Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Duchemin family orchard

While working on Utah Beach the 519th Port Battalion camped in an apple orchard owned by the Duchemin family. The above photo comes from Bruce Kramlich from HQ. Back row: Mr. and Mrs. Duchemin, Ralph "Pop" Richard, and Mrs Duchemin's mother, Mme. Hamel. Front row: Marie, Corentin, Geneviève, Camille, and Andrée. If you know any of the Duchemin family, please let me know. I would like to learn where exactly they had their farm. I know it was about 1 and a half miles south of Ravenoville, Normandie.

Update December 2015: I got in touch with Corentin and with the son of Andrée. The Duchemin family still runs the farm! 

In the background of the above photo you can see a line of huts built with dunnage (scrap wood from the cargo hold). A-frame roofs straddled their fox holes for better protection from the elements. See this post for a detailed description of their huts.

Above photo shows a GI using his helmet as a wash basin for a shave.  Because the 519th was a non combat battalion the men had the time to take pictures of their daily life.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Captain William Adams of the SS Charles Morgan

The grandson of the captain of the SS Charles Morgan got in touch with me recently. He sent me a copy of William Adams 1945 award of the Merchant Marine Meritorious Service Medal, the highest honor a Merchant Marine could receive. It gives an excellent description of what happened to the ship after it was hit by a German bomb off the coast of Utah Beach on June 10, 1944.

Meritorious Service Medals Awarded "for Conduct or Service of a Meritorious Nature" during World War II

Merchant Marine Meritorious Service Medal

Adams, William
Master, SS Charles Morgan 06/10/44
Captain William Adams, was master of the SS Charles Morgan. The ship had delivered her cargo to a European port, reloaded nearly 500 Army personnel and several hundred tons of equipment for the Normandy beachhead. After discharging this equipment and debarking nearly all soldiers in the initial invasion, the vessel was struck in No. 5 hatch by a bomb, causing her to settle by the stern in about 33 feet of water. Fires were started and several men killed. Getting all fires under control, Captain Adams searched all quarters for possibly trapped and injured men and left the ship only after she was declared a derelict by the U.S. Navy salvage officer. At low tide he and eleven of his crew volunteered to reboard the ship in spite of continued enemy action. Pumps were manned to keep the engine room dry and make possible the salvaging of valuable stores and equipment Sep. 22, 1945.

In April the son of the first mate aboard the ship told me that the German plane was allowed to get so close, because there was an order for all ships to hold their fire unless the plane could be clearly identified. In the first few days following the invasion jittery gunners in Normandy had shot down several Allied aircraft by mistake. Since the attack came at night identification was extremely difficult. First Mate Curtin received the Silver Star for his heroic efforts on the sinking ship.

My grandfather's Army port company was aboard the Charles Morgan when it was hit. My book Longshore Soldiers discusses the event from their point of view.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Indiantown Gap in WWII

Chapter 3 of my book deals with the training at Fort Indiantown Gap Military Reservation, Pennsylvania. The men of the 519th Port Battalion (an other other port battalions) learned about winch operation (see photo above), rigging, stowing, checking gear, mechanize equipment, warehousing, and the myriad other responsibilities of the Army stevedore.

The above photo shows training at one of the landships, replicas of supply ships built on dry land.

Dave Weaver, Bruce Kramlich, and John Shireman posing with the 304th Port Company banner.

Kramlich and Shireman with a view of some of the fort buildings.

A 1943 map of Indiantown Gap from a welcome guide. Bruce Kramlich write in the notes.

The concrete foundation of the two landships, SS Manada and SS Swatara, can still be seen today.

In 2008 the site received a historic marker from the state of Pennsylvnia. Today Indiantown Gap is home to the PA National Guard Museum.

See my previous post on Indiantown Gap: Landships at Indiantown Gap and 1943 Philadelphia Inquirer article about the stevedore training on the landships.