16 CCU ADVENTURE
August - September 1943
The Unit had been at the hot, dusty Camp Stoneman for several days, hiking, drilling and running obstacle courses as prescribed. The equipment had been checked, the final packing and processing were complete. Finally at 1600 on 30 July full, strained, field packs were donned, all barracks bags were packed and, after a two mile hike with thousands of other soldiers they reached the docks. There they boarded a small passenger ferry “Catalina,” which took them the forty-seven miles to San Francisco. The Unit filed off the ferry, through a warehouse and aboard the USAT (U.S. Army Transport vessel) “Brazil.” Bunks were located on ‘D’ deck, below the waterline.
The next morning the anchor rattled up at 1000 and the large vessel set out to sea. Few saw the shore slip away as the Unit, and all passengers, had been ordered to remain below decks as the ship slipped out of the harbor. A long voyage lay ahead.
At sea the old luxury liner “Brazil” was cutting through the waves at approximately 20 knots per hour [more like 12]. Activity was greatly restricted, and only two meals were eaten each day. Pfc’s. Lefferts and Morrison volunteered for KP (kitchen patrol) in order to get a third meal, besides it helped pass the time as each day dragged on and on.
The first days aboard ship were rather strange. As you slip away from your home land there is a great feeling of loneliness and sentiment but soon this wears off. You begin to look for things to do, ways to keep busy. All around you there are men, thousands of men. You live very close with just enough room to stretch out. For the most part you sit and talk. After a while you roll over in your cot and try to get some sleep. You next get up and walk around, then perhaps, you get into a card game. Poker at times like this is a pleasant past time. On other days books offer a happy relief but, all in all, each day is very long. As the boat turned south toward the equator the heat and humidity adds to the discomfort.
On the 6th of August, having crossed the equator, the ancient “Shellbacks” ceremony was performed. All were issued their shellback cards while entertainment was provided through the public address system. The card read thus:
Be it further Understood by Virtue of the Power invested in me, I do hereby command all my Subjects to show due Honor and Respect to him whenever he may enter my Realm.
Given under my hand this bright “military secret” day of Maytember, Nineteen Hundred and Forty-three.”
The ceremony started a new phase in the trip. The Unit volunteered to work on the ship’s newspaper. Besides it opened ways to get extra meals and the privilege of going anywhere on the ship. The officers were given ship duties which they performed for four hours each day.
One day the quietness of the trip was broken when the word “land ho! was shouted. Immediately everyone rushed on deck. Across the water an interruption in the horizon could be seen. Presently a city became visible. Everyone was eager to know where they were. It soon became known that the beautiful island was Tasmania, off the coast of Australia. And best of all, they were to be given passes to see the city of Hobart. This was unexpected and their delight cannot be described.
Soon the Unit was rushing down the gang plank. For many of them it was their first stop on foreign soil. The island was beautiful; the people very friendly and hospitable. Two pleasant days were spent in Hobart. They went shopping, visited horse and dog races and just walked around enjoying everything they could.
On August 23rd, everyone was safely back on board. The anchor was hauled up and the large boat began to move out. Another ship, the “Uruguay” joined them and they both proceeded towards Australia. After seven more days of travel land was again seen. But this time no passes were given and for six hours they looked over the rails at the city of Freemantle [Australia].
Early the next morning two other ships joined the convoy and three escorts, a Dutch cruiser and two American destroyers, set out together. As they neared dangerous waters in the Indian Ocean, four bombers began circling and watching for enemy submarines. The feeling of real war was apparent as the tension and feelings increased . More “abandon ship” drills were ordered.
As the ship proceeded in a zig-zag manner across the Indian Ocean the boat’s public address system could be heard throughout the day. Invariably the call was for a “Mr. Galloway,” the ship’s First Mate. Mr. Galloway was always being called upon to repair and correct parts of the ship. In time the call “Mr. Galloway” was becoming the “ship’s joke.” Whenever anyone had some fault, even in jest, he would call for “Mr. Galloway” in a joking manner. This humorous situation was put to use when the Unit planned a play entitled “Calling Mr. Galloway.” They used this as a basis to criticize food and living conditions aboard the boat. Sgt. J. A. Kaufman played the part of the ship’s CO; Pfc. Z. B. Mann, the ship’s Adjutant; Pfc. J. E. Klock the messenger boy, a continual “yes” man; and Cpl. L. S. Gendler played the part of a private named Douglas MacArthur. Other characters were played by members from other organizations.
As a means of publicity, a false rumor that Mr. Galloway intended to bring suit against the ship’s CO was started. This heightened the attention and everyone went to see the play. The sow met with hilarious success. It was planned and played so beautifully that even Mr. Galloway couldn’t help laughing. Working on the play helped to bring new interest to the trip and presently, land was again sighted.
The ship arrived at Bombay Harbor on the 10th of September at 1300. Most of that night everyone was busy looking over the rails and wondering about the strange land. This was INDIA. They had travelled half way around the world. Sometimes it didn’t seem possible.