Dad’s Time in the Service 1955-1956

February 28th, 2023 § 1 comment

I sat down with Dad a few years ago and had him tell me about his time in the service. He talked for almost four hours. Here is part one of five. I cut out quite a bit to help move it along, however I am including the complete transcript in this post.

Mic check, one, two.
Okay We’re just going to start off and give you some basic who, what, when, where questions and then try to gradually build on those and get a narrative.

Let’s start with actually, your name, and your service, what branch of Army you were in?

My name is Richard Delk. I served in the United States Army from 1953 to 1956. August 53 to August of 56.

How old were you when you joined?


19? So fresh out of-

I had one year of college.

Okay. Why did you join?

Well, two reasons. One is that I ran out of money, and I needed the GI bill. The other one is that I really didn’t know what I wanted to do or what I wanted to be.

Were other people around you like that? Was that common?

Very common.


Very common.

Why’d you choose the branch you did?

Well, I’m blind in my left eye. I would not have been drafted. The Army only required a three year commitment, and that’s really all I wanted to give them. I thought it would be easier to get into the Army than the other two services, or three services because of my eye.
Actually, they first told me they wouldn’t take me. After some discussion and reconsideration, they decided that it would be all right. I agreed to go into the Medical Corp. They were okay with that because they had schools that they had openings in, and they were willing to take me on that basis.

How did Grandma and Grandpa feel about that?

My parents were not happy. They did everything in their power to dissuade me. I was not their strongest child, physically. I had troubles. They had up to three sons in the service. One is already in, two out. Actually, one out, and two in. My dad wanted to get me a job in one of the banks.

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

I did not want that to happen. I felt I needed time to figure out what I really wanted to do. I went ahead with it, despite their objections. They finally said, okay, they would take me in the Army, as long as I went in the Medical Corp. I picked a school that I thought I would like, called Neuropsychiatric Technician School. I got committed to that school.

Where was that at?

The school was at Brook Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. I had to go through basic training, first.

Where was that?

Basic training was at Camp Pickett, Virginia.
When I first entered, they put me on a bus with other recruits to Fort Riley, Kansas. That was a recruitment center.

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

From there, we got our uniforms, our shots, whatever we needed to continue. From Fort Riley, they put us on a train and sent us to Camp Pickett, Virginia. I know we went through Kansas City, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and I’m not sure exactly where we got off the train. We took buses, then. There was a few of us going to Camp Pickett, and we took a bus from wherever we got off the train to Camp Pickett, Virginia, which is outside of Blackstone.

What were your comrades, your soldiers, how were they feeling about this? Were they all going to basic training to then disperse other places?

Yes, they were going to basic training. That’s what Camp Pickett at that time was the basic training center for medical service personnel. We would go through eight weeks of regular basic training. Every soldier that went in went through eight weeks of some kind of … Then, we went through eight weeks really designated for medical service personnel. I was there a total of 16 weeks.

Then, where did you go?

From there, I had a short leave, and then went to Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.

How long were you there?

I got to Brook in January, and we left there sometime in February. I went to Madigan Army Hospital. This was on the job training, served in a Medic and Army Hospital outside Tacoma, Washington.

Some people in my school went to an army hospital in Denver, some of them went to the army hospital in San Francisco. Others went to other army hospitals. There were a couple that stayed in Brook Army Medical Center.

What did you learn at Brook?

I was taught by psychiatrists, mostly, about psychiatric issues and psychiatric treatments.

At that time, there was two basic treatments other than just talking to you. There was electric shock, and insulin shock. We learned about the care of mentally ill patients, we learned how to attend to them during the shock treatments. We learned about what their tendencies were, what we can look for, and how we were to respond to them.

Were you still going through other training as well?

No. When I got to Brook, it was classroom training. We did visit the wards, but there was no hands-on there.

When I got to Madigan, then I was put right out to pasture. I had to do the things necessary. The wards were all locked wards. I was given a key to the wards, and I was to guard it with my life. You never knew what the patients were going to do.

While on the ward, I helped manage the patients, I helped give them treatments. When they were given electric shock or insulin shock, I helped hold them down. Generally, they did not get these treatments every day, but every day they were on duty except on the weekends, we gave treatments to some of the patients.

These patients were from the Korean War?
Some of them were from Korea.

An example, one very, very intelligent young man had gone to Cal Tech, I think. He was put on a duty in Korea where he spent eight hours looking at a screen that had gauges on it. When those gauges did something, he was supposed to do something. He never had, he never did. He spent eight hours a day, staring at this screen. It affected his mind because he was used to using his mind in a lot more substantive manner.

You’re done with Madigan. Did any time when you were in service, was there a fear that war would break out again?

Not while I was in the United States. I didn’t have any fears whatsoever. After I left Madigan, I was on leave. I went back, I flew from Seattle to Minneapolis, took a bus to Des Moines, and was on leave. That was in April 54. I took a train, then, back to a base between San Francisco and Sacramento, California. That was the base where they assigned you to where your permanent position was to be.

I got to that base, and I don’t recall its name. They immediately shipped me out, and sent me back to Tacoma, Washington to 24th Infantry Division, in their Medical Battalion.

When I got to Fort Lewis, they were all out … Fort Lewis was by Tacoma, by Madigan Army Hospital and McChord Air Force Base. They immediately sent us out on a truck. My civilian clothes, my army clothes, everything was loaded into a truck, and several other soldiers. We went across the Cascades, to Yakima Proving Grounds, near Yakima, Washington where they were on maneuvers.

I immediately went to the Medical Battalion. They had their tents sent up, kind of like a MASH. They had a receiving tent, where wounded would be brought in and evaluated. They had a surgical tent, a ward tent, and an evacuation tent. They had four basic tents. I was assigned to the ward tent, but of course we didn’t have patients because we were just on maneuvers. Well, we did get some patients eventually, but not psychiatric patients.

The maneuvers involved the whole Division. We’re in a desert. We simulated battle. The big thing that would happen every day, we would have an air raid from planes from McChord Air Force Base. We had to be prepared for that. We did have a few patients with injuries, some of them were minor. We had one major patient, not psychiatric, but he was an Infantry man that threw himself down by some rocks. A rattlesnake was in the rocks, and it bit him in the corroded artery. He did not make it. Other than that, and a few bruises and a couple broken bones, we didn’t have anything. The big thing was keeping our equipment clean and getting ready for the air raids.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

§ One Response to Dad’s Time in the Service 1955-1956

  • Patti says:

    Very interesting didn’t know a lot of this especially his time in the service in the pych ward.

What's this?

You are currently reading Dad’s Time in the Service 1955-1956 at Delk Family History (and more!).