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.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

On Leave in Waterloo, 1945

View from the top of the Lion’s Mound monument at Waterloo.
After Germany and Japan surrendered thousands of American GIs just waiting around to be sent back home. To keep them out of trouble the US Army sent the restless men on trips across Europe. My grandfather and some other guys from the 304th Port Company traveled from their base in Antwerp and visited Waterloo battlefield in Belgium.

A GI from my grandpa’s company sitting at the bottom of the Lion’s Mound monument
at Waterloo battlefield, Belgium.

Château d'Hougoumont where the British faced Napoleon's Army at the Battle of Waterloo.
Photo by my grandpa, 1945.

Waiting in line to enter the museum at Napoleon’s Last Headquarters or the Ferme du Caillou.
My grandpa Cortland Hopkins (lower left), his friend William Kelly (in glasses), and members of the 304th Port Company, 519th Port Battalion in Waterloo, Belgium, 1945.

304th Port Company men posing with WWI German helmets from the museum.

Looks like the GI in the middle is wearing a Napoleonic cavalry helmet.
La Haye Sainte farmhouse where the British allies’ the King's German Legion were stationed during the Battle of Waterloo. Photo by my grandpa, 1945.
304th Port Company GIs getting lunch at a café in Waterloo. Photo by my grandpa.

Friday, July 26, 2013

240th Port Company roster WWII

This partial list of men in the 240th Port Company, 494th Port Battalion comes from an October 1944 document awarding the Good Conduct Medal. To learn what these guys were up to during the war read my short history of the 494th Port Battalion.

Morcle M. Andry (it was hard to read the first name)
Wilmer L. Alston
Charlie T. Brown
Newton B. Burton
Clifton Cutliff
Ely Doucet
Tom L. Ingram
Alexander S. Jackson
Robert H. Jones
Willie J. Jones
Johnnie H. Kennedy
Clarence Kershaw
Ralph M. Lewis
Abraham J. Mann
Lenard Mitchell
Earaton B. Moseley
William J. Nelson
Sherman R. Phillips
Frank Porcher
Willie L. Porter
Lucious J. Porter
William S. Queen
Robert N. Robinson
Howard E. Rutledge
Walter Shannon
Isiah Shuler
Leonard Simkins
Philip H. Smith
Willis Sumpter
James L. Thomas
Harvey Tribble
Louis J. Slaughter
Jack R. Wade
James Walker
William H. Walker
George O. Wilson

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Color Normandy photos, 1944.

Landing craft on either Omaha or Utah Beach, 1944.

The Daily Mail posted previously-unpublished color photos of Normandy in 1944.