VE to VJ Day: Cigarette Camps
The first big job at Lucky Strike was processing Recovered Allied Military Personnel, or released prisoners of war, for shipment to the United States. In all, about 80,000 Ramps went through the camp. The ex-prisoners were brought in directly from German PW camps in transport planes, which landed in the camp area on the old airstrip. At the peak, about 5,000 Ramps per day were evacuated from the camp for the US, some by air, others by ship from LeHarve. Comic and pathetic scenes were common during this period but a satisfying note for many of these men was the presence of more than 3,000 German POWs who cooked, baked, and washed the pots and pans for them. Also shipped through Lucky Strike at this time were a large group of men being sent home for discharge under the point system.
After the Ramps had departed and quiet had been restored to the airstrip, Lucky Strike and the other camps went on with the routine work of redeployment. First complete units to go through were infantry divisions scheduled for redeployment by way of the US for shipment to the Pacific theater of war. It soon became apparent that the 89th would not be following them. In all, a total of 343,733 troops were processed by the Division from June 5 to September 1, just before V-J day, September 2.
Life was not completely dull for the 89th during this time, although many a wistful eye was cast towards the big ships in the LeHarve harbor. The Division received a large quota of passes to Paris and Brussels, and under a stepped-up furlough program, leaves to Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In addition to these many diversions, there were dances put on in French towns by the Army, the Red Cross and French civilian groups. Rest and Recreation (R&R) furloughs were liberally granted. [Your Webmaster, after a bout with pneumonia and a stay in a Rouen hospital, was granted a seven-day furlough in Nice and, even luckier, en route stayed overnight in Paris, which just happened to be V-J day, a time that will never be forgotten].
Meanwhile, breaking up the Division commenced shortly after VE-day. More than 250 veterans with point scores ranging as high as 126 were ordered homeward on May 19. On June 20, a total of 1,500 low-score 89ers was transferred to the 8th Infantry Division, scheduled for redeployment to the Pacific. In all, between VE and VJ-days, a total of 5,613 men were shipped out of the Division, including both old 89ers and men who had recently come in the organization. This meant a net loss to the old Division of more than one-third. Many a buddy and his partner were separated. Men were transferred to other jobs within the Division. The old 89th was finished.
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