Wednesday, November 5, 2008

E-Mail of the Day

Ron Pfeifer of Randle, Washington read my post regarding the S.S. Westbrook Victory and sent this e-mail:

"Found your blog while searching the Internet for information about the S.S. Westbrook Victory. Just thought I’d let you know that my father came home from World War II on the Westbrook Victory. He was a combat infantryman with the 10th Mountain Division in northern Italy and is now 83 years old. A few weeks ago, I was asking him questions about his war experiences, and he mentioned the Westbrook Victory as the ship that brought him back to the U.S. from Italy. I decided to search for info on the ship so I could include it in the memoir I’m putting together about his time in the army during the war.

The Westbrook Victory was tied up at the dock in the port city of Livorno, Italy when my dad (and the entire 86th Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division) arrived by train (riding in boxcars) on July 26, 1945. They lined up outside their boxcars and marched with their heavy duffel bags out to the ship, lining up in single-file before the gangplank. As they came to the gangplank, a pretty Women's Army Corps (WAC) member called off their last names, and each soldier answered back with their first name and filed aboard the ship. The ship finally got underway in the mid-afternoon on the 26th and steered an irregular course through the wrecks in the harbor, as well as through the narrow gap in the row of ships the Germans sank close to the harbor. It then sailed into into the Mediterranean Sea.

The soldiers' trip back to the States on the Westbrook Victory was much more relaxed and enjoyable than their trip to Italy back in December 1944 aboard the S.S. Argentina. They were able to watch movies on deck. And they also had an interesting way of laundering their clothes on the trip home: Each soldier had two pair of fatigues to use, so when one set would get dirty after three or four days, they would tie them to a rope and throw the rope over the side of the ship. The uniforms tied to the rope would be dragged through the saltwater for several hours at which time the soldiers would haul them aboard and hang them on the rail to dry.

They arrived back home in the United States at Newport News, Virginia on August 7, 1945, the day after they had received the news aboard ship that the U.S. had dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan."

- John C.L. Morgan

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