This is a copy of a carbon copy of a letter typed on airmail (onionskin) paper and extremely difficult to read. Context helped with most things except the spelling of the various towns and villages he visited.
Daniel Beck Guion
Manstricht, Holland, Sun., 13 May, 1945
Enfin, ___, sopino! (?)
The censor has deigned to whisk aside certain drapes which have been canceling our actions, although VE day is only a step in the right direction. I propose then, to start this letter with a “flash back” to the last days in America, nearly 2 years ago —
Toward the end of July we left Indiantown Gap for the “staging area” at Camp Shanks, N.Y. here we stayed a few days getting our clothing and equipment into shape and taking care of all our financial, physical and moral problems. We learned how to descend from a ship by the use of rope ladders. We went on hikes and we did calisthenics. On the eve of our departure we were given passes to go into New York City. I had sprained my ankle that morning going through an “assault” course, but I hobbled my way through a rather bibulous and quite hilarioous evening in the vicinity of Times Square. So long, America!
We set off one evening from Camp Shanks, laden with _____ (anti-gas) clothing and carbines and gas masks and cartridge belts and barracks bags and helmets and a thousand other items that an imaginative Army had thought up for us. We boarded a train that took us to a ferry terminal, possibly on the Jersey side. We loaded ourselves on the ferry and set forth for the docks. We passed the Normandie, lying on its side like a sick white elephant. It was dark on the Hudson but a glow of lights from the two shores reminded us that New York could carry on after we left and would be waiting for us when we came back. We arrived at the docks and stood in long queues while Red Cross girls passed out lemonade, donuts and cigarettes. We could see a huge ship at dock but we didn’t know if it was destined to be ours. About nine P.M. we went aboard. It was the “Aquitania”. We were crowded into every available place. In my room some of the men were without bunks and slept on the floor. In the evenings the heat was intolerable because the portholes remained closed for security reasons until lights out. We were not allowed on deck that first night. It was early in August and very hot. We left next A.M. and we were allowed on deck. It was the first time I had seen a ship cross the ocean which was not bid adieu by bands, crowds and confetti,diluted by 50% alcohol.
Our escort for the first day was a Navy blimp and several planes. Our recreation consisted of stepping over, around and through the masses of G.I. flesh and equipment that crowded the decks, for a breath of fresh air. Our plane escort left us after the second day. We were on our own. The big ships (Queen Mary, etc.) never traveled in convoy because they could out run the U-boats. Our only danger was being interrupted from our bow by a lucky torpedo or a floating mine. Later, as we neared England there was the Luftwaffe with which to reckon, but the sky over the Atlantic, even back in August, 1943, was allied domain, and the only excitement we had was a practice run that broke out suddenly on deck one afternoon — cannon and machine guns shooting and stuttering defiance at an empty sky.
As we approached Ireland we saw a plane dropping depth bombs, but we were several miles from the scene and never knew what it was all about. We reached the Clyde on (I think) Aug. 13 (right here the “13” was crossed out and 11th substituted “by courtesy of the censor”) we disembarked on Scottish soil in the little town of Coureek (?) (This could very possibly be Gourock, Scotland. http://“US 5th Division Infantry arrives at the harbor in Gourock, Scotland”. I have to thank reader Valeris for this additional information which makes sense to me.) That night we traveled the length of England — the Midlands were reached about dawn — Manchester, I think, where we had tea and sandwiches served to us in the station. People seemed glad to see us despite the fact that thousands of G.I.’s must have passed through already. In Scotland on the previous evening, everyone had waved to us from the streets and windows as we rumbled by in our troop train (Continental coaches, not boxcars). Here in England the welcome was less spontaneous, but we were excited by our first night of barrage balloons. We left the train at Richmond Station, west of London. We hiked to our billets at Kew, where we stayed up to the time we left for France.
For the rest of the week, I will continue with pieces of this letter covering Dan’s original trip overseas.