Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Walter Kaplan and GIs at Club Chipper, WWII Antwerp

At Club Chipper December 16, 1945.
The daughter of Walter Kaplan sent me this great photo today. It shows her dad and some friends at Club Chipper. This was an enlisted mens' club in Antwerp, which opened shortly after Germany surrendered. You can read more about it (and see photos) in this previous post.

Walter served in my grandfather's battalion in the 303rd Port Company.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

280th Port Company group photo

A couple months ago the granddaughter of Enrico "Rick" Starnadori emailed me. His 280th Port Company and my grandfather's 304th Port Company were in the same battalion. She was nice enough to scan her grandpa's copy of the company's group photo.

Click on this photo for an enlarged image (then you can save the larger version to your computer)
The inclusion of the African-American sitting in the photo is interesting. The army was segregated during World War II, so there were all-black units, such as the 490th Port Company which was on Utah Beach and the 494th Port Battalion which was on Omaha Beach.

In a previous post I shared a near-complete roster of the 280th Port Company.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Short History of the 267th Port Company in WWII

Men of the 267th Port Company driving a 13th Port truck in Antwerp, Belgium. 1946?
In the spring of 1945 Germany surrendered and their bombardment of Antwerp ended. That fall my grandfather's battalion opened an enlisted man's club in the city along with men from the 267th Port Company. When the GIs weren't overseeing/guarding military supplies they could relax in Club Chipper. My post on that club is how I got in touch with Don Mansfield. His dad served in the 267th, and he saved lots of records, which Don passed to me. Bellow a short history of the 267th Port Company based on those documents. (If you'd like the full 31-page report, then just send me an email)

April 1943
The unit was founded in Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania as Company E of the 501st Port Battalion. My grandfather's 510th Port Battalion was also there, so my book and my blog have lots of info on this fort uniquely designed for supply training. The company reached a total strength of 302 men, commanded by Captain McCawley.

June 1943
The company was renamed as the 26th Port Company, and First Lieutenant Glen L. Nichols became the new company commander.

August to October 1943
At the end of August the company moved to the Kochlor building in South Boston. In early September they billeted in the Alger and Howe schools, also in South Boston. In mid-October the men were all moved again to be housed in the Cashman school in East Boston, neat the Sumner tunnel. While in Boston the company received further military and technical training and hands-on experience loading and unloading supply ships. Again, my grandfather battalion was also in Boston.

November to December 1943
In December the company was moved to Camp Myles Standish to prepare for their transport overseas. The 501st Port Battalion was dissolved and its companies became independent units. On December 27th the 267th Port Company boarded the Argentina. The men were given kitchen duty to serve the 4000 other soldiers onboard. On the 29th the ship joined a convoy bound for the UK.

January 1944
Their ship arrived in the small port of Gourock, Scotland (not far from Glasgow). The men were moved by train to Plymouth, Devonshire, England, arriving on January 13th. The troops were quartered in Seaton Barracks on the northern edge of the city. The company was attached to the 392nd Port Battalion and began working the docks. The men also received more training on dockwork, firefighting, bomb disposal, chemical warfare, and combat.

March 1944
The company carpenters built a mock ship (like the two in Indiantown Gap) so that the unit (and future recruits) could be schooled in their stevedores and longshoreman duties without getting in the way of the actual supply work in port.

April to May 1944
Combat training ended and the men were relocated to tents in Devonport Park in the center of the city. The company was attached to the 392nd Port Battalion. On May 25th the company was moved to Fowey in Cornwall (35 miles southwest of Plymouth). The rest of the month was spent preparing for D-Day.

June and July 1944
The company worked in double shifts to keep up with the massive amount of supplies moving military supplies to Normandy. The company commander was promoted to captain.

August to September 1944
The company was released from the 392nd Port Battalion and put under the command of the 13th Port. By the end of August military supplies into Fowey ended. On September 3rd the company moved to Marshaling Area Camp C-5 near Winchester, then C-13. The company oversaw the running of these camps until they were sent back to Plymouth at the end of September.

October 1944
On October 22nd the company boarded ships to head to France. The men were split onto two landing craft LST 175 and LST 316. The ships arrived in LeHavre on October 23rd. On the 25th the men boarded trains for Belgium. On the 26the train arrived in Antwerp. They were among the first Americans to enter the city, and were met by cheering Belgians. The company was housed in the Luchtbal Barracks.

November and December 1944
The entire company pulled guard duty in the port as German buzz bombs and rockets hit the city daily. In December the company began dock work discharging the first Allied ships to enter the port.
(My book goes into great detail about the port companies' service in Antwerp)

January - August 1945
On Sunday January 14th Private First Class Leonard Grajok was killed by a V-2 rocket that hit Area C in the docks. On February 19th a V-1 buzz bomb hit the mens' quarters, but no one was hurt. That same day a different V-1 hit the dock area and injured Technician 4 James Kirkpatrick, who later received the Purple Heart. Staff Sergeant Alfred P. Wiesenhoefer was awarded a Soldier's Medal for saving the life of a Belgian dock worker who had been injured in the bomb blast. Dock work continued even after Germany's surrender.

September 1945
The city of Antwerp awarded certificates of appreciation to the soldiers who had served in the port during the German V-bomb bombardment.

November 1945
The last page of the document was for November. The company was reduced in strength as me were reassigned to other units and/or sent home to the States. The company itself remained in Europe (probably into 1946).

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

268th Port Company WWII Album

The company "chow hound" sitting on the bumper of a 2.5 ton GMC "Jimmy" truck.
On eBay I recently found a WWII era scrap book which belonged to a guy who served in the 268th Port Company. My grandfather also served in an Army port company in WWII, and both companies were moving supplies in Antwerp at the same time. So, I just had to buy it.

I'm happy to have a fresh supply of photographs to share. There are lots of great snapshots of Antwerp, Belgium; LeHavre, France; and other places in Europe where my grandfather was.

The owner of the scrapbook built the hardtop for this Jeep. And what great hand-painted lettering on the hood!
"The official insignia of the outfit I work for. Neat Isn't It?"
It seems the owner of the scrapbook, George A. Oleskiewicz, served as a mechanic. The 268th Port Company was attached to the 13th Major Port while in Antwerp. So, that's what the "13" is all about in the insignia above. The ship captain's wheel shape is there because port companies were part of the US Transportation Corp, which featured the same captain's wheel in it's insignia.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

1943 ad for ALCO, maker of the M4 Sherman and M7 Priest

Schenectady helped turn the tide of at the Battle of El Alamein

I recently found a 2-page advertisement that the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) placed in the May 1943 issue of the trade magazine Railway Mechanical Engineer. In addition to manufacturing M4 Sherman tanks, ALCO produced the secret M7 Priest, which the British debuted during the 1942 Battle of El Alamein. The British and American military thanked ALCO with a M7 Day parade the following year.

I've written several other posts about ALCO's contribution to the war effort, and of course there is a chapter in my book devoted to my grandfather's time at the company as a welder. Check out the Sherman Minutia website for more detailed information on the types of M4 Shermans produced by ALCO.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Docks in WWII Antwerp

From the collection of Theron P. Snell.
Theron P. Snell shared two photos in Antwerp during WWII. They came from Maynard P. Short, who served in the 282nd Ord. Ballistic detachment. It looks like a pretty quiet day at the docks in 1945.

From the collection of Theron P. Snell.
John Partridge served as a lieutenant with the 13th Major Port during the war, and picked up this map of the docks.

Map of the Antwerp docks
I also scanned an aerial photo showing the section of the port operated by the Americans. This was in a history book of the 13th Major Port printed in 1950.

Aerial view of the American section of the Port of Antwerp in WWII.
Another aerial view of showing warehouses lining the docks.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Fox Hole Concerts on Omaha Beach

A photocopy of the 502nd Port Battalion band in Britain, sent to me by Sherwin Grannum.
Photo courtesy of Robert Lessard. 
Just before the D-Day anniversary in June 2013 I got an email from Bob Lessard, a newspaper reporter in Massachusetts. He was profiling a D-Day veteran who had served on Omaha Beach. Sherwin S. Grannum was a member of the 502nd Port Battalion. My port battalion research was a helpful resource, so they gave my book a mention in the Middleboro Gazette article.

I talked with Sherwin over the phone and heard more about his Army days. His full-time job was trumpet player in the battalion band. I went back to my official Army historical report for the 502nd Port Battalion, and I found these excerpts that proudly described the band's contriubtion to morale:

The first "fox-hole" concert took place a week after "D-Day" and caused one of the rare interruptions of the Beach Operations. As the bandsmen "got their lips" and gave out a series of military and swing numbers, GIs came out of their fox-holes, disregarding snipers or the possible flight of Jerry [the Germans] across the sky, trucks pulled up along side the road and DUKWs lingered extra long at the transfer point to hear the music.

For four months the band entertained nightly, playing at hospitals and bivouac areas in the beach district. At the request of the American Red Cross and Brigadier General G. M. Alexander, Dpeuty Provost Marshall, the band made a tour of the hospital units in the Paris area, the Rainbow Club and the bicouac areas of the troops who drove the cargoes along the "Red Ball Highway."

The 502nd Port Battalion band contributed that intransic [sic] item to the Liberation of France and a notch of glory in the history of Port Battalions.

A September 1944 report to the 5th Engineer Special Brigade had this to say:

2. BATTALION BAND: The 502nd Port Battalion has good grounds for the belief that tneir organization was the first to furnish organized entertainment to American troops in Normandy. The story goes back to tne United Kingdom and the determination of Col. PIERCE that his Battalion would have a band. Instruments were procured and a band formed at Camp Crookston in Scotland. The instruments were brought along when the Battalion sailed for France. On approximately D plus 12 the first concert was given. It was an unplanned and informal affair which partially disrupted Beach operations as soldiers gathered from the fox holes or adjacent fields and trucks pulled up on tne road to listen to a little jive. On orders of the Brigade Commander the band was removed from other duties and put "on tne road" as the first organized show in Normandy. Nightly they performed under the direction of Cpl. Eugene D. Cosby of Alquippa, Pa., the band leader. Band ofiicer is 1st Lt. FREDERICK A. STONE of South Sudbury, Mass. who started his formalized musical career with Barnum and Bailey's Circus Band and continued it as the trainer of many a Massachusetts National Guard and American Legion Band. Master or Ceremonies for the road show was Chaplain EDWARD G. CARROLL of Washington, D. C.

I asked Sherwin if the rest of the battalion were resentful that he and the rest of the band didn't have to perform the hard work of unloading and moving supplies. He explained that the GIs weren’t jealous at all. They all appreciated being able to hear music while they worked.

My grandfather’s 519th Port Battalion had a band too. To see photos and read an excerpt about their playing in Antwerp see my previous post.

For another Army swing music post check out my article about Club Chipper, the Antwerp club where my grandfather and his buddies hung out.