World War 2 Army 547th FA 9th CA

I'm very tentative about doing this and may not be able to do it at all, but my sweetheart wife and dear daughters have urged me to tell a few stories of experiences during World War II era.

If I can call them to mind, some of the funny happenings might prove somewhat interesting, but knowing that what can appear humorous to one person may very well prove otherwise to the next person. I'll gamble that the tales won't sound too absurd and pray that they won't cause readers, particularly my loved ones, to think poorly of the writer. Having to begin somewhere, I'll start at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, Indiana, on December 5, 1942 which was an important date in our family because my father, Floyd Sheldon Black, had enlisted in the Army on that same exact date in 1917, twenty-five years before, to serve in World War I.

I had boarded a bus in my home town of Gary, Indiana, early that cold, wintry morning along with a full complement of prospects for military service. My Dad had driven me to the bus depot on his way to work rather than have me use the streetcar, and now that I think about it, this had to have put a little extra strain on his meager "A" Coupons which were so valuable in buying gasoline for his car.

The bus ride to Indianapolis was uneventful apparently because I don't remember anything about it, The events at the Fort were another matter. Our group, like many others from all over the 5th Army area which I think must have included the states of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, were hearded into an enormous armory or gymnasium and instructed to take off all our clothes in preparation for a physical examination. There were several doctors positioned throughout the room and we moved from one to the next for their testing of whichever part of our bodies they were specializing in that day.

If a prospect did not meet the physical requirements at any point, he would be removed from the lineup and instructed to go back to the starting point and get dressed. The designation for not meeting the physical requirements was "4F" and I think the percentage of men in this category was quite high - something like 40 plus percent. America was blessed with an abundance of young men to serve in the military so the physical requirements were quite strict and something as minor as flat feet could cause rejection. However, it was still quite early in the war and the conflict had not gone very well for our country - the shocking, sneak attack by the Japanese which had devastated our Navy in the Pacific area placing us in a terribly difficult position militarily and the situation in Europe and North Africa being similarly desperate because the German and Italian military had conquered all nations except the British who had been driven back to their own islands by Adolph Hitler's and Benito Mussolini's forces - so our military planners at the Pentagon were understandably nervous about using the available manpower to its best advantage while more troops were being trained. A new category of personnel had been developed about that time and it was known as "B-1" which would accept men with physical disabilities and use them to replace healthy "A-1" men in the United States so that they could be used in overseas endeavors.

As I worked my way from doctor to doctor during the physical, finally I was stopped and told I was being rejected and classified as "4-F" because of my defective collar bone and high blood pressure. Being obsessed with a desire to be accepted and follow in my Dad's footsteps, he having been a life-long hero to me, I argued with the doctor so earnestly that he had second thoughts and told me to go lie down on a nearby bench to try and lower the blood pressure which I did and after a few minutes he checked it again and found it good enough to meet specifications. The collar bone was still another matter though, and here the new "B-1" category came into play with the doctor telling me to go through a nearby door and into an office across the hall to talk with the person there about the possibility of any civilian skills being useable by the military so that I could be accepted as "B-1". Well, long after that time, a word was coined to describe a naked person who would dash through an assembly of people. This type degenerate was called a "streaker" and as I think back to my journey out in to the hallway and across to the proper office I may now be considered one of the founders of "streaker-dom" because as I looked for the right office, a couple of women came out of a nearby one and prompted complete chaos and hasty, disorganized flight on my part. Fortunately, the first door I tried was the correct one and some tough old army regular then interviewed me and helped by deciding my previous employment in the Gary steel mills as a "tensile steel testing machine operator" could be converted to military use. With his piece of paper approving my skill in my hand I again "streaked" back to the safety of the examining room where the doctors finally decided that the United States Army had a spot for this not-to-be-refused soldier. And so it was that I was able to make the bus ride back to my home town and announce to my anxiously awaiting mother and father that I had been accepted and had one week to get all my affairs in order and report on December 12th to start a new career as a soldier. To complicate things a bit the evening of the bus ride back to Gary, a major snow storm caused difficulties for the bus driver and because I was well acquainted with the road he welcomed my sitting across from him in the front of the bus and helping him find his way in a couple of areas through small towns. At supper time, the bus had stopped at a restaurant in a small town so that all of us could eat and following a good meal I, along with a couple or so other fellows had gone to a store next door and bought some bottles of whiskey for the entertainment of all the passengers who either wanted to celebrate having been selected to serve our country or to celebrate the opposite category so it was that as we approached Gary I could see little to be gained by riding the bus all the way back to our starting point when a small detour and early stop would let me disembark within just a couple blocks of our house so this was what my directing the driver permitted me to accomplish. To replay me for this trickery, as I stepped off the bus I slipped on a streetcar rail and fell flat on my back. Probably the bus driver cheered this well deserved penalty for having maneuvered him into the unplanned stop and certainly he didn't offer to jump out to assist me to my wobbly feet. Being a bit exhilarated, I recall doing some singing during the two block midnight stroll to 4369 Adams Street and was surprised later to be told of this activity by my father who, along with my mother had heard the musical renditions as I progressed down 44th Street to our alley and then on into the back door of the house. Oh, what a start to a sudden military career. The next morning, my elbow had swollen so much that my dad drove me to a doctor who decided that it would probably heal fast enough to not delay my December 12th date at Fort Benjamin Harrison and his prediction did, indeed, prove accurate, although I do remember the elbow being good and sore for some time thereafter.

I can speculate now that my dad was probably happy to see me once again pile on a bus with the other "lucky lads" headed for unknown excitement and who knew what fate when December 12 came along. After last minute hugs and encouraging chit chat and after a very strange situation promoted by my mother who left my bedroom where I was collecting my things with the announcement that my father had something to say to me, my poor dad finally mumbled something to the effect that I was a clean kid and to please come back the same way. I'm not sure I ever understood clearly what these words meant, but obviously they represented previous conversations between my folks and must have been considered man-to-man talk, hence the reason for the private conversation between us men. If coming back as clean as I was at that moment meant what I think it did, I can proudly announce that I did pull this off and also think my mother and dad did realize this.

Because I had put on many pounds of weight the last few months of civilian life and actually weighed in on opening day at 210 pounds,   I was one of only a small handful of recruits who was not completely garbed during the first day when we all went through an assembly line where all our articles of clothing were thrown at us by supply people working from large cartons containing the various garments being distributed. My particular problem was that there wasn't a jacket or dress coat available in my size so I had to forge ahead with the promise that one would be furnished at my final destination after leaving the induction center. I can recall then marching from one assembly to the next in my shirt and tie while all others were a little warmer in the sub freezing temperatures in their jackets.

All recruits lived in long Quonset Hut type wooden barracks during our two or three day stay at Fort Ben. These were probably about a hundred feet long - typical military living quarters - and were heated by two or three coal burning stoves. A roster of men to keep the fires burning was nailed up on the bulletin board and it was with dread that I discovered my name assigned to part of the nighttime hours. Never having stoked a coal fire and not having the first inkling of the proper and efficient way to maintain a fire, it didn't take too long after my first duty started for my lack of skill to be chokingly revealed to all the sleeping bodies in the room. I did a yoeman's job of adding coal to the stoves but because I did not know that it also was imperative to regulate the draft by opening the chimneys, I was unable to generate the needed warmth and did create a roomful of ever thickening smoke which led to my frantically opening windows all along the length of the building to let the smoke escape. It was at this point that one of the more knowledgeable fellows, probably a Hoosier farm boy, awoke from the ever worsening conditions and joined me in the window opening detail after which he asked if I'd ever had experience in this type business and upon learning of my severely neglected upbringing, dashed from stove to stove opening the dampers to let the smoke exit via the chimneys. Oh, what a hero that man was to me!

I'm not sure if there was any connection, but the next mornings roster of duties for that day found me assigned to the garbage collecting detail, a position of some distinction I'm sure. Three of us were turned over to a truck driver with instructions that we were to walk alongside his truck while he drove throughout our part of the fort and were to manhandle large receptacles of garbage and trash up to one of our partners in the bed of the truck. All in all, this work prepared us quite well to join the rest of the men in our barracks for the series of inoculations and vaccinations with our freezing cold arms not feeling a thing as the needles flew. My recollection is that running the gauntlet of medics resulted in probably two shots at least in each arm plus the inevitable vaccination. Oh well, at least I wasn't assigned to any more furnace duty from then on.

It was revealed later - in fact, after the war, I believe - that the experiment with the "1-B" program, while not deemed a failure necessarily, was not a booming success either because of the problems many of the soldiers had meeting the training standards due to their particular handicaps. So, what we fifty "1-B's" who were herded onto a passenger train about the middle of December could contribute to the cause was unknown, of course, but I do recall that we did offer enthusiasm and "Espirit de Corps" to borrow a phrase from the Marines.

We had no idea whatsoever where we were headed but had a nice, long train ride of probably two days, and after diverting up to Canada and who knows where else we finally arrived in Boston late in the evening. Army trucks took us a short distance from the train depot down to a boat dock where we milled around in the dim light on the dock until ordered to board a vessel tied up alongside. We all laughed later at our stupidity, but as we sat on benches facing each other down in the recesses of this boat, we inquired of each other: "my god, they're not taking us overseas already are they - and we don't even have guns???" Actually, after a ride of probably 30 or 40 minutes, we felt the boat dock somewhere and upon climbing up to the open deck, found ourselves alongside a dock on one of the islands in Boston harbor.

As part of the master plan for deploying the "1-B's" throughout the ranks of the regular Army within the United States in order to relieve fit soldiers for overseas duty, we found ourselves being assigned to the five batteries at Fort Strong   on Long Island. Three of the batteries were responsible for anti-aircraft type shooting of the old 3" guns which we thought of probably World War I vintage. The fourth battery was the headquarters for our battalion known as the 9th Coast Artillery protecting Boston and the fifth battery was in charge of tending and arming the anti-submarine net which stretched across the harbor from the point of our island to the mainland probably a half mile or so away. Most of us found ourselves undergoing recruit training within the three gun batteries and this was quite an experience to say the least. The winter of '42-'43 was one of the most severe every experienced and, in fact, was one of a very few times in the history of record keeping that the salt water harbor froze over. I recall being fascinated to climb the quite tall hill on the seaward end of the island and watch ocean going ships enter the harbor (after battery D had opened the nets) and push their way through the ice as they headed for the docks and the Charlestown Navy Yard on the mainland about five miles west of us.

At any rate, it was COLD outdoors to spend many hours marching and drilling and training for the seven weeks it took to convert the rookies to full fledged soldiers. It was almost impossible for me to comprehend how, in temperatures like those I could lose 40 pounds, and I recall how frustrated our supply sergeant, Vaughn Edmands,   (Bob and Vaughn in photo) was in trying to keep me in uniforms that half way fit. I think I was the only one who lost a great deal of weight and, of course, I had an ample supply to lose, but every Saturday afternoon when we would assemble out on the parade grounds for the weekly inspection, the inspecting officer would become upset at the "sad sack" look of my uniform and direct the supply sergeant to "get some pants that fit for this man!" The new pants would arrive a few days later but by the time of the next inspection, I'd lost another half dozen or so pounds and the pants and belt had lost their svelt look.

Another sort of humorous situation was created because of my drastic slimming process. When we were first introduced to our A-A guns, the gun sergeants looked through the ranks and noting that I was of "sizeable " build assigned me to the position of "number one gunner" which meant that I would be the one to slam the heavy artillery shells up in to the gun barrel after they had been held in to position for this thrust by another man, probably known as "number two gunner" I should guess. This wasn't too difficult for a 210 pounder but as I slid down to a 170 pounder, it appeared that my selection was now questionable. Too, the maneuver of slamming the shell up in to the gun had to be done with the left arm and this was the "iffy" reason I was rated "1-B' in the first place.

Jack Czarnik    (in his Russian language Czarnik means Black) who was in to weight lifting and body building and who by continuing this program overcame whatever it was that had caused his "1-B" status and was able to be reclassified at "1-A", took over as number one gunner and released me to handle what few administrative chores Battery B had to do and we were both happy with the new direction of our lives. In fact, the two of us "kicked" our way across Fort Strong and all the following locations because we spent most of our mutually free daytime moments playing a game called "driveback". Jack or I jealously guarded and protected our favorite possession - - a football, and had this with us the whole time of our service. The rules of the competition were simple - -one would punt the ball as far as he could and try to kick it over the head of the other or where it couldn't be caught. The other participant then would be able to punt it back from the spot it was retrieved or, if caught in the air, from a spot five giant paces forward. The victory was reached by whichever punter could sail one over the line we had previously designated as the goal and not have it caught. To further glamorize the contest, a punt over the goal line was worth one point whereas if we could drop-kick it over it scored two points. I've long forgotten what our accumulated score was at the end of our game three years later an on a foreign continent, but it was many hundreds to many hundreds, I'm sure.

My first acquaintance with Jack Czarnik was on the train from Indianapolis to Boston when we were passing through the area where he and I had originated. His home town was called Griffith, Indiana, and as the train approached, he loudly and excitedly announced to all of us within earshot that we were in for the rare treat of actually seeing his house alongside the tracks and to all look out the window so that we could enjoy this sight and to help him wave to his family. Just as we were all in position and listening to Jack's running commentary on the upcoming event, another train going the other way on the adjoining track roared past and completely blocked our view long enough that when it finally passed, we were past Jack's home . Oh the cruelties of war !!!!

Of the replacement "1-B" troops from the midwest, only a handful managed to make it through recruit training and our later states-side training and continue on with the Battalion for overseas action. Several were able to prove in a following physical exam that their original problem had been cured and could then qualify for "1-A" status, but other physical handicaps couldn't be improved so these men were either discharged from the service at the times of the battalion being transferred or were deployed to other state-side duties. One friend of mine had the thumb on his left hand missing and therefore could not open the bolt on his M-1 Garand rifle, that maneuver demanding the use of that particular thumb, and I believe was sent home. In my own case, I had undergone an extensive physical exam over at Fort Banks on the mainland (the other point where the anti-sub net was secured) and again had to argue with the doctor who was insistant on discharging me from the service. I always suspicioned that one of our officers had worked behind the scenes to have me ecused when he noted the problems I was having in handling a rifle, etc., and I can imagine his surprise when the doctor decided to permit me to return to my Battery. Then, some time later after our training in Texas and conversion from the anti-aircraft artillery to field artillery, the time came for me to be left behind because the "1-B" status didn't permit overseas service and our battalion was earmarked for European combat. However, friendship with Captain Sheehan,    our Commanding Officer, allowed me to make a proposal with which he agreed in order to take me along, and as a result he arranged with the Warrant Officer in charge of all records at Headquarters battery to perform a little forgery on my service record and just change the "1-B' classification to "1-A". This, of course, was done secretly and only the three of us ever knew. If I continue these stories on into the overseas phase, this Warrant Officer and Captain Sheehan became involved in another part of my military career and I'll go in to that story at that time.

Oh, if the people of greater Boston ever found out who their protectors were out on the islands of their harbor, I doubt that they'd have slept too soundly. Mom recalls that the city was in black-out conditions nightly in order to not show lights which could orient any enemy air or sea activity. All cars and trucks had to use only the bottom half of headlights and each residential block had a volunteer warden who would tour his area during nighttime hours and rap on the windows of any abode which allowed indoor lights to shine out.

Meanwhile, out in the islands anti-aircraft and anti-sub activity was taken seriously even if not too professionally. We at Fort Strong on the outermost occupied island trained quite diligently on our antique guns and always wondered how we'd have done if ever attacked from the air. Of course, the nearest German or Italian airport was probably 3000 miles away and neither had any air craft carriers so this knowledge must have contributed to the Pentagon decision to not invest in any modern equipment for our battalion. We had a set of "range finders" to use in tracking aircraft above us and send the proper firing instructions to our three guns, but they too had seen better days long before. After practicing and practicing with our A-A guns, we finally were ready for live target practice and one day a plane towing a long black target made a scheduled run across our area so that we could actually fire live shells at its following target. Because our out-of-date "range finder's" observation viewers were so foggy the men operating the units mistook the plane for the target with the result that our three guns fired as rapidly as possible with air bursts surrounding (and luckily not hitting) the plane and scaring the pilot enough that he unhooked his target and hightailed it away as fast as he could. We did salvage an undamaged cloth target with a lot of rope as a prize for our effort, but no doubt raised a few eyebrows on some high-up officers who read the report of the pilot describing those crazies down below. This great skill on the part of the 9th Coast Artillery was nearly surpassed one nice clear day when, as usual, we synchronized all three guns using the top tower of the Boston Custom House for our orientation. On all occasions except this one, we would have disarmed the guns following our practicing, but on this particular day we had armed them with live explosive shells and had not received the normal orders to unload the weapons so when the routine for sighting all three on the test target was completed, the shocking order was given by one of our lieutenants to "fire"! One of the three gun sergeants screamed an order at once to "hold our fire" and we were slow enough in following the previous order that we were able to not blow off the top of the Custom House. What heroes!

We never heard what may have happened to the poor lieutenant but I'm sure he was delighted and relieved to not have been sent into town to face the Bostonians.

I mentioned earlier that the seaward end of our island had a rise of probably 100 or so feet and that it had been armed many years before (around Civil War time, I believe) with a network of tunnels and protected trenches all leading from the several caves where the artillery shells were stored up to the enormous guns which were mounted permanently facing the open sea. No doubt, this had been a formidable threat to any enemy activity such as a Confederate gunboat or a pirate four-master, but was completely antiquated by the time we occupied the island so our anti-submarine efforts were planned around the steel rod net stretching just underwater from our island to the Boston mainland and on the eyes of all of us common soldiers who were on constant patrol along the outer seawall watching for any enemy activity such as U-Boat sightings or periscopes or the actual sub if it should arise to the surface or even for a small rubber boat with saboteurs perhaps. We all knew that we were to be on alert to spot something but never sure just what form this type threat might take. On cold winter nights when the sea was riled up and the walkway at the edge of the hill completely iced from the spray, the patrol duty was dreaded and the only way we could have a chance of not slipping into the surf was to walk with bayonets attached to our rifles and use their points to steady our icy walks.

Many of the wonderful people of Boston opened their hearts and wallets to service men and one of the nicest USO buildings in the country was built right on historic Boston Common. This probably was my first stopping off place when finally I earned a three day pass from the fort. Incidentally, the harbor defenses took the threat of enemy activity more seriously and, in fact, caused many a last second delay in leaving the fort on pass or furlough by declaring an emergency which cancelled all leaves. I don't recall ever hearing anything substantial about this enemy activity, but do recall one period of 53 days when no one was allowed to leave our post. This did not bother me too much but many of the older regular army men in our battery who had served for a number of years as a regular job had wives and families in the greater Boston area and were devastated by being so close and yet unable to get home for long periods of time. One nice fall Saturday I left on a short pass and when signing out at our orderly room took with me a handful of football tickets to the Harvard vs. Boston College game which some generous Boston person had bought and donated for use by service men but which had gone untaken by all others leaving the fort that day. I probably intended to sell or give away at the football stadium all the extra tickets, but upon landing at the dock on mainland Boston and wandering across the street to a seamy old seamans saloon, called the "Green Lantern" as I recall, I ran into two men from our battalion who had left on an earlier boat and were killing time at the bar. One of the fellows had made a date for the evening with a friend of his and Benny Lamire insisted that the other two of us should join him if his girlfriend could line up a couple more friends to make it a sixsome. In return, these two comrades agreed to accompany me to the ball game. And so now things began to shape up and destiny was about ready to take over my life!

After an embarrassing experience at the stadium which caused all seats near us to become suddenly vacant when the one who had made all the plans for the evening became quite sick from his previous drinking and caused the scattering of fans. Having been sitting in seats at the very top of the stadium it became a delicate balancing act for the two of us to manhandle our inebriated friend down the many rows of seats and then out of the stadium to the underground subway for the return trip to downtown Boston. As the even progressed with our friend still not recovered enough to remember the address where he had arranged for our rendezvous we escorted him into a Mayflower waffle house and poured cups of black coffee into him to bring back his memory. This tactic paid off finally and he found in his wallet an address which we then gave to a cabbie for the ride to meet our dates. As it turned out, the address was that of Dolores Lewis at 684 Tremont Street    who was one of the welcoming committee when we knocked at the front door. I've often since kidded this Lewis girl about my first reaction when introduced to her because she was holding in her arms a little girl who I thought must be hers but learned later that it was her niece,    Kathy Lewis. The sight of this beautiful woman and her little one startled me and I assumed that my date was a married mother which frightened the daylights out of me for the moment. After all, this was my first date and I was definitely nervous anyway. The evenings activities did progress as Dolores and her neighbor, Lillian Hamrock,   and Benny Lemire and Don Sobbe and I met the third woman, Ann Muscarelli, at a downtown hotel lobby (the famous Touraine Hotel) and visited one of the wartime nightclubs which had sprung up to handle the crush of military people and their dates. Here, I was a dismal failure to this fabulous young woman who loved dearly to dance but then discovered that I couldn't jitterbug or foxtrot or anything. As the evening wore on, we wound up at a Chinese restaurant in nearby Chinatown and once again our sickly compatriot caused great grief by becoming sick at the table. Finally, the six of us split up in to groups of two and it was my joyous task to accompany the Lewis girl to her home where it became a bit embarrassing to us both as a bottle in my overcoat pocket banged the entrance way loud enough to awaken her mother and sister.

The following week back on duty at the fort found me completely smitten by my newly found love and yet embarrassed and troubled by the memory of the previous weekends social disaster. In an attempt to salvage a precarious position, I wrote to the lovely Miss and along with a heartfelt apology asked if I could see her again sometime. Miracle of miracles, a return letter held out hope for a continuation of our new friendship. And so it was that a torrid courtship was pursued by PFC Black from that November date through his remaining days of service in Boston Harbor and until his departure with the Battalion the following St. Patrick's day.

Our Battery B 1st sergeant for whom I had been of some help with administrative functions was suddenly transferred, rumors having it that he had been willing to "sell" passes to some of the regulars and had been found out. His replacement was another older, regular army career man with about twenty years of service named 1st Sgt. Joseph F. Radlowski    who, upon taking over the running of our battery found my small experience of considerable value to him. Being enough in love with my new sweetheart that I was not beneath taking advantage of the 1st Sgt's and my new association and friendship, a program of suitor-ing was developed. To this day I say "thanks, Sarge" for having been agreeable to some quite preposterous and very un-military ideas and proposals designed to try and keep the romance alive in Boston town. For example, only three day passes were available having served a specified number of days on duty, but Joe accepted my argument that because I was not a New Englander like the majority of our men, a pass of 3 days duration meant very little to me; whereas if he could permit me to split my 72 hours into smaller pieces, I could have twelve 6-hour passes during the evenings or on weekends when not on actual duty. Being able to put this plan into action meant that I could board the 6:00 pm harbor boat, assuming the weather had permitted it to make its run to all the island ports, and land at Rows Wharf in Boston about a half hour later. A frigid 15 minute walk down Atlantic Avenue would find me at the big "South Railway Station" and its bank of telephones where, after quite nervous and apprehensive moments of practicing my upcoming conversation, I'd dial the number Commonwealth 2994 and ask the land lady of the apartment house, Mrs. Morgan, if she'd call Miss Lewis to the phone. Having the proper potion of romance in her sizeable Scottish soul, she would do her part to keep the romantic fires burning and with pounding heart from the suspense, I'd hear the beautiful voice of my heartthrob answer. During the ensuing four months there were many of the evening passes and usually I would make it back to the dock in time to catch the last boat of the night, sometimes before midnight, and be able to fall in for reveille and roll call the next morning at 6:00 a.m. Occasionally, I'd miss the boat and then have to catch the next one very early the following morning but in time, again if nothing went wrong such as not being able to dock because of adverse wind conditions or such as running around in dense fog as did occur a couple times, to fall in line with everyone else in front of our barracks for roll call. On those stay-over nights, I would avail myself of emergency accommodations at either the hotel for derelicts run by the Salvation Army next door to Boston's most notorious burlesque theatre, the "Old Howard", or in a room on the second floor over the "Silver Dollar Bar" located in what became correctly known to Bostonians as the combat zone in later years. Both facilities were available for the princely sum of 50 cents a night. Once or twice I had spent my money on some frivolous thing such as a streetcar fare or telephone call and would have to borrow enough from Dolores to meet expenses. One other time I had arrived at the dock just after the last boat had departed and finding my monetary worth to be a thin dime, I made a call to my sweetheart explaining my plight and asking for her financial aid. Of course, this meant I had to hike probably two or three miles out to her apartment and then retrace steps back to my down town accommodation where I'd sleep for the next two or three hours until time to try again to make the sailing connections.

Some time later, we calculated that all the three and four hours on dates added up to the equivalent of nineteen days that Dolores and I knew each other before we decided to marry! Was this damsel a pushover or what??!! And, was I ??!! Love was just grand!

It wasn't long before this romance became common knowledge and also became of common interest to many in Battery B, particularly the home area men who I had the feeling were quite protective of one of their people. namely Miss Lewis, and were intent on making sure her feelings weren't dallied with by one of the new men from outside New England. Of course, I had to endure a lot of good natured kidding, and my memory of this is that I loved every second of it.

One of our comrades, Ralph Borne   by name, also loved the scenario that was unfolding and became a loyal friend for the remainder of our service days together. Ralph did not really comprehend the seriousness of the wartime situation and, in fact, one evening sought me out to ask confidentially who exactly we were fighting. I explained the overall picture and enlightened him a bit on some of the key players in the world wide drama such as Herr Hitler and Senor Mussolini, etc., but kept our conversation forever private from any of the others.

In order to tell the following tale, I must describe our fort and the topography of our island. Fort Strong was built on the eastern most half-mile end of the island which probably was 300 yards across at its widest point and 3 or 4 miles long. It was composed of several large brick buildings built before the Civil War, one of which was assigned to our battery. It had a drill field and parade ground stretching the length of the fort and adjoining the emplacements of our three anti-aircraft guns along the northern shore. The western end of the fort was enclosed by a strong wire fence which separated us from a complex of city owned buildings housing mentally disturbed patients and the attending staff. On occasion we would march out the gate and through the hospital grounds on a forced march the length of the island and were always cheered by the inmates who would assemble along the edge of the road and wave their flags. This, of course, endeared them to us because they were our only audience. There was a dock on the northeast corner of our fort and very near our barracks, probably only fifty feet away, and it was to this dock the island-hopping supply and transit boat would stop. Another dock serviced the hospital and it was located on the other side of the island and not too far outside the fence separating us. The one gate through the fence was guarded at all times by our personnel and it was necessary to state the daily password to use it.

One Saturday morning I was approved to leave on a brief pass after our weekly inspection. Like all others scheduled for passes, I had spiffed up my uniform and shoes and upon picking up my papers from our orderly room had gone over to the dock to await the boat. The day was stormy and it soon became evident that no boat would be able to stop. Our whole disappointed group returned to the barracks and changed from our dress uniforms to our work clothes and adjusted to spending the day lounging around the fort. My bunk was on the third and top floor and I had just settled in for a boring layaround when one of our men spotted the smoke of the city operated boat which used the hospital dock and yelled at me to come see if I could catch it before it left for the mainland. Many hands aided in my frantic change back into uniform, secured my overnight bag and threw my overcoat over my shoulders as I dashed out the barracks door, down the stairway, out the front door and down the steps to the street leading the full length of the fort and up to the gate into the hospital grounds. It must have been a sight to see by the occupants of all the other buildings lining the street as I ran as fast as I could. I recall yelling the password to the guard at the gate and telling him to get out of the way because I had to get to the city dock a hundred yards ahead before the boat left and it looked as if it was ready to pull away immediately. In fact, as I reached the top of the ramp I could see the gangplank being unhooked from the boat and the water churning from the propeller moving the vessel away from the dock, but with the encouragement of two sailors who had disengaged the gangplank and were yelling at me to keep coming and jump for the opening on the railing on the deck, I followed their instructions and made the necessary leap over the open water. I'm sure that if I'd taken a moment to listen carefully right then, I could have heard the cheers of my rooters back on the 3rd floor of the Battery B barracks. Isn't love an unbelievably powerful incentive??!!

One other quick story about Ralph Borne. One afternoon I tried to get something from my locker in our barracks room only to discover that I'd apparently lost the key to the lock. Ralph, along with a handful of others was in the room with me and after a while he approached me and whispered that if I would get everyone out of the room, he'd open the lock for me in his own way. This I did and that he did. The right kind of friend to have!!

- Written March 1996 -

I've already described the layout of Fort Strong and its military functions, but must throw a gentler light on the grand old facility which was able to compensate for the loneliness and forsakenness experienced by the soldiers providing them with a degree of comforts. For example, the Christmas of 1942 was highlighted for the troops of Battery B by a several-course dinner featuring a delicious lobster salad, compliments of a couple of our men who rowed our well-hidden-from-authorities row boat out into the harbor where lobster traps had been set by civilian lobstermen and lifting traps in search of the edible crustaceans which our mess personnel could convert to the salad. Edwin A. Leavitt III   (wasn't that am impressive name for an artillery sergeant and lobster poacher?) was from nearby coastal Marblehead, the home town of the troops who rowed Gen. George Washington and his men across the Delaware river one wintry night 166 years previously, and was the son of a lobsterman, so was well qualified to lead this activity. In fact, some of my most unpleasant moments at Fort Strong can be credited to Ed who enlisted me to help him launch the row boat from its secret hiding place a couple times so he could do a little lobstering and then talked (or maybe ordered) me into sitting in the front end and watching for hidden rocks just under the water surface which could capsize us, while he did the rowing from one lobster trap surface float to the next. Sure enough the hidden boulders just beneath the surface proved an exciting hazard and caused us to do a little tipping and tilting as Ed    would row too near them. Not being a water lover and not knowing how to swim if suddenly cast into the harbor, my caution and constant warnings probably resulted in my not being invited on future voyages with Sgt. Leavitt III, I'm sure. So much for my naval experience.

I did love however my first ever taste of lobster that Christmas dinner, even though I had to serve on the kitchen police detail ("K P", as it was fondly known) and had to eat my dinner in the kitchen between washing and scrubbing dates with the pots and pans.   This "honor" of serving my fellow soldiers was directly attributed to the unfortunate positioning of my last name at the top of our alphabetical roster of recruits when it was decided that the new trainees would do the mess hall work on Christmas day to give the "regulars" a day free of duty. Our battalion commanding officer at Fort Strong was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and his training was obvious when you realize that our meals in each of the dining rooms were eaten West Point style with the men seated across from each other at long tables and served by fellow soldiers assigned to the "K P" detail for that meal. We ate off china plates (not mess kits) and had to display good table manners such as never passing on a serving dish which had only one portion remaining but to hold aloft the dish for one of the servers to take it to the kitchen for refilling. Also, if ever one of us got caught intercepting a serving dish as it passed down the table to whomever has asked for it and taking a portion for ourself, this sin of "shortstopping" resulted in future disciplinary action - probably a premature assignment on "K P" for example.

- Written March 1996 -

Our well-kept-secret-rowboat was an invaluable treasure to a small handful of our Battery B-ers because, if the weather wasn't too dangerous and the night was dark enough, they could use it to row across the harbor a couple miles to the nearest town of Hull and from that point could catch a bus into Boston proper and from there could make more connections to their home or could be met by their wives and could enjoy an evening or night at home and still reverse the process to get back to the fort before being missed at roll call the next morning. I never heard of anyone getting caught or of the officers ever having found the boat and its hiding place so the several fellows who resorted to this rather drastic action got away with it okay. Good for them!

Had passes been more readily available for the men to get off the post, the above type subterfuge would not have been necessary but, because of "alerts" we found ourselves confined to duty for several days at a time and all passes cancelled for as long as 53 days one time. Our own submarine net caused many of the "alerts" when something would touch one of the many mines wound into the chain net and set off an explosion recorded on the control panel in the nearby casemate. Battery D was responsible for the net and worked off a mine tending boat which they kept tied up to our dock when not out tending the net or opening and closing it to large ship traffic. Their control panel could tell them that something had disturbed the net but couldn't tell them what - so all they could do was to put us all on alert status.

The 400 or so troops assigned to duty at Fort Strong were quite self-contained when confined to the post because there was plenty of food and supplies and the officers could think of plenty of ways to keep everyone occupied. One of the favorite ones was to call a surprise march to the far end of the island (where our search-lights were positioned for aircraft detection at night) in the middle of the night. This would mean everyone up out of their warm beds and into marching position within just a few minutes - ten or fifteen minutes usually - all attired in proper uniform and equipped with rifles, full packs and gas masks. In the winter the uniform had to include overshoes and overcoat, of course, and during one forced march on a nasty New England wintry night I did not have time to stuff my pants down into my overshoes and didn't take time during the march to do so even though I knew the boots were rubbing sores on my legs so upon completing the march and returning to our barracks found a bloody mess, so to speak. One of our men was wise enough to know that alcohol in his after shave lotion could act as a disinfectant until I could get better treatment at the hospital in the morning so this is what I did - pour his Aqua Fresh all over my raw spots. I'm sure it smelled extra nice down at my end of the barracks the rest of that night, and in addition the emergency treatment worked! No infection!

Even so, these woes were most inconsequential compared to the seemingly sadistic endings to several of the night training marches when everyone would have to go through the challenging obstacle course before being allowed to go back to the barracks for showers and equipment cleanup and eventually "hitting the sack". The fun part of the course definitely was NOT the crawling under barbed wire and slithering along on the ice and through any melting areas with the rifle and back pack causing no end of problems by getting tangled in the wire. For me personally however, the 8' wall over which we had to climb was the dreaded part of the whole course because my lack of strength in my left arm. Knowing of my problem some of the other men always helped by giving me the boost I needed to get high enough that I could hook one leg over the top and from that time it was easy to go on over. Obstacle courses at all military installations are the final judgment as to the physical capabilities of the soldiers and, in fact, as we were completing our training as a field artillery battery at Camp Hood, Texas prior to serving overseas some months later, were required to prove our efficiency by completing the horrendous course there. Again, had it not been for the help of my buddies, the wall would have been the undoing of my military career I'm positive.

Fort Strong had a hospital staffed by the medics from each of the five batteries. It also boasted a doctor who also practiced his trade as a civilian in Boston when not serving our medical needs. I think he was an obstetrician and in this respect his diagnosis of several of our men's morning sicknesses as being attributed to the fact their wives were pregnant at the time probably was quite accurate. Aside from periodic inoculations for one thing or another my only contact with the good doctor was when I got a case of the flu and he assigned me to bed in the hospital under the care of one of the medics. Learning that the doctor had gone to town on the afternoon boat, I wheedled the medic into telling me where my clothes were and after dressing and making him promise to be mum about the upcoming action, took the next boat to Boston and spent the evening with Dolores before sailing back to the island on the last boat of the evening and checking myself back in to the hospital. No one, including the doctor, ever knew. (Now, how did my sweetheart avoid catching the flu???)

= Written March 1996 -

The age old game of "cat and mouse" as played by us all now and then when challenged with rules and regulations which invite us to do some avoiding or omitting of such authority, definitely was in vogue with all military personnel. Trying to outsmart or outmaneuver or avoid officers offered a semblance of fun and excitement to the average G I's life and was a game recognized by the officers who accepted the challenge and did their best to force obedience by their enlisted men. One humorous incident comes to mind to prove this point.

As mentioned earlier, the troops at Fort Strong were on constant alert against enemy activity from the air or water and since our battery was housed at the very end of the island facing the open sea it was our main responsibility to man the ramparts of the long deserted casemate built into and atop the hill adjoining our barracks. We stood guard there and along the shore beneath on a 24 hour basis. The suggestion of one of our men that an even better job of surveillance could be accomplished if we could build a tall structure atop the hill was readily accepted by our commanding officer who then urged the construction to be competed in time for an upcoming important inspection by a team of high ranking officers from the mainland. The new structure was indeed built by a few of our enlisted men and a sturdy job it was. The climb to the top where they had mounted a machine gun was most steep, long and difficult. The platform at the very top was sizeable enough to accommodate several lookouts so the builders decided to use this as a hideaway for the upcoming inspection, knowing that they could not be seen from the ground, and could avoid having to dress and stand the formal inspection with the other men. Sure enough on inspection morning the rest of us who were working hard to look our very best and have equipment and arms in tip top shape were overcome with envy at the sight of the unshaven and unpolished men who were to make the climb to their little haven and avoid the inspecting officers. We could visualize them up there in their little hideaway playing cards and chuckling at their superior position while we did our best to look and act soldierly down on the parade ground. Sure enough, at the prescribed time we all took our positions, either in ranks ready for inspection or up in Valhalla where no officer, particularly an aging and probably overweight general and his staff would ever climb. Well, you've guessed it, I know. The hideouts at the top of the tower told later their shock and horror at hearing footsteps climbing their ladders and realizing their jig was up in outsmarting the officers. In fact, it was the only general in the inspection team who made the climb and did his inspecting of the men through the manhole built into the floor of the platform. Advantage officers!

If a poll could be taken today of all the still living men of Battery B asking their recollection of their fellow soldiers during the recruit training period, the report would undoubtedly be hazy on all but a handful of the rookies. If asked to name the one most remembered, the chances are the answer would be "Private Black"   with this distinction attributable to their memory of this poor fellow having a most noticeable purple mouth for several weeks and then a yellow face under the only beard permitted in the ranks for several other weeks. What a sight!

During one of the early line-ups of all personnel to check on possible dental problems the inspecting doctor discovered something I had already known - I had a disease called gingivitis, nicknamed "trenchmouth". I had not known of the infectious nature of this problem but learned quickly when commanded to visit our hospital several times a day for an application of a purple colored medicine to my teeth and mouth. In addition, I could no longer eat with my fellow soldiers and had to eat off a set of plates and with silverware which could not be mixed with those used by all others. I had to wash and store mine separately and this ostracized situation continued for several weeks until I was given the "all clear" signal to resume normal eating activities with the rest of our men.

About the time my purple period ended, I contacted an impressive infection all over my face, nicknamed "barber's itch", and fought this by not shaving and by medicating with a bright yellow salve for a long enough time that my beard grew appreciably and I was invited to not stand any group formations with my fellow men. The doctor and the medics were quite baffled by the lack of success of their yellow salve but insisted on my perseverance in their treatment plan. My torment was in not being able to scratch the open sores which itched constantly, and finally late one night when I was inspecting myself in one of the mirrors in our latrine my new friend, Ralph Borne,   entered and took over my case. His remedy was for me to shave beard and sores as closely as I could and then to liberally douse my face with shaving lotion. Having nothing to lose, I followed Ralph's prescription and recall having been glad there were no other audience to see the blood letting which then followed as the razor did its work or to hear the screams of joyous the terrible itches met their doom. After a lecture from Doctor Ralph about the cause of my problem having been my G I razor and after his donation of a new all metal razor and blades which he made me promise to keep clinically clean forever, the sores all healed within the following few days and eventually the scabs also departed leaving a new and clear skinned "Private Black". Goodbye blue period and goodbye yellow period!

And, for a fellow of an I Q somewhere in the 60's, my friend Ralph was a whiz in the art of general living! I often wonder what became of him after the war. I do know that tests such as the I Q test taken by all personnel can be very erroneous in the case of certain people who are too nervous to take such exams. I know too from personal experience how the results of tests can have an adverse effect in certain instances. For example, when it came to the set of tests given to all new military personnel to try and determine their strengths and weaknesses for future assignment, I performed brilliantly on the set of questions on the subject of radio knowledge and was from then on approached every now and then by some counselor who insisted I owed it to my country to serve in our signal corps in the radio section and apply my tremendous knowledge to that cause. They always expressed true amazement at my confession that I really knew so little on the subject of radio that when it came to taking their true and false test I didn't even read the questions and actually marked the answers without consideration at all. This is how the remarkable score was attained. Ralph and I, the test takers!

Some of my new acquaintances became friends. One in particular I mentioned earlier in this writing, Jack Czarnik    my football kicking pal, and my most unusual memory of him is the strange happening one night when a large ship which had parked close to our island after having entered the harbor late in the day sent wafting across the stillness of the night the faint sound of mens voices singing. Jack was able to pick up enough of the sound that he realized the men were singing in Russian, the language of his mother and father. Being somewhat adventurous and perhaps foolhardy, Jack put on some swimming trunks and swam out into the harbor in the direction of the ship. When his calling was heard by the sailors they hauled him aboard and Jack reported to us the next day enjoyed him as much as he did them. All the rest of us landlubbers wished we'd accompanied him.

Henry Kempton    was a sergeant in the regular army and as such was eligible to have his wife live on the post in one of several old brick homes which had been built many years prior for the use of any officer or non commissioned officer. I always wondered how Henry was fortunate enough to have one of the homes assigned to his use but think the honor was by the default of all the other officers and non-coms who couldn't talk their wives into living on this isolated post. Hank's wife was named Kay and I always thought her to be about as nice a person as there was. I enjoyed many meals with Hank and Kay and stayed overnight several times when I didn't have early duty then next morning. A nice memory!

- Written March 1996 -

The truly fantastic memories of all the wartime Boston days are of the fun times spent with my new sweetheart - that Lewis girl.    These were squeezed into a period of less than four autumn-winter months of 1943-44 and certainly were accomplished without a great supply of money because my salary was $54.00 a month and Dolores' was in the range of $100.00 out of which she had to contribute to room and board expenses at 684 Tremont Street, purchase all her clothes, pay travel costs to and from work at the Colonial Beacon Oil Company offices on Stuart Street, contribute to her savings plan at work and maintain a social life so exciting to a 20 year old young lady in Boston town. Of course this latter category also included picking up the tabs when her new friend's pocket money had been exhausted, usually not too far along in the month.

Really, this is the portion of my "memoirs" that my sweetheart should help write because she was the star attraction of the whirlwind romance between the naive Indiana boy out in the big city with the also naive girl just recently moved from Maine to the big city.    The key word here, of course, is WHIRLWIND because so much was accomplished within such a short period of time and I'll now try to entice her into co-writing the rest of this segment with me for the enjoyment of our daughters and grand daughter.

The glorious, historic city of Boston, being the closest major city to the conflict in Europe, converted to war-time conditions by seriously blacking-out their lighting at night and by limiting civilian driving by means of tight gasoline restrictions. Neither of these conditions affected us personally - in fact, may have made our evenings together more exciting. When Dolores or I didn't want to walk into downtown Boston or when she preferred riding instead of walking to work on inclement weather days, she had the dependable Boston public transportation system literally at her door step. The street car on the Eggleston run did pass in front of the apartment and it was only a 60 foot walk to the corner where it stopped. All it took was possession of a free nickel or dime to enjoy the noisy ride on the spark-throwing trolley and, in fact, this price permitted one to ride anyplace the tracks went, whether at ground level or as subways underground, by transferring at the main hub located at Park Street right down town.

Taxi cab service was available, gas rationing or not, and hailing or calling a cab was great fun whenever we had the wherewithal for such luxury. As I recall, the fees were quite reasonable and the cabbies would permit the bunching up of passengers as long as the destinations were similar.

I'm sure that we splurged on a taxi the evening we went to see a very popular and famous light operetta, "The Student Prince", at the Shubert Theatre    on Tremont Street just off Boylston Street. Dolores had obtained tickets as a surprise to me and announced this treat upon my arrival at her home one weekend evening. Oh, what a thrill this was and what wonderful seats - in a box at the side of the theatre where we could almost reach out and touch the prince and his friends. We had never been to such a high class stage production and were so impressed that we talk of it to this day.

Dolores became a staunch supporter and rooter of all Boston sports teams, and remains so to this day. Naturally this spirit clashed with my equally vigorous support of the Chicago teams who played against hers and this lead to her obtaining a pair of ducats for a hockey game at the Boston Gardens between her Bruins and my Blackhawks so that I could be taught the futility of my beliefs. And wouldn't you know it, the Bruins outskated the poor Blackhawks and I'm happy that the outcome and the wager which changed hands at the end of the game are now dim memories. No doubt, lucky and richer Dolores paid for the cab after this one.

Still another occasion worthy of taxi service, I'm sure, had to be the evening of another surprise, after my return from overseas, when my sweetheart escorted me to her favorite place in all of Boston, the famous "Raymor-Playmor Dance Hall", and insisted positively that I was going to enter this palace of rhythm with her irregardless of my flimsy excuses and pathetic pleading for mercy. The dance hall was divided into two sections, one for the jitterbug set and the other for the slow dancers, and each side had an orchestra playing the appropriate music for its patrons. Mercifully, Dolores escorted me to the slow dancing side, but unmercifully extended her right arm and declared that dancing time was here and now. Being well armed with heavy boots and absolutely no skill at dancing of any speed or vigor, my performance the next couple hours had to be classified a definite disaster and the acceptance of this low grade performance by my darling who was a superb dancer and the holder of a jitterbug championship here at this very hall, was magnanimous to say the least. We weren't that intimate as yet that I could count and rub the many bruises to poor Dolores' dainty feet which had resulted from my booted missteps but I always knew them to be many and painful. To this day, the subject of my darling's waltzing and fox-trotting night with her Army friend is best left avoided. At the very least, I hope that the taxi ride back home that evening was my treat.

Dolores' mother, Kathleen Lewis, and my mother, Ruby Black, were part of the first generation of young women to have an open crush on a male entertainer, namely a young man called Rudy Valley, who sang through a megaphone to his adoring fans. A generation later, Dolores and all of the other young women in America carried on an open love affair with a handsome young singer called Francis Albert Sinatra, who was lovingly called just Franky by his squealing, screaming, and adoring fans. And so it was that on a cold winter Saturday afternoon Dolores and I found ourselves part of a long line of Boston fans in front of a big theatre on Washington Street waiting to be admitted to the next matinee performance of Franky. Our perseverance and patience was eventually rewarded and we found a pair of seats fairly close to the stage but then had to sit through whatever feature film was playing that day before hearing through closed curtains the strains of whatever orchestra was accompanying Franky. The wait for the curtain to open and give us Franky was almost unbearable for Dolores and her fans but finally there he was. Holding tightly to the microphone stand, as if he was holding on to every woman in the crowd instead, he immediately showed why he was the premier balladeer of the day and why he had the title of America's heartthrob. Within seconds many of the young women left their seats and crowded down the aisles and onto the floor at Franky's feet where their screaming and dancing drowned him out and distracted him to the point he stopped his serenading and pleaded with everyone to return to their seats and stay quiet enough that all the others in the audience could hear him. I don't remember that this tactic and plea worked too successfully but do recall how enthralled my new sweetheart was with her Franky, particularly when he serenaded her with his rendition of one of the most popular songs sweeping the country at the time - "DOLORES". Well, you know that no cab was needed for the trip home that evening because Miss Dolores floated all the way on her cloud nine. I, though, rode.

- Written March 1996 -

During my last four months in Boston before leaving for final training for overseas duty, not only was I head over heels in love with my new sweetheart, I was made to feed that I'd found a home away from home every time I'd visit her and her mother and sisters with whom I'd also fallen in love. As time went on, there were less and less of the midwestern men in Battery B and of these I think maybe I was the only one who now had a strong love affair with a New England miss.

Dolores' Mom, Kathleen,    was the most patient of souls as she put up with me and my desire to fit into the family and we spent many hours chatting whenever Dolores would be working and I'd reach the house ahead of her. Truly, she was a mom way from my mom, and I must state a superior cook of such fabulous delights as her famous fish chowder and her skill with the left over Saturday night beans as she prepared a deluxe Sunday morning breakfast of beans and fried eggs in bacon fat. Here was a dilemma as Uncle Sam's dieticians were trying to keep my body slim and Mom Lewis was counteracting the program with her mouth watering specialties.

During this final fun time in Boston, Dolores' oldest sister, Evelyn, was living at the Lewis apartment but her next oldest sister, Virginia, lived in Canton with her husband, Esie Lewis, and their first two children, Bobby and Kathy. Dolores' closest sister, just a couple years her elder, was Patricia who lived in an apartment on the top floor at 684 which she and her new husband, John "Red" Valiquette, maintained while he was serving at Fort Wetherell, Jamestown, Rhode Island, with his Coast Artillery battalion. My loss was that I didn't see much of "Ginny" and Esie or of "Pat" and "Red", but when I did, it was always great fun and built loving memories.  

(above are Pat, Evelyn, Dolores, John "Red" and Virginia "Ginny")

Dolores' and my normal times together were woven around long walks - weather permitting, many movie shows - finances permitting, and an occasional evening of night clubbing - Dolores' work schedule the next morning permitting.

It always meant walking a considerable distance but whenever this activity was on our agenda, we'd head for green pastures of a sort, either at the beautiful and impressive grounds and buildings of Christian Science mother church or at the spacious park along the Charles river called the "Esplanade" or at the famous Boston Commons and Gardens right down town. Each of these was at least a mile from the house, but my darlin' was always a good walker and my basic training hikes out at the fort helped me keep up with her. In fact, to build up my strength and endurance I'd detour at times from the regular long walk between the boat dock and the Park Street subway hub where the streetcar to the South End awaited and visit Boston's newspaper row on Washington Street. The excitement of walking the funnel of tall buildings on each side which housed all of the daily paper offices and of perhaps dodging on the sidewalk some of the city's top journalists or best of all sitting at one of the bars, particularly my favorite old "Boston Tavern", along side these newspaper people as they gobbled a lunch with their pint of Porter or Half-and-Half and planned their next scoop of the news. This was strength and endurance building at its very best and did prepare me for Dolores' and my athletic endeavors.

Atlantic Avenue, my route into town from the dock where I'd land was the home of many fishing docks and retail shops with the most fascinating to me always being those displaying in their front store windows the gear and equipment used in seafaring activities such as diving in the bulky diving suits and helmets and trailing the long air hoses. Of course, many days the weather would be downright and miserably cold so that stopping to admire this strange assortment of equipment was not the most enjoyable entertainment, but I still love to think how certain other shops looked so appealing to Dolores and me, our collars pulled up over our ears, as we would hasten past their completely frosted over or steamed up front windows. To this day, if I mention to my sweetheart the names of Hayes and Bickfords or Mayflower Waffle House we're reminded of such enticing and inviting looking restaurants as we'd walk past. Too, the mention of the former calls up vivid memories of their famous, or infamous, hot dogs and beans, the irresistible specialty of the house, particularly on Saturday nights.

Restaurant eating definitely was one of our favorite activities and there were many many outstanding eating establishments to cater to our desires. I still love thinking about walking over to Dolores' work place, a tall building which was the home on several upper floors of her Colonial Beacon Oil Company offices, and waiting in the lobby as the elevator discharged the men and women who worked on the many floors above. Finally, here would be my love and it would be off to Peroni's just a few blocks away at Park Square for s super seafood lunch or dinner. Other times, a stroll down famous Washington Street would lead us to the Adams House or to Clarks or any number of others. A funny recollection is of one luncheon at Adams House which was highlighted by the unexpected meeting of Dolores' mom who'd been having lunch on an upper floor while we dined a floor below. Too, Clarks helped Dolores introduce me to fried clams and upon exiting we would stop for a minute or so along with many other admirers at a nearby store front to watch an artist in pizza preparation as he worked in the front window and did the tossing and spinning of dough which I'd never seen done out Indiana way. Oh what a fun education with my favorite teacher, Miss Lewis.

While always enjoying to the hilt the downtown eateries and night clubs, we were also always cautious to not slight the like businesses in our home neighborhood so had memorable respites in such favorite spots as Lu Shing's Chinese restaurant for his world famous swordfish and massive French fried potatoes which we've never been able to duplicate elsewhere. Right across the street from 684 was a cozy, corner cafe named Melvins, the home of many evening snacks by Dolores and her South End friends and the home of super fried clams for the enjoyment of Dolores' mom quite often. A couple blocks down Tremont street was the Handy Grill with a name somewhat deceiving because this grill was more for drinking than for food grilling and was the most popular hangout in all the area. On out Tremont to Massachusetts Avenue and then to the right on the way to Cambridge was a popular and fun night club called Hi Hat which met all the evening entertainment needs of the South Enders as well as many Harvard people who'd have ventured across the Charles river bridge to perhaps Symphony Hall or Mechanics Hall or one of the large movie houses before finding late evening pleasures at the Hi Hat. I must include in this review a saloon right across the street from the Lewis apartment - Sullivan's Tavern. Now this definitely was a zero star establishment and was a stag bar popular with the neighborhood's elderly Irishmen. It was also a stop off for me on occasion when I'd arrive by streetcar too soon for a date with my best gal and would take refuge there. Very few if any service men ever ventured into this somewhat roughneck spa so whenever I would walk in the front door, my audience of Irish admirers and coaches would welcome me as sort of a heroic figure and someone they could prepare their way to go over and fight the Hitler crowd for them. My biggest battle here always was breaking away from their generosity and friendliness as they would insist on keeping the drinks flowing for the occasion. I don't ever recall Dolores coming across the street to bail me out, but probably wished at times that she would, and I'm sure the stag rules would have happily bent to welcome her too if she had.

For some unexplained reason, it seemed that some of the downtown nightclubs were located in the basements of buildings and I guess it was more exciting to go down a flight of stairs to the smokey and noisy clubs since the atmosphere of a clandestine time was thereby enhanced. About a year previously, there had been a disastrous fire at a popular nighclub nearby - the Coconut Grove - and a couple hundred people died when the doors leading to safety were blocked by the rush of escapees. Dolores and some friends who had heard the many sirens of fire engines and also had seen light in the sky from the flames went down town to the scene of the tragedy and, in fact, observed the action including the removal and stacking of bodies as they were pulled from the building.

Dolores and I had a couple favorites - one being the "Ken" and the other being the "Cave", both of which were quite small and intimate in size and actually would feature great sounding orchestras at times. With wartime travel being most difficult, if not impossible, for orchestras, these entertainers no doubt welcomed a gig of some duration in the same location or town. At one of the above haunts, we enjoyed the the trumpet of Louis Armstrong and the music of his orchestra and at the other Dolores remembers enjoying the piano of Fats Waller with his musicians. Both of these groups became even more popular after the war when they could be seen and heard more widely on stage, hotel ballrooms and television. A couple of times Dolores and I would venture above ground for our entertainment and one such occasion delighted my sweetheart when we went upstairs at the Avery Hotel to their clubroom where a great harpsichordist, Lionel Hampton, and his orchestra were the headliners, only to run into a waitress who insisted on my showing proof of being 21 and not believing me or Dolores when we explained that I'd left my papers at her house but was really of age to have a drink. An embarrassing time for me but a chuckly one for my date and the funny part was that I really was of age whereas Dolores wasn't. Anyway, we were welcome to sit at our table and enjoy Lionel and his crowd with me sipping water and my sweetheart her Pink Ladys.

We did very little socially with either Dolores' mom or with her big sister, Evelyn, who always enjoyed a secretive type lifestyle of her own, but we looked forward to special fun times with Pat and Red, and because Red had a car and the necessary rationing stamps to keep it going, our enjoyments spread to the environs beyond the normal range of the streetcars and subways. Being stationed just 70 or 80 miles from Boston, Red made the drive often,even if for only an evening or weekend, and did maintain this schedule until later in the summer after I'd left when Pat and he found an apartment in Jamestown. Never having had brothers or sisters, it was a true joy for me to adopt them as my own.

As you read this memoir you must be thinking that it was a fun war we were involved with, and every moment I could get away from the fort and every moment Dolores could spend away from her C B O office was fun. Only one complication marred this picture - at Christmas time in 1943, my mother and dad were injured in a freak accident back in our hometown of Gary when the ceiling of its largest department store collapsed just when my folks were shopping beneath. Dad had fallen on mother when he saw it giving way so kept her from serious injury, but in so doing took the brunt of the falling ceiling on his back and shoulders and wound up hospitalized for the next few days. Dolores and I had made plans to celebrate together on New Years eve but when my mother phoned to ask if I could come home to see dad, our commanding officer issued me three 3-day passes to cover the trip in the event my traveling might be questioned by the M.P.'s who were on patrol on all trains. A furlough wasn't available and the passes were only good within 250 miles of my post but the M.P.'s who did check me didn't cause any problem. Dad pulled through everything okay and the folks did enjoy having their only child spend New Years with them, but my heart was definitely back in Boston with my love.

- Written March 1996 -

The military planning strategists at the Pentagon in Washington made a decision to convert the Coast Artillery at Boston Harbor into Field Artillery for use in the European Theatre of Operation and this conversion went into effect on St. Patrick's Day of 1944 when the personnel of our three gun batteries and our headquarters battery departed from Boston's South Station    by rail for training in Texas.

The move was really quite simple since we did not have to take with us any of the armaments from Fort Strong and I do not know whether the anti aircraft guns were manned by replacement with the obvious exception of the men of Battery D who were responsible for the anti-submarine net protecting the harbor for the rest of the war. I do recall that there was quite a shifting of people relating to this move and a number of our comrades were either left behind or transferred to other stateside units or perhaps discharged from the service. I've always wondered about the last days of Fort Strong and what did happen after we had left and hope one day to learn the rest of this story from some kind of records in either Boston or Washington.

And so the beautiful relationship God had built for Dolores Lewis and me was torn asunder by man in the form of those who decided that more field artillery was needed for the upcoming military action in Europe.

Another long train ride from Boston ended in the middle of the state of Texas at an old military camp called "Hood" where there was plenty of open space to train men how to handle and shoot large, long distance weapons such as the 155mm "long tom" rifles    which were assigned to us. These enormous guns on wheels were able to fire a 95 pound shell 13 or 14 miles and display considerable accuracy even at such extreme distances. There were also howitzers with 155mm barrels but these had no rifling such as in our guns and the shells flew in an erratic, tumbling arc instead of in a spiraling motion as ours did with the result that they couldn't shoot as far or as accurately. Our previous experience with the anti-aircraft guns at Fort Strong made our acquaintance with mobile field pieces much easier than had we started from scratch, but it was still a challenge to make the conversion. During the war the grounds of Camp Hood were enlarged to accommodate heavy weapons firing such as ours and all the other caliber artillery pieces as well as anti-tank weapons and our new larger armored tanks and this extension of the old camp was called North Camp Hood, our new home for the next several months.

The March weather in Boston is still quite wintry normally and when we left on St. Patrick's day in 1944 we were comfortable with our heavy wool uniforms and overcoats but upon arriving in Texas with temperatures up in the 70's or 80's we underwent our first test of endurance as we marched a good couple of miles from the rail head to our newly assigned barracks area. A few of our men fell out of the formation and were picked up by a following ambulance but the rest of us finished the march even with the additional weight of our packs and rolls and one of the incentives had to have been the razzing we took from truckloads of German prisoners who would pass us on the road and would call our attention to their preferred treatment as comfortably attired passengers while we were struggling and gasping and cussing our way on foot while attired in our hot wool clothing. These prisoners were brought to the United States to work, voluntarily, on farms and any other places where their labor could relieve a shortage and they always seemed to be most appreciative of their positions away from the horrors of their war back home. I've learned from a good friend of mine, Dick Bobzin, who I met at Tylers shortly after getting home from the war that he and many others were brought to southwestern Michigan to live with and help the fruit and vegetable farmers and , aside from the fact that they were away from their homeland did enjoy their American experience as prisoners of war. In fact, many of these men returned on their own to the United States after the war and after they had been taken back to their homeland by the American military force as was required by the articles of surrender.

As part of our reorganization into a field artillery outfit, many of us were assigned new specialties and mine carried the title of Liaison Agent, as I recall, and with it came a jeep of my own and a little brown box with a lot of gears and buttons which I was trained to guard with my life at all times because of its potential value sometime in the future. Oh yes, a promotion to the exalted rank of corporal came with this package. Incidentally, the little brown box was a coding and decoding contraption which I don't think I ever understood too well even though I attended many classes and practice sessions during our training period at North Camp Hood. The idea of a Liaison Agent was to serve as communication to and from headquarters in the event our telephones and radios were destroyed. Of course, this poor fellow was counted on to get himself back and forth between the guns and the headquarters no matter the obstacles, and I must say my previous training as a youth in Gary, Indiana, helped me very little with the field knowledge required to perform the liaison functions.

During our Field training the disadvantage of this job was that I had to spend the nights bivouacked near the battalion headquarters instead of with our battery. I worked diligently every night to wrap ropes and my personal possessions on the ground all around my jeep to keep the rattle snakes away from me while I slept under the vehicle. I can't remember where I picked up the knowledge that snakes didn't like to crawl over ropes and shoes and packs but am glad I did because not a single rattler bunked in with me during all our field trips. Things would get a little busy whenever called on during the night to perform a mission because I would have to frantically make the trip around the jeep picking up and tossing all my precautionary gear in the back before I could get underway.

- Written March 1996 -