The First Time I Saw Paris by Norman Spivock

I won a fifteen-month, all expenses paid trip to Europe because my number was called in a lottery. It included all travel, meals, lodging, clothes, pocket money, and many activities. All this, and I was only eighteen years old. Unfortunately the activities were compulsory, as the lottery was the draft.

How do you feel when you are on a troop ship and enemy subs are out to sink you? Are you consoled by knowing land is never more than three miles away, albeit straight down? I think not, so an escape route in case of need is critical. I felt fortunate to have a bunk in what had been the dining room of a great passenger ship, just opposite the grand stairway, a quick route to the decks. With the first escape drill I learned the grand stairway was for lower decks while I was shunted into a long narrow passageway to the opposite end of the ship. Claustrophobia! An endless line of guys in front of me and in back of me. Trapped! So I wondered if, in case of need, I would really follow this route. At the first sign of panic, after being torpedoed, would I have rushed up the grand stairway to the decks? Some things we will never know.

As we prepared for landing at Le Havre, we learned only sergeants and above were issued three bullets. So what were we privates supposed to do, I asked a buddy, if we are attacked? "Nothing," he replied. "Those are to shoot us if we try to desert." So much for the confidence the Army had in us.

We disembarked without gunfire. The first word I heard a Frenchman say in French was voilą, a word I understood, with the speaker seeming happy while saying it.

| Next