29 September, 2011

29 September 1944

Letterhead

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
Germany
29 September, 1944     1130
My darling –

I am not writing from a prison camp so don’t be alarmed at the stationery; Just happened to pick some up at an S.S. headquarters we went into. We finally did get around to leaving our bivouac area in a small forest and moved into a small town. The men are billeted in 2 vacant houses and the officers are spread out in 3 houses. It is far more comfortable. We didn’t get in until fairly late yesterday p.m. and this morning we got everything under control. We have a little Dispensary set-up in one of the vacant buildings and I have an office, with desks, chairs, lamps and a stove – not bad. These vacant buildings are usually furnished, by the way, and left – as is – by the Germans when the Americans came.

Last night, dear, I received a letter from you written the 15th (my latest from you) and one from my brother and another from Ethel Kerr in Salem. I had heard something about the hurricane in the Stars and Stripes which we get only occasionally now – and always 2-3 days late. I’m so glad it avoided hitting Boston and environs badly – although I was surprised to read you had no electricity. We’re kind of used to that by now – and it’s a rare privilege when we do have it. We do have it where we are now – and we’re continually putting the switch on and off just to see it work. I guess we’ve grown to be quite primitive, darling.


I was interested in your remarks about maternity cases and going out nights. From the way it looks from here, dear, I’m afraid I’ll have to take whatever comes along. I don’t know how I’ll ever get to be a surgeon now – this war lasting so damned long. With the set-up at the Salem Hospital – I know I won’t be allowed to do any major surgery unless I go away and put in a good deal of time in it – and I don’t know whether or not I’ll care to do that now. It’s a shame, too, because I was getting along fine. But the Hospital – in circular and staff meeting reports that I get – is stressing more and more the fact that to do surgery you must be willing to specialize in that and that alone – and from here at this moment, I can’t see it. I know I’ll be allowed to do and can do traumatic work – but I haven’t done enough abdominal surgery to satisfy them. Well – there’s no sense crossing my bridges now. One way or another, sweetheart, I’ll be able to make a decent living for you – and ultimately – that’s all I want. We’ll see. The fact is I still have my appointment on the staff – and that is of prime importance in Salem.

I get so fed up with the waiting and waiting – it sometimes seems unbearable. And then it is that our love for one another carries me in such good stead. I don’t know, truthfully, what I would do without you – I love you so – and the thought of you is so comforting. I thank God for it.

I’ll have to stop now and get some lunch darling. I hope all is well at home. My love to the folks and

All my sincerest love to you
Greg

P.S. Lawrence writes me that the blinking of Mother A’s eyes is no better and that if affects her quite a bit. How bad is it, dear? I feel it will improve when the war is over and she is happy again.
Love
G.

* TIDBIT *

about "The Great Hurricane" of 1944

"The Great Hurricane" of September, 1944 was first detected northeast of the Lesser Antilles. From there, it hugged the United States coast, crossing Long Island, New York, the Rhode Island Coast, emerged into Massachusetts Bay and impacted Maine. With 140 mph winds, this Category 4, produced hurricane force winds over a diameter of 600 miles causing over $100 million (1944 USD, $1.2 Billion 2010 USD). 70-foot high waves were also reported. Up to 11” of rain fell in areas of New England. The storm wreaked havoc on World War II shipping lines, and five ships sunk during the storm, including two US coast guard cutters off of North Carolina (48 lives lost) and a US Navy destroyer off of Florida (248 lives lost). Mainland evacuations and careful warnings, however, allowed the death toll on land to be fairly low: 46 persons.

Track of the Hurricane

From the U.S. Coast Guard's U.S. Department of Homeland Security's work comes this story of two ships lost:
The "Active-Class" of Coast Guard vessels was one of the most useful and long-lasting in Coast Guard service with 16 cutters still in use in the 1960’s. They were originally designed for trailing the "mother ships" along the outer line of patrol during Prohibition. They were constructed at a cost of $63,173 each. They gained a reputation for durability that was only enhanced by their re-engining in the late 1930’s; their original 6-cylinder diesels were replaced by significantly more powerful 8-cylinder units that used the original engine beds and gave the vessels 3 additional knots. All but two served in World War II; the Jackson and the Bedloe were lost in "The Great Hurricane" in 1944.

The USCGC Jackson joined the Prohibition fleet at Boston, Massachusetts in 1927. Prior to World War II she saw service out of Greenport, New York, Charlotte, New York and Rochester, New York, conducting law enforcement and search and rescue duties with occasional light icebreaking operations.

WSC-142 USCGC Jackson soon after her commissioning.
Date: 31 March 1927; USCG Photo #: 16079-A
Photographer: J. N. Heuisy (U.S. Coast Guard photo).

During the war she was assigned to the EASTSEAFRON and was stationed at Norfolk, Virginia and conducted escort-of-convoy operations. On 1 April 1942 she unsuccessfully attempted to tow the torpedoed tanker Tiger.

Laid down in 1926 at the American Brown Boveri Electric Group in Camden, NJ, USCGC Antietam was commissioned into US Coast Guard service in July 1927 and promptly joined the effort to combat smugglers and bootleggers off the US East Coast. Based out of USCG Station Boston as a member of the 1st US Coast Guard District, the Antietam performed her counter-smuggling duties through the end of prohibition, after which she assumed the traditional Coast Guard missions. Antietam operated in the Great Lakes through 1940, when gathering war clouds and her advancing age brought her to Hoboken, NJ, Here she was given a comprehensive overhaul including new engines, increased armament and upgrades to her onboard systems.

USCGC Bedsoe

Placed into the operational control of the US Navy following the outbreak of the Second World War, the Antietam was assigned to the Eastern Sea Frontier out of Stapleton, Staten Island where she was outfitted for war, which included the addition of substantial anti-surface armaments and anti-submarine gear like hydrophones and depth charge racks. Assigned the highly dangerous duty of convoy escorts and patrol ships in waters which in 1942 were infested with German U-Boats, the Antietam provided protection to countless ships transiting to and from the European and Pacific theatres, rescued shipwrecked sailors, assisted damaged and disabled vessels and hunted enemy submarines for two long years of near-constant operations. She was renamed USCGC Bedloe in 1943 to free the name Antietem up for a US Navy Aircraft Carrier under construction. Ship and crew were stationed at Morehead City in early September 1944.

On 14 September 1944 she was ordered, along with sister cutter Jackson, to go to the assistance of torpedoed merchant vessel George Ade off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, in the midst of a powerful hurricane. Both cutters sank in the heavy seas. The following is an excerpt from the official Coast Guard at War volume on Lost Cutters (Volume 8, Historical Section, Public Information Division, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, May 1, 1949, pages 115-17) that covers the loss of both Bedloe and Jackson:
Two Coast Guard cutters the CGS's BEDLOE (ex-ANTIETAM) and JACKSON, foundered in heavy weather off Cape Hatteras on 14 September, 1944. The cutters had gone to the assistance of a Liberty Ship which had been torpedoed off the North Carolina coast and almost driven ashore the hurricane. The Liberty Ship had weathered both blows and was towed to Norfolk with no casualties among her 40 man crew and only slight damage to her cargo. The two cutters were each 125 feet in length and of 220 tons each. The commanding officer of the BEDLOE was Lt. A. S. Hess, and of the JACKSON, Lt. (jg) N. D. Call. The BEDLOE had 5 officers and 33 men on board when sunk, of whom 2 officers and 24 men were lost. The JACKSON had 5 officers and 36 men on board and 2 officers and 19 men were lost.

Community Relations (Coast Guard Art Program)
Painting Record No. 212/749 Object ID: 200503
Artist: Barberis, Louis

Struck four times by the towering waves, the Bedloe tossed like a matchstick in the ocean before going down. All 38 officers and crew men safely abandoned ship and at least 30 were able to obtain a hold on the life crafts. However, the strain of fighting the hurricane aboard, plus the ordeal of hanging to life rafts for 51 hours, proved too much for most of the men and only 12 were able to hang on until rescued. One man slid under the water only minutes before the rescue craft came into sight.

Borne to the top of a huge swell, the Jackson was struck by two swells and rolled over until the mast dipped water. As the swells subsided, the ship righted and was hit by another high sea and turned on her side a second time. Struggling out of that, the vessel was carried high by a third sea. It seemed then, survivors said, that she hung in mid-air for seconds; then the wind seized her, turned her on her side and completely over. She disappeared under a huge wave. Next day, two of the survivors had tried to swim ashore which they thought was 10 miles away. After swimming about 3 hours they realized they were making little headway and decided to return. Turning back, one of them saw a shark about 30 feet away headed for the other. The shark was more than six feet long but passed him without harm.

Twelve survivors from the BEDLOE and nineteen from the JACKSON were spotted on life rafts, those from the BEDLOE being spotted by a patrol plane and picked up an hour later by a Navy minesweeper. Those from the JACKSON were spotted by a Coast Guard plane from Elizabeth City, N. C., and picked up by a 36 foot cutter from the Oregon Inlet Lifeboat Station, 15 miles away. The former had been in the water 51 hours and the latter 58 hours . The Coast Guard planes landed in the swells, a plane next to each life raft, and crew members dived into the sea and hauled semi-conscious men onto the wings of the tossing planes, where first aid was administered. A Navy blimp dropped emergency rations. Guided by PBM’s (patrol bomber seaplanes) and another Navy blimp, the Coast Guard cutter made directly for the JACKSON’s survivors and quickly hauled them aboard. Near the shore the men were transferred aboard a Navy vessel, where they were treated by a physician until Coast Guard PBM‘s landed and flew them to Norfolk for more hospitalization. An intensive search was instituted for the 48 officers and men reported missing in the twin disaster, including the 23 year old skipper of the JACKSON, Lt. (jg) N. O. Call.

Survivors said 37 officers and men originally clung to the three Jackson rafts, but 17 died during the second night from exposure and exhaustion. Added to the torment of parched throats, crowded rafts and heavy seas during their 58 hour vigil were sharks and "Portuguese men-of-war," multi-tailed marine pests whose stingers continually lashed the bodies of the strom tossed men. Ironically enough, crew members of each vessel pinned their hopes on rescue by the other, unaware of the like doom of each ship. Lt. Hess of the Bedloe explained: "Skippers often think alike. I was trying to work our way out to sea a bit to avoid the heavy swell hitting near the shore and I figured the Jackson was doing likewise and would be somewhere in the vicinity."

William W. McCreedy, boatswain's mate first class from the Oregon inlet Lifeboat Station, who assisted in the rescue of the survivors from the Jackson, said the first thing he saw was a man doubled up in a small raft, his eyes resembling "a couple of blue dots in a beefsteak." "He flashed a beautiful smile that couldn't be missed," McCreedy continued, "I felt I had looked at something a man sees once in a lifetime -- sort of thought I had come to the edge of heaven. Then, as though his last will to fight had been lost when he saw us, he slumped into the water. The radioman grabbed him and held him in the raft. I went overboard to help and the three of us dragged the raft down. The unconscious man's foot was twisted in the lines, but I cut him free and we put him in the boat." Just before reaching shore, the man reached, stroked McCreedy's face and mumbled "We made it." Then he died.

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