Nov 10, 2014

Happy Veterans Day, and thank you!

Today is veterans day, and I've been wanting to post this for a while. Its not at all beer related, but I wanted to post it none the less, I think its worthy.

Years ago, I asked my now late Uncle Gary for a little information on my Grandfather's time in the service during WWII. I knew he had seen some combat, and was even injured, but that was about all I knew. I asked Uncle Gary (a veteran of the Navy himself) what he new about it, the following is the information I got from him. So you could say, this is Uncle Gary's (aka the Roving Beer Czar Correspondent) last posting on The Beer Czar. Here is what he told me.....

A "Higgins" Boat, the type of
boat my grandfather piloted
He entered the service shortly after Pearl Harbor was attacked, around the first week of January 1942. He enlisted in the Coast Guard. Because of his boating experience and that he was a licensed boats man (I’m not sure of the tonnage) he entered the Coast Guard as a quarter master and operated a Higgins boat. During time of war the Coast Guard fell under the Navy.  My grandfather was only one of 4 Coasties on a navy ship

USS Wm. P. Biddle
 In the spring of 1942 his ship, the USS Wm. P. Biddle (APA – 8) was in the Chesapeake Bay area helping to school soldiers and sailors in the finer points of amphibious warfare. It was during that time my grandfather was assigned to a PT boat and transported officers from other ships in Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore where the officers where engage in the planning of the invasion of North Africa (that took place Nov. 8).
During the invasion of North Africa, he made several (3 or 4 most likely) landings while under (at times heavy) fire in Fadala (Mohammedia), Morocco (just east of Casablanca). The only injury he sustained was a small splinter that lodged in his lip after a shell exploded close to his boat on return to his ship after one landing. During that invasion, another APA called the "Tasker Bliss" was sunk by a German sub just off the Fedala coast and my grandfather’s ship as well as a few others were pulled out of the area. So, for a day, my grandfather was stuck on shore in Casablanca and under the command of the Army (that's tough for a Navy man!).
According to "family legend", a few days, or maybe a week or two later, while back on shore after the hostilities ceased to gather items left on the beach by the invading soldiers to take back to his ship, he happened to walk  up to an area where there was a lot of tanks and soldiers standing around listening to an officer who was, according to my grandfather "ranting and raving” while standing atop  a tank. My grandfather said he tapped a young soldier on the shoulder and asked him “who's the dumb son of a bitch on the tank running his mouth?.” My grandfather said the kid looked back at him as if he had just insulted God himself, and replied “Why that there is General Patton Sir.”
After the invasion his ship returned to Norfolk where it picked up a bunch of Seabees for a quick delivery run to the South Pacific. We know he made that trip, but I understand that while in the South Pacific he sustained a fairly serious injury after unloading a bunch of soldiers, when backing his Higgins boat up, the boat’s rudder hit a submerged boat and caused the helm to turn violently,  injuring him in the stomach (he still bore the scars of that injury up till the day he died). It was that injury that ultimately resulted in his discharge from the service (around August 1943 from what we can determine).
This is the only photo I could find taken during the actual
landing on Fadala.
Years after, when asked what bothered him more than anything else during the war, he would say it was that he dropped off so many young soldiers on the beaches that day at Fadala, and knowing that probably half of them would never survive the landing, or much longer after that.
 My father added some info as well, that is kind of cool. One of the other 3 Coast Guardsmen on the Biddle was from Doylestown PA, the town my mother is from. The daughter of my grandfathers shipmate went to school with my mom. They knew each other well, and even had pictures of each from their time in the war. Small world indeed...
I just want to say thank you, to everyone who has, or is currently serving in the US Armed Forces, be it the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard. We can't thank you enough.
Cheers to you all!
The Beer Czar

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