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The G.I. Bill and Its Impact on Al’s Return

Good Conduct Medal

Good Conduct Medal

American Theatre Service Ribbon

American Theatre Service Ribbon

World War II Victory Ribbon

World War II Victory Ribbon

The above ribbons were earned by Al in his three years of service in the Army.  His Honorable Discharge certificate is below:

US Army Honorable Discharge

When Al left Roanoke to serve in the Army, he was employed by Hercules Powder Company in Pulaski, Virginia.  He worked with a crew of three weighing powder, putting the powder in sacks and sewing the sacks,and operated an electric sewing machine.  Obviously, he went through a lot of training in the Army.  He’d attended the Coyner Electrical Company in Chicago, in addition to military specific technical and operational training on weapons.  He’d also developed leadership skills as the head of his unit (the guys called him Granny).  He’d been promoted; at the time of his separation, he had attained the rank of Colonel. So when Al returned home, he needed a new direction.  Enter the G.I. Bill.

What was the G.I. Bill?

The United States has a history of taking care of its veterans. An exception to this would be after World War I, when soldiers basically got a ticket home and no more.  Later, protests led to legislation passed which paid “bonuses” to the veterans.  For World War II, the government tried to plan ahead.  The (to me scary-sounding) National Resources Planning Board studied projected post-war manpower needs which helped frame the legislation.  Education was the main thrust but not the only benefit.  When the bill, which was officially named  the ” Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (better known as the G.I. Bill of Rights or the G.I. Bill) was put to a vote, it passed unanimously in both House and Senate. It was signed into law by FDR on June 22, 1944.  Among the benefits of the  G.I. Bill were:

  • Education – $500/year for education which covered tuition, books and supplies plus $65/month subsistence allowance.
  • Loan Guarantees to buy a farm, home or business
  • Employment services
  • $500 million for VA hospitals
  • Unemployment services – deemed the “52-20 Club” because unemployment benefits for veterans was $20/week for 52 weeks.

Who qualified for these benefits?

From the actual legislation:   “Any person who served in the active military or naval services after September 16, 1940 and prior to the termination of the present war, who is discharged or released under honorable conditions…provided further, that he served 90 days or more, or was discharged within such period by reason of an actual service- incurred injury or disability and provided further, that his education or training was impeded, delayed, interrupted or interfered with by reason of entrance into such service.”

What were the results?

The educational benefits were a huge success.  Some colleges and universities had doubts (like the president of Harvard) about the quality of students these veterans would be.  They turned out to be excellent students and the worries were proven unfounded. Within 7 years (it expired in 1956, eight million veterans had taken advantage of the educational benefits.

By 1955, there had been 4.3 million home loans as veterans bought 20% of all new homes after the war.

The least used of all benefits was the unemployment services.  Most veterans went quickly back to work or school upon their return.

Exceptions include disabled veterans who didn’t feel they benefited (one reason for the VA hospitals), women (who were considered not eligible) and hispanic and African-American veterans who felt discriminated against in college admissions.

All in all, the G.I. Bill was considered a great success and has been renewed/updated a few times since.

The next post will look at how the G.I. Bill helped Al make the transition home.


Thank You!

I am humbled by and grateful for my nomination for two awards, especially since the nominations came from bloggers I enjoy and respect. If you’ve been around the blog world a little while, you know nominations come with requirements.  So its time for me to take care of business before diving into the GI Bill.

Reader Appreciation Award

The Reader Appreciation Award comes from Notsofancynancy .Her blog follows her father’s experiences during World War II through letters (many touching “love letters”) to his wife.  A beautiful and interesting read.

The One Lovely Blog is a nomination by J. G. Burdette whose blog is a wealth of historical and nautical information, and whose blog is one of the most technically enviable I’ve read.

Reader’s Appreciation Award: How It Works:

  1. Include the award logo somewhere in your blog.
  2. Answer these 10 questions, below, for fun if you want to.
  3. Nominate 10 to 12 blogs you enjoy. Or you pick the number.
  4. Pay the love forward: Provide your nominee’s link in your post and comment on their blog to let them know they’ve been included and invited to participate.
  5. Pay the love back with gratitude and a link to the blogger(s) who nominated you.

The Questions…

  1. What is your favorite color?  Blue
  2. What is your favorite animal? One particularly soulful hound named Al
  3. What is your favorite non-alcoholic drink? Iced Tea, unsweetened with lots of lemons
  4. Facebook or Twitter? Both – To me they serve different purposes.
  5. Favorite pattern? I love the predictable way my family celebrates birthdays and Christmas.  There’s joy in recognizing the good stuff of life.
  6. Do you prefer getting or giving presents? Giving, because its so much more rewarding when you get it right.
  7. Favorite number? 13
  8. Favorite day of the week? Friday.  Its always been kind of my “Me” day.
  9. Favorite flower? Apricot roses
  10. What is your passion? My family.  My husband and children especially but also our family heritage and extended family.

I nominate the following blogs:  Lots of history and even more variety make this an interesting blog to visit.

forkinmyeye,  Continues to be one of my favorite blogs for great writing and fantastic photography.  Stimulating and fun reading.   Daily insight by cartoon on living with Parkinson’s Disease.    Libby Lu’s writing touches me.  One of my favorite sites.  New to me, I’ve found the personal health story of this blogger/chef to be interesting and the recipes of the chef tempting.  Dennis Aubrey’s photography  of the art and architecture of European churches is beautiful and he has been welcoming despite my lack of knowledge about the subject.  J.G. Burdette’s blog “Map of Time” has a wealth of historical and nautical information and is one of the nicest blogs to scroll through, just on a technical basis.

The Lovely Blog Award:  How It Works

  1.  Thank the person who gave you this award
  2. Include a link to their blog
  3. Pass the award onto 15 blogs, that is nominate/award another 15 blogs (I’m nominating fewer but they are ones I truly like and respect.)
  4. Tell 7 things about yourself:

* I love bluegrass music.
* I collect old books, especially those from the *turn of the century (late 1800’s – early 1900’s.
* I am almost to the end of Al’s Journey Through World War II and am hunting for my next inspiration.
* I’d love to write the great American novel but only have a couple of pages.
* Black and white photographs fascinate me as do photos of abandoned buildings.
* I married exceedingly well.  Best thing I ever did.
* I’ve always wanted to go to County Derry, Ireland and see where my family came from.

I nominate the following blogs:  Lots of history and even more variety make this an interesting blog to visit.

forkinmyeye,  Continues to be one of my favorite blogs for great writing and fantastic photography.  Stimulating and fun reading.   Daily insight by cartoon on living with Parkinson’s Disease.    Libby Lu’s writing touches me.  One of my favorite sites.  New to me, I’ve found the personal health story of this blogger/chef to be interesting and the recipes of the chef tempting.  Dennis Aubrey’s photography  of the art and architecture of European churches is beautiful and he has been welcoming despite my lack of knowledge about the subject.

Thanks again to Nancy of for the nomination and the enjoyment I get from her blog.  Check it out!  And thanks to J.G. Burdette  of for the vote of confidence and the history education.

The Greatest Celebration in American History – Christmas, 1945

While researching Al’s separation from the U.S. Army, I came across an interesting story about an author, Matthew Litt, who wrote a book entitled, Christmas, 1945: The Greatest Celebration in American History.  This was, of course, the first Christmas after the end of World War II, with the soldiers flooding home.  All branches of the U.S. military created and executed a program entitled “Operation Magic Carpet”  to try to move as many soldiers as possible back from Europe and Asia.  The Army and Navy launched “Operation Santa Claus”, an effort to process the discharge of as many G.I.s as possible. Christmas that year fell on a Tuesday so even President Harry Truman joined in, announcing a first-time  four-day federal holiday.  With Al arriving back in the States, he arrived very much a part of this. So, it was with great fascination, I read a piece about Mr. Litt’s book  describing the time:

 The newly-discharged veterans set out for home, clogging rail depots, bus stations and airports creating, at that time, the greatest traffic jam in the nation’s history. Some of the more fortunate were driven thousands of miles home by grateful citizens doing everything they could to show their gratitude and create a happy homecoming.  Across the nation, people reached out to wounded veterans, children who lost fathers,and neighbors who lost sons. Americans in big cities and small shared their renewal of spirit and prayers for peace.

Isn’t that beautiful?  Christmas in wartime had been a bleak occasion, with separation, fear and anxiety replacing the usual joy.  As Mr. Litt says in response to an interview question:
The domestic challenges facing this country at Christmas 1945 were unprecedented in scope, and nearly as great as the international challenges during the War. After four years of wartime selflessness, America had to deal with labor strife, issues of re-employment and unemployment, extreme housing shortages, clothing shortages and civil rights issues. At Christmas 1945, America was able to put these things aside, if just for four days, and come together as one for a curtain-call of sorts of wartime unity. I don’t want to minimize the domestic issues we face in this country in 2010, they are not insignificant, but they are nothing compared to what the nation faced at the end of 1945. If they could come together, then so can we.
I love it!  Thank you for letting me go a little off course with this post but this story touches me and gives me hope.  Merry Christmas!

Last Stop – Fort Meade Separation Center

For GIs returning from the war, Fort Meade (in Maryland) served as one of the primary out-processing locations on the East Coast.  There’s not much in Al’s World War II information about how he got there, or what happened there. So I spoke to another veteran (Mac) what he recalled about the separation center.  He said you were sent to the center closest to home.  The processing was done quickly.  He recalled that he received a cursory physical exam and asked about any physical complaints or disabilities he might want to report to the Veteran’s Administration.  You received your current pay, For Al, his “mustering out” pay totaled $400, but this allotment was only $100, with the balance to be paid later. I asked Mac whether you were given a bus ticket home and he said no. But Al was given $12.50 in travel pay to get home.  G.I.s also were given clothes to take home.  I read Mac this list of Al’s:

Al's Clothing List

Al’s Clothing List

He said the list sounded like the clothes he could take home.  (O.D. is short-hand for off-duty).

So, Al left LeHavre, France on November 12, 1945 and arrived in Boston on November 19th.  It is unknown when he left for Fort Meade near Baltimore, Maryland but he was examined, processed, informed, paid and discharged by November 25th, less than a week later. His discharge paperwork is below:

Next, we’ll look at the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (also known as the G.I. Bill and the impact it made for Al on his return.

When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again

As the SS Montclair Victory approached Boston’s Port on November 20, 1945, its passengers were given a schedule of debarkation.  They’d been on the ship for 8 days, away from home in some cases, like Al’s, for 3 years.  They’d also been up early; breakfast was served to enlisted men that morning at 4am, to officers at 5:30 am.  So now, it was time to wait their turn again.

The schedule of debarkation was as follows:
Unit/ Individuals                   Number
Miscellaneous Civilians                14
Medical                                          2
WAC Detachment *                        8
Individuals                                    13
RE-3249                                       82
RE-7403-EE (Hosp Train)            53
RE-7414-RR (768 FA Bn)           456
RE-7414-AAA ( 957 QM)            195
RE-7414-CCC ( 3198 QM)          232
RE-7414-EEE ( 4090 QM)          237
RE-7414-BB (301 MPEG)            150
RE-7409-F (548 QM}**                218
RE-7408-E ( 999 Sig)                   295
Source:  Original Montclair Victory Herald Souvenir Edition.  Al’s original copy, dated November 19, 1945. 

* WAC Detachment: Women’s Army Corp.  About 150,000 American women served in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps  and the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. They were the first women other than nurses to serve with the Army.

** 548th Quartermaster Depot Co. – Al’s Unit- Unfortunately, the next to last unit to get off the ship.

Boston’s Port of Embarkation

The units left the ship at the Boston Port of Embarkation, at the South Boston waterfront.  Almost 800,000 military members and civilians passed through between 1942 and December, 1945, either leaving to serve or return from duty (this count  also includes some Prisoners of War). Ships pulled into the Boston Port of Embarkation at all times of day and night.  Troop ships pulled up to the pier to disembark.  The troops were loaded directly onto railroad cars for the trip to Camp Myles Standish.

Camp Myles Standish

Built in 1942, Camp Myles Standish was a huge, sprawling facility ,not unlike an assembly line.  The Camp was named after Myles Standish (1587-1656), an English born professional soldier hired by the Pilgrims as a military adviser for the Plymouth Colony.  In time he became a full member and eventually, a valued leader of the community. The camp which bore his name was located in Taunton, Massachusetts.  New Haven Railroad, which had responsibility for troop train movements, had a switching yard at the camp.  It was New Haven Railroad’s train cars which brought Al and the others to Camp Myles Standish.

What Happened at the Camp?

The Montclair Victory Herald issued to the units before they left the ship informed them that they would only be there for 24 to 48 hours.  Once at camp, they were

  • assigned quarters (Each area had tailors and “fully-stocked” PX’s.
  • given physical check-ups, reviewed personnel records and received pay (Note: On-board information instructed that they would NOT be paid at this point.)
  • assembled to hear an orientation speech on discharge procedures
  • divided into groups based on the separation centers where they’d be discharged.

Other information indicated that they would have an opportunity to turn in surplus equipment, and convert foreign currency into “good old US legal tender”, unless “you want a couple of souvenirs for that hell-raising little nephew of yours).  There were also recreational opportunities such as movies (15 cents admission), libraries and service clubs.  The soldiers could send letters or telegrams or make phone calls.

Al would have learned here at Camp Myles Standish that his separation center would be Fort George G. Meade, in Baltimore, Maryland.  Fort Meade processed over 400,000 back to civilian life.  Now Al would be on his way.

Happy Father’s Day, Al!

Al’s War: One Man’s Journey Through World WarII explores my step-father, Albert Jabbour.  He became my step-father rather late in life; he met and started dating my mother my senior year of high school and they married  the February of my freshman year in college.  This was Al’s first marriage and he was already in his 50’s.  So I wouldn’t say that we ever built a father/daughter relationship.  What we did become was something also precious to me – we became friends.

On marrying my mother, Al gained 3 step-children.  I have a sister two years older than me and a brother who was, at that time, middle school age.  My brother was the only one who still lived at home at the time of their marriage.   And, I think, initially at least, this was a blessing for my brother.  Due to circumstances around my parents’ divorce, my brother had the fewest memories and the slimmest relationship with our father.  My brother explained that to me one time, confiding that he’d have like to be adopted by Al.  But, as it turns out, my brother was to follow another, rougher road and their relationship didn’t blossom.

My relationship with Al grew with time.  I had grown up in a household without a man so was used to doing the heavy lifting for myself.  Simple things like him carrying a heavy suitcase to the car for me caught me by surprise and took some getting used to.  But I did get used to it.  Once I was out of college,, he was there to celebrate all the big occasions – my wedding, my children.  We arranged for him to see his beloved New York Yankees (he sat glued to his seat and loved every minute Knowing now the health problems that my mother faced make this photo of them “cutting a rug” even more poignant.

It was in dealing with my mother’s health issues that really formed a bond between Al and I.  We had many a phone call and face to face discussion about how to get her the best care.  He felt the best care was him.  He told me more than once that he believed that taking care of my mother was his purpose in life.  Unfortunately, her health challenges outgrew what he could handle and she had to move to a nursing facility.  He passed away within the week.

Al Jabbour was a man of integrity. He loved his family, his country, his God and his wife.  And he was true to each, cherishing his siblings and their families, participating in the life of his church. and supporting my mother as long as he could.  He served his country honorably and never sought credit for his service.  He was humble and kind.  If my children had not asked questions about his military service for school projects, we never would have known what we came to learn about it  This was a man to learn about, to admire and to model after.  Happy Father’s Day, Al!

Heading Home at Last

From Al’s letter to his sisters in the last post, we learned that he will be home by the end of 1945.   Although he finished his tour officially as a member of Battery B of the 548th AAA AW Battalion,  he was actually serving  and returned home with the 548th Quartermaster Depot Company. To prepare for returning home, soldiers reported to camps like Camp Lucky Strike, assembly points for troops waiting for home-bound ships, located between LeHavre and Rouen. [Note:  It is estimated that some 3 million American troops either entered or left Europe through LeHavre, which led to it being known as the “Gateway to America” around this time].   Al’s unit shipped out  of the Port of LeHavre in northwestern France at 9:33 a.m. on November 12, 1945 on  SS Montclair Victory.  Travel time back to the U.S. was 8 days.  The ship landed and the troops had their initial processing at Camp Myles Standish, at the Boston Port of Embarkation.

From the ship’s Log:
Number of nautical miles covered each day up until 12:00 Noon on 19 November:

12 November 1945         28
13 November 1945        427
14 November 1945        395
15 November 1945        432
16 November 1945        406
17 November 1945        342
18 November 1945        329
19 November 1945        385
Distance yet to go         314
Distance from Boston
Lightship to Army Pier  18
          TOTAL             3076

Photo of the Lane Victory, Similar to Montclair Victory

Unable to locate photograph on the Montclair Victory, but the Lane Victory is one of the same series.

Historic Naval Ships Association photo of SS Lane Victory

What Was Life Like on the Ship?

The retro-fitted ships tended to be over-crowded and  some of the passengers suffered from motion sickness.  As the Troop Commander, John G. Llewellyn wrote in their last edition of the Montclair Victory Herald, “While I realize only too well that from a physical viewpoint this has not been too happy a trip for many of you, I sincerely hope and trust that you will take away with you the full realization that everything humanly possible to make this voyage a…successful and joyous affair.

History of the  Montclair Victory

The SS Montclair Victory was launched on November 16, 1944 and commissioned on December 13, 1944. It was one of a series of Victory ships made during World War II and, according to the ship’s own information, was named after Montclair, New Jersey.  The town was accorded this honor after purchasing War Bonds in an amount which provided the money for this vessel.

The Montclair Victory was built at the Bethlehem Fairfield Shipyards in Baltimore, Maryland.    Her maiden voyage, carrying ammunition, was on the same day as her commissioning.

The ship was converted to a troop transport in April, 1945 to bring the soldiers home after the war.  The trip carrying Al and the others was its 5th voyage as a troop ship.  This particular trip was carrying 1955 officers and enlisted men.

The Montclair Victory was owned by the War Shipping Administration, a government agency but operated by a private shipping company, the Atlantic Gulf West Indies Line.

Souvenir Issue Cover of the Montclair Victory Herald

Next:  Home Again, Now What?