Monday, August 30, 2010

More stevedore softball

Chapter 14 of my book talks of the 519th's activities in Belgium after Germany surrendered, but before the troops were shipped home. Sports were a popular way to alleviate boredom and keep idle men out of trouble.

The daughter of a 519th Port Battalion member found this blog, and sent the above photo. Terry's dad was Raymond W. Otto, who served in the 302nd Port Company and played on the battalion softball team. Her photo shows the team in Marseille, France after a game in 1945. She also provided my book with another team photo taken in front of Tampico Flats.

At left are a few newspaper clippings from Stars and Stripes. Larry Botzon from 519th HQ saved these. They describe the team's success. The 519th softball players were the champions of Belgium and European finalists. Click image for a larger view.

See my original softball article about the European Theater military softball league.

Monday, August 23, 2010

519th men attacked by German bombers

A Landings Ship Tank (LST) sinks off the coast of Utah Beach. Photo courtesy of Dave Weaver, 519th Port Bn.

Chapter 7 of Longshore Soldiers discusses the 519th's part in the Normandy invasion. On June 14, 1944 a Chicago Tribune reporter interviewed GIs working on Utah Beach. Naturally, he choose to speak to men from Illinois. Matt Marvin, from 519th Port Battalion Headquarters was from Freeport, IL. He described the nightly air attacks by the Germans. The Luftwaffe pilots assumed the ship Marvin was unloading was carrying ammunition, so they tried bombing it three nights in a row. He was quoted as saying "What are we—magnetic?"

Click on the image at left to read the article. Another Illinois native from 519th HQ, Larry Botson, sent me this clipping: Noderer, E. R. “Chicagoans on Target Ship of Nazi Bombers,” Chicago Daily Tribune, p. 1. June 15, 1944.

Marvin's Liberty Ship avoided destruction, but another supply ship unloaded by the 519th was sunk four days earlier. See my post about the SS Charles Morgan.

Monday, August 16, 2010

519th HQ: Pitch & Pay House, Stoke Bishop

Chapter 6 of Longshore Soldiers discusses the 519th's time in the UK. In England the 519th Port Battalion had its headquarters in a suburb of Bristol. HQ company was based in Pitch & Pay House on Pitch & Pay Lane, Stoke Bishop. They arrived on April 11, 1944. On May 31 they left Bristol to join the Normandy invasion forces gathering at Bridgend, Wales..

The rear entrance.

Front yard.
Larry Botzon, a HQ member from Chicago, Illinois.

James Whitby and Dave Weaver were both members of the 304th Port Company, so I'm not sure why they were at HQ.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Desert Victory premier in Schenectady, NY

An April 7, 1943 ad from the Schenectady Gazette.

Chapter 2 of Longshore Soldiers details my grandfather's time at at the American Locomotive Company in Schenectady, NY. In 1942 and 43 my Cortland welded M-7 "Priest" mobile howitzers for the British Eight Army. ALCO-made M-7s were instrumental in the British success over the Germans during the Battle of El Alamein. To record their victory, the British Eight Army filmed a documentary of the battle. The world premier was held in Schenectady's Erie Theater following a parade of tanks and M-7s up Erie Boulevard. The April 10, 1943 showing was exclusively for ALCO workers. My grandfather was pleased to see his M-7 in action.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Billets in Sea Mills and Stoke Bishop, England

The Elliott family with GIs, Dave Weaver and Bruce Kramlich, Stoke Bishop, Bristol.

Chapter 6 of my book deals with Bristol, England. The 519th Port Battalion arrived in Bristol on April 11, 1944. Local barrack buildings were already full of US troops, so the port company men were billeted in private homes. The GIs were scattered around the suburbs of Sea Mills and Stoke Bishop. The men had a warm relationship with their host families. The Americans and English shared backyard bomb shelters during the German air raids and enjoyed tea and crumpets every morning. Many of the GIs stayed in touch with their host families after the war. After D-Day, a 1/4 of GI mail was sent to addresses in Britain, so obviously a lot of long-term friendships came out of the billeting process.

Matt Marvin, Dave Weaver, and Bruce Kramlich stayed with the Elliot family at Stokewood, Bell Barn Road, Stoke Bishop, Bristol. I love how classically English the pike-smoking Mr. Elliot appears in the photo above. The Elliots sent Christmas cards to Bruce every year, and he visited them again in England sometime after the war. Dave Weaver tells me that he still sometimes exchanges letters with the Elliots' children.

My grandfather, Cortland Hopkins, roomed with Sgt. James Dolan. GIs were not supposed to eat the civilians' food—strict wartime rationing was in effect and the US Army had plenty to feed the troops. However, the English insisted on being good hosts and welcomed the Americans to dinner. Below are photos of the family that Mike DeLaura stayed with somewhere in the Bristol area.