I use this blog as a chance to explore, and help others discover, the lives of people in their families and communities. It is fun, and therapeutic, for me to spend my free-time researching and writing about people whose lives may not have received any attention at all until now. This time I continue my writing about someone important to me, and I am asking for your help in discovering his story in more depth. That person is my grandfather, and my personal hero, Harry Ashworth (1921-2007).
I can only imagine the fear and consternation that my grandparents felt the day that my grandfather received a postcard in the mail ordering him to report for his draft physical in the summer of 1942. They had only been married for a couple of weeks when the notice arrived, and two months later my grandfather would be a soldier. Harry Ashworth reported for induction on August 29, 1942 and, along with nine hundred others, boarded an army troop train bound for Camp Blanding, Florida for training.
After completing some basic training, Harry was assigned to the 795th Military Police Battalion and underwent further training in that capacity. The role of the military police during World War Two included many of the tasks one would expect from law enforcement. They were also responsible for serving as security details for senior officers and VIPs, security for military installations and prisons, handling and guarding of prisoners-of-war, as well as serving as general infantry.
Harry described his training as being composed of four hours of military police training a day, the rest of his day was spent on general infantry training, and “you name it, we did it.” Military police units also included equipment, like jeeps, half-tracks, trucks needed to fulfill their missions. This required them to have soldiers in the unit trained and capable of being able to repair these vehicles in the field. My grandfather was one of those trained soldiers, having been put through an 8 week training course in army automotive mechanics while stationed at Camp Blanding. This training would be the basis of his post-war career.
Harry was granted a seven day leave to return home to Fieldsboro, New Jersey, and his bride, just in time for Christmas 1942. Photos taken during his visit show Harry’s uniform sporting his shiny, military police whistle with my smiling grandmother on his arm. One can only imagine how excited the entire family was to have Harry home, even if only for a short visit. This would be his last visit home before he was called to overseas service in 1943.
When his leave ended, Harry returned to Camp Blanding where the 795th was assigned to the Fourth Service Command in its duty of participating in the Eastern Coastal Defenses of the United States. The battalion trained with M3 light tanks, and each of the four lettered companies trained one tank crew and several scout car crews. After their training concluded, the four companies were separated and assigned to specific theaters of action, two in the United States and two sent overseas.
My grandfather, now with the rank of Technician Fourth Grade (Sergeant), was assigned to Company B of the 795th Military Police Battalion when it was ordered overseas in July 1943. Company B was assigned to join the United States Army in North Africa. Harry would find himself there in early August 1943, a long way from Fieldsboro and Bordentown, New Jersey.
My grandfather continued his service in North Africa during the war. I’ll share with you more of what I’ve learned about that service in a future post.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2021.