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BILL COLLINS' WWII MEMORIES, Page 2

  
The Mauritania, which had been a luxury liner, had been taken over by the British Navy and converted into a transport ship. We were traveling by ourselves without convoy protection. My space was on the Pomade deck, which had been boarded up so German Subs could not have detected lights. My bed was a hammock tied up to the ceiling and for protection we were all issued Life Saving Vests, which were made at the American Pad & Textile. As you will recall I worked one summer at the Pad, and for two weeks stuffed the kapok in the vests. At that time I realized how important it was to always do a good job!!
   
The voyage lasted 8 days. One night during a storm, waves were so high they knocked down some of the wooden siding, which had been added to our deck, making it a room like enclosure. While we were sleeping, an English sailor ran up with a hammer and broke all the light bulbs, saying the German subs could spot the light many miles away. I sure fastened that life preserver tight for the rest of the trip.
   
About 12,000 were on the ship and a USO unit provided entertainment during the voyage. The star of this USO group was Jimmy Cagney, who was not billeted near the Promenade Deck. The food was something else. One day Kidney Stew, but if you had cash the sailors would sell you boiled eggs. I think they went for about 2 dollars each. We dropped anchor in Liverpool on Feb St}' but did not disembark until the 11 th. Once we left New York we were eligible for the 10% overseas increase, so now since my promotion to Cpl., I was receiving 58.00 per month!!
   
G.I. Joe Blyskal wrote the following about our trip to England, "Even on the boat there were details_____ decks and hallways had to be swept, washed and mopped, latrines (such as they were) had to be cleaned, and believe it or not, we even had guard duty. Guards were posted at night at exits to the outside doors and other strategic points, to insure complete blackout of the ship. It was just my luck to draw this detail on the only stormy night we had on the trip. The Mauretania was tossed from one wave to another. It was during this storm that many a man found out his stomach weakness. Though I managed to keep my food down, the feeling was not too pleasant. However, there may have been a good side to the storm too. It had been rumored that when the storm was just beginning, submarines were lurking in the vicinity and with the rough seas, the Mauretania successfully eluded them."
   
Joe also added, "The voyage over the Atlantic lasted a week but it wasn't over yet. The most aggravating part was to come. We approached the harbor of Liverpool where the Mauretania was to dock, but the tide was not favorable on the first day so we had to wait. The next day the wind was too strong and it was not advisable to dock at that time. The third day some other boat beat us to the dock. We were all "fed up" with this waiting and after "sweating it out" for about 4 days the Mauretania finally made it on the 11 0' of February"
   
We boarded a train in Liverpool and traveling all night arrived at Aldermaston, which was to be our home until the English Air Group had moved out of our assigned Base at Andover. The weather was cold and it rained every day. The Enlisted Men were billeted in a large room with six small stoves, which did not give out much heat. However the big brick building contained one mess hall, which proved a plus, we would never have again.
   
Going thru the mess line after we arrived in Aldermaston, England, I met Tom Smith who graduated from McClain in 1940 and lived on Railroad Street. He was assigned to a service company that supported the 370th Fighter Group for the rest of our time in Europe. SMALL WORLD!!

WORLD WAR II, ENGLAND, 1944

On the 12 of February the 370th Fighter Group was assigned to the 9th Air Force, Lt General Lewis Fl. Brereton, commanding and the Ninth Air Support Command (IX Tactical Air Command) Brig. General Elwood R. Quesada, commanding.
   
We arrived at Andover, Hants., England (on 29th February) which was a old Air Base the English had used for training, located South West of London about 50 miles. Originally the 370th was flying P47, but after we arrived on the 9th they assigned our Group to fly P38"s, the twin engine fighter which meant all the pilots had to be retrained to handle the twin engine planes. On May 1st, Lt Colonel Nichols led the 370th Group on its first combat mission over France.
   
Our barracks were cold with concrete floors in Quonset type buildings, with one shower room to accommodate the 50 enlisted men in our building. We slept on bunk beds with biscuit type mattresses (took 3 to fill out the bed) and by rank I had the top bunk. With the daily rains everything was damp and cold. The best thing about Andover was its location on a main line railroad and we could go to London in about an hour at no charge.
   
Sgt. Blyskal recalled this in his report "The quarters were not of the best. We had double bunks and our barrack was exceedingly crowded. Washing and toilet facilities left much to be desired. There was a "ablution" outside which consisted of a small building with several faucets______ no sinks or wash basins. Also in this building was the latrine, which likewise was quite primitive. Another building nearby contained several showers and bathtubs." Joe added, "The small city of Andover was about two miles, approximately a half-hour's walking distance, away from the field. There was bus service but it wasn't reliable. The town had three theaters, but outside of that and a few "Pubs" there wasn't much there of interest. It was hardly a place one would care to spend a day off, but was O.K. if one wanted to get away from the field for a few hours"
   
Walter F McQuire was a real character who had been in the service for several years, and had a taste for liquor that kept him a Cpl for many years. He was billeted above a Sgt named McMurtry from Calif. McMurtry kept his shoes shined so good you could almost use them as a mirror. Naturally on the 1st of the month McQuire would hit the Pubs and come home snickered. One night Mac made the mistake of not getting to the "JOHN' on time and urinated in McMurtry's shoes...The next morning it took four men to hold McMurtry away from the old Irishman.

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