Leaving Panama (1941)

by Hudson PhillipsChristmas 1941_Ft Davis Panama Canal_Ann_Bill_HudsonOur evacuation from the Panama Canal was a terribly sad and sudden thing.  As we approached the time that we were to leave, my father’s demeanor changed to a terse and commanding presence. It was time to be soldiers.  When I think back now, it explains why he acted this way. A barrage balloon hovered over the house, tethered not far away.  Piles of sand were placed near our back door to help extinguish fire from incendiary bombs. The entire family was issued gas masks. I was informed of a stash of emergency items in a compartment in the kitchen (in case my parents were out of the house during an attack.)

Soldiers sat at machine gun nests during the daytime hours.  My third grade school was closed. Half of my friends had already been sent home.  It should have been apparent to us, but we were not warned when it was our time to go.  When we awoke, we were told that we had two hours to clean up and dress. My parents had already packed our bags.  We didn’t even eat breakfast until we prepared to get on the ship.  So many questions wanted to be asked, but good military kids could, or would not, ask them.  I never said goodbye to my pet monkey or my horse.  We were walked down the front steps and did not look back. We behaved, as if in a dream.

Our ship (the Shawnee Rainbow) had been painted hastily.  It was a brownish green color from stem to stern.  As it pulled away, the fathers lined the peer and waved handkerchiefs. We had a small escort that told would help chase away enemy submarines.

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