The following Chapter covers the period from when we find Butcher in the 388th Military Police, through the end of the war.
The 388th MP BN
388th MP patch found on http://www.worthpoint.com. It is lot dated.
New records found by Lori Miller in the National Archives in St. Louis (4/22/14) have added new information for Bob Butcher’s records that show that he was not part of the 54th Reinforcement BN by as early as July 1945. The 22 July 45 morning report for Co A, 388th MP BN MRS (Military Rail Service), located at U-8757 Metz reports that Robert Butcher, T/5, MOS 014, along with six other EM “assigned and joined this org. pp#3 memo #47, Hq 388th MP BN, dated 17 July 17 1945.”
On 29 July 1945 Butcher’s MOS was changed from 014, mechanic, to 677, military policeman.
Morning reports still listed the 388th MP BN in the Metz area on 30 August 1945.
The 29 October 1945 morning report for Co “A” 388th MP BN, Metz, states that Butcher (along with 16 other EM) were transferred to the 794th MP BN, pp1 SO 152, HQ 388th MP BN, dated 28 Oct 1945.
The 794th MP BN
The 29 Oct 1945 morning report for the Military Railway Service, HQ 794th MP BN show that Robert Butcher and 9 other men with 65-68 ASR (Advanced Service Rating) “points” were assigned to Co “B”, 794th MP BN.
On 31 Oct 1945 Co “B” morning reports show that the unit departed from Dijon France by truck at 0800 hours and arrived 150 miles later, 1610 hours, at Camp Boston France, which was near Rhiems, with 139 EM and 4 officers, “pp3 SO 302 HQ 1st MRS, 29 Oct 45.
The 997th FA
Robert Butcher’s time with the 997th FA, A Btry Transcribed from copy of original handwritten notes contained in the 997th unit history file, and from morning reports kept at the National Archives in St. Louis, Mo.
1 Nov 45, morning report, BTRY A, 997th FA, Camp Boston, Suippes France: Robert Butcher (T/5), and 16 other EM (ASR 65-69) transferred from 794th MP to 997th FA BN.
November 6-13, 1945
During this period men (from the 997th) below 65 points left transferred in. The BN became known as the 65-69 point carrier BN and awaited shipment to the port immediately after all 70-point units cleared Camp Boston. Training and processing continued and passes were taken by various members of the command.
10 Nov 45, morning report, BTRY A, 997th FA: 13 EM, including Butcher, assigned and joined from 794th MP BN, Camp Boston, para 10, SO 151, HQ Cp Boston, 10 Nov 1945.
Bn was given a readiness date for movement to port of November 20. The personnel realized now that their stay in Camp Boston was almost over.
November 17, 1945
An inspection in ranks was made on Saturday morning. The morning was devoted to policing the area. A final check was made on all items pertinent to movement to the port. At 1620 Saturday afternoon a port call was received from Post Hqs, Camp Boston alerting the unit for movement to Calas staging area, near Marseille, France on Wednesday morning November 21.
The unit spent these two days preparing for the move to Marseille. All records were brought up to date. On November 20 the personnel stood their final physical examination. All baggage was loaded at 1600 and taken to Suippes, France where it was loaded on the train, which would carry the men and officers of the 997thFA Bn to the staging area the next morning. A final policing of the area was made and a march inspection was held at 1600 by an officer from Post Hqs. The unit prepared for the last night’s stay in Camp Boston for the Bn was to leave at 0700 on 21 November 45. The Red Cross Club mobile arrived and coffee and doughnuts were enjoyed by all personnel.
This was an important day for the men and officers of the 997th FA Bn. Arising at 0400 all personnel rolled their bedding rolls and prepared the area for inspection. At 0600 breakfast was served at Transient Mess No. 1 by the Static Personnel of Camp Boston. After eating the men returned to the Bn area and at 0630 an officer arrived from Post Hq for a final inspection. At this time the men of the Bn were commended for their superior work in preparing for this inspection. The inspecting officer left and the men assembled awaiting transportation. At 0810 trucks arrived and men and officers were transported to Suippes France where they were to board the train. Arriving there the Bn was served hot coffee and doughnuts by three Red Cross girls. Needless to say everyone was very grateful for this after a cold ride from the camp area to the depot. At 1000, 15 officers and 607 EM boarded a train and at 1010 departed for Calas Staging Area. The route taken was as follows: Suippes, Joinville, Is-Sur Lille, Villafranche, Livron, Orange and the destination Pas De Lanciers. Several stops were made enroute and meals were served at various stations November 22-23. Thanksgiving Day was spent enroute and a K ration had to suffice for a bountiful Turkey dinner, but no one seemed to mind and was thankful that they were on their way home. At 0400 Nov. 23rd the train arrived at its destination. After unloading, breakfast was served at a transient mess. Trucks arrived and the officers and men were transported to Calas Staging Area arriving at CP No. 1, Calas Staging Area. At 0730 the Bn was assigned to Block K, area 51. The Bn moved into tents and after drawing cots the men spent a few hours for personal maintenance. The rest of the day was spent in receiving their baggage and equipment. Much work was ahead in preparation for departure to the Post and Friday night everyone retired early, exhausted from the long journey from Camp Boston to the Calas Staging Area.
During this period every officer and EM of the Bn devoted many long hours in preparation for their departure from Calas Staging Area. The personnel section especially worked day and night in preparing rosters, passenger lists etc. for each man going home with the Bn and should receive much credit for the hours spent pounding their typewriters. All custom declaration forms, baggage forms and other clearance forms and all requisitions were completed during this period. All Foreign money was turned into the various Btry Class “A” agents and taken to Finance to be converted into US currency. However, no man of the Bn would receive any US money until after he had boarded the ship enroute to the States. Everything was in a state of readiness and all personnel anxiously awaited the alert order for movement to the port at Marseille France. Captain Ovenu, our Bn Surgeon was transferred to Post Hq, Calas Staging Area, leaving only 14 officers in the Bn.
The BN continued in final preparation before movement to the port. Five officers and fifteen non-commissioned officers of the BN attended a two-hour orientation lecture on the GI Bill of Rights and Veteran’s Insurance. Each Btry was given and I & E kit including information for a series of Orientation Lectures to be disseminated throughout the BN enroute to the States. At 1513 the Inspector General arrived and all records, sick books and property books of the BN were inspected. Training Schedules for the remainder of the week were submitted to S-3 Post Hqs. Three officers were transferred to the BN on this date; Captain Kelley, Chaplain Robert C. Laphen and 1st Lt. George S. Chase. The strength of the BN to date was 17 officers and 606 Enlisted Men. At 1900 a messenger from Block Hqs brought an important message to Capt Rice, the Bn Commander informing us the BN was now warned to be ready for movement to the port at any time. Immediately Capt Rice went down to Troop Transportation Hqs for further information regarding the order but on his return we learned that no additional details were available.
Four enlisted men were transferred to the BN. Three were assigned to Charlie Btry and one to Baker Btry, putting the BN up to strength again. At 1700 a messenger arrived from Block Hqs with the long awaited information that the BN was alerted as of 1000, 29 November 1945 and would embark on the Victory Ship USS Cape Slattery. Capt Rice received notice to attend a pre-embarkation lecture at 1000, 29 November 1945. No further information regarding the date of sailing was available at this time.
At 1000 Cpt Rice attended a pre-embarkation lecture at Post Hqs. Here further details were available. It was learned that the Cape Slattery was due in the Marseilles Port December 1st and the BN would embark either on this date or early Sunday Morning, December 2nd. No advance party was necessary prior to the Bn’s movement to the Port. Forms for final clearance of the Calas Staging Area were received and the remainder of the day was spent in completing all unfinished reports before the Bn received orders to move. At 2230 Friday night a messenger arrived from Block Hqs and informed us that the 997th would not embark on the Cape Slattery but would now sail on the USS Janeville, another Victory Ship. The date of its arrival here in Marseille Port was unknown.
At 0900 Capt Rice went down to Troop Transportation at Post Hqs. Here he learned that the Cape Slattery was docking in Le Havre instead of Marseilles, but the Janeville would arrive on December 4th to carry the 997th FA Bn to the States. Later, after driving to the port in Marseilles and talking to the Port officials the situation was somewhat cleared. The status of our Bn was now known but still subject to change. It became known that there was no ship christened the Cape Slattery, but due to conditions unknown to us the Cape Flattery did dock in La Havre and so the 997th’s sailing date was delayed and the Bn was scheduled to embark on the Victory Ship USS Rangedale – not the Janeville as we had previously been informed. Recreational facilities were very scarce at the Calas Staging Area and the personnel spent most of their time in the Area – the Red Cross Club became a popular place and coffee and doughnuts were served at various hours throughout the day. The Bn furnished a guard detail for Block K area on this date and four men were detailed as PW chasers in the afternoon of November 30th.
The period 1 Dec to 3 Dec was spent in preparing for embarkation. On the morning of the 4th, at a Unit Commander’s meeting, Capt. Rice was informed that the Bn would embark on the USS Pontotoc Victory. Baggage was moved from the Staging Area to the port during the evening of the 4th.
Excerpts from the newsletter written and printed on the Pontotoc Victory ship during her voyage from Marseille France to the US in December 1945.
The following are excerpts from a newsletter that was written and printed by US troops during their trip home from WWII on board the USS Pontotoc Victory in December 1944. Images of the original newsletters are posted on this site and on the site for the 242nd FA, www.242nd-field-artillery.com/242nd.asp . The images were graciously provided by E.V. Walsh. His father Ed Walsh Jr., along with my grandfather, was among the many troops on the ship at the time. I have tried to keep the style, spelling and format similar to the original.
19 December 1945 – “SOUVENIR ADDITION”
In this final edition of “WESTWARD HO” as far as the present staff is concerned, we will endeavor to bring you a recollection of your trip across the Atlantic Ocean in the year 1945. With the Increasing rapidity of mode of travel, a trip across the Atlantic in about 20 years will be a matter of hours.
When those days do come, this addition will back any statement you might care to make to your children or grandchildren, is, “ I remember back in 1945 it took us 14 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean and that was pretty good time considering the weather we ran into”.
Then to go on with your story you would be correct to say that “We boarded the Pontotoc Victory at Marseille, France on the 5th of December 1945. We stayed at dock all day and night of the 5th and 6th. They were windy nights. During that period the ship snapped 13 8” manila rope lines that were used to hold her to the dock. The morning of the 7th it was still a “blowing”, 9 more manila lines snapped, in addition to 3 wire cables. About 5 o’clock on the 7th several French Tug Boats pulled up along side us and then at about 7 o’clock we were off.
We passed through the breakwater an hour and a half later. We no sooner passed it when the sea-sickness began to “come up”. Yes there were a lot of soldiers who had enough of the boat then. All day long there was a strong gale churning up the sea. At times the sprays would be over the bow of the boat. During the night the gale diminished into a gentle breeze and sailing was smooth. From then on the trip was something like this: [note from author: I have moved this portion of the last edition to the beginning for clarity. Unless noted, all other entries are from the daily edition listed.]
8 December 1945.
Despite all the rumors to the contrary, the USS Pontotoc Victory Ship wasn’t built by the Ladies Aid Society of Lower Tenth St., but was built in Baltimore Md., by a group of workers who knew what they were doing. The ship got its bath of champagne in Feb 44, and while she was still wet Capt. Bernard Mirkin, her present skipper took her under his wing. Shortly after, with the help of 86 handpicked crewmen, they set out to make the ship seaworthy. They must have done a good job, considering what the ship went through on our first day out. Remind me someday, to have them do a job on my stomach……..
This ship made two previous crossings as a cargo ship, and two as a troop carrier. Then came her big date. Our shipping home. The first day out wasn’t as pleasant as some of us would have liked, but it served its purpose, in that we are all old seamen by this time. It seems that one fellow went to the Medic’s for some seasick pill, and came back with C.C. pills. He discovered that too late……Poor fellow. But that is deviating from the original subject.
The distance from Marseilles to Hampton Roads, Virginia, is approximately 4052 miles. Averaging 15 knots and hour, the ship will click off 360 miles every 24 hours. Let’s hope that we can sail on under full steam, so we can make it by Christmas. From tomorrow on, we hope to be able to bring you a few extracts from the ships log. Last, but not least, we hope to pass the Rock of Gibraltar early in the AM.
SPEED 14.5 knots DISTANCE 355 miles. Still in the Mediterranean. A fresh NW breeze blowing with a slight sea. [From the “souvenir addition” printed on the 19th.]
9 December 1945
773 MILES COVERED Average speed — 14.7 knots
Sailing along at an average speed of 14.7 knots per hour the SS Pontotoc Victory has traveled a total of 773 miles from Marseille as of noon, 9 December 1945.
The following is a breakdown of daily distances traveled:
7 December 1945 53 miles
8 December 1945 355 miles
9 December 1945 365 miles
The 4,052 miles that looked so big upon departure from Marseille is dwindling.
About 5 o’clock in the morning we passed the Rock of Gibraltar. After we passed through the Strait of Gibraltar the wind died down. We sailed over a smooth sea. [From the “souvenir addition” printed on the 19th.]
GOSSIP RUMORS FACTS
It seems that conversation aboard this ship can be placed in either one or the other of the above categories.
The most popular is that of rumor. Someone in head #3 can start it while nonchalantly sitting—when he is thru the rumor is down in (blurred).
Take the rumor about furloughs when we hit the States. It started suddenly spreading quickly and now it has gone as far as “Why, they even have the furloughs typed up already!” “They’re to be handed out as we leave the ship”. ‘Tisn’t so Gentlemen. If that does happen we will surely let you know.
Breadth……………………………………62’ 1 5/8”
Fresh water carried…………………………658 tons
Amount used daily…………………………..26 tons
Cruising Speed……………………………..16.5 knots
Amount of oil carried…………………………13,725 bbls
Amount of oil used daily………………..…..320 bbls
Cargo Displacement Weight……………..…10,779 tons
Number of crew………………………… 86
10 December 1945
ONLY 2903 Miles More!!
Our speed for the last 24 hours has been 15.34 knots per hour, and we have gained 376 miles. All in all we have traveled 1149 miles since we sailed from Marseille. That leaves us approximately 2,909 miles yet to be traveled.
A little on the rough side with a moderate sea. There was a strong SW breeze. [From the “souvenir addition” printed on the 19th.]
TALENT SHOW PLANNED
An all G.I. talent show is being planned for the very near future aboard the Pontotoc Victory. Lt. Jack Roach of Kansas City, Kansas is charge of the theatrical production, and Lt. Bavers will handle the music. Lt. Bavers hails from Albuquerque, new Mexico.
All musicians and men of other talents such as “bit players”, “prop hands” etc are urged to contact the Special Services, Compartment B-4 as soon as possible.
PLANE LOST AT SEA
Ships radio reported today that an airplane in distress has bee sighted at 38O 22’ n. LAT., 23o 53’ W longitude which would be slightly east of the Azores Islands.
A message received at 1650Z (Greenwich mean time) request that all vessels passing in the vicinity keep a sharp lookout for the plane, a Clipper ship forced down close to the route of the Pontotoc.
LIFE BOAT SIGHTED
A Dutch vessel has advised that a half submerged life boat has been sighted at 1200 Z (Greenwich mean time) at 38o 3’ N Lat 13o 6’ W. Longitude.
11 December 1945
Speed 14.9 knots. DISTANCE 381 miles. Received a report that a Clipper Ship had been forced down 60 miles from the Azores. We proceeded to the position at full speed. The day was cloudy and overcast. It was still a moderate sea. At 1630 we arrived at the area where the Clipper was reported to have been forced down. Searched the area and found nothing. We then proceeded on regular course. [From the “souvenir addition” printed on the 19th.]
12 December 1945
Speed 15.5 knots. DISTANCE: 381 miles. We sailed again on a moderate sea. At about 0430 we passed the island of Graciosa of the Azores. The next land we were to see was the United States. [From the “souvenir addition” printed on the 19th.]
13 December 1945
1813 Miles To Go!
LIBERTY SHIP PASSED
Today we passed the Liberty Ship SS Frank C Knowlton which was bound for New York City in route from Marseille. No troops were aboard.
JAM SESSION DRAWS CROWD
Hold B-4 was packed with jazz addicts this afternoon as “Tiny” Raither and his “Social Outcasts” held another of their afternoon jam sessions.
The STROLLER Saw
1st Lt. WILLIAM F. DUNN JR., Walking……
S/Sgt JOHN WATSON JR…. Reading a book in the gun turret…
S/Sgt JAMES C. ?ARDIE….eating an orange….
Tec 4 GEORGE JOSEPH JR…..with a smooth shave….
M/Sgt WILBER E. BARNES …..grinning again…..
Pfc EDWARD REPKA …..getting some sunshine….
Cpl PAUL GILLETTE….dreaming about a furlough….
Tec 4 NORMAN J. ASTERITO ….eating an apple…
T/Sgt ROBERT J. KENNY ….standing in the mess kit line…
1st Sgt HERBERT J. THOMAS …..carrying a life preserver…
Tec 4 JAMES PADUAN …. Looking for a razor…
Sgt EIMER J. SKOW ……pulling CQ….
T/Sgt WILLIAM A. BRICK?OOD …eating…
Pfc LEON A. PACE …..dreaming of the “good earth”..
Tec 5 MICHAEL J. SLABODA ….looking in his billfold…
Tec 4 EDMUND L. SHEIRBURN ….without a book in his hands….
Tec 5 RAYMOND V. KAME ……drinking grapefruit juice….
SPEED: 14 knots DISTANCE: 343 miles. Weather was cloudy, rain falling. The sea was rough with a strong SW breeze. Overcast most of the day. [From the “souvenir addition” printed on the 19th.]
14 December 1945
1490 Miles To Home.
SPEED: 13.2 knots DISTANCE 323 miles. This was a rugged day. We sailed north through a rough to high sea. It was necessary to decrease speed due to heavy seas. [From the “souvenir addition” printed on the 19th.]
15 December 1945
SPEED: 9.2 knots DISTANCE: 226 miles. A strong gale from the NW. Vessel rolled and pitched all day long. The sea was high with sprays coming over the rain deck. It was cold, cloudy and overcast. [From the “souvenir addition” printed on the 19th.]
16 December 1945
UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE, STAY OFF THE MAIN FORWARD DECK. THE WAVES ARE TOO HIGH TO BE FOOLED WITH. PLAY SAFE, AND GET HOME IN ONE PIECE.
933 Rest-Less Miles Yet!
SPEED 13.5 knots DISTANCE: 331 miles. Still cloudy and overcast. Vessel continued to pound and pitch. [From the “souvenir addition” printed on the 19th.]
17 December 1945
HOW MANY MORE DAYS ANYWAY???
Averaging 6.53 knots for the past twenty four hours through this storm, we have managed to make 160 miles. This leaves us 773 miles yet to be traveled. As it appears now, we aren’t running out of a storm but into one.
Still in heavy gale. Pumped salt water into B tanks as ballast to steady ship which rolled and pitched continually. Made lowest speed of trip. [From the “souvenir addition” printed on the 19th.]
18 December 1945
SPEED: 9.4 knots DISTANCE: 226 miles. Gale continued accompanied by rain. We sailed through heavy seas, rolling and pitching to our home port. [From the “souvenir addition” printed on the 19th.]
19 December 1945
SPEED: 13.6 knots. DISTANCE 333 miles. The gale subsided and the sea went from heavy to light. After 6 days of rocking, rolling and pitching this day was welcomed. [From the “souvenir addition” printed on the 19th.]
20 December 1945
SPEED ??? DISTANCE: Enough. Down the home stretch. The road could stand a little paving for the vessel pitched and tossed and then rolled and rocked. Yes, it was quite a trip—and then you sit back in your chair, light up and relax, dreaming of the “Sentimental Journey Home”.
The following were listed as staff for the WESTWARD HO
L. Murphy Roving Reporter
P. Christians Lay out man
“Ole” Olesan Columnist
H. DeVeau Artist
F. Godar Reproduction
M.C. O’Donnell Managing Editor
J. Anderson Esq Managing Editor
Returning to records from the 997th FA unit history:
In the morning the Bn was notified to be ready to leave the Staging Area at 1200. Prior to this time the area was inspected by an officer form Block Hq at 1205. 17 officers and 607 EM boarded trucks and proceeded toward the Marseille Port. All personnel embarked at 1500 on the Pontotoc Victory. High winds prevailed during the night and the following day, Dec 6 and the Pontotoc was delayed in leaving Marseille.
Pontotoc Victory ship
At 0800 the Pontotoc Victory sailed from the port. Heavy seas still prevailed and an estimated 80% of all personnel on board were affected by seasickness. The sea calmed the following days and all personnel enjoyed the cruise through the Mediterranean. The remainder of the trip was very rough however and all personnel were dying for the sight of land again. Three meals were served by the ship’s personnel. Enroute men of BN performed KP and other various routine duties. The Special Service Officer gave an hours orientation (?) per day throughout the ship. The route from Marseille to the States was Southwest along the coast of Spain, through the Strait of Gibraltar and west to Newport News, Virginia, a distance of 4000 odd miles.
At 0930 land was sighted and debarkation orders were received. The Pontotoc proceeded along Virginia Beach up the Chesapeake Bay and docked at 1230 in Newport News. The Bands and Red Cross welcomed the Bn at the port. A hot meal was served before debarkation. At 1430 the Bn debarked and entrained to Camp Patrick Henry Va, a distance of 12 miles from the Port. All men were billeted in barracks and an exceptionally good “Welcome Home Meal” was enjoyed by all personnel. Meetings were attended by various officers of the BN. At 2359 in accordance with General Order 145, Hq Camp Patrick Henry, the 997th FA BN became officially inactivated and all personnel were transferred and awaited transportation to their own respective separation centers where they would be discharged from the service.
The following information was compiled from the Discharge and Separation Qualification Record for Robert S. Butcher.
December 31st 1945.
Bob Butcher was separated from the Army on December 31, 1945 at the Separation Center, Fort George Meade, Maryland. He was discharged as a Tech/5 with the Good Conduct Medal and European African Middle Eastern Service Ribbon. He was credited with being part of the Rhineland Campaign.
He was listed as having been an Automotive Mechanic (014) for 25 months and “Was assigned to a repair depot in England and France. Performed all types of repairs to Army vehicles. Worked on engines, transmissions, ignition systems, carburetors, and some body work. Used various hand tools. Was familiar with construction and nomenclature of parts of all vehicles,” according to his separation documents. No mention is made of all his time as a driver, but with the thousands of men returning from the war I doubt extensive interviews took place.
January 3, 1946
Robert S. Butcher was back home and registered his discharge at the Pleasants County Courthouse on January 3rd. He then returned to civilian life.
First time in civilian clothes and Boy was I P.Lastered!