Oct 15

The Life & Service of a World War 2 Mine Warfare Sailor. Part 3

Tuesday, October 15, 2019 12:01 AM

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This Blog picks up with my grandfather Thomas Schreck’s journal on 8 May 1944. My grandfather was a passenger on the liberty ship SS Reverdy Johnson in route to Algeria to meet the ship he served on until the end of the war. The Reverdy Johnson was part of convoy UGS-40 that sailed from Norfolk, Virginia on 23 April, my grandfather boarded two days earlier.

Seaman 1st Class Thomas Schreck
(Courtesy of the Author)

Monday May 8th
Started betting on when we would
see the rock, Saw birds and
small craft.

The rock is the Rock of Gibraltar, which every ship traveling to North Africa passed. Seeing birds and small craft was a definite sign they were approaching land.

Navy Blimp like the one that accompanied convoy UGS-40 near the Rock of Gibraltar 1944
(Courtesy of the Author)

Tuesday May 9th
Nice looking piece of stone. One 
of the boots asked me where the
big insurance sign was on the rock.
Stayed on deck all day long.

The Prudential Insurance Company used the Rock of Gibraltar as part of its logo since 1897. In 1944 the advertisements included the name of the company on the image of the rock.

Prudential Advertisement
(Courtesy of the Author)

Wednesday May 10th
Passed up Oran. Dropped all of 
the convoy there except two ships. 
Went on to Arsew. Just a bunch 
of houses and a few DD’s.

The ports of Oran and Arzew were taken during Operation Torch in 1942. Both locations were used as landing sights for the invasion of North Africa. Although combat action in the area ended and the Colonial Viche French government surrendered to the Allies, locals were not always friendly to the allied forces as you will see further along in the journal.

North Africa, showing locations of Oran and Arsew also spelled Arzew
(Courtesy of the Author)

 

The USS Biscayne (AVP-11) and USS Doran (DD-634) in port of Arzew June 1944
(Courtesy of the Author)

Thursday May 11th
Disenbarked. One boy dropped 
his gear between the ship and
dock. Nice time getting it. Sat
all morning waiting for info. Sent
to Oran Rec, Sta. Went by truck
and not any too slow. All the fields 
had vineyards. Must be a drunks paradise.

After passing up Oran and traveling to Arzew he was sent back to Oran where he spent several days before moving again

Friday May 12th
Have to live in tents. Not so
bad. Good Chow. Movies, sports
and sack duty. A lot of rationed 
stuff but not very bad.

The Oran Naval Receiving Station was established in 1943 following the Axis’ withdraw from North Africa. It featured not only a naval receiving station, but also a large 500 bed hospital and major ship repair base as well as housing storage facilities for Allied forces in North Africa. The facility consisted of both newly erected buildings and local buildings procured for the Navy. The receiving station could house up to 1,500 personnel.

 

Naval base at Oran
(Courtesy of the Author)

Saturday May 13th
Got all my gear fixed and
watched military movements
on the road. Not much but a
lot of variety. These Arabs are
pretty filthy. I guess the dirtier
they are, the happier. Not gone 
on liberty yet. Boys say it’s not
bad.

Algeria ca. 1944
(Courtesy of the Author)

Sunday may 14th
Missed church again darn it. 
Played ball and horse shoes.
Had a game between Corp men
and ships co. Pretty good.
Collecting a nice tan. “Lorenzo”
and Nick argued four hours in
their sacks. Sure got a laugh
out of it.

My grandfather enjoyed baseball throughout his life and even played a little during his time with the Air Force in Korea.

Three pictures of a baseball game during my grandfather’s service in the Air Force, ca. 1950
(Courtesy of the Author)

 

(Courtesy of the Author)

 

(Courtesy of the Author)

My grandfather also describes the two shipmates mentioned in the above entry.

*”Nick” Chalk, the old man of the 
crew. A wop that is sober at times 
but good hearted, congenial and is
liked by all the boys.

*Larry D’arkangelo another Eytie. Him
and Chalk get into arguements about 
Italian words. Each of has a different dialect
and you should hear them! Yipes! Larry 
is a nice guy to and likes to argue
about anything. “Lorenzo”

Monday May 15th
Scared worse than ever last
night. An Arab tried to get 
in our tent. Threw shoes, knifes,
seabags, and etc at him. Guard
shot him. They kill them like
flies around here. They don’t 
care. Neither do we. Saved (snitched)
piece of soap out of messhall.
Worth gold round here. Went 
to canteen and got my rations.
Sold our radio for $60 bucks, 
or rather 3,000 francs. Only paid
$30 for it in the U.S.

The response of the guard here may seem extreme, however, you must remember this was a navel base in war time. Though most locals were friendly to the Allies, some sided with the Axis powers during the fight for North Africa the year before. Locals were known to provide information and support to both sides depending on who would pay the most. Killing a local who came on to the base and tried to steal from sailors stationed was not unusual.

My grandfather was only here for a few more days before he moved to Tunisia where he joined his ship. More on that journey to come.

Enjoy the author’s earlier posts here:

https://www.navalhistory.org/2019/08/14/the-life-service-of-a-world-war-2-mine-warfare-sailor-part-1

https://www.navalhistory.org/2019/09/19/the-life-service-of-a-world-war-2-mine-warfare-sailor-part-2