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Veterans recall forgotten theater'

By Staff
REUNION Veterans who served in the 219th Signal Depot Co. during World War II and were able to attend the unit's reunion last weekend were, front row from left, Henry Underwood of Petal, James Skelton of Meridian, John Biddle of Bailey, standing from left, W.O. White of Mize, Oliver Crocker of Colorado and Premo Stallone of Natchez. They are pictured with a photo of the ship on which they sailed to duty in India. Photo by Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
July 23, 2001
It was nearly 60 years ago when the 219th Signal Depot Co. set out on a 35-day ocean voyage that landed them in India and what is known as "the forgotten theater" of World War II.
They sailed out on the U.S.S. Mariposa, a luxury liner that had been converted into a troop carrier. The journey took them to the tip of South America, across the South Atlantic to Africa, and on to India.
The 219th returned to the United States in January of 1946, and disbanded. Beginning in 1956, they started having yearly reunions, and haven't missed one yet. They met this weekend at the Howard Johnson here in Meridian.
Unforgiving land
The following description was printed in a "Dear Abby" column on July 27, 2000. It was written by Bob Fagelson, national historian, CBI Veterans association.
The government estimates that more than 250,000 American soldiers were involved in the CBI at one time or another. The 219th Signal Depot Co. was formed at Camp McCain near Grenada. They went through basic training there, then went out to California for more training. After that, they were sent to New York City and shipped out.
No one seemed interested in going back to that area of the world for a visit.
Never forgotten
Only six veterans of the group were able to come the reunion this weekend. Families are involved now and there were 29 other family members in attendance, Skelton said.
Skelton and the others believe that of the original number, at least 106 and probably more are deceased. But the group has a promise. The last two survivors will meet and share a bottle of champagne in memory of the others.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217, or e-mail him at sswogetinsky@themeridianstar.com.

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