WWII 32nd Station Hospital | WWII Africa to Caserta Italy
| Willard O. Havemeier WWII
FINAL DAYS IN ITALY
In August we began packing up the hospital.
Boxes were sent to Naples to be loaded on ships. I spent a
week in Switzerland on R and R, and on my return was sent
to a staging area in Naples. When I came back, Sara
had already been sent to a different staging area. I
frantically tried to find her, but was unable to.
Word came down that we were going to the Pacific Theatre
of Operations by way of the Cape of Good Hope. While
I was in Switzerland news had come of the Hiroshima and
Nagasaki bombings, but this meant little to us. Waiting
in Naples, we received word of the Japanese surrender on
August 14. All of our equipment and personal effects ( which,
incidentally, I was later to learn, were lost) had already
been shipped out on the way to the Pacific. A week
later we boarded a converted cargo ship; it was then that
we learned that we were going home. I had been separated
from my friend, Bud Needles, when he was assigned to Bari,
on the Adriatic, but to my surprise, there he was on the
same ship! By September most of the Fifth Army units
had left Italy. On September 9, Headquarters was closed.
During the trip home I began to wonder what I was going
to do next. I figured that I'd better head for Minnesota
and look for some kind of job. Needles told me that he and
his wife already had an apartment in Philadelphia, and that
he was going to college. I was really impressed. He
suggested that I do the same, and told me about the GI Bill.
This was news to me, but it sounded like a possible alternative.
He invited me to stay with him until I got settled. When we
got to the States, we went to a military separation center
near Boston, where I received my back pay and had my personnel
file brought up to date. From there I went by train to Camp
McCoy, Wisconsin, where I was discharged. Another train took
me back to Minnesota.
- After two weeks at home, I decided
to take the money I had saved and go to Philadelphia.
When I got there, I rented a room. Later I moved in with
Needles and his wife, applied to three local colleges and
was accepted at Temple University, although I had to wait
a year to get in. During that year, I took English and math
courses so that I would be prepared for college, and worked
at an assortment of jobs, including teaching people to drive.
The government gave me twenty dollars a week for fifty-two
weeks. When I started Temple I received seventy-five dollars
per month as along as I kept up my grades. I graduated with
a BS in Business.
In February of 1946 I sent
Sara a birthday card, assuming that she was now at home.
She replied and we corresponded. Before too long,
she married, and we were reduced to sending each other Christmas
cards every year. After some years, the Thirty Second
Station Hospital began having reunions, but Sara never came.
Sara died in 1986. I remember her every night in my
A year after my discharge I
joined the US Army Reserve and eventually retired with thirty-six
years total service as a Chief Warrant Officer (CW-4).
In 1953 I married Seonaid Grant, a native of Scotland, who
had spent the war years on an island off the coast of Scotland
with other children who had been evacuated because of the
bombing of Britain. I had a career in the insurance
business, and believe it or not, bought a farm in Lancaster
After retiring, I took courses
in the Computer Science Department of Millersville University
where at present, I have been employed part time for the
past twenty years. I work out every morning at the school
gym before going to work. My wife died in 1993, and I remarried
two years later. Catherine, my present wife, and I now live
in a suburb of Lancaster. Catherine is
a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and has four
children and four grandchildren. We enjoy spending our spare
time traveling, especially to Italy, and visiting with the
The years I spent with the 32nd Station
Hospital are irreplaceable years; the impression they made
on me will never go away. Being part of that
close-knit group was like living in a story-book world where
the past and future were both far removed. We were all changed
forever and were reluctant at the last to say goodbye. Very
few picked up where they left off.
Willard O. Havemeier
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Web Page Last Updated On : Decembere 24, 2003