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This Christmas postcard, sent from Camp 59 by Robert Dickinson to his parents and young brother Len, reads:
“To Mum, Dad, and Len.
Laden with Good Wishes
“This sailing ship is carrying
A load of Xmas cheer
And luck and happiness enough
To last another year
“Greetings and Best Wishes
Robert’s ocean scene is full of happy detail. Wind fills the sails of the ship, named Len, and sends it on it’s merry way toward “Blighty” (a nickname for Britain). A gull carries a sign that reads “Good Luck” as it sails on a breeze overhead. One sailer, playing an accordion, balances on the bowsprit. Another, with broad-brimmed hat, lands a fish at the back of the ship.
This account is from the first of two interviews with Armie regarding his experience during World War II. Armie’s son Dennis Hill taped this conversation on February 21, 1976 in Phelps, Wisconsin.
Dennis edited the transcript; Armie also made a few additions and corrections to the story.
This portrait of Armie was created by an artist in North Africa.
En Route to Invasion
“On August 31, 1942 the troops in my company left the States. Our first stop was Antrim County, Ireland. We were in Ireland for a few weeks. Then they sent us to England—to Liverpool. In England we had an idea that we would be sent someplace, but we didn’t know where we would be sent. We had been given extra training. We had spent time getting all our equipment ready. Everything had to be covered with oil and grease so that it would be waterproof, and then we covered it with canvas.
“One day we were told to be ready to load on the ships. They took us in barges out to the ships. And the ship that I was loaded on—I was a sergeant and a squad-leader at the time—wasn’t a passenger ship but an old, Russian ship that had been used to carry freight. It really wasn’t sea-worthy. All around ships were being loaded. It took us several days to load and assemble the convoy. Finally, we set off from Liverpool.
“We were given orders to stay below deck. When we were allowed on deck, we weren’t supposed to throw anything in the water that would give a clue as to the trail of the ships. When we did throw anything overboard—garbage or anything—it was always at night.
This account of Armie Hill’s early service experience, from induction and training through combat and capture, is based on the second of two tape-recorded interviews Armie made with his son Dennis.
This conversation was recorded on August 24–26, 1987 in Phelps, Wisconsin. Dennis edited the transcript and made a few additions and corrections that Armie requested.
Armie Hill at Fort Ord, California, 1941
First Year in Service
“I’ll start my story from the beginning, when I was first inducted into the service. I received my draft notice 1940 and signed up for selective service. Word came that December that I would be called, and I was inducted into the service in January 1941.
“This was the first draft and I was one of the first men drafted from Vilas County. There were about seven of us who were drafted from Vilas County, and I was the first one from the town of Phelps. We went to the courthouse in Eagle River and we were driven by bus—I think it was to the train station—and then we took a train to Chicago, and then from Chicago to Fort Sheridan, Illinois.
“At Fort Sheridan we were selected to go to Fort Ord in California. We went by train and it took us several days to get there.
“At that time, Fort Ord had been a tent camp—everyone had been living in tents. Before we arrived, new barracks had just been hastily put up and everything at the fort was still a mess. A lot of the work was still undone. The streets were sand. It was raining. We hadn’t had basic training, so we got all of our training there at Fort Ord.
“All was confusion there. I thought to myself, ‘If they’d just let me out, I’d walk home.’