Alvin Ernest Arnold Memoirs – Serving Overseas

Alvin Ernest Arnold Memoirs – Serving Overseas

We are very fortunate to have much of the story of Alvin’s life preserved for us in his own words. We present his memoirs in six segments:

Part 4 of 6 . . .

Out of the Fog

In a day or so we moved to port in Fort Dix, New Jersey, and boarded a baby aircraft carrier and the next morning slipped out of the fog and out to sea. I can’t explain my feelings at this time but they were not happy ones! This carrier only took 150 of us as the ship wasn’t made to carry troops. They were hauling supplies overseas to various places.

I was assigned to the Petty Officers Mess (kitchen) so I would get good food. Things went pretty well until we got near the Azores and we hit a horrific storm. I was sea sick for at least three days and couldn’t even help in the mess (kitchen).

Cairo, Egypt

We moved along and after about two weeks we landed in Cairo, Egypt. We were there about two days. I am still mad at myself that I didn’t go to see the pyramids. I just wanted to stay in and recollect my thoughts.

Kurmatala, India

Again, a group of us took off and this time by air. We made three or four stops on the way but in a short time we landed near Calcutta, India. The pilot was nice enough to circle the Taj Mahal on the way at low altitude for us to get a good view. I was sent to a camp at Tezgon and soon was moved to Kurmatala and that is where I spent the most of the next 18 months. I soon realized that my style of living and eating was going to be very very different.

We had like a tent city with four man tents with crude bunks. We were required to keep mosquito netting over our bed at night to protect from malaria and I thought to myself, maybe snakes also. We were warned of the many poisonous snakes. I saw some but I never heard of anyone getting bit.

After awhile I settled into sort of a routine. I was on one of six crews and we rotated our turns. Whenever an engine went out or wore out the next crew in turn took over. I might have three or four days off but might have to work that many straight in a row, night and/or day.

On days off and not on alert for duty, a couple of us or more would go into the nearest town, Dacca, and spend the day looking around but mostly to go to a rather nice English restaurant (the English owned India at that time). Our food at base was ok but anything for a change.

It was quite some time before mail started to trickle in but it always came in bunches. Charlotte said most of my letters to her had things blacked out or cut out and I never sent anything like locations, etc.

We were far enough behind the mountains that we were not getting bombed or shot at; however, we did have a few alerts.

One of our planes lost an engine over in Kunming, China, and our crew went over to put a new one on. On those trips you were issued a .45 colt and a parachute but if you were to go down in the mountains, neither one would do much good. Many planes went down and some never found. Anyway, I had word that my friend, Miles Watson, who I had last met in Greensboro, N.C., was in Kunming where I was going so I proceeded to look him up. I was very disappointed to learn he had moved to another base a couple of days earlier. However, what a small world – I saw Miles after getting back to the states so I knew he made it home but we kind of went our separate ways for no special reason.

Sidelined

While here in India I contracted Dungue fever (similar to malaria) and spent at least three weeks in the hospital. I came down with a very high temperature and I was rushed to a hospital about 25 miles away. Along with the temperature was a terrible headache that wouldn’t go away. It was a lonely stay but I had a nice doctor and he did all he could for me. After a few days I told him I wanted to go back to my base and he said I couldn’t go until I got rid of the headache. Not good news because it wasn’t much better.

Finally it got quite a bit better and I convinced the doctor that I could go back to work but he gave me a lecture that if I had any more trouble that I would come back at once. The headaches slowly diminished and I had no more trouble until I got home a couple of years later when I had a recurrence. Charlotte said I shook so hard I shook the bed and she was worried.

Victory

By this time, August 1945, the Germans had already surrendered and it looked like it would be a long battle to bring the Japanese into submission. However, early August we dropped an A-bomb and then a second one and on August 14, 1945, Japan surrendered. To millions of people that was a happy day for all the allies. If that bomb had not been used we could have had a terrific loss of our men – even my own.

At once all fighting ceased and bases began to shut down and pull out of India and China. However, we were being sent home on a point system (seniority in time there) so I had nearly another six months to go. There were thousands to be sent home and transportation was not what it is today. They used mostly slow troop ships.

Slow Boat Home

Finally sometime in late January (1946) I was to board a ship, the U.S. General Morton for a trip home. It was a troop ship and held a few thousand. It was a slow trip home as it took 40 days and 40 nights.

The trip home was almost as dangerous as the trip over. On the way over it had been watching out and trying to avoid the German submarines that were all over the Atlantic Ocean. Coming home we had to look out for mines that were floating around the ocean. There was a crew constantly watching for them. A lot of nights we anchored or set still till day break.

The ship headed east slowly by way of the Indian Ocean, China Sea, the Philippines, Hawaii and San Francisco.

We hit a bad storm in the China Sea and I was sea sick for a couple of days. Three of my bunkmates played a lot of cards on the way home; mostly pinochle and hearts. We usually met on the deck in a sheltered spot and spent the afternoon. Also time watching the flying fish and dolphins skip ahead of the ship. We stopped in the Philippines for a couple of days to take on supplies and water. Subic Bay was a beautiful bay and we swam in the crystal clear blue water.

We sailed by the Hawaiian Islands but did not stop. Everyone was anxious to make the last run for home – San Francisco.

I believe it was sometime before noon that we caught sight of the Golden Gate Bridge and sailed under it a short time later. It would be hard to share the feeling as I went under that bridge. At last I was home sweet home, the United States of America. It had been 18 months.

We were taken off the ship and put on smaller vessels and taken up past Alcatraz to Camp Letterman. There we were welcomed and given a steak dinner with all the trimmings. Then it was about three days getting physical exams and shots and paperwork, etc., before we could go home.

Are We There Yet?

I sent a telegram to Charlotte that I had arrived in San Francisco and would be home soon. They gave me first class on the train to Muskegon and I spent five days on a train that couldn’t go fast enough.

Continued . . .

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