MY ARMY MEMOIRS

From the coal mines region of Northeast Pennsylvania on a cold wintry day of January 13th, 1939 (my birthday) I arrived in Bloomfield, New Mexico....It was the start of my career of 2-1/2 years in a C.C.C. camp...In 1941 my camp friend John (Jackhammer) Bensink was selected for induction into the U.S. Army by the local San Juan County, New Mexico Selective Service Board; He convinced me to join him, with the hope we would remain in the same outfit together. Our scheme to fill the questionnaire with the exact type of duties we performed in the C.C.C. This test was held at Fort Bliss, Texas. We received our military clothing and gear. I remember my interview the next day with an army officer, he wanted to arrange my joining of a N.G. Engineer Unit, that was soon departing for the Philippines (Bataan) P.I. I knew little of different army branches, but was once told that the Engineers Service was tough - I turned down the request of the interviewing officer...must of been an angel on my shoulder, as I shudder to the fate of that unit at the hands of the Japs, in the fall of Bataan.

Next day on the bulletin board at Fort Bliss my name appeared on a list to entrain for San Antonio, Texas and Fort Sam Houston to join the 104th Infantry Anti Tank B'n. "Jackhammer's" plan didn't work, we split in 2 days, never seen my pal since that day in March, 1941.

Became a close friend of Al Stallings (C. Co.) who lived in Farmington, New Mexico. Now began our 13 weeks of recruit training on Dodd Field, which was adjacent to C. Company Barracks, close order drill - the many lectures on military courtesy - the full field inspections, with pup tents, and personal gear on every Saturday morning. Finally, the first pass to San Antonio on the completion of our 13 week basic training - came a day in June, must of been Flag Day or some kind of holiday, anyway, we received a fresh issue of WWI helmets, with our clean "sun-tans" uniform, we took part in a parade in San Antonio. In the viewing stand was General Jack Perishing of WWI fame. That WWI helmet never set right on my head, it gave me a headache - thank God, we didn't go to war with that tin-can!

I enjoyed the weekend passes into town; we were allowed to wear our civilian clothing. Time came suddenly for C. Co. to go on maneuvers in Louisiana for 2 months. Near the close of the games, Stallings and I received a 10 day furlough. Transportation at the time was by bus to Farmington, and Bloomfield, New Mexico. Upon our return to the bus station in Albuquerque, we missed our connection to Louisiana - Seems like there was a teachers convention in the city. The attraction of two young ladies blossomed into a party atmosphere, as a result, the next day when we arrived at Camp Claiborne, LA, we were astonished that the battalion left by convoy to North Carolina-South Carolina maneuvers. Lucky for us we caught the last 6x6 truck from H.Q. Co. We rode atop the back of that 6x6 truck that was filled with personnel baggage. Took us 2 days to catch up with the battalion, which was somewhere in Camp Gordon, GA. As I recall, we moved around a lot in the Carolina country.

It was here that I learned of this guy called "Biscuit" Norred. All day maneuvering, we became dog-tired and weary, most of us welcomed the evening, to bed down, yet here was this rugged country-boy "Biscuit", tramping the mountain hills at night with howling coon dogs. He enjoyed the sound of barking dogs as a satisfying pleasure. To the rest of us, we marveled at his amazing stamina.

Most everyone can recall their moment on December 7, 1941. Happy expectations on our return to Fort Sam Houston, Texas, as we looked forward to liberty in San Antonio. It was the last day I wore "Civvy" clothing for almost 4 years. In town, I had a dinner and the usual refreshments, took in a movie which featured "Sgt. York" played by Gary Cooper. Midway the film stopped, lights flicked on in the theater, and then an announcement came from the stage, that all military personnel report back to their outfit - "The Japs bombed Pearl Harbor."

Within a few days of packing our equipment, we boarded a troop train for California - hardly can one forget the Pullman cars with the upper and lower sleeping berths - monotony set in - guys played poker. Sometimes the train stopped at a watering tank - or a change of locomotives took place. I recall one stop in the Mojave Desert - we were allowed to stretch our legs outside the "train stop" for only 10 minutes. At a distance from the railroad track - maybe 1/4 mile was a few buildings of a small town - we spotted a liquor store. "Biscuit" Norred and I high-tailed it for the "gin-mill". We were warned that the train would leave exactly in 10 minutes. Our venture was a piece of luck - took as many bottles as we could carry - returning toward the train, the whistle of the train engine could be heard. We began running fast - the "G.I.'s" were already loaded aboard, and the train began into motion, they were cheering for us to make it, as we caught that "sucker train" on the fly. Believe me, the rest of the trip contained no boredom - The bottled spirits took care of that!

Fishing at the Continental Divide Memoir Index Army Training