About this blog

As the author of this blog, Karen L Garner Martin Messick, I am the daughter of an American soldier, Wilbur (Bill) C. Garner, Sr. and Women's Royal English Navy service woman (British Wren) Gwendoline Rosa Wilkins, who met and married during World War II. They lived and loved for over 50 years before Mother passed in 2000. When she did I helped Dad with every day chores when I could. One day I was helping him clear things out and I lifted a plastic bag out of the seat of Mom's piano stool, asking Dad, "Whats in this bag?" to which he replied, "Just some of Mary's old letters." Mary, his older sister, was still alive at the time, residing in an assisted living facility, suffering from Alzheimer's disease. I put the letters back in the piano seat thinking he did not want me to open the letters.
When Dad passed two years later, I inherited Mary's letters.
When I began to read them, I found they were mostly letters from Dad to Mary while he was in World War II ("The War"). I could not put them down. I wished I had opened them the day I first saw them so that Dad and I could have had conversations about them, but that was not to be...so as I read through these "Letters to Mary" I began to get a glimpse into Dad's young years when he met Mom and his time as a soldier. I have researched events during World War II to enhance my understanding of what was happening in the war as each letter came to broaden my understanding of what he might have been experiencing. I knew he landed on the beaches of Normandy, France D-Day plus 1 as he recounted his memory of that day to me when he was dying from Leukemia. It was horrifying. There were also letters from a companion Mary had met while in Minneapolis, he had been deployed overseas. I have entwined them chronologically with Dad's letters as it gives a greater dimension to the war itself. I intend to editorialize as necessary to explain personal relationships and situations as the story unfolds through the "Letters to Mary." I welcome any questions, comments and feedback. As the "Greatest Generation" fades away, I felt compelled to share these letters and story in hopes of continuing the legacy they left for the world. Let us never forget the untold years and lives that were sacrificed for freedom!
If you have stumbled upon this blog I have added a blog archive at the bottom of the blog page. Continue to scroll down to access the Blog Archive. The posts are chronologically listed and to follow the story it is best to start with the first post in December 2013.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Letter #83 from Henri C Romieux 25 April 1945

John Land loaded cargo and supplies in the anchorage at Ulithi until 5 March 1945, when she got underway with Task Unit 12.6.1. The ships sailed north and west to Iwo Jima, arriving off that island four days later. After waiting in the transport holding area for nine days she discharged cargo on 19-20 March, a task that took longer than expected owing to heavy seas. The ship then loaded elements of the 5th Marine Division, comprising 1,148 officers and men, between 21-26 March before sailing for Hawaii two days later. Arriving at Hilo, via Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor, on 15 April, the ship disembarked her passengers before sailing east the next day, arriving in San Francisco on the 22d.

The transport shifted to Oakland two days later, where John Land received an overhaul at Moore Drydock & Shipbuilding Co., through 22 June 1945. Over the next week the ship took on 1,469 U.S. Army troops for transport to the war zone. The Navy crew quickly discovered the disorganized nature of their passengers when no cooks or bakers appeared to provide meals for the Army replacements. The ten Navy cooks were hard pressed to pick up the slack, a tense situation made worde by the rumor that the Army replacements were actually paroled prisoners, free only because they'd volunteered for war service. Despite the resulting friction, the transport carried the troops to the Philippines, via Pearl Harbor, Eniwetok and Ulithi, without incident, arriving in Manila on 26 July. With passengers and cargo unloaded by 3 August, the transport embarked 187 mostly Navy passengers and sailed for Hawaii, mooring in Pearl harbor on 17 August, two days after the Japanese armistice.

After provisioning, loading cargo and embarking 963 soldiers from the 98th Regiment, U.S. Army, from Hickam Field wharf, John Land sailed for Japan on 7 September 1945, arriving at Wakayama, via Saipan, on 27 September. With the troops disembarked two days later, John Land immediately began Operation "Magic Carpet" duties, loading some of the hundreds of thousands of Pacific veterans headed home to the United States. With some 1,733 passengers embarked at both Wakayama and Guam, the transport sailed for home with all possible speed, arriving at San Pedro on 21 October. She sailed again seven days later, this time loaded with 1,006 Construction Battalion (Seabees) troops, who were brought to Guam on 12 November. Taking on 1,828 passengers at Tinian on the 15th, she sailed home for the last time the following day, arriving in San Francisco on 29 November.

John Land made three more "Magic-Carpet" voyages to the western Pacific over the next six months. The first, begun 14 December 1945 when she sailed for Noumea took her to the South Pacific, where she found no passengers available, before moving on to Manila to pick up troops on 15 January 1946. She returned to San Francisco on 16 February. Her second voyage took place between 15 March, when she sailed for Manila, and 28 April upon her return to San Francisco. She repeated that round trip again between 8 May and 21 June.

John Land (AP-167) at San Francisco c. 1945-46, her decks full of returning servicemen.
Released from service by the Naval Transportation Service that same day, John Land sailed to Seattle, Washington, arriving there on 5 July. She was decommissioned at Seattle on 5 August and was returned to the Maritime Commission the next day. Eventually sold to Waterman Steamship Co., where she served in merchant service as Jeff Davis, the ship underwent various changes of name and ownership (sold and renamed Sea Comet II in 1953; sold to Grace Lines in 1957 and renamed Santa Regina; sold in 1961 and renamed African Gulf; sold to Liberty Navigation in 1963 and renamed Norberto Capay) before finally sold for scrap in 1968 as part of bankruptcy proceedings.

John Land received five battle stars for World War II service.

This is the last "Letter to Mary" from Henri C Romieux.
There will be a subsequent post to share what we have come to know of Henri's life after 25 April 1945. 

H. Romieux
2269 So. Rockford
Tulsa, Oklahoma

Mary Garner, SK1c USNR
U.S. Naval Air Station
Wold-Chamberlain Field
Minnesota, Minneapolis
c/o Supply Office 

25 April
San Francisco

Hello Mary,

Well I know you will be surprised to know I am back in Frisco. Yes the old ship finally had to come back for repairs and it really needed them. As a matter of fact we just made it - as our engines went completely dead at anchor in the Bay and we had to have a couple of tugs tow us in to dry dock in Oakland.

Will no doubt be here for quite a spell but it does not look like we will have enough leave for me to get to Minneapolis, so will no doubt spend the five days around Southern California where I know a few people. Too bad it could not be a couple weeks at least.
But never the less it feels as good to be back in the good old USA again. Really- I hardly know how to act. Had myself a steak dinner tonite and it tasted good- also a nice head of lettuce salad. The first lettuce in 8 months. 

Frisco is cold as usual and really quite a change from the tropical heat. Stopped at Pearl for only ten hours then took a bunch of troops to their base on the Island of Hawaii.

Oh yes- I wear four ribbons with five stars as follows, Asiatic Pacific Ribbon with 3-stars, Laipan-Tinian; Pulan and Phillipines. The American theatre ribbon and Special Liberation of the Phillipines with 2 stars and then the good conduct ribbon and a Hash Mark or as we call it a "stupidity mark". So really you should see little me so dressed up.

I think I told you - we took part in the Invasion at Leyete and the Lingayenn at Luzon- then Mindoro. Then we were suppose to leave for the U.S.A. the middle of February, but got as far as Ulithi and after staying there ten days- we took off empty of troops for Iwo Jima to pick up the 5th Marines and take them back to Pearl. Poor fellows there was not much of them left- almost all killed off so we had a small load of troops and had to wait there two weeks for them to finish taking the damn island. 

So now dear you know a little more of where I have been of course I am violating censorship regulations by writing and posting this ashore. Therefore I am putting my brothers address for return.
Will write more later dear and please take good care of yourself and write soon- same address as before.


Please excuse the horrible scribble but am writing this at the USO and it is so noisy I can't even think and besides this pen is awful-worse than my own.

No comments:

Post a Comment