Excerpt from "Serving The Pieces" by Ed Walsh
In March I came home on emergency leave because my mother was very sick. I believe leave was for 14 days and travel time. The Red Cross people put me on the train and paid for the ticket. I came into Lincoln and Mom was in St Elizabeth Hospital on South St. Dad was in Lincoln and we stayed at Aunt Bess Huff's for a few days. (Mom's sister) Then Mom seemed to be better so I came out to Seward to my brother Bob's home and then on out to the farm. I went back to the hospital about every other day.- - - -
Mom seemed to be improving when I left for Texas. I got into Gainesville and took a bus out to camp. I walked to the 242nd area. It was about 9 PM. No one was there, they were staying out all night on night problems. So I went over to the orderly Room or Sgt's office. The battery clerk said he was the only one in the battery in camp and the only officer was Capt Salskov, the intelligence officer over at Hdqtrs Battery. He said they had bad news for me -- that my mother had passed away.- - - -
They had me on the way back to Nebraska by midnight- - - -.
The funeral was the next day after I arrived back in Seward.- - -
_ _It was time to get back to Camp Howze and more polishing on the training. More AGF tests, more fellowship at the PX and more good meals in the cafes in Gainesville. These were some of the greatest friendships you could ever have. Back to people you can rely on when the chips are all on the table. Back to a one hundred man team, A Battery, and yes, even back to the five hundred man team, the 242nd which in a few short months would be on the front line where there was no room for mistakes.- - - - -
June 21, 1944 we got on a train, destination unknown. We carried our clothes and personal effects, all the trucks, guns, cannon and equipment were left at Howze. Sealed orders carried by the colonel were to be opened at a place named on the envelope.
The train headed east. New York, maybe? Then south, -- New Orleans? Florida? Then it turned north again. Went through city after city. Then Washington DC, Philadelphia, East Orange, New Jersey, New York City, and finally Camp Shanks, New York.- - - -
We went through re-checks on clothing and were issued Mussette bags, A bags, B bags, blankets, gun belts, shoulder harness, etc. Personnel records were checked. I took out more life insurance. Allotments for wives were arranged.
Classes were held on how to board a ship, how to get into life boats, and how to behave on a ship.
All was in readiness to go overseas and we left Camp Shanks, to the Brooklyn docks and unloaded inside a large building where Red Cross girls gave us coffee and doughnuts. The doughnut bakers must have made some money during the war We formed up by battery, by rank alphabetically and marched out to the ship.
It was July 1, 1944 when we went up the gang plank of the USS Thomas Barry, formerly the USS Orienta a luxury liner. With the ship's crew, there would be over 5000 aboard.
I had difficulty getting up the gang plank as did others. We were packing over 100 lbs of gear. My friend, Sgt Bill Powell, grabbed one of my bags halfway up and carried it. He carried only a pistol and I had a rifle so he was not weighted down quite as bad.
At the top of the gangplank stood an officer who called out my name. I answered with "Corporal" followed by my serial number and stepped onto the ship.- - - -
Read the rest of the story, landing in Scotland, crossing the channel, days in combat, German advance, close friendships, end of combat, guarding German prisoners, final days in France, home at last.
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