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

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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.”