Heroes: the Army
"...Over two or three weeks, we were able to put together a show with singing, dancing, comedy routines, etc. We put on a show, and that first night the crowd went wild..."
Harry J. Morley
- Branch of Service: Army
- Unit: 6th Special Services Platoon,HQ-GFRC-ETO
- Dates: June 1943 - February 1946
- Location: European Theater
Camp Hood Texas, New York University, England, France,Germany, Belgium,Holland
- Rank: PFC
- Birth Year: 1923
- Entered Service: Bay City, MI
Harry J. Morley' Story
I was a student at Alma College in Michigan when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I enlisted in the Army at Bay City, Michigan the following week.
I was sent to Camp Custer, near Battle Creek, Michigan for processing. Fron there I was sent to Fort Hood, Texas for basic training. After six months of fun and games being trained by personnel from the tank corp on on how to be an infantry soldier, I was selected to go to New York University for training as a weather specialist. I didn't learn a lot, but had a lot of god times in the city.
After six months of "study", the program was canceled, and we were all scheduled to be shipped to a replacement depot in England for reasignment.
The day we were to leave, I awakened early in the morning with severe abdominal cramps. I was taken to sick bay and diagnosed as having an appendicitis attack. I was rushed to the Bronx General Hospital and operated on. In the meantime all of my buddies were shipped to England, reassigned to units, and most died during the attack on the Normandy beaches.
While all this was going on, I was recuperating in a hosptal in Atlantic City. Fortunately, the army seemed to have forgotten me, and I spent a lovely several months on the boardwalk, eating better than I had ever eaten in my life and enjoying a lot of attention from women who thought I was recovering from some war incurred event in Europe. Up to now, anyone reading this has to be nauseus or jealous. In either case, I understand.
The army finally found me and shipped me to England. I ended up at a replacement center in Tidworth. While waiting for assignment, I met a friend of mine from NYC. He was in Special Service at the camp, and was looking for volunteers to help him organize shows to provide some entertainment for the thousand of men in the camp waiting for assignment to some unit.
I joined him, and we managed to find about two dozen men in the camp that had some musical and show business skills. One of the men had played first chair trumpet for the Cleveland Symphony. Another played trumpet in a orchestra that played for Hollywood movies, and our best find was an arranger and scorer of music for Broadway shows and major orchestras of the day. We also found tap dancers and comedians that were early in their careers before the army swept them up.
Over two or three weeks, we were able to put together a show with singing, dancing, comedy routines, etc. We put on a show, and that first night the crowd went wild. With that response, the officers in charge decided that we should put on a couple of shows each week. Naturally we improved as we worked, and it kept us involved until we recieved our individual assignments. One night, the General Staff of the camp came, enjoyed it, and decided that we should be sent to other camps and military hospitals around England to entertain the troops and to do something special for the wounded. We were sent to all the places that USO shows wouldn't go, or the army did not think they should be exposed to certain areas. I do not know for sure, but entertaining some of the wounded from tank battles, bombings and other horrendous terrors was the most heat rending and most satisfying experiences that anyone could have. Here were men, hanging on to life by a very thin thread, and we were able in our way to bring smiles and laughter to their lips. I was the solo vocalist with the troop, and we had a guitarist who was a professional and accompanied me. We would go from ward to ward. I would sing anything they asked for, and those that wanted to hear some great jazz guitar were happy to hear him play.
While all this was going on, we kept refining the show, and decided to give it a name. "This Ain't The Army". Any of you interested enough to read this, know how the army can scrounge for materials and get things done. Well we had signs painted, scenes prepared, and costumes designed from discarded parachutes. We chose not to ask whether they had been discarded or what was left from some drop. Better not to know.
If this was how we were going to serve our country, entertaining troops in England, that was OK with all of us. HOWEVER, someone, somewhere, decided that there was a need for us in Europe to entertain troops where it would be unwise to send USO troops.
So, off we went. Piled aboard a freighter and dumped on the beach at Omaha. Did you ever realize how lucky you could be having appendicitus. There was still all kinds of hardware scattered up and down the beach as far as you could see. The only this missing was the hell that had gone on there for twentyfour hours.
This is the army. We had been assigned a young Lt. who was young. From the start of this story, when I arrived in England, I had risen from a b--k--s private to Ist. Sgt. Now do not give me a hard time. I was working hard. OK, No one was shooting at me. My toughest job was finding food, housing and transportation. Why was that hard. The powers that be forgot to provide us with transportation, where to go, food to eat, etc. SOOO, We did a "little" moonlight requisitioning. To this day I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE THE TRUCKS AND STAFF CAR CAME FROM. Now I am willing to admit that the staff car looked like something that German officers might have driven. Well maybe.
There was one time when were were totally out of food, and did some moomlight recquisioning of a train that was guarded by other American troops. Thank goodness, no one was hurt and we were well suppled with C rations.
Out lt's sole job was to contact military headquarters all over the ETO area and ask if they would like entertainment. Everyone said yes. So we put on our show anyplace you can imagine. In the woods, in blasted cities, under fire in Belgium. Incidentally the fire from both sides went on for hours, but not one trooper got up and left during the two hour or the show.
I could go on for hours, but if anyone is interested, let me know.
I was one of the most fortunate men in the army in WWII. True I did not fight, for which I thank God everyday, however I was rewarded personnaly in ways that would take volumns to tell.
I have not thought about this in over fifty years. It was pleasurable to think about part of what happened.
----- Harry J. Morley
(Editor's note: Attempts were made throughout the text of the following story to place full names to the men listed in the story. For the most part, this is an educated guess and some names may very well be mistaken in their identy. The names were all taken from the division history book: With The 102d Infantry Division Through Germany, edited by Major Allen H. Mick. Using the text as a guide, associations with specific units were the basis for the name identifications. We are not attempting in any to rewrite the story. Any corrections are gladly welcomed.)
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The above story, "Harry J. Morley's Story", by Harry J. Morley was contributed to us at World War II Stories -- In Their Own Words,via e-mail
Original Story submitted on 13 May 2003.
Story added to website on 27 May 2005.
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