The U.S. Destroyer Somers, DD-381, which had anchored near my grandparents farm one day early in 1942, was recognized by locals. The Somers had captured a German freighter Odenwald on November 6, 1941 which had been disguised as an American merchantman Willmoto out of Philadelphia. The Odenwald was carrying 3,800 tons of rubber at the time. The incident had been highly publicized in local papers. All this maritime activity on and near the Delaware River and Bay provided much conversation of substance at dinner time on the farm and in the little bungalow on the river bank. There was often a feeling of tenseness in the air during those years, but we small children didn’t pay much attention.
During the war years, my father and grandfather worked at the DuPont Chambers Works at Deepwater, about 8 miles from the farm. They often spent off-duty hours working as volunteer plane spotters, being members of the Ground Observer Corps. There was a spotting tower located on the roof of the old red-brick elementary schoolhouse in Pennsville where they stood watch. On the way home from the DuPont plant they would work a 4-hour stint, watching with binoculars for any airplanes in the area. Aircraft identification charts were posted prominently on the walls of the tower. Any plane being spotted was matched to its corresponding picture on the wall. Then a call would be made to a military agent to report the sighting, with information as to the type and heading of the plane, and the time. There was an airport just across the Delaware River, at New Castle, so there was usually a lot of air traffic, mostly made up of military planes. After the war, at the age of thirteen years, I became a sworn-in member of the Ground Observer Corps. I felt very grown-up while spending time in that same spotting tower, duly reporting in to a military person located on the other side of the river.