Roewe, George J. Jr. ‘45
I made my contribution to WW 2 by joining the U.S. Maritime Service serving as Deck Cadet and 3rd Mate. As a kid I had fished, rowed and sailed boats. I had a great interest in water activities and felt I could provide my best service to my country on the water. I had been a Boy Scout and a Sea Scout as well. When my selective service notice came, it interrupted by goal to go to Georgia Tech to train to be a chemist. Consequently, I joined the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y.
The four year course had been shortened to 18 months which involved 3 months at the Academy, 6 months at sea on a ship and 12 months back at the Academy. While you were on the ship as a student you worked 6 hours a day as a Deck Cadet, doing ship jobs. Two hours a day were allowed to complete your Sea Project. This required 2 sets (250 pages in each set) to sets of your Sea Project and two textbooks that had to do with your onboard duties and learning experiences to make learning more functional as a Deck Officer. It took more like four-five hours a day to research for all the answers to these questions. If you didn’t get a good grade on the Sea Project you were fired and sent back to the Army Ground Forces. I passed as did most of us in the class. I graduated in January 1945.
While at the Academy and at sea, we were paid $65.00 a month. If our ship was in a convoy, your pay was double. The ship I was on was built on Hog Island, PA.; now known as the Philadelphia, Airport. This ship was built in 1918 for WW I and moved at about 7 knots. It was too slow for 1942 convoys. We were assigned during those six months at sea to sail on this vessel, and we sailed to South America. No German submarines were supposed to be in that area, hence no convoys. We never saw or heard any subs during those 6 months.
I returned to Kings Point for 12 months and graduated with a Deck Third Mate’s License at about $250 a month.
I sailed for two trips in convoys back and forth two weeks each way in ships that were built in the mid 1940’s and sailed at 20 knots. On the 3rd trip I became ill and was taken off the ship and put in a hospital in France. While in the hospital we heard V-2 bombs overhead on their way to England. They sounded like an automobile with no muffler. The Germans had captured much of western France and were at the French/Belgian border. Our hospital position on the ground just happened to be in the target line overhead as the V-2’s flew to London to explode and kill people. We all hoped they wouldn’t fall short and fall on us. None did. That was a scare every day in the hospital.
I got well and relieved another ill ship’s officer and got on his ship as 3rd mate. This ship was in route to Marseilles, France to pick up 2,000 soldiers on their way to Japan.
The 2,000 soldiers in Marseilles were paid off for their wages in $100 bills. There was no professional entertainment on the vessel headed to Japan. So, they played cards, Gin Rummy, Poker and any other games and bet only $100 bills. I will never forget looking at those pots of winnings holding thousands of dollars. As we neared the Panama Canal, the Atomic Bomb was dropped in Japan, and several days later the Japanese surrendered. We were happily rerouted to Savanna, Georgia for discharge and took trains home.
I continued to sail after this as a 2nd mate for U.S. Lines on trips that usually lasted only 4 to 6 weeks and only seeing your wife for a week before the next 6 week trip. I gave up going to sea. I returned to college, got my degree in Chemistry and worked for the DuPont Company for the next 28 years.