William Gaston was my second Liberty Ship. The first, Alfred Moore, was an auxiliary troopship,
which had carried US Army Air Force crews to England and Italy in 1943 and early 1944.
Then I joined the Gaston, sailing in convoy from New York on May 16 to Guantanamo, Cuba, and then on to Port of Spain , Trinidad , and Rio de Janeiro.
We then proceeded independently to Santos, Brazil , and Montevideo, Uruguay,
at which ports we discharged our cargo of mechanical equipment and vehicle tires.
On July 10 the ship was ordered to proceed to Rosario, Argentina and Buenos Aires,
to load a cargo of9,000 tons of Argentine corn for deli very to the United States- perhaps as a gesture to improve Ame rican-Argentine relations.
Our crew enj oyed their shore leaves in Rosario and Buenos Aires,
Part One: 1944 beautifu l and prosperous cities.
They were the only ones we would visit during the war which were not at war.
Nevertheless, in Buenos Aires we encountered some anti-American attitudes. In our US Navy unifo rms we were sometimes verball y abused on the streets and even hissed in the beautiful opera house, Teatro Colon.
As we sailed down La Pl ata River on July 19 we noted that we were being followed by a small fre ighter flying the Argentine fl ag.
She was about 200 tons, and the dark smoke from her stack ind icated that she was probably a coal-burner.
When we reached the open sea and set a northerly course toward Rio, she chose the same course, taking a position about one mile off our sta rboard quarter.
Our Navy gun crew stood its regular general quarters watch, and , after dark , noted that the Argentine ship had turned on its running lights.
This was normal procedure for a neutral vessel in wartime, but interesting to the crew of William Gaston,
as most of us had never seen a neutral ship at sea during the war.
On Thursday and Friday, July 20 and 21, life was completely normal with the merchant and Navy crews aboard William Gaston.
In fact, it was better than normal as the ship was headed for home, and, hav ing picked up fresh stores of meats,
vegetables and fruits in Argentina , was serving better meals than usualalways a major factor in crew morale at sea.
During the first three days we gradually became accustomed to the presence of our Argentine ” neighbor.”
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