Sunday, May 30, 2010

Interior layout design

The past few days I have been designing the book interior. Just about every spread has a photograph. I have completed 3 of 15 chapters. Placing the images is lots of fun, because I have been sitting on these photographs for years, just waiting for when the book would be ready to design. I actually formatted the text as I wrote the manuscript in InDesign, so that part is already taken care of.

Here's a photo that didn't make the cut. It's a scene at Camp McKay in Massachusetts, 1943 or '44. I don't know what's going on here, but it makes me chuckle.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

WWII Europe map

Yesterday I finished this map showing all the locations visited by the 519th Port Battalion. The printed book will include this and 3 other maps.

Also yesterday, I got in touch with the niece of a veteran from the 280th Port Company. She is sending me a photocopy listing names from that company. I am hoping it can fill-in the missing parts from my own roster. My incomplete list excludes officers,anyone who was not eligible for the Good Conduct Medal, and names that were obscured on my document. These company rosters will appear in my book's appendix. I aim to include as many names as possible.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Drawing WWII supply maps

I am very pleased to say that I finished writing my manuscript last week. My editor still needs to proofread the text, but I am now free to work on the book design. I may have mentioned that this is what I do professionally. I design books for university and scholarly presses and a few trade book publishers. The cover is already done (see at right), and I have started designing the maps.

My first map turned out great. The National Archives provided me with copies of three hand-drawn maps: the 1st Engineer Special Brigade's planned supply operations made before D-Day, the situation on D-Day, and the actual supply operations on Utah Beach on D+20 (June 26, 1944). This came with the 1st ESB records. On Thursday I scanned the D+20 map and traced over the contours in Adobe InDesign. The labels are typeset, and I added a few things that appeared on the other two maps. It's going to be a full bleed 6 x 9 map in my book. I'm very excited about this map, because I have never seen one like it published in a book before.

Today I tried making my second map, the Antwerp docks where my grandfather's port battalion worked. I have a very detailed 1945 map scan from a friend in Belgium. My plan is to trace the historic map in InDesign again, label Tampico Flats (where the 519th lived), the Luchtbal Barracks, and the two dock areas where they unloaded and guarded ships. What I really want to add is the spots where German V-1s and V-2s exploded. Tracy Dungan over at has a brilliant map of Antwerp showing where all these v-bombs landed. Unfortunately, this map is so zoomed-out, that it is difficult to use it as a reference for my grandfather's small area. When I overlapped the two maps the dock shapes and roads didn't line-up quite right. The zoomed in area of the v-bomb map just wasn't detailed enough. Maybe I'm being too much of a perfectionist, but I would really like these v-bomb spots to be as precise as possible. Maybe I can find a more detailed map.

After that frustration I thought I would do the "easy" map. This is the map showing the supply train lins coming out of Antwerp. I uploaded a scan from the 1947 book, The Saga of the 708 Railway Grand Division in a previous post. You can see in the image bellow how I was tracing over the original hand-drawn map (in blue). I got pretty far along when I noticed that this drawn map is not to scale. The countries' borders and the distances between the cities aren't accurate. I'm guessing the original map-maker was just eye-balling this stuff rather than tracing over a professionally made map.
Another issue is that he included railways that were used by the Allies after Germany surrendered. I only want to include routes used up to the Battle of the Bulge. What I need to do is find a WWII atlas, scan in a proper map of the area, trace the borders and cities, and then place in the railways to Brussels, Charleroi, Li├Ęge, and Luxembourg City. The 304th and 305th Port Company guard details didn't accompany trains beyond these cities, so I think I will leave them out to unclutter the map.

In addition to book design I regularly create maps for articles in Ancient Warfare magazine. It's fun to take these map-making skills and put them toward my own personal project.

Friday, May 7, 2010

American and British Docks in Antwerp in WWII

In September 1944 when the British liberated Antwerp the port was divided into areas of American and British control. The Americans were assigned the north docks and the British used the southern docks. I recently found a reference for the specific divisions:
“Allocation of Berths: US Forces to have that portion of the port North of a line drawn through Albert Dock through Berth 140 on the east and between Berths 115 and 117 on the west, including the north portion of Albert Dock, the Leopold Basin, the Vierde Habendock, Quatrieme and the Hansadock adjacent to the Kruisschens Locks. British Forces to have the remainder of the Albert dock south of this line, and including the Lefebvre Dock and the Amerikadok."

This quote comes from: Historical Section, Office of the Chief of Transportation, European Theater of Operations, Historical Report of the Transportation Corps in the European Theater of Operations, Volume V, October-November-December 1944, Part 1, p. 1.

Benjamin King and Timothy Kuta offer this information in an article available on the US Army Fort Eustis Transportation School website. The article, "Antwerp: Enemy attack on supply lines in Europe 1944 - 1945." was King and Kuta's initial draft of chapter 10 in their book, Impact. The article includes some details that didn't make it into the final published book such as the above dock allocation.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

German fighter-bombers over Utah Beach

Above is a Coast Guard photograph showing the fleet of supply ships waiting off of Utah Beach. The 470th Amphibious Truck Company, 1st Engineer Special Brigade can be seen driving DUKWs into shore. On the right is a German 77mm gun. On the left is what appears to be a Rhino barge. June, 8 1944.

My grandfather stood on these DUKWs shipside, guiding the Liberty Ship's cargo net into place. The rest of his port company section worked the deck winches and loaded supplies in the hold. It wasn't the front lines, but that doesn't mean it was safe. The 90th Infantry Division was transported to Utah Beach on the same ships as my grandfather's 519th Port Battalion. Reading rather like a dramatic pulp novel, the following excerpt gives a good sense of the danger in the first week on Utah Beach:

June 8th
S/Sgt. Robert Tiefenbrun, “C” Btry., 344th F.A. Bn. [Field Artillery Battalion, 90th Inf. Div.]: This was UTAH beach—what an incredible spectacle. The unloading operations were going along at the prearranged rate of speed. When everyone had seen the spectacle on shore, no one seemed to be aware of the impending danger lurking just a few minutes away, then out of the pale blue clouds six enemy planes appeared. They raked the beach with strafing fire and all the anti-aircraft guns aboard the ships began to pour out hot lead. Two of the planes came directly over our ship, and the Navy gunners’ accuracy was soon rewarded, for one of them began to loose altitude and then burst into flames and plummeted like a falling meteor into the bay. The other plane fired some incendiary shells into another ship’s barrage balloon. It went up in flames and fell in the water like a burst paper bag and quickly became extinguished. Other gunners on another ship farther back finally dealt the death blow.
—from Colby, John. War From The Ground Up: The 90th Division in WWII. Austin: Nortex Press, 1991. p. 18.