75 Years Ago — 4ID in WWII — Issue #5 — Final Preparations, May 1944 by Matt King

 

From the 4ID Yearbook published in 1946:

Each move to the ports for these rehearsals had been made under complete security restrictions. The final move, during the third week of May, differed in no essential feature from those made previously. Yet it was the insensate man who did not realize that "this is it."

Arriving in the marshalling areas, units found the areas surrounded by barbed wire and, once inside, none were permitted exit or contact with any outsider, civilian or military. "Briefing" was begun. United States forces were to attempt landings on two French beaches, one under VII Corps, the other under V Corps. The assault division in the VII Corps plan was the 4th Infantry Division, while the assault element of V Corps, on VII Corps' left, was the 1st Infantry Division, reinforced by one regiment of the 29th Infantry Division. A third beach was to be assaulted by British forces, to the left of V Corps. By reason of the tide along the Channel coast, the first troops to land would be those assaulting the beach nearest Cherbourg - the 4th Infantry Division.

The mission of the Division was explained; the job for which each man had been prepared was fixed in relation to a given piece of Normandy beach. Models of the assault beach were studied; gas-proof clothing was issued; waterproofing of vehicles and equipment accomplished. During the first few days of June the troops loaded onto ships for the final pay-off run.

From Mr. 22nd Infantry by Michael Belis:

As Battalion Commander, Major Earl "Lum" Edwards would hold command over Companies E, F, G, and H of the 22nd Infantry Regiment. In addition to getting 2nd Battalion into a state of readiness for the upcoming assault, Edwards spent a great deal of his time studying a mock-up of the beach on which his Battalion was to land. He was provided with a Nissen hut in which the mock-up was installed and he was the only one allowed to enter that hut. Daily aerial photos taken of the beach and inland area were brought to him and he studied them all, planning what his moves would be once the invasion got underway in order to achieve his Battalion's objectives. As the 6th of June approached, Major Earl Edwards was as ready as he could be to take 2nd Battalion 22nd Infantry ashore into Festung Europa.

Before he could assault into France, Edwards had another problem he had to deal with. A few days before the actual landing, he suffered from hemorrhoids and was in a great deal of pain from them.  He found his ailment gave him considerable trouble in walking. He asked his roommate Tom Keenan to report his condition to Colonel Tribolet. He was sure his medical situation would prevent him from making the landings.  In his memoirs, Edwards described the resulting events:

“Later in the day an ambulance drove up to our quarters and two medics came in and said that I was to come with them. They helped me to the ambulance where I found Col. Tribolet and the Regimental Surgeon, Dr. Kirtley. We drove away and soon parked in front of a U.S. Field Hospital. Col. Tribolet and Dr. Kirtley went in and soon returned. We then drove a while and parked in front of another hospital.

The same thing happened. So we drove on to another. This time some medics came out and carried me in and within a short time I was operated on. After an hour or so of recovery, I was carried back to the ambulance which returned me to my quarters and I was placed again on my bunk. All this time no explanations whatever. I later learned that Col. Tribolet was determined that I would command the 2nd Battalion in the invasion so he and Doc Kirtley decided to take me to a hospital and ask if they would operate on me and immediately release me to their care. If the answer was "no" they simply carried me to another hospital and so on until one agreed.

So I went into the landings with a large wad of cotton taped to my rear. Fortunately, the salt water and a few artillery rounds cured me. I don't remember ever thinking about it after we landed.”

Back in London, WAC PFC Helen Kogel Denton continued to type the D-Day orders, as covered in her book World War II WAC:

We were experiencing some of the worst V-2 bombings that London had endured. If you could hear the noise the bombs made, you knew you were okay. But if the motor shut off, we immediately got under our desk and covered our heads. When the bombs hit, the whole building would shake and dust flew everywhere. Because the Germans knew where we were working, our compound was hit often. By this time, we were sleeping three stories underground in a bomb shelter in the Square. Every night about dusk (which was around 10:00 PM with wartime double daylight savings time), we would take our blanket and a pillow and head for the shelter. The first floor underground was for people coming in off the street, the second floor was for British people, and the third floor was for the Americans. There was a single cot with a mattress for each of us; we provided the blanket and pillow. Each morning the all clear would sound and we would go back to the hotel, dress, and go to work.

Day after day I sat in my tiny office, officers bringing me more material to include in the operations order I was typing – later to be announced to the world as Operation Overlord, the code name of the invasion of France, or D-Day. Each day the guard came in and repeated the process of taking my ribbon out of my typewriter, collecting all the carbon paper I had used, and burning it in the fireplace. The paper I had typed was taken by an officer and, I assume, locked in a safe. This project kept me busy from late February through April 1944.

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When I finished the project I had been working on, I was asked if I would like to take the final work to General Eisenhower. I jumped at the opportunity, and was thrilled that I would get to meet him. We often saw the generals, but only to salute and move on – this was quite an honor for me. When he asked if I knew what I had typed, I assured him I did and was honored to have been trusted with such an important job. He told me that one copy of the order would be sent to General MacArthur, to use as a guide in developing a similar plan for the invasion of Japan.

He then asked me if I knew that I had a brother in England. I told him, “Yes, but I have no idea where he is.” He responded with, “We know where he is, and we want you to go see him this weekend.” He then handed me a pass and permission to take the train to Salisbury, England, where my brother, Jerry, was stationed as part of the 3rd Armored Division. This was quite a thrill as I hadn’t seen Jerry since he left home in 1940, four years earlier. We had a wonderful weekend together. Jerry was given a jeep so we could visit some of the countryside. Saturday night we attended a USO dance where I got to meet a lot of his buddies. I stayed overnight with an English family before boarding a train late Sunday afternoon for the trip back to London.

Following is a copy of the order giving Helen time off to visit her brother…

 

HEADQUARTERS
EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS
UNITED STATES ARMY
OFFICE OF THE CHIEF SIGNAL OFFICER, APO 887
RCM DIVISION

6 May 1944

SUBJECT: Personnel Off-Duty
To: Commanding Officer, WAC Detachment B

1.     Private First Class Helen E. Kogel, A-704886, is permitted to have time off this afternoon, 6 May 1944, to check travel status.

2.     It would be appreciated if PFC Kogel could be authorized a pass to travel to Salisbury, Wiltshire, tonight and tomorrow, to visit her brother whom she has not seen for 2 ½ years.

3.     Sunday, being her normal day off, will not affect her duty status.

(Signed)
T. J. PALIK
Major, Signal Corps

 

Back in London, WAC PFC Helen Kogel Denton had some experiences that will be of interest to our readers, as will all her WWII experiences covered in her book, World War II WAC, available at www.deedspublishing.com:

With my main project complete and while waiting for the invasion to take place, we took advantage of some time off to see the sights of London, such as Madam Tussauds’ wax museum, the Tower of London, Shakespeare’s home, the Abbey, and, of course, the USO had canteens and dances at some of the largest gardens (as they were called).

 

One of my highlights in London was the Saturday I stopped by the USO to see what trips were available. We selected a bus trip to Windsor Castle, the home of King George and his family. When we arrived, the King’s flag was flying, indicating he was in residence and that we would only be able to view the outbuildings. We saw the chapel, the carriage house, and one large room that had his paintings in it. As we were walking around the room, the door opened and the King, the Queen, and their two daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret, walked in. We were astounded when they came up to us and asked who we were and where we were from. I was the first one in line, and when the King approached me, I didn’t know whether to kneel or bow or curtsey, or what the procedure was. So I just extended my hand in greeting. Then he introduced his daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. He asked if I had met Elizabeth since she had just been assigned as a driver for the American Army. Of course I said, “No, I haven’t, but I wish her luck. Maybe I’ll see her around.” Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to see the King of England and the future Queen of England in my lifetime.

And I will introduce you to another source that I will use throughout the coming year as I cover the happenings of the 4th Infantry Division's fight across Europe in WWII - the Diary of Clifford "Swede" Henley who proudly served with the 22nd Infantry Regiment (we had a brief excerpt from Swede's diary in April). I will introduce it as follows, written by his friend and fellow 22nd officer Tommy Harrison who had his secretary type Swede's diary after the war (I thank Swede's two daughters for giving me permission to use this diary):

"My name is Cliff Henley. My friends call me Swede, and I was told I am to room with you." 

This was my introduction to Swede. The time was February 1942. The place was Camp Gordon in Augusta, Georgia.  His statement, "my friends call me Swede" was ironic because in all the years I have known him, I never knew of anyone who wasn't his friend or didn't like him. The only possible exception to this would have been the Krauts, but they didn't know him personally - at least the way we did. You can bet your bottom dollar though, those Krauts that did get to know him, respected the hell out of him. 

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I had another roommate, Lt. Dave Henry, who had attended Clemson College at the same time as Swede. Through Dave I learned that Swede had left his mark at Clemson the same way he was to leave his mark with the 22nd Infantry. He was one helluva football player, as well as an excellent boxer. Naturally, he was one of the best-liked men on campus... would you have expected anything less? 

In copying Swede's diary, nothing has been changed. If a town or a name is mispelled, it's because it was written that way. The language, at times, was embarrassing to my secretary as she typed the diary; but the language, nonetheless, remains unchanged. ...

This diary was never intended to be a book. The entries were made by Swede so he could relate these memories to Lila, his wife, and other members of his family back in Sommerville, South Carolina. I can remember the times when I was with Swede and he would pull out his little book and recall the happenings of the day. This would usually occur late at night or early in the morning after the outposts were set up and all companies had reported they were secure for the night. Between a couple of slugs of cognac, Swede would make his entries. 

Now, almost thirty years have passed, but yet in reading his diary, I found myself laughing at Swede's unique way of expressing himself, and once or twice had to wipe away a tear. I am sure you will sense the same emotions as you read the following pages. God - the things you forget ... not necessarily wanting to ... but time has a way of erasing from your mind, the good as well as the bad, when you don't live them day after day. Somewhere, however, locked in a little comer of your brain, those memories are still there. Swede's diary will trigger those memories. 

It is not my intention to write a novel about Swede Henley, although if I were a writer, I would want to do so. I just wanted to print up this diary for him to share it with you. However, I couldn't pass up this opportunity to write something about Swede as a preface to this printing It is a liberty I couldn't resist to pay homage to a fellow soldier and friend. 

Tommy Harrison, January 1973, New York, New York 

1-15 May 1944 

During this period we were getting all of our equipment, guns, and vehicles ready to go someplace. Destination unknown. Sgt. Horowitz (Supply Sgt.) began receiving equipment to be used only for D-Day operations. Sgt. Haixe (Motor Sgt.) was given orders to waterproof all vehicles. The 105 M3 howitzers were waterproofed. All articles of clothing that were unnecessary were turned in. We knew we were going someplace soon but when and where, God only knows. 

15 May 

We received orders to move to Y-9 sausage in marshaling area and await orders. On the afternoon of the 15th under the command of Captain CM. Henley, the company left South Brent Post, South Brent, Devon by motor for Y-9 camp. We knew that we were seeing South Brent Post for the last time. All the cooks and unnecessary company headquarters personnel were sent to Denbury Camp, Newton Abbot to join us later. The company command group were - Capt. CM. Henley Co. Commander, 1st Lt. Frank Eggleston Recon and Executive Officer, 2nd Lt. Edgar Harris Assistant Platoon Ldr. and Recreation Officer, 2nd Lt. John Bullock Supply Officer, 1st Lt. John Ward, Platoon Ldr. 2nd Platoon, 1st Lt. Capelle Platoon Ldr. 3rd Platoon, 2nd Lt. Joseph Kinsinger Platoon Ldr. 1st Platoon, 1st Sgt. Joe Salego - Motor Sgt. Samuel Haire - Supply Sgt. Jacob Horowitz - Communication Sgt. Irwin Lichtman - Platoon Sgt. 1st Plat. Sgt. Evans, 

Platoon Sgt. 2nd Platoon Sgt. Dufresne, Platoon Sgt. 3rd Platoon Sgt. Froehlich 
Section Sgts. Montanaro, Weber, Fatata, Gunst, Skinta, LaBarba. Company strength 7 officers 129 EM.

 

15- 31 May 

Lived in the marshaling area and took life easy and sweating out what was to come, when and where D-Day H-Hour would find us. The Company was briefed on the 22nd but was not allowed to brief the company officers until the 26th and the company the 29th. Many hours were spent studying the maps of the terrain we were to land on. Plans were made so that everything would work regardless of what happened. Every man knew what he was to do in case the leaders were knocked off. Orders came for the company to load at Dartmouth on Hard "A" on 2nd of June on LCT 2045, an American built LCT with a British crew. 

Chaplain Bill Boice in his "History of the 22nd Infantry Regiment in World War II" described the last half of May as follows:

It was with mingled feelings that the elements of the regimental combat team received orders to move to the marshalling area. 

These had been interesting days, charged with tension and anticipation, days when we had come to know and respect the British, and to appreciate this brave island. All equipment was carefully packed and waterproofed. Personal effects, save only that which could be carried, were stored in foot lockers and sent to the Effects Quartermaster in Liverpool for indefinite storage. All documents which might identify the unit were destroyed. No identification other than dog tags or AGO was retained. 

On the night of 18 May 1944, the regiment moved by foot under cover of darkness to an assembly area. Then, shivering and cold, the men were moved by truck to three marshalling areas designated as X, Y and Z, well away from towns and villages on the southern coast of England. Civilians were kept from the area or were required to remain in the area until after the invasion had occurred. The preparation and secrecy surrounding the pre-invasion were of the highest order, and while aware of the impending action, the officers and men of the regiment operated on daily stand-by orders without specific knowledge of invasion plans. An era had passed; preparations were finished. Mail home was curtailed and impounded, heightening the thoughts of loved ones and homes. 

Each soldier wondered about his own courage. Yet, there was an eagerness to get into battle, to join the action against the enemy, and there was little expressed fear. It was not even possible to express personal uncertainty in letters; thus the pressure began inexorably to build. Last-minute equipment was requisitioned and obtained. Quick courses in elementary French, designed to give each man enough knowledge to ask for help in case he was wounded or food if he was hungry, were taught by qualified instructors. There was much joking about the lack of the French phrases most of the men were interested in. 

It was while in the marshalling area that the new type demolition, the Bee-hive, was demonstrated to the assault companies. This new employment of a long-known principle of physics pleased GI's who soon caught on to its use and wanted to demonstrate more times than there were Bee-hives to be used for demonstrative purposes. 

Chaplains conducted worship services daily. A regiment that had given little indication of religious interest prior to this time now began to take its religion seriously. Jewish officers remained on duty while Catholic and Protestant men were at divine services. The Jewish Chaplain from Division Headquarters conducted Jewish services for the men of his faith. Attendance increased so sharply as to warn the Chaplains of the magnitude of their spiritual responsibility....

The strength and service of the Chaplains of the Twenty-Second Infantry can never be measured. It is enough to say that during these crucial times officers and men realized as never before the worth of their Chaplains and the seriousness of the task ahead. Spiritual strength counted. 

Elements of the Fifth Armored Division ran the marshalling guards and did everything possible to make these last days in Britain as pleasant and comfortable as possible for every member of the Division. By this time, the men knew the impending assault was but a few days away. One soldier remarked that he felt like a turkey prior to Thanksgiving. The remark was greeted with laughter at the time; it ceased to be funny within a matter of days. All mail was impounded, both outgoing and incoming. Sand-tables were constructed to an exact scale of the beach which was to be assaulted. The exact location of the beach, however, was still carefully kept secret, and only the battalion staffs, plus the company commanders involved, knew the place of the assault. Not even they had been told the day or the hour. The sand-tables were placed in tents and carefully guarded as the men were brought into the tents in small groups. They became familiar with the terrain so that they could recognize physical features either by silhouette or by sight. 

The time in the marshalling area seemed incredibly long to soldiers who were keyed to a pitch. At last, orders came to move out and again, under the deep cover of darkness, the companies loaded in trucks and moved slowly over the steep hills of England toward the coast. The trucks halted on back country roads at about 2:00 A. M., and the soldiers, loaded with assault equipment, sat unbelievably cold in the sharp English night. No movement was allowed and there was nothing the weary soldiers could do but miserably await the morning. The night was clear and there was no fog. Lights were prohibited and smoking was allowed only within the covered trucks. A trucking unit provided the soldiers with breakfast put up in paper bags, and hot coffee was supposed to be served. The coffee was cold and bitter. The breakfast consisted of thick, dry slices of English whole wheat bread with cold bologna and a cold hard fried egg. Among other marks of war, surely one part of the English countryside was covered with the brown stains of disdained coffee and the wreckage of the world's worst breakfast. 

Prior to dawn, the soldiers dismounted and already weary under their heavy assault loads, they moved up the steep hill and toward the loading harbors. It was with relief, not unmixed with anticipation, that they saw the countless landing craft and assault boats that were to convey them across the channel. It was well past midday when the men got aboard and moved to their cramped quarters below deck. Space was at a premium; officers and men alike crawled into web-laced horizontal bunks barely far enough apart for both the man and his equipment. No men were allowed on deck. Time was spent in final briefing, and impregnating clothing with an evil-smelling preparation to resist gas. Men were warned to expect gas attacks on the beach. 

Meals were a problem, and the men became acquainted with the 10-in-1 ration. Better than the K ration, and with a greater variety, the cartons contained canned foods, soluble powdered drink, crackers to take the place of bread, jelly or jam, canned milk, and toilet paper. Of all the ignominy of war, nothing so irritated and amused the men as khaki colored toilet paper. Surely, they felt, this was the last ignominious word in modern camouflage. The ration contained enough food for ten men and thus was called 10-in-1.

From Gerden Johnson's "History of the 12th Infantry Regiment in WWII":  

Early in May test firing of all weapons, trial loadings of vehicles, concentration on new supplies, and waterproofing of vehicles and signal equipment all pointed to the long awaited day. Then one evening General Bradley came to Exeter and addressed all officers of the division. He concluded his remarks with, "I'll see you on the beaches." That sealed it....

In the concise words of the field order and illustrated on large wall maps and aerial photographs, the 12th Infantrymen were told that the 4th Infantry Division with attached troops, supported by air and naval task forces, would assault the Cotentin Peninsula of France on D-Day to capture Cherbourg. Only, the name of Cherbourg was not mentioned at this point for reasons of security.... The Naval Task Force would provide lift, protection at sea, gunfire support, and would breach all underwater obstacles. The IX Tactical Air Command would furnish air support.

Commencing at H-hour minus five on D-Day the 101st Airborne Division, less certain glider elements, would land by parachute and glider in areas west of Turqueville with the principal mission of assisting the landing of the 4th Infantry Division. At H-hour minus four the 82nd Airborne Division would land by parachute and glider astride the Merderet River, with one regiment east thereof. It wold capture Ste. Marie Eglise and the strongpoint south of Beauzeville Au Plain, making contact with the 101st Airborne Division at that place. It would protect the south and west flanks of VII Corps along the Douve River south and east of Terre De Beauvil. The regimental directed that "All units will be alert to recognize and will make every effort to locate, contact and assist personnel of the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions in respective zones of action," and to promptly relieve them.... When the doughs had completed their briefing, they were so sure of every detail that enthusiasm reached the highest peak ever seen. They were impatient and eager to get going. The old axiom of instilling supreme confidence by giving the American soldier the whole picture had been proven. The only question left was, "When would D-Day be?"

One final Lum Edwards story for now, that was first published in War Stories: Utah Beach to Pleiku back in 2001:

General Sir Bernard Montgomery, while inspecting troops of the 22nd Infantry Regiment in England prior to D-Day, asked various officers where they were from in the "Colonies". When Lieutenant Colonel John F. Ruggles was asked, his reply was, "the North East Kingdom, Vermont, Sir!"

Major Earl W. "Lum" Edwards replied by answering, "From the Heart of Dixie, the land of black-eyed peas and grits. Mississippi, Sir!" General Sir Bernard Montgomery was caught off guard, momentarily shocked and stunned by Major Edwards' reply. A brief second was required by the general in order for the bits and pieces to settle. Upon regaining his composure, General Sir Bernard Montgomery replied, "Gad, I thought that was a river!"

*****

This Issue #5 is the final of my monthly reports on the training of the 4ID in England prior to D-Day. Hopefully you have felt the work that was being done all over England by the divisions who were destined to fight across Europe to liberate it and the world from the grasp of the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler.

Starting the first week of June, I will have weekly issues that will run from D-Day (6 June 1944) to V-E Day (8 May 1945). I will do my best to help you see the highlights of one division who is representative of all the divisions who liberated Europe and bring an end to the Nazi regime.

I encourage you to share this with anyone you think will enjoy reading it. One of my favorite quotes of all time is, "if we forget history, we are destined to repeat it." Most of the "Greatest Generation" who made this history is gone now, it is the duty of we who are their offspring to understand and carry on to our Families the history of WWII. If anyone thinks this couldn't happen again, they have their head stuck in the sand.

Tighten your chin strap and get ready for a historic ride across France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, and deeper into Germany over the next year. I'll tell the story to the best of my ability - in weekly chunks.


Steadfast and Loyal,
Bob Babcock, Historian and Past President, National 4th Infantry Division Association

75 Years Ago — 4ID in WWII — Issue #4 — England, Slapton Sands, April 1944 by Matt King

(this was posted on Facebook on 20 April 2019)

Training continued in England in April 1944. All the 4th Infantry Division (4ID) troops knew that the invasion of France was not if they would do it, but when would they invade. With that understanding, training continued in all aspects of the invasion - naval landing operations, weapons, explosives, medical, communications, support, etc. This would be the largest military operation in history, and the 4ID would be the first division strength seaborne troops to land on French soil.

 

From Swede Henley's Diary, at the time company commander of Cannon Company, 22nd Infantry Regiment:

1-30 April 

Usual garrison duties except for amphibious operation "Tiger" at Slapton Sands. Another one of those screwed up amphibious operations where the Navy starts and the Army finishes it up. 

 

From COL Gerden Johnson's History of the 12th Infantry Regiment in WWII:

It was with great reluctance that Col. Henderson's state of health forced him to relinquish command of the 12th Infantry Regiment. He had contributed much to the regiment...

... the loss of the regimental commander came at a critical time. Into this breach, General Omar N. Bradley stepped in with a request for Col. Russell P. Reeder, Jr.... "Red" Reeder, a former football coach at West Point, brought to the 12th Infantry all the punch and drive that had enabled Army to bowl over its opponents on more peaceful fields and drive over the goal line for the prized touchdown. In a remarkably short space of time, Reeder had met and talked with every officer and enlisted man in the regiment. He instilled in them an unshakable faith in themselves and the 12th Infantry and an unsurmountable determination to overcome whatever obstacles might lie ahead...

Meanwhile, in London, a WAC (Women's Army Corps) PFC from South Dakota was busily working in a locked room, typing the orders for a Top Secret operation called Operation Overlord. She was part of a small contingent of WACs who went from the US to England aboard the USS Queen Mary, along with several thousand Army troops, they to prepare for the invasion, the WACs to join General Eisenhower's staff.

In her book, World War II WAC, which I wrote for her, and published at Deeds Publishing, Helen Kogel Denton describes her job:

"I was assigned to a small office, with a desk, chair, and a manual Royal typewriter. An armed guard stood outside my office and only admitted officers who could present the proper credentials and identification to him. Officers from the Canadian, British, Australian, and US Armies would come in every morning and give me dictation, with my afternoon being spent transcribing my dictation. Every page I typed had to be stamped TOP SECRET, so I knew I was handling extremely confidential material. The name of the project was OVERLORD. I was making three copies of this material and had to use carbon paper (today’s copying machines had not been invented yet). My main concern was not making a mistake, since erasing was very difficult. At times, the British officer would take me to the Admiralty, their headquarters, to pick up special material. All of it concerned the movement of troops and supplies which would be involved in the invasion of France.

"At the end of each day, the guard would come into my office, take the ribbon from my typewriter, all the carbon paper I had used that day, and burned it in the fireplace. One of the officers would pick up the pages I had finished and he was responsible for them after that. I had no idea who handled the pages and never saw them again until I saw them in the binder that was later given to General Eisenhower. My duty was to type it to the best of my ability. I was never asked to retype a page, or make changes, so I assume my work was satisfactory. After the ribbons and carbon paper was burned, and the pages taken away – then I could leave to return to my quarters in the hotel.

"Never did I discuss with my roommate or any of the other girls what I had been working on – nor did they discuss their jobs. It was understood among all of us that we were dealing with highly sensitive and highly classified material. None of us had a “need to know” what the others in our group were doing. We were well indoctrinated with the motto “Loose Lips Sink Ships!” Never would any of us divulge to anyone what our jobs were – and I never talked about it until just before the fiftieth anniversary of the D-Day landing (that was 1994 before she talked about it).  All we knew and cared was that we were helping the war effort."   


From the 4ID Yearbook published in 1946:

Our first casualties from enemy action were sustained in the course of the final rehearsal when E-boats hit under cover of darkness. So, too, our first German prisoner was captured during the final preparation - an enemy airman who bailed out of a plane which was shot down over the assembly area.

Following is a story from my book War Stories: Utah Beach to Pleiku:

Thomas A. Welstead, Bal Harbor, FL - HQ, 4th Infantry Division


Tragedy at Sea

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Not all of you may know that Slapton Sands was the site of a major tragedy in the preparation for the D-Day invasion. Early on, it was determined by our military leaders that the best way to prepare for an invasion was to find a place that resembled the coast of France and use it for real live combat. The coast at Slapton Sands was almost an exact duplicate of what was to be called Utah Beach. Utah Beach would be assaulted by the 4ID. In order to make the practices realistic, the beach and inland for twenty-five miles had to be evacuated by every living person, including all their possessions. There were some eight small villages in the evacuation area - villages like Torcross, Sherford, and Chillington. Within six weeks, three thousand people had to leave.

Those who lived in this rural farm area traveled very little. Some of the inhabitants had never left their village. When ordered to leave, many of them were lost, since in addition to their unfamiliarity with the area, the government had taken down all road and direction signs. No need to help the enemy if they invaded. These people withstood continuous enemy bombing, incendiary bombs, and bombs with land mines. Now they would have to leave everything - few would return.

The tragedy of Slapton Sands was an operation called "Tiger". The 4th Infantry Division, with its attached units, would assault Slapton Sands as though it was the shore of Normandy, France. Every detail centered on making it as realistic as one could imagine. The invasion would include air bombardment and naval gunfire. "Tiger" was the major pre-invasion exercise and was so realistic that many believed it was the actual invasion itself.

On April 27, 1944, eight LSTs left the Plymouth embarkation area - destination Slapton Sands. Three of these ships would not come back and a fourth struggled to stay afloat. On the morning of April 28, at 0130 hours, all hell broke loose. The convoy was under attack by German E-Boats using torpedoes and surface guns. E-Boats travel at speeds up to 40 knots; LSTs can get up to 8 knots. The confusion aboard those tightly packed ships was enormous. Men were in full battle gear, including gas masks and life preservers, climbing up the ladders and then back down as the captain tried to guess what kind of boats were firing at each other... E-Boats or U-Boats? The panic and helplessness were indescribable.

As dawn broke on the morning of April 28, the sea of bodies floating in the water (many upside down) was a sight made for no man to endure. Life preservers around the waist instead of under the arms turned many upside down. The freezing water was no help. Operation Tiger took the lives of 946 servicemen, 749 Army and 197 Navy.

How could such a fiasco happen? Only two vessels were assigned to accompany this convoy: a corvette, the HMS Azalea, and a World War I destroyer, the HMS Scimitar. The Scimitar suffered minor damage in a previous collision and its replacement came to the scene too late. Further, due to a typographical error in the orders, the American LSTs were on a radio frequency different from the corvette and the British naval headquarters ashore. In essence, eight LSTs with highly trained soldiers of the 4ID and its attached units, not to mention the naval personnel, were literally sitting ducks for the German E-Boats. For reasons deemed best by the Allied High Command, the disaster of Operation Tiger would remain a secret.        

Largely due to one man who was thirteen years old when Operation TIger took place, the secret was finally broken. Ken Small was born in the little town of Hull - a town that received regular bombing raids of every variety. His beach-combing activities and curiosity led him to conclude that something terrible had happened the night of April 27, and on the morning of April 28. After years of research and investigation, he wrote and published a book called The Forgotten Dead. Thus, the secret was uncovered. On May 31, 1994, Ken Small would participate in the dedication of a bronze relief plaque commemorating those who perished in the sea.

(The majority of those killed were supporting troops, not troops of the 4ID. But any casualty is a major loss).

 

Operation Tiger was kept secret until long after the war was over. Those 946 casualties were included in the June 1944 casualty reports the Army issued, after D-Day. Sadly, that level of security would not survive in this day and age. If you want to read more about the Slapton Sands disaster, you can order Ken Small's book, The Forgotten Dead, on Amazon - available in Kindle and used hard cover and paperback formats.

Stay tuned and in May we'll have our last monthly Issue before starting into weekly updates in June. D-Day and the start of the 4IDs fight across Fortress Europe are roughly a month and a half away. Training for 4ID in England continues at a high level... And as always, feel free to share this posting with your friends.

For those celebrating Easter this weekend, rather than a simple Happy Easter, how about saying HE IS RISEN! This is the most important event in our Christian beliefs.

*****

Editor’s note: All the pictures below are various scenes from the 4ID Slapton Sands training exercise in April 1944. The tank picture is a Sherman tank pulled from the ocean in the 1990s and now standing as a permanent monument to all the Soldiers and Sailors lost on that training exercise. Note the explosion picture; they were taking out barbed wire obstacles - getting ready for the real thing on D-Day, about six weeks from now.

 
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Steadfast and Loyal,
Bob Babcock, 4IDA Historian and Past President

75 Years Ago — 4ID in WWII — Issue #3 — Training in England, March 1944 by Matt King

From the 4ID Yearbook published in 1946:

The general operation against Hitler's Atlantic Wall was now crystallized, and the target date determined. For each hour there was a specific job, representing an essential step in preparation for readiness on that target date. Slapton Sands, along the south Devon coast, was cleared of civilians. Water covered an area in the rear of this beach and resembled closely the water obstacle prepared by the Germans, who had flooded the area in the rear of the Normandy beach, which, if all went well, would see us on D-Day. Here landing rehearsals, complete with naval fire support and German air and E-boat opposition, were held many times.

From Chaplain Bill Boice's History of the 22nd Infantry Regiment in WWII:

England was beautiful, as beautiful and quaint, as old-fashioned and sincere as another century. The 22nd Infantry Regiment, detraining at Devon, was split and sent to the various camps that could accommodate it. Regimental Headquarters and the 2nd Battalion went to a camp outside the town of Danbury. The 1st Battalion was somewhat inadequately quartered in ancient and forbidding buildings in Newton-Abbott. The 3rd Battalion, plus cannon and anti-tank companies, was stationed some distance away at South Brent in a camp which consisted almost exclusively of Quonset huts. 4th Division Headquarters was at Tiverton. The nearest English city of any size was Exeter, a favorite shopping place soon to become known to us...

Torquay was the Atlantic city of south England and most of the officers and enlisted men went to Torquay for relaxation, usually to the excellent Red Cross Clubs.

...At a meeting of all the officers of the Division, General Omar Bradley, then commanding the First Army chosen to storm the beaches, told the officers that originally it had been planned to storm the beach with one United States Infantry Division. This division, picked by the top men of the General Staff, had been the 4th Infantry Division. The officers returned to their Regiments sobered, realizing that theirs was a job from which there was no turning back...

...Training in squad problems, the handling of weapons, camouflage, use of artillery and mortars, assault tactics, pole charges, bee-hives, and the bazooka were given to the men, squad by squad, until they became thoroughly familiar with their particular job. Certain tactics were taught, then company, battalion, Regimental, and Division problems involving these same tactics were run, in order to familiarize the troops with their practical application. Weak spots within the organization were discovered and removed. Officers were shifted in their command. Day by day, the tension increased as it became evident that the long-promised second front would soon be a reality.

Following is a story from my book War Stories: Utah Beach to Pleiku:

Billy Cater, Cambridge, OH - Service Company, 22nd Infantry Regiment

Captain "Big Hawk"

The Regiment was newly-arrived in England and was in the process of drawing all equipment, including vehicles. Captain Hawkins (Big Hawk) was the motor officer and I, as a lieutenant, was his assistant. Our living quarters were in a thin-walled barracks and conversations could be heard through them.

We had a few unassigned jeeps so I could slip out a jeep and several of us could go pub hunting at night. On returning one night, driving blackout, I made a wrong turn, tried to switch back and hit a stone fence head on, but managed to get it back to the motor pool. All I could hear through the wall that night was Captain Hawkins talking about the punishment he would dish out to the guilty party. I made a deal with the medic motor sergeant: He was to really complain, but would take the jeep and fix it and I would see that he would be favored forever. Big Hawk and I were good friends and I could never tell him I was the culprit, even after the war.

(Note: Both Billy Cater and "Big Hawk" are deceased now, but Billy's son and Big Hawk's son are regular readers of this trip down memory lane).

From COL Gerden Johnson's History of the 12th Infantry Regiment in WWII:

... The month of March brought new and rigorous training as combat problems got underway amid blinding snowstorms on the freezing windswept wastes of the famous English Moors near Dartmoor. Returning on the 10th, there was barely time to pack for another move from the regimental area. On the 13th we temporarily left Exeter, Bye-Pass Camp, Exemouth and Budleigh-Salterton for two weeks of ship-to-shore training with the U.S. Navy. A rail movement was made to Plymouth where the 12th embarked on three APA's anchored in the harbor.... Following extensive practice in organizing boat teams and reaching boat stations in blackout, several days were spent in learning how to debark with full equipment down rope ladders and nets....

... Having completed tactical landings of battalion landing teams, staffs began busily preparing a problem for the entire regimental combat team, while the men got in some well-earned rest as the three APA's began the return to Plymouth. This new problem was called Exercise BEAVER and on March 25th we went over the sides and landed on a strip of beach called Slapton Sands on the southern coast of England. It was our first prelude to invasion. By the next day, all units were back at their stations and normal training was resumed....

Landing craft : 4th Infantry Division Soldiers work with the Navy during amphibious training exercises in Southern England, March 1944.

Landing craft: 4th Infantry Division Soldiers work with the Navy during amphibious training exercises in Southern England, March 1944.

General Eisenhower visiting the 4ID in March 1944.

General Eisenhower visiting the 4ID in March 1944.

Church:  From George Knapp's book,  A Chaplain's Duty  - This is the Methodist Church at Budleigh Salterton, Devon, England where we had our Protestant services for 12th Infantry Regiment in February through May 1944... The pipe organ was very good. I had Easter Services 1944 in this church, both Sunrise and regular services.

Church: From George Knapp's book, A Chaplain's Duty - This is the Methodist Church at Budleigh Salterton, Devon, England where we had our Protestant services for 12th Infantry Regiment in February through May 1944... The pipe organ was very good. I had Easter Services 1944 in this church, both Sunrise and regular services.

"Collipriest" - the 4th Infantry Division command post at Tiverton, Devon, England from February through May 1944.

"Collipriest" - the 4th Infantry Division command post at Tiverton, Devon, England from February through May 1944.

Roosevelt:  On 25 March 1944, Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. joined the 4th Infantry Division as a Deputy Commanding General. On D-Day, he earned the Medal of Honor and became a legend in 4ID history.

Roosevelt: On 25 March 1944, Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. joined the 4th Infantry Division as a Deputy Commanding General. On D-Day, he earned the Medal of Honor and became a legend in 4ID history.

 


Steadfast and Loyal,
Bob Babcock, 4IDA Historian and Past President

75 Years Ago — 4ID in WWII — Issue #2 — Who is 4th Infantry Division? by Matt King

We had great response to Issue #1 of this journey we are beginning. I'm looking forward to a great look back into the history of the 4th Infantry Division's fight across Europe from D-Day to VE Day.

The thought hit me that while we 4th Infantry Division (4ID) veterans and Family members are familiar with the accomplishments and some trivia of the 4th Infantry Division, many reading this have no idea who the 4ID is.

 

Let me introduce you to the 4th Infantry Division:

The 4ID was formed at Camp Greene, NC on 10 December 1917 - two weeks after the 3rd Infantry Division was formed there.

Our 4ID patch is four Ivy Leaves, named after the Roman numeral IV (we old timers know that IV means 4 in Roman numerals, not sure if they teach that any more). In the History of the 4th Division in the World War book, there is a statement: In the language of flowers, ivy means Steadfast and Loyal... Thus, Major General Cameron gave us the motto - Steadfast and Loyal, which remains our motto to this day.

We deployed to France in May 1918 for entry into World War I. We lost our first casualties before landing in France when a German U-boat torpedoed one of our troop ships.

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The 4ID represented the US on the 4th of July 1918 when they participated in a parade in Paris, down the Champs Elysees. Later in July, we were engaged in our first battle with the Germans. By Armistice Day on 11 November 1918, the 4ID had earned five battle streamers for their actions in World War I.

After two years of occupation duty in Germany, the division returned to Camp Lewis, WA and was deactivated in 1921. While on occupation duty, the National 4th Infantry Division Association (4IDA) was formed. We are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 4IDA at our 100th reunion in Springfield, MO in August of this year.

You read in Issue #1 how we were reactivated in 1940 to fight in World War II. Fast forwarding, our division has served Cold War occupation duty in Germany from 1950 to 1956, served in Vietnam from 1966 to 1970, served four tours in Iraq, and all brigade combat teams of the 4ID have served multiple tours in Afghanistan and back in Europe as a deterrent against the rising Russian threat. At this writing, 4ID Headquarters is serving in Afghanistan, their second deployment there.

 

Some interesting tidbits about the 4ID...

Brigadier General Teddy Roosevelt Jr. landed in the first wave of 4ID troops on D-Day, proclaiming, "We will start the war from here" when they landed 2,000 yards off their targeted beach. For his actions that day, he earned the Medal of Honor (there were four other 4ID Soldiers who earned the MOH in WWII).

Ernest Hemmingway attached himself to the 4ID during World War II and is a significant part of our WWII history.

Ernest Hemmingway attached himself to the 4ID during World War II and is a significant part of our WWII history.

Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's Hamburgers, was a cook with 4ID in Cold War Germany in the 1950s.

Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's Hamburgers, was a cook with 4ID in Cold War Germany in the 1950s.

 
J.D. Salinger, author of  Catcher in the Rye  which many of us read in school, was an interpreter and interrogator with 4ID in WWII.

J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye which many of us read in school, was an interpreter and interrogator with 4ID in WWII.

From 1995 to 2002, the 4ID was, once again, an experimental division in what was called Force XXI, testing equipment, electronics, tactics, etc. that made the 4ID the most lethal division in the world as we entered the 21st century. That is why they were chosen as the assault division to attack into Iraq through Turkey at the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. The 4ID was assigned to Saddam Hussein's hometown in 2003-2004 and were the unit, along with special operations forces, who captured Saddam on 13 December 2003.

Three former 4ID Commanding Generals served later as Chief of Staff of the Army: MG John L. Hines (1924-1926), GEN Dennis J. Reimer (1995-1999), and GEN Raymond T. Odierno (2011-2015).

Current Sergeant Major of the Army, SMA Dan Dailey, served three combat tours in Iraq with the 4ID, as Command Sergeant Major (CSM) of 1-8 Infantry, as CSM of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, and as 4th Infantry Division CSM.

 

You also may ask, "Who is Bob Babcock and what qualifies him for doing this?"

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I served two years with the 4th Infantry Division as a rifle platoon leader and executive officer with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment during our training and first year of deployment from Fort Lewis, WA to Vietnam in 1965-1967. The 4ID is the only active duty division I ever served with - am very proud of it and our history. 

I became an active member of the 4ID Association (4IDA) in 1991 and have missed only one reunion since then. In the early days, I sat and listened to the stories of our WWII veterans about their fight in WWII. In 1995, the last WWII Regimental commander of the 22nd Infantry Regiment asked me to take over as leader of their dwindling group of WWII veterans and open it up to 22nd Infantry veterans from all wars. Over the next ten years, I listened and collected lots of stories and memories from those WWII vets. 

As our WWII vets began to fade away and die, I made it one of my objectives when I became president of the 4IDA in 1998 to preserve their stories. In 2001, I published my first book, War Stories: Utah Beach to Pleiku, which has 325 WWII stories, 25 Cold War stories, and 100 Vietnam stories. I also appointed myself as historian of the 4IDA and continue to hold that job 20+ years later.

In 2002, I became a founding official partner of the Veterans History Project, part of the Library of Congress, with my Americans Remembered non-profit organization. We have interviewed hundreds of WWII and other veterans. 

During the 60th anniversary of D-Day, I led a group of ten 4ID WWII veterans and their Family members on a week's tour of Normandy (I learned more from them than they did from me, and I remember all they told me).

In 2009 to 2011, I was hired by the Department of Defense as the 4ID historian, a job that went away with Army downsizing. Since then, I continue to publish military books and stay in touch with veterans of all wars.

Enough for now - stay tuned and on 4 March Issue #3 will talk about the 4IDs training days in England as we continued to prepare for D-Day and our fight across Europe...


Steadfast and Loyal,
Bob Babcock, 4IDA Historian and Past President

75 Years Ago — 4ID in WWII — Issue #1 — Intro and History 1940–1943 by Deeds Publishing

Starting with this first issue, I am going to tackle a year and a half long project to bring the history of the 4th Infantry Division in WWII to all who want to follow it during this historic 75th anniversary commemorative year.

My plan between now and 8 May 2020 (75th anniversary of VE Day) is to give us a monthly dose of what our 4ID troops did between January and May 1944. And then, starting the first week of June this year (D-Day anniversary), I will switch to weekly updates and follow our WWII forefathers in their fight across Europe to victory on 8 May 1945.

I will use historic material from the 4ID yearbooks published in 1946 and other history books, stories from memories provided to me 20 years ago by the 4ID vets who helped win the war in Europe (and published in my War Stories book in 2001), the official After Action Report of 4ID in WWII, pictures as I can find and use them, and anything else that I can find that appears to be of interest to those who love the history of the 4ID.

I plan to make this available in several places: my personal (Bob Babcock) Facebook page; the 4ID Association Facebook page; the 4ID Association webpage (www.4thinfantry.org); and my Americans Remembered web page (www.americansremembered.org). I plan to leave all these up permanently on the Americans Remembered web page.

I likely will find other places to broadcast these historic reports that will be coming out. I encourage anyone who reads these to forward them to your contacts who have an interest in the 4ID history from WWII. We don't want to be spam or a nuisance, but I know a lot of people care about WWII history that I am unaware of and do not have contact with.

Let's get started...

* * * * *

In this first issue, we will set the stage with the reactivation of 4ID in June 1940 and follow them through their deployment to England in January 1944. This history comes from the 4ID Yearbook that was published in 1946:

Once again war clouds gathered over Europe and it became necessary to increase the size of the armed forces of the United States.

As part of this expansion, the 4th Division was reactivated on June 1, 1940, at Fort Benning, Ga., composed initially of the following units: the 8th, 22nd, and 29th Infantry Regiments, 20th, 29th, 42nd, and 44th Field Artillery Battalions, 4th Engineer Battalion, 4th Medical Battalion, 4th Quartermaster Battalion, 4th Signal Company, 4th Reconnaissance Troop, and the 4th Headquarters and Military Police Company. Units of the Division were below strength and training was retarded until training areas and aids were pushed to completion.

Then in August 1940, the Division was selected to act as an experimental unit for the development of methods recently demonstrated by the German blitz through Belgium and France, and designated the 4th Division (Motorized), and later re-designated 4th Motorized Division in 1941. Thus began a three-year, wide-open experiment, (initially, equipment was not available) although ideas and theories were many and vigorous. The Louisiana Maneuvers of 1941 saw the 4th Motorized Division using trucks, some borrowed, some retrieved from salvage dumps, in lieu of armored half-tracks. Gradually the equipment problem was met and the now full-strength units were prepared for whatever might be the country's need. Pearl Harbor resolved any doubts; the purpose of the men and the extent of their responsibility was evident.

In the fall of 1941, the 12th Infantry Regiment replaced the 29th Infantry in the 4th Division. December 1941 saw the Division move to newly-completed Camp Gordon, Ga. For more than two years, Gordon and Augusta were "home'' for the 4th. In July 1942, the Division was withdrawn suddenly from the Carolina Maneuvers, returned to Gordon, and alerted for overseas movement. This was the first in a series of false alarms which, though disturbing, kept personnel aware of the ultimate objective of the continuing intensive training.

Landings were made in Africa in November but the 4th continued to assault through Boggy Gut, Ga. On Christmas Day, the Division again was alerted. Much equipment had been crated, clothing marked, and physical examinations undergone when, at seemingly the last minute, the move was halted. In April 1943, a permanent change of station was ordered, Fort Dix, N.J. becoming the next station of the 4th. It was here, on August 4, 1943, that the 4th Motorized Division was reorganized as the 4th Infantry Division, in which form it has remained.

Early in September 1943, the Division headed south once more, this time to Camp Gordon Johnston, at Carrabelle, Fl., on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Here realistic amphibious training was undergone, and familiarity was developed with the variety of assault landing craft and techniques evolved in anticipation of the invasion of Festung Europa.

Again alerted for overseas movement, the Division shifted to Fort Jackson, S. C., in December, where final personnel adjustments were completed.

As the year 1944 opened, the Division moved to Camp Kilmer, N.J., a staging area of the New York Port of Embarkation. This last alert "took," and on the morning of January 18, 1944, the 4th Infantry Division put to sea. On January 29th, their convoy entered the port of Liverpool, England. Within minutes of landing, the mark of the enemy was plain for all to see as troops marched from ships to trains through block after block of bombed homes, warehouses, and docks.

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The Division was established in scattered villages in Devonshire with the Division Command Post at Tiverton, near Exeter. Even before unloading had been completed at Liverpool, the Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force, General Dwight D. Eisenhower and his

deputy, Air Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, visited the 4th. This was but the first in a series of inspection by distinguished British and American higher commanders. We made welcome additions to the Division family, in the form of the 70th and 746th Tank Battalions, the 65th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, the 1106th Engineer Group, the 377th Anti-Aircraft Artillery (Automatic Weapons) Battalion, the 87th Chemical Battalion Motorized, and the 801st and 899th Tank Destroyer Battalions, which would be with us during the assault and, in some cases, for many months thereafter. For the actual assault the 1st Engineer Special Brigade would support the Division; therefore, personnel of this Brigade were participants with us in the planning phase and landing exercises.

Following are two stories from my book War Stories Volume I: D-Day to Liberation of Paris:


Harper Coleman, Tucson, AZ - Company H, 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment
Camp Gordon Johnston, Florida

Location: Carabelle, Florida, on the shorts of the Gulf of Mexico. Time: October, November, and part of December in 1943. We came by Pullman train from Kentucky to Tallahassee, Florida. From there we were taken by truck to the camp. I was assigned to Company H of the 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.

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The training was all amphibious: we got on and off landing craft out in the Gulf of Mexico, and then back to the beaches of the camp. There was some other training, such as long hikes. One hike was for twenty-five miles in less than seven hours. Quite a few did not make this all the way, but I did. One of the incidents that I remember well happened in the Gulf of Mexico, off Dog Island. We had gone out one night and storms came up. The LCVPs were separated in the storms. The next day the Coast Guard found our craft, along with two others. We were headed toward Mexico, or so they told us. They turned us around and took us back to the right shore on Thanksgiving Day 1943.

After this, sometime in December 1943, we left there and went to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. We were there only a few weeks, mostly to get new equipment and clothing, do some guard duty, and spend a few times in town.

Early in January of 1944, we went to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. On January 18, we were put out to sea on an English ship. We were about eleven days on the water. The meals were typically English - boiled mutton (sheep) and turnips - none of which was very appetizing. Our lieutenant at the time kept us pretty well supplied with snacks from the officers' exchange, which kept us from getting too hungry. We were offered one meal per day on the ship, and as I recall, we rarely ate it.

When we left New York harbor, everyone was required to stay below deck. Our company, either lucky or unlucky, was part of the guard detail to make sure this was done. I happened to be on deck at the time and saw some of the sights going out of the harbor.


William C. Montgomery, Long Beach, CA - Company A, 4th Medical Battalion
Troopship in January

... From the ferry, we went to a New York pier, a gigantic warehouse-like building, with gangplanks leading up to a ship we couldn't see. Red Cross women gave us coffee and doughnuts while we waited to board. They were angels.

The ship was a large liner called Capetown Castle, formerly on the England-South Africa-India run. It was manned by British merchant seamen, some of whom eked out their wages by selling us baths in the otherwise unused passenger bathrooms. I don't remember any of us took exception to this little racket...

Our quarters had been the Grand Ballroom. Pipe bunks with canvas slings on rope lashings were built up to the ceiling, perhaps six or seven bunks high. We had to fight with our duffel bags and other gear for sleeping room on the narrow canvas.

During the crossing, we were routed out of the bunks each morning for breakfast, given time to go to the commissary when it was open, then mustered out on deck to stand a good part of the day for boat drill. I think the real idea was to get us up and out of the incredible crowding, into the fresh air, and onto the broad decks where discipline was easier to maintain.

Some of our people were so seasick they would not raise their heads and were left in their bunks. The rest of us, when we were in our bunks, played cards or gambled, cleaned weapons, sharpened knives, straightened gear, wrote letters, read, sang, or horsed around.

It was midwinter and the trip was fairly rough. We were on a big ship. I remember looking a the destroyers on the edge of the convoy as they bobbed in and out of sight behind huge seas, wondering how you stayed alive on such a tiny boat. The roughest time was the final night of the eleven-day trip. We anchored in the Irish Sea, probably waiting for port space somewhere. The ship pitched and rolled around violently. I thought it was going to roll completely over several times. Nobody had fallen out of the bunks during the entire crossing, but they did that night.

The next day we finally steamed into what turned out to be Liverpool. I was astonished to see the British dock workers dressed in everyday clothes. In the US, workers doing heavy work like handling ships' lines wore overalls, coveralls, or rough clothing that seemed to be more appropriate.

I remember marching through blacked-out Liverpool that night, so it must have taken some time to unload the ship. We went on a train...

* * * * *

This concludes Issue #1. I plan to put the next issue out around 4 March, then repeat it on or around the 4th of April and May... then we will go to weekly updates the first week of June.

A reminder - feel free to share this with anyone you know who will enjoy this history lesson.


Steadfast and Loyal.
Bob Babcock, 4IDA Historian and Past President