Herbert Gilbertson

Was on Merchant Ship Bombed by Japs at Calcutta; Convoy Attacked in Mediterranean
WHITEHALL, WI (Special) Herbert Gilbertson, Quartermaster in the Merchant Marine, is back in his home town, Whitehall, after experiencing the perils of the Indian Ocean, a bombing, and a torpedoing of his convoy. 

He is visiting his uncle, Adolph Gilbertson. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Chris Gilbertson, now live in Milwaukee. He arrived back in the state on March 19 and is now on a 30-day leave, after seven months abroad.

The trip he started on seven months ago was his first, after completing his training at Sheepshead Bay, NY. While en route, he earned his Quartermaster rank and is how a Helmsman. 

After leaving the States, his ship landed in North Africa, and he was stationed in the Egypt area for about a month. Proceeding through the Suez Canal, his ship reached Calcutta and spent Thanksgiving there. They had turkey and all the trimmings, he said.

At Calcutta, the ship was loaded for a shuttle trip to Bombay. It was awaiting orders for sailing, when a Jap bomber raid from Burma came over. They thought, at first, it was a practice alarm.

One bomb fell on the dock about 25 feet from the starboard side of  the ship, and flying shrapnel cut the ropes that held the ship. Herbert and companions rushed to shore to secure more ropes, when the second wave came over. Targets of the second wave were farther distant, so the boys sat up and watched them. However, another bomb landed in the water on the port side of the bow, and still another hit railroad tracks on the starboard side.

The flying shrapnel pierced about 700 holes in the hull of the ship, so they were delayed for 10 days. Only one member of the ship's crew was injured during the raid, when he received back wounds from pieces of shrapnel.

The chief object of the raid, Gilbertson said, was to scare the native coolies into the hills, so they would not be available for helping load and unload ships. About 800 coolies in the dock area were killed, either in their homes or on the dock.

The ship reached Colombo, Ceylon in time for Christmas. A holiday dinner was again provided, but it wasn't much of a Christmas, Herbert said. American Red Cross girls stationed at Colombo came aboard ship and gathered up cablegrams of season's greetings which the boys wished to send home.

Bombay, where they spent New Year's Eve, is the most beautiful foreign city that Gilbertson has seen, he declared. Their New Year's celebration was more like the variety at home.

The people in Bombay and the other cities he visited, a mingling of English, Anglo-Indians, Burmese and Chinese, dance more like Americans  than Americans do themselves, he declared. The jitterbug is a favorite, and they really dance it. "They love the dance. This was also true at Cairo,  Egypt.

Herbert's ship was the last one that traveled through the Indian Ocean without convoy, as it began to be a hot spot, even while they were there, and several ships were sunk by Jap submarines.

The ship took on a load at Cochin, India to bring back to the States and started homeward. While traveling in a convoy of about 100 ships in the Mediterranean, two ships to the starboard side from Herbert's boat were torpedoed. One got hit in the engine room and the other on No. 4 hatch and both were disabled.