This installment of “Ernie at Sea,” sees Ernest Boyer come face to face with the destruction and terror of the Second World War. In the final days of June, 1946, the liberty ship, Wesley Barrett, reached Poland to unload cattle – part of a wider humanitarian relief project aiding war-torn Europe. These next four entries of Boyer’s account highlight his reaction to the scenes in Poland he stumbles across and seeks.
Friday, June 28, 1946 –
It was warm and cloudy today. We fed cows for the last time. We brought up our equipment for the last time. The poles started unloading the ship about nine. After dinner we were given shore leave and for the first time in two weeks, my feet touched land. We [hopped] a bumpy ride to Tangford and from there took a ride in another truck (their bus system) to Danzig. The destruction is almost beyond description. Block after block of houses and buildings completely destroyed and laid to the ground. Children would flock around us and beg for cigarettes and candy. It is surprising how soon you become accustomed to the destruction and poverty and hardly notice it. That is the shame of it.
Saturday, June 29, 1946 –
It was clear and warm today. We were not permitted to have shore leave after 9 A.M. I did go ashore in the morning to try to get souvenirs. However most of the stores were closed due to election time. Went ashore in the afternoon again to take some pictures. Went to a bombed out church. We were not back on the ship until about 3 P.M. The [?] had the ship unloaded by this time and had the manure hauled out. They did a very thorough job and even scrubbed the ship down with water.
Sunday, June 30, 1946 –
No shore leave permitted again today. Still due to the elections. The streets are considered unsafe. However we were told that after 6 P.M. we had shore leave. Some of us went to a battlefield. It is supposed to be the place where the first shots were fired at the beginning of World War II. We were warned of the Poles to be careful because there were still a lot of land mines around. There were pillboxes in which there were helmets, gas masks and other equipment. I got several for souvenirs. There were also skeletons of men lying around with parts of clothing still on their frame. We returned to ship about 9 P.M. We didn’t have any church service today.
Monday, July 1, 1946 –
It was clear [and] warm today. Went ashore in morning until 10 AM at which time we were supposed to be back on ship. The ships board then read that we would sail 9 AM. Tuesday. I then went ashore [and] took more pictures.
Images and journal entries taken from a scrapbook of Boyer’s experience (catalog # 1000 0001 4085).