Lt. Lawson Reichard’s WWII Diary – May 16, 1943
by Alison Harder (05/16/09).
Sunday, May 16, 1943 At sea – headed for Casablanca, Morocco
May 16, 1943 Diary Page
It’s hard to realize that today is Sunday. Each and every day aboard ship is the same and one just runs into the other. There was a short church service this morning which was the only difference. I woke a little earlier this morning so decided to take a quick cold shower. It sure makes you feel a lot better. One thing that is bothering me is this shaving. I’m used to an electric razor so this safety razor is chewing my face up and the fact that we use cold water doesn’t help the situation any. This is another lovely day. The water is almost oily in its smoothness and as blue as if it were painted. The sky is full of small nimbus clouds floating across like patches of clean cotton. Dead seaweed, dried to a light brown has been floating by and I wonder where it came from. Several large schools of fish have been seen tearing away from the boat like frightened deer. We saw several “Manta Ray” that were huge. They are supposed to be very scarce. Today we were issued malaria pills and we take two doses of two pills each a week for the duration. If you don’t swallow them pretty fast they leave a hell of a bitter taste in your mouth. Most of the day was taken up talking to the gun crew and messing around. Ray has picked up a nurse. I’m not interested yet.
• RAF Lancaster bombers, flying Operation Chastise, bombed the Möhne and Eder dams in the industrial heart of Germany, releasing 160 million tons of water down the Möhne-Ruhr Valley, killing 1,300 civilians and cutting off electrical power to war industries. Specially modified Lancasters of the number 617 Squadron dropped circular “skipping bombs” that bounced along the surface of the water until impacting and exploding against the concrete dams. The Sorpe dam was also attacked by two aircraft and damaged, while a fourth dam, the Ennepe, was reported as being attacked by a single aircraft (O-Orange), but with no damage. An estimated 1,294 people were killed by floodwaters, and eight of the 19 aircraft dispatched failed to return with the loss of 53 aircrew and three taken prisoners of war. Wing Cmdr. Guy Gibson, commander of the 617, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his part in leading the attack. (http://www.raf.mod.uk/history/rafhistorytimeline1943.cfm)
The breached Möhne Dam taken by Flying Officer Jerry Fray of No. 542 Squadron from his Spitfire PR IX. The bombing of the Möhne and Eder dams on this day in 1943 cut electoral power to war industries in the Möhne-Ruhr Valley.
• German troops crushed the last resistance of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and killed thousands of Jews. The rest were sent to the Treblinka concentration camp to die. (http://www.worldwariihistory.info/1943.html)
• The Warsaw ghetto was finally cleared of Jews by the German police and security units. (http://www.worldwar-2.net/timelines/the-holocaust/the-holocaust-index-1943.htm)
• The German submarine, U-182, was sunk by the destroyer, USS Mackenzie (DD-614), west of the Madeira Islands.
1943 Diary Recaps
January 1943 Recap: We first met Lt. Reichard in January, stationed at McClellan Air Base in Sacramento, where he was in charge of a motor pool unit. Expecting to be sent overseas, their orders were changed and they became restless to see action. Lt. Reichard’s sweetheart, Ginnie, would write frequently, and he would go to dinner and movies with local girls – Dorothy, in Sacramento, and Marie, when the unit moved to Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho. The men have spent their days in lectures, and physical demonstrations to try to keep sharp mentally and physically. But they are getting increasingly restless.
February 1943 Recap: The unit continues to be restless as they still haven’t any orders for overseas. The days are kept busy with lectures, physical demonstrations, and frequent hikes in the mountains above Boise. Lt. Reichard receives a promotion to Lieutenant First Class and continues to write to Ginnie back home, though her letters are becoming more infrequent. February 1943 comes to an end with the unit still feeling bored and discouraged.
March 1943 Recap: March brings uncertainties in weather and daily life to Gowen Field. Still no word about overseas orders, the outfit must now share quarters with another unit. There is now time to begin a photo album, collecting pictures from times with the outfit. Letters from Ginnie are becoming more infrequent but there is no shortage of dates with the local girls in Boise. March comes to an end with everyone in the outfit anxiously awaiting word of upcoming furloughs.
April 1943 Recap: Last minute furloughs come through, and Lt. Reichard returns home to Maryland for some time with his family on the farm. He and Ginnie have a chance to talk things over and hopefully save the relationship. Just before leaving Boise, the unit gets orders that a move will come at the end of April. April comes to an end with the men spending a week in Stockton, California getting ready to ship out. But where they are going remains a mystery.
Lt. Reichard’s WWII Diary Project : On January 1, 2009, WorthPoint began a three year project following the life of a WWII soldier through the daily pages of his diary.To read about the inception of this project, or to add your own comments, click here.
Diary transcription: Kathleen Long
Diary photos: Claudia Forbes
Video production: Alison Harder
Narration: Mountain Vista H.S. Theater Department
Jeremy Goldson, Department Chair; Bryan Smith – voice of Lt. Reichard
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