Smitty’s Cruise Begins – Letter III

USS Heyward - Heyward class troop ship

USS Heyward – Heyward class troop ship

From my father’s description of his transport ship out of San Francisco and the approximate number of soldiers that were aboard, I can speculate that it was a Heywood class ship, as seen in the above photograph.  As the ship lumbered out to the ocean swells, many of the young men took their final glance of the USA.  Smitty thought that his most boring time in the army was while he sailed on this cruise –  although – he did quite well in learning how to play cards – as did many other G.I.’s.

As they boarded, the ship’s crew immediately began enforcing the security procedures.  All portholes and hatches were covered and no lights were allowed after dusk.  The heat below deck in the cramped quarters would soon become intolerable.  The arrival of the “ditty bags” filled with toiletries, cigarettes, gum and a harmonica brightened their spirits; but many of the mouth organs were quickly sent flying overboard when the noise coming from the tin-eared soldiers became too much for the ship’s officers to endure.  This cruise would take 28 days to complete, so Smitty had plenty of time to write home.

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Letter III                                                                           Somewhere at sea at a loss

Dear Mom, 

  We have been on this tub for quite some time now and I must say that although the army doesn’t go to any great pains making you comfortable, they sure do go to extremes making it unpleasant.   I can’t tell you as much as I would like to about the  trip or what we are doing.  One reason is that we don’t know where the heck we are anyway and as for what we are doing, well anything we might like to do would be stopped sooner than it got started.  It has gotten so that now we have to play cards, if money is displayed, down in the hold.  Seems as though the sea gulls over this ocean are the pious type and the sight of men gambling is revolting — or they think it is food.

To try and describe the food or the mess hall would curtail the use of profanity the like of which I wouldn’t attempt to use.  To call it food in the first place is flattery at its best.  Mess Hall is very appropriate — it is some MESS.  This is the first time in my life that I can truthfully say I dread the thought of eating.  We are supposed to tell you that on board ship we can purchase cigarettes for 4 1/2 cents a pack, also candy and a load of other stuff at cost price.  We can also buy bottles of coca cola, but the blame stuff is so hot that we are of the opinion that loaded down with this coke in our stomachs, we might be used as depth charges if a sub should show up.  We did receive free, with no strings attached, a bag full of necessary things from the Red Cross.  It really was worthwhile going after.

Where we might be bound for is still a very big question that will no doubt be answered only when we finally arrive there.  After all, if we knew, we might tell it to the stars and that would be just awful.  I realize this doesn’t sound like a very pleasant letter, but then you must take into consideration this isn’t a very pleasant trip.  None of those romantic moonlit nights. 

Well, that is all for today, so until later on when I will be back to add to this, I’ll say so long for now and all my love,  Everett

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

"How can you feel queasy, we're barely out of port."

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Farewell Salutes –

James Audet – Walpole, NH; US Army, Korea, Morse Code operator

Varskin Baydarian – Detroit, MI; US Navy, WWII, PTO

THANKS Veterans for walking the walk!

THANKS Veterans for walking the walk!

Harvey Fritz – Gary, IN; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 11th Airborne Div.

Wilfred Green – East Meadow, NY; US Merchant Marine

Orvin McGavin – Idaho Falls, ID; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 187th/11th Airborne Div.

Robert Parker – Scotsdale, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, HQ/674 Artillery/11th Airborne Div.

Donald Pigford – Wilmington, NC; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, P-47 pilot

Franklin Rinker – Allentown, PA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, D/152 Artillery/11th Airborne Div.

Stanley Wojcik – Windsor, CAN; WWII, RC Air Force

Eileen Younghusband – London, UK; British Army WAAF, WWII

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on September 5, 2016, in First-hand Accounts, Letters home, SMITTY, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 91 Comments.

  1. My father was in the war
    But he never talked about
    And I never asked
    Funny how things like that work
    Thank you for visiting
    As always Sheldon

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing gp, great family first hand record of your Fathers first adventures. into the world of Wars chaos.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These are great letters home from Smitty! The pious seagulls brought a smile. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Even if the news wasn’t that good, I can imagine how much his mother would appreciate Smitty’s letter.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t say it enough, but I so appreciate your posts and the insight they provide concerning an era my father and father-in-law were so a part of….keep up the great work!!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Very interesting peek into his/their daily existence on that long cruise!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. M. S. Hennessy Publishing

    What’s funny is the perspectives and the differences between how the troops viewed the time aboard ship versus that of ship’s company. I get that living conditions for each could vary somewhat but the enlisted navy men lived in these conditions (as described by Smitty) every day. My grandfather served the last two years of the war on an APA delivering Marines and SeaBees to various Pacific islands that were inhabited by the enemy. He talked about the daily grind aboard ship, the occasional liberty and the Kamikaze attacks (he served on a 40mm A/A gun for his condition I station). I can imagine how different it was for men trained for the slogging and fighting would find the waiting aboard ship distasteful.

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  8. living with such a lot of people together must be no easy.Interesting post to red

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “To try and describe the food or the mess hall would curtail the use of profanity the like of which I wouldn’t attempt to use.” I think this says it all, G. Nothing I have ever eaten, even backpacking food in the early years, compares. 🙂 –Curt
    Also his thoughts about not being allowed to say where he was or what he was doing but then confessing that he didn’t know himself. I chuckled, just a bit, here.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a colourful, descriptive letter – he didn’t hold back on describing how the boredom can drive you crazy! thanks for sharing – your dad was quite a character.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I think Smitty and I might have gotten on well …

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable it would be and for 28 days!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. GP, I really liked this post and that letter is priceless!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Poor mother, receiving that letter. I can only imagine how she felt. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. I enjoyed the letter, but that little drawing says it all. Veterans certainly do walk the walk!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. hello gp cox its dennis the vizsla dog hay that green sailor wood totaly be my dada!!! he wunse got so seesick just sitting in a restawrant at the end of a verry long peer wot stiks owt into the pasific oshun heer in the mithikal sitty of oshunside that they had to leev withowt ordering ennything!!! ok bye

    Liked by 1 person

  17. On a troop ship. I would be terrified the whole way even before reached the battlefield.

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  18. Had never hear coke a cola described that way! 😀 Certainly not what the advertisers promoted. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  19. What a sad letter. I almost feel more sorry for your grandmother than your father, thinking of how she must have felt reading it.

    Like

  20. Smitty sure could write interesting and funny letters. Keep ’em coming G.P.. And in reading your posts I never felt you were ever glorifying war, just reporting how it was from historical facts, and from the eye witness accounts of those on both sides, that were actively or passively involved.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Your dad shows a sense of humor . Also , regarding the food , my father was a naval officer on a transport . The officers ate better .

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Thanks for sharing these intimate letters with us, GP. I can only imagine how bad it must have been, given how much he was happy to complain about conditions in his letter home. Reading between the lines, I am sure that it must have been much worse than he describes. As someone who gets sea-sick crossing over to France, I hate to think of being stuck on a ship for so long.
    Well done to all those brave young men for enduring it.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I sure could see why the boredom would set in. Your dad’s letter made me smile when he wrote ” To call it food in the first place is flattery at its best ” I have heard it’s terrible.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Interesting peek into that trip. I don’t know if they’ve gotten much better. My daughter served on an LPD so I got to tour the ship. I don’t recall a lot of amenities for the enlisted guys!

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, Smitty doesn’t talk about too many. He must have been allowed into someone’s office though, these letters coming up as the cruise progresses were the only typed ones he’d sent home.

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  25. I look forward to more from Smitty because it shows a side of war and military life many of us will never know…and you know me! As a mom I can so relate 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  26. 28 days on sea in the dark and not a lot to do must be a bad dream

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Enjoyed reading Smitty’s account of the troop ship cruise. From my father’s letters, on the same subject, they had chow twice a day, morning and evening. By then, they were famished, and it wasn’t fit to eat.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I suppose it could have been worse. He might have had a CO who had them do PT and drills the whole way — or maybe that would have been less boring and better (but would have resulted in the same amount of gripes – it’s the Army).

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I like his dry sense of humor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sometimes he’d throw something at me, a phrase or word and it would take me a sec to realize what he’d said. He could keep you laughing when he was in the mood!!

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  30. I did not know who to feel sorrier for Re the letter , the son or Mom!such a great article GP. You serve us well in keeping these young men in mind and that these are very real human beings we send off to war. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  31. 28 days! I had no idea.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Only if we could ever understand that war doesn’t hold any meaning in long term. It has been given unduly glorification but then we do need dopamine in some way

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  33. For all you that have been in the military, Did you notice how he “toned down” his language for this letter? I remember doing that SO MUCH when I used to write home. Curse words become like adjectives in the military!! It’s crazy. Thanks for sharing this G.P, really, really cool stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

    • To his dying day, my dad refused to curse in front of a woman, so he sure wasn’t going to write it to his mother. Besides, all 5′ of her would have tanned his hide when he got home (after all the hugs and kisses).

      Liked by 1 person

  34. 28 days being kept in the dark, sounds pretty rough to me.

    Liked by 1 person

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