CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES
World War II
Paul Kenworthy was born in Kearny, New Jersey in March, 1912, and worked for his family’s moving and storage company prior to World War II. In 1936 he joined the New Jersey National Guard’s 102nd Cavalry Regiment, also known as the “Essex Troop.” The unit conducted its annual training exercises at Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania for three years and then at Canton, New York in the summer of 1940.
On January 2, 1941, the 102nd was federalized for one year of service and shipped to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Kenworthy participated in maneuvers in South and North Carolina with the regiment’s mechanized and horse mounted squadrons. He had extensive prewar cooking experience with his mother and was able to parlay that skill into duty as a mess sergeant. Following Pearl Harbor, the regiment’s term of service was extended for the duration of the conflict.
Kenworthy went overseas with the 102nd in October, 1942 on a ship that had previously transported prisoners of war from North Africa to New York. Some vessels in the convoy developed mechanical problems, so they made their way very slowly to England via Greenland. Kenworthy’s ship eventually landed at Liverpool, where he experienced a German air raid on his first night ashore. During his time in England, Kenworthy visited London twice, and he remembered that although he was apprehensive about German bombing, the English people had apparently grown accustomed to it, viewing the attacks more as harassment than threat. He found the London “Underground” cleaner than the New York subway, and noted that during one air raid, English people around him were sleeping in the Underground’s stairways and platforms.
At the end of 1942 the 102nd’s Second Squadron, to which Kenworthy was assigned, was shipped to Algeria. The New Jersey National Guardsmen arrived in Algiers on January 2, 1943 and remained in North Africa for eighteen months. In November 1943 the unit’s designation was changed to the 117th Cavalry Squadron. Although subject to occasional German bombing raids, Kenworthy had some freedom to travel locally. With the help of a fifteen year old Arab boy, he purchased turkeys and vegetables he used to supplement rations for the meals his mess section prepared for the men of the squadron.
In May 1944 the 117th left Algeria from the port of Oran enroute to Italy, where it was assigned to the Fifth Army’s Sixth Army Corps. The unit landed at Naples and fought its way north to Rome and Florence, and then was withdrawn from the line to participate in the invasion of southern France. Kenworthy took two cooks and two soldiers on “KP” (“kitchen police”—temporary work helping in the kitchen) duty to Naples ahead of the squadron to prepare dinner before the troopers boarded ships for the invasion. On August 15, 1945, the 117th landed on the French Riviera at a place called Saint Maxine, near Monte Carlo. Kenworthy recalled that he was amazed at the civilian ocean bathers who seemed oblivious to the war as the soldiers went ashore.
During the course of the invasion Sergeant Kenworthy acquired a new mess truck and was assigned two excellent new cooks who were from Louisiana. He noted that German field kitchen outfits, which issued a lot of black bread, were inferior to their American counterparts. The U.S. kitchens prepared hot meals, including stews and soups, whenever they could. Although C and K field rations were often issued to American troops, the cooks supplemented these rations and prepared them in a way that made them more palatable.
The 117th continued to drive north towards Germany through the rest of the year. Kenworthy remembered that a lot of the unit’s light tanks were destroyed in action and were replaced later by better designed vehicles. (Most likely the replacements were M-24 Chafee light tanks.) The squadron experienced a lull in action near the Rhine River between Christmas and New Years. On Christmas Day 1944, American troops were treated to a turkey dinner, which raised morale, although his assessment was that the 117th had consistently high morale throughout the war.
On January 20, 1945, the 117th entered Manheim, Germany, where scouts captured an SS sniper who provided helpful information on enemy dispositions. When the squadron advanced into Austria, Kenworthy recalled that he and his men were quartered in civilian homes with comfortable beds. He noted that his five nephews who served in the Battle of the Bulge had no such amenities, and stated that his unit was on a holiday compared to their experiences.
Kenworthy, who had accumulated enough overseas points to return home soon after the close of the war in Europe, left the 117th on July 15, 1945. He traveled for twenty days over bombed out roads, to Marseilles, stopping for several days in the German Rhineland town of Bacharach, which was famed for its crystal manufacturing, where he picked up some crystal and boxed it to send home. Staff Sergeant Paul Kenworthy received the African-Mediterranean-European Service Ribbon for his service in World War II.