111th Observation Squadron
World War II Narrative History
Part III: At Sea
We woke in the
morning conscious of a steady throbbing throughout the ship which had not existed the
night before. The die-hards among us headed for the chow line and then the deck, just in
time to see the Statue of Liberty slip by. Most of us stayed in the sack, however, because
reports on the chow were not heartening and we couldn't see much sense in getting out of
bed to see Miss Liberty going in the wrong direction.
The six days spent aboard the Queen
Mary were a hodge-podge of "Sweating out" super PX lines, being constantly lost
in the maze of decks, corridors and stairs that are contained in the ocean-going behemoth,
and active participation in the 24-hour crap games that could be found in operation in
every other stateroom. Not even on the high-seas could we avoid the suspicious stare of
the military police. No passage way was complete without one and they took delight in
apprehending GI's wandering loose without a life preserver in their possession. One
morning while reading the daily ship bulletin board we noted with interest that the German
government had claimed to have sunk the Queen Mary again for the sixth time.
Early in the afternoon of October 2,
1942, the upper deck of the Queen Mary was jammed with troops enjoying an after-lunch
promenade. The rails were lined with O.D. clad soldiers who were watching with interest
the maneuvers of several British destroyers and cruisers which had joined the Queen that
morning to serve as an escort. From time to time, one of the warships wood scoot across
the bow of the liner diagonally, and at the moment an anti-aircraft cruiser had started
its run in that direction. As the cruiser neared the liner it became apparent to those
that watched that the cruiser did not have enough speed to make a successful passage and
we kept waiting for the smaller ship to veer off and try again. An enemy submarine was
suspected of being on the port side of the Queen Mary.
The Queen Mary struck the cruiser
directly amidships and severed the bow from the stern. We who watched were stunned and
horrified at what we were witnessing. The after part of the stricken ship scraped the
starboard side of the Queen Mary and we could see no life on the decks. Men were draped
from cables strung around the cruiser deck and lay in crumpled heaps on the steel deck.
Depth charges and torpedoes, which had broken loose from their mounts, scooted past with
all sorts of nondescript wreckage. In a quarter of a minute, what had but a moment before
been a fine man-o-war was now a fast disappearing hulk far in the wake of the Queen Mary.
The grim realities of war had hit us suddenly.
The collision had torn a huge hole in
the bow of the speedy liner and was slowed perceptibly while emergency repairs were made
to enable her to reach port safely. Sickened by what we had seen, we made our way back to
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