A World War II Soldier's Story
Thomas Lodge, 198th Coast Artillery

Lewes native Thomas Lodge along with two hometown buddies could read the handwriting on
the wall in 1940.  “I was twenty three at the time and the other two were also, and just prime
bait for being drafted, you know, twenty-three and single.”  To avoid being drafted into an out-
of-state unit, the three enlisted for one year in the 198th Coast Artillery, the Delaware National
Guard unit that had just been federalized by the U.S. Army.  Lodge knew the unit would likely
transfer out of Delaware, but at least coming from a small state, “You were bound to know
some of the people.” Indeed, although the 198th soon transferred to Camps in New York and
Massachusetts, and began accepting draftees and recruits from all over the country, there
remained a definite and comforting Delaware focus.  After Lodge’s year-long tour ended he
decided to re-enlist shortly regretting his decision when his two buddies mustered out and went
home to Lewes.  When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor a few months later however, the two
friends were called back to service and drafted into different outfits, while Lodge remained with
his friends in the 198th.  “That was better luck than management,” he admits.

Lodge sailed with the 198th in January 1942 to Bora Bora – for security reasons known by its
military code “
Bobcat Island”.  He remembers it was an anxious undertaking at first.  No one
knew anything about Bora Bora, including whether the Japanese had a presence there.  When
the troops landed, the first to go ashore drew their weapons just in case.  “It was just an
experience to go ashore not knowing what you would find”.

What the 198th found were friendly people who spoke no English and had no technology, no
housing for the troops, no electricity, no roads, and no refrigeration.   The unit had to build
everything they needed and had to unload and install heavy anti-aircraft guns by brute
strength. The men ate canned and powdered food for months unless a supply ship arrived with
temporary stocks of fresh rations.  Lodge particularly remembers the arrival of fresh meat on a
Navy ship: We even had a parade and marched down to the dock to escort the Pork Chops or
whatever it was!”  As Lodge also recalls, “Boredom was the main thing we had to fight, “but
quickly adds how grateful the men were that “nobody was shooting at us”.

Tom Lodge would experience enemy fire before the war was done, however.  In 1943 he went to
Officer Training School and became one of the “Ninety-Day Wonders” of World War II.  “Then
you got your second lieutenant bars and you thought you were a general.  It was the toughest
three months I put in the service…after awhile I found myself wishing I was back in Bora Bora
with the friendly natives!”

Reassigned to the 167th Anti-Aircraft Battalion in the European Theater, Lodge saw action via
German bombers while defending Italian and French port cities.  He ended the war with the
rank of Captain, stationed in Nice France on the Riviera.  He was grateful to have the war ended
– and delighted to remain on the French Riviera as long as it took before receiving his orders to
go home.

Interview by Annette Woolard, September 8, 1994, Delaware History pp.241-242
Delaware Military History