I am pleased to welcome you to my personal blog, which I started in March 2009. I first became interested in blogging about five years ago, using old "blogger.com", which was cumbersome to use and I never mastered. About a year ago I discovered that Google had bought "blogger.com" and had revised it considerably, making it fun to use, so much so that I have devised at least 15 blogs on various subjects and frequently add posts and Gadgets to them.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blue Mike, Chap. 1 - Prelude to Action

February 22, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France - L to R, Lt Col Guthrie, Gen Eisenhower, Gen Wyman, Maj Campanello

I consider that my countdown to combat began on or about January 1, 1945, since Division had surely been notified by that date to prepare to move north to the Port of Embarkation (POE). Actually, however, my countdown should begin December 24, 1944, since that's the date I had to report back on duty after leave. I use the term "Blue Mike" in this post since that was the simple radio code in WWII for Company M, 3d Battalion,14th Infantry Regiment. I'll be selective in this post and tell only about what affected me.

January 1, 1945 - Ft. Benning, Georgia -

According to Blue Mike, the story of Company M by Captain W. P. "Pete" Sims: "During the first week of January, 1945, the rumor mill was running rampant. We all knew the division would be going overseas in the near future, but few of us knew when or where. You could hear a rumor that we were scheduled for the South Pacific, then go into the next room and hear it straight from the horse's mouth that we were headed for Europe. The time of departure was subject to similar conjecture. Most of us didn't know that an advanced detail had moved out on January 3 to arrange for the division's arrival at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. The division received orders to close out of Ft Benning beginning on January 12."

January 12, 1945 - Ft. Benning, Georgia -

According to Blue Mike: "Today was spent with pre-overseas orientation, pay allotments to dependents, National Service Life Insurance, last minute inoculations, final type physicals and a letter to dependents explaining your probable future service in a combat zone. Additionally, we were issued a card giving our APO mailing address while out of the States. Most of the men threw away the letter to dependents, but all of them sent the card with their new mailing address. Since we were required to leave a clean barracks behind us, most of the afternoon was spent cleaning windows and swabbing down the walls. Everything formerly stocked on the walls had to be placed in duffel bags or thrown away. The floors were scheduled to be done the next day. In the evening the barracks were nearly deserted with most men at the PX or a service club."

January 14, 1945 - En route by train -

Blue Mike reads: "At 0800 on this Sunday morning, Co. M assembled in the company area and marched in formation to the Sand Hill railway spur before boarding the troop train....We sat on the train for a long time but finally, at 1400, we began to move. We were en route to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey....The train was strictly GI with mesh net hammocks and wooden bunks..."

January 15, 1945 - En route by train -

Blue Mike continues: "Meals were served on paper plates three times a day....Our train passed through Washington, D.C. at about midnight or a little later....."

January 16, 1945 - Camp Kilmer, New Jersey -

Again Blue Mike: "Our train arrived at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey at 0800. As we detrained we couldn't believe the cold. The thermometer stood at 9 degrees F....The most notable change immediately apparent was going from the balmy sunshine of Georgia to the snow cover of New Jersey....The snow was 10"-12" deep, or more, throughout our stay and it continued to snow off and on...."

January 17, 1945 - Camp Kilmer, New Jersey -

Blue Mike reads in part: "...After the first day of getting acquainted with the surroundings, the company settled into a training routine and making preparations for the men to get their last passes off base....."

January 18, 1945 - Camp Kilmer, New Jersey -

Blue Mike again: Off base nearly every man was granted a 12-hour pass to go the big city of New York. [I got two of these passes. On the first one I went to two movie theaters for concerts by Lionel Hampton and Woody Herman. I have no idea what the movies were. On the second pass I remember that when I came up on the sidewalk of Broadway, I looked around, then went back to Pennsylvania Station and returned to Camp Kilmer.]

January 19, 1945 - Camp Kilmer, New Jersey -

Blue Mike tells us that: "Most of the first group receiving passes left for New York this morning...The training schedule continued with lectures and movies on what to expect in combat...."

January 20, 1945 - Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.

Blue Mike"The training schedule continued today."

January 21, 1945 - Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.

Blue Mike: "The training schedule continued with demonstrations of enemy infiltration and counterattack."

January 22, 1945 - Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.

Blue Mike: "There was no training schedule today. It was considered an off day even though it was Monday."

January 23, 1945 - Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.

Blue Mike: "Again, today was an off day for the training schedule."

January 24, 1945 - Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.

Blue Mike: "There was very little on the training schedule for today. It continued to snow today. It was very cold to be outdoors. As time drew near for boarding the ship, duffel bags were packed for the last time and placed in a designated location for preboarding...All OD blouses were packed away and from then on it was combat gear only....

January 25, 1945 - Camp Kilmer, New Jersey -

Blue Mike reports: "During the early morning Co. M assembled with full pack and equipment in snow above the ankles. Shortly, we boarded a train for the short trip from Camp Kilmer to the harbor where our troop ship was waiting. At the dock we were met by the Red Cross ladies who passed out hot coffee, doughnuts, chewing gum and candy. The air was cold, so that hot coffee really hit the spot.

"At the designated time, we started up the gangplank single file. Each man was issued a meal ticket, told not to lose it and was directed down into the hold to the compartment designated for Co. M...We had gotten settled by 1200...

"Co. M was one of the first units to board the ship. The reason for this was that we had been designated one of the ship's Police and Sanitation Companies. Our specific assignments were by platoons....The mortar platoon had the assignment of sweeping and swabbing decks for a designated portion of the ship....

January 26, 1945 - Aboard ship -

Blue Mike reads: "At 0400 we became aware that our ship was moving..Just as dawn was breaking, our ship glided out of New York harbor and past the Statue of Liberty. We soon learned that we were on a US Navy transport ship, the "General J. R. Brooke"/...

January 27, 1945 - Aboard ship -

  Blue Mike: ...We almost capsized tonight. At about 2200, General Quarters was sounded throughout the ship....for a submarine alert..While turning out of the wind, the ship was hit broadside by a very large wave. Our ship listed to an angle of 45 degrees...if our list had exceeded 47 degrees, we would have turned turtle and capsized.

January 28 - February 4, 1945 - Aboard ship

Blue Mike reports: "...sea sickness...poker...'Sweepers, man your brooms, clean sweep down fore and aft'... bunk inspection...calisthenics...practice alerts...movies...two meals a day....sick call [I went on sick call once on the ship, the only time ever, to get help with a sore throat and was told to gargle with salt water.]

February 5, 1945 - Aboard ship -

Blue Mike: "After dark the 'General Brooke' pulled into and anchored in the harbor at Southampton, England....the English Channel was socked solid with fog and considered unsafe....

February 6, 1945 - Aboard ship -

Blue Mike: "This morning the 'General Brooke' weighed anchor and proceeded across the channel to LeHavre, France....After docking we got our first look at the port city of LeHavre. It was a shattered mess...The 14th Infantry, including Co. M and other units, will be sleeping aboard the 'General Brooke' and will not touch French soil until tomorrow.

February 7, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France -

Blue Mike: "At 0700 hours, Co. M went single file down the gangplank of the 'General Brooke,' carrying everything we had brought aboard to 2-1/2 ton trucks [My recollection is that we traveled on open-top 40-foot trailers.] and started to drive to a destination unknown, other than that which we had been told, 'a training center.'....
"Thirty kilometers later we arrived at 'Camp Old Gold.' There were three of these camps scattered at various points in Normandy; all named for a brand of cigarette. The other two were 'Lucky Strike' and 'Philip Morris.'...
"Camp Old Gold was a disappointment to say the least....Camp Old Gold was a sea of tents and mud, located about one kilometer from the town of Doudeville, France. We were unloaded and assigned a camp area. The first order of business was erecting pyramidal tents which slept six to eight men [on folding canvas cots]. We carved out our own tent locations and a company street.
[As I recall, I came up with the name 'Martin's Clip Joint' for the 4th squad's tent since Sgt Jim Martin, the squad leader, was a barber and occasionally cut hair.]

February 8, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France -

Blue Mike reads: "Our purpose at Camp Old Gold, as designated by regiment, was to continue training exercises and to plan and organize for movement of the regiment to a combat area.
"We were provided gravel for tent floors. Later, we had gravel for the company street. Even so, the mud up to the ankles seemed to be ever present. Each man had a cot, his pack, and shared a tent to call home for the time being.....One of the less desirable details a man could be assigned was shoveling mud from the roadway ditches, the company street, and the drip line around each tent. We had our own company slit trench latrine which had to be replaced occasionally as it filled up with water.....Censorship of letters continued and would continue until May 18, 1945, ten days after VE Day....

February 9, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France -

Blue Mike reads: "Our men were required to do two hours of guard duty in the rain and cold....Every man pulled his share of KP....Even though we were living in a sea of mud, we held daily bunk and equipment inspections....

February 10, 1945 - February 28, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France -

Blue Mike reads:
"...rain...mud...gravel...cold...training...hiking...maneuvers....visit by General Eisenhower...writing and receiving letters....pay day....wind....movies....scrounging for wood and coal....

March 1, 1945 - March 8, 1945 - Camp Old Gold, France -

Blue Mike reads: "...much colder....coal ration received....still raining....mail call....training exercises....now have our vehicles....training has been completed....division order dated March 3 had been issued for the 'planned movement from present area.' On March 5, the regiment received this order for implementation on March 9. The time had come to move out.

March 9, 1945 - En Transit -

Blue Mike reads: "....Co. M began the day at 0500. The business at hand was the closing of tent city preparatory to moving out. The company was divided into groups. The first group, under the command of 1st Lt Chester Robinson, consisted of drivers and their vehicles, and the second group, under my command, consisted of the remainder of the company who were to make the movement by train. At 0900 the second group loaded onto trucks and made the short trip...to the railhead at Yerville, France. The first group followed and rendezvoused with the remainder of the motor movement group in Yerville. Upon arrival in Yerville, the second group was assigned to the well-known 40 and 8 boxcars of World War I fame.....The trains were loaded. There were five trains pulling the maximum number of cars to accommodate the division and supporting troops. The motor movement for the 14th Infantry Regiment alone consisted of 332 vehicles carrying 1,210 personnel.
"At 1400 the motor movement and the train movement departed Yerville with our destination being Nebing, France, east of the World War I bastion city of Nancy. The motor movement requirements were a rate of march of 25 mph, 75 yards between vehicles with halts of 10 minutes every two hours. The line of march was the more southerly one through the cities of Rouen, Beauvais, Beaumont, skirting around the north side of Paris, Sezanne, Vitry-le-Francois, St. Dizier, Toul and on to Nancy, a distance of 281 miles. Thereafter, the motor movement would proceed an additional 60 miles through Luneville, Lemming and on to Altweiler before breaking into individual groups for assignment back to their organization. ...
"The rail movement of the fifth train carrying the 14th Infantry would take the more northerly route through the cities of Amiens, La Fere, Laon, Reims, Charleville, Sedan near the Belgium border, Conflans, Nancy and on to Luneville, a distance of 331 miles. Since the 14th Infantry Regiment had a strength of 3,133 men, this left 1,923 men to ride on the 40 and 8 boxcars. Hence, 77 boxcars were required for the 14th Infantry alone."

March 10, 1945 - En Transit -

Blue Mike continues: "There's very little one can do to make a 40 and 8 comfortable, but an effort was made. The floor was covered with six inches of clean straw. Each car carried a three-day supply of C rations and several jerry cans of water...The train continued on from Amiens and passed through Reims about 1400. ...By driving straight through, the motor convoy arrived in the Dieuze area in about 36 hours, while the train took three days. Hence, the motor troops arrived in Assenoncourt about one and a half days before the rest of the company.

March 11, 1945 - En Transit -

Blue Mike reads: "Today we seemed to be traveling in essentially a southerly direction. Also, we were having fewer long, drawn out delays. At 1800 we entered into the outskirts of Nancy. We lost at least three hours switching back and forth just getting through Nancy. Everyone had bedded down for what they thought was another night of sleep in a 40 and 8.

March 12, 1945 - Assenoncourt and Guermange, France -

Blue Mike says: "At 0100 our train came to a stop in Luneville. The word was passed that this was the last stop and to fallout. We had traveled 331 miles in 59 hours, or an average speed of five mph. So much for the French rail system in wartime. [My recollection is different in that I think the train stopped in Lemming in broad daylight.]
"At 0730 division sent QM trucks. At 0800 we went by truck a distance of 59 kilometers or 37 miles to our assembly area in the town of Assenoncourt, France, arriving at 1300.....We prepared billets in Assenoncourt for the night...The 3d Mortar Platoon was billeted in the village of Guermange nearby.
"Pfc William T. Johnson, Jr., the assistant gunner in the 4th Mortar Squad was from Washington, Georgia. He was raised as a farm boy [?] but he was not prepared for what he found in Guermange, France. The rural French built their homes and their barns as one unit. In fact, the animals had stalls connected to the French living quarters. Hence, Pfc Johnson spent the night in a room with a cow in the adjoining room. It was a new experience for him.....[I remember this as the dirtiest place I've ever slept in.]
[This was the place, the "jumping-off place," the place where I went from "Non-Combat" to "Combat" and was paid $10.00 extra each month, the place where the countdown ends, and the last place to make adjustments between my duffel bag and my field pack. I wouldn't see the duffel bag again until the war was over. I would wear one combat uniform that would get dirtier and dirtier until a shower unit showed up with piles of clean uniforms to rummage through. I calculate that I've travelled 4,000 miles by car, train, ship, and truck to reach this place, with almost no walking. Just think of the poor Greek and Roman soldiers who would travel similar distances on foot. I'm stopping this post here and will begin others to tell about my two months of "combat."]

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