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
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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