Secrets and my Recollections of World War II - Home

Secrets and my Recollections of World War II

Gardner L. Friedlander 1990, 2000


I hitchhiked (with an air courier) to Paris. After finding the proper office, I found I was to sail the next day from Marseille. I was exhausted. I located an officers' mess and went to bed without sightseeing. Early the next morning I got on the first plane to Marseille. On finding the right office there, I went to my boat, the "Sea Hawk" on which I was to be in charge of a prisoner of war guard. The sergeant for that detail was with me, but no men, and no prisoners. Our captain said he was sailing at midnight, with or without more company. We did, without; the war was so near an end that no more Germans were being sent west.

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Passenger Instructions
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Subsistence Receipt
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The boat was a good one, a converted refrigerated fruit carrier and so fast it sailed without being in a convoy. I had my own cabin, first class. Food was excellent, as was the boat company (several bridge players among the officers), and our ten days or so passed quickly without incident.

We anchored at Newport News, Virginia May 4th, 1945. I was  in the European/African theater of operations or enroute all excepting the first three and last three days of our war in Europe, more than 41 months. The return reception for me the war hero was a big disappointment; there was none.

I went ashore on a harbor tug, got off on a deserted dock. No brass band, no Red Cross doughnut and coffee, no one even to shake my hand and say "Welcome home". I checked in at the bachelor officers' quarters, got a meal at the canteen, and to bed. Next day I took the overnight train to Chicago; a train to Ft. Sheridan, and reunion with my parents. I was granted an immediate 45 days of leave, the first since becoming an officer. I was ready for a taste of civilization.

Deembark Physical.
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Pullman Receipt
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On my return to Ft. Sheridan, my first job was to command a troop train taking returning vets from Chicago to Oregon. Because this was low priority, we were always to travel on "land grant" rails, which meant a very circuitous route, taking some ten days. We went through St. Louis AND Minneapolis! Our dining car was a baggage car with a regular army field stove (and cook); we stopped every two or three days to be re-provisioned at an army depot. Being hauled by a steam engine meant that we stopped numerous times a day for coal and water, and to change crews. I did enjoy riding in the engine next to the engineer for several hours.

At each stop in a town many of my some 200 "passengers" would head for the nearest bar. Long toots of the engine whistle brought most of them back. About ten, mostly pilots (officers) were missing when we finally made it to our destination. I was very much concerned about showing up short, but was told the previous train had arrived with more than 30 men missing, so that I had done well.

My next assignment was to be commanding officer of a company at Ft. Sheridan that provided quarters for men returning from Europe and processed them either for leave, to be discharged, or to be reassigned to the Japanese war theater. I was at this until the war ended.

I asked to be discharged. I had more retirement "points" given for dependents (I had none), time overseas, battle stars, invasions, and awards than anyone that had been through Ft. Sheridan, so I had top priority to be released. My only problem was that as company commander I had to account for all the company property. There were some towels and blankets missing; these my supply sergeant "midnight requisitioned" from other units. A missing large two wheeled hand truck could not be found. I talked my way out of this by saying that if the gate guards were doing their job, it had to be on the grounds.

Half a dozen student arm chairs were missing from a processing hall. My supply sergeant rounded up half a dozen men, and we took a truck to nearby Great Lakes Naval Training Station. Salutes as we entered the gates; march to a hall; grab chairs; march back to the truck; salutes at the gate departing. No questions asked. I was able to sign off as having no property missing.

I was actually put on inactive status rather than getting a discharge, because my commission (by mistake) was a reserve commission, not the usual "Army of the United States" or National Guard commission. This gave me some anxious weeks after the Korean war started, because experienced radar and filter officers were listed as being in demand and I feared being called back to active duty. Possibly my number of discharge points or some unknown factor kept me from being recalled; I have heard no more from the War Department.

Separation Qualification Record
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Portrait of Gard upon his return home.
Painted by Louise Friedlander.
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Saturday, 08-Sep-2018 05:44:14 MDT

Gardner L. Friedlander 1990, 2000
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