Friday, July 23, 2010

Light & Shadows: Excerpt VI

Chapter 6: When the United States enters the Second World War, Arnold volunteers for induction. After Basic Training, he is sent to Europe. He finds himself in the Ardennes Forest during the Battle of Bulge, one of the most notorious military encounters of the Second World War.

Arnold in Basic Training at Fort McClellan, Alabama.

By the time I finished Basic Training it was the end of November 1944. The American Army had already fought a lot of bloody battles and had suffered many casualties. Since replacement troops were desperately needed, the Army shipped us out as quickly as they could.

I was in Camp Blanding near Boston Harbor for only a day or two before boarding a Liberty Ship, one of the relatively inexpensive and quickly produced ships that the U.S. built to supplement its fleet during the Second World War. It felt as if there were thousands of men on our transport, and we were packed in like sardines. The troops slept near the bottom of the ship, in cots stacked five high and lined up row after row.

We sailed in convoy, and I know that one of the other ships, a destroyer, was hit by a German submarine. When we looked across the water we could see that it was smoking, and then it was no longer able to keep up. I do not know whether it sank or whether any men were lost; we never heard an announcement about what had happened. But we had seen enough to be frightened for our own safety.

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