|My grandfather, Joel Dirlam, during World War II|
|The Bombe Codebreaker|
Machine - citation below
|John Black (center rear, with glasses) and his fellows.|
His CO, whose wedding he planned, far left.
|Cousin Jane and her English groom|
in MA, just before moving to Cheshire
|18 year old John Black|
Entering the army in a Brown University reserve corps at Fort Devens, Massachusetts, in March, 1943, I had ordnance training at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, and after several interim months at Camp Kilmer near New Brunswick, New Jersey, left for England in November.
I crossed the Atlantic on a troop ship – having two ersatz meals a day and sleeping in a large bare cast-iron hold. The troops slept in two layers in these holds. The bottom layer lay directly on the cast-iron deck, with a single blanket for each man. The other was above it, suspended in hammocks. The two daily meals consisted for the most parts of chunks of bread with margarine and mug of strong tea. My ship was the former French liner Louis Pasteur, then in the hands of the British. It left New York on November 26, 1943, and docked in Liverpool, after a stormy crossing, on December 4.
After three interesting months in Northern Ireland – at Bangor, County Down, and Coleraine, County Londonderry – I was sent in April, 1944, to a camp in Wiltshire, near Warminster, and remained there until November, when we crossed from Southampton to Le Havre and were in Compiègne for the ensuing thirteen months.
|The casino at Le Havre, rebuilt soon|
after the end of the war. Citation below
When I landed in France, at ten o’clock in the evening of November 15, 1944, on the beach at Le Havre in front of the ruined casino, we spent the first night in a field with floorless tents and no blankets. Then in the morning we marched five miles and were put into box cars, which took thirty-six hours to go one hundred and fifty miles, during which time we had no food at all. One is scarcely complaining, though, however much it may sound it. I am fortunate not to have gone to France with the infantry, several months earlier and under far worse conditions. I did not have a stint in the front line.
My unit from January, 1944, to November, 1945, was the Headquarters Company of the 16th Replacement (later Reinforcement) Depot. I was a clerk-typist, and rose in these twenty-two months to the rank of corporal.
The war ended abruptly in August, 1945. When Germany had collapsed in May and the fighting in Europe had ceased, it had been widely assumed that at least a further year would be required to bring Japan to book. It had seemed probable, indeed, that an invasion of the Japanese home island would be necessary. I, with my army unit in France, sat about for the whole of June and July wondering whether we would be sent straight to the Pacific by way of Suez and the Indian Ocean or whether, after two years in Europe, we would go via the United States and have a chance for some home leave.
All at once, on August 6 and 9, 1945, atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and everything was changed. Suddenly the war was over, although its end was of a ghastliness without precedent. We were at once elated and filled with foreboding for the future.
On August 15, on my way to England for a ten days’ furlough, the news that “the Japanese have surrendered on the condition that they be allowed to keep their Emperor” was rumored at 1.15, when I was lying on a bunk down below, and five minutes later was announced over the loudspeaker system.
Then everyone began thinking about What London Will Be Like Tonight, and paced the deck in anticipatory impatience. The realization that we really won’t have to go to the Pacific began to spread in the background like a warming, happy glow.
[On arrival] Immediately went out to see the celebrations of London. Well-dressed drunks were racing out of the doors of the Ritz, chasing girls in evening dress with empty champagne bottles, and there was a communist parade in Trafalgar Square. From about 1 to 2.30 [AM] I was in Piccadilly Circus. Many policemen, bright lights, and a few groups of people standing about singing, but mainly just a lot of people standing around talking. It was very restrained and rather inhibited.
The war – this war, Hitler’s war – was indubitably over. I was home and demobilized by January, 1946, after a crossing in a Liberty Ship that took from December 16 to January 4.
Entering the army at eighteen, I was twenty-one at the time of my discharge in January, 1946.
|Celebrations in London on August 15, 1945. Citation below.|
A History of the Family of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Blymyer Black of Mansfield, Ohio, v. I and II, John Baxter Black, 1995, Gateway Press
Bombe photo: By Antoine Taveneaux - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20247599
Le Havre Casino photo: http://lehavrephoto.canalblog.com/
London Celebrations: By Ministry of Information Photo Division Photographer - http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//45/media-45159/large.jpg This is photograph D 25636 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24346748