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Carl Bonde, Jr. embarks to France

July 28, 2016


Thursday, December 24, 1944

Everyone assumed Carl Jr. followed his platoon members onto the T.S.S. Leopoldville to his doom.  That is, through the several passage ways, down three long sets of stairs, down, down to the lowest level.  All the way down to the fourth hold, the dark space where he found as soft a place as he could to sleep.  Ultimately, a German torpedo would tear through killing everyone instantly.

In fact, it didn’t happen like that at all.

To begin with, Carl and his buddies sat on their duffel bags in the vast staging area at Southampton Docks waiting for orders, waiting.  Someone started singing a Christmas song.  Well, it was just after midnight, Christmas Eve day.  But they waited.  Waited for anything to happen.  At all.  All down the vast pier they could see ship after ship tied up, each with a gangway descending to the dock.  This captured their attention momentarily before they settled down to grab a nap.  Their lieutenant had given their sergeants orders to put them “at ease.”

Carl considered asking his friends Bill Moomey, Bill Loughborough, and Hank Christiansen to play a few hands of bridge because he always carried a deck of cards, but he was exhausted.  He laid down on the deck with his head on his gear, smelling the familiar Cosmoline preservative that permeated all new army web gear.  And much of it was new.  In fact, Carl’s M-1 rifle lay next to him, along with his new cartridge belt with its four magazines of ammunition.

The magazines with live ammunition was a new feature of this exercise and made what usually was just a drill seem more realistic, Carl thought.  They had many drills before, but this one was most realistic.

About 25 yards down the pier American Red Cross women served coffee and doughnuts to another outfit, lined up.  American women sure beat the limeys, Carl thought.

Soon Carl was asleep.  He was dimly aware that a company of paratroopers was on the steep gangway to the Leopoldville.  Turns out they were getting on the wrong ship and would soon be turned back.

Carl and the rest of his company E never did get any doughnuts from the Red Cross.  As Carl dozed he could hear the distant sound of sergeants shouting orders.

Finally, after some four hours of fitful sleep, Sergeant Weaver gave the order to fall in line for boarding the Leopoldville.  Carl felt revived enough to holler, “This rusty piece of shit will never get us where we’re going.”

Someone else cried, “Where are we going?”

A chorus called out, “To the bottom.”

Someone else called out, “I’ve caught crawdads in better tubs than this.”

Another called out, “Fuck it!  I’m swimming to France.”

And so on.

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