Gordon Van Kleeck's war journal - part 2 - USS Kroonland

Ancestral Photographs of Upstate New York

by Roxy Triebel

Pvt. Gordon Van Kleeck

Co. F. 51 Pioneer Inf.

American Expeditionary Forces

Part 2

U.S.S. Kroonland.
July 26, 1918.

We are on board the transport Kroonland.  This is our first day.  I am quartered near the bottom of the ship three floors down.  It is a little hot but not bad.  The bunks are made of steel frame and wire netting.  They are built three high and I have a bottom bunk.  We left camp about three oclock this morning and hiked about five miles over a rather rough and hilly road.  Some of the fellows had to fall out and were picked up by ambulance.  The ferry Cincin(n)ati took us to the transport.  I layed down in my bunk and never knew when we left.  We ate our first meal in about twenty-four hours tonight.  It was the largest I have ever seen fed to troops.  Every one reported more than he could eat.  Sparling and I with a bunch of other fellows were the last ones fed and we were held to clean up in the kitchen.  It was quite a job.  Seven or eight war vessels are in sight at all times and a couple of areoplanes followed us out to sea.  I am not sick yet but have lots of time for that.  We are all assigned to a certain raft and had our first raft drill tonight.  The ship that used to be the Vaterland was in port when we left.  She certainly is a large vessel and ought to carry a large number of troops.

U.S.S. Kroonland.
July 27.

We were called for raft drill this morning about four oclock, before daylight.  This is the first (time) I have been able to count our convoy.  We have seven transports, one cruiser and 2 destroyers.  I am enjoying myself alright except when we are sent below.  The band has been playing for us and now we have to turn out the lights and get in our bunks.  We are wearing our overalls all the time now instead of uniforms and life jackets must be worn over them even when we sleep.

U.S.S. Kroonland.
July 28.

We were given a bath today.  The regular baths are to(o) small for the bunch so we had to undress and go on deck where some of the sailors (turned) a hose on us.  It was fine.  Are (Our) sleeping quarters are very hot and I can hardly stand it to stay there.

July 26
U.S.S. Kroonland.

Last night one of the ships lost a man over board and turned back aways to look for him.  I dont think he was found as they did not lower any boats.  He must have had his life jacket off for the ocean was very smooth.  The men climb upon the rail and it is a wonder more dont fall overboard.  Mays is working in the canteen and got me some cake and chocolate today.  It is opened only a couple of hours each day and is a popular place.  The fellows line up hours before it opens.  We were given another salt water shower bath today.  I am detailed to go on guard tonight.  The weather is damp and foggy now.

U.S.S. Kroonland.
Aug 1.

Have been feeling sick for a couple of days and cant even bear the smell of food.  Have only eaten some candy and crackers for two days now.  My guard post is a water can and have to see that no water is wasted and allow canteens to be filled only certain hours.  I am to allow no lights of any kind on deck at night.  Even the lumin(o)us dials on wrist watches must be kept under cover.  I am on post from eight to twelve oclock morning and night.  When not sleeping I get some chance to read for there are plenty of good books on board.  I am commencing to feel better now.

U.S.S. Kroonland.
Aug 2

Am feeling very good now and have eaten two meals today.  The weather is nice and we are making good time.

U.S.S. Kroonland
Aug 3

Wrote a letter to Roxy last night.  We are not allowed to say much but I did the best I could.  I dont like the chow we are getting now and as I am nearly broke I cant buy much at the canteen.  The Finland had engine trouble last night and fell behind.  One of the destroyers staid with her.  I think she is alright now for she is coming up close again.  The Finland is a sister ship to the Kroonland.  We have a couple ships in the convoy that I think are Italian.  Their camouflage coloring is different.  All the ships look strange when the lights first strike them in the morning.  We still have to get up before day light and stand by our rafts until the sun is up.  Early morning is the most dangerous time for submarines they say.  That is the time I am sleeping best.  Once I never heard the alarm and slept right through.

Aug. 5
U.S.S. Kroonland

We are getting close to France.  The cruiser and destroyers turned back today and we were joined by nine small submarines and an observation balloon attached to one of them.  They are very small, long and low.  It looks nice to see a line of them on each side of the convoy.  It is Sunday and so foggy that I can only see a short distance.  I think we will soon reach land and I will sure be glad.

Aug. 7
Brest, France

I am in France.  The last day was quite rough weather.  Last night some one reported a man overboard and one of the destroyers used a search light for half an hour looking for him.  Later we found it was a false alarm.  We landed at Brest and it is a very pretty city.  All the buildings are stone.  We are camped four or five miles from the city in our pup tents and a detail has gone to get rations for the regiment.  It has commenced to rain and supper will taste good for we only had a early breakfast this morning.  I am going on guard and can see a rather poor night ahead of me.  It is getting dark and some of the men are just getting in.  They will have to hustle or get wet before they get their tents up.

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Gordon's Journal part 3:  Brest, France

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