Part X: Heading for R&R in New Zealand on one sweet ride, after a lot of muddy camping. (Recon Troopers do not make for natural M.P.s)

00 736px-USS_General_John_Pope_AP-110
USS General John Pope (AP-110) docked at B/S Pier 6, US Army Port of Embarkation, Hampton Roads, Newport News, Virginia, about to sail with troops and cargo. this photo was taken immediately before her maiden voyage. SOURCE- WIKI

Read about the fate of the USS General John Pope: http://maritimematters.com/2010/05/passage-on-the-u-s-n-s-general-john-pope/

Notes from a son: I had no idea I’d sailed past the troop transport that took my Dad to New Zealand for an R&R he talked about as a good time during a time he didn’t like to talk about. While covering efforts to save the USS/USCG Glacier from breakup, I’d seen the Pope at anchor in Suisun Bay’s MARAD Mothball fleet. The ship served through the Vietnam War.

February 3, 1944:
We left Munda Feb. 3 in a rain storm that lasted all day, everybody was soaking wet. We were in an LC2 this time, and the voyage was surprisingly smooth compared to the L.S.T. we arrived from the Russells on. They served cheese and meat sandwiches, plus some liquid alleged to be coffee. There weren’t many good appetites once we hit the open water.
We came to Guadalcanal the next morning and, as usual, the move was scheduled with rain. We haven’t had a dry stretch now for two days. We had mail call before sailing – I had 41 letters. Guadalcanal is now really built-up. There are good roads and plenty of buildings.
I saw Henderson airport and Carney Field, both of them really big. Later we saw a fighter strip manned by New Zealanders. If the Japs could see this place now, they’d really see what they’re up against.
We camped about 23 miles from the beach where we landed, put up camp and was really ready for bed and chow, but the lure of movies was stronger so we went by truck to see “The Big Shot.” I saw it once before in happier times, when I was a civilian.
The mosquitoes are really bad and getting too bold for their own good. We’re moving again tomorrow. I was issued four cans of beer and two Cokes, so for the first time since the states I had Coke again. Some of the fellows really had plenty of beer, and headaches.
Saturday morning the great, big trailer trucks loaded up all our equipment and we were off again, this time to stand guard over division equipment prior to loading on ship.
New Zealand is now pretty definite. After that, who knows?
Our new bivouac place is the muddiest place you ever saw. You really walk around in ankle-deep mud all day, shoes wet and torn.
I was issued new clothes, 2 sets of cottons, 1 set of woolens, so I guess now we’re really going.
I pulled guard 2 on and 4 off for a 24-hour period and, as usual, rain. I believe we start loading-on tomorrow. Our C.O. is getting a transfer to air cargo. Nuff said.
I saw some brand new troops from the States get off the President Johnson, and I never saw any bunch so dirty and disgusted. They were on the Johnson 41 days before they could decide where to land. I sure hope we don’t go back on this ship. It really smells, literally speaking.
A P-38 crashed while taking off on the strip next to us. The plane was demolished and the pilot burned to death before the fire could be extinguished. He did manage to crawl on the wing, but that’s all. A hell of a way to die, never even had a chance.
Later:
I pulled guard duty again, this time guarding division supplies. I never saw so much junk in all my life.
I had two real, honest-to-goodness fried eggs, our first in quite some time. It was swell, but it wasn’t quite enough.
We still have our rain. It’s really disgusting the way our area is muddy. We slip and slide all over the place. No washing clothes, because you’re just getting muddy again.
Our ship finally pulled in, and it’s really a big baby. It sure looked nice coming in – New Zealand, here we come.
I’m still pulling guard, I saw most of the 103rd loading onto the General Pope, or Polk. I guess we’re next.
Some of the fellows saw a real, honest-to-goodness USO show complete with girls, Francis Kay, Mary Elliott, some Spaniard and Ray Milland. It must be safe here if they come here.
I saw a task force pulling out to invade Green Island. I took pictures of the boats. I hope they’re luckier than we were in New Georgia.
We loaded onto the Pres., or I believe it’s the Gen. Pope at three o’clock in the morning. We were ready right after breakfast, but we had to wait damn near until morning again.
I was so disgusted a pulled a blanket out of my barracks bag and slept near the pier until it was time to go. I was handed a meal ticket while going up the gangplank. Big time stuff.
Our fellows were assigned to bunks two decks below,
Crowded but clean, New Zealand here we come.

Later:
The Gen. Pope is a new ship, very clean and pretty fast. There’s very strict discipline here because it’s run by the Army.
We have Marines on for guard, etc… some of the boys really gave them trouble, took the cockiness out of them.
Our troop had M.P. duty all the way over. For guys who have nothing to do with M.P.s,… we really got it. Now I know how the poor devils feel.
The chow on this ship is fine, nothing to brag about. We had plenty of weak coffee and no cases of sea-sickness this time. The boys are in good humor, and morale is very high.
One drawback was the strict blackout regulations. We had to go below decks before dark.
What made it worse: Even the lights below deck were put out, so we had to sleep.
I met plenty of old friends from the 103rd Infantry and the 118th Engineers. We really had some bull sessions.
We’re having trouble with some of the boys sitting on life preservers. It seems the big shots don’t want them to be comfortable.
The day before sighting land everybody was busy polishing shoes that really looked screwy after all the months we lived in mud and dirt. We saw birds all day, so land can’t be far; to-morrow is our 5th day at sea and last.
The next day everybody was up early to see if we’re near land, but no luck. Our ship seems to be going around in circles, I guess it’s waiting for escort into the harbor.
At noon we finally sighted land. Nothing distinguishable, but land again. I really feel good.
We sighted Auckland later on and closer to land. The houses look beautiful to us. After all, it’s been 18 months since we left civilization.
We steamed into the harbor and docked. I was so excited I forgot to eat my supper. A band played us some American songs and all around us we could see people staring at our ship.
The ferry boats going to Davenport and Bayswater passed by close, and we saw our first white girls. They seemed glad to see us, because they waved all the time until we were out of sight.
Auckland really looked like heaven. For the first time in over a year we could relax, see lites all over, and take it easy even if a plane flew overhead.
All of this makes us feel so good. How will we feel when the war’s over and we’ll dock at Frisco? We stayed on the ship all nite but slept very little, because things seemed like a dream come true.
00 Mothball 800px-USS_General_John_Pope_(AP-110)
USS General John Pope being towed to temporary dock. Also named: USNS General John Pope (T-AP-110)

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