90 - Going Home
Coming soon, a full book by George Weir, a WW2 veteran.
The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, but the war in the Pacific was still going on. Although 'my' war was over, there were plans for an invasion of Japan in the works. A major part of the plan was to transfer soldiers from Europe to the Pacific.
General "Ike" Eisenhower devised a Point System to decide who would get a discharge, who would remain in Europe in the Army of Occupation, and who would be sent to South Pacific. Here are some of the criteria:
10 points, if married 5 points per child 5 points per battle star 1 point per month of US service 2 points per month of overseas service 5 points for the Purple Heart medal
We needed 85 points for discharge. I had been overseas then (in May) for 20 months with 6 months combat and 3 battle stars for my ETO (European Theater of Operations) ribbon, so I only had 71 points when the war in Europe ended. Not enough for discharge, instead, I had to remain In Europe. I wrote the following poem:
I've struggled and I've sweated,
Thought and Strained and Swore!
Yet no matter how I count
I can't find any more.
Children give you beaucoup points
I wish I had two sons
I guess I've not been man enough
I've only seven-one
A Regular Army "Lover" gets
Beaucoup points for service
But they can have the points for that,
The Army makes me nervous
Combat Points are very few
And that's an awful set-up
For overseas, the points are short
I'm disgusted and quite fed-Up
The only answer is, I'll wait
There's nothing I can do
I know I will be home some day
And that's when I'll see you
In November 1945 I finally had my 85 Points to go home to Weymouth, Mass. via Fort Devens for my formal discharge on December 31 1945.
At the time, the Army was looking for volunteers to staff the Army of Occupation. They offered a 30 day leave of absence, anywhere in the world, for a one-year re-enlistment. My Captain, for whom I drove for in Germany, wanted me to stay in and continue to drive for him. He offered to promote me from PFC (Private First Class) to Buck Sergeant; from one stripe to three.
I declined! I had been in Europe for 30 months, was married and needed to complete the complex arrangements necessary to bring my wife into the United States (my cousin, Fred Gohlke, had to get 52 signatures from his unit, the Naha Provisional Fighter Group, the 6351st Air Base Wing, the 20th Air Force headquarters, and the chaplains and doctors in those units, before he could bring his wife from Okinawa to the U.S.) I just wanted to get out.
The 40-day trip home from Weisbaden, Germany, was long and tiresome, but also interesting and joyful. Joyful because the Army gave me a "Delay En Route" pass to stop in Oxford, England to see my wife.
First I traveled by rail from Frankfurt to Paris in old, smallish rail freight cars. They were WW1 vintage "40 and 8s" (40 Men or 8 Cavalry horses). Adolph Hitler and his cronies transported thousands of Jewish and other people from France to the ovens at his death camps in these cars.
From Paris it was rail to a ferry station in Etratat, near Le Havre, France. Then by ferry across the English Channel to Portsmouth, England. Then rail, with a change at Reading, to Oxford and five blessed days with my wife.
When my pass was up, I went to the Winchester, England transfer station to wait for a ship. We, 14 other GIs and myself, sailed from Cardiff, Wales and spent 16 days at sea, plugging along at 8 knots (about 12 miles per hour), aboard an American-built Liberty Ship with a French crew. "Liberty Ships" were cargo ships designed for 'Emergency' construction during World War II. There's an old Liberty Ship in San Francisco.
The North Atlantic was rough for most of the trip. Sometimes, the ship would ride to the top of a big wave and descend quickly into the following trough. As it was descending, the propeller would spin in open air, causing the whole ship to shudder, then it would start up the next wave so fast that the stern ended up under water.
The French chef loved to cook with garlic. The odor permeated the whole ship. He made us a BIG 3-layer "Farewell" cake, just before we passed the The Lady With the Light!
We landed at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on December 26, 1945. I took the train to Boston and went on home to Weymouth.
On December 31st, 1945, I took the train from North Station to Fort Devens to turn in my dog tags and get my discharge. Before they handed us our discharge papers, we had to sit through a talk by a Major who tried to get us to re-enlist or join the Army Reserve. I didn't.
when the Korean War broke out, the guys who signed up for the Army Reserve were the first called up. I had a friend who was called up as a Captain and went on to make General! I had to report to the Draft Board in Quincy, Massachusetts, because of my age, even though I was a veteran. I have a vague memory that I had to submit, in writing, any reason I would be unable to serve.