Rockland was not the same place. The house seemed much smaller, my mother and father older than the two years warranted. Mary, the oldest was away as a Navy nurse. Violette was away at college. My younger brother, Vemon, was about ready to go in himself. Wayne and Beverly were the only ones left. Nightlife consisted of visiting the various diners in the area, but most of the people were strangers. All the old gang were in uniform somewhere around the world. The below zero weather was almost unbearable after so long in the milder climate. Then there was that old red bicycle leaning against the back porch. I had bought it from Sammy Rankin for $10, and had given it to Vemon when I left. Sammy died in a tank on D-Day.

Philip French was also killed somewhere out there. This extremely intelligent boy was one of the gentlest persons I've ever known. I don't recall seeing him in the normal schoolyard battles that all youngsters get into. He sat in front of me in Mr. Rosenagles study hall. On a particularly nice day, he'd say, " It's a great day for the race." Old gullible Harold would always say, "What race?" The time worn answer would come back, "The human race."

Rationing, deaths and constant war news left the home front a rather bleak place. Gone forever was the time when the first rays of sun on the bedroom window, whether through the never duplicated patterns of frost or the clarity of a summer morning brought only a joy and challenge. Never again would I jump into my clothes and hurry through breakfast because there wasn't going to be enough time in the day to do all the things planned. That era had also become a casualty of war, but it had truly been a great day for me race.

We reunited in Norfolk after our leaves. The group was kept together except for a few hardship cases, etc. There we waited out the terrible battle of Iwo Jima, listening to the reports of Kamikaze attacks, knowing full well what to expect when our turn came.

Although I had never told anyone, like the gambler who knows when his luck has run out, I knew I could not return from the Pacific. It was not a fear or dread, simply a knowledge.

Sometime in March, the group was shipped to Thompkinsville, Staten Island, New York. Pier 6 was a receiving station where once again we were in a waiting situation. Many new men were added. Some were just out of civilian life, and some were subway sailors with families in the city. Together we performed various jobs and conversions. It was clear that we formed the nucleus for a repair unit being shaped up for the inevitable invasion of the islands of Japan.

While I was at Staten Island, my brother Vemon joined the Navy making us a three star Navy family. The waiting here was eased somewhat by the nearness of the Big Apple which is never boring, even in wartime. I also ran on the base track team and we took the cross-country championship for the port area.

April 12,1945,1 was riding the BMT, looking at the black headlines in the hands of nearly every passenger. President Roosevelt had died at Warm Springs.

I thought back to that summer day during the height of the depression. I was standing in a crowd on Rockland's Park St. when he came by in an open car on his way to Campobello. There was that ever present cigarette and holder at a jaunty angle, the pince-nez glasses, toothy grin and a mien which said, "What the Hell, we can make it." When the party boarded the presidential yacht at Tilson's wharf, they had to winch him aboard in a bosun chair. I was just a child, but I marveled at the fact that the man we were all leaning on couldn't even walk.

These were desperate times when he took office. The philosophy of Calvin Coolidge, "The business of the United States is business," had created an economic anarchy which had crumbled upon itself. While the rest of the . country was starving, those in the farm belt were dumping milk and burning livestock in trenches to get rid of what they couldn't sell. There was talk of Communism, for an empty belly will listen to anyone who promises help. There was need for a firm hand at the helm or we would lose it all.

Relieving the horrible blackness of the Depression was, in my opinion, enough to place him among the greatest presidents of our republic. Now he had led us to within sight of victory in the largest war we had ever fought. Generations and even centuries may pass before we see a giant of this magnitude again.

The next month brought VE Day, but the celebration of that glorious event was somewhat tempered by the knowledge that our role was yet to be determined.

There was an Irish fellow who joined our group of electricians. He had worked on an ultra-secret project down South, and often told me of these huge, strange high powered electrical affairs. He tried to explain them to me, and always assured me that there was something big, world shaking coming out of that project. He didn't know enough about what was going on and I couldn't follow his mind boggling descriptions.

One day in August he came running up to me, all excited, with a newspaper in his hand. "See. See. Wha'd'I tellya!" He was pointing to a headline which announced the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan. I had my reprieve.

Although I had enough points to be among the first to get a "ruptured duck," I had three more years of my hitch to serve. I was assigned to the destroyer tender USS SHENANDOAH, and made several more trips to the Mediterranean before being discharged in September of 1948.

Harold E. Gerrish, Jr.


As the son of an LCT vet, I would like to extend my appreciation to Mr. Gerrish for allowing us to post his personnel account of his service during world war II with the Maintenance Staff of LCT(5) Flotilla 10.  

Richard Fox 



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