Chapter 4
Onaway


The troop train we boarded left at night and went non-stop to Boston. At the docks we staged a final Parade and were furnished a better band than our own Division Band. The last night on shore I got a pass and joined three others for a last night in this country. At the Y.M.C.A. we showered and got cleaned up. That shower was the most. When I finished I discovered my buddies were already gone and I was alone. At the ticket counter provided, I wanted to ask the girl giving out entertainment tickets for a date. This was not possible, so I accepted a ticket to go hear a blind pianist, Alex Templeton, play at the concert hall. I took a subway and arrived at the Hall with my free ticket. All the patrons were presenting tickets and being escorted right in. The patrons were also very fonnally dressed in tuxedos and fonnals. I was delayed and was irritated because my uniform was also formal. An usher finally directed me downstairs to the basement and I was about ready to call off the whole thing. In the basement I was introduced to several other "service" people. In a short while we were taken to stairs and directly up on to the stage. We then sat "up close" to Alex and it was a thrill to be an American soldier that night! He was a fantastic piano player!

Our first meal on board ship "The Brazil" was turkey. Our cooks had no idea how to use the galley and the drum stick I got was uncooked and bitter. After that they switched over to "C" rations (dog food) and away we went. The BRAZIL was the next to the last boat in the convoy and everyone was concerned about the German "U" boats. The last boat in our convoy drifted off and had trouble with the rudder, I was told. A couple of days later they caught up and helped relieve my anxiety. (It took three ships to transport the entire Division. We almost lost one third.) The harbor at South Hampton, England is very quaint. Standing on deck looking down to the dock was like seeing a miniature railroad. A truck took us to the coast towns of Bourmouth and Boscome. This was the resort area and there were many hotels which had been taken over by our Army. We spent two weeks here and although it was interesting and foreign to us, a strong feeling to get on to the war was present.
(Here in the south coast area earlier our Army became over anxious. Using a small fleet of ships, war games were practiced with landing craft and equipment. Later {after the war} we found out that these games became real as German U-boats destroyed all of our equipment and hundreds of our Allied troops were lost and killed.)

Let me tell you about Keller and Kitchens. They were exceptional squad members. I could not fault Keller as in England he had the upper and I had a lower bunk. He was unwilling to be a close friend to anyone and remained a loner. This defense mechanism would allow him to be completely free in combat. Straw mattresses were sour and not much comfort. Our room, with six of us, had no furniture and a fireplace large enough for one (1) piece of coal. Using G.I. ingenuity we put four bricks on the wood floor to support a 55 gallon drum. After filling this container 1/4th full of coal it was lighted. Soon the drum became warm and comfy in the middle of the room. Then in a short time it began to glow red. It was time for me to leave before meltdown. I was surprised that for an entire floor of this hotel building there was one tub and toilet. Soon pipes were found and showers installed in an unused garage. Still, I'm wondering why the G.I.'s before us hadn't made showers.

Kitchens was an opposite to me. He had talked of a rough and rowdy life in California. No doubt he came from a disfunctional family and sought negative attention. I avoided Jim, but discovered he was always aware of what I was doing and I think he liked the fact that I would not be a K.A. (kiss ***!) This was my defense, so I could be independent during combat. Jim was there, and usually on my right side. Jim's constant song will never be forgotten. "Hey, hey, hey, don't pull that sh** on me. I'm just a country boy plain as I can be. I'm not so very smart, dumb as any old mule. Show me a dozen stuck up folks and I'll show you a dozen fools. Hey, hey, hey don't pull that sh** on me".

Jim taught me a lesson I never forgot. I learned how important it is to "Return any act of kindness". Keller taught me purpose and firm intention. It was written on his face. God did bless me with these two.

I got a weekend pass to London and planned a visit with Jean Allen. She had returned to England from America. I took a train ride then subway and arrived about 4:00 p.m. on Saturday. Jean was not home, so I told her mother I would return in an hour or so when she returned. Jean was dumbfounded to see that it was me. Her mother said an American soldier was to visit. Jean realized I was the youngest of our friends and expected it would be anyone but me.

It was pleasant to visit and give a box of candy. That evening I was invited to supper of pot pie. My plate was skimpy with some crust and gravy. I began to understand their situation as far as food was concerned. The conversation began to deteriorate as Jean's mother questioned me about possessions. Did we have two baths, a two car garage, appliances, etc. All the answers were affirmative and I was somewhat uncomfortable. Things changed as each family member left the room. Mother, brother, uncle, and finally Jean carefully backed out of the room. Because they were gone for a long time, I tried to analyze any error I had made, even to checking for B.O.! At last everyone returned and seemed very excited as they congratulated me for being so brave!(?)

Unknown to me, I had missed the alarm as the Germans were firing V -1 rockets and most were hitting in North London right where we were. The evening ended with our standing around the piano as we all sang. Yes, I remember the song, "My Ideal". Will I ever find the girl in my mind? The girl who is my ideal? Later, I surely did. Her name is Nora (something beautiful).

I applied for a second pass to again visit London and Jean Allen. Our visit was limited because her oldest brother was a full-time chaperon. He noticed I had fur lined (rabbit) gloves; he had to show me his lined gloves... The guy (fellow) looked good in his uniform and a question I didn't ask of him was, "Why are you home with mommie"?

Leaving early, I had more time to be in downtown London. For quite some time I sat on a bench located in Hyde Park. The view was directly in front of Buckingham Palace and the gates. I could watch the people and drift off to thoughts of my own. A couple of foreign soldiers passed so I inquired of them (assuming they had been to battle) if it was possible to think fast in combat. The answers were vague and vaguer. One definition I received was from a soldier who was on an island while the enemy bombed another island. This information was identical to the "Brits" who directed me to Westminster Abby by saying, "It's down two blocks, then right for another, etc." The final words were "You caun't miss it"!

After looking around a bit I noticed the bench I was on was being occupied by ladies of the night, so I decided to return to Bournmouth. First I did stop along Regent Street and used outside steps to reach a second floor restaurant. The service was deluxe and enjoyable. I ordered the roast beef dinner and was served using fine china and silver. The slice of beef was, believe it or not, cut so thin as to be transparent. After the meal I repeated the process at a good restaurant down the street. Ice cream served by a vendor on the street tasted just like home.


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