Excerpt from “Chapter 5 – Chicago”

The Jolly Roger: An Airman’s Tale of Survival in World War II by William C. Atkinson

Excerpt from “Chapter 5 – Chicago”:

As Pvt. Atkinson sat staring at the olive drab army bus that was waiting to depart Keesler, he felt glad to be leaving the base and the debacle surrounding his attempt to avoid radio school. He thought about Sgt. Bell and hoped he would not be dealt too much misery over his part in the scheme. Suddenly, a shout broke his concentration as a group of about thirty airmen boarded the bus. Pvt. Atkinson followed the group of men onboard. The group was headed to New Orleans where they would disperse to their various duty assignments.

The bus left Biloxi and headed west down the coast road past the Mississippi towns of Gulfport and Pass Christian before crossing the bridge over Bay St. Louis. Turning southwest on U.S. Highway 90, the bus and its occupants soon entered Louisiana. For the first time since leaving Scooba, Pvt. Atkinson felt a pang of nervous anxiety. Up until this moment, he had been wrapped up in the excitement of a new experience, and so far as his military service was concerned, he had not yet ventured from his native state. With the exception of his stint in the CCC out in Oregon and a summer spent working at Brookley Field in Mobile, Alabama, fabricating nuts and bolts for the military, he had never really left home before now. Pvt. James Atkinson was beginning to realize that he was headed for a potentially dangerous adventure the conclusion of which was uncertain, and he suddenly felt apprehensive and home sick.

As the bus crossed the bridge spanning the Rigolets, the so-called outlet from Lake Ponchartrain to the
Gulf of Mexico, Pvt. Atkinson gazed out of his window toward the railroad bridge to the east. Soon he would
be crossing that bridge on his way north to Chicago and he wondered when he might see his family again.