The Gathering Storm

John Vassiliou, Staff Writer

Over a month ago, I introduced you to my great grandfather, James, and his story; one that everyone in his time had lived but never spoken. In this first part of the series, you will learn about my great grandfather’s life before the war, his enlistment, and where he trained before being shipped out to the most bloody conflict the world has ever seen.

James’ story is one of millions of Americans of his time. The son of Greek immigrants coming to America for a better life, James grew up a hardworking young man with a head on his shoulders and two nickels in his pocket.

He was originally accepted into the University of Dartmouth, but being an avid football player; he, with the help of an academic scholarship, enrolled at the University of Alabama instead. He was there for one year before he dropped out to enlist in the army. 

Why enlist?

In the early 1940’s, a tension was rising across the globe. Nazi Germany had conquered Poland, Norway, Belgium, Denmark, and France. Britain seemed like it was about to succumb as well. In the East, the Imperial Japanese were spreading their borders to include places in China, Korea, and the countless islands that lay in the pacific. Seeing this growing threat, President Roosevelt convinced Congress to sign an act enlisting men for selective service, this became the first peacetime draft in American history. However, he still could not pull the country out of isolationism. With the memories of the Great War still in good memory, it would take an infamous December morning to wake the sleeping giant.

Realizing that he was going to be drafted anyway, James enlisted in the Army on August 2, 1941.  He was always fascinated by the idea of flying, so he decided to enlist in the Army Air Corps, or AAC, this was later renamed the Army Air Forces or, AAF (the Air Force would not become its own independent branch until 1947.)

James wanted to fly planes, but was unable to because he had not yet finished college (enlisted men would never fly the plane, only officers were allowed). For a while during his training, he was thrown around to a multitude of different jobs, mainly assigned to be a parachute rigger. Finally, James was mobilized and his long voyage overseas was drawing closer.

Here are his first entries detailing the bases he was at and where he ended up when he embarked on his journey overseas:

Grenier Field-1941-1942

(Manchester, N.H.)

Dover Air Base- Delaware 1942 June- July

Brookley Field- Mobile- Alabama 1942 July

Galveston Air Base- Galveston, Texas 1942-1943-(July 1942 to Oct. 1943)

Gowen Field- Boise, Idaho-Oct.-Nov. 1943

Walker Field- Dec. to Feb. 2nd 1944- left Kansas-Hayes, Kansas

These following entries detail his boarding and the ship he was on before being sent overseas. Note “Arrive Patrick Henry”. This is most likely alluding to the S.S. Patrick Henry, a troop transport ship.

Arrive Patrick Henry 8:45 A.M. Feb. 12, 1944

“Joshua Seney” arrive Newport, News Va. 9:45 AM Joshua Seney boarded Liberty Ship sailed 2:20 A.M. Feb 13, 1944

Feb. 13, 1944 convoy [in] position 10:20 P.M.

James was now making his way across the Atlantic. The threat of German U-Boats still very prevalent, it would take nearly a month of tossing and turning in the surf of the sea before James’ convoy would reach Gibraltar.

Stay tuned for more stories!