June 20, 2012
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My grandfather has always been an amazing story teller.  I have grown up on his memories and adventures and have always been particularly interested in his stories from when he was in the service during the 40′s.  For some reason I’ve always gravitated to the patriotism and the travels and of course the photographs he took along his journey.  Those photo albums from his adventures overseas are prized family possessions.  He had his Argus C3 camera, plenty of film and an artistic eye.  I could spend days telling you all his stories about the service, but today I am going to start from the beginning. :)

“I was working on the farm at the time when I got a letter saying, ‘Greetings, you’ve been selected to serve your county’ ,” Pop Pop began.  He seemed to have mixed emotions about being drafted.  A lot of his friends were in the service but he recalled his one classmate that had passed away.  My grandfather sat and stared out the window for a minute in silence.  “I was lucky to be a couple years younger.  I don’t know how a country boy from Wetipquin ended up in intelligence and offered a commission.  It still amazes me, but it’s something I’m proud of.”

“Mom worried herself to death because I was her only child.  I always tried to find time to write.  Even if it was to address the envelope and say ‘Hi, I’m okay’ to help ease her mind,” Pop Pop explained.  He headed off to Ft. Meade where he took his oath of office and then headed to Indiantown Gap, PA.  From there, he was shipped to Camp J.T. Robinson, AR for basic training.  Above, you can see the barracks.  “I wanted to be a sniper, but I couldn’t keep my butt down crawling across the field.  Got spotted,” he chuckled.  “I had a good shot, I hit the bulls eye from a thousand yards away.”  He left Arkansas with the MOS (Military Occupational Specialties) of an infantry rifleman.  From basic, the whole outfit was to leave from Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.  Pop Pop didn’t make it in time to leave with the guys in basic (because he took a 15 day leave home instead of 10) and stayed in Ft. Dix for two weeks until he had orders to be shipped out.  I love the photo below.  It shows some guys playing cards on and passing time in the bunks on the ship.

Pop Pop is on the far right (this was his room once he was in Germany). :)

He was shipped out on the SS George Washington.  Soon, I’ll tell you about his return voyage home in 1947 on the USS General Stuart Heintzelman and how they were 9 degrees from capsizing!  Pop Pop took photos of the damage to the metal of the ship and has a newspaper clipping of the scare.  Below is a photo of the USS General Stuart Heintzelman and a boxing match on deck of the SS George Washington.

It took 10 days to get over to Le Harve, France but from there they got on a cattle car and went to Erlangen, Germany.  “I had to take my IQ and aptitude test over again because my records went over on the first ship.”  From there, he and four other men went to a train station and the next thing Pop Pop saw was the photo below.

“I realized I was in the 3rd Army Headquarters, G2 (Intelligence) at the Patton Barracks.  The five of us were separated there and a Staff Sergeant carried me into a building and said ‘this will be your room’.  It was larger than what I was used to.  I had always shared during basic.”  Then Pop Pop was taken into the main building where the officers were and was pulled in front of the Colonel and told to raise his right hand.  “The Colonel said to me ‘What comes here, stays here under $10,000 fine and 10 years in prison.  You have been cleared for confidential, secret and top secret’.”  The Sergeant carried Pop Pop to coalition and introduced him to 1st Lieutenant Jenks and pointed to a desk.  “He said that desk was mine and pointed to a typewriter and said that it was mine.  It may as well have been an atomic reactor!”  Now I had never heard of that before so I asked my grandfather what it was.  “Something I knew nothing about!” he busted out laughing.  “I was assigned a clerical job and I couldn’t write worth a damn.  I had seen a typewriter but had never touched one.”  Pop Pop told his Lieutenant that he didn’t know anything about typing.  His Lieutenant looked up from his desk and said he didn’t know anything about typing either.  “He told me to use the ‘Hunt + Peck Method’ which was hunt for the letter, then peck the key.  Then I saw his fingers dance over the keys and he typed out ‘Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country’.”

Below is a photo of my grandfather at his desk and the typewriter.

My grandfather also travelled during his time in the service.  Some of the trips were for work and others were for pleasure.  He went everywhere from England, France, the Scottish countryside, to the mountains in Switzerland and all over Germany and even out to the Azores Islands.  He took so many photographs of his journey and a few years ago I went over to Europe with his old photos in hand and went to some the same places he went and stood where he stood in the same location.  I photographed how they look today so I could bring them back and show my grandfather.  I’ll show you those side by side in another story.  He even befriended one of Patton’s horses and gave him the name ‘Dammit’ but I’ll save that one for another time. :)

Above is where he bought cigarettes, soap, etc. Below is a random photo along his travels of people enjoying the view from the plane.

Although my grandfather travelled and saw some amazing sights, he also saw some of the damage caused by the war.  Below is a photo of damage done in Weisbaden, Germany.  When we got to this photo he looked up at me.  “When you see an American flag, think about how many millions have died since we gained our independence to defend that flag and our right to display it.”

“You can say anything you want about any politician or anyone running the country- but don’t knock my flag or my country,” my grandfather said.  Ever since I can remember I have heard his stories and my grandmother’s stories about WWII.  Both of her brothers were in the Navy.  Her one brother signed up for the Navy on December 5, 1941- two days before Pearl Harbor was attacked.  She also has stories about life in the US during the war- which is just as fascinating.  Her family actually moved from the Eastern Shore of Maryland to Alexandria, Virginia so her father could work in the Torpedo Factory.  I will definitely get to all these stories and show you the many photos that go along with them.  One of the things I found most fascinating was when Pop Pop told me about the major depreciation of the German currency.  Everyone basically traded on the black market and bartered because the German Frank was worth next to nothing.  He told me how trading cigarettes and soap for things was a common occurrence and a means for living while he was in Germany.  I’ll also elaborate on Mom Mom’s stories about ordered curfews and painting car headlights half black so that submarines in the night couldn’t see the shoreline.

***** My grandfather, Russell C. Cooper from the 3rd Army Headquarters G2 , who rode across on the SS George Washington and returned on the USS General Stuart Heintzelman is asking that if anyone made either one of those voyages or was stationed overseas during that time with him could contact me at kristie@gilletteportraitarts.com.  He would love to talk.  Thank you!  -Kristie Cooper