The last of November 1943, checking in at Camp White, the sour looks on our faces when we first saw the camp and began army life. The Civil War was fought throughout the Company. The first rat race and blisters, classes with Wetzel sleeping, those "Bang, you're dead" problems. That famous one-week bivouac with Keyes Commandoes and the Ashland stump blowing incident. The weary hike up Table Rock. Weekly tests with the big "B" on top. Bridging the Rogue River, nightly excursions into Medford and the surrounding towns. The ASTP gang took Dindia for a ride. The AWOLs on those Christmas furloughs. The downcast looks on the west coast boys and the happy faces of the southern guys when we took the train for Camp Howze, Texas.
Camp Howze. Looking for miles and not seeing a thing, standing in the mud with dust blowing in your face. The first night scrap in the beer hall. Robenolt uses a line of skirmishers instead of a compass on night problems. Wives of the Louisiana bunch joining the company. Side trips to Dallas, Denton, and Gainesville. Our first crack at the Bailey Bridge, the band playing us out of camp.
Elkins. Six-man tents, mud, and small streams ran through the area, filling potholes and draining roads. The first platoon moved to Stuart Park, eating like kings while the rest of the company stared. The night patrol to the Coach and Four and Fossil Inn. Tennis courts with passing side attractions, the tornado, and its road clearing project. Those nice clean girls from Phillipi, burning shell cartons and unseen ammo. Deane dropped the four-ton in the river on that week's problem. Dames at the American Legion and the Rhythm Club. Steaks and dinners at Phil's, furloughs finally coming into being. Pope and Chandler with their nightly tours to Clarksburg. The filled grandstand on the last night, the party at Lynchburg on our way to Pickett by truck.
Camp Picket. Gangplank rumors starting that week at A.P. Hill. Physical training tests, cattle cars to Washington D.C. and Richmond. The Staunton Lake bridge school, specialist training, shows at the amphitheater. McGinty sweating out his heir, packing and repacking duffel bags. Furloughs on a mass scale, swimming in the lake. Battalion party of farewell, the silent trip to Slocum.
Fort Slocum. The island of food, WACS, and passes to New York. Shots in the arm, riding the ferry to new Rochelle. Short haircuts and 11 cue balls. That all-important physical inspection. The beer consumption record was broken at the PX. The boat trip to the S. S. Saturnia. Two days onboard then goodbye. MP duty, poor food, seasickness, and lack of water on the trip across the Atlantic. Mace stealing the bologna, sweating out the PX line, our first look at England after 11 days of nothing but water.
England. Docking at Southampton and the winning of the time lottery, "any Gum hum", the train ride to Delemere Park. Straw mattresses, long chow waits, in turn, Dalton and preparing camps. Our first English Pubs and money exchanges, female contacts made over chips. Back to Delemere and right on out to Wolverhampton and Burton-on-Trent, passes to town and patrols on the one famous street. Good chow at Burton but no cigarettes. Shutt and Wiley blowing up the boiler and the Peterson episode in blood. Back to the base with numerous passes to Manchester and Chester. Padgett's renowned strain, that dreary ride to C--13."C" rations morning and night. Christmas never to forget, trucks leave for France. A few miss the boat, Delcambre, McKenna, and Garner. Sledge takes a private boat.
France. The long hike up the hills for the second group, bivouac on French soil. Our battle with the mud and snow at the "Turnip Patch", a shave each day in cold water, the long freezing ride to the Maginot line. The little railroad in the fort. South and the first shot, the skilled craftsmen in the machine shop. Bouzonville and the long work hours, were under fire for the first time with long nights in the cellar. Scavengers for a while with good results, snowplows, and cinders for the roads. One day's move to avoid the big gun. Our first casualties were Oleson, Thelan, Claunch, Van Demark, and Lt. Knox, from an "S" mine. Men going to bridge school, living with the French people in Bettange. Good fellows going to the 44th Engr's. The long ride through France, Luxemburg, and Belgium to Echt, Holland, and warmer weather.
Holland. Dutch people and wooden shoes. First good hot showers at Geleen. Filling potholes and building roads. Tearing down buildings for bricks. Kenny Folsom is our first buddy to meet death. Buzz bombs pass over each morning. The Bailey across the Roer and the loss of a Swell Co, Capt. Stromberg. A short run-up to Lobberich, Germany to clear roads and pull mines. Rachkus blowing out the new windows. Numerous motorcycles and cars for a short time, men going to motorboat school. The trip back to Maeseyck to train on the Meuse River with the 79th for the main event. Belgium beer, eggs, and French fries. New replacements arrive, dry runs for the Rhine Crossing night and day. Moers and rest before H hour and a little wine to bolster the spirits.
Germany. The terrific barrages before the assault boats took off for the far shore. 88s and air bursts pay us visits. Constructing approaches for traffic, building rafts, and getting equipment across the river. Records were broken and the Navy getting the credit. Citations received for a job well done. Road work around Dinslaken and extra meat rations. The deadly Rhine-Herne canal and death to buddies Mullikin, Booth, and Chaires. Ascheberg with a good rest, ball games, and a little blacktop work. The castle and isolation, the Elbe River, and another possible crossing. Deer season opens with a bang. Our country estate after crossing the river, riding horses, and target practice. Acquiring pistols and watches as the war came to an end. Minesweeping the airport.
WARS OVER. Hairy and a life of ease except for inspections, a ball league formed, more replacements arrive along with old friends back from hospitals. Movies, swimming, and a new bar in the barn. Braunschweig with D. Ps. and Buzz bomb juice. Nightly trips to Ninth Army headquarters. Money-making deals with the Russians at Dessau and that primabeer. The convenient apartments across the alley. The famous dry run to Gotha and back. Again in a bivouac area with remodeled pup tents. A few hikes for conditioning and ball games. Side trips to the surrounding area. Viernheim and back to work. Building the railroad and repairing buildings. A good bar with plenty to drink for all. Japanese surrender and we start thinking only of home. The sad news comes to us that the 187th is to be broken up and now it's "What is your address back in the states because someday........
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