Final Sea Voyage
Only this event would make me happy to leave Dora and Gmunden but they were soon forgotten in the euphoria that filled most of us. For the life of me, I can't remember if we returned to LeHarve by truck or train but that confirms that at least it wasn't miserable. We stayed one or two nights in pyramidal tents with the ship in sight and then the long-awaited event took place, we loaded onto a "liberty" ship of World War II fame and headed for New York City. The loudspeaker was blaring and I particularly remember Frank Sinatra singing "Nancy". We were soon on our way in a calm sea. Given my journalistic ambitions, I volunteered to work on the "Ship's Newspaper", and was given the assignment of "roving reporter" to sample the troop's thoughts and reactions. At least it would relieve me of duty in the mess hall, latrines or other nasty ways to use my time, having already had some experience at sea with all this. Well, about three days out we hit the big rollers and seasickness was again rampant. Having eaten with disastrous results on the way to Europe, this time I decided to fast. Soon I had to hit the sack, sick and weak and, of course, I wasn't writing my column for the paper. Soon, the Sergeant/editor came to my bunk to inquire why I wasn't producing. My plight did not impress him and he threatened to return me to duty if I didn't get to work immediately. I literally couldn't and the next day over the ship's loudspeaker system, I heard "Now here this Private Kitchell, report immediately to the second deck latrine/head". The next day, he was back but this time accompanied by medical officer. Noting that I was suffering from the effects of malnutrition, he called for stretcher-bearers and had me removed to the sick bay. I was one of only three soldiers so admitted, a fact I was later proud of, so obviously pretty damn sick. After only two days in this comparatively spacious and clean atmosphere and with the ocean beginning to calm, I was soon ready to be discharged. We hit the coast and rode the Gulf Stream north with plenty of sunshine and my principal activity was to read while laying on the poop deck trying to regain my strength. One or two days out of New York, over the loudspeaker it came again "Now hear this PFC Kitchell, report to the Latrine". Fat chance in hell!
Land Ho and Good By
As we approached the land off Long Island, I was one of the first to recognize where we were, spotting the Jones Beach Water Tower. My home was only 12 miles from there, what a thrill! We docked at Hoboken in New Jersey, after enjoying the now traditional homecoming welcoming boat and band and, again, Frank Sinatra. Like many, I literally kissed the ground when we disembarked. Unlike most, I was almost home. We were soon hustled off to Camp Kilmer near Trenton (the city my ancestors helped found) to begin the discharge process and, again I must admit, it was performed in an efficient and good manner. We were given the first payment of our $300 discharge bonus, a train ticket home, a pin to place on our uniform indicating that we had been discharged (we referred to it as the "Ruptured Duck"), and a lecture to join the "Reserves". My answer to the latter was that I wouldn't even join the Boy Scouts.
I was driven to the Trenton Train station with my slung duffel bag containing my few belongings and gifts and soon caught a train to NYC. There I got on the Long Island Railroad, the last leg in my journey back home in Rockville Centre. At this time, in our small apartment, my grandmother, her husband and my aunt had her child were all living with my mother, quite a crowd. They knew I was coming but not the exact time, so I ambled the few blocks from the station to our apartment quietly enjoying the pleasure of being home again. Believe me, there is nothing like it! As I approached our doorway, there were welcome signs all over the place and the family assembled to do it personally. I remained in uniform for two days, enough time to party with some of my old friends and to buy some new clothes and then it was over.
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