My last days of days of service in WWII began on VE Day, May 9, 1945. That's when I realized that my only alternatives for military duty were to stay with the Germany occupation forces or become a member of a Unit whose destination was Toyko.
I decided fighting the Japs was my best bet and asked to be sent to a Unit headed for the Pacific. In a short while, I was with The 78th Infantry Division's 311th Infantry Regiment known as "The Timberwolves." It was headquartered at Grebenstein, close to Kassel, Germany. In the 311th, there were Majors I was senior to, as well as Captains, seasoned 311th veterans (I was a Major), in jobs of my rank but the commander didn't want to displace these men whom he had led in combat. I became supervisor of the 311th's regimenal history, "Combat Journal," already being prepared by a small staff in Fulda, Germany. My copy of "The History of the 272nd Infantry Regiment" became the guide for the "Combat Journal."
Three big events took place that changed everything:
August 6, 1945, Hiroshima, Japan hit by a U. S. atom bomb!
August 9, 1945, Nagasaki, Japan hit by a U. S. atom bomb!
August 15, 1945, V-J Day - Victory over Japan Day
World War II was over! Troops began to move home at a faster rate. I became commander of the 3rd Battalion 311th, now stationed in the port town of Bremerhaven. In late December,1945, I received word I was returning to the states. Wunderbar!
In early January 1946, I boarded a Liberty Ship (I think this was the name of those small war- built transports) as part of the 289 Combat Engineer Battalion headed for the good ole USA and civilian life once again. The 289th was just a shipment Unit for the troops headed home. The boat had about 900. A Major who outranked me by a few weeks was the troop commander. There were Captains and Lieutenants to assist in command duties needed.
But no sooner than we had taken off for the USA, when the troop commander became drunk as a coot - so I had to take over!
One of the returning soldiers was Billy Halop, of the Dead End Kids stage and movie fame. He was personable, well liked, and unassuming - a hit with all of the men.
Two to four officers shared rooms. The men's quarters were much better than when we'd left for Europe. We were also grateful there was no military training, no kitchen police, and no physical training - just the wait to see The Statue Of Liberty and the train ride home!
A day or so after leaving Bremerhaven, the ship captain told me the ship had sprung a
leak in a water compartment. We would stop for a repair of at least three days at the harbor of Sao Miguel, Porto De Ponta Delgada, a small resort port of the Azores, a group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. The little town (about 30,000 today) agreed that troops could come ashore in groups of 300 from 10 AM until late afternoon, but they were to be accompanied by 50 soldiers who would act as Military Police. Some would patrol the town with local police while others would be at the jail. A headquarters was set up to keep in touch.
I think the ship was anchored in this harbor. It took several ferry boat trips to haul ashore
the first day's 300 plus the MPs. It was so long ago I'vwe forgotten the details. I think the
the ship was so close to the dock and the ferry boat carried quite a few, so in no time, the first group was ashore.
I was having lunch and mixed drinks with a couple of the officers in this bar at the Hotel "Terra Nostra," when two or three MPs rushed in to tell me the town police wanted the soldiers taken back to the boat right away. They were wrecking the town! Some were drinking a booze that made them drunk-raving mad. They were staggering around, insulting people, endangering the town. They were acting like drunken sailors on shore leave! They had to go.
With the local police as guides and our MPs as escorts, we began to round up men to take them back to the boat. Oh boy! There were howls of protest from those not drinking, as well as from those on the boat who had not been ashore. The police led us into all areas of Sao Miguel including houses of ill repute, where a few soldiers were having a grand time with the ladies.
Well into the night, we carried soldiers to the boat, repeatedly making head count to see how many were missing. Even after the boat was repaired and underway, we were not sure all were there! Count after count was made those remaining days at the port and after we left, until finally we knew for sure that no soldier had been left at Azores Island.
Yes, I well remember going home -- January 1946! Were you with me? Write to the address above, if you were.