Not much happened in Marseille. Most of the work here involved the small boats, LCVPs and LCMs. There was just about enough to keep us busy. Of course, the liberty wasn't too bad either.
Periodically the French would bring groups to a cement wall off the bow of the LST and shoot them. Perhaps the whole region was just as guilty. There wasn't the abject poverty we encountered when we first went into Palermo and Naples. The attitude of these people suggested the takers far outnumbered the givers.
When a nation takes all of its best young men to slaughter as did France in WWI, there is bound to be a different society spawned from pimps, draft dodgers and criminals. The human animal is the only one to do this. War is the result of stupidity from the supposedly most intelligent creature on earth. Perhaps that old man Petain saw this and did not want to repeat the deeds of WWI.
Near the end of November another group relieved us, and back to Karouba we went. This time rumors were rife and a week or so later we packed our gear on an LST going Stateside. This LST was strictly on a passenger run and stopped at various ports for other returnees. We got as far as Mers El Kebir, a small port outside of Oran, and the hook was dropped. Days seemed like weeks, and we saw all hope of getting home for Christmas vanish. Perhaps it was the events at Bastogne that caused the delay. We didn't get much news, and furthermore, our thoughts were selfishly on getting home.
In the first days of 1945, the trip was on again. Through the Straits along the southern route of the ladies we wallowed. Card games ran continuously just to have something to do. The extremely fine weather, blue sky, bright sun only added to the monotony. I think a little storm might have been welcome.
We sailed on through the Gulf Stream towards the coast of Virginia. The air became cooler until one morning we were greeted with an almost unbearable cold. The temperature could not have been much less than freezing, but after so much warm weather, the change was drastic. Late that afternoon we moved into Hampton Roads. A lone seaman guard standing beneath a yellow street lamp, protecting himself from the slowly falling snow greeted us. Then a line handling party came by to tie the ribbons, and we were Stateside.
The paperwork had been taken care of while we were at sea, and the next day I caught the ferry across Chesapeake Bay for a train to New York then Boston, over to North Station and to Portland Maine near midnight. The earliest transportation to Rockland was a bus. As I crawled aboard this ancient vehicle in the early morning hours, it was bitterly cold, way below zero. The bus driver remarked to me about the cold. I replied, "Yes, after 22 months in the Mediterranean its even worse."
"You just getting back?" "Yes."
"See that seat right next to mine. You grab it, 'cause this old crate is plenty drafty."
We got underway. He turned the heater towards me and I felt so warm and comfortable that I slept all the way, waking only at the stops: Bnmswick, Bath, Wiscasset, Damariscotta, Waldoboro, Warren, Thomaston and finally Rockland.
The air was still, cold and pure. Out in Penobscot Bay, the sun, an orange ball, was coming up over the breakwater and lighthouse which rested in the steel gray water. As I walked along, the snow crunched beneath my feet, and woodsmoke from some of the houses was rising straight into the wintry sky. I was Home!
The Lighthouse at Rockland
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© 2000 LCT Flotillas of World War II ETO PTO