BENEFITS OF ARMY TRAINING FOR A CITIZEN SOLDIER

America passed the National Selective Service Draft in the fall of 1940, registration of all males age 21 and plus. Within the springtime of March 1941, I requested to my draft board that I was ready to serve my country; I received notification to report for my physical at Santa Fe, New Mexico on March 12, 1941. By the end of the day, I was aboard a train for Fort Bliss, Texas.

The period of time was pre-war, a citizen soldier was asked by his country to give Uncle Same one (1) year of military service; later he could apply for a discharge to civilian life. My thoughts at that time as like, "this is a good deal". I volunteered, because looking ahead many industries were "gearing-up" for military use. I expected employment would be available almost anywhere in the U.S.A> on completion of my service of one (1) year. Twists of fate fluttered in a different direction, I already had nine (9) months of my sol called contract, when on December 7, 1941 our country was at war, now all military personnel were activated for the duration. Few Americans failed to realize how ill prepared our military forces were at this stage in our century.

We played war games in the summer and fall of 1941 with make believe artillery guns. Example = a fix (6) foot pole, set on a crutch with a lettered piece of cardboard and a notation that here was a 37mm or 75mm gun. The rifles were WWI vintage - a Springfield Bolt Action. The shortage became so bad, that we were re-issued British WWI Enfield rifles. Our main armament for the Infantry Anti-Tank was a 37mm; just one gun was available for our battalion of 800 men. The three (3) companies, A, B, C, shared it. As a result my company "C" would train with the 37mm about once every three (3) weeks. The correct compliment should be 36 artillery pieces to a combat battalion. As a rookie a Private U.S. soldier received $21 dollars a month. Later boosted to $30. The marching in "lock-step" with a large body of men, which was called "close order drill", was a tedious and boring in our daily schedule. The "Drill Sgt," shouted me down many times for not being in cadence, however, I always felt I was correct and the rest of the platoon was out of step! It didn't matter; I was given extra work detail, after our evening mess meal. Such is life for a rookie soldier during basic training!!!

Finally, the completion of our thirteen (13) weeks of basic training and a weekend pass to San Antonio, Texas. Then came the day in June and a holiday (Flag Day) - we received an issue of WWI helmets with our clean suntan uniforms - we took part in a parade in San Antonio, Texas. In the viewing stand was General Jack Pershing 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 pie plate tin can! Our living quarters were newly erected two (2) story type barracks with upper and lower bed bunks, housing about one hundred (100) men to each barrack. Adjacent was Dodd Field, an area of many acres of open ground; it was here we assembled in the early morning by a bugle call for reveille. (How we hated that man). Did you ever wonder who woke the bugler up? Well, it was the duty of the past night, Corporal of the Guard. We "lined up" outside in platoon formation for a regular daily roll call, conducted by the company First Sergeant. Each soldier would answer in the affirmative as the Sergeant called his name; and then we returned to the barracks to wash-up and shave. We then arranged our bed bunks to the proper military code, everything had to be exact, and an inspection by an officer would follow later on. Breakfast call summoned us to the army mess hall. We returned to our barracks after our meal. Dressed in army fatigue clothes, each soldier stood beside his army bunk bed at attention.

The Company Officer conducted this daily morning inspection of the men and the barracks. Now our day of military training began with: 1) morning calisthenics, 2) marching in close-order drill, 3) with rifles slung to our shoulders 4) rifle inspection by an officer. Lo! If a speck of dirt was found on your gun, one received extra work duty, such as K.P. or cleaning the latrine. We were occupied with numerous lectures on hygiene, gas masks, maps, and military courtesy. Failure to salute an Officer - a private was "dressed-down" if such an encounter occurred. Attention was given to "field stripping" our weapons, also to re-assemble them. We became highly skilled to be able to perform this task blind-folded. Having never fired a .30 caliber rifle, my first day on the firing range gave me mixed emotions. At a distance of 200 yards were 6-foot paper targets with a bulls-eye. A mound of soil protected the men in the "pits", their task was to raise the targets above the mound, as we fired at the circle bulls-eye, it was then lowered and marked by the men, raised again with a long pole attached with a pie-plate disc to denote the sots on the target where the rifle shooter registered their hits; [an embarrassing moment occurred if one missed the target completely - the pit-men raised a red flag. In army jargon this was called "Maggie's Drawers"]. I barely qualified that day on the range.

Our days of barracks life were soon coming to a permanent end, ahead a schedule of maneuvers of many months in Louisiana and North and South Carolina. In the summer of 1941 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, now that our rookie basic training days were over, we looked forward to the liberty of weekend passes to the city of San Antonio, Texas. We were allowed to wear our civilian clothing on these off base occasions, but alas, this type of military barracks life came to a sudden halt.

Our battalion received orders to join the 3rd (Blue) army in Louisiana for maneuvers against the 2nd (Red) army.

Little did I know at this time my living quarters in barracks would come to an end. The 104th Anti-Tank Infantry Battalion traveled in a motor convoy to Louisiana to partake in the war games. We moved by motor trucks quite after, never grasping the reasons as individual soldiers. The purpose of these games on a broad scale was in the hands and minds of the Generals and other army officers to gain experience in the movement and positions of large bodies of troops in simulated war conditions.

To judge the employment and movements, were a selection of U.S. army officers, they wore green arm bands to signify them as "Umpires" who were then mixed amongst the troops of each Army, 3rd Blue and 2nd Red, others were planted in the headquarters of each ranking General, they studied maps to denote the location of each Army in their present field positions.

I never grasped the big picture of this event. Later it came to my mind that this was a game of tactics for the Generals. They played a chess board game, we the troops were the pawns, and each top army Commander was trying his skill to out maneuver his opponent. The beginning of these games, Eisenhower was out rank by many officers. We men in the 3rd Blue Army were associated with General Patton. Two months of living the outdoor life amongst the snakes, insects and inclement weather came to an end.

The judgment of the umpires declared the Blue Army as the victor. How they came about to this decision is not for me to reason why. Tired and weary, bored, lack of interest, my mind was set on this day in September 1941 upon my returning to the barracks at San Antonio, Texas.

A shock wave awaited us; we received a notice to travel by motor convoy to North and South Carolina for an added two months of maneuvers.

Joining the Army Memoir Index In Italy, 1944