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Up Aboard Ship Fish Fry Berchtesgaden

by Earnest W. Stewart

   Here is a letter telling some of the ups arid clowns of the GI while on a troop ship crossing the ocean. Salt water from the sea to shave with, same kind to wash their mess kits which rust over night—long lines of soldiers up stairs and down stairs (decks) moving ahead foot by foot toward the kitchen for food one hour or two to get there. One must stay In line or start all over. Its all tiring but that is the way GIs must do things while "crossing over."

Somewhere at Sea

Dear Mrs. Hinton:

   Just a few lines to let you know my change of address and to thank you for the paper that we all enjoy so much. Am trying to write this perched precariously atop a hatch. The ship is kind of wiggling around a bit so don't mind if this writing goes up and down hill with it. We have had a fair trip so far, As might be expected we have been inconvenienced in many ways but then this isn't a pleasure cruise. There isn't much news here but being aboard ship Is quite an experience when you do it as infrequently as I do. When we came aboard or where we're bound I'll save for later thus bringing the situation up to date.
   Our quarters are something to be marveled at and be comparing them to a can of sardines minus the oil would be better than a fair example.. Some places in our hold we have 5 bunks of canvas atop one another while in others there are not quite so many. The hold of a ship is everything they say it is and for my part I think it's highly overrated. The humorous part of the thing is the fact that for the most part everyone Is very good natured about it and we don't have too much "griping." You no doubt would be interested In what so many fellows do in such inconvenient circumstances so will attempt to picture for you a typical day aboard this ship at sea.
   We rise, fall out get dumped out, crawl or otherwise leaving the "feather softness" of a bunk of second grade duck at 6 a m, If you're fortunate enough to be the first to hit the deck you might find crawling into your pants not so uneasy. If however you are the second or third man to make it it's not surprising to get kicked in the fanny by the tenant below while the resident in the third story wraps his legs around your neck to keep from falling out and falling on your back. In the mean time about 5 other guys have just about enough time to make the "you know what" so they dash madly down your alley leaving you to get your leg out of the left leg of our neighbors pants as best you can, Finally you get the trousers on and if you're really lucky you probably have your jacket and one shoe on. If not you just curse mildly and wait a break in traffic so you might complete same.
   About 7 a m you head for the Latrine with your towel around your neck and your "Mae West" over one arm your steal [sc] helmet with all your toilet articles in the --end column 1 -- bottom and high hopes that you might at least be able to "brush your teeth." The first opening you get a mad dash is made for the stairs. If you haven't fallen over too many duffle bags or caught your head on two or three stray rifle butts you're in good condition for the climb. You sling the helmet over your arm in basket fashion grab the rail with your free hand and trust the Lord you'll make the top before one of those "Willy NilIly" guys comes dashing back for a razor blade or something he left down stairs.
   As I was lucky this morning I reached the coveted place intact. Boy what a relief! For the next twenty minutes I waited in line for the GI ahead to complete his toilet and get out so I could make mine. We didn't have to shave this morning as the old man is seasick and we are not apt to get caught. e wash our faces I mean smear it off cause you can't get a lather for love or money. That done and dried nicely we retraverse our steps to our bunks and dig out our mess gear.

   As we've already had a few meals we just look at the condition of silver and say "eenie meenie minnie moe" and grab one of the three pieces with the least rust and take off.. Up several flights of stairs getting caught in a crowd for fifteen or twenty minutes and by the time you see daylight you don't know if you want to eat or go back to beds. (Any deviation from the written page is caused by a free shower of salt sea spray Please excuse.)
   You reach the top of the stairs still alive and the man behind shoves you out on the open deck. You see one of the greatest mass of humanity ever collected in one spot at one time, (Must spent too much time for toilet.) The chow is not one line but three stretched around the ship like a giant coil of rope which merges into one at the shelter deck. You take a last quick look to see if you can find the shortest line and head for it only to find that several others from several other doors have the same idea and by the time you get to where you were going six other guys are ahead of you so you quickly look for another spot ending up being content with about tenth place when you might have been No 1 in that line.
   While you're in line you can generally finish the last 300 pages of a good book you have in your pocket or speculate on your destination with the guy ahead of you or you might just be nice and watch the sea roll by. The loud speaker will probably let you know that the "smoking lamp is lit" by this time and you can enjoy a badly crumbled cigarette while you slowly crawl along. The reason for the smashed cigarette Is that some GI found your duffel bag the night before and used It for a seat at the nocturnal game of chance.
   By this time you're at the end of the shelter deck so sticking your mess card between your teeth you make a quick check of the mess gear for rust and opening the handle of your cup and slide it through your belt and left hand while you put two pieces of the mess kit together (with difficulty) and get the little worn mess card ready for punching. Down the galley stairs hanging on to the slippery railing as the steps are most always on the greasy side and accidents are bound to happen.
   At the bottom you get the usual paper cup of fruit juice, sliding cup between your teeth, swallow contents with one gulp, saving the exhale breath to blow cup into the nearest container thus limiting any lost motion. Mess kit ready you hit the first pot get a little jam, eggs, bread, butter and maybe a little cereal. Now follow the leader through the next room and down another flight of stairs where you get that delightful cup of java. Making your way to a long narrow table where you stand to eat.
   Pass me the milk you say to the GI next to you. He reaches for the cow and the ship rocks. Swash it goes flying down to the other end while you grab for the mess kit with one hand and the table with the other ending up by catching the guys breakfast three men down. Nothing lost, just turn loose and you'll fly right back. Up a couple flights of stairs and do your dish washing, you're ready to sit down, smoke, rest a little.
   Return to your quarters! get it ready for inspection and then find a nice hiding place to keep from going to class altho [sic[ by this time the first Sgt knows just about where they are all at. If there is a spot he can't find, it's a military secret.
   On Sunday we have religious services and truly, if attended, give us all a spiritual uplift that all of us need.
   There's a lot more I could say but this gives you a few pointers on a day at sea so will sign off for now.
   Again thanks for the paper

Earnest Stewart

[The Freedom Call, Freedom, OK, 03 May 1945, Thu • Pages 1 & 5]


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