11 September 2010

Oh, Happy Day

(Photo: Return of the 82nd Airborne)

From The Spokesman-Review on this day in 1945

MARY SAILS IN, ONE BIG BANNER

Vets Aboard Lady Really Hang Out the Signs.

NEW YORK (AP) - The British liner Queen Mary, her sides hung with so many banners she looked like a huge floating billboard, slid out of the fog into New York harbor today, jammed with nearly 15,000 veterans of the European war.

Yells, whistles and shouts of the soldiers, mostly Kansans, Missourians and Nebraskans from President Truman's old World war I division, the 35th, heralded the lady's arrival as she ended her fifth westward crossing. The noise reached the dock long before the Queen did.

Soldiers Everywhere.

Soldiers and the largest contingent of WACs to be returned to the United States from Europe covered every inch of space on the open decks.

They hung from ladders and thrust their heads through portholes. A huge map of Europe on the starboard side had G. I.s' heads where Paris and Berlin were located.

One sign showing four happy soldiers singing and bearing the wagon wheel of the old Santa Fe trail the insignia of the 35th, read, "Oh, Happy Day."

Another, emblazoned in red, white and blue, said "Hello, America--35th Division." Still another, fastened to the deck, declared, "Dear Mom--Your Boy Has Returned," and was signed by three New Yorkers.

Returning with his troops was Maj. Gen. Paul W. Baade, commanding general of the 35th. He led his men down the gangplank and said, "If there are any better soldiers anywhere, I should like to know it."

Expert Hole-Blockers

"Every time they needed somebody to block a hole," the general said, "they threw us in. They are all good soldiers in the army, but none of them are better than mine.

"We got closer to Berlin (42 miles) than any other American troops."

The division suffered 15,800 casualties, he said, adding that of its original strength of 13,000 men only 15 percent remain.

Although the men were ordered home for redeployment to the Pacific, Gen. Baade said he did not think they would be sent. He said the division would be reassembled at Camp Breckenridge after the men had 30-day furloughs.

Also aboard were a number of British officials, including Admiral of the Fleet Sir James Somerville, head of the British military mission to Washington and Gen. Sir Hastings Ismay, personal military advisor to Prime Minister Atlee.

The Queen was the largest of 15 ships docking today in New York, Boson and Newport News, Va., with a total of more than 32,000 troops.

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