Saturday, November 11, 2017

Military Service of Henry LaRay Lund

My dad was only thirty-seven years old when he died, and he never spoke of the war years, so I had no idea about his service. I tried to contact the military, but I was informed all his records were lost in a fire in the 1950s. We have no detailed records at all either about his participation in WWII or his medical records.

Although his family called Dad “Ray,” short for his middle name, his friends in the service called him “Hank.” [He wasn’t called this in his family because he was named after this father, and he often used this nickname.]

According to my mother, he changed addresses in March of 1941 and received his draft notice on April 8 (eight months before Pearl Harbor.) He reported on April 21, 1941 and served through November 24, 1945. I believe he did his basic training at Fort Ord, California. I think he was transferred from there to Camp Swift in Texas for training. He was stationed there in October of 1942 when he and my mother were married.
He was transferred to Ft. Bliss, Texas, where his unit was formed. When he arrived, he made arrangements for Mom to join him. However, he became quite ill (meningitis?), and he told her not to come. By the time he was well enough, he could no longer have her with him.

These are the basic facts my mother told me, but she didn’t know any of the details.

On Memorial Day of 1994, I sent letters to three of the men my father served with in WWII. My mother had stayed in touch with them after my dad died in 1954, so I was fortunate to have their contact information. They all contacted me, and each of them provided information about Dad’s military service.

The first of his friends, Brainard “Mac” McNeil, called me. What a thrill to talk to a living link to my father. He wasn’t well but wanted me to know the basics as he remembered them:

·           They met when both were stationed at Camp Swift in Austin, TX. In June of 1944, they were stationed together at Camp Murphy in Florida. They shipped out from there. First, they boarded the Queen Mary, used at the time as a troop transport. They entered the Firth of Clyde in Scotland. [While there, Dad took a train, which stopped near my maternal grandmother’s family home in Ayrshire. Her family members went to the station and waved to Dad as the train passed.]
·           They crossed the English Channel on an LST. Dad was in the Signal Corps with HQ Company.
·            From Europe, they sailed on the SS Marseilles.

I next received a letter from Bryan Shaner, another man who served with Dad. From him, I learned the following:

  • ·            Dad was in Supply. He and John Coyle were together when the unit formed at Ft. Bliss in Texas.
  • ·            Bryan joined them at Camp Murphy in Florida.
  • ·           They left Camp Murphy as a unit at the end of October, processed as required in New York, where they boarded the Queen Mary. They sailed on November 3 with about 15,000 troops aboard. The trip took three or four days. They had no escort because the ship was too fast.
  • ·            They sailed into the harbor on the River Clyde in Scotland, anchored in the bay, and disembarked onto a small ship. It took them to the dock, where the London-Scotland train waited. Dad asked the conductor if he knew the Kennedys (my mother’s relatives). The conductor said they were his neighbors.
  • ·            The went to a camp in Hereford, England and stayed until January or February of 1944. Bryan crossed the channel in an advance party. The rest came about a week later.
  • ·            They convoyed to Brussels, Belgium where they stayed for about two weeks. They left for Charleroi, Belgium, and then on to Nancy, France, where they were assigned to Patch’s 7th Army. Patton’s 3rd was to their left, and the French 2nd army was to the right.
  • ·            They continued up through southern Germany. They were in Augsburg, Germany when Germany surrendered in April of 1945.
  • ·            They convoyed to Heidelberg, Germany and stayed there for a while, then convoyed to the Arles Staging Area, about 80 miles from Marseilles on the Mediterranean.
  • ·            In July of 1945, they sailed out of Marseilles on a Matson ship headed for the Pacific. Three Matson ships sailed out of Los Angeles and San Francisco before the war. Over 5000 sailed aboard this ship past the Rock of Gibraltar.
  • ·            They docked in Panama City and stayed overnight. Some stayed ashore, and others stayed in the Navy barracks. [Dad stayed ashore and won spending money playing poker with the drunks as they returned to the barracks.]
  • ·            They were a few days out of Panama, when Japan surrendered. They thought the ship would turn around to go back to the US, but instead, they sailed into Manila Harbor. They went to Clark AFB.
  • ·            In two groups, during September and October, they went to Japan because they had no supply lines at the time. They were among the first troops in Japan. Fortunately, they had enough food rations during their stay.

Bryan remembers Dad as quiet and unassuming. He didn’t drink or carouse like some of the others did.

John Coyle, the last of the three, sent me a letter. In it, he told me Dad was his boss from the time the 46th Signal Heavy Construction Battalion was formed at Camp Swift, Texas in 1944 until it disbanded in early January of 1946. [Dad had longer time in service, so he was discharged in November of 1945, ahead of most of the others.]

John provided a chronological and geographical record of his service during WWII. Since Dad was with him throughout, this was the Holy Grail of records! Since Dad’s service records were gone, I rejoiced when this letter arrived.

In early February of 1944, John was assigned to the Supply Office of the 24th Battalion. He had no idea what they did or what his job would entail. In the spring, a cadre of experienced non-commissioned officers arrived to help organize the unit. [By this time, Dad was probably a sergeant. He became a master sergeant by the time he left the service. They wanted to promote him, but he turned it down. He said the junior officers were targets for the enlisted men.]

The battalion consisted of two operational companies of approximately 175 men each and a headquarters company of about 50 men. John and Dad were part of the headquarters company Supply Office with one commissioned officer, one warrant officer, one charge non-com (Dad), one clerk (John), and two truck drivers. This arrangement continued during their entire deployment overseas.

Before leaving Texas, their name was changed to the 46th Signal Heavy Construction Battalion. [This site shows the movement of the battalion during WWII. Dad’s buddies had great memories!]
Dad is second from left, back row (the short one).john is at left, front row.
The function of the brigade was to build telephone lines, the type with poles, crossties, and wire. The operational companies actually used emergency cable 90% of the time to maintain telephone communications. After Germany surrendered, they built one conventional telephone line to connect Heidelberg and the Rhine River.

From Texas, their next stop was Camp Murphy, Florida for additional training. After Camp Murphy, they went to Camp Shanks, New York for a few days. Then they boarded the Queen Mary for their trip overseas. John said he slept in the cocktail lounge on an upper deck in the front of the ship. The Queen Mary put in to the Firth of Clyde, and the troops landed at Greenock, Scotland.

John’s recollection of Dad was that he was firm. He understood whatever was necessary to do the job, and was always helpful and friendly.

Here is John’s chronology for the period he was with Dad:
Camp Swift, TX – 2 Feb 1944 to Jul 1944
Camp Murphy, FL – Jul 1944 to 26 Oct 1944
Camp Shanks, NY – 26 Oct to 31 Oct 1944
Aboard the Queen Mary – 3 Nov to 9 Nov 1944
Hereford, England – 10 Nov 1944 to 26 Jan 1945
France, Belgium, Germany – 29 Jan to 21 Jul 1945
Aboard the SS Monterey – 21 Jul to 27 Aug 1945
Philippine Islands – 27 Aug to 2 Nov 1945
Aboard LST-912 [USS Mahnomen County] – 2 Nov to 18 Nov 1945
Kawasaki, Japan – 18 Nov to 24 Nov 1945 – Discharged

Here is John’s narrative of his service (parallel to Dad’s):

Left Camp Murphy 26 Oct 1944 for Staging Area at Camp Shanks, New York. Remainerd at Camp Shanks 72 hours. Loaded aboard English liner Queen Mary at Pier # BO, New York City. Sailed for Scotland at two p.m., 3 Nov 1944. An estimated 20,000 troops were aboard including Paratroops, Engineers, WACS, Netherlands women’s army axillary, and a few Canadians. The ship is 12,019 ft. long, and weighs 81,000 tons. Mounts Bophurs, 20 MM, AA, 3" and one 6" gun. Arrived 9 Nov 1944. Traveled an average of thirty knots. Bobby Breen, Mickey Rooney, and the original cast of Junior Miss were aboard.

Landed at the Firth of Clyde, Scotland. Boarded the train at Clyde in the late afternoon. Traveled all night and arrived the following morning at Hereford, England. [Several of my mother’s relatives remembered going to the station and waving at Dad as the train passed.]

Billited in Birmingham Abbey. The Game Cock Pub was the scene of much festivity.
Left England 26 Jan 1945, crossing from Southampton to LeHavre. Sailed up the Seine River to Rouen by Liberty Ship George S Randall. Stayed at Camp Twenty Grand for two weeks awaiting orders. Convoyed to Zaventem, Belgium, seven miles east of Brussels. Stayed three weeks. Moved to Château Borel de Morlanwelz for one week.

Left Belgium on 17 March for Baccarat, France, twenty-five miles from the front, as of this date. Left 23 March for Rech, a very small village in Alsace-Lorraine. We lived here in a school building. Left Rech 30 March, convoying over 100 miles to Kaiserslautern, Germany. Billeted here in a fine apartment house. Convoyed to Eberstadt, a small town five miles from Darmstadt. Darmstadt was completely demolished. Convoyed ninety miles south to Albertshofen, a village twenty miles east of rzburg. We were first enemy troops in the town and were in complete charge.

Moved to Schwäbisch Gmünd, Southeast of Albertshofen, on the 26th of April. This is in the Black Forest Region and close to Austria . Moved to Augsburg near Munich 5 May 1945. Billeted here in an apartment house. This large city was not too badly damaged.

Hostilities ceased one minute after midnight 8 May 1945. To save lives, cease fire order was given 6 May 1945.

After the end of the war, the unit convoyed from Augsburg to Heidelberg 13 May 1945. Left 7th Army attached to 3211th Signal Service Group. Still part of 6th Army Group under General Devers. Gen Patch, C.O. of 7th Army. Heidelberg was undamaged because of the University. It had been declared an open city by the Germans. All bridges, however, were blown.

Unit was awarded battle participation bronze stars for the Rhineland Campaign (15 Sep 1944 to 21 March 1945) in Belgium, and the Central Europe Campaign (22 March to 11 May 1945final date of European War in southwestern Germany).

Left Heidelberg for Staging Area on Southern Coast of France 22 June 1945. Arrived 26th June. Remained in the area until 22 July. Sailed from Marseilles, France on the Matson Liner, Monterey. Passed Gibraltar 24 July en route to Panama. Arrived at Canal Zone 2 Aug 1945. Disembarked at Balboa on the Pacific end of the canal and had entertainment and night lodging at Albrook Airfield.

Received announcement of V-J Day 14th Aug 1945. At this time, all ships’ guns were fired and the ship’s whistle was blown. Started taking Atabrlne tablets 15 Aug. Crossed International Date Line on the 17th making the date 18th Aug. Later V-J Day was considered to be 3 September officially.

Arrived at Manila 27th August. Crossing took 37 days. Camped at Lipa. Sailed from Batanges 2 Nov 1945 aboard the LST-912. Stopped in Manila Harbor to form convoy and sailed from islands for Japan 3 Nov 1945, one year to the day we sailed for Scotland. Ran into the beginning of a typhoon the second day out in the East China Sea. After damaging several ships, the convoy turned around and headed back for Manila. Storm let up, and we turned around and continued on our way. One ship lost its rudder and crashed another LST. Our ship lost its bow anchor. Rest of trip uneventful.

Arrived at Sendai 18 Nov 45. Received orders to proceed to Tokyo. Put out to sea and arrived in Tokyo 20 Nov 1945. Lived at Kawasaki, halfway between Tokyo and Yokohama in former radio factory employees’ quarters.

Dad was discharged on November 24, 1945. We have no record of how he was sent home, an no one is still alive who would know.

I just checked and Brainard “Mac” MacNeill died on May 17, 1998. His wife, Beatrice (Bea) died on February 26 of the same year. (Ellis) Bryan Shaner passed away on April 28, 2008. His wife died on March 17, 2011. John Coyle died on November 12, 2007. His wife, Myrna, is 103 years old and still living in Florida.

I owe these fellows a great debt for the information they provided.

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