Biography of Jim Farley

CCC Man, Company 144, Rangely, Maine

Mess/Sgt, QM Co & Air Service Company, 458th Bomb Group, 2nd Air Division , AAB 123, Horsham St. Faith, Norwich England, USAAF

     I was a member of the CCC in 1933, the 1st Sub Section of the 144th Co. CCC at Rangely, Maine. The 144th CCC Company originated in Fort Adams in RI. The Personnel were all Rhode Island young men, from all parts of the State. It was formed and had basic training at Fort Adams, RI, and then sent to Maine for its duty. We moved north in a convoy of army truck. I think it could have been a day's drive from Fort Adams, RI.

   The 144th was the first Company in that area and had two main projects, to build barracks for future CCC companies and to build a fire lane/bridal trail from Rangeley to the top of Saddle Back Mountain, the second highest Point in Maine.We built a Bridge across a mountain stream that crossed the firelane/bridal trail we were building.     

   A day in the CCCs was pretty much like an army unit in barracks, from reveille to taps the day was structured for activities assigned. A day in the woods was work first but some rest times and a chance for us city kids to wonder at it all, scenery mostly, very few wild animals, squirrels put up with us, and chatted about it, but we made too much noise for other nervous animals.

     We were carried out to the projects on the stake body trucks driven by a guide. As to how many trucks went out together in the morning run. I really couldn't say. I don't recall a whole lot of them. Maybe they went to different parts of the trail on different jobs. Just speculating?? Of course, any truck load of young men that age you'll have some singing, horsing around, even some dozing, especially on the way back. I suppose most CCC companies were pretty much alike with their activities. Going out was that in the morning we got above the morning mists--maybe clouds--that hid the town below, Rangeley. So we rode up pretty far.

   There were no power tolls out there in the wilderness, everything was done with hand tools. The bridge was made from the trees of the forest. No lumber was hauled in. Four or more guys on a log can move some pretty big ones. We had a team of horses-great big ones-with a tow bar and chains to pull in the big logs cut farther from the bridge.

   Our guides--foreman is probable a better title on the projects--were men of that area, farmers, woodsmen etc, and used a lot of their own equipment on the projects. There were two maybe three pairs of horses they used to pull their wagons, and then to unhitch and do the heavy hauling work. They took them back home we didn't have to take care of them. If they ever told me the make of horses I've long since forgotten, but I can remember them well we were so impressed with their work and the great size of them. When we cut a tree down we cut about three feet from the ground so a good piece of the trunk remained when we dug all around cutting all the roots. The horses in pairs with harness, tow bar and chains put around the tree roots were backed up to the trunk and with a command by their owner they squatted down straining and pulling until they pulled that big tree trunk out of the hole. They did the same on big boulders we dug lose for them. It was something for us city kids to see. I had a picture of these horses one time but I don't know where it is now-lost maybe or one of the kids??

     If we dropped the logs up stream we could float them down to the bridge. When completed, the bridge was sturdy. I'm sure the bridge would support a pick up, but I'm not sure how heavy a truck it would take. I have a finished picture somewhere amongst the kids.

      Off the trail we also cut out an emergency landing strip. No building, just landing strips for any aircraft to put down in an emergency. I have a picture that is us digging around a large rock that the horses would pull out after we cleared around it. I'd have to guess at the length of the air strip. It was not finished when I left the crew for the truck job. Probable it would take most planes of that time which were a lot smaller than those of today. I think the strip was just off the trail on a more or less level area, not too far up, but there was some trees and shrubbery to be cleared, a lot of big boulders to be dug out. It would only be an emergency though, meant for only somebody in trouble if I remember the point, not regular use. I don't remember if they had fire equipment by air in those days but I suppose if they had the could have gone in there. Maybe CCCs that came after us developed it more, I have no knowledge of that. It could be there today, I imagine something like that would be developed, never know.

     The trail that went through virgin forest, probably never been seen by man, ended at the top of Saddle Back Mountain. The woods were hot, buggy, we had to put on a lot of bug juice-something our guides made up from pine tar. They had a guide wire set up we were cautioned to keep in site whenever moving around.

     I spent about three months with the axe crew on the trail-they were up front doing the cutting and other crews followed clearing and levelling the trail.

     I was offered the job of driving one of the army trucks and did this for the rest of my six months. I was 20 yrs. old, had a driver's license several years, maybe that's why I got the drivers job.

     The company had about eight stake body trucks donated by the state of Maine, and two canvas covered 21/4--21/2 ton trucks from the US Government. I think the army canvas covered were 21/2 or 21/4 ton dodges, These trucks had a regulation stick shift, 3 forward speeds, if my memory is right and good driving. I think it was six cylinder, don't know the horse power.. I'm not sure of the stake bodies-maybe chevies. New, probably 33's.

   I drove the army truck mostly to Oquossoc about 20 mi from Rangeley to the RR station for supplies for the camp from the Fort at Portland. Usually the two army trucks made the run together. Flip-see, I remembered his name- was the other driver. I think his real first name was Filippi, Italian for Philip, I can't recall his last name-something like De Jenura-but let's just call him Flip. He was a nice guy, we got along fine. Came from Warwick RI, I think, it's a long time ago. Flip died a couple of years ago. The war years my married life, raising four kids, and then the move to Florida took me out of touch with the CCC enrollees. But my brother knew Flip and wrote to me when he died.

     It was just a RR station in Oquossoc, no soldiers, where supplies from Portland was picked up for the CCC camp. The supplies were mostly food supplies for the cook tent-we had no mess hall, ate outside-and housekeeping supplies for the company. The only constant was bread baked for the camp at Portland Fort, that we picked up every other day. Flip and I and the station master took care of the loading.

     There was recreation as well as work. Once on Lunch Break out on the Trail, someone brought out a camera. Gene had caught a porcupine and held it up for the camera before letting it go. That poor little porcupine Gene was surely out numbered, that for sure.

    We also had organized recreation. We had football competitions between the sections. We had a baseball diamond laid out, the picture of the football team is on it but it doesn't show on the copy. There was no league, when we got enough guys together we picked up sides and had a game-like the old sand lot baseball. We had a swimming hole too in a river at the back of the camp.for summer. Mostly the guys were tired after a good day's work and wanted to lay around their bunks reading, writing or just talking. Weekends we could get to town - Rangeley - If we felt like it. So sports were kind of a fill in activity.

     The company was made up of young men from all over the State of RI. City kids, farm boys and all in between, from all neighborhoods, tough ones and affluent ones and all had to get along or be shipped out. I remember quite a few of the ones I worked with or bunked with, but what seems to have faded from this old brain of mine are most of the activities. I remember some of the pranks like short-sheeting and, if the flaps were up on the side of the tent, pulling somebody, bunk and all, out to sleep outside--especially if he was snoring to loudly. I can't remember too much the town's people of Rangeley, just faintly a small grocery store where we could buy a soda or candy bar if we had the money. There was a theatre there that the CCC got passes for special movies and where they held wrestling matches that we could go in and see. There was a lot of wrestling those days. Two pros I can recall are Tony DeVito and Gus Sonningberg (not sure that spelling is right) but that's the name.

     We had a dentist, and an enrollee assistant visit and provide us with dental services at regular intervals. The enrollee 'assistant' was 'trained' ( a big unanswered statement!!) and was entrusted ( allowed to) and provided 'teeth cleaning' services to the various people who submitted to his services at extra personal costs!! We survived!! The dentist was a second rate technician, not capable of making it in public practice. His assistant was more interested in obtaining extra cash, rather than rendering satisfactory services. We did not have any experience to rely upon, and took for granted that the dental team was qualified!!

     I have a good feeling of the days in the CCC and of the men I was with so I think I got along well with all and can remember only one or two that I didn't care to chum with. I don't think we had the money for booze, and most were under age anyway, but we did have an older guy that came in pretty well loaded sometimes. He was a good target for the short-sheet trick. One thing I forgot about the short-sheeting, we didn't have the luxury of sheets, we had only army blankets but they worked pretty good too. If I remember it right the bottom blanket he would slide in on was doubled up and tucked in an he could only slide in half way. A lot of hidden grins watched him try to figure out what was wrong and then to re-make his bunk.

    I have maybe twenty names that signed my album. Names are immaterial now. I remember some and have a lot in my album but I wouldn't know how to contact them now or if they are even alive. But here is a few with their home towns--all RI. Thomas De Piro, Cranston, Eugene Fontaine, Prov., John Cabral, E. Prov.,   Frederick Holley, N. Scituate, Arthur Tondreau, Lymansville, John Cuizake, Pawtucket, Norman Stubbs, Mapleville, George Ducharme, Harrisville, Albert Peloquin, Centerdale, Roy Manchester, John Cekala Hope Valley, Charles Mitchell Washington RI, Earnest Robitaille Harrisville, Charles Osterman Westerly, Antonio Verdone Providence, AP Ethier Centerdale, George Doucette Oakland.

     We had tents when I first arrived in camp and did for sometime. The tents were gradually replaced by wooden barracks, I have photos of the camp with the tents and then one with one of our football teams on the field with the barracks behind them.

     I was not involved with the actual building of the barracks. I believe civilian journeymen supervised the building of the barracks and CCC people did the labor.

     One of our clothing items was an overcoat, and mine was too big for me. But the bigger the better! It got real cold there on top of Saddleback in late September. Our section was still in tents, we were sleeping with four blankets and our overcoats over us.  This situation, actually, caused a lot of us original members, myself included, to go back to Providence at the end of our six month enlistment rather than remain for another term. We didn't quit, our six month enlistment was ended and we went home. We could have signed up again but because of the cold a lot of us decided not to. I don't believe it got down to freezing but I don't think it was far from it.

     Today Fort Adams, where the 144th originated, is gone. There is no such place anymore-a big park on the bay in it's place. I wonder what's in place of the fort in Portland? The Saddleback mountain is now a ski resort, and Rangeley a recreation area.

     Trying to recall things of 68 years, with all the living that has gone on in between, is quiet a task, especially if you want to be accurate. I woke up about four this morning and laid there trying to put my memories together factually and complete-it was a losing effort-some events just wont come out fully. I guess a lot of stuff is lost and we will have to settle for whatever remains. I had just under four years in the Army Air Corps, 31 months overseas, and a lot of that is difficult to recall and that was ONLY 56 years ago!!!!!

     I enlisted in the Army Air Corps on May 22, 1942. in Providence, RI, Was shipped to Camp Devons, Mass, then to Westover Field, Mass. for basic training. On Dec.,7th, 1942, one year after Pearl Harbor, I boarded the Queen Mary in New York with thousands of other GI's for shipment overseas.

      The QM sailed alone but had air cover from bases in New England, New Foundland and maybe Iceland. She was capable of 30 knots and a uboat couldn't catch her. One would have to be out front waiting for her to do her any harm and her course was always changing. She carried 12000 troops if my memory serves me right.

      The Dec 7 trip turned out to be a rough one. She lost her air cover on the first day out because of very bad weather and solid cloud cover. The seas were huge and with the neccessity to tack she tipped in some of the troughs to a point that felt like she was going to capsize. She couldn't send any messages but could receive radio. She evidently received information of uboat activity ahead and kept changing course to an extent she wound up going around Iceland taking her about seven days to complete the trip. Many gi's were seasick and couldn't stand to go to the mess hall. They lived on apples, oranges and saltine crackers the whole voyage. A canteen was set up on the main deck dispensing the fruit and crackers. Our quarters were so crowded, we had 78 men in a compartment that was made for eighteen seamen, that we took our blankets to the upper deck passage ways and slept there as best we could with the rolling ship. I slept on a low table, there were three men above me in hammocks, like that around the small room on "D" deck four decks below the main deck. Because of the close quarters we had orders to wash and SHAVE EVERY day. All we had was cold sea water to do the job. You can imagine the guys with the heavy beards growling about this. Needless to say we spent as much time on deck as possible and even took our blankets up to sleep on the floor of the lobby--stripped of stores now-and in the passage ways. The mess hall--I guess the Navy called it the galley--served only two meals, breakfast and dinner, and took all day to do it. There was a chow line all day long, for breakfast till about two o'clock and then right on for dinner until six or so. I'm not sure of the exact times, but that's about it.

   When the QM was finally spotted by the RAF north of Scotland they put on an air show of welcome that was spectacular. I don't know who was happier to see who it hat to be all on ship and in the air. In spite of now being in range of the German air raiders all felt safe with the RAF escort into port at Glasgow, Scotland.

     We thought we were going into N. Africa because that invasion had just taken place, but we landed in England and served there until July 1945 when we were sent back to the states on redeployment to Okinawa for the Japanese invasion. We got a 30 day R&R and by the time we reported back the Japs had quit and we were given discharge in the States. I was discharged Oct. 1, 1945. We went over as a quartermaster company and then became an air service company when we were attached to the 458th Bomb Group, 2nd Air Division , AAB 123, Horsham St. Faith, Norwich England. I don't know if you can call Horshem St. Faith "in the field", it was a permanent RAF base that we "yanks" took over. Except the hangars, all permanent red brick buildings.  We had hot water, the envy of some of the bases in Nissen huts. The enlisted men had a consolidated mess--all units. The officers mess was all officers, generals on down. If I remember rightly we had some 250 officers.

     We supplied the base with transportation, food and clothing. I was mess sergeant of my company but all units ate in consolidated messes on the base and I served all my time there as first cook( a crew of four) at officers mess. This note. Looking through the army bios in the Justin museum I noticed a bio of Colonel Johnson of the 56th Fighter Group, the "wolfpack". I was serving on Horsham St. Faith when the 56th came in there April to July, 1943. I can remember these guys really livened up the base. Just a small link with the past When the 56th moved out the engineers came in and extended the run ways so the heavy bomb group could use the field. The 458th Group, with their B-24's, took over the base in January 1944.

       My service was just that, service to the flight crews the true heroes of the air war. Mine, and all ground units, was important but not spectacular service. assigned to us by the AAF Command and we carried them out to the best of our abilities. I had 31 months overseas and some units had more time than that. So that is all my military experience consists of--service. Only the flight crews rate the heroics.

----- Jim Farley

         nfn06654@naples.net

LINKS

Company 144, Barracks Taking Over, Jim Farley, CCCMan, Company 144, Rangely, Maine

Company 144, Building an Airstrip, Jim Farley, CCCMan, Company 144, Rangely, Maine

Company 144, Building a Bridge, Jim Farley, CCCMan, Company 144, Rangely, Maine

Company 144, Camp Tents, 1933, Jim Farley, CCCMan, Company 144, Rangely, Maine

Company 144, Finished Bridge, Jim Farley, CCCMan, Company 144, Rangely, Maine

Company 144, Lunch Break Out On the Trail, Jim Farley, CCCMan, Company 144, Rangely, Maine

Company 144, On top of Saddle Back, Jim Farley, CCCMan, Company 144, Rangely, Maine

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