Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving in a Port Company, 1944

While helping my wife cook Thanksgiving dinner today, I recalled that the author of We Made The Headlines Possible mentions his Thanksgiving feast of 1944. His Port Maintenance Company was riding crowded 40 & 8 train cars on their way to Antwerp:

"Thanksgiving Day 1944 was memorable. Of course the propaganda line back in the States was that it would be a Spartan holiday with 'all the turkeys and other goodies sent overseas to our troops.' Actually, we almost went without any food at all. Only when our Captain Doran demanded that the train commander open up some provisions for us did we get food. For each car of 40 GIs we received two round loaves of French farm bread, a gallon can of orange marmalade, and a long tin of Spam! Under a barrage of kibitzing about fairness, it became my duty to allocate and serve the food in my car. So, I cut each fellow a slice of bread, put on a slice of Spam and overed this with marmalade. That was our Thanksgiving feast." —George N. Havens, pages 59-60

This description makes me doubly thankful for the abundance of our Thanksgiving 2009. It has also inspired me to ask the veterans of my grandfather's unit about their Thanksgiving feast. I'm sure they'll have something equally interesting to report. They were in Antwerp by this point, so maybe their meal was a little better (probably not).

Monday, November 23, 2009

519th Port Battalion Headquarters roster

Bruce Kramlich saved a few papers from his time in the 519th's Headquarters. Among them is a list of enlisted men awarded the Good Conduct Medal in August 1944. I'm very interested in these papers because they provides a near comprehensive list of the men in the battalion. The official unit rosters were lost in the 1973 National Archives fire. I'm typing out al the names in the hope of attracting the attention of these veterans or their families. Unfortunately, officers are excluded from receiving this medal, so they aren't on the list. Their names come from talkign to Bruce.

Major Charles H. Nabors (commander of the 519th, from Florida)
Captain Samuel Klauber (commanded 519th Medical Detachment)
Captain Glenn T. Foust, Jr. (medical detachment)
Captain Knauer
Captain F. W. Coykendall
Thurman F. Bowers (Chaplain from Greensboro, NC)

Enlisted Men:
M/Sgt Seymour Zeeman
T/Sgt Edward C. Watson
1st Sgt Alex Wanczak
Tec 3 Dallas K. Rudrud (from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Served in 305th and 303rd Port Co.s)
Tec 4 Roger N. Lawrence
Tec 5 Edwin B. Byrom (jeep driver for Nabors)
Tec 5 Lawrence H. Botzon
Tec 5 Stanley M. Gadd
Tec 5 Matthew A. Marvin (I have spoke with his brother)
Tec 5 Albert Wishner
Pfc Richard B. Heist
Pfc Bruce C. Kramlich (we speak alot)
Pfc Elwood C. McDonald
Pvt Toivo H. Hamberg
Ralph? Richard (from New Hampshire)

According to the veterans I speak to HQ also included: O'Conner, Milliorn, Geyer, Holngren, and Isaac Chancey.

These four names are according to a note on one of Bruce's photos (pictured above) The picture was taken at the HQ building in Bristol, England. In the front row (right to left) are Geyer, Holngren, and Roger Lawrence. In the middle row are Marvin, Rudrud, Zeeman, Watzon, and Bruce Kramlich. In the back row are O'Conner, Botzen, Edwards, and Milliorn.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meeting Bruce and Dave

This month I had the chance to meet two of them 519th Port Bn men I have been interviewing. Bruce Kramlich was in HQ. He now lives about an hour from me in Colorado. I visited him in his home for a few hours on the 7th. He shared all sorts of great material that he's saved from his Army days. He even has his full uniform! My grandfather, Cortland, tells me that he re-purposed his Ike jacket for civilian use by dyeing it blue! Bruce was good enough to keep his intact. Note the interesting stitching of the unit patches.

Last week my family and I were in Tucson, AZ for a publishing conference. I met Dave Weaver for coffee on Sunday. After three years of email and phone conversations it was great to finally meet these guys in person.

Bruce (on left) and Dave (on right) at Indiantown Gap, PA 1943.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sports in the Army: Boxing in Antwerp

Reported in the Green Sheet of the Milwaukee Journal, Wed. Dec. 19, 1945.

Germany's surrender in May of 1945 allowed for the safety and free-time needed for sporting events. Some of the 519th's Wisconsin boys organized a boxing club. Dave Weaver told me about this and mentioned that there was an article printed in his hometown paper. Not living in Wisc. myself, I thought there was no way I'd find the article. I was happily proved wrong when I met Bruce Kramlich last weekend. He also is originally from Wisc. His mother saved three copies of this article! He let me borrow one to scan.

On the subject of boxing, this research of mine produced a funny little story. I noticed in his discharge papers that he took a "boxing course" in Paris. I asked him about this, saying I was impressed that he had been a boxer. He wasn't—the "boxing course" was training in packing boxes for supplying the Pacific Theater.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The 519th Port Battalion band

The 519th Port Battalion band playing in Massachusetts, 1943.

I met with Bruce Kramlich yesterday. He lent me this great photo of the 519th Port Bn. band. My grandfather has some shots of the band, but none this close-up. The 519th Historical Report chronicles the band's activities in Antwerp:

Battalion weekly parades were inaugurated with music by the excellent military band of this organization. The military band was called on frequently for various reviews and presentations, and from the hard work that each individual member and the director put in to form this band came one of the best military bands in the Port Area, to ably represent the 519th Port Bn. The Battalion dance band was engaged in various Service Clubs and separate organizations sponsoring unit dances. This group also gave a day of their services each week to the 30th General Hospital, as did the military band when called upon.

My grandpa says he remembers an Al Levinson playing in the band. Dallas Rudrud leads the band. James "Red" Ruidl is playing the tuba. I've learned something from looking at all these old Army photos: if you want someone to recognize your face 65 years later, don't hide under your helmet or behind a tuba.

Update: In October 2010, Mark Newman emailed me photos from his dad's WWII album. His dad Marvin B. Newman painted the bass drum seen in this shot of the battalion's dance band, The T.S. Capaders. I assume that the dance band was made up of some of the same members as the military band.
Photo of the 519th Port Battalion dance band, by Marvin Newman.
Photo of the 519th Port Battalion dance band, by Marvin Newman