptruck. as they were throuwn in many of he plugs came out and the juice ran from the truck onto the ground. Afterwards, and as my father put it, "to add insult to injury" the Marines were ordered to wash the truck.
Hope you can use this. My dad's name was Norman C. Glass