A New Mission

The camp is improved

The camp is improved

Shortly after arrival in New Guinea, the unit learned that their searchlights had been deployed elsewhere in the theater. They got to work improving their camp and taking on their new mission at  Base “A”. That mission included unloading ships and working in the Quartermaster warehouses. Here is the report from the Unit Newsletter;

“Like pioneers of old, everyone worked together putting in hard and long days. Truck loads of gravel had to be brought in to provide traction to walkways, drainage ditches were dug, trees were cut to provide room for administrative headquarters and tents. Structures were raised and flooring installed – kitchens, showers, mess halls, day rooms, and post exchanges were erected. Ammunition dumps and a chapel were rapidly built. Sweaty clothing remained a problem until each battery had installed its own laundry service.

Soon our training program was underway covering many new subjects with special emphasis on jungle tactics and camouflage. Orientation classes explaining the program of the war on the various fronts proved to be highly popular. For recreation, loudspeakers in the battery area brought the latest world news and American radio programs. Special Services provided abundant reading material and athletic equipment. The 224th soon made a name for itself in a long series of victories, winning the baseball and basketball championships of Base “A” (Milne Bay). Open air theaters, were available for movies. USO and GI shows were enjoyed occasional]y, and were very good shows. Religious services for the various faiths were conducted weekly. Probably the greatest morale builder of all was the mail we received from home.

Master gunnery school begins

Master gunnery school begins

A class in Master Gunnery was inaugurated on 10 May, including one representative from each battery and the battalion Master Gunner. The rainy season came and we soon learned the value of shoe dubbing. It rained in varying degrees of intensity for nearly fifty-nine days. We gradually became seasoned to it. From the first month special details were assigned to work on the docks, loading and unloading ships. This was halted on 24 May and training resumed until 28 June, when battalion was again organized for and dock duty.” NL

Arrival at New Guinea

On 29 January, 1944 the battalion pulled into Milne Bay, Papua, New Guinea in the Southwest Pacific after 16 days at sea. The unit went ashore on 30 January, 70 years ago today. Using both the unit’s own historical records and the newsletter here’s more details on these important days in the men’s lives.

“Advance parties left the boat to effect reconnaissance of the situation, but debarkation of the bulk of the troops was postponed until the following afternoon. At this time, barges carried the men 10 miles up the bay In search of the area assigned to this organization.” AR

Clearing the Jungle

Clearing the Jungle

“Our transport arrived at Milne Bay, New Guinea, on 29 January 1944. It was where the Japanese Imperial Forces had been defeated in the now famous Battle of Milne Bay, which many claim, marked the turning point from our defensive tactics to a roaring offensive war. Debarkation was completed the following afternoon and we traveled 10 miles in landing barges, going ashore in the vicinity of our camp area. Few will forget the hike in the boiling tropical sun with full field pack to our assigned area.The work of clearing the jungle commenced immediately in the usual sweltering equatorial weather.” NL

Next time; The camp is built and the men take on their new duties.

The Unit Ships Out

This is my first post in some time…my apologies!

The USS Mt. Vernon

The USS Mt. Vernon

Today we learn about the 224th shipping out for the Southwest Pacific. My Dad called this voyage “the biggest adventure of his life”. Details here come from the official history and the unit newsletter.

From the Battalion Log;

27 December ’43- Unit entrains at Winter Garden, Fla. for California.

2 January ’44- Battalion arrives at Camp Stoneman to stage for overseas movement.

13 January ’44- Departs port on USS Mt. Vernon passed through the Golden Gate.

The newsletter gives us better details to fill in the blanks about these actions!

“Arriving at Camp Stoneman on a rainy night of 2 January we were herded through (a you know
what!) physical inspection in preparation for our overseas shipment. A showdown inspection was followed by new issue of clothing and equipment, as well as appropriate advise on security regulations and financial matters. We made the rounds of physical conditioning and lectures on numerous subjects. A limited number of passes were granted to visit San Francisco. The battalion evacuated the area at Camp Stomenan on 11 January 1944, and was transported to the Port of Embarkation  by river steamer after an advance guard proceeded several days earlier by truck for guard detail on the ship. The unit boarded the Army transport USS Mt Vernon in San Francisco, Califomia as a band played music on the dock. Certain key personnel remained to accompany the equipment. The big transport put out to sea through the “Golden Gate” on Thursday morning, 13 January 1944. The first day out found many of the group seasick from heavy seas, but after the comparative calm prevailed, though it seemed some stomachs failed to maintain an equal calm for several days after.

On board ship

On board ship

The ship crossed the equator at 0130 on 19 January 1944. The equator crossing was celebrated by the traditional King Neptune ceremony which will not easily be forgotten, especially by those who actively participated in the event. The international date line was crossed on the 23rd of January. Red Cross gift packages were distributed as well as candy and cigarettes. Time was spent reading, writing cards, and watching the flying fish skim over the water. Traveling under blackout conditions was mandatory. We had a speedy voyage and soon became acquainted with a hot searing sun.”

PT Boats and Presidents

LTJG John Kennedy aboard PT 109 in 1943 somewhere in the Pacific

LTJG John Kennedy aboard PT 109 in 1943 somewhere in the Pacific

This past week saw the 50 year remembrance of JFK’s assassination and funeral. I was in the sixth grade in 1963 and grew up with the memory of WWII close at hand(thus this site). Most folks my age will know of PT 109 and President Kennedy’s war service. If you don’t know, I’m sharing a wiki link and an image from that story. My dad spoke of seeing a few PT boats at Milne Bay and how the guys were awed by the “mosquito fleet” as they were known.

The image of JFK in the cockpit, shirtless wearing his fatigue hat rings true of that era(check shots of my dad thusly attired). Here’s the link; read and remember or read and learn. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PT_109#cite_note-MaritimeQuest.2C_PT_109-1

The Iron Workhorse

five_by_fiveMy Dad spoke about the “5×5” truck he drove with the 224th. He never gave many details but said it was a reliable, sturdy workhorse that got around in the remote places where it was used. I’m reposting a shot of him behind the wheel of a 5×5 taken in Florida. Here’s the caption info as per the previous posts;

Written on  the front is  “Pete in a 5×5” “Clermont Fla Oct. 1943”.   On the back Dad wrote ”Yours truly in a five by five coming in after a hard days work believe that or not”.

Here’s a good page from Wikipedia giving a bit of history on the 5×5, technically called the Dodge  WC51 series  truck. As you will see there are many variations. Here’s the link; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dodge_WC_series

Victor Justice and his workhorse

Victor Justice and his workhorse; Photo courtesy Rusty Justice-all rights reserved

A friend, Rusty Justice sent me this image of his Dad Victor, also in the 224th with his 5×5 in New Guinea.

Dad’s Crew

Pete's team putting up wire for the battery telco system

Pete’s team putting up wire for the battery telco system

This picture continues to be one of my favorites! It gives a look at many aspects of Army life during the War. Note each soldier’s own take on fatigue dress; some with no shirts, others with long sleeves and even a white tee shirt(developed for the US military, I think). There are two styles of hats; the “Daisy Mae” with the circular brim worn by several men, and my Dad in the 1943 HBT Fatigue cap. Interestingly the guys in the DM have found three ways to wear the hat!!!

What’s really important here is that we see; the crew in the field with their equipment doing their jobs. You see special tools on belts and in hands, a reel of the phone line they are stringing and the WC53 “5×5” truck that hauls them and the gear.

Continuing my current theme, here’s the notes from the snapshot. Written on the front is “Clermont,Fla, Oct. 1943”. On the back Dad  has noted ““Laying wire close to Clermont, Fla left to right: Pfc. Krause,Pfc. Jack Sorg,Pfc. Whitley, Pfc. Logan, S/Sgt. Terranova, yours truly, Cpl. Henry Thom”.  These guys will appear again in more images.

Stay tuned for more  pics and notes soon!

Back with More Names for the Faces

"Three bosom buddies..."

“Three bosom buddies…”

I’ve been AWOL for almost a month…my apologies! September was very busy, but I’m back and ready to fill in some blanks for the pictures I’ve started posting from my Dad’s WWII photo album. Here’s a picture from the 224th while they were training in Florida during the summer and fall of 1943.

A note on the front of this shot said “Koski-Dement-Goodman” “Clermont Fla, Oct. 1943”. Dad’s words on the back tell a much richer story; “Three bosom buddies left to right: S/Sgt George Koski, used to be T/4 Dement & T/4 Goodman. They’re swell guys. Koski is a high speed operator & he really can send it. Taken in Orlando”.  The unit roster list Dement, A.B.(IO), initials only, and Goodman, Ulys D. George Koski does not appear in the December 1943 rosters.  Also notice Koski is referred to as an “high speed operator”; these are communications teams, they used field phones, two-way radios and a telegraph key. So my Dad is talking about Koski’s ability to send Morse code on a key; not easily done by most people.

Looking closely at the background and surroundings we can see a tarpaper-covered building that may be the battery building or a barracks. Other shots from this area show pyramidal tents on frames commonly used to billet troops. In the foreground above the buddies heads you can see a bit of Spanish moss hanging from the tree to give that “bayou” feel!!!

Note: this image was taken 70 years ago this month.