Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Sinking SS Charles Morgan as seen from the SS Clara Barton

I recently received a scan from the album of William Kelly. Bill served in the 304th Port Company and was friends with my grandfather. His daughter was nice enough to share this photo of the SS Charles Morgan sinking off of Utah Beach. The supply ship was bombed by the Germans on June 10, 1944. The back of the photo says that it was taken from the deck of the SS Clara Barton. My site has four posts about the attack.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Night at the 3rd Annual WWII Ball, Boulder, CO

(Click any of the images to view a larger version)

On Saturday the 18th I went to the 3rd annual 1940s WWII Era Ball in Boulder, Colorado. There was a huge turnout with nearly everyone arriving in costume. A big band played, along with a Sinatra singer, and an Andrew's Sisters tribute. There was a collection of vintage vehicles and aircraft on display. The most impressive were the Stuart tank (above) and the Navy Avenger (below).

My daughter posing in front of the Avenger.

I sold a few books, talked to a bunch of people, and hung out with 519th Port Battalion veteran Bruce Kramlich. He lives here in Colorado, so he was able to join me at my table. Bruce was pleased to talk to people about his service. The Ball's net proceeds support The Wounded Warriors Project and The Spirit of Flight Center.

P.S. Today I had the treat of seeing the Avenger fly right over our house as it departed Boulder Airport. WWII era aircraft have such a distinct rumbling engine. The plane's sound announced its arrival before it came into view.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

2 Books on the GI-British Experience

In researching my book I was very interested to hear veterans' recollections of their time in Britain before the Normandy invasion. The men in my grandfather's battalion were stationed there from April to June 1944. The Americans were billeted in private homes and became very friendly with their English host families. This was actually a rare experience among GIs. Of the nearly 3 million US troops that moved through Britain only about 100,000 were assigned to live with local civilians. The vast majority of Americans lived in military bases and camps, and the US military wanted to keep them there as much as possible to prevent trouble with the British public.

Most GIs didn't live in the homes of local families, but they interacted with the British people in many other ways. An excellent book on this subject is Rich Relations: The American Occupation of Britain by David Reynolds. The nearly 600 page text covers every possible angle. Reynolds details the official American, British, and Canadian authorities' policies towards foreign troops mixing with the local people. The nations tackled issues such as soldier health, marriage, racial segregation, crime, public opinion, morale, and military readiness. The broad view of official policy is complimented with specific personal experiences of individual soldiers and civilians. A massive amount of research and detail went into this text, while the writing is still very engaging.

Some US troops passed through the UK in a matter of weeks. Many more were in the country for several months, and some (such as the personnel of the 8th Air Force) lived and operated there for years. For many GIs interaction with the people of Britain was a major part of the overall wartime experience.

Shire Publications recently released a new book in their Living History series. The concise and well-illustrated Wartime Britain by Mike Brown is a nice companion to Reynold's hefty textbook. As with other titles in the series, the writing is complimented by period photographs, images of historic objects, and specially commissioned illustrations. Although not focused on the American experience, Brown describes the British wartime life which the GIs encountered. The short chapters depict family life, neighborhoods work, food, safety, style, transportation, recreation, and the general mood of the country.