George A Bane Autobiography, Part 7, Final Chapter

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Here it is, folks. The final installment of my grandfather's memoirs. It is very bittersweet to be done--I don't want to acknowledge that it is the end, you know, because it is a reminder that this great and fascinating man is gone, and I can't ask him the questions that I would love to ask him. I have all sorts of thoughts and comments about the memoirs that I will post soon, but I will point out a couple things--first of all, this was written before my cousin Scott was born, so when he mentions his three grandchildren, he actually got one more. Secondly, it is pretty interesting and heartbreaking to me that in this passage he talks about the gift of memory from "our Great Maker" and yet, he lost his treasured memories to a cruel disease.

All in all, I am so very grateful to have these memoirs and finding them was like finding a pot of gold.

Update: The whole autobiography is now collected in one place in a variety of formats (as a web page, a PDF, and a printed book).

Read Part One Here
Read Part Two Here
Read Part Three Here
Read Part Four Here
Read Part Five Here
Read Part Six Here
The old gooney bird I was on busted an oil line in the port engine about halfway between Karachi and New Delhi. The pilot cut the port engine and feathered the prop. We limped along on one engine and landed at Agra for repairs. We spent the night in the transit barracks and caught a train into New Delhi the next day. In the short time we were in Agra, I had time enough to take a nice tour of the Taj Mahal. The pictures you see in books don't give it justice. It is indeed a beautiful place, both inside and out.

The pilot of our plane gave us an aerial view of the Taj before we landed, even with one engine. He circled around it several times, as low as he could, which was pretty darn low. Nothing to worry about, those C47s were the toughest and most dependable transport aircraft we had during WW2. There were no flys on the guys that few them either, especially on the hump run into China. Those kind words do not apply to C46s though. The crew, yes, but not to the airplane.

We left Agra the next day by train and arrived New Delhi around two or three o'clock that afternoon. We were picked up and carried directly to the radio station, which was located smack a dab in the middle of New Delhi. Everything was pretty well at a stand still, as far as transcribing the tape was concerned. By the next morning we had all of the tape transcribed, all the local stuff delivered and the refile traffic transmitted to the addressee.

We were quartered in a building a short distance from the capital of India. The Capital building is a large two-story circular edifice surrounded by a moat. The building alone is nearly a half mile in circumference and houses all of the major Govt offices. The foundation was laid in 1921 and opened in 1927.

We settled down to a regular daily routine, rotating the day and night shifts to make it as easy on the operators as we could. About 1 o'clock in the morning, signals would drop completely out. During this time we would poke tape, clean up the joint, and take turns in pairs going over to the all night tea shop at All India Radio, just a short bicycle ride from our station. We would sit around for a short while and drink tea, eat a few small cakes and cookies and then hop on our trusty bikes and pedal back to the sweat shop.

Signals would start coming in around 5am from all directions and business started picking up in a hurry. The day shift would relieve us at 6am. I would go to the All India Coffee House and eat breakfast, go to my room and try to get some sleep.

I would get up around noon, eat lunch and usually go for a long sight seeing bike ride, most of the time with one or two of the other fellows. This was my favorite pastime during my tour of duty in India.

I treasure very much having the opportunity to visit and examine the ancient ruins of a brilliant civilization. A goodly number of the old forts, towers and other buildings that date back several centuries are still standing in good repair, not only for tourist attraction, but to preserve the history of a proud people. I would like to be able to go back and revisit all of these places, but I know that will never be. Our Maker gave us the ability to recall our past experiences both good and bad. We must be able to cherish the good things that happened in our past and not dwell on the bad.

Well, it looks like the big war is winding down. The Middle East is in allied hands, Field Marshall Rommel has been killed in a jeep accident, at least that's what the German news releases say. The Ruskies are advancing on their front, and our GIs are getting close to Berlin. The would-be world dictator Herr Hilter is in his bunker, no doubt praying to some war god for victory, while our B17s pulverize Berlin and other German cities. Their air and sea power is nil.

Prior to this time I was promoted to Tech Sgt and had a shift of my own. I had as fine a group of men as anyone could ask for. I only had to pull rank on one man, and that was minor.

It looks like it's almost over in Germany--about all that's left is is a mopping up operation and some paper signing.

There's still lots of killing to do in the Pacific yet though. Our GIs have hoisted the flag on Iwo Jima, the Philippines is back in our hands, and our GIs are moving slowly but surely toward Japan itself. It looks as if we will beat that Tokyo gate in 48 bread line in 49.

I am now Acting Chief Operator and have been for a couple of months. Several of our original bunch have already been shipped back to the States, and we had no experienced operators to replace them with. All we had was a group fresh out of school. One of them was a tech Sgt that thought he was God's gift to the US Army Signal Corps. I ask him about his copying speed, his answer almost floored me--40 to 50 words per minute!! I told him I had a position waiting for him. I put him on the Kunming Circuit, the only good manual circuit we had left. He sat down, put paper in his typewriter and just sat there. I tried to get him to call Kunming and tell him to go ahead with his traffic, he still just sat there. I reached over his shoulder and called Kunming and told him to go ahead with his traffic. The operator on the other end started sending. After the heading and four or five lines, he had not touched a key on his typewriter. I broke Kunming and sat down and copied his messages. Now the fun comes in. I sat him down for a little conference. The first thing I said to him was "Sgt, you told me you could copy 40 to 50 WPM." His answer was, "I said 40 to 50, not 60 to 70." I felt sorry for the kid, but he learned a big lesson from this. He realized he wasn't so hot after all. I worked with him, and he made a serious effort to build up his speed and become a good radio operator. Before I left, he was coming along just fine.

My orders were being cut to be rotated back to the states when our Chief Signal Officer asked me to stay over for a few weeks to help train the new operators. I agreed to stay over as long as necessary. He also hinted at a field commission as Second Lt if I would take a 30 day leave in the States and return for another tour of duty in New Delhi. I regret that I didn't take his offer. It would have been a temporary commission, and I would have reverted back to my regular Army Tech Sgt after the war.

My orders were cut for my return to the States 22 February 1945. The exact date of departure escapes me now, but it was not over two days at the most. In the Sands Hotel on Miami Beach. Boy this was something else for an old country boy like me. I ran into one of the fellows I knew in New Delhi. He had been a vocalist in one of the big bands before he was drafted. He was in charge of entertainment for the entire rest center. He supplied me with all the free tickets to the night clubs, and whatever else was going on that I could use.

When I used up all my twelve days on R and R, I was given orders to report to the C.O., Camp Crowder, MO. Just my luck, I was put in charge of a group, also on their way to Crowder. We traveled by train and at the first stop, the news boys came along side with an Extra. This is how we found out about the president's death.

We arrived Camp Crowder just in time to take part in the ceremony in honor of President Roosevelt. We all stood at attention, holding a rigid salute as a military band played taps while the flag was lowered to half mast.

My stay at Camp was uneventful. We went out in the mountains on a week's maneuvers. To tell the truth I kindly enjoyed it. I got to fly around the area checking camouflage discipline. I didn't know exactly what I was supposed to be looking for, but I enjoyed flying in the L12 spotter plane and being given the opportunity to see the country from the air.

I was given the job of Barracks Sgt. All I had to do was march the men to and fro from class and see that things were spic and span and in order for inspection day. After finishing these duties, I did whatever I wanted to. Most of my time was spent shooting pool or reading.

Soon after Germany surrendered, I was sent to Camp Shelby, MS for reassignment. Naturally, I got stuck with a bunch of GI's going to Camp Shelby for discharge.

We had a several hour layover in Springfield, MO. I let them go into town on their own and reminded them if they didn't show by departure time, they would be reported AWOL. They all showed up but one. When I turned in their orders at Camp Shelby, I reported this guy's failure to report back to the train at departure time. Lo and behold! I ran into him two months later in Jackson. We had a cup of coffee and a long chat. It seems he ran into a good looking gal and shacked up with her for two weeks. He got his honorable discharge despite his self imposed delay in route.

I went to work in the Post Telegraph Office and worked there until I was discharged on August 7, 1945. [editor's note: this was left blank in Papaw's notes, but we have his discharge papers here at home.]

I came to Vicksburg and started to work for the Corps of Engineers as Radio Operator on the sinking unit, at Miller's Bend, about twenty-five miles above Greenville, MS. I stayed on the sinking unit for about 2 weeks and was transferred to the old stern wheel shag boat Charles H. West.

I stayed on the West for six months and was pulled in to the radio room in the Post Office building. I stayed here for a couple of months. We got a new towboat, the Tulagi, or at least it was new to us. She was one of the DPC steam boats built during the war to tow freight and oil barges from the Northern reaches down to New Orleans and in between, if necessary. She was a heck of a good tow boat, too. Capt Wilks Wilkerson was the master, and in my opinion, one of the best river skippers that ever piloted a Mississippi River towboat, as well as an all around fine fellow and close friend.

I was on the Tulagi for three months and sent back to the radio room in the Post Office Building. About this time, my boss found out I was doing all the repairs to the radio equipment on the boats I worked on, so he brought me back to the radio room and handed me two hats, floating operator and repairman.

I have talked about radio and boats enough, so I will change the subject. I don't know how to explain it, but I all of a sudden found out there were other things besides boats and radios, mainly a good looking brunette.

After a seven month courtship we tied the knot. We lived in four litte apartments before we were able to buy a house. We built the house we live in now, and moved into it on March ? Nineteen and Fifty.

We have two fine daughters and three grandchildren, two boys and one girl.

I retired in Nineteen and Seventy-Six. Since then, I have been doing honey-do jobs around the house, working in the yard, and working on my ham radio when the notion strikes me.

That's all folks-

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Thank you for this Erica. Its a wonderful memoir and a glimpse into this world. Somehow, miraculously, this story has connected us further - or did I never tell you that my dad was a radio operator during the Korean War? You have given me a touch of what he might have gone through... so thank You Papaw Bane. Much Love.