Nov. 17, we landed in Liverpool, England, boarded a train at night, passed through London, and spent a cold, rainy and very muddy night at South Hampton. That was what I saw of England -- countryside, the skyline of London, railroad tracks, and rain, rain, rain. The next day we boarded HMS Invicta and started for LeHavre, France, across the English Channel. A heavy sea prevented us from landing that night but the next morning, Nov. 19, we staggered onto a landing craft and moved into LeHavre harbor. Here we saw the first evidence, actually, of the havoc of war---sunken ships by the dozens, battered sea walls and, as we moved into shore, the wrecked landing boats in which GIs only a short time ago had staged their invasion. The main part of the small city, located along the water front, was another mass of wreckage -- every building blasted to kingdom come by the U.S. naval guns. It was a sight to us rookies.
The following days still are only a bad dream to me. It was finally dawning on us that we were actually closing in on the heels of battle. We were in a strange country, bewildered, scared, and very homesick. The civilians, kids and old women, stood in line to get the scraps from our mess kits. We felt sorry for them, and even more at a loss as more and more the meaning of war came to us. Then there were days and nights of travel in cold and leaking boxcars -- the famous *40 and 8's of the last war. No room to sleep, too cold if we could, too suffocating to build a fire. We saw the rail yards of Paris and more evidence of bombings. We stopped somewhere at a small Army replacement depot, whether more than one I've forgotten, but finally we unloaded at Epinal, France, a Seventh Army depot. We drew rifles, more equipment, stood guard, and twice were chased from our beds by air raid alerts.
*40 men or 8 horses.
From Ed DeFoe, December 18, 1991:
Re: MUD & GUTS
I am reading your book again and things are beginning to fall in place....so I will go at this page by page, okay? One thing for sure, we all fought our own war called "the war of survival," which didn't look all that promising at times.....
You took your basic at Roberts and I at Fannon, in the Texas desert...neither one a Disney World, I am sure. But both for seventeen weeks, and home for about two weeks and, yup, to Fort Mead...and England and LaHavre. You talk about sick!! I did real fine until the damn boat leaned on her side and trays from our chow table were landing on the floor....oops, deck -- and one tray from somebody landed in my lap -- filled with "puke"...sorry, I can't find a nice word to describe it....Anyway, Epinal was the pits and, yes, I was lonesome and scared and we hadn't even got started. I'm a city kid and not used to these lousy conditions --- cold, hungry, dirty.
Starting ...or I should say, joining, the 103rd didn't impress me but at least we sort of belonged to something.....
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