103d INFANTRY DIVISION WORLD WAR II ASSOCIATION

Trip Over: Across the Bounding Waves - Life Aboard Ship

As the ships left the harbor and land faded from view, the ships assumed their convoy formation, troop ships in the middle and destroyers on the flank. For anyone who has never crossed the open sea in a troop ship, it is hard to imagine how crowded life on board is for the soldiers; close community living is the best way to describe this environment. Bunks were built in four high tiers with little or no head room. It was two weeks of extreme discomfort, with little desire to eat and sleeping a luxury under the existing conditions in the troop hold. It was very very close.

 

Showers were all taken using salt water. Toilets were makeshift and were not kept very clean. They consisted of long troughs with constant running water flowing through them. Once in a while, to relieve boredom and monotony, a soldier might light a wad of toilet paper and send it floating down the stream to an unsuspecting buddy sitting atop the trough. That generally brought howls of laughter and a singed rear end for the victim.

 

Eating on board ship was a varied event. For the General Brooke passengers, it was like a cruise ship. Three squares a day plus they had full freedom of the decks. The Monticello, on the other hand, presented a challenge for men getting their breath of fresh air. There were shifts of men allowed on deck, half on deck and half in the hold. Meal? Two stand up meals a day, jokingly, the men traveling on teh Monticello said that they were getting that lean and hungry look.

The rumors were hot on all the ships, Europe or Africa. One major storm hit the convoy, and during their time in the Atlantic, you could forget food. It was difficult to stay in your bunk, the storm was so intense. Finally, the cry went up, "land ho!" The ships then took a zig zag course, hugging the coast of Africa until they entered the Straits of Gibraltar. Then it was the Rock on the port side and Africa to starboard. Then it came, yet another storm in the Mediterranean, until the southern coast of France appeared. Now the men knew, they were going to Marseilles.

 

The convoy arrived in the port of Marseilles on October 20, 1944, and were met with confusion and a port nearly destroyed by teh Germany

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