This is John's story in his own words: Date of entry into the U.S.Navy July 15 1942 Served five weeks in Boot camp at Quadington Point New Port,R.I. Naval Training Station. First assigned to the U.S. Navy Armed Guard Center. 1st. Ave. and 52nd. St. Brooklyn,N.Y. Sent to the Armed Guard Gunnery School Little Creek, Norfolk Va. After four weeks training sent back to the Armed Guard Center for assignment on a Merchant Vessel. Sept. 23, 1942 Boarded the S.S. Steelore (20,500) ton) at Weehawkin,N.J. Ship's Captain Hector, Navy Ensign Basset later relieved by Lt. USNR Andrew Dillman. Left the port of New York Sept.26, 1942. Arrived in the Port of Spain Trinidad B.W.I. Returned to Weehawkin N.J. Second trip back to Trinidad returned to Weehawkin N.J. Third trip down to Trinidad returned to Weehawkin N.J. Fourth trip from Weehawkin N.J. to Jersey City N.J. to Norfolk Va.(Cargo of coal) back to N.Y. harbor to join convoy to Trinidad, docked at Guantanamo,Bay,Cuba (Submarine activity in area) continued on to Trinidad,returned to Weehawkin N.J. Fifth trip to Newport News Va. back to New York harbor to join convoy for Trinidad, returned to Weehawkin N.J. Bauxite was the main cargo ,loaded at the Shagaramus ore dock,Port of Spain,Trinidad. Detached from ship May 14 1943. Assigned to the M.V. BELGIAN GULF (14,000 ton) oil tanker,Panamanian registry,sailed under a Panamanian flag, built in Rotterdam, Netherlands.Boarded ship June 10,1943 at Bayonne N.J. First trip left Bayonne N.J. arrived in Liverpool,England to Birkenhead,Eng. returned to Bayonne. Second trip left Bayonne, N.J. arrived in Manchester,Eng.(wrecked bow of ship at Birkenhead repairs temporary at Manchester for the return trip back,put into dry dock at Bayonnne, N.J.) Third trip left Bayonne N.J. Arrived in Liverpool, Eng. to Manchester, Eng. Returned to Philadelphia, Pa. to Chester, Pa. All trips to Manchester were through the Manchester shipping canal. Fourth trip left Chester, Pa. arrived in Liverpool, Eng. to Manchester, Eng. returned to Bayonne. Fifth trip left Bayonne,N.J. Arrived Liverpool Eng. to Manchester, Eng. to Birkenhead, Eng. returned to Bayonne,N.J. Detached from ship January 19, 1944.(Cargo,crude oil,lubricating oil. Assigned to the 5"38 Anti Aircraft Gunnery School Shelton, Va. February 12, 1944 finished school March 20 1944 Returned to Armed Guard Center Brooklyn, N.Y.(Received orders to Escort a deserter back down to the gunnery school at Shelton, Va.) Returned to the Armed Guard Shipping pool at the Naval Operating Base Norfolk, Va. Assigned to the JAMES R. RANDALL (10,000 ton). Ship's Capt.Peters(later relieved by Capt. Soren- Rasmunsen). Navy officer Lt.jg. J.H.Sullivan. Boarded ship Apr 6, 1944 at Norfolk,Va. Sailed for York to join convoy to Europe, arrived in Liverpool, Eng., to Manchester, Eng. Went to Oban,Scot. (anchored in the Firth of Lorn, two weeks waiting orders to ship over to the Normandy coast of France.) Left Oban for Belfast,Ireland.to take on a cargo of ammunition, bombs. Docked at Milford Haven,Wales to install smoke screening device. Docked at Falsmouth, Eng. installed Barrage Balloon, crossed English channel anchored at the Omaha beach-head Normandy, France. Returned to Southampton, Eng.(converted ship into a Military Transport MT 10) Took military personnel and their equipment to the Utah beach-head. Crossed the English channel sixteen times to the beachheads, two times up the Seine River to Rouen,France, once to LeHavre, returned to Southampton. Detached from the Randall here in Southampton, exchanged gun crews with the James W.Cannon that was tied along side of us. At 1 pm British time Jan 14, 1945, left Southampton Eng. for Cardiff, Wales, then New York. (two days out into the Irish sea we encountered the worst storm of all the crossings. Detached from the JAMES W. CANNON (ll,OOO ton Victory Ship) named after the Cannon Towel Co. in New York. Reassigned to the James R. Randall (one chance in the thousands of ships available to get on again.) On this assignment I was put in charge of a skeleton crew of nine men. Boarded ship again March 28, 1945 Went to Philidelphia, Pa. sailed for Bristol, Eng. Went Through the Dover Straits to Ghent, Belgium, returned to New York. Left N.Y. for Houston Tex. (cargo of cotton ) sailed again to LeHavre,France, back to Boulogne, France, back to N.Y. ENDING MY SEA DUTY SEPT 20 1945. Crossed the Atlantic to Europe eight times, returned Eight times, crossed the English Channel Sixteen times to the OMAHA AND UTAH Beach-heads on the Normandy Coast of FRANCE. Sailed the Caribbean Sea five times to Trinidad, B.W.I. Discharged at the Naval Operating Base in Philidelphia, Pa, NOV. 2 1945 : THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS ABOARD THE JAMES R. RANDALL T'was the night before Christmas and all through the ship The holiday spirit had taken a dip Our stockings filthy from over long wear Stood without hanging straight up in the air And our G.I. long Johns would have done the same Could we ever have gotten them off our frame The Red Cross in hold #3 and G.I.'s in hold #4 Were hearlding Christmas with a discondant snore When out on the deck there arose such a clatter We jumped from our bunks and sprang for the ladder The moon on remnants of C-Ration cans junk Created a picture that glittered and stunk And what to our wondering eyes should appear But the beat up old boom and the dock still here And we knew from the look of the warf we tied on That it was'nt La France but Old Southamp-Ton Then more rapid than seagulls new shipmates(rats)did appear As we bellow with horror and quiver with fear Some come from the fore deck and some from aft And others on shore leave came in on a raft From the top of the mast,from the depth of the hold Came rodents came vermine came rats young and old And then who should appear to help out in the fun But old Sad-Sack Santa Pvt. Stevenson You all want to know what is hid around his middle So two stripes for the guy who can answer this riddle CASE OF THE G.I. I go to sleep in a G.I. bed On a G.I. pillow I rest my head My blankets they are G.I. too Then G.I. sleep and think of you A G.I. bugler wakes me up I drink G.I. coffee in a G.I. cup The powdered eggs are G.I. too But G.I. wish I were with you At night my G.I. prayers I' ll say We'll have our G.I. peace some day And when this darn war is through This G.I. will return to you Now G.I. stands for Government Issue But my darling G.I.miss you G.I. hope you miss me too For Gi I love you, Gi I do. In this year of 19 hundred and 45 It makes a fellow feel alive To know that he is going home To which I dedicate this poem In April nineteen fourty-four We sailed out of Norfolk's door Then two more days,don't know the date We stopped a while in New York State. Two weeks,or something more of the sort We hit a town called Ellesmere Port We liked the place and the time was night No guards were around,so into our plight We all jumped ship caused a houmourous sight Nothing would happen was our prediction But no results one weeks restrictions We traveled the canal and in through the locks To a city named Manchester, at Salford docks With wine ,whiskey,beer and gin No such a town have you ever been in If I had more time I certainly would write Of the times we had at this very site And then one morning to our utter dismay We found we were leaving the very next day From there up the old Mersey River we ran To a firth in Ole' Scotland on the shores of Oban A prettier place now you never will see But the bad with the good -- no liberty For nearly two weeks we had nothing to do Just watching the scenery and singing the blues Till one bright morning we heard the good news Which heightened our spirits and chased away our blues Then one evening in June-orders at last We sailed out of the harbor and on to Belfast They loaded us there with hot soup and stuff And when they decided we had enough WE whistled for tugs and without backward glance We pulled up our anchor and high-tailed it for France After one of the trips,the sixth I think Our Captain got a little too much to drink He brought, out his gun as the story goes While the 1st Mate took hold of the nearest Fire hose A sure enough battle did then ensue To the utter enjoyment of the whole damn crew The police came out but not before The Skipper had shot up the Purser's door Our home port Southampton a town you should know A place where we always would just come and go The Pubs were just open from seven to ten Then back to the ship we would wander again And sometimes I think how awful it sounds For a fellow to tell you that whiskey is five pounds If you want my opinion but can't ever tell The only worse place than Southampton is hell The trips to the beacheads are something to remember WE started in June and wound up in December Then one of our trips amid torrents of rain We traveled the beautiful Rue de La Seine If any asks you just what you were doing You were wading through mud on the sidewalks of Rouen Our last trip to France was to ancient Le Havre Where cognac and colvadose were all free of charge On this last trip was much yellin and shooting Old Taylor he got out his old forty-five And when he do that, watch out man-alive He shot big Bill Burrel right through the belly And his blood ran out like red raspberry jelly They lowered Bill over and sent for the Doc. And took Taylor away to start pounding rock One day when we docked with mornings high tide Along comes a ship and ties up to our side Nothing else happened till the next day we heard That our whole darn crew was being transferred The happiest moment occoured when we abandoned The James Rammin Randall for the James W. Cannon. Now when you get home and start drinking the toasts Remember the invasion of the French coast The trip is now over and we're all headed home Even if this is one hell of a poem
Obituary: John W. Aul / Protector of U.S. shipping in WWII Friday, April 27, 2001 By Jack Kelly, Post-Gazette National Bureau John W. Aul, who survived eight trans-Atlantic crossings as a member of a little known Navy unit during World War II, died Tuesday at the age of 80. Mr. Aul, a Whitehall resident, had been battling lung cancer for more than a year. For many years a pipefitter at Westinghouse Atomic Power Laboratories, Mr. Aul served with the Navy's Armed Guard in World War II. The unit's mission was to protect the ships of the U.S. Merchant Marine from aircraft and submarines. The ships were outfitted with defensive weapons, and Armed Guards manned the guns. A native of Mount Oliver, Mr. Aul dropped out of school in the eighth grade and went to work for the Civilian Conservation Corps, helping to rehabilitate a national forest in Virginia that was suffering the effects of a widespread chestnut blight. He enlisted in the Navy on July 15, 1942. After attending gunnery school in Norfolk, Va., he began his shipboard duties that September and served until Sept. 20, 1945. In addition to his trans-Atlantic trips, he made five voyages to the Caribbean and 16 trips across the English Channel to deliver troops and equipment to the Omaha and Utah beachheads in Normandy. Much of his service was in Liberty Ships, more than 2,700 of which were built during WWII. Most were built in less than two months. They carried two-thirds of all the cargo shipped from the United States during the war. All cut from the same mold, Liberty Ships were 441 feet, 6 inches long, with a beam of 56 feet 103/4 inches. A Liberty Ship could carry about 9,000 tons of cargo or 500 troops. A typical crew was that of the John Brown, one of two surviving Liberty Ships. The Brown had a crew of 45 merchant seamen, with 41 Navy personnel to man the guns. The John Brown now is a maritime museum anchored in Baltimore. A volunteer crew conducts orientation cruises from various East Coast and Great Lakes ports on occasion. Four of Mr. Aul's sons accompanied him on one such cruise from Erie last summer. It was the first time Mr. Aul had been on a Liberty Ship since his discharge. "Dad took us to the 5-inch gun in the stern," his son Thomas recalled. "Manning that gun had been his job during the war." The typical armament of a Liberty Ship was a 3-inch gun in the bow and a 5-inch gun in the stern, and several anti-aircraft guns. The 3-inch gun and the 5-inch gun were used to fight off submarines if they surfaced to attack the merchant vessels. More than 200 Liberty Ships were sunk during the war, but Mr. Aul completed his service without experiencing combat. Mr. Aul's closest brush with death came during a violent storm in the Irish Sea in January 1945. He also served aboard ore ships that brought bauxite from the Caribbean to the United States, where it was used to manufacture aluminum for the frames of fighters and bombers. Mr. Aul is survived by his wife, Theresa; five sons, Raymond J. of Whitehall, Thomas J. of Carnegie, Regis J. of Mt. Lebanon, Donald J. West View and Jack J. of Baldwin; a daughter, Mary J. of Whitehall; a brother, George of Brookline; 25 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. today in St. Basil Church, 1735 Brownsville Road. Copyright 1997-2001 PG Publishing. All rights reserved.
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