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November 12, 2012

Veterans Day 2012: War veteran recalls trip home

NEW CASTLE — Veteran George Lamorella, almost 92, has memories not only of World War II, but especially his trip home.

“The war was over in Europe,” the Lynn Street resident said. “They loaded 60,000 of us on a ship, the General Richardson. We were supposed to go to the Pacific but the war ended in Japan so they sent us home.”

Lamorella, a quartermaster, served in both England and France. He was 22 when he was drafted in 1943.

After discovering pages of a diary he had kept during his passage home, Lamorella shared those memories for Veterans Day.

Day one was Aug. 12, 1945. “Headed for Panama and then to Manilla,” he wrote. “Anticipating a 35-day trip.”

He said rumors abounded that the war could end, which could change course and turn the ship back to the states. He noted the food was excellent, “the closest to home cooking since in the army.”

On Aug. 13, 1945, he recorded that he had seen the coast of Spain and the Strait of Gibraltar.

He recounted the lack of war news, rough seas and seasickness suffered by the men and wondered how he was going to make it through the entire journey.

Then good news — the sea is calm, and the Japanese surrender will be announced in a few days.

On Aug. 14 he noted he was awakened at 10:15 p.m. with news the war was over. “Guns were fired, whistles blew and the men roared,” he wrote.

The following day, on a calm sea, he noted, he had received “the most wonderful news I have heard since I have been in the army. We are coming home.”

Orders were changed and the ship turned for Boston, expecting to dock by 8 p.m. Aug. 20.

He noted all seasickness was gone.

Despite entertainment by the Coast Guard, cigarettes, candy and sighting flying fish and the first whales he ever saw, days passed slowly, Lamorella noted, as the men could think of nothing but going home.

“We would have been near the Panama Canal if the war had not ended,” he wrote on Aug. 18, 1945.

Lamorella, who rose at 4 a.m. Aug. 20, said he had hoped to see Boston, but it was pitch black.

“When it did get light, we were still out in the sea. No land. We spotted land at 8 a.m., but did not get in until 10 a.m.

“It sure was a beautiful sight to see the first sight of the states.” He said boats came by blowing whistles and cheering and they landed amid signs proclaiming “Welcome Home” and “Well Done.”

Lamorella said his ship was met by a boat with a band on board that followed his ship in. Troops began to disembark at 1 p.m. but he didn’t get off until an hour later. He was met by the Red Cross, which gave him a doughnut and a pint of fresh milk — the first he’d had in 16 months.

Looking back, he said, he recalled the trip “turned out very smooth, better than I thought it would, but we couldn’t wait to get off the ship and home.”

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

 

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