You are on page 1of 19

George Henry Vorndran Jr.

1917-1985
George Henry Vorndran Jr. was the first of 11 children born to George Henry
Vorndran Sr. (1890-1976) and Elsie Olive Lehman Vorndran (1892-1968) at the
Maternity Home on Clinton Street in Fort Wayne, Indiana on 30 April 1917.
George Jr. had a typical upbringing during the pre-depression period in the
close-knit German-American community on Fort Waynes east side. All were
faithful members of St Andrews Catholic Church on New Haven Ave.
The Great Depression affected everyone to some degree. George Sr. had a good
job as a railroad engineer with the Grand Rapids and Indiana Division of the
old Pennsylvania Railroad, but things were still very tight in the household
with 11 children. When George Jr. became a young adult he set out west with
his friend, John Richard Dick Gzybowski to find work. The childhood friends
hitchhiked from Fort Wayne to the Great Plain states, ending up in North
Dakota in June & July of 1938. They soon returned home as the farm work
they were able to find was very hard and not very fruitful as everyone at that
time was looking for work.
In the 1940 census, taken in early April 1940, 22 year old (soon to be 23)
George Jr. was listed as a filling station attendant. Somewhere between the
time of the 1940 census and Dads marriage to Mom in June 1942 he landed a
job on the Pennsylvania Railroad as a brakeman.
Mom always said that my father did not have to enlist in the Army during WWII
because he was married with a newborn baby expected to be born in the spring
of 1943. Dad felt that it was his patriotic duty to serve his country, so several
months after he and my Mom, Rosemary (born Rose Welling) McGovern (19202009), married he enlisted in the United States Army. Three of Dads brothers,
Bernard, Eugene and Maurice soon followed suit and enlisted for the remainder
of the war.
When I started researching Dads WWII military service, all I had were about a
dozen letters and several hundred pictures that he had taken during his time
in the service. One of the great things that Dad did was write on the back of
almost every picture he took of who the person was, where they were from, the
date, and their location. That made my job a whole lot easier.
I started my paper search with the National Personnel Records Center in St
Louis, Missouri. Their return reply to me stated that the section in the Records

Center where Dads records were stored was destroyed by a fire in 1973. They
wanted ME to fill out a NA Form 13075, Questionnaire about Military Service
detailing his service history. That started this journey for me.

WWII Military Service


George Henry Vorndran Jr. enlisted in the United States Army on 09 November
1942 in Toledo, Ohio. His enlistment was for the duration of the war or other
emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or
otherwise according to law. He is listed as a white citizen, born in Indiana in
1917 with 2 years of high school and a civilian occupation of a semiskilled
brakeman, railroad. He is listed as married. His military rank was a Private,
with the Army Branch as Branch Immaterial Warrants Officers, USA, Serial
Number 35347169. This information was taken from the United States World
War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 data base. According to the US
Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, his enlistment
date was 23 November 1942.
Dads first letter home, addressed to his mother was on 02 December 1942 and
was written from Camp Claiborne, Louisiana. The return address label
indicates that he was in Co C. 759 RY OPRG BN. I would surmise that he
wrote to my mother first, but those letters are probably lost to time. He wrote:
Hi Folks, Here I am in Camp Claiborne with a bunch of rail roaders, engineers,
conductors, brakemen, firemen, and sextion (section) men. There were five
men that came with me from Camp Perry Ohio, two firemen, one section fass, a
locomotive builder from Lima O and a trainman, which is me. We came from
Camp Perry, Friday evening on a Wabash Pulman stopped in Fort Wayne for
thirty three minutes. I called Rose and she came to the depot to see me. From
Fort Wayne we went to St Louis, MO on the Wabash. When we got to St Louis
we had to wait for eight hours for a Missouri Pacific, which took us to this
camp Sunday evening. I had to do K.P. (kitchen duties) for two days because
the tap Sarge told me to pick up a cigarette butt and I told him to go to he_ _
I didnt throw it there.
Every time I read that last sentence I chuckle as that summed up my father to
a T if it didnt make sense to him, he wasnt going to do it.

The next letter is postmarked 12 January 1943 from New Orleans, LA with the
return address as Co B, 29th Replacement Battalion (Railway Battalion), NOSA
New Orleans, LA. He writes (in part):
Last week I was transferred to Co H & S (Headquarters & Services) as a cook.
Now they are sending me to school at Ft Sam, Cooks and Baker school.
The remainder of Dads letters home from early 1943 to the end of the war with
the last one postmarked September 28, 1945, very much coincide with this
short history of the 721st Railway Operating Battalion written by fellow solider
Edward J Venter.

A Short History of the 721st Railway Operating Battalion


By Edward J. Venter
The 721st Railway Operating Battalion was activated at Camp Harahan, New
Orleans, Louisiana, on April 14, 1943. The unit was composed of men from
replacement companies, reception centers, a cadre from another battalion and
reservists of the New York Central system, which sponsored the battalion. While
at Camp Harahan for six weeks, the men underwent a rigorous physical training
program, learned to march, hurdle obstacle courses, roll full field packs, fire a
gun and become indoctrinated in army discipline, rules and regulations.
The battalion next moved to Camp Cushing located on the outskirts of San
Antonio, Texas, and bordering the South Pacific Railroad tracks. A program of
physical training, manual of arms, extended and close order drill soon molded
the raw recruit into a soldier proud of his physical fitness and coordination. Here
the men actually went to work shoulder to shoulder with the workers of the
Southern Pacific, developing their skills as trainmen, engineers, carmen,
telegraphers, trackmen and mechanics. Three months of this technical training
helped the soldier-railroader become accustomed to his dual role and prepare for
the real job ahead. There was also time for further military training, such as
hiking, mimic warfare, passing through gassed areas, attending map reading
and first aid lectures.
On the first of November 1943, the battalion, moved on to Camp Atterbury,
Indiana, for final processing before departure overseas. Clothes and equipment

were checked, inoculations administered for prevention of typhus and cholera,


and records checked. To keep the men in good condition, a program of exercises,
close-order drill, and hikes made up a good share of the daily routine.
During the last week in November 1943, the battalion entrained for "destination
unknown." The trip was very enjoyable and picturesque through Indiana, Illinois,
Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and finally into Anza,
California. Travel was by Pullman with delicious meals served to the men while
in their seats.
The stay in sunny California was of a week's duration. Carbines and pistols
were checked, gas masks were inspected, and clothing re-issued where
necessary. All personnel received instruction in climbing cargo nets hanging from
the side of a mock vessel. Everyone prayed that this practice would not be put to
use while at sea.
During the early morning hours of December 9, 1943, the battalion moved onto a
waiting train for a short ride to the San Pedro harbor where the Mariposa was
berthed waiting for the troops to embark for the overseas trip. The sea journey
was made without escort or protection in a zig-zag manner as a precaution
against any enemy submarine, with gun crews at their stations during the entire
trip.
On the seventeenth day at sea, the Mariposa steamed into the harbor of Hobart,
located on the beautiful island of Tasmania, off the southeast coast of Australia.
While here the ship refueled and replenished the water supply. As the Mariposa
started the last lap of her journey, the sealed orders were opened and literature
was distributed to every man aboard describing India, its language and customs.
The sea journey was completed on the 31st day after leaving the United States
as the city of Bombay loomed on the horizon.
The Indians presented a strange picture to the eyes of the soldier-railroader. The
usual apparel was merely yards of cloth wound around their bodies, which in
most cases lacked cleanliness. The stench of filth was everywhere as sanitary
practices were unknown in this country of ignorance and poverty.
On disembarking from the ship, the men were loaded onto third class railroad
coaches comparable to a stateside box-car with windows and wooden benches,
already filled with roaches, flies and other insects. The train journey lasted five
consecutive days, with rations furnished by the British consisting of uncooked

bacon, biscuits (dry and hard), orange marmalade, tea, with some bully beef and
herring. After a few hours stop at Calcutta to fuel the engine, the long train
journey was terminated on arrival at Parbatipur located in the Province of
Bengal.
Parbatipur was the junction point for the metre and broad gauge track. Here the
war supplies and materials were unloaded from the broad gauge cars onto the
metre gauge cars for the trip to Ledo, then flown over the Hump or convoyed over
the Ledo Road to China, The men lived in barracks constructed by inter-weaving
bamboo strips and the roof made of grass tied to a bamboo mat. The camp was
located along the Bengal and Assam Railroad.
The soldier-railroaders were immediately put to work using their civilian
experience and army training in worthwhile application by assuming control of
convoying war materials and personnel. Men went to work as train dispatchers,
station masters, car repairmen, engineers, trainmen, trackmen and bridge-men.
The task of administration, feeding, clothing and transporting the G.I.s required
the services of many soldiers. Immediate repairs to the equipment and roadbed
resulted in a sharp increase in the tonnage of material transported. New tracks
were constructed to accommodate the increase in traffic. American methods of
transportation further increased the loads transhipped and rushed over the rails
to Ledo.
On March 27, 1944, a fire broke out on one of the basha roofs. Fanned by a
strong windstorm, the flames spread quickly and destroyed 25 out of the 27
bashas housing the battalion. Clothes, food supplies, arms, personal belongings
and Battalion records were burned. However, tents, clothing and food were
rushed from Calcutta and the crisis was alleviated immediately. During the
spring of 1944, the Allies were pushing the Japs down from Northern Burma.
However, the enemy did succeed in crossing the Burma border and imperil the
Bengal and Assam Railroad life-line, but a successful offensive by the Allies
spelled disaster for the Japs.
Despite extreme heat which caused heat rash and dysentery, the men worked
long hours to ensure that the heavy tonnage continued on its way into China. The
monsoon season caused heavy damage to the equipment and road-beds, but this
did not stop the steady stream of supplies. A well-needed rest of two weeks at
Darjeeling was given to the men about this time. This army rest camp, 8,000 feet
high in the Himalayan Mountains had plenty of good food and recreation. About
this time a recreation hall, post exchange and theater were constructed at the

main camp. This tended to keep the high morale of the troops. Also a number of
USO shows came through and entertained the men.
On May 8, 1945, the good news that Germany had accepted the surrender terms
brought cheer to the soldier-railroader, but at the same time the realization that
the war-fare in our theater would be increased. The men, equipment and track
facilities were well prepared to meet all requirements.
Increased offensives carried our naval and air forces to the shores of Japan,
resulting in an unconditional surrender. Immediately, plans were formulated to
return the operation of the Bengal and Assam Railroad to the natives. This
became a reality on September 30, 1945. The General Patrick left Calcutta, India,
on October 19, 1945. The boat, General Stewart, followed a week later. Each of
these ships brought some of the members of the 721st Railway Operating
Battalion happily homeward, with the realization that they had carried out their
assignment in India for 22 months in a commendable manner.
(End of Story)
This next account about the trip home from India after the war ended was
written by another of Dads battalion brothers, Pvt. John C Skrentny. Dad was
most certainly on this ship as his release date from the military is 20 November
1945 and the USS General Patrick sailed into New York harbor on 16 November
1945. I read in one of the 721st reunion newsletters that most of the Company
returned to the US on the same boat.
Trip Home from Calcutta 1945
Pvt. John C. Skrentny
Company C 721st Railway Operations Battalion
Date Change from 10th to 18th then finally to leave Oct. 12th
October 10th: Take Shots
October 11th: Duffel bags packed.
October 12th: Reveille at 1a.m.
Breakfast at 3 a.m.
Left PBT camp at 4:15 a.m. for train.
Left PBT at 5:07 a.m. Arrived at Calcutta at 4 p.m. Unloaded bags
at Calcutta depot, also loaded truck, went to Camp Hialeah.

October 13th: No formations at all. Plenty of beer to drink as it wasnt rationed


until 12 p.m. Heavy rains and the barracks leaked. One bed wet.
October 14th: Went to church, also saw a show at night. Brought Italian cigarette
lighter.
October 15th: Rained most of the day.
October 16th: Helped Sam Parson paste a short snorter together. Also started
one of my own. Turned in our Indian money for American money.
October 17th: Got our American money in the afternoon. Rumors are very bad as
they finally reached 60 points. Morale of men very bad clear into the night. And
no beer to drink!
October 18th: 8:15 a.m. Lt. Bourne told the company the sad news. As it stood
only men with 60 points and over age 35 and that much was definite. With a
maybe that the company might go October 18th. My name was called to be ready
to load on the boat. Am very happy.
Boats Name: U.S.S. General Patrick
October 19th: Formation at 8 a.m. Lined us up in Platoons. 9:45 a.m. we went to
chow and had our last meal at Camp Hialeah. Very poor. Loaded on trucks and
waited. Went to the dock at 12 noon. Unloaded and waited in the rain. Finally
got on a tug at 2 p.m. then waited until 3 p.m. to load on the boat. Have a nice
top bunk close to Hatch #5. Am pretty well settled. I can sit up fine on my bunk.
More than lots of fellows can do. Went to chow when 5 Ds were called for chow
and boy was it good. Best Ive tasted since I left the states. One meat ball,
mashed potatoes, string beans, applesauce and peaches. Darn good coffee and
excellent bread. It still is raining.
October 20th: Got up at 5 a.m. and was wondering what time it was, went up on
deck and found it was 5:30 a.m. and still raining. Breakfast was fine: fresh
scrambled eggs, butter, bread and coffee. Also an apple. It was just a green
apple, but the first green fresh apple since I got off the Mariposa. I ate all but the
stem.
This morning I noticed all officers below a major eating in enlisted mens mess.
And is it tough for them. As the KPs tell them only one slice of bread per man.

The rest of us think it will do them good. Met a couple fellows from Gerald
Kirchoffs outfit. Also learned Gerald is driving a truck. Dinner very good:
boiled ham, pumpkin pie. Pulling up anchor. Left 1:35 p.m. only to return. Low
tide. Wont leave until tomorrow. Supper: Creamed chicken and cake.
October 21st: Got up at 6 a.m. and we hadnt moved any at all during the night.
Breakfast: Hash and one boiled egg, coffee cake and coffee. We had mass on
deck and the wind almost stopped it. But the servers helped hold things down.
At 10 a.m. we started to move and we were all happy cause we were on our
way. Dinner we had steak, mashed potatoes and apple pie. What a meal! At
1:30 p.m. I was in 1a hatch. At 2 p.m. and felt the boat hit ground. Then they
dropped anchor. Supper we had slices of salmon and liver sausage, potato salad
and cocoa. Commencing to stretch my stomach. After supper we were still
stopped. The rumor is we start again when the tide comes in high enough. Seen
a lot of nurses and Red Cross gals on the boat. Not too good looking.
October 22nd: Didnt sleep much last night as our compartment was very stuffy
and so far we havent been able to take a shower. So the boys really stink.
Started to move again at 10 p.m. October 21st and this morning we were in the
Bay of Bengal. The boat swayed a little and some of us were plenty sick. But so
far I feel fine. Breakfast: fried pork sausage, not good food to get sea sick on. So
I left it alone and ate bread and prunes.
Oct. 21st. We had latrine detail.
Dinner we had pork chops, potatoes and gravy and cake and ice tea. Afternoon
we got Red Cross Ditty Bags. Supper we had meatloaf, potatoes and gravy,
string beans and cookies also our good bread. Tonight they have a movie going
on the officers deck, but too crowded for me to go. Will try to take a salt water
shower now. Will mention if I succeed or not. Salt water shower was good.
But used Navy soap to help remove dirt.
October 23rd. Still sailing at a steady pace. Water very calm. Almost like glass.
Chow 8 a.m.: Scrambled eggs and bacon, prunes, butter and coffee. 10:30 a.m.
we had abandon ship drill. First they drove us all down in our compartment and
then out on port after. Dinner: Baked ham, very good also chocolate cake. After
dinner we had to each carry a box from No. 2 Hatch to the kitchen. One GI
asked our Camp Commander why the officers couldnt carry a box. Only to get
an answer backDid you ever see an officer carry a box? Supper we had

stew and macaroni, the poorest meal so far. After supper we went up to the
officers deck and saw a movie, Song of Bernadette. A wonderful picture.
Went to bed at 11 p.m. No. 5 compartment very hot and stuffydidnt sleep too
good. Up at 5 a.m. the next morning.
October 24th: Waited for water to be turned on of an hour. I seen land at 6:30
a.m.. They say its Ceylon. Seen 6 boats before dinner. Dinner: roast pork,
asparagus, pudding. Navy had fire drillssprayed us with water and we
almost got wet. We are going rather slowly now. Land still in sight. Supper we
had fried liver, mashed potatoes, coffee and cake. We are now very close to a
harbor and we are going very slowly. They say its Colombo, Ceylon. Anchored
at 7:45 p.m. We will take on oil and water. Navy going ashore for liberty.
Natives here are Indians only they talk differently than in Calcutta. We are tied
up near a large British transport. This harbor is filled with boats. I never did
see so many in one place before.
October 25th: Got up early to shave. Up at 5:25 a.m. The Indians are now
pumping oil in our boat. I traded one silver ruppee for 3 one cent coins and one 2
cent coin. Also I got one 25 cent bill. These Indians want plenty for what they
want to trade. Dinner: Pork chops, potatoes and gravy. Pork Chop was raw.
Sailors had shore leave until 4:30 p.m. Had a hard time to convince Indians to
take T-shirt for 3 coins. I finally gave it to him and walked away with coin. 5
p.m. water and oil all filled up. Supper: spaghetti and meat saucevery good.
6:30 p.m. lifting anchor. 7:15 p.m. starting to move out of harbor. About 2 miles
out of harbor we side swiped a small boat which caused a lot of excitement on
the boat. As to whose fault it was ?no damage done. Continued on our way.
Washed fatigue pants on deck with salt water and soap.
October 26th: Up at 5:30 a.m. and a very nice cool morning. In fact just right.
Breakfast: 2 boiled eggs, corn beef hash, bread, butter, cinnamon roll and coffee.
Water calm and very nice sailing weather. Havent worn anything, but
undershirt and pants and shoes so far. Dinner: fried fish and salad dressing,
mashed potatoes, bread and cookies. After dinner .. played cards all
afternoon. We have been sitting on the deck and my hind end is pretty colored.
But it still hurts me to sit on the steel deck very long. We are not allowed to take
anything up on the deck to sit on. Navy Regulation. Supper: good old American
wieners and sauerkraut, potatoes, mustard, bread and cake also ice tea. We sure
get lots of tea to drink. Set time back on half hour at 6 p.m.

October 27th. Got up at 6:00 a.m. Indian Ocean very calm, a few very small
swells and almost like glass. Breakfast Saturday: Traditional navy beans and
cornbread and coffee. Beans very good also coffee. Detail in Port aft troop
latrine. Dinner: boiled ham, boiled potatoes, bread and coffee. Darn good meal.
But the last of the troops didnt get any ham. After dinner I sweat out a coke
line 5 cents a paper cup. Supper not too hot. Boiled rice and kidney beans,
chili and crackers. Also cake and coffee. I ate it, but didnt care much for it.
About 4 p.m. a dark cloud came up as though it would be a storm. Water got a
little rough, but not bad. At 6:30 p.m. tonight we set the time back one hour
again. Seen the snow white cliffs of Dover.
October 28th: Got up 6:10 a.m. The ocean was the roughest it has been so far on
this trip. After I washed and shaved came up on deck and it was raining quite
hard for 15 minutes. We have to find shelter under life boats on bridge. Officers
have big canvas over them and also plenty of room to sit on benches while we
have to sit on the deck. Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, potatoes, prunes, bread and
coffee. Went to mass at 8:30 a.m. on port side forward end. Sun beating down
very hot. Some boys got bad blisters the day before. Dinner: fried chicken,
potatoes, peas, and apple pie. Ocean is still fairly rough. Noone sick. Supper:
cold cuts of sausage and cheese, pickles, beans, fruit Jell-O and cookies. After
supper we set the time back hour at 6:30 p.m. Had another salt water
shower. Quite hot in our compartment tonight.
October 29th: Got up at 6:10 a.m. Ocean was quite a bit calmer than it was the
day before. Breakfast: one slice of French toast and Spam, coffee, also one
green apple. We had latrine today. At 10 a.m. we saw the island of Socotra.
Just outline of it on the horizon. Dinner: roast pork, potatoes, cake bread, water.
After dinner the captain complained that officers were treated as enlisted men
like me. So we would have more military courtesy. We sure booed. I saw a small
whale come up a couple times. 4:30 p.m. we went to mass up on the officers
deck and one of the officers gawked and smoked a cigar and blew smoke over
our gathering. Darn poor courtesy, eh. What! Supper was poor: rice, corn beef
hash, cake and coffee. We changed time at 18:30 to 18:00.
October 30th: Got up at 4:45 a.m. Terribly hot in compartment. Couldnt sleep
anymore. The days are hotter now. Dont seem to be much breeze. Course a
little SW. we are in the Gulf of Eden. Breakfast: creamed ham on bread, prunes
and coffee. Saw a tanker go by on starboard side. Dinner: Steak, potatoes,
string beans pumpkin pie. After dinner we could sit on the deck and it was darn

hot. And the sun burns very quickly. We got a little breeze which we sure
appreciated. Boxing matches on port side forward. We saw three islands just
after supper time. Supper: wieners, sauerkraut, mustard, potatoes, break and
cake. After supper we sure enjoyed the nice cool air. Change time at 6:30 p.m. to
6:00 p.m.. Will go into the Red Sea tonight sometime.
October 31st: Got up at 6:05 a.m. We got in the Red Sea sometime in the night.
Our course has changed to NW by N. Sea very rough. Ship rolling quite a bit.
Breakfast: 2 boiled eggs, canned pears, bread and coffee. Saw quite a few
islands. Dinner: mutton, potatoes, and beans. After muster we had a GI state
show. It was darn good. Made up by GIs and sailors on the boat. They deserve
a lot of credit for their efforts. It is very hot now and the deck is darn hot to sit
on. They are getting darn tanned. We saw about 5 ships today. Also a few
seagulls. Supper: meatloaf, bread and coffee. Not a good meal. Took salt
water shower and boy does it stink in the hole.
Nov. 1st: Got up at 4:30 a.m. and it was very hot in our compartment. I was
wringing wet with sweat. Got up on deck and it was hot outside too.
Breakfast: creamed ham on toast and coffee. Went to mass on port bow at 8:30
a.m. After breakfast: washed out fatigue pants and shorts. Did a pose job. Saw
3 ships one was about 200 yards awaya freighter. Dinner was corn beef
and cabbage, and carrots . Meat very good. Also ice cream in paper cup for
dessert. After dinner I wrote a letter to my honey. As I have to mail it before 10
a.m. Hope to mail it at Suez. Saw a school of porpoise jumping in the water.
Must have been 50 or more. Supper: Creamed turkey on toast. Had N.S.O.
Stage show on No. 2 Hatch and mooring on Supper structure deck.
Nov. 2nd. Got up at 6:10 a.m. very hot in compartment. Breakfast: Scrambled
eggs, potatoes, and coffee. Went to mass in officers wardroom. First time Ive
sat on a chair since I left Camp Hialeah and gosh was it soft. Detail in Latrine.
At 10:30 a.m. Chaplain told us off starboard side was Mt. Sinai. Moses was
supposed to have gotten 10 commandments on this mountain. Took picture of it.
Strong NW blowing. The shore looked hazy as though a sandstorm was howling.
Oil field on port side. Red Sea about 40 miles wide here. Dinner: salmon,
potatoes, asparagus, mince pie and tea. Shore line in sight the rest of the
afternoon. Supper: meatballs, spaghetti, cake and coffee. At 6:30 p.m. we
signaled to canal. 7:30 we anchored to wait for pilot. At 10 p.m. we started
through canal. It has no locks at all and is possibly 300 or 400 feet wide.

November 3rd. Got up at 4:15 a.m. It was still dark. Went back to bed. Up at
6:10 a.m. We were moving very slow and it was very cold. 65 F in our
compartment. Boys digging out more clothes to put on. Took pictures of sunrise
and canal before breakfast. Breakfast: beans, Vienna sausage, bread, peaches,
cinnamon cream roll, and coffee. After breakfast at 8:30 we anchored in Port
Said. It is in the canal. Nice looking buildings. Lots of ships. Took more pictures
of sights. About 25 row boats around ship selling souvenirs. Natives talk pretty
fair English. Lots of the boys really got beat. I bought a cigarette case and billfold
for one dollar. Items for sale: ladies handbags, dresser scarves sets, beads,
dates, oranges, suitcases, and traveling bags. We took on water and oil. Dinner
very good. Boiled ham, also potatoes, sweet pickles, carrots, bread, and hot tea.
Sailors squirted salt water on souvenir peddlers because they were holding the
boys up. Pieces came down quite a bit. At 2:00 p.m. we pulled anchor and
started out of Port Said. I noticed that one ship was cut in half. Also saw
another ship that we could just see the masts out of water. Been sunk by the
war. Also seen a British ship come into Port Said going the opposite way we
were going loaded with troops.
After dinner as we sailed into the Mediterranean Sea it got very cold. On eastside
of canal it is very barren. Couldnt even see a speck of grass. West side of canal
has trees and villages also highway and railroad track. Supper: liver, mashed
potatoes, string beans, sauce and cookies. Very few boys on deck tonight. Got
Philippine Invasion money: 10 centinoes and 1 peso. Time set back 1 hour.
Nov. 4th: Got up at 6:20 a.m. Breakfast: Potatoes, eggs, coffee and bread. Went
to mass at 8:30 a.m. Church very crowded. Quite cold outside because our
blood is thin. At 10 a.m. the engines shut off and we coasted for 1000 GIs that
were supposed to have lost their lives on a British boat that was torpedoed by
Germans. At Noon we had a big meal: beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, corn,
bread, good apple pie and ice cream. Boy was I filled up. After dinner we tried
to find a nice warm place to sun ourselves. Seen a couple of boats. Ocean quite
calm and we are traveling pretty fast. Put more time in the hatch than any day
so far. Very few boys are wearing shorts now. Supper: sausage and cheese on
toast. Changed time hour at 18:30 to 18:00.
Nov. 5th: Got up at 6:15 a.m. It seemed quite cold and all are complaining about
it. Breakfast: pork sausage, potatoes, bread and coffee. I saw 2 ships one
quite close. Ocean very calm almost like flat. The smoothest Ive ever seen a
large body of water. Dinner was relished by all. Cool weather made us hungry.
Roast pork, potatoes, coffee and cake. Most of us tried to stay on portside as the

sun helped to make it comfortable. The deck now is cold to sit on. We saw the
Island of Sicily about 4:30 p.m. As we went into the chow line the chaplain said
it was about 20 miles away. Supper: hot dogs, tomato soup, bread pudding and
coffee. After supper the chaplain said off port bow was the island of Malta the
most bombed place in the world. Changed time from 18:30 to 1800.
Nov. 6th: Got up at 5:15 a.m. Weather fairly cool. At 6:15 a.m. could see a light
along the shore. Then saw two submarines and behind them an American
freighter. Then the chaplain said Bezertie was in the bay. Couldnt see it as fog
and smoke cover it. Then we had breakfast which was meat and gravy on toast
plus coffee. We are still in sight of Bezertie. After breakfast about 10 miles off
shore. Took one snap shop. Saw 9 boats in a rowsmall ones. Saw 2 islands
off star board sideGalita Islands. Dinner: pork chops, potatoes, bread and
lemonade. Saw some more ships. Hardly an hour goes by when we dont see at
least one ship. Muster today was reading part of G.I. Bill of Rights. Supper:
meatballs and spaghetti, bread, cookies and coffee. We changed time hour
tonight at 18:30
Nov. 7th: Got up at 6:10 a.m. and it was still very cool. Traveling SW by West.
Day light we could still see the coast of Africa. Quite rugged country. Breakfast:
sliced bacon and eggs, bread and butter and coffee. Saw 3 boats before dinner.
Dinner: roast beef, potatoes, gravy, corn, tea, and cake. At 1 p.m. everyone
chased out of compartment to move boxes of ships store. Canned goods sugar,
salt, and flour. While officers had lots of fun shooting at boxes of cans thrown
overboard. Didnt care enough so had to line up again. At 1600 we could see
land on our starboard side at 5 p.m. The chaplain spoke over the loud speaker
and said it was the Sierra Nevada range of mountains in sight the highest range
in Spain. Supper: hash, meat balls, beans, cake, and coffee. Time change
hour to 1800. 5 now the total time set back to night as of Nov. 7th.
Nov. 8th: Got up at 6:15. Could notice the ship a roll a little now. We are now in
the Atlantic Ocean as we passed the Rock of Gibraltar about midnight. I didnt
get up to see it. Some of the boys said it was all lit up. Breakfast: boiled eggs,
corn beef hash, bread and coffee. After breakfast we had a rainstorm. The
ocean is now quite rough. The ship is pitching a lot. Dinner we had steak and
potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie and coffee. Quite a few of the boys are seasick. I
carried a 50 lb. sack of flour from the #2 hatch to the kitchen. It seemed very
heavy as the boat came up to meet my feet. Supper: beef stew, rice, beets,

bread, butter and coffee. The ship is rocking worse now. Some lost their supper
when they got on deck. Changed time hour at 18:30 to 18:00.
Nov. 9th Got up at 6:00. Ship still rocking plenty. Lots of boys got sick during the
night as some of them vomited on the ship stairway. It got a lot rougher after I
went to bed. So far I havent gotten sick. Breakfast: Vienna sausage, potatoes,
bread and coffee. Lots of boys didnt even go down for breakfast too seasick.
Washed out fatigues, jacket and handkerchiefs. Not many playing cards today.
Boys havent any pep at all. Dinner: cold salmon, potatoes, tomatoes, bread,
cake and coffee. I sure am hungry. Today at muster we were told we could have
a dry run Tuesday on getting off the boat. 721st would disembark at port aft.
Supper we had meatloaf, potatoes, peas, bread, cookies and hot tea. Change
time 1 hour from 18:30 to 17:30.
Nov. 10th: Got up at 6:15 a.m. Ocean very rough at times. Front end is out of
water and then propeller is out of water. The ship shudders a lot. Breakfast:
beans, cornbread, and coffee. A very small meal. Some of the boys are getting
used to the rough sea and are not so sick while some are worse than ever.
Dinner: boiled beef, potatoes, pickles, cake, bread and coffee. At muster the
captain told us we would dock at New York on the 15th a day earlier than
expected. So Monday would be the day for the dry run to debarking and we
would also have a louse inspection. No doubt it will be a glorified physical. The
usual inspection. Supper: chili, beans, spaghetti, bread and coffee. Heard
Army/Notre Dame football game. Change time hour at 18:30 to 18:00. Still
very rough, no movie or mass said on that account today.
Nov. 11th: Got up at 4:45 a.m. Ocean somewhat calmer than yesterday. But the
captain of the boat slowed up the speed of the ship today. Breakfast: scrambled
eggs, dehydrated potatoes, prunes, bread, and coffee. Went to mass at 8:30
a.m. Church very crowded. We are riding side ways of the waves and one time
while church was going on the ship tipped quite toward starboard side. Dinner
we had creamed chicken on toast, potatoes, asparagus, cake, bread and coffee.
Quite a few boys on deck today. Pretty nice in the sun. Took dose of salts.
Hoping it will move me. Supper cold cuts of sausage, potatoes, salad, bread,
chocolate, pudding and coffee. I heard we made 362 miles from yesterday to
noon today. Changed time hour at 1830 to 1800.
Nov. 12th. Got up at 6:10 a.m. Ship still rocking from side to side a lot. Deck wet.
North wind blowing quite hard. No one on starboard side. Ship being caused to
list a little. Breakfast: meat and gravy on toast, one cinnamon roll, coffee and

one apple. We had to stay outside because they wanted to have inspection.
Weather very miserable. Raining quite hard also cold. Boys hated to stand in
chow line on starboard side. Dinner: veal chops, gravy, string beans, and
coffee. Very few on deck and it is getting colder. Still north wind. At muster
compartment commander said we had made 425 miles up to noon for today for
24 hours. Supper beef stew and boiled rice, pickled beets, coffee and bread.
Time was changed one hour at 1830 to 1730. Took cold water shower, but didnt
stay in it long.
Nov. 13th: Got up at 6:10 a.m. Weather fairly warm according to previous days.
I stayed outside all day. Breakfast: pork sausage and potatoes and gravy,
bread and coffee. Sun came out about 9 a.m. Very nice in the sun! Dinner:
roast pork, potatoes, spinach, bread, and coffee. After 2 p.m. we had a dry run
as to how we are to debark. All the boys got a big kick out of it. We are the only
outfit on port aft. Captain Ernst told us we had 992 miles to go as of noon of
today. Supper we had wieners, sauerkraut, potatoes, bread, and coffee. After
supper it warmed up a lot and it started to drizzle and later it poured down.
Changed time hour at 1830 to 1800.
Nov. 14th: Got up at 6:05 a.m. The wind was blowing from the southwest quite
hard, but ocean was fairly decent. Breakfast: Vienna sausage, bread, coffee,
and 2 apples. Wind blowing quite a gale now. A large ship passed us. Some
said it was the Queen Mary, but it wasnt. Dinner I had pork chop, potatoes,
gravy, corn, peach pie, bread and coffee. At 10 a.m. we all were ordered down
in the hole for physical and louse inspection. Inspecting officer wasnt much
over 22 years old and it was just as well we didnt have inspection at all. At 2
p.m. we had to pack boxes again. Supper: meatloaf, potatoes, beans, pudding,
bread and coffee. We heard we were 550 miles from New York at noon today. At
7:30 p.m. we stopped and everyone rumored their ideas for the stop. Some said
an operation, one said a ship off starboard in distress and still no one knows the
reason. Changed time hour at 1830 to 1800.
Nov. 15th: Was awakened at 3 a.m. by a terrific roll of the ship and lots of the
boys seemed scared then dressed and stayed up. Finally got up at 5:45 a.m.
Ocean very rough. Wind changed to NW and my what waves. Its really
amazing how big those waves are. This is the second storm we have run into on
the Atlantic. This storm is more terrible than we GIs realized. At 8:30 a.m. we
were ordered to stay in our compartments until further orders. As waves might
sweep us off the deck. Also too many GIs wanted to stay on port side out of the

wind. We had quite a time eating this morning. One time the coffee pitchers
slipped off tables and spilt into our trays. It sure is hell on the guys that are sea
sick. Foghorn blows every five or ten minutes. 10 a.m. down in our
compartment we can hear mess kits, jack knives and what not sliding on the
floor as it rocks from side to side. Lots of the boys think it is funny and laugh
and holler. Just now an apple came by me on the floor just like it was shot out of
a gun. Also no compartment inspection this morning. Dinner: fried veal, bread,
potatoes and no drink at all. The sea is too rough. We can hardly hold trays on
the table. We stayed in the hole all day. About 4:30 p.m. it started to get a little
smoother. But still we arent allowed out on deck. Supper was cold cuts of meat.
No drink at all. We were told breakfast would be at 5:00 a.m. and then they
would start to unload troops at 8:30 a.m. at Pier 88 where Normandie turned
over. Time change hour at 1830 to 1800. Am all set to jump into my glad rags
in the morning.
Nov. 16th: Woke up at 2:45 a.m. as some of the guys said it was time to get up.
We are still sailing slowly into the bay. At 7:10 a.m. we were met by a welcoming
boat with a band playing and girls singing. Its really quite cold. Overcoats feel
good. All over we see signs, Welcome Home and Well Done. At 8:10 a.m. we
docked at pier 88. At 8:30 a.m. the hospital patients started to unload. We got
off at about 12:15 p.m. Had 2 pints of milk to drink and doughnuts given to us
by the Red Cross women. Marched on ferry and went to a Penn. railroad to a
train to go to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. Unloaded and a big baboo gave us a
talk. Also got tickets at 4:40 p.m. for steak dinner.about $2.00 per plate. Had
clothes checked at 8:00 p.m. and ready for bed in a good bed. German prisoners
do KP here. We saw the Statue of Liberty and also the Battleship
Missouri...what a boat! Also saw a fleet top ship. Gee the U.S.A. looks good.
The rumor is now that we will fly to Fort Lewis. Must wait and see. May get out
of here tomorrow. We heard a rumor that our boat had lost radio contact with the
states in the storm at sea. I sure am glad that the trip is over with.
Nov. 17th. Got up at 6:30. Breakfast of scrambled ham and eggs. Chow lines
are longer here than at Harahan. Rumors fly thick and fast. Showdown
inspection was just ask everyone if they had any live ammunition. Dinner:
hamburger, potatoes, bread, pineapple turnovers and coffee. Caught a hell of a
cold as I washed my head last night. At 1:30 p.m. I expressed a package home
them at 1:15 we assembled at building 727 to breakaway from 721st. We loaded
our bags and were assigned to area 9. Then a captain told us what would

happen here. Our stay would be 1-3 days. Supper was the same as dinner.
Could go and ask for a pass to New York if I had the money tomorrow, but wont.
Nov. 18th. Got up at 6:30 a.m. Had breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast,
cereal, and one delicious apple. At 11 a.m. we had our bags weighed. Mine
weighed 37 lbs. After I turned in shoes, mess kit and wet belt plus canteen.
Dinner was very good. But Ive got a hell of a cold. Chicken and fried potatoes.
For supper we had Chicken fricassee, cake and coffee.
Nov. 19th. Got up at 6:05 a.m. Breakfast: French toast, cereal, and coffee. We
heard some of our 721st boys left for Camp Beale. Put in for a pass, but dont feel
too good. Have the chills. At 10 a.m. the first flight was picked out of our
barracks. And another about 11 a.m. Dinner Swiss steak, salad, peas, pie, and
coffee. After dinner I had a fever of almost 102 F, but dont like to go to
dispensary. Im afraid they will put me in the hospital. Took a couple aspirins
and it went down to 100 F. After dinner another flight was called. We should get
it tomorrow. Supper: Beef stew, pea soup, cake, and coffee. Raining very hard
now.
Nov. 20th (nothing)
Nov. 21st: Weather still cold and I hate to get outside. At 8:30 we walked to PX
14. Came back and looked at flight board and found out we were on flight 192
and to leave on Nov. 23rd. Are we happy! After supper we went to service club
and were surprised to see so many girls dressed in evening gowns. Gee their
skin looks white. It sure is a big change from the black Indian girls. We just
stood and stared at them while GIs from Europe danced and had fun. It is quite
a shock to the nervous system. Thanksgiving Dinner was turkey, dressing,
potatoes, pie, ice cream and coffee. What a meal! We went to ready room at 7
p.m. to leave at 1 a.m. on Nov. 23rd.
Nov. 23rd: Arrived at airport at 10:20 a.m.
Left Newark at 12:50 a.m.
Arrived Buffalo at 2:50 a.m.
Arrived Milwaukee at 6:00 a.m.
Changed time 1 hour.
Arrived Minneapolis at 8:45 a.m.
Called Art and Florence.
Arrived Fargo at 10:45 a.m.

Arrived Billings, Montana at 2:30 p.m.


Changed time 1 hour.
Arrived Spokane at 4:45 p.m.
Changed time 1 hour.
Left Spokane at 4:15 p.m.
Arrived Seattle at 5:40 a.m.
(End of story)
Dad was probably put on a train bound for Fort Wayne instead of the air travel
that Pvt. John C. Skrentny detailed in his travel log. For me its very
interesting to read the everyday things that were so important to the soldiers,
like the meals. Having served in the military myself, I believe that many of the
support jobs like cooks and bakers are overlooked, but a critical part of the
military machine. Without those support workers, not much is going to get
accomplished!
After the war ended, Dad continued his job with the Pennsylvania Railroad in
various positions until his retirement as a conductor with Amtrak in 1975. He
went on to live his life as other WWII GIs, buying homes, having 7 children and
working on the railroad.
My Dad was a very social person, he loved visitors. One of his favorite events
was to host family reunions at our home on Ideal Ave in Waynedale. We had a
built-in swimming pool which everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Even to this day
when I run into cousins they always mention these reunions and what a good
time we all had. Card playing and beer drinking (for the adults) was a staple
well into the evening, with Euchre being one of everyones favorite card game.
For us kids, it was simply playing with our favorite cousins!
Dad rarely spoke of his military service, much like his comrades, although he
would occasionally proudly speak of the good food and desserts that he
prepared for his fellow soldiers. Until I put together this account, I never
realized that he had literally traveled around the world. Leaving Fort Wayne at
the beginning of the war and traveling west to India via the Pacific Ocean and
then returning home east through amazing places like the Suez Canal, the
Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar, to end up back in Fort Wayne.
Dad made a complete circle around the Earth and never uttered one word to

me about his fantastic journey. Im sure he would have talked about it if only I
had asked, but I never did.
Dad also thoroughly enjoyed attending the annual 721st Railway Operating
Battalion reunions held throughout the country from 1950 on. I remember
attending several of the reunions with him with the last one both us attending
in 1983 at King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.
Even though my Dad was sometimes a hard person to understand, three things
that I know for certain was that he always loved my mother, was fiercely loyal to
his brothers and sisters, and was proud of his children and grandchildren. As
Tom Brokaw appropriately called his generation The Greatest Generation,
they went in and did the job that needed to be done, returned home to carry on
with their lives and mostly never spoke of their war experiences, preferring no
glory or recognition, just a realization of a job well done and the knowledge and
satisfaction of leaving the world a better place than when they entered this life.
Michael Joseph Vorndran, 6th child of George & Rosemary Vorndran
ACGSI Member 1667
Fort Wayne, Indiana
1940 United States Federal Census, Fort Wayne, Allen, Indiana, USA, 1 Apr
1940
U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010
Venter, Edward J. A Short History of the 721st Railway Operating Battalion.
www.cbi-history.com/part_vi_721st_railway_bn.html
Skrentny, John C. Trip Home from Calcutta 1945.
http://griffincunningham.net/Griffin/MAIN/robstuff.htm