Guest Book
The Song
Strategy & Build Up
Sign ofThings
Government Property
My Bombardier
The Crew
More About The Crew
Texas Invasion
Dalhart, Texas
Aircraft Commander
2nd & 3rd phase training
England Bound
Combat Crew Replacement
Bloody 100th
In The Mood
First Mission
March '44 & Berlin
Target Berlin Again
48 Hour Pass In London
Sing These Songs...Mightly
Target Brunswick Again
Target Augsburg
Letters Of Commendation
Munich Is The Target
Our Little Friends
Other Side...
Heavy Water
15th In Italy
Russian bases
Target Oil
Bob Rosenthal
Colonel John Bennett
William R. Lawley
B-17 Control Panel
The Base Of Operations
Russians Load Bombs
Goering's Lament
Code Of Conduct
C.B. (Red) Harper
Credits & Links


The ‘big move came’ on 10 January 1944. After ferrying across the Hudson River and after hours of waiting in the pier shed,’ the men filed aboard the old French luxury liner lle d’France. The famous old liner had been stripped of much of her finery and had been converted into a troop ship with a British staff and crew. Few of the men aboard were aware of their destination, except that it was across the Atlantic. After seven months and a thousand rumors and counter-rumors, we were finally and definitely on our way to war.

As I entered the room assigned to our four crew officers, I was greeted with a warm and cheery “Hlow myatey   Menoimeisoithurmoiple.” I asked him to run that one by me again, and he did. With a helpless look of despair, I glanced over at a fellow worker of his. This other man replied, “He’s telling you that Arthur Maple is his name, sir.” The first guy comes back with - “Ya - Oithurmoipleismenoime.”

That was my introduction to Cockney English, which would become a way of life as it would be interspersed with other spoken English dialects such as Scotch, Irish and Gaelic, along with the English spoken by the visiting natives of the colonies. That being - Yankee, The South, California, Texican and that strange language that is spoken around Martha’s Vineyard, Boston and Maine.

Troops had been collecting and were brought in from staging areas at Camp Kilmer near New Brunswick, N.J as well as those from Fort Hamilton and the Brooklyn Navy Yards. The ship was loaded to the hilt with American troops from all branches of the service 

The lle d’France took nine days to cross the Atlantic, changing course and speed every three minutes to avoid the U-boat menace, but causing a great deal of sickness.

As for conditions aboard ship, the enlisted men were each assigned to bunks stacked five high. Many stories have been written about this form of fartsac torture. To add to the feeling of apprehension, it was rumored there was room in the life boats for only fifteen to eighteen hundred men. The ship was carrying in the region of 18,000 troops including about fifteen hundred from the Air Corps.

Wiley Dobbs recalls: Copilot Bob Flannigan was assigned as officer in charge of a section of the ship occupied by several hundred enlisted troops from many different branches of the service. Bomber crews consisted of ten men in a kind of family like atmosphere and we had a little more relaxed relationship between the enlisted personnel and our officers than did the other service branches that had many more men in squad and company sized units to command Flannigan found himself in a new element of command, that being, to see that the men in his area kept it policed and clean. The enlisted men of the crew of the “Buffalo Gal” were in Flannigan‘s section. He was sounding off rather obstreperously to make a point that heads were going to roll and some privileges would be taken away if things didn‘t improve in housekeeping in that area. He was standing in an aisle with the five high bunks on both sides of it, and it just so happened that our ball turret gunner Austin Curlee was in a bunk just over Flannigan ‘s head Austin spoke up in a near Whisper and said, “Bull shit, Junior. You really wouldn‘t do that would you?” Lieutenant Flannigan whirled around ready to decapitate some poor soul. When he saw that it was our ball turret gunner, Sgt. Austin Curlee, it really broke him up.”

I decided to stay on deck for a while the first night out and was enjoying the occasional faint glow of phosphorous in the ship’s wake. I almost had a coronary attack when I suddenly caught sight of a periscope gliding through the water nearby. I knew my duty and I exercised it to the fullest by sounding a vocal alarm. I was screaming “Submarine port side” as loud as I could while jumping up and down and waving my arms to attract attention of the ships crew. Finally a ships officer came to me and explained that it was a submarine - one of ours - and that it had been with us ever since we departed New York harbor.

The Air Corps personnel aboard ship seemed to fare better than the “grunts” did from the ships motion. The companion ways were a mess as well as the latrines or heads as those of the nautical persuasion liked to call them. Some of the troops just couldn’t quite make it so - up it came. The British cuisine for breakfast was fried tomatoes and kippered herring and to my notion that bill of fare would gag a maggot. The other meals were just as unpalatable so I made out mostly with C - ration. Pureed horse meat labeled potted ham and hard bitter chocolate for Dessert.

The lie d’France berthed at the Firth of Clyde near midnight, 19 January 1944. We were dressed in class A uniform, with blankets rolled in U shape tied over a back pack ditty bag that was loaded with mess kit and a sundry of items. The steel helmet was tied on the back pack assembly. The webb belt was attached to our waists with side arm, first aid kit and canteen cup attached to it. We had all our other belongings and clothing in either the A-3 or B-4 bags. With one of them in each hand, we were herded down a very long, narrow and steep ladder-like device. The ladder terminated on a tug-like boat below the deck of the lie d’France and in the darkness of night looked like about half a mile down. I slipped and skidded on my butt all the way down so it really seemed to be more like a mile. It was so dark you really couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.

We arrived somewhere in about an hour, got off the boat and marched to what we were told was a train. We were herded into this compartmented thing and groped in the dark for a seat. Occasionally a voice would demand, “Get off my lap ass hole and find your own seat.” There was a great deal of friendly bickering as there seemed to be a pretty good mixture of 4 engine bomber, 2 engine bomber and fighter people mixed together in the compartments. A person with a female voice came through with candy mints and gum. It was a welcome treat to hear a female voice and it was decided she must have been with the Red Cross.

A few hours later we arrived at what turned out to be a replacement depot, located near Stone, a small town south of Liverpool. We were trucked to a building and were assigned quarters. My first act was to sit on my hands on a luke warm steam radiator for about an hour. The city of Newcastle was not far away and there must have been thousands of women working in the factories there because there was plenty to go around after working hours. A Pub was located about a mile down the road. Every afternoon the ladies from the Newcastle factories would exit from the short train ride at the Stone Station and start the processional stroll past the Air Force Replacement Pool cantonment. The “Yanks” knew the schedule so pairing off began in preparation for the mile walk to the pub. The walk allowed time for couples to become acquainted or swapping partners which ever the case might be. At the Pub, the main beverage was the beer or stout that came straight from a huge barrel at room temperature. It was not as carbonated as American beer and it took some getting use to... .maybe 30 minutes at the most.

British tradition for the natives who went “Pub Crawling” was to sit and nurse a pint of the elixir for an hour or so. They were appalled to see the guys from the colonies guzzle down maybe six pints of the stuff during their one. About twice in the course of an evening, the Pub’s proprietor would hang a fifth of scotch whiskey in a wall dispenser. It was not considered proper etiquette to jump up and storm the bar tender at that time. One would casually stroll to the bar, order a shot of the scotch, then tenderly nurse it, sip a thimble fill of it, let it lay in the mouth for a minute or two, then let it trickle down the throat and savor the gorgeous aroma. More than one shot per person was frowned upon. There was much loud talking and the raucous singing was mostly about “Roll me o...ver in the clo....ver - roll me over lay me down and do it again,” with all nine verses yet. The Pub would close about 22:00 hours. The guests would then slowly depart toward the Stone Railroad Station since the last train was to pull out at midnight. It was only about a mile to the train station, and two hours left to burn before train time. Also, several hollowed out hay stacks that had been used for anti aircraft gun emplacements earlier in the war lay along the route back. The hay stacks could accommodate several couples and were usually filled to capacity. Other couples were forced to use phone booths, park benches, stand in doorways or take to the grass.

Next...Combat Crew Replacement


To read the whole story, Contact Us for more information.