The Doughboys & Camp Greene: Soldier's Diary: : Chapter 2 -"Crossing the Atlantic"

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May 27, 1918
 
At 7:30 a. m. the "Melita" starts on its trip "over there" to carry several thousand more soldiers to the aid of the allies. As the transport steams slowly out of Hoboken it passes the statue of liberty, and though we are all supposed to be below deck several of us fellows slip up and take a last look at the statue and then go back below. The fellows congregate in small groups, some singing songs that have become popular since the war, and others are discussing the journey that lays before them. We are leaving the States to return no more until our task "over there" is finished, until German militarism will no longer threaten the peace of the world. After we have passed out of view of New York we are allowed to go on deck to find nothing but water, water everywhere. The company is formed on deck at 2 p. m. by order of the C. O. and we are instructed by him how to wear the life preservers, which we were issued as we loaded on the transport, and how to reach the lifeboats in case of a practice drill or a submarine attack. After this formation (every company and detachment on board were formed on deck at the same hour and given the same instructions) there are boxing matches on deck, between men from the different organizations on board. Night finds us nearly 300 miles from the States and sailing smoothly.
 
May 28, 1918
 
I feel hungry when I get up, but on account of getting up so late I miss breakfast. After dressing I fold my blankets and lay them at the head of my bunk and sweep out our room. The company is formed on deck at 10:30 a. m. and 2:45 p. m., remaining on deck 30 minutes at each formation, and then being dismissed. But we have to remain on deck until the inspectors have completed their inspection of our quarters. Boxing matches are held on deck again in the afternoon. While the boxing is going on a "Y" secretary brings a victrola on deck and plays some choice selection for us. No one has fallen sea sick yet but the indications are that it won't be long until some one will be though. We pass a ship 3 o'clock in the afternoon that is headed for New York. The end of our second day at sea finds the ship sailing smoothly.
 
May 29, 1918
 
Morning finds several of the fellows sea sick and the ship's infirmary is busy giving out pills at sick call and salts. The two regular company formations are held at 10 a. m. and 2:45 p. m., with life preservers on. Late in the afternoon the sea begins to get a bit rough. Boxing matches are held on deck in the afternoon. I go to bed feeling a little dizzy.
 
May 30, 1918
 
Several more of the fellows answer sick call and some stay in their bunks and the doctors visit them there. The doctors have their hands full all the morning visiting the fellows in their bunks and giving out salts and pills. The company stands two formations, at 10 a. m., and 2:45 p. m. on deck with overcoats on. By evening the sea is calm again and the sun comes out, and the decks are crowded with the fellows. The trip is beginning to be enjoyed.
 
May 31, 1918
 
The number of sea sick cases are on the decline, owing to the calmness of the sea. The company is formed on deck twice during the day, at 10 a. m., and 2:45 p. m. After the afternoon formation, boxing matches are held on deck as usual. We are nearly half way across the pond and we are anxious to land "over there." The ship is making fast speed at mess call in the evening.
 
June 1, 1918
 
I am feeling fine all day. My appetite has returned judging from the amount of dinner and supper I ate. The ship sails smoothly all day. After the two daily formations, held as usual at 10 a. m. and 2:45 p. m., the 124th Field Artillery band plays for us on deck. Am on guard from 3 to 5 p. m. I stay up late talking to several old friends of mine about the trip. We talk of days gone by and of the future. It is after 11 p. m. before we go to our bunks and turn in.
 
June 2, 1918
 
I get up at 7:30 a. m. and a sergeant is going to each room and announcing that there will be a general inspection at 10:30 a. m. by the commander of the ship and by our regimental commander, Colonel Ferguson, who also has charge of all the troops on board. I make my bunk look as good as possible and then sweep out the room. Company formations are held on deck at 10:40 a. m. and 3 p. m. and while we are on deck in the morning the ship is inspected. At a quarter past 11 a. m. an army chaplain holds a religious service on deck and at the conclusion a collection for the children of British seamen who have lost their lives at sea, is taken up among the soldiers, and a liberal amount is given. We have our first sea rain late in the afternoon. After supper I write a letter to a friend in the States.
 
June 3, 1918
 
I have so far escaped sea sickness, but it does not pay to brag too soon, for I am liable to get sick at any time. Company formations are held on deck at 10:30 a. m. and 2:45 p. m. Am on guard from 1 to 3 p. m. It rains again in the afternoon. Colonel Ferguson makes another inspection of the ship in the morning. The colonel reports that the ship is in a satisfactory condition. I stay on deck in the afternoon watching the boxing matches between the different companies. The company signs the payroll at 8 p. m.
 
June 4, 1918
 
Am on guard all day, guarding the washroom in our section. It rains in the morning and part of the afternoon. The two regular formations are held at 10:30 a. m. and 2: 45 p. m. with life preservers and also raincoats. At 3:30 p. m. we have a boat drill. The American cruiser that has been with us since leaving Hoboken, returns to the States in the afternoon. Several British destroyers meet us at noon and take the place of the cruiser as escort. The appearance of the destroyers starts rumors and more rumors going. Some say that we are going to land in a day, another says in two days, while another will say that we have another week at sea. A fellow can never tell which one to believe. Again the crew is besieged with questions, anxious to get the latest "dope." Night finds the transport nearing the war zone.
 
June 5, 1918
 
The "Melita" enters the war zone a short while before daylight. Everyone on the transport are ordered to wear their life preservers at all times, no matter where they are or what they may be doing. This order includes the crew and civilians on board as well as all soldiers on board. The colonel warns us not to get excited in case of a submarine attack, but to go to our assigned life boat in an orderly manner. I begin to feel sea-sick in the morning, but I feel as well as usual in the afternoon. No company formations are held on deck, as all of the fellows who are able to put on details bringing up the barrack bags from the hold of the ship so each fellow can get his own before landing.
 
June 6, 1918
 
There is only one formation during the day and that is at 10 o'clock in the morning. We are busy the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon bringing barrack bags from the hold to the section the company is quartered in. At noon we are met by another number of destroyers, along with a score or more submarine chasers. In the afternoon an Englishman on board makes an address to us, describing some of the things we will see in England and France when we land, for it is now known that we are to land in Liverpool, England, and also the kind of people we will meet. He tells us something of the life of a soldier in France and Flanders, as he had been service there until wounded in battle. His talk was very interesting and the fellows listened eagerly to all he had to say, especially to what he said about the feeling a fellow had when he first went into battle, and how he afterward felt. Believing land would be sighted sometime in the afternoon, scores of the fellows remain on the front deck until supper and came back after supper, but as darkness came land had not been sighted.
 
June 7, 1918
 
Land is sighted about 10 o'clock in the morning and as the transport moves forward it comes more distinct. Hundreds of destroyers and submarine chasers can be noticed sailing about the water seeing that a German sub does not make its appearance without a warm reception. Occasionally one or two of them would make a fast run to where they thought a German sub was trying to come up. I am put on detail that is cleaning up the deck we occupy. We sweep the deck, empty the garbage cans, and scrub the steps leading into our mess hall. We are sailing down between Scotland and Ireland. About noon all of the ships in the convoy suddenly turn around and start in the opposite direction, while submarine chasers and destroyers rush forward to find out the trouble, but we did not get an opportunity to learn the reason for the sudden turning. About 3:30 p. m. the transport comes into good view of Liverpool.
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Dates Covered: 
5/27/1918 - 6/7/1918
Date Published: 
8/22/1920