5:43 | Trained as a Beachmaster, Mortimer Caplin shipped out for England on the Queen Mary. His unit had a lot of specialized gear and he had to form a guard detachment to keep other units from walking away with it. After they got it all to the Southern English coast, they participated in the ill-fated Exercise Tiger out of Slapton Sands.
Keywords : Mortimer Caplin RMS Queen Mary Gourock Scotland Rosneath Salcombe England Cornwall Plymouth Beachmaster Harry Bean Exercise Tiger Slapton Sands English Channel German E-Boat Cherbourg France
Mortimer Caplin had deep roots in New York City but when he saw the University of Virginia campus, he decided on that school. After the undergraduate degree and law school, he returned to New York to practice law but before he left the school, Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke at his graduation. This inspired him to apply for a Navy commission.
As a lawyer in the war effort, Mortimer Caplin was assigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence, but he asked for shipboard duty. Where they sent him was even more exciting, Beach Battalion. This was the unit that commanded the beach during amphibious landings. Intensive training followed for the tight knit group.
The great invasion of Europe was on and Beachmaster Mortimer Caplin, while delivering a message to a neighboring base, got a sense of the enormity of the enterprise, the many different forces and personnel assembling and loading into ships on the coast of England. Back with his own unit, he found out that his landing craft assignment and attached Army engineer unit had all been changed.
The barrage balloons almost gave the Normandy armada a festive feel. That's what Mortimer Caplin thought as he approached Omaha Beach. It had not yet been cleared so his Beach Battalion had to circle in their landing craft. Once on shore, it was sporadic fire, desperate infantry and bodies all around.
Beachmaster Mortimer Caplin landed a half mile from his intended sector of Omaha Beach. He took care of business where he was and then worked his way down there. His Beach Battalion company had many important jobs, clearing the beach of stuck boats, helping the wounded and communicating with the command structure. It was a well deserved glass of wine when he finally got to a French tavern.
After the unbelievable enormity of D-Day, Beachmaster Mortimer Caplin expected to be shipped back to the United States to train other beach units for the Pacific. But he was told to report to the Commander of Amphibious Bases in the UK. They needed a lawyer and he just happened to be one. This turned out to be a lucky break.
He was a Beachmaster on Omaha Beach and a Legal Officer in post war England and he was back in the United States making a name for himself in corporate and tax law. Mortimer Caplin had both Robert and Ted Kennedy in his classes at the University of Virginia and when their brother was elected President, he became the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.
Looking back on his Navy career, Mortimer Caplin remembers two unusual incidents. The first was during his training when a deputy commander went ballistic over nothing. The second was the striking contrast between the reactions of a British family and a mess table full of Naval officers when the news of Franklin D. Roosevelt's death was released.
He was sent as a replacement into Le Havre where he boarded a train and headed for the front. Medic Fred Moston left the train at a stop, like most of the men. They were looking for wine, he was looking for an outhouse. When he returned, the train was gone. Rescued by a Colonel in a command car, he went into combat that day as a litter bearer.
At Fort Jackson, preparing to go overseas, Art Fox managed to get into the engineering battalion of his division, which was great because he was an engineering student. The training was hard but he enjoyed beach time in South Carolina on the weekends with his newly muscled frame courtesy of Army basic training. Finally, they sailed.
Fred Moston had two souvenirs under his shirt when he went on the operating table. He never saw them again. During his recovery, he met a wounded German prisoner who caused him to realize an important truth about the enemy. He also met Frenchy, a baker who was a real wheeler and dealer.
With the threat of war looming in the late 1930's Chuck Blumenthal enlists in the Army Air force. Shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and achieving the rank of 1st Sargent, Chuck begins a trip to Australia zig-zagging all the way to avoid Japanese Submarines. Chuck was offered and accepted the opportunity to enroll in Officer Candidate School (OCS).
He was humping through basic infantry training when Fred Moston got a chance to apply for the Air Corps and was accepted. He went from boot camp to the University of Tennessee. Talk about a change! Good food, girls, but of course that couldn't last and the Air Corps decided to send those men back to the Army. He was soon sailing to Europe on the Queen Mary.
After WW II ended, Chuck Blumenthal describes the difficulty of PTSD and how nightmares put stress on his marriage. The years following the war, Chuck was a Farmer, Realtor, and finally he went back to school which led to him settling in Scottsdale, Az.
Just what was in those K-ration packages? Stanley Sasine, who had all his food air dropped to him when he was in the Burmese jungle with Merrill's Marauders, says it would keep you alive, that's about it. The worst problem for them was disease. Everyone had amoebic dysentery, at least.
It was a probe, crossing the Rhine at night to gauge the enemy force on the other side. Medic Fred Moston was plucked from his unit and sent with this team and it was a good thing for them. They took heavy machine gun fire and he was one of the ones hit. Despite that, he managed to organize the group and get them to shelter. Years later, his account of this incident corrected the official Army record.
Home from the war, Art Fox was able to return to school and finish his civil engineering degree. He also had some work to do when he found out his girlfriend was engaged to a Marine. Writing letters home had given him a taste for writing, so he set out to somehow use that skill in the engineering field.
William recalls his first night on Bougainville and his experience on the front lines. Artillery fire did not cease all night and he was unable to leave the foxholes until June. He also recalls being out on patrols and how planes would drop bombs that would occasionally get close enough to scrape right over his head.
Heading to Europe to fight Germans, Byron Hale describes the trip across the Atlantic to the port in Wales. He learned the art of peeling potatoes for thousands of soldiers in a very crowded ship. Once in England, Byron witnessed racial issues between white and black American soldiers.
Flying the B-25 Bomber to his duty station with the 341st Bomb Group, Chapman Hale describes flying over the Himalayan Mountain range. He visits the Taj Mahal and tells about the precious jewels embedded into its facade. He also mentions a difficult crew member who drinks too much.
The Battle of the Bulge is raging and Byron Hale has several close calls when receiving incoming artillery fire from German 88's. Byron describes the amount of death and destruction caused by the war. Several months later, the war in Europe ends and expectations for being sent to Japan are a concern for all US soldiers stationed in Europe.
The 80th Division made contact with the 101st Airborne outside Bastogne. "What took you guys so long," was the first question, although posed a bit more colorfully. Medic Fred Moston saw a landscape littered with dead men and horses and wrecked tanks. The Battle of the Bulge had been the greatest battle ever fought by the American Army. He got in on the action when, upset on finding a dead comrade, he grabbed a gun and charged the enemy.
They were already drinking plenty of liberated German wine and the end of the war was one more excuse. Art Fox relates the tale of a rail station full of armed German soldiers who were amused by the Americans changing a flat while they watch. He got a quick visit to Paris before he sailed home, financed by American cigarettes.
When Fred Moston returned home from the European Theater, the first thing he did was go looking for his dog. The news was not good. Then he found out his job was gone and, for a while, it was just the local bar with the other veterans, who were suddenly distinct from everyone else. He was successful in college and became a history teacher. His take on the Greatest Generation is that it was someone else.
Jared Warner tells stories of his encounters with General Patton and Major Tarnower, author of the Scarsdale diet. Tank battles did not go well for the Americans when up against the German 88's., resulting in many losses. Jared contracted malaria and was sent to a hospital. It was during this time he was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
His mother didn't mince any words. Fred Moston and his friends were talking on the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor when she told them, "You're all going to die." "She was Irish," he explained. The young draftee stood in a field in North Carolina with about two thousand other men. They were divided, so many for infantry, so many for the artillery, etc. He was in the last group left and he could not believe what he was destined for.
After he volunteered for the Navy in 1944, Billy Bryant completed basic training and, along with 800 other new sailors, took a battery of aptitude tests. The Navy decided all 800 of them would be SeaBees. On the train to California, he was put in charge of the men, leading him to think they must have decided he was very smart. That wasn't it.
After the end of the war in Europe and Japan, Byron Hale describes the point system used to determine which soldiers went home first. Byron tells of the bombed out French cites he saw while driving to his departure ship to go home. Byron also tells about contracting Hepatitis, crossing the Rhine river and receiving mortar fire.
He already had a specialty when he joined the Army Air Corps. Sy Glauuser was trained in aircraft radio maintenance and repair, but he wanted more so he applied for aviation cadet training and was accepted. Assigned as a B-17 navigator, he was abruptly switched to B-29's when they decided they had enough crews in Europe.
After WW2 ends, Chapman Hale tells stories of coming home. He talks about the transport aircraft C-87 and C-46 that were used to fly soldiers home. He tells about a C-87 that hit a mountain and killed 29 of the 30 passengers on board. He remained in the Reserves and rose to the rank of Lt. Colonel.
The difference between the B-17 and the B-29 is like night and day, says navigator Sy Glauser. You had to wear three layers of clothing in the non-pressurized B-17 but in the B-29, you could fly in a t-shirt. He arrived in the Pacific theater just as the first atomic bomb was used so his crew never saw any combat.
He liked the Belgians because they would actually let you speak your bad French to them. What he did not like was all the mud on the chewed up roads. Art Fox was a Draftsman but he became a construction foreman, digging ditches to drain the water. At the Rhine, he was surprised to be included in a reconnaissance mission, but it was a rewarding experience.