WWII Diary of Maj. Charles H. Hamilton
The CBI Theater WWII 1943-1945
The Diary of Maj. Charles H. (Hamilton) Megarity
By Charles H. Megarity
Charles Hamilton Megarity was born in Navarro County Texas January 1, 1906 and died September 12, 1993 in Columbus Missouri.His father was Charles B. Megarity of Corsicana Texas. Charles B. Megarity’s father was Willis Cebron Megarity of Navarro County Texas.
Willis’s father was Archibald Megarity who was the original Megarity who settled with his family in Navarro county Texas after the Civil war in 1872. The Megaritys original came from the Megarity families in an around Cobb County Georgia.
Charles H. Megarity was my grandfather. A few months back, I received a typed copy of my grandfathers World War II Diary from my Aunt.I did not know this diary existed! I new my grandfather had served in WWII but he never let on what he actually did.Like many World War II veterans, they did not talk much about their experiences.
The diary is a day-to-day journal of what it was like to be in the service in 1940 and in a World War the likes of which no one had ever seen or could have fathomed.As I started reading this diary I could not put it down, as it was fascinating!It read like a movie!
The Diary starts in 1940, before Pearl Harbor, when my grandfather had enlisted in the Texas National Guard and was stationed in Brownwood, Texas.The diary covers the Army Maneuvers with Patton in 1940, Pearl Harbor, and Debarkation from New York, the convoy to North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Anzio, Egypt, Iran, India, and combat in Burma and China against the Japanese.
Introduction to Overseas Duty
Charles H. Megarity, Major United State Army
My service in the army of the United States lasted exactly five years, from February 8, 1941 to February 8, 1946, and I remained in the Reserve Corp for 10 years after being discharged at Jefferson Barracks on February 8, 1946.I kept a pretty continuous diary from the time I left for overseas duty, February 1, 1942, until I returned home October 30, 1945.Events noted in my diary were written down when they occurred or shortly thereafter, while they were fresh in my mind. When I began to transcribe my notes with continuity, many events, that at the time did not seem important, came to mind and I have described them, not too much in detail, to make the following more readable than just a resume of dates and events might be. I was constantly amazed as I related events from my notes so may things would come to mind after 36 years!
My wife, Daisy, said that she liked the overseas part of my literary effort, but she thought there should be a short resume of my service from the time I was inducted until I went overseas, as sort of a lead in to the main course. Having retired this year, with time on my hands, I agreed as follows:
I had been classified as 1-A for draft purposes and was called as one of the first 35 men to leave Beaumont, Texas, February 8, 1941.I was not too concerned. I kissed my sweetheart, Daisy, and assured here that I would be back in time for our date that night. How naïve can you be? I reported to the Post Office and was put in charge of the group taking the bus to Houston, Texas. I was put in charge of the group, not because if my outstanding leadership ability, but because at 35 years if age, I was the senior member of the group.
We were driven to an Army induction center in Houston for our physical and to be inducted or rejected.I was 35 years old, 40 pounds overweight and I could not have run a mile if my life depended on it.I was certain that the Army could not use such a poor physical specimen, as I appeared to be at the time. I was wrong!
It was a rigorous examination and the doctors said, that outside of overweight, I had the physique of a 21-year-old athlete, and that the excess poundage would disappear quickly. It did!
A couple of smart boys failed the mental exam and were sent home.The rest of us dummies were put on trains for Camp Bowie at Brownwood, Texas.After an all night ride, we were taken into the reception center at Bowie, and for the next three days got the works. More physicals, IQ tests, mechanical aptitude tests, shots and vaccinations,indoctrination, drawing equipment and clothing, bundling up or civilian cloths for shipment home and a lot more.
Finally we were classified and assigned to various units. I was assigned to “A” company, 111 Engineers, 36 Division. The 36th Division was a National Guard Division and had been called to active duty the previous September and was pretty far along with their training. That made it pretty tough on all of us $21.00 per month rookies.I will not go into detail but basic training was very tough.I lost most of my fat and almost felt like an athlete again. My platoon commander, Lt. Foster, from Port Arthur, Texas, was tolerant because of my age, but when I got in shape, he expected me to keep up with the 18 year old draftees, and I did.
I did very well as a buck private and it the end of basic training, three months, I was promoted to private at $30.00 a month. $9.00 does not seem like much of a raise, but at the time, a 45% pay increase made you feel affluent. Thirty days later I made PFC and received another $6.00 raise.With beer 10 cents a can at the PX, $6.00 meant 2 more cans of beer per day and after all the deductions, such as laundry and insurance, that was about all of the beer money we had.
I had an advantage over most recruits after I could compete physically.I could out-do most of them on leadership assignments and on field problems because I was older, more experienced in difficult situations and had a better education that most of them. (Graduated 1928 SMU)I made corporal during the West Texas maneuvers and because the mess sergeant had been trading hams and whiskey, I got his job during the Louisiana-North Carolina maneuvers. Mess Sergeant gave me a staff rating and a lot more respect from the lower grades and also gave me a lever with the officers, as they were always asking for little favors.
By December 1941 a fairly large number of personnel had been discharged from duty, as the initial term for a draftee was only a year. Were driving in convoy, back from the North Caroline maneuvers, with a number of men expecting their discharge when we arrived at Bowie, when over the radio we got word of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Moans and groans all thru the convoy from the men looking for discharges, but I was not upset very much. I had decided when I was drafted, the war would last five years or more, and so I never did expect an early discharge.
On arrival at Bowie the next day, we found everyone armed with live ammunition and on 24 hour alert. Of course, there were no Japs within 4,000 miles of Bowie, but I guess there was fear of sabotage.The 36th was triangularized and prepared to leave for Camp Blanding for final training before going overseas.The spare battalion of artillery and regiment of infantry were shipped off to the Philippines to prepare to repel the expected Jap invasion. Two brothers that I new, ex-boy friends of Daisy and who I liked, were in the artillery and were never heard from again, as a great many people in the Death March were never again fear from.The 176th heavy engineer regiment was being formed to go to Canada and help build the Alcan Highway. I was drafted for the cadre and given Master Sergeant rating and felt that I had reached the summit in the Army grade, but there was a surprise in store for me.
When I was inducted I was too old to go to Officers School. In January 1942 the age limit was raised to 38 and anyone with a college education in engineering could not be shipped out of the Continental United State without first appearing before an Officers board. They called me and I tried to wiggle out. After all, there is not much you ask for after you are a Master Sergeant.The Board said I was prime officer material, so I was shipped to Fort Belvoirand and enrolled in the 6th class. I was not too happy about not going to Canada with my friends but I was stuck at Belvoir, for better of worse. It was three months packed with threes of West Point training. It was the toughest training that I had before going overseas. The training officers, Lieutenants, were recent West Point graduates and the company and battalion commanders were Point graduates during the last ten years.We put in 17-hour days for the first 8 weeks and then, those of us that were left, were allowed a weekend pass. Daisy and I married on January 5, 1942 and she came to Washington for the last several weeks, so the weekend pass was really appreciated.
The first seven weeks of the course, you were hoping that you would wash out, and the last seven weeks, when it looked as if you had a chance, you were scared to death that you would wash out. Graduation day was the first week in June and Daisy attended the ceremonies, just like West Point.A new crop of 90-day wonders had been turned out to win the war. About 35% of the class had washed out.We were assigned to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, to train engineer troops in the huge ERTC at that post. I made a big noise about not getting a combat assignment but it did not do any good, thank heavens!
My first command was 1st Platoon, Company “B” 29th Engineer Training Battalion. After 90 days I was transferred to Company “A” 1st Platoon. And in another 90 days I was commanding Company “A” as a 1st Lieutenant.
Promotions came very fast in the Engineers during the early days of the war, as the Engineer Corps were more desperate for officers than almost any other branch of the service. I guess I did a reasonably good job because in April of 1943 I was drafted for the cadre to help activate a new ERTC at Camp Abbot, Oregon near Bend. I went out in May, found a lovely house in the mountains and Daisy and the kids (my father Bob and his sister Doris Ruth) and my mother (Grandmother Elvina) came out for the summer. It was wonderful but in September Mother took Doris Ruth back to Beaumont to school and Bob stayed with us and went to school in Bend. We moved into Bend before the snow came and had a nice house with a garden and hot house and Daisy made the most wonderful Chow Chow that we are for years after the was.I began to get itchy feet and was afraid the war would end before I had a chance to do anything that I might tell my grandchildren about, so I volunteered. I felt like a dog, Daisy was unhappy but never once scolded me. She and Bob shipped me off in a couple of weeks.I shipped out on the George Dern, heading for Newport News, Virginia.
Newport News, Virginia to Oran, Algiers (North Africa)
February 1, 1944
After a pleasant week at the POE BOQ and Officers Club where I won about $500.00, we loaded aboard a new Liberty ship, the George F. Dern, at 1400 hours, and moved into Hampton Roads for rendezvous with the rest of the convoy. Looks as if a very large convoy is forming. There are lots of escorts, baby flat tops, destroyers and De’s (Destroyer Escorts) assembling for the convoy.Our ship is loaded with 500 enlisted men, 50 officers and a miscellaneous cargo. The Liberty ship, George F. Dern, is a new ship making only her second Atlantic crossing of the war. The sea is very green and weather is very cold. I just found out our miscellaneous cargo includes 5000 tons of 500 lb. bombs.However, the detonators are on another ship.
February 2, 1944
We lay in Lynn Haven Roads all day. Convoy numbers about 60 ships and more coming in all the time. Interesting to see ships of every sort: escorts, tankers, freighters etc. The number of ships and the tonnage required to support a war boggles the mind, and there are large convoys leaving every week.Only a few ships are carrying officers and enlisted men, this being primarily a supply convoy for Italy and Africa. Most of the officers and enlisted men are part of my shipment, slated for the “Z” forces now being formed at Kweilin, China, where we are suppose to train 30 Divisions for the Chinese Army. So far the food has been good and the sea smooth as glass. We have one Lieutenant who is already seasick and we have not yet raised the anchor. Rumor has it that we will sail tonight with our first stop at Bizerte. I am lonely tonight, Daisy is much on my mind and it is hard to adjust to the fact that I may not see her for twos or more, if ever.
February 3, 1944
Or ship sailed at 0200 hours, sea is very smooth, about 300 ships in the convoy, including 25 or 30 escorts.
February 4, 1944
The sea built considerably during the night. We are in very close formation and almost had a collision during the night. We sail a zigzag course and all of the ships have to zig together and in the right direction or you are in trouble. Convoy is spreading out because of the heavy weather, making it harder for the escorts to protect the convoy. We sleep in our cloths with life belts on, but it is not too uncomfortable, as they are the CO2 type that
look like a belt about 4” wide and inflate like a large donut. You better have the clip off before you pull the trigger or it will almost cut you in two. Everything is blacked out and no one allowed on deck at night temporarily. There will be submarine danger from now on.
February 5, 1944
The sea is extremely tough with the ship rolling about 30 degrees. Captain O’Grady, Col. Smith,Major LaMarche and I share a large 4 place cabin that used to be the “Nut” ward.Very appropriate but they are about the most desirable quarters on the ship. The cabin is quite roomy and just across from the sick bay. About half the officers and enlisted men are seasick but none in our cabin. Guess we will not be sicj or we would have been by now. Ships motionis extremely violent!I inspected enlisted men quarters in the hold. They are terrible, with bunks four high and very crowded with vomit and excrement all over. Many of the men are too sick to leave their bunks. I believe sea sickness is about as sick as you can be without dying. I put the well ones to work scrubbing and disinfecting with Lysol.
February 6, 1944
Sea is down considerably but still 15 ft. waves and quite a roll to the ship. It was quite a storm and Liberty ships, although very seaworthy, are notorious rollers. Just like women, they have nice round bottoms. Passed 175 miles off Bermuda. British planes are in the air as escorts for a while. Lots of sea weed and water is a deep blue and it is much warmer. Should be in the Gulf Stream tomorrow. The ship’s Captain tells us that our destination, if we have no problems, is Oran, North Africa. The dispensary is right across from our cabin and tonight the medic corporal gave us a pint of alcohol, some cokes and grape fruit juice, se we had a party, but no girls.
February 7, 1944
Had a touch of the Flu but took some pills that kept me up all night and I feel alright today. We are about 1000 miles from the United States. Very slow ship! Sea getting rougher, probably another storm. If all goes well, we should arrive Oran in about 14 days.
February 8, 1944
Sea is very rough, big storm and much rain this morning. Still have a touch of the flu but am coming out of it.
February 9, 1944
Storm is over, sea is down and a beautiful moon tonight. Surprising good weather for the Atlantic in February. Had baloney and boiled potatoes for supper. We cook with steam, so our menu us limited. Boiled eggs and vegetables, no toast or fried foods. Gets pretty monotonous. We were allowed on deck tonight but no lights or smoking. Spent two hours on deck after supper.
February 10, 1944
The sea is smooth as a mill pong and weather is very warm. We have a PX on ship that opens every other day and you can buy almost anything except beer and booze. Cigarettes are 50 cents a carton. Plenty of cokes and our corporal give us a pint of alcohol every night, so we stay pretty relaxed most of the time. We have plenty of reading material and play poker every night. We have a big game in the hold last night, both officers and enlisted men playing. I had a big hand, paid $10 to draw one card to a Royal and made the only Royal I have ever had. Several other good hand were out and I ran out of money before all the betting was finished.My share of the pot was $1800.00 and a full house won the rest which came to $3800.00. I plan to have more money in front for the next big game. We are beginning to be bored with shi life, especially the enlisted men, they are so crowded.
We are making better time than usual, according to the Captain, and should sight the Rock around the 18th, if we do not get sunk. I had a strange experience tonight.Maj. LaMarche is a few years older than I and sort of a loner. I am about the only person he has become friendly with, although he is agreeable to others. For the last several nights he has been going on deck between 2100 and midnight. I go out for a bit nearly every night and have noticed him standing on the fantail facing home and not moving for 10 minutes or so. I felt that he wished to be alone and have not gone near him.However, tonight I followed him to the fantail and when I came near him, I could here him talking to someone. This went on for about 10 minutes and then he said good night, turned and saw me.E could see that I was curious and ask how long I had been there.I said that I could hear him talking and that I was concerned about an over-aged Major who stood on the fantail and carried on a conversation with the ocean.He laughed, swore me to secrecy, and told me that he carried on a nightly conversation with his wife via mental telepathy. He and his wife had set 0 PM her time, as the time he would call. Every night he got the ships position from the officer on watch and calculated our time corresponding to hers. It definitely was a two conversation but I have an idea that both parties were in his head.
February 11, 1944
All flags at mast this AM. An officer died on one of the ships and was buried at sea. We have quite a number of elderly officers in convoy. Warm and sunny and sea is smooth. We are just south of the Azores and gun drills are held twice daily. We have 12 guns and experienced gun crews and we should be able to put up a lot of flak if we are attacked from the air. These guns crews shot down a bomber on their last trip. Our escorts have been very busy dropping depth charges and at least one ship has been torpedoed. A tanker was hit last night. It was several miles away, for this is a hug convoy,but we could see the flames and the escorts picking up survivors. We are lucky not to be in the perimeter of the convoy. A torpedo would have to miss several ships to hit us.
News report this AM. American troop transport sunk last night about 15 miles from our position. This message came in code and stated that about 3500 troops were aboard. No estimate of casualties. It was a fast Canadian Liner and travel alone, as do the two Queens. I am surprised that our convoy has not been attacked more heavily. There are many U boats in our area and supply convoys are what they are after. Weather is so warm and sunny that everyone is taking sun baths and most of the seasick are felling better. You cannot realize that it is mid-winter in the Atlantic. Phosphorescence is beautiful in the ships wake on a dark night.Enlisted men put on a dandy show this afternoon, some very talented people aboard. From the bridge, we hear we are making unusually good time and may see the Rock on the 17th.
Surprise! Surprise! The cooks came up with a real good fried chicken with lots of extras for dinner.They yse superheated steam at 400 degrees. This should be our last Sunday aboard and services for all faiths were held on deck.
February 14, 1944
Saint Valentines day and no valentines. Another day at sea, everyone is getting a nice tan while gambling , pitching coins at a line on the deck. Had two alerts but did not learn why, although we heard depth charges and guns firing in the distance. Escorts make a wide circle outside our perimeter, some staying several mils outside so they can make contact before the sub is in position to fire. We are still too far out to expect air attack. Poor Lt. Fomberg. He is a young officer from Wisconsin in our shipment and has been sick ever since he came aboard. Even sun and good weather do not seem to help him. He cannot eat and just lies on a hatch in the sun all day.He looks like a green ghost. He is a nice young man but may not be tough enough to handle an uncertain future.
February 15, 1944
Lost two ships last night in a collision. Both dropped back to make repairs. Neither is in danger of sinking but both have very large holes in the bow. Escort dropped back to protect them but they will not be able to catch if repairs take too long. As we passed one of the ships, we observed a 20 x 20 foot hole with waves washing out cargo that was plainly marked “k” and “C” rations. Several of my friends from Camp Abbot are on one of the damaged ships. Sea is building up again and we can expect attack from sea and air from now on, a most revolting thought.Gun crews practice constantly and our escorts are buzzing about like bees. Nights are pitch black and there is much danger of collision when we change course every 15 minutes.
Made us feel pretty good to observe British planes overhead and realize that Gibraltar is not far away. A German scout plane was sighted this morning but it was at 30,000 ft. so we did not waste any ammo.On a tragic note, our ships steward blew his brains out last night. He was buried this morning and everyone attended. He apparently suffered from financial and family problems and it became too much for him. We took up a collection to send his family. It is very sad. We wear steel helmets and side arms on deck now.
February 17, 1944
Sea gulls met us at dawn, must be close to land. Part of our convoy turned off for Casa Blanca this morning. Weather is cold again and it was so rough last night that I could not say in my bunks which was a top bunk!
Sighted the coast if Africa about sundown. Saw beacons flashing along the coast tonight. What you have heard about the stars in Africa is true. You see almost every constellation that is visible in this part of the world. We have picked up a number of British escort vessels from Gibraltar. Rumor has it that there will be wolf pack of subs waiting for us at Gibraltar as usual, a very dismal prospect.
Came on deck at 0830 just as we were entering the straits in a column of twos, into the Mediterranean and the most beautiful sunrise that one could imagine. The rocks looks like rose granite with the sun on it., which it is. Across are Pillars of Hercules and nestled at the foot of the hills is the town Ceuta in Spanish Morocco.A typical Moorish town all in white. From this bay Moorish pirate collected tolls from all the ships passing through the straits in the not too distant past. A sight to remember. Perhaps the fact that we have not seen land for so many days, may have influenced our emotions.Daisy and Mother would have enjoyed the sights on this lively morning. No wolf pack yet.
February 20, 1944
Entered the harbor at Oran, French Algeria, North Africa. No sub attacks last night, although there was heavy firing miles behind us. Captain said the wolf pack knew that we were coming but because of an unusually fast crossing, had arrived too late to intercept us. We thanked him for his speed. Came into the harbor at noon, a fine natural harbor
with remnants of the French fleet, sunk by the British in 1942, still lying around. The upper decks if several large ships are still visible above the water. Oran appears to be a city of about 200,000 with a number of 10 or 12 story buildings on the skyline. Had a nice view of the city before debarking. We will dock tonight and debark tomorrow, I believe. The harbor is full of ships unloading supplies for Italy and our troops fighting out in the desert, about 200 miles from here.
This is the end of my diary covering the Atlantic Convoy experience. A twenty day trip across the Atlantic with a convoy of about 300 ships, of which only a few were lost to enemy action. A remarkable feat for the U.S and British Navies. It was and exciting experience for all of us and although we did not see much action, the thought of the possibility of an attack, and being aware of what had happened to some of the early convoys, kept us anticipating things that nearly but did not materialize. I have always considered myself as an adventurous person, but this adventure I would not care to repeat. However, I imaging that there will be adventures in our future that will make our trip across the Atlantic appear to have been a pleasure cruise by comparison. Heaven forbid.
Next Part will be
North African Interlude
Oran February 21-28 1944