"We were tied up to where the tanks were getting oil to go back to England. And I said, geez, I hope he gets rid of those damn bomb before he gets to us"
The Russian [Murmansk] Run was a tough one. The first time we went up there, bombers came out and they sank about 30 of our ships. And then, of course, second time we went up, it was the wintertime. It was colder than a son of a gun and we were attacked, of course, by a “pocket battleship” [Deutschland Panzerschiff: heavily armed cruiser]; and if it wasn’t for Hitler, if we had have left them alone, they would have sank the whole works of us. I went aboard the ship when we got to Russia; and the captain of the destroyer [convoy escort vessel] that had kept going in and chasing them off, he got hit in the eye, or something. He lost an eye in it, but he got the Victoria Cross [for valour in “the face of the enemy”].
It wasn’t bad that, you know, it was an awfully close quarters; and that Russian Run, we picked a convoy up in Iceland and then take it to Russia. And that’s in the north, that’s up pretty high, got cold weather up there. Of course, the first time, when it was summertime and it was light all the time, and then the next time we went, it was wintertime, so you never saw the sun then. You know, it was mist and snowing, and a ship would ice up. It was kind of a rough run. We were getting bombed all the time, you see. We had to pick up the survivors. We picked 100 survivors.
And then the British had the same. They told them that the Germans were coming out with a big plane, you see. So they went to look for them and then they told us to scatter, and form up in a big block. So then we were on our own. The Germans bombed us at will, so that’s why we lost so many ships.
But, anyway, they never found the Germans. They, by that time, they [the Germans] had taken over Norway. And they had fjords [long, narrow inlets] coming out onto the ocean. And there’s a lot of rough rocks sticking up in there. And, of course, the Norwegians knew all about that, but they didn’t tell the Germans and, of course, they were running aground, so they just called it off, which was lucky for us, of course. Then we get to Russia, of course, they bombed you all the time you were there; and they come over and the [air raid] sirens are going off every half hour or so. And we had to wait until they unloaded all the ships before bringing them back again.
I can remember they were bringing a guy over the side while they picked him up out of the water. I got down on my hands and knees. I said, just stick him on my back and I’ll help take him to the medical clinic. They had a young guy there. Well, he wasn’t a doctor, but like sick bay attendants. At the start of it, of course, they had doctors, but the corvettes [convoy escort vessel], I guess, they didn’t figure were big enough for doctors.
Anyway, they put this guy on my back; and hell, I just flattened right out, he was soaking wet and heavy. But, and then when he, we put him in the sick bay and the guy asked me to help bring him to, you know. We’re pumping his legs and everything; and he was frothing at the mouth. I said to them, geez, I’ve got to get out of here. You know, when he started… you know, I’ve never seen a dead guy before. So, anyway, he died and they asked me to go and get some bricks to weigh him down, throw him in the water, you know, put him back in the water and sink. Where are you going to get rocks and bricks on a ship, you know? Anyway, I just took off and I never came back. But, anyway, they dumped him over the side and that was about the only time that we … The rest of the guys we brought aboard, you know, they all survived and everything.
Winding up to leave Russia, there was a bomber came down. There was a river there and we were anchored in the river. And the plane was coming along and they carried pipe bombs; and they were dropping them as they came, on the ships as they went down. And they were coming right at us, you know. We were tied up to where the [ship fuel] tanks were getting oil to go back to England. And I said, geez, I hope he gets rid of those damn bomb before he gets to us, which he did; and he just went up, up and over the bank and disappears. I thought we really had it there.
Because when we were anchored out there, I was in a hammock and there was a hell of a big boom. I just went, what the hell is that thing? I said, well, the ship that was anchored behind us there, well, he’s putting mines in the water; and they’d float down and, of course, make contact and blew them up. So that was pretty close.