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About this blog’s odd name: insearchofbud

March 4, 2016
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I don’t know who took this picture of PFC Carl R. Bonde, Jr. (Bud) in front of his house in Kalispell, probably in the winter of 1943 or early 1944.

March 4, 2016

On this day in 1943 our uncle Carl (Bud) Ralph Bonde, Jr., was inducted into the U.S. Army in Butte, Montana, at the Armed Forces Entrance Examination Station.  March fourth.  Despite the prayers of his mother in Kalispell, PFC Bonde never returned.  In fact his body remains to this day locked in the wreckage of his troopship, the SS Leopoldville, a Belgian luxury liner that had been requisitioned and refitted for wartime.

Bonde and 762 other soldiers died in the English Channel Christmas Eve, 1944, while those who might have been able to rescue them from the sinking ship partied at the Army post at Cherbourg, France.  They were just six miles away and the doomed soldiers could see the lights of the city from the deck of their ship.

Another important vessel that night, U-486, a German submarine, was hiding near the entrance to the Cherbourg harbor.  This was a common tactic, and it worked that night.  The U-Boat commander, Uberlieutenant Gerhard Meyer, fired two torpedoes.  The first one missed.  My friend Randy Bradham, a member of Carl’s Army Company E, said he had been standing on the deck of the nearby HMS Cheshire and saw the torpedoes coursing through the water.  There had been five ships in the convoy.  My friends escaped the Leo by jumping to the deck of an escort, the HMS Brilliant.

Thanks to the internet and a network of survivors of the SS Leopoldville disaster, I eventually met Dr. Bradham (he trained to become a cardiothoracic surgeon at Ann Arbor, Michigan) and a handful of others from Company E.  I spent several days in their company at a reunion in Florida in 2006.

At the reunion I tried in vain to persuade Carl’s best friend Bill Moomey to wade into the water of the Gulf of Mexico.  I don’t know why that seemed like a good idea.

The old men advised me how to execute my plan to smuggle some soil from Bud’s home in Kalispell to Cherbourg, then out on the Channel to the wreckage of the Leo.  One GI veteran, a fellow who was a retired fireman from Flint, Michigan, suggested I put the dirt into a cosmetics container, such as one for face powder.

In the end I practiced with a mock plastic bag of dirt from my own yard that I successfully carried on a flight to Seattle.

Then I took the real dirt to France in another bag hidden in my suitcase.  My French friend, Bertrand Sciboz, took P. and me to the wreckage site, found the wreck with an echo image scope, and I put it and a wreath into the water there.

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This is what the SS Leopoldville looked like on Bertrand’s Echo Scope.

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I read Bill Moomey’s message to Bud before pouring the Kalispell soil into the English Channel when we visited the SS Leopoldville in 2007.

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