Sixty-five years ago, January 6, 1945,as a member of the 542d Field Artillery Battalion,42d Infantry Rainbow Division, I boarded a ship with the rest of my veterans at the Fort Dix, New York port of embarkation,to sail to some European city, destination unknown.
I remember some details of my journey,such as not long after our ship had department, many of army buddies,began throwing up in their helmets. Somehow,I was able not to join them.We were assigned to bunks, three(3) high.
We were aware that our three Infantry Regiments had already been rushed overseas in the autumn of 1944,but most of us were not aware that our Infantry units had already engaged in combat,with no artillery or back up support..Besides our artillery battalions, we were joined by the division Engineers,Signal Company,Ordnance Company,Quartermaster company and some other division units.
We were fed only two meals a day, breakfast and dinner.Occasionally,some sailors would “bootleg”sandwiches at lunch time for about a dollar,(not a cheap price in 1945.)
There was time spent for guard duty,kp,,and as expected there were poker and crap games available for those who had the funds and wished to participate.I don’t recall much reading material.A few times while eating breakfast or dinner,our eating utensils would slide downward on the dining tables,if not held properly. It was difficult to relax completely,when we had heard that some ships were attacked by enemy submarines.
Finally, on January 18th,our ship anchored,and there was an announcement that we had arrived in Marseilles,France. We all rushed out on deck and were greeted by many french kids,on the shore, with their hands out asking for candy.. Those of us who had extra candy or snacks threw them down to the many outstretched hands. Finally we disembarked and were driven by trucks to a large empty lot of land,known as CP 2 , and told to pitch pup tents,in the bitter cold. My assigned pup tent companion,was a battery cook who came from China. I recall our 155mm howitzers ,and other vehicles being unloaded. It was cold, especially in the morning,when we had to walk to the large,busy,”Men’s Room”,and occasinally sitting on a long cold board.(No flushing equipment available) I remember eating pancakes,one cold morning, outdoors, and not minding the rain splashing in my delicious breakfast.
An enemy airplane that occasionally flew over CP2,was known as “Bedcheck Charlie”,that did not drop bombs,but surveyed our activities. On several occasions,we were granted passes to Marseilles which was quite an interesting city.
On February 5, 1945,my artillery personnel unit, left CP2,arrived in Harricourt,France,on February 8th,and then left Harricourt, and arrived in Cirey,France on February 9th, 1945 where we remained until March 28th,1945. MORE WORLD WAR II MEMORIES TO FOLLOW
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