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Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies
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CHGS

Troopships

AP25 – Troopships

Appendicitis highlighted the transAtlantic crossing of three troopships which docked today (Fri) with 1,847 European war veterans at piers 15 and 16, Staten Island.

Each of the ships had emergency appendectomy cases and one of them raced into port six hours ahead of schedule to remove its patients.

The ships, all liberty freighters converted to carry troops, were the Ethan Ellen with 415 troops, the Noah Webster with 705 troops, and the Fitzhugh Lee with 727 troops.

The Noah Webster, 14 days out of Le Havre, France, docked at 3 a.m. with 680 Negro troops and 25 white officers, all from the third army, after taking an emergency appendix case from another returning troopship, the liberty vessel Zane Grey.

The Zane Grey had radioed that she had an emergency case aboard and the ships in her area all pushed to her aid with the Noah Webster reaching her first. Captain Eugene Rinkey of 1074 Goodrich Avenue, St. Paul, MN., a doctor who served with the 56th medical battalion of the seventh army went over to the Zane Grey in a lifeboat last Tuesday night. From the Zane Grey he removed a merchant seaman, Charles E. Howard, 19, of Baltimore, MD.

After taking Howard aboard his ship, Captain Rinkey decided that an operation was unnecessary. The ship rushed the seaman ashore and he was taken to the marine hospital in Staten Island where his condition was pronounced as good.

Captain Rinkey served 33 months overseas in Morocco, Italy, France, Germany and Austria and he took an active part in the invasion of Sicily and southern France. He said that he arrived at the German horror prison camp at Dachau 48 hours after the Germans retreated.

He said "The most touching thing I saw among the hundreds of dead people was the bodies of the almost dead. The only difference between them and the dead was that they would breathe once in a while, and I saw one of them die right in front of me.

Captain Rinkey said that in their haste to evacuate the camp, the Germans abandoned the sick and wounded by throwing them in with the dead.

Lt. Abe Osofsky, a native New Yorker, and a resident of 409 24th Street, Sacramento, Calif., the transport commander of the Noah Webster, said that the ship was 30 percent overloaded. He said the soldiers slept in rotation and that many slept on deck because the weather was calm.