Dad’s Time in the Service 1955-1956 Part 02

March 29th, 2023 § 1 comment

Here is part 02 of Dad’s time in the service. I am including the full transcript as well.

So where did Bob serve?

Well, when Bob first went in, he went in at San Diego. And after his boot training, he was assigned to the aircraft carrier, Lexington, but they were out of San Diego at that time. And so he went in in October of 1940. In 41, our grandpa died. Bob got emergency leave to come home, but he didn’t get home in time for the funeral, but he was home.

That’s all the photos we have?

Yes, of him with grandma in his uniform.

He went back, and the Lexington sailed to Honolulu. I have cards that he sent, and some letters from Pearl Harbor.

The family thought he was at Pearl Harbor when December 7th occurred. Actually, he had sailed out of Pearl Harbor the day before. So his aircraft carrier was not there. He remained on the Lexington and it went into the Coral Sea.

And that’s where he was put ashore as a spotter at Guadalcanal. And he got wounded three times. One time was with hot gasoline from a plane engine. I’m not too sure exactly what the other two were. But while he was on Guadalcanal, the Lexington got sunk.

And of course, your parents had no idea where he was, did they?

No, but they knew that he was injured. They got word of that.

So then in the summer of 44, he got leave to come home, and so he was home for awhile. And then he did not go back overseas. He was stationed in Memphis at the Naval Air Station and in Virginia. And when I went into the army, he was stationed at Bainbridge, Maryland.

And Bob?

Bob was in-

Or Ed, I mean.

Ed was at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Bob was at Bainbridge Naval something or other.

And Warren was-

He was out. He was not in at that time.

He was, though, stationed in Missouri though, right?


Now did he go overseas?

Yes. But he did not see combat. I mean the war was still on, it was on when he went over, but he did not see combat.

So you’ve gone over your daily routine, when you were in Tacoma. How did that train you for then going overseas?

Well, after we got back from Yakima-

Right, Yakima, I’m sorry.

We just went around daily soldier stuff. We had classes, we had training. But then I got a temporary duty assignment back to Madigan Army Hospital, which of course, was right next door. So I went there for six weeks and worked on the psychiatric wards again.

And then when I came back to the unit, we started in our daily routines, and I actually gave some classes, but then one of the guys in my outfit… a bunch of them were going to be shipped out. And a fella by the name of Richard Neil, he had just gotten married, living off post, and he got transferred to Germany, and of course he didn’t want to go. So I volunteered to take his place. Now the problem was, I was a neuro psychiatric technician, and he was a regular corpsman. So, since I’d gone through all of this basic training as a corpsman, I said change my military occupation specialty number back to corpsman, and I’ll take his place to go to Germany. So they did. It’s called a Military Occupational Specialty is called an MOS. So they changed it, wrote me orders to go to Germany.

And so in November of 54, I went home on leave, and then flew to Washington DC and stayed a few days with Ed, and he drove me up to Fort Dix, New Jersey, and I sailed the Atlantic.

How was that.


No, I mean, here’s an Iowa boy, saw the Pacific Ocean, but put on a boat to sail the Atlantic. How was that experience?

But let’s retrograde a little bit so that you get a little better feel.

When we first started our basic training at Camp Pickett, we were not given leave at all. Three day passes or weekend passes we didn’t have. But after maybe five weeks, they started giving us passes.

So we would get off at noon on Saturday and had to be back in by first call on Monday morning. The sergeants were making big bucks with… They had cars and they would charge us, and we would go to Washington DC. And of course, I had my brother Ed in Washington DC, so I could stay with him. And I went several times, and in fact, Christmas of 53, I went to Washington DC on a longer pass to Ed’s, and then we drove up to Bainbridge, and had Ed and his wife, Barbara and I, had Christmas dinner with Bob and his family. So it wasn’t like I was being having a first Christmas way.

And so I got to see Washington DC. I went to the White House, I went to the Capitol. Of course, you can’t do a lot of that today. I went to Mount Vernon. All of the Washington monument, all of them that were there at the time. I got to see all of that. And actually on one of those weekend passes, I ate my very first pizza in Washington DC.

Basic training was like the first eight weeks was what every soldier goes through. So you had to take weapons training. We had to learn to clean the weapons and disassemble them, clean them, put them back together in a certain amount of time. We had to go to the firing range, fire the weapons. We had to go underneath, crawl underneath barbwire for a period. I don’t remember how far it was, but they were shooting ammunition and whether it was live ammunition or not, it sounded like it. I don’t know whether it was or wasn’t, but I kept my head down.

And one time in November, we went out in the field, and every soldier is given half a pup tent, a blanket and a couple of sticks that holds the pup tent up. So you have half, another soldier has another half, and you put it together and that’s where you sleep. Well, we had to sleep out and it snowed, and the snow was so heavy, most of the pup tents were down on top of us. It snowed in the middle of the night. And so we woke up in the morning with our tents laying on top of us. And then we went back into to our barracks, and I got ready and went to Washington for the weekend. And people in Washington DC had no idea how to drive in that snow. And it melted within one day, but it was a good six inch now, and it was heavy. So I got to observe those people.

We had a captain in Camp Pickett, his name was Captain DeGaulle. And I don’t know whether you want me to say on tape or not, but he was a first class prick.

Stereotypical, movies?

Yeah. And when we were out on this maneuver, we were fed. Cooks fed us sea rations. But they just took these sea ration cans and opened them up and throw them all together, and heated him up and slopped him into our mess kits, and he’d stand there and he said, “Oh my wife spent all week getting this food ready for you guys.” And there were actually guys that believed it.

So anyhow, when I first got to Camp Pickett, there was a real gung ho sergeant and he said we want our company to be the best, so we want to form a drill team. So they signed up people for the drill team, and I signed up, but on the day that they first met, I was on duty and I couldn’t practice with it. So they had this original list of people that signed up and they gave it to the First Sergeant and he took those people off of the duty roster. Okay, I was on duty the day they [inaudible 00:16:06], they made a new list, and those were the guys, and my name wasn’t on it. So I was taken off the duty roster and I didn’t pull KP again until he discovered it in late December and he put me on KP, and then he sat in the mess hall all day and laughed at me because he caught me.

But he soon was not laughing at me but every, I don’t remember whether it was week or every month, but they nominated someone to go to the Battalion Commander. There are four companies in a battalion, and four soldiers, one from each company, went to the Battalion Commander, and he quizzed them and did other things, see how they were dressed and all of that, and picked a Battalion Soldier of the Week. It was weekly. And in December I got to be Battalion Soldier of the week.

And then, there’s three battalions in a regiment, we were sent… Those who made Battalion Soldier the Week were sent to the Regimental Commander, a Colonel [Bolus 00:18:06], and I was named Regimental Soldier of the Week. And I was the first one from our company to get this. So our Captain was very happy, it made him look good. Our first Sergeant was happy, it made him look good. Our Platoon Sergeant, who was head of the drill team, and he also took us to Washington most of the time, he was happy. I got them, and I have at home an article and picture from the paper that they sent and, back in those days, they published that kind of thing in the paper.

Okay, I’ll need that.

So, when I left Camp Pickett, I went home on leave. They took me to Washington DC, I flew from Washington DC to Chicago and down to Kansas City. Took a bus to Des Moines, and was on leave, and then I took a bus back to Kansas city, got on an airplane, and the airplane stopped at Wichita, and then at Oklahoma City, and then Dallas. It was Love Field at Dallas at the time. We were late getting out of Oklahoma City because of an ice storm. This was on a Sunday, I had to report to Brooke Army Medical Center by midnight on Sunday, and this was on Sunday.

So we were late leaving Oklahoma City, and by this time I’m getting worried. We flew to Dallas, and in Dallas when we landed, it was on ice. We didn’t miss the terminal by very much, the wing of the plane, and then we were delayed getting out of there. Well there was a man on the plane, who had talked to me in Oklahoma City, and we were both from Des Moines, because we’d gotten on there, and he bought me a Sunday night dinner, because, quite frankly, I don’t have any money. And I got… Then took off late from Dallas and got into San Antonio after 11. I went to a telephone, looked up the number of Fort Sam Houston, called them and said, “I’m here at the airport, if you want me, come and get me.” And they sent a Jeep and a driver and picked me up. And then they put me in a barracks that was not where I was supposed to be.

And I got up the next morning and shaved and all that, went to breakfast, and they said, “Well we’re going to have to find out where you belong. Go back to the barracks and stay there.” So I did. And all of… I was looking outside and stuff, and guys out there playing baseball, throwing the baseball back and forth. And one of the guys was Don Newcombe. So when they came to get me, I said, “That’s Donq Newcombe, isn’t it?” “Yeah, yeah.” So I said, “Well, what’s the matter?” “Well, he wets the bed every night, so he can get out of the Army and go back and play baseball for Brooklyn.”

And they got me to the right place then, and started my training in a couple of days, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Brooke Army Medical Center. We’re known as the Country Club of the Army.

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