Wednesday, April 16, 2008

doodlebugs

For the complete story of Rev. Edward W. McElduff, please read the entire story published in the Morning Call. Rev. McElduff was aboard one of the LSTs the day of the buzz bomb attack. I urge you to go to the site and read the rest of his story. I did not include all that relates to his LST and that day in Deptford, England. Reading another man's account will give you a clearer picture of that day. -David

They had tied us up at a place called Deptford on the Thames River. It could only accommodate two ships. There was another LST alongside of us, so close you could step across to it. The Germans were using buzz bombs, V-1 rockets, or "Doodlebugs." They were a frightening thing. You'd hear the engine roar, then it would suddenly stop, and you'd wait a couple of seconds, because that was when it was falling with its ton of explosives. We were in what was called Doodlebug Alley, one of the bombs' major routes. They were dropping all around us, day and night, coming out of nowhere. So this one night in July or early August, I was the only officer aboard, because I was the officer of the deck. The crew was in their quarters below. The officer of the deck on the other ship had been in my Officer Candidate School class at Northwestern University. His name was John something, I can't remember. It was about 11 and we were talking, and I said, "I'm gonna get a cup of coffee," and he said, "Well, I'm gonna check something," and he went to check it. I had just left the galley, where I went for the coffee, when a buzz bomb dropped right on the aft part of John's ship. The blast blew me down a passageway about 30 feet, and I was reaching out to try to stop myself from going over the side. My back hit the railing, making my injury from D-Day worse. I grabbed onto the railing. A fire started over the ammunition. I was badly hurt -- my spinal column is wrecked from that -- but I had to get the fire out. The crew was trapped down below, so I worked while they were freeing themselves. I got the hose unfurled and the water going, and by then the guys had cleared themselves out. So they took over fighting the fire, and I went over to the other ship to see what I could do about casualties. The captain was aboard that ship, but his quarters were pretty well blown open. I heard groaning and had to get some debris off him. I tried to pull him back, because I was afraid more debris was going to fall on him. But I couldn't find any substance to him. The concussion was so much, his bones were shattered into small pieces. When I held him, it was like holding a soft mass. He looked like a rubber man. I didn't want him to die without someone there with him. Within three minutes, he died in my arms. The next thing I remember, I looked at the life raft on my ship and saw parts of my friend's body on it. I assumed it was John, because he had been standing with me and I hadn't seen anybody else. I took my utility knife out and scraped his remains off of the life raft into a paper bag. Anything I could find of him, I put in the bag.I didn't want to leave him on the raft.Someone came up to help me, and I said, "No I'll do it, I want to do it myself. "What I intended to do with the remains, I don't know, probably drop them over the side. I might have done that. It would have been a logical thing. The rise and fall of the Thames River is rather remarkable, so the remains would have ultimately gone out to sea. That would have been appropriate. But I had a great deal of pain, and I think it was overwhelming me. After I got done scraping, I put the knife back in my belt. And then I blacked out.
....After the buzz bomb hit and I was hurt the second time, I went up to London and stopped at an American Army hospital. They gave me a shot and some painkillers.Our LST was wrecked, it had no power. We were towed back to the States, across the Atlantic in tandem with another LST by a seagoing tug called the Choctaw. It took 37 days. There were dead rats in our water, so it was contaminated, so we had no water. We got the desalinization machinery working enough to keep body and soul together. We lived in filth. If you wanted to bathe, you had to throw a bucket over the side and just clean yourself off with sea water. The British had given us some rations, which were horrible. A lot of it we had to throw over the side because it wasn't edible. In New York, the ship was repaired. Then we went out to the Pacific, and that was kind of uneventful because the war had wound down. Click here to read the entire article at Morning Call.
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