It was Friday, January 9, 1944. On Saturday, I took the physical and because it was A.S.T.P. a Reserve Program (Army Specialized Training Program), the doctor's were not too concerned. I passed somehow using one eye. Sunday, I spent saying good-bye to family and friends and that evening boarded a train to Palo Alto, California, and Stanford University, 400 miles from home, Oh, Mama! Soon I was to be eighteen and was to learn discipline, personal care, room chores, laundry. etc Then the school work really took all of my best effort. We were scheduled one and a half times faster than civilian students. We marched to and from all classes and meals. Near The end of the semester, I was assigned a tutor (a pretty gal) for English. At the end, five failed and twenty of us made it. It was here at Stanford that I met some wonderful guys. Sterns, for one, surprised me when he told of living in Alhambra, (my town three miles square). We did look somewhat alike with blonde hair and blue eyes. Another friend was Ernsburger from Covina, California. He was also one of my roommates, Harold Wingard was a third acquaintance who became a good friend. It seemed a bit different for me at the time because each one of these boys were Jewish and we all had very much the same values.
While writing about this my thoughts return to one night after lights out. With four in each room at the dorm any one of us could demand silence in order to be able to sleep for six hours. The fact was, I did talk quietly and found myself explaining how the Lord entered my life and through so many roadblocks doors of opportunity would open and how blessed I felt, In my endeavor to make myself understandable and meaningful, I talked all night! wondering if my roommates had been listening. At dawn I questioned each one by name and discovered it was true, every response was firm, they had heard the Gospel that I had presented,
Needless to say, each of these guys also passed the semester. No one gloated as we said good-bye to the five who failed. They were sent off to the regular Army. Our military was now getting ready for "D-Day" and to attack mainland Europe.
In a few days our Sergeant posted a notice that the twenty of us were to report immediately to Ft. MacArthur for reassignment. This notice was urgent and totally unexpected. Upon arriving we sent three of our group from Stanford to speak to The officers and to impress them with our potential for Officer Candidate School, or any technical branch where we could be used to best advantage. A day later the assignments were read to us. Some were assigned to Artillery, others to Signal Corps, but most of us were assigned to the Infantry. I made a decision right away to trust the Lord and do my best without complaining. Here at Ft MacArthur, I ran into Dewayne Wilson, He enlisted into the Air Corp. and was being processed. You might think I would be eager to be in a different branch of our Army, but after making the Infantry decision and being aware it is the "Queen of Battle' no other options were important to me. I was now a "Dog Face Soldier".
On our way to Camp Roberts, California, we were allowed to stop and spend a couple of days at home. It was not a furlough. While home, would you guess, I went ice skating in Pasadena? Harold Wingard showed up to verify that this really was the way I spent time with friends without the need of compromising values. It was a fun night.
Basic Training at Camp Roberts was very physical for 4 months. Sterns had a confidence problem, so I was able to help out by encouragement from behind by talking, yelling, and hassling. Sterns became angered and determined. We did finish all the hikes and physical requirements. Forced marches, intense heat, heavy packs, and using all arms made for heavy duty trianing at Camp Roberts. Hand grenades, and the Browning automatic rifle caught my interest. I paid close attention to these.
The Browning had a large bolt shaped like a 2 x 3 inch piece of steel 3/4 inches thick. A tube under the barrel diverted gas back to the bolt from near the end of the barrel. The weapon fired faster than a machine gun with action so smooth there was no kick whatever. Anyone seeing this rifle would recognize it's power. We practiced shooting pop up targets in a canyon. This gave me a bit of confidence and it was good training. I learned to take apart this oversized rifle in the dark and to clean ammo magazines. During training I had to fire right handed, although I couldn't see down the barrel. I'll never know how I passed the rifle range target tests. We also learned to use the air cooled machine gun and also the water cooled model. An obstacle course was crossed by crawling while machine guns sprayed rounds very close to us not allowing for error or our getting up. Training continued as I learned how to fire a Mortar (call it a short cannon), also a Bazooka. A Bazooka was a thin shell tube resting on my shoulder and fired a small rocket especially good weapon agamst tanks and half tracks.
I threw several hand grenades on the range one day however, a record was not kept. This resulted in my having to stay in camp over the weekend and do them all over again. The practice was OK, but now I was being included with all the guys who failed earlier and had real problems learning this art form. Back at the range we stood behind a short concrete (thick) wall and after throwing a grenade everyone ducked behind this safe area. Wouldn't you guess one of the guys pulled the pin and dropped his grenade at his feet. Everyone jumped just in time to the other side of the wall. It was a wonder we had no casualties, Later in training our whole company was on line and progressing toward a hillside and simulating marching fire. Four aircraft flew cover from above and used live ammo to spray the hillside in front of us. They added a lot of realism. One flyer dipped his wings and was showing off. This resulted in five of our men being hit with his 50 caliber slugs None, fortunately, were killed but there wounds were severe as all were hit in the legs. I was about 50 yards away and could only aim my empty rifle and fire as did everyone else at this Navy plane.
Basic Training ended with a 25-30 mile march that took us all night. Afterwards, I hitch-hiked to Alhambra and home, slept and awakened just in time to hitch-hike back. It crossed my mind a coupIe of times that if I reported my poor vision I could quit and go home for good. I dismissed this idea right away.
It felt really great to get a 15 day furlough and rest. Family and friends then joined me at the Union Depot as I hugged and kisscd each one. Mom was there with Karen, my youngest sister who was 7 months old at the time. She was a blessing and would keep Mom busy while I was away. The train ride to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin was a long one with an old steam engine burning coal. I stopped in the restroom in Omaha, looked in a mirror and didn't recognize myself as the coal dust covered my face. After the military boarded the train again, civilians were then allowed to board. I sat next to a window and a cute young gal sat next to me. All The other G.I.'s took notice and I was flattered to death. My heart jumped a bit. I chatted with her half the night and couldn't help feelings She had been engaged but her fiancee' had gone off to war. It seemed natural to experience a lingering kiss as she arrived at her destination in Worthington, Minnesota.
Camp McCoy was a whole new adventure. I felt strong and had become accustomed to taking orders and following procedures. "Chow" was especially good with fresh dairy products and more careful cooks than I had become used to in California. Barracks, Headquarters, Parade Field, and Training areas were very appropriate, This camp is being kept as an Historic site 50 years later. The last thing I expected was that we would leave the comforts and bivouac in the woods and swamps for 6 weeks and never see camp again until we were ready for combat.
Living in The wild during October and part of November was super training. We ate field rations and nothing extra. Playing war games, we attacked a local farm, crossed fences, fired at sheds and buildings, and practiced mostly at squad level with 12 soldiers, "Sweeny" was hyper and when we were attacking an out-building, he jumped up in front of me and was in my sights just as I fired. By God's grace, I was able to slap my rifle barrel and the round just missed his head. The lesson learned was for me to take the point and have no one in front of me. The farmer was reimbursed for the damage we did to his farm and I felt like saying thanks a lot for the experience. One night we were sloshing around in a swamp, so very cold and wet. I made my first mistake and covered my body with a blanket and concealed it with my poncho. Good old Sergeant Klein caught me and I was never to live it down. Klein was not my squad leader, but never hesitated to cross over and criticize the squad (12 men) I was in. I was convinced he felt our squad had better esprit' and accomplishments I always tried to pay as little attention to him as possible. Later in combat, both Sweeny and Klein would have their effect on me.
For the first time we were issued combat boots, in which we tucked our pants, and buckled up the tops. On the Parade Field we felt good and looked sharp as we passed in review. I wished Mom could have seen me.
Our Company picture was taken as I stood on the top row on the bleacher. I had the only "baby face", because I had enlisted and was the youngest at 18 years old. Younger men usually went Navy.
I read The bulletin board and was among the first to find out we were The "Onaway" Division now on our way. The word "Onaway" is a Chipawa war cry. I related to this as my Mother's tribe is Chipawa. It seemed odd that I sang to myself for a time about "Lets go men, we're shovin' right off again".
On the parade field the Battalion Commander made a short speech as the troops stood at attention. His voice was strong and clear. He instructed the Company Commanders (there were several) to extend a 15 day furlough to any G.I. that applied for one. My mind raced as I processed this information. I had a furlough only a few weeks earlier How is this possible? Continuing, the Battalion Commander called out for the Company Commanders to be kind and while talking to a G.I. "Don't chew their ass out! Instead chew all around and let it fall out"! The formation was dismissed and ready to move. Ready and willing. "Hubba, Hubba"!
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