Thursday, August 29, 2013

Diary of a WW II Soldier --Think Back Thursday

Debbie's Digest seems to be taking a break from Think Back Thursday, but I'm going to continue calling these posts by that name. I guess, maybe, I just won't be able to link up to her weekly page if it doesn't exist...

I always post these to the beat of my own drummer, anyway, not according to the themes she had been creating.

This week my Think Back Thursday post will focus on my dad, Herbert William Hall. 
 Born August 25, 1925 to Herbert Hall, Jr. and Dora Elaine (Morris) Hall, Herb was the oldest of three boys.
 I will have to insert birth dates later, but Bob (standing above) was a couple of years younger, and Eddie (seated with Dora above) was born about ten years after Herb. Herb is seated on the right.
Herb was always very industrious, with a strong work ethic. He was a Boy Scout, and made the rank of Life Scout,
which is one rank below Eagle. He gave me his badges.
 Herb and Bobby both played musical instruments and were in the marching band of their school. Dad played his Naked Lady saxaphone, which he gave to me. I don't know what Bob played. Above my dad is standing with his aunt Phyllis, who served in the military in World War II. The photo below has Bob on the left and Herb on the right in their Marching Band uniforms.
 Herb and his brothers were always very close to their cousins John and June Tomlinson. They lived in Greenbelt, and that's where they met the Holien girls. Bob married Carole (he is on the left, below, with his arm around a very young Carole), and Herb married Carole's younger sister Ida (but in the photo his arm is around his cousin June).
Herb graduated from high school in 1943, if my calculations are correct. His first job had been a bag boy at the local grocery store. At the time of his graduation he was working on the DC waterfront at a machine shop.
 He wanted to enlist in the Army right away but was not allowed to because his job was too important to the war effort. He was allowed to enlist about 18 months later and did his basic training at Biloxi, Mississippi.

His enlistment occurred during World War II, but after Hitler died. He was considered a World War II Veteran. He served from 1945-1949. After boot camp in Biloxi, Mississippi, he was shipped out through New York. He wrote a diary to his parents,  when he was leaving for Europe. I will transcribe it here.
January 10, 1946

Left Camp Shanks 5:30 PM after having chow. (The 82nd Airborne was practicing drilling for their parade tomorrow.) The train took us to the 42nd St. ferry. Rode down the river to Bush Terminal, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Along the way we saw Manhattan's skyline to our left. The R.C.A. and the Empire State jutting above the rest. 42nd was very hard to see but we caught a glimpse of it. 

A little farther down the river to our right we saw the Statue of Liberty bathed in many floodlights. A very pretty sight. I hope to see this during the day next time.
Leaving the ferry we went into a warehouse on the pier. While waiting to board ship, Red Cross Canteen workers came around with hot coffee and do-nuts. It tasted very good as I didn't eat my last meal in camp.

Soon after we boarded our ship. The U.S.S. Rockhill Victory.  Three decks down were our quarters. Bunks were canvas laced onto steel frames three and four tiers high.  All water in toilets is salt water. It will not lather with soap.

Around 10:35 we shoved off. I went up to the second deck, where the toilets are, and cleaned my teeth. Came back downstairs and went to bed. Woke several times during the night.
Jan. 11, 1946

Our first breakfast call was at 4:30 AM. I didn't go; slept in till 10:00. Some of the men have gotten seasick already. The toilets are pretty busy most of the day. So far I am alright.

For my first time on deck a nice day greeted me. Watched the water for awhile and saw a school of porpoises coming toward us. They were leaping in and out of the water.

White caps on water becoming larger; looks like a storm. Ship continually rocking. Once or twice hit a 45 degree angle. 

Ate small noonday meal which consisted of thin pea soup, several cookies, and an apple. Finished and went back on deck till 2:30. We then had a roll call to determine where the men are.
Before we boarded the ship a meal ticket was given to everyone. At each meal it is punched.

Ate supper and went back on deck. The air was cold and windy; the water pretty choppy.
On deck five of us went to the stern and laid on top of some life rafts piled there. Music on records came over the loud speaker as we lay there looking at the moon and stars. Special Services presented the music. A little later we went below as it was getting cold. Looking to Port we saw a ship in the distance all lit up. Soon after cleaned my teeth and went to bed. During the day we got small packages from Red Cross that were put on board.
January 12, 1946

Got up this morning and ate breakfast. Not too bad, it filled us anyway. Had roll call again at 9:00. Don't know where they think we're going...

Time zone changed so we moved our watches ahead one hour.

At 10:30 we had an abandon ship drill. We wear our life jackets all the time during this drill. The boat blows eight short and one long blast for this. At 11:00 the all clear is given with three short blasts. We wear life jackets only during drill practice and after dark. As of noon today this is where we are: Lat. 40 degrees, 34 minutes N., Long. 61 Degrees, 06 Minutes W. Distance covered--582 miles. Distance to go--2625 miles. Average speed--16.92 knots. Kind of slow, isn't it!

Ate a pretty decent meal, nothing too big, but good. Still not sick.

Went on deck later, after awhile saw a couple of schools of porpoises. As we were watching a ship, on starboard side, passed us going home.

At chow at 6:00. Wrote a little bit of what I was doing. As you can plainly see there isn't too much to write about.

Started to play in band but it wasn't so good so I quit. Not enough of us. Instruments belong to ship. After this I went to the movies and saw - "San Antonio" with Errol Flynn. Watched it from the floor. Soon after went to bed.
Jan. 13, 1945

Woke up feeling pretty well. Here it was Sunday and I hadn't been sick. Knock on wood.

It rained some last night and made the sea pretty rough. This made a few more of the fellows sick. I ate breakfast. We had some stewed apricots. The made me a little sick, but I didn't vomit.

At 10:30 we had another drill. Still don't feel so good. Other men still getting sick. I sat on port, empty gun turret, forward. Just taking it easy and watching the water. The water was so rough that the ship listed to 45 degree angle. Before the 11:00 all clear I saw a school of porpoises racing the ship. Also saw a robin, or flying fish fly out of the water and back again. Seagulls have followed all the way.

Here is our position at noon:
Lat. 46 degrees 46' N  Long. 51 degrees 55' W
Dis. covered. - 1002 mi. Dis to go -- 22-5 mi.
Average speed - 17.1 knots.
Knot is equal to 1 1/8 of miles
I get this information from the ship's own newspaper. It ives us the news of what's happening in the U.S.A.

Weather pretty nice, sky overcast, expect rain. Ship still rocking steadily.

Signed up for permanent detail as baker's helper, aboard ship. Start tomorrow.

Ate supper, went to movies and saw "Magic goes to Reno", went to bed after.

Moved watch ahead one hour.

Jan. 14, 1946

I started work today in the bakery. Very easy job. Started at 7:00. Had to be awake at 6:30 because of an inspection by the captain, the C.O. of our squadron.

The baker didn't come until about 8:00, so he told us to take it easy until 8:20. We took advantage of this time and went up on deck.

The ocean was very beautiful, as it had been so far. There were white caps on the waves and the wind was blowing quite a bit. I stood on the forward gun turret, no guns on ship now. Here you could watch the ship list and buck. Several times it rolled over to 45 degrees. Not enought to get excited about though.

Went back to work at 8:30 and made chocolate pudding. This was for the crew and not the soldiers. At noon we had a good meal brought down by the baker from the crew's galley. The other men ate crackers and soup, while we ate in style.

Our position at noon today was:

Lat. 45 degrees 50 ' N.  Long. 33 degrees 58 ' W.
Total Dis. Covered -- 1815 mi.
Dis. To Go -- 1392 mi.
Average Speed -- 18.1 knots
Didn't do much the rest of the day.

That evening went to the movies in another part of the ship in the hold. Saw Swinging on a Rainbow with Jane Frazee. Not bad, but a little boring.

Went to bed afterwards.
January 15, 1946

Woke up around 8:30, then went to work with my other two buddies. They didn't work very long though.  Went back to bed as long as they could.

Didn't do a lot of anything today. I took some bread down to some of the fellows. After this that's all they asked me for.

We weren't allowed on deck because the water was too rough. Although I did go up when the "K.P.'s" emptied their garbage. What I saw was really something. The waves were way about the stern at times. The propeller was half way out of the water several times. Every time it went out it shook the ship. The waves were 20 - 30 feet high, but were with the ship, which gave us extra speed.

Went back to the bakery and watched the maker make a cinnamon roll. Him and his assistant made it together. When it was finished I got to taste one. Tasted mighty good. Especially with the butter shine on top. These went for the crew's supper.

At lunch time we had the usually big meal, Potatoes, steak, corn and spinach. And as usual the others got soup, crackers, and this time ice cream in little dixie cups.

When 5:00 came around I decided to take a rest until I ate. There wasn't any movies tonight so I went to bed early.

Jan. 16, 1946

Started work around 9:00. No one said anything so I guess it didn't matter. Today we or rather the cook made a bread pudding in molds. They stuck when he tried to take them out. But finally he got them all out whole. When they cooled he sliced them. I tasted them and they tasted like date and nut bread. With this he made hard sauce. It was just like the candy you made for the Easter Eggs. Very rich but we ate it anyway.

Went on deck to watch the water. We have to wear our life jackets all the time now when we are on deck. Went to the forward gun turret and saw to my starboard side a ship headed towards the U.S. Also saw porpoises again. They are really pretty. Their backs are dark while their stomachs are almost white. You may see them several times a day.

Went back to the bakery and ate lunch. Didn't do anything that afternoon but talk.

That night I got in a poker game with some fellows. I won five dollars to top it off. Went to the movies after, but forgot what the picture was. The ship pitched quite a bit while we were watching. After it was finished I washed up and went to bed.

Jan. 7, 1946

Woke up late again, 9:00. Went to work at 9:30 A.M. Didn't start making anything until around lunch. Although there were a few pans of cornhead made when I walked in. The first thing were some pumpkin pies. We made thirty pies altogether. Twelve of them extra. The rest went to the crew's quarters. The extras were eaten by the fellows in the bakery, butcher shop, and K.P.s. Whatever we could get hold of for our own buddies we did so. Everyone that got any enjoyed it. My buddies are always asking me to get apples and oranges for them. When I can I do. Sometimes I get them bread.

Here is our position at noon today:
Lat. 49 degrees 13 ' N.   Long. 16 degrees 38 ' W.
Day's dis. covered - 269 mi.
Total dis. covered - 2544 mi.
Dis. to go -- 663 mi.
Average Speed --  16.67 knots
After eating a delicious lunch of chicken, potatoes, and egg plant I went back to work. This time the head baker made doughnuts. He had to go up in the crew's galley to dip them in fat. I was with him for a short time. They tasted darn good, too. Soon finished and came down in my hold to lie down for awhile. Also wrote a little.

At 9:00 we saw a movie. I hadn't seen it but you had. It was Double Indemnity, with Fred MacMurray. I thought it was very good and intriguing. We sit on our life jackets on the floor to see the movies.

 Jan. 18, 1946

Today is a very beautiful day, the sun is shining and no clouds in the sky. Still it is quite cold. I went on deck twice today, may go up later on.

Today when I walked in I found we were going to make chocolate pudding and cream puffs. That is for the crew. We soon started on the pudding and soon had it made. So all we did up until noon was sit around and talk. For lunch today the six of us had white fish, potatoes, some kind of meat, & boiled beans. What a meal!

I came down into the hold and took a rest. At 1:25 P.M. we sighted our first land, the southern tip of England called Bishop's Rock. The first land mark was a light house out on the rocks. In the background the cliffs with a few houses on them. Naturally everyone was excited.

Son after I went back to the bakery and the baker started on his cream puffs. After they were made I helped carry them to the galley. Here I had a hard tie keeping the crew from eating them. When a few had disappeared the baker got mad. So he started blowing off at one of the men. Everything came out alright and the ones that were left tasted darn good. At 5:00 I quit work.

After work I shaved for my first time in two weeks. What a beard!

The water here is very pretty green, and black like the ocean water. All along the channel we could see quite a few ships. Moved watches ahead one hour and went to bed.

Jan. 19, 1946

This morning we saw the coast line of France from out in the channel, while we were anchored. Here we waited until a U.S. Coast Guard boat came over to our ship and told us the way was clear to dock. Meantime I was in the bakery loafing around. Nothing to do today. I had a good lunch as usual and got a little more fruit to bring with me.

Going back on deck I saw we were slowly docking. While we were still in the channel, thousands of sea-gulls flocked around the different ships. The garbage from the ship attracted them. 

Docking and leaving the ship we went to a small Red Cross Canteen on the docks. Here we got coffee & do-nuts and a small gift bag with a few useful items in it.

Le Havre isn't a very large place but it's pretty messed up. Most of the buildings along the coast line are smashed. Moving through the town you can see how our planes and gun fire have ruined things.

Climbing hills to come to this camp you can see the resentment the people have for us. They don't like us as we bombed them. A few of the children of the local populace threw snowballs at us. It evidently had snowed. The place isn't so nice looking any more.

I'm in Camp HerBERT Tareyton, just a few miles from the town. The town is off limits; two "G.I.'s" were killed here last night. On the average of 1 1/2 "G.I.'s" are killed here each night. (We slept in pyramidal tents last night and it was darn cold.)
Jan. 20, 1946

We woke up in cold tents; the fire had gone out. Finally a few of us went to breakfast. We even had hot cereal, but no sugar. Coffee the same way.

Finished we went back to the tent & started a fire after much effort. Then the rest of the fellows got up.

In the distance bells could be heard chiming. I suppose it was church bells. There was church in camp but most of us didn't go.

The latrine from our tent is about 100 yards away and when you have to go at night that's a long way to go. It's mighty darn cold all the time.

Today was rather nice. The sun was coming up through the trees and there was snow on the ground, this made it look very pretty. 

This camp rather large. I didn't go around it but it appeared to be large. There was a Red Cross Canteen on each block. I went to both. They serve coffee, with or witcocoa, and do-nuts. This is done three times a day. There is plenty of heat in these buildings soit's always crowded. I went in tonight and some cocoa and do-nuts with a couple of friends of mine. They wrote letters while I read books and magazines. We spoke to several men about where we are going and they said it was a good deal.

Also this morning we got German money for the U.S. money we turned in on the boat. I turned in four dollars and got back forty marks. I'll send some ome later on.

Went to bed around nine.
Jan. 21, 1946

This was the same woke up again with no fire. Went to breakfast and ate a hearty meal. We heard the latest rumor that we were shipping this afternoon. On this we decided to pack. Two blankets were issued to us the first day at camp, so we packed these too. Canteens were filled, fires put out, and floors of tents swept. After this was finished we ate chow with our mess kits.

1:30 came around and we were called out with baggage, etc. Around 2:30 trucks came and, 50 men to a truck, we piled on.

Riding through the town of LeHavre again we were taken to the railroad yard. Here we piled into box cars and coaches. Not like ours. The fellows I'm with, including our Major, are in a coach. It looks like one of those in the days of the covered wagon. It even has a stove in it where you burn coke or wood. Sometimes it works but most of the time it smokes. this coach is German.

Finally we got started. This was at 8:00. Being dark there wasn't a lot to see, but what we could most of the buildings were destroyed. The railroad station didn't have any top to it, just steel structure.

The other men, which weren't as fortunate as use, slept in boxcars or 40 Hommes or 8 Chevaux, this is French which means 40 men or 8 horses. These cars and ours stay cold most of the time.

Each car had rations for 5 men for one day. Cars held from seventeen to 25 men. So some cars had about four boxes of rations.

After a hard time getting settled, we went to bed all over the car.
Jan. 22, 1946

This morning we awoke around ten o'clock all frozen. I slept sitting up all night, that is, the best way I couLD> There were duffel bags put in the middle of the floor and four men slept on these. Not too comfortable, but enough to sleep all night.

Our first big town was Amiens, northeast of LeHavre, then southeast to Laon, then to Charleville Mezures, here we had a hot meal at 11:00 at night. I didn't get up, but most of the fellows did.

For breakfast we had the first of our rations, which consisted of dry cereal, canned pork sausage, and crackers and jam. What do you think of this delicious breakfast? Oh, we had supper last night out of our rations too. Just after we finished breakfast we stopped and had a hot meal. I wasn't hungry but I ate anyway.

All the way along the train kept stopping 1/2 - 1 hour each time, so the regular run could go through. This train goes mighty darn slow.

The different towns we went through are either bombed, bombed a little, or not touched at all. Most of the towns aren't touched.

Our lunch is a pretty good lot, we all yell and gripe just for the devil of it, but we do it all in good fun. The Major is a regular guy. His name is Arthur M. Skibbe. He mingles right in with the rest of us. Never uses his rank except for discipline. Ate supper rations and went to sleep.
Jan. 23, 1946

Today the same as usual woke up late and ate breakfast rations. Passed through some more French towns.

Most of them leveled. Each time we came to a town the villagers would come around the train. Not too many, mostly men and young kids. They would beg for cigarettes and chocolate. The men would have a bag with a bottle of cognac in it. They would try and sell it to the men on the train. None of us would take any. We couldn't barter with them either. They had Francs and we had Marks. Although some of us still held American money. This is worth a lot over here. The Francs are worthless anyway; new ones are coming in soon and we would be out of luck.

Most of the fellows gave cigarettes or some of their rations they didn't want. They were very thanksful for this.

Our last big French town was Thionville. Here we got a hot meal. The air was so darn cold that by the time we ate our meal it was cold. It tasted good as most of us were hungry.

The train started after waiting another half hour or so. We continued on and then began getting dark. Stopping at another town we found we had crossed the German border. The people here all crowded around the train asking for chocolate and cigarettes. The reason we knew we crossed the border was they spoke German. As it was getting late we ate and went to bed.
Jan. 24, 1946

This morning when we woke up it wasn't as cold. The stove was fixed and we were burning coke we snitched off the coal cars in France.

Ate breakfast and started looking out the window at the scenery. Some of the towns, or villages, as in France, were either "kaput," or not harmed at all.

The countryside is very beautiful. Each little village has a church which sticks out above the rest of the houses. Snow is still all over. We are in a colder climate now. Most of the small villages were not touched by bombs. In some of them they are very out-modish. Being farmers they do things by the hand plowing method. Even on some of the mountainsides where it is almost impossible to climb, they have land plowed. There are small dwellings right in the side of the mountain by their land. there was one very high mountain which was about 1000 yd. straight up; near the base was some land plowed. The train wound in and around these mountains. The tips looked very pretty against a blue sky. 
After supper we stopped in at a few more towns, in the last one we found we were close to the Rhine. Soon we saw it. Shortly after we crossed it. Right next to the one that was blown up by the Germans. Look in my scrapbook for the one where the Lieutenant crossed the one with parapet on each side, & and the one that was blown up. This is it. Ate and went to bed.  
Jan. 25, 1946

This morning was another beautiful morning. Sun shining, snow glistening, blue sky above us and gradually rolling along to Munich. (I found that where we crossed the bridge the place was named Mainz. I suppose you have heard of it.) We ate breakfast and then two of my buddies and myself started playing Rummy. A game which we started yesterday afternoon. We were going to play this until we hit Munich. The prize was 5 marks.

Each little town we stopped at we talked as best we could to the people that crosded around the cars. We didn't do too bad, either.

The larger towns and cities were almost leveled. A few of the buildings were left whole, but most of them were nothing more than skelatons.

One time along the way we noticed the wreakage of a German plane. Also in one of the cities was the wreakage of a Messerschmidt (I don't think this is spelled right). One or two of the buildings were left. The others were blown to hell. It's just one complete mess. There are also a lot of bridges that were demolished and a makeshift put up for transportation. 

The last town we came through was called Ausbang, just a short distance from our base.

We made ready and soon reached the base. We got off in respective squadrons. Then went to our quarters. What lovely places! Regular dormatories that the Luftwaffe was housed in. Slept on cots and went to sleep in the first building since we left the U.S.

I know that my dad told me, later, that he was stationed part of his time in Belgium. His primary job was driving a supply truck.

The soldiers got kind of lonely, and when this stray dog wandered by, they sort of adopted it. It stayed a long time. When they left to return stateside, they had to leave it... som military regulation didn't let them bring him home.
 I'm glad I got this typed up. It got buried in clutter in my den for awhile, and I wanted to preserve it and distribute it for his grandchildren.

No comments :

Post a Comment