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Redeployment

About a week later, some new field artillery units were attached to XXIII Corps and they began to relieve units of the 23rd Headquarters from actual operation of the DP camps. On 28 April, the 23rd was completely relieved of all responsibilities except as a Corps staff section. This relationship persisted until late in May when the War Department telegram finally arrived and the 23rd was ordered to prepare to return home.

In this DP work, the 23rd takes a certain amount of pride in: (1) maintaining up to 100,000 destitute men, women and children in 13 camps; (2) consolidating the nationalities by camps and thereby eliminating one big excuse for riots; (3) entertaining a host of temperamental repatriation officers; (4) demonstrating the uses of the latrine to approximately 43,000 middle Europeans.

The rest of the story is purely administrative and joyful – except perhaps for a dreary period on top of some hills outside of Idar- Oberstein. Here the 23rd units assembled late in May to make their Preparation for Overseas Movement (POM). Everyone slept in tents for the first time since Operation CASANOVA of the previous fall. The rain, purges, inspections, and training schedules could have been quite agonizing if the glorious sunlight of HOME! had not peeked through every dark cloud.

It took about three days for the happy 23rd convoys to motor from Idar-Oberstein to the staging area near Rouen. The distance was 350 miles and France never looked so beautiful. The wheat was ripe and mixed with poppies and blue-bells. To men dizzy with thoughts of home, every field could have been a rippling flag – or the neon lights of Broadway, a colorful county fair, a Mardi-gras, or a whirling rodeo in Flagstaff, Arizona.

The 23rd rolled into Camp Twenty Grand on 16 June. It was a rocky place but there was a lovely view of the Seine. Showdown inspections were required every 30 minutes or so. People who carried more than one wine gallon of liquor had to declare it but no one knew how much a "wine gallon" was. One man brought back a footlocker of champagne. A quantity of "liberated" goods was packed. This consisted mostly of worthless bric-a-brac and battle souvenirs that would cause quite a stir for the first few days at home but would eventually rot away in cellars and attics.

updated: 1 month ago

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