THE ROCKETTES

Cherbourg, France

September 1944

I saw the Rockettes on two occasions. The first was sometime in April or May of 1943 when I accompanied a few other GIs to a show in New York. The other time was in France in 1944. I assisted the Rockettes on their journey when they came to perform for our troops.

The Rockettes’ ship arrived at the Port of Cherbourg. They were trucked to the local railroad station where my unit, the 3rd Regulating Group, had an office.

Our role at that time was liaison, coordinate and assist units and other groups arriving through the port. I was assigned the duty of arranging with the US Army 728 Railway Operating Battalion for train transport inland for the ladies.

There were very few railway coaches available. Those at the station had been attacked by our Eighth Air Force and British Air force earlier in the war and were pretty well “shot up.” Most of the windows were gone, there were bullet holes in the walls and there were no toilet facilities.

When the Rockettes arrived at the railway station, I briefed them on their trip via rail. Standing before them I said, “Your coach will be attached to an ordnance/ammunition train heading inland to the front. It will make no unnecessary stops. The only food and water avail-able is what you carry with you.”

I looked around at the girls and paused. I continued. “When you reach the end of your train ride, you will be again trucked to your final destination.”

They seemed prepared for all this, but murmurs started when I said, “There are no toilet facilities on the train.”

Quickly, I added, “I suggest you use the facilities here at the station.”

I led the group of dancers to the East station platform and the only available toilet facility. I stopped in front of a wide door-way. By design, there was no door, just a very wide opening. Inside, along the walls, there were holes in the concrete floor that were six-to-seven-inches in diameter. They were spaced the width of a human body apart. In front of each hole was a set of raised footprints on the floor.

The Rockette in charge of the group screeched, “There’re no toilets! There’s no toilet tissue!”

“Sorry, Ma’am.” I explain-ed, “This was the way public toilets are in France.” The murmurs broke into loud comments.

“Oh, my God!”

“What’ll we do?”

“This is crazy!”

The girls talked among themselves and made a plan. First, they placed a number of their members across the wide opening. Their “guard” would make sure no one else entered while they were using “the facilities.” What else they did in that big room, I did not know.

Upon leaving “le toilette,” the girls were laughing and in good spirits. I heard one remark, “I’m waiting to find French perfume.”

Another countered, “I’d settle for toilet water!”

The group coped well with their first reality of France.

Le (Sept. ‘14) adds, “No matter what, the girls all looked great in their Army-officer-look-alike outfits.”

“Ready to board ship for USO performances”  From web site: Vintage every-day: A Look Back at The Rockettes over 85 years.

“Ready to board ship for USO performances” From web site: Vintage every-day: A Look Back at The Rockettes over 85 years.

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