May 1972 Issue
By Howard B. Gorman
In attempting to compile a history of the 327th Harbor Craft Company, Army Transportation Corps, the writer is somewhat handicapped by the lack of specific dates regarding arrivals, departures and other aspects of unit movement. However, with my own knowledge of tihe unit through personal affiliation and with data supplied by Henry L. Stubbs, Opelousas, La., a former company officer and the last company commander, I believe I can provide a composite and fairly accurate chronology of the unit's activities here and in CBI.
The 327th and 326th Harbor Craft Companies were formed and activated at the Port of Embarkation, North Charleston, S.C., in the early part of 1943. The writer was assigned to the 327th in July of that year and proceded there from Fort Douglas, Salt Lake City, Utah.
The company was divided into two sections, operations and maintenance. Because of his MOS, your writer was assigned to maintenance as an electrician. Intensive training was begun, using the facilities of the Charleston Navy Yard and the adjacent Cooper River. The operations crews performed the actual manning of the motor tow launches and sea mules which ultimately provided the motive power for transport at our overseas station, as yet unknown. The electrician crew received intensive marine electrical training at the Navy Yard under the supervision af civilian personnel.
Many of the men in the operations section were former members of the merchant marine, or had previous tugboat operation experience with extensive training in both deck and engineroom operations on board ship.
This activity, interspersed with the normal military training routine, carried on through the remainder of 1943 and into the early part of 1944. In late February shipping orders were received, the frantic activities of packing and moving began, and we departed by train for Camp Patrick Henry, Va., where we arrived to find snow on the ground and the weather bitterly cold. Following a relatively short stay here we embarked on the U.S.S. General Mann at Newport News March 7, and sailed for an unknown destination.
After a stormy but uneventful vovage we arrived at Casablanca where both companies went by truck to Camp Don Passage. After a stay at this location we again went by truck into Casablanca, where we boarded the well-known and much-maligned (and rightfully so) "40 & 8" for a miserable three-day train ride to Oran. Here the units boarded the former British liner S.S. Winchester Castle for a very pleasant trip to Port Said. This phase of the journey was like a cook's tour as there was ample room for all with the personnel occupying staterooms. The chow was British in origin and preparation, but not too bad.
At Port Said we were transported ,by barge to the middle of the Suez Canal where everyone sat in the hot sun for an ungodly time, after which all hands boarded another British troop transport, the S.S. Orranto. This trip was a nightmare compared to our jaunt from Oran. The ship was loaded to the brim with both GI and British troops and space was at a premium. The trip through the Canal and into the Red Sea was quite interesting in spite of the overcrowded conditions, and after passing out of the Red Sea the next stop was at the port of Aden for taking on oil and supplies. From Aden the ship entered the Indian Ocean and we arrived at Bombay on 25 April 1944. We were able to witness first hand the terrible devastation wrought by the ammunition ship explosions that had occurred prior to our arrival. The entire dock area was a shambles. From Bombay both units went by train across India via Nagpur to our nowobvious destination, Calcutta. This trip was considerably more pleasant than our trip in North Africa, and all of us enjoyed watching the countryside roll past.
After arriving in Calcutta, both harbor craft units were billeted temporarily at the Lady Bradbourne College in Park Circus. This was a college for women in peacetime, but it was being used at this time as a rest camp.
The stay here lasted about two weeks during which time the 327th began operating out of the King George Docks, which was our permanent base of operations. The operations crews were made up and assigned motive power, and began their trips up and down the Hooghly River hauling vital sup-plies and material for re-shipment or assignment to other areas and installations. This activity went on continuously through the remainder of 1944 and on into the following year. Meanwhile the 327th finally was established in its permanent camp at Camp Togoa on the Barrackpore Trunk Road some miles out of Calcutta. The men went back and forth to King George Docks by truck, and operations were now proceeding smoothly. Tonnage being hauled was constantly increasing and some crews were engaged in hauling vital gasoline and petroleum products by barge from Budge-Budge.
All personnel suffered the usual afflictions associated with CBI - dengue fever, malaria, dysentery, heat rash, et al - however, the unit continued to function.
After the surrender of Germany everyone could begin to see the ultimate defeat of Japan and the chance to return home. Following a stay in the 142nd General Hospital with a roaring attack of dengue fever, your writer was sent to Khulna on DS. There, with the help of other 326th and 327th personnel, a large floating machine shop barge was being completed.
About mid-November 1945, orders were cut for the first leg of my journey home. I returned by train to Calcutta, where other personnel were awaiting orders at Camp Togoa. After saying "so long" to our buddies we went by truck to Replacement Depot No. 3 at Kanchrapara to await further transportation home. We spent Thanksgiving here, and due to the HinduMoslem riots Calcutta was off limits, so we were forced to see the sights in the area adjoining Kanchrapara. Shortly after Thanksgiving, we were entrucked for Camp Hialeah, Calcutta, stayed there overnight, and embarked the next morning on the U.S.S. General Hase at Princep Ghat. We sailed from Calcutta on 28 November 1945, arriv-ing in New York on 28 December 1945. All personnel went by ferry to Jersey City, then by train to Camp Kilmer. After an 11-day stay I went by ATC to McClellan Field, Calif., and on to Camp Beale for final processing and discharge on 11 January 1946.
The remainder of the 327th Harbor Craft Company that was still in Calcutta underwent numerous changes of command and ultimately came under the final command of Lt. Henry Stubbs, who deactiviated the company in Calcutta in early 1946. The men came back to the United States by various ways and means.
During the life of the 327th there were several command changes. Our original CO, Capt. U. G. Mosier Jr., was sent back to the States in 1945 and at the time of my departure, Captain Johnson, former 326th CO, was commanding officer.
Overall both harbor craft units played a very important role in the transportation of vitally needed supplies and material necessary to the successful prosecution of the war in the CBI. In many cases they were the only units that could get supplies from one place to another for trans-shipment to Assam, Burma or over the Hump.
My sincere thanks to Henry Stubbs for the data concerning the activities of the 327th after my departure. I have tried to make this article as accurate as memory and the passage of time will permit. I hope that any former members of either unit can, in time to come, add their little bits and pieces to the story of the TC units that "went to sea" and sailed the dirty bloomin' Hooghly.