Of The 347th Ordnance Depot Company
Chapter 2: Here We Go!
Shaking the dust of Oklahoma from their feet on April 5, 1943, the company headed in motor convoy for the Louisiana Maneuver Area arriving on the 7th. The unit was assigned to the 194th Ordnance Battalion under the command of Major H. M. Murray. The mission was to supply all Ordnance parts to the Blue Forces composed of the 85th Division and miscellaneous independent units. During this period the rough spots in depot procedure were ironed out and the "know how" of picking up, moving out, moving in and setting up in a minimum amount of time was gained.
On May 6, Captain Clark was transferred to the 72nd Ordnance Battalion and Lt. William. H. McDonald assumed command. From April 7, to June 15, the end of the second phase of the 1943 maneuvers, 93% of all parts for general purpose vehicles requested were furnished and only one vehicle was deadlined (out of operation for 72 hours) for lack of parts. The unit received an excellent rating for its operation in that phase.
The company was ordered to remain in the Maneuver Area to receive and redistribute all the Ordnance equipment of the 93rd Division, which was going to desert maneuvers. Then came the crowning blow. The 343rd Ordnance Depot arrived for the third phase of the Louisiana Maneuvers with nothing but men and vehicles. Orders came through that the 347th was to transfer its complete load to that unit. All attempts to show the work required to build a stock of parts and to talk the authorities out of their decision failed and so it was a dejected group that drove into Camp Clairborne with empty trucks on June 30, 1943.
Assigned to the 313th Ordnance Battalion under the command of Major M. I. Bookman, they found a large list of deadlined vehicles and a warehouse full of parts. The main trouble was that the parts were not binned and no one knew what was there. Working 16 hours a day, the parts were all classified and properly stocked within a week and in a short time the deadlined list was cut to three vehicles for which there were no parts available. On the 14th of July, the company was given a new T/O and E (Table of Organization and Equipment) and its final designation - 347th Ordnance Depot. On the 5th of August the notice for which they had been waiting arrived -- the alert for overseas shipment. The mission of supplying Camp Clairborne Louisiana was turned over to the 846th Ordnance Depot (another good load of parts lost) and a program of intensive training was instituted.
The men fired all the qualification courses, ran the obstacle course, shot up a village, crawled under machine gun fire on the infiltration course, took the 25 mile march and everything else that 2nd Headquarters Special Troops, Third Army could think of until they finally stood, battered and torn, but ready to go. Many of the limited service men had failed the physical requirements for overseas service and forty-four were received from other units at Camp Clairborne to complete the T/O, but during the ordeal of the intensive training program they fitted right into the organization so that they were members in good standing by the time the departure date arrived.
On the 15th of September a train backed to the loading platform, the company filed on, and the big trip was under way. Camp Shanks, New York was the next stop, the company arriving September 18. Final clearance was attained in 24 hours and passes to New York City commenced. For reveille half the company would fall out of the barracks, the others out of the busses from New York.
On the 7th of October there was another train, then a ferry, then a large dock complete with Red Cross, coffee and doughnuts, then a gangplank up into a huge transport. Everyone knew then it was no dry run. In the early hours of October 8th, 1943 the 'James Parker' slid down into the Hudson past the Statue of Liberty and out to sea, one of a large, well guarded convoy bound for England. She was a comparatively new ship and it would have been an excellent crossing if conditions had not been so crowded. Canvas cots three high had been erected in the ships holds but these only accommodated half the men. The men were divided into two shifts and would spend 12 hours on deck and 12 below. Only two meals could be served a day because of the number of men who had to pass through the galley.
No enemy action was encountered, but a large storm put many of the land lubbers below the weather. It was with happy eyes that the first views of England were caught, and on the 18th of October the transport tied up alongside one of the huge floating wharves of Liverpool. One day was spent in waiting and it was 3:00 a.m. on the morning of October 20, 1943 that the 347th filed down the gangplank and was ashore in England.