Chapter 12


The rifle fire soon ceased and we were all running around the camp 

excited and yelling. It was just eight days less than a year that I 

had been held prisoner and, as happy as I was, you can imagine the 

feelings of the men who had been held for two or three years. We 

saw a tank coming down the road into camp, ran to the main gate, 

broke it down and rushed out to meet them. So many of us climbed 

all over the tank that you couldn't even see the metal. The 

soldiers in the tank threw out whatever food and cigarettes they 

had to us. The second tank rolled into camp and General George 

Patton, with his two pearl handled revolvers, was riding on the top 

of it. He was one general who was right at the front with his men. 

Our cheers of celebration were just deafening as hundreds of us 

poured out of camp and ran around the countryside, thrilled to be 

free. Before long guys returned to camp with horses and wagons, 

buggies and anything else they could find.


I understood that some men packed up their belongings and started 

west toward France as they couldn't wait any longer. They traveled 

west by catching rides on the supply line vehicles. Most of us, 

however, stayed in camp as we had been told we would be transported 

out in a couple of days. When the day came to depart I left the 

heavy overcoat and took only what I needed. I took the baseball 

suit and the Royal Air Force blanket along with me, but somewhere 

near this time I must have discarded the long orange sweater that 

had served me so well during the cold of winter. We marched out of 

camp a couple of miles to a large flat grassy field where DC-6 

planes were going to fly us to France. It was a nice warm spring 

day and we had to wait a couple of hours for the planes so we 

spread out our blankets on the grass and sat down to chat. It was a 

special time because we were just beginning to realize that all the 

friends we had made would soon be separated from us, never to be 

seen again.


The planes finally came and when it was time for me to board I had 

to make a big decision. I stood there looking at that nice blue air 

force blanket laying on the ground. It was so heavy and I didn't 

know whether or not I could carry it all the way home or not. At 

the last minute I decided to leave it there on the grass. I have 

always regretted leaving it and bringing the baseball suit instead. 

Bruce and I got onto the same plane and flew to a place along the 

French coast. Along the way we flew over Paris and I at least had a 

chance to see it from the air. We were put in an area with barracks 

known as Stage 1 and were told to stay in that area only. Bruce and 

I found beds together, left our gear and walked down to the mess 

hall. We each got one of the cheese sandwiches they were passing 

out and they were really something. They were two slices of white 

bread each two Inches thick with a one inch inch thick slice of 

cheese in between.


The bread tasted like angel food cake to us after all that hard 

black German bread; it was unbelievable how much flavor there was 

in white bread. We were to eat in this area only for the first day, 

as, due to our weakened condition, our diet and amount was to be 

limited. The second day, in Stage 2, we went to a different, mess 

hall and on the third day to Stage 3. Each day we received more 

food. As there were no fences between these areas some guys would 

go to all three mess halls for the same meal. The man named Irons 

(who had won the mustache contest back in Sagan and still wore the 

mustache here in France) was in the bunk next to me and at night we 

heard him moving around at all hours. We later discovered that he 

had a helmet full of food and was eating all night. Some of the 

guys got sick from eating too much and there was a rumor of one man 

dying from eating too many candy bars.


It was almost Mother's Day and each man was allowed to send a 

Mother's Day greeting telegram home. I sent one to my stepmother so 

everyone at home would know that I was okay and heading home. After 

three days here we were taken by truck through the city of LeHarve, 

France through narrow streets with the French people waving along 

the way. When we arrived at the harbor a liberty ship was waiting 

for us. After coming over on such a huge ship, this one looked like 

a rowboat and we weren't too excited about crossing the Atlantic on 

anything so small. We got on board and were surprised that there 

were so few of us, about 200, and that we were not at all crowded. 

the bunks were hammocks put up below decks and I was in the bow. We 

sailed across the English Channel on water as smooth as could be 

and enjoyed this part of the trip. When I was out on deck I stayed 

in the middle as the ship was so narrow you could stand in the 

middle and see over both sides. We sailed to Southampton, England 

where we joined a large convoy heading home.


Being an American ship, the food was wonderful and I had no 

seasickness to spoil my appetite. The meal just alternated between 

steak, chicken and turkey. After each meal we took oranges, apples, 

or bananas up on deck and ate them while laying in the sunshine. 

Although there were only about 200 of us, one meal we ate 75 jars 

of peanut butter. The seas were quite calm the first few days out, 

so we spent most of the time on deck to avoid the dark and 

unpleasant below decks area. There were ships all around us and I 

could count twenty plus destroyers for escort as there were still 

German subs operating.


At about the middle of the Atlantic we ran into very stormy weather 

with high seas. When you were an deck it sometimes looked as though 

our ship was alone and the other ships would come up from behind 

the swells only to disappear again. While laying in the hammocks 

trying to sleep at night we would hang on to keep from falling out. 

The bow, where I was, would come way up out of the water, shudder 

quite violently, then fall to hit the water hard. The force was so 

hard that it gradually broke all the light bulbs in the ceiling. 

This weather was probably normal for the Navy, but airmen were not 

used to it and worried about what might happen. After a few days 

like this the weather improved for the remainder of the trip home.


When we emerged from the storm there were only about one third of 

the ships left in the convoy and we wondered what had happened to 

all the rest. We later learned that they had turned off for other 

ports. The guys from the South were heading for southern ports and 

those of us from the Northeast were going to New Jersey ports. As 

we neared the U.S. the seas were much calmer and for a couple of 

days we enjoyed sitting on deck and watching the porpoises swim 

around the ship. We landed in New Jersey and were taken to Camp Dix 

from which we had departed a year and a half before. It was late 

May and we were looking forward to being home by Memorial Day.

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