Detoured to the Queen Mary,
Linda suggested, “Why don’t we all move to the living room, we will be more comfortable. We can have our pie and coffee a little later.”
As they entered the living room Vicky spotted a photo of Hank in uniform he picked it up to study it carefully. Hank noticed Vicky holding the picture and commented, “That was taken at Fort Dix, NJ just before I got on the troop train to NY.” He continued, “ Funny thing is I just got that film developed last week. I carried that roll of film all over Europe even to Berlin and back.” Ronny moved in to take a closer look at this well-traveled photo. Ronny said, “You look pretty handsome Uncle Hank.” Hank responded to the compliment by saying, “It will take more than flattery to pay for the surgery in the work shop.” “By the way how does that feel?” Ronny turned his head back and forth to show Hank the limits of his mobility. Hank turned to Victor and asked, “I think that is normal for what he has been through, don’t you?” Victor responded, “I think so and I think it will be worse tomorrow morning. We will put some hot packs on him before bed and try to loosen him up.”
Hank reached for the photo and as he did he said, “They would not take me when I volunteered because of my asthma but then drafted me later.”
Victor: “They never got so hard up they needed me. I can’t see what I’m eating without my glasses.” Passed my vision problems on to the boys too.
Hank replied, I know you did War Work for the government. That is God’s providence too. Some have to stay by the stuff some have to cross over to the battle. Hank was making an oblique reference to scripture; 1 Samuel 30:24.
Hank Continued, “The day after that photo was taken I was on the Queen Mary and the week after that we were on our way to Europe.”
Virginia exclaimed, “Queen Mary, you were on the Queen Mary?” Hank replied, “Yes for about 10 days that time.” “We were over 16,000 men, not counting the crew. It was all elbows and armpits on that ship. And Hitler had put $250,000 prize for the U Boat that sank us. “
Linda’s face reddened, “Hank your language please.”
Hank continued with his thought, “If I had known then what I know now I would have slept easier those nights at sea.”
Victor asked, “Did you mean 16,000 men or 1600 men?”
Hank responded, “It was 16,082 to be exact not counting the crew. We set the record for the most souls on a single transport.”
“Bunk beds three and four high so close together that if your neighbor had an itch you felt it.
We did everything in shifts, it was so close we had to take turns snoring”
Virginia gave an involuntary “Yuk!” as some image lit up her imagination. She had been thinking of the 12,000 war brides the Queen Mary transported to the U.S. and Canada after the war. But that romantic excursion was dashed by a vision of all those smelly soldiers on the Queen Mary.
Hank unable to resist sharing some more details added, “Looking back, it was those days I was beginning to think seriously about spiritual matters.”
He continued, “When we got on the ship there was a clerk there to check your name off and assign you a bunk. There was also a civilian there handing out New Testaments. Hank finished, “I still have that Bible.”
Hank stepped to the book-case to retrieve the Bible and handed it to Victor. The rest of his family crowded around to get a look.
It was a pocket-size New Testament and had a steel sleeve over the front cover. It was intended to be carried in the left breast pocket covering the heart in two ways.
After the Testament was passed around it ended up in Vickie’s hand he held on to it as everyone returned to their places.
He was tapping the steel cover and estimating the ballistic characteristics of the cover.
Hank spoke again, “That man, the one handing out the Bibles, seemed to have a word for each man who passed. To me he said;”….