Chapter 4

 

Chapter 4

 

Going home on my first leave. Toward the last of week 17 we received our orders to report to a line outfit. Which means we had finished our training and would be shipped to an outfit on a regular duty basis.

My orders were to ship to the 655th Field Artillery Battilon in Fort Hood, Texas. We were to get a delay in route of twelve days so we could go home and see our Parents and just take it easy after 17 weeks of intense training. I had won some money in a crap game and had turned in my money in to the orderly room who would buy my ticket to Lexington, Ky. travelling by train.

Everyone was excited about going home and there was a flurry of activity of guys making their plans and etc.

We had turned in our rifle and all equipment that we were issued except our personal gear and a gas mask. Damn how I wanted to get rid of that mask. They made us wear it all during training strapped on our side and sometimes the Platoon Leader would yell “Gas” and we would stop everything and put on our gas mask and clear it and then he would come around and check it to make sure that you had it on correctly.

The big day had arrived, We had all of our gear in the duffle bag and that gas mask strapped to our side. They were taking us to the railroad station and my first stop would be St. Louis, Mo. where I would catch a train for Lexington, Ky.    We were all loaded into the big 6×6 trucks that we had trained with and were just about to pull out for the train station. All of a sudden someone came running out of the orderly room and said, Hold it. Now what I thought. I thought one of those Chicago Gansters had stolen a rifle or had failed to turn something in as the Army had a record of everything we trained with by serial number.

Unload, Was the order. SNAFU we thought. We put our barracks bags back in the barracks and was told to fall out in 15 minutes.

All lined up in front of the barracks we got the following message, All of you are being transferred to the Infantry. You will get your delay in route home and report to the. 26th Infantry Regiment, Camp Maxey, Texas for six weeks of Infantry basic training. Now what we thought? They said the Army needed more riflemen and the thought I had in Fort Thomas was coming back to haunt me.

The next morning we loaded into the 6×6 trucks again and was off to the train station with a train ticket in my pocket but with a new set of orders.

They said before we left that if we took off the gas mask the MP’s would pick us up and take us to the stockade and if we missed our arrival at Camp Maxey we would be AWOL and would Court Marshalled. What a bunch of crap. but that was part of our training and we didn’t know any better. I shucked the gas mask in St. Louis and put it in my barracks bag. But I felt a little uneasy when I seen an MP at the railroad stations. They used to hang around the stations looking for a soldier that may have gone over the hill  or checking Soilders orders. and they were very helpful to us Soldiers when we needed directions.

After our new orders we travelled to the rail station and got on the train in Lawton, OK. and when the train finally pulled out I couldn’t believe that we were really going home at last. This was a train with a lot of added coaches for troops and we had our own cars and didn’t mingle with the Civilian passengers. St. Louis at last. I was beat and feeling dirty so I went into the station and cleaned up a bit.

All of the soilders fanned out over the country going to their destinations. I said to Richard, See you in Texas not knowing what lay ahead of us. We were only interested in the now situation. I got on my train for Lexington and rode for a long time. Finally pulling into the Lexington railroad yards and the station.

I caught a Greyhound Bus to Richmond and had to wait for the bus to Irvine. Boy, I thought if I can get to Irvine I will have it made. I don’t remember what time I got to Richmond but I remember running into Red Stamper who was hanging around the Richmond bus station. They had moved to Madison County and  he probably didn’t have anything else to do.

I got a bus to Irvine and on home. I don’t remember just what time I got there but I was sure glad to be home for a change. Just like old times except I knew I was in for more training when I returned to Texas. And after that who knew.

I hung around a few days with Tom Howell as he was about the only fellow left in the country that hadn’t gone into the service. He had been rendered 4F for some reason and was a little sensative about it. We bummed around and spent some time with some girls that he had rustled up.  He showed me a good time while I was on leave as we had been very good friends when we were growing up

Aunt Betty and Uncle June cooked me a good meal one Sunday and I enjoyed that very much. Country ham and all of the fixins. She was a very good cook and she wanted to make a good dinner for me before I left for my next assignment.

I went to see Grandma Scrivner and ate with her also.Ma was having a hard time getting around because of her arithitis but we had a lot good laughs and enjoyed our time together. Dad was interested in where I was going and all I could was tell him I was going to Texas for my next assignment. I had brought him a new pair of GI shoes that I had outwitted the Army out of in Fort Sill. I figured he needed that pair of shoes worse than the Army did. He sure was proud of those shoes. Nice tan colored with high tops.

I had to be in Texas on the 16th of September, I had been home 12 days and it was time to leave my family. I rode the bus the afternoon of Tuesday  September 12,1944 to Ravenna, Ky. to catch the evening train to Lexington, Ky. I got off the train in Lexington and was hoisting my bag upon my shoulders when someone said, Son let me take that bag for you. I turned and there stood Mr. Bob Coomer. Mr Coomer was one of the men that was instrumental in the building Mt. Sinai Church and was going to work in Lexington. He had worked for the L&N Railroad for many years. We greeted each other and he said, Where are you going? I told him I was travelling to Texas and was on my way to St. Louis. He said, I’ll carry your bag and take you over to the train for St. Louis. I sure was glad to get the help and directions. We said goodbye and soon I was on my way to Camp Maxey. from there I would proceed to St. Louis and catch the Western Fyer to Paris, Texas. The 16th was on a Saturday and I wondered how I would get to Camp Maxey. Travelling through Missouri, Iowa and Kansas I saw the large wheat fields with the wind blowing the tall wheat and it looked so pretty. I wondered how the farmers would be able to harvest all of the crops. Miles and miles of wheat and that was the first time I had ever been in that part of the country. I sat in my seat and ate snacks as I was too bashful to go to the dining car for a meal. The train Butch would come around and sell snacks that I would buy from him. I had left in plenty of time as my ticket had a schedule with all of the connections and I arrived in Paris, Tx. Saturday September 16,1944 at the train station.

I got off the train and not knowing just what to do when a Soldier came up and said , Are you going to Camp Maxey.? I began to think my luck was changing again. How could this be that the Army had sent a truck to pick me up this late hour at night. What I didn’t know was,They had the arrival schedule of all the fellows that were due to arrive from Fort Sill and I was just one of a big group of fellows that was arriving at Paris that night.

We piled into the 6×6 and proceeded to the Camp and got in bed very late. That Damn bugle woke me up the next morning and we fell out for inspection. Roll call and after that we went to the mess hall for breakfast. I looked around and seen my friend Rchard Burns. I thought If Richard is here I can make it. He had visited his folks who lived in Marion Center, Pa. And had returned on the same train but we were separated and I didn’t see him until we arrived at breakfast the next morning.

We were assigned to our company and we settled in  for some more basic training in the Infantry. A lot of the fellows thought after Field Artillery basic that they could lay on the beach and ride out the rest of the war. Boy were they in for a surprise? I looked around at some of the fellows and we had some older men in the outfit. They were married with families and was in their early thirties.

But as we started to get going in our training  some Expert thought that all of the 18 year olds should be in one company. They transferred all 18 year olds into Company G. of the 26th Infantry Regiment. They nearly ran us to death. Double time here, double time there and double time everywhere. We ran everywhere with a full field pack and when we got to Camp Maxey we were issued an M1 rifle and it weighed 9lbs. A lot heavier than the carbine we were used to in Fort Sill.

The weather was getting cooler in late September and the heat wasn’t as bad as it was earlier in the Oklahoma flatland.

We started our training on the equipment that an Infantryman carrys when he is in combat Hand grenades, Bazookas, Rifle grenades that can be fired off the end of a M1 with a blank cartrige. And now that bayonet that we carried in Ft. Sill was placed on the end of the M1 and we were training for hand to hand combat. We knew we weren’t here to eat cake and ice cream. We were now pulling the pin on those grenades and throwing them at a target. We practiced on the rifle grenades also. You would push a grenade on the end of the barrel of a M1 and put a blank cartridge in the chamber and put the butt on the ground and aim it toward an object and pull the trigger. It was an Anti-tank weapon. The bazooka was loaded from the rear and took a two man team. It could blow the track off of a tank and could also burn through metal and blow up a tank. We started to train on high explosives. Prima cord,  TNT an other explosives. You could wrap a couple of turns of Prima cord around a tree and detonate it and it would cut the tree off just as slick as if with a saw. We started to work with mines and their placing. You would always keep a diagram of a mine field if you laid one. We were trained in close combat. An instructor would walk along with you and he would pull a wire that you didn’t see and a figure of a man would appear around a tree and you would shoot from the hip. We were trained at night with a compass. We would get a schedule with several azimuths on it and they would drop six of us off and we had to find our way by reading the compass and traveling so many yards and at that point we would take a reading and then turn another direction and etc. until we came out to our assigned meeting point and they would pick us up in a 6×6 and go in for the night. Well, It didn’t work that easilly. Some of the guys got lost as they had not read their compass correctly or they had taken a wrong direction.

There were men scattered all over the country. We had gone through swampy areas with weeds over your head and creeks  and also wooded areas. Finally in the wee hours of the morning all was accounted for and we went back to the Barracks to get some sleep. It was probably those Chicago gangsters that had gotten lost as they were 18 year olds and had been assigned to the same Company as the rest of us. They could only find their way to the mess hall and the canteen. They would keep us awake at night after lights out laughing and talking. We used to throw our shoes at them. They would stay up late and then they didn’t want to get up in the morning. We got a lot of training of close order drill, Two fellows with a bayonet on the end of their M1 going at each other and trying to defend yourself of course we had the scabbards on when we were training with each other. We would remove the scabbards and train on dummys that had been set up and I have rammed a bayonet into a bale of hay many times. Too bad I couldn’t have done that when I was younger on the farm. I might have liked it.

We knew  we were headed somewhere and  that this training would come in handy but we didn’t talk about that much.

December in Camp Maxey brought some light snow on the ground and the nights were chilly. Some of the fellows went into Wichita Falls, Tx. on weekend passes but Richard and I stayed in camp most of the time. In fact I don’t think we had a pass while we were there. We would go to the movies on the base and see first run pictures.

During the day there would be more training. We would go out to the rifle range and practice firing our M1 rifles and we had to qualify with the M1 or you kept shooting until you did. I think I qualified as expert. I sunk a lot of bulls eyes and some of the fellows were afraid of the rifles and would flinch when they fired and had to overcome that. They would get a lot of Maggies Drawers. That meant they would get a red signal that they missed the target or were so far away from the bulls eye that it was declared a miss. We also went out on the range and fired the air cooled .30 calibre machine guns, And also .50 calibre machine guns at a radio controlled plane. Also at moving targets that were being moved across the field in front of us. Those .50’s were wicked. You could see the dust fly a quarter mile away.

We also trained as a squad. We would have a squad leader and a squad of soldiers moving along with a point man in front and the assemulated enemy out in the tall grass ahead of you. We had a BAR man and an ammo bearer. (Browning Automatic Rifle) The BAR had a bi-pod attached to the front of the barrel and you would fall on the ground and fire it much like a machine gun. Semi-Automatic and could fire many rounds fast and that is why you needed an amo-bearer. The bearer would carry many clips of .30 calibre ammo and it was a tough job. We all got to fire the BAR with live ammo. We would switch positions as to give every man a chance to get acquainted with that position.

One day we had come in from the field and put our rifles in the rifle rack and they had been locked. Each man had a place to put his rifle and one man would be assigned to check the rifles to see that all were accounted for and locked in the rack. You would place your rifle in the rack barrel up and a long rod was pushed through the trigger housings and a lock was placed on the other end.

We were just getting ready to go to chow and we heard what sounded like a shot over in another area. We didn’t think much about it as all rifles would be in the racks and locked. All Hell broke loose, Into the barracks stormed a Second Lieutenant screaming and yelling, Who fired that shot? I’ll court marshall all of you.

We were asked individually, Who fired that shot? We said, Our rifles were locked and accounted for. We were liars, He said.That shot came from this barracks. He went around smelling the rifle barrels for fresh powder.Whoever fired the shot had just missed a soldier in the top bunk of the next barracks. We had nothing to fear because we were all in our barracks and surely someone would have spoken up if it had been one of us.

We never did find out who fired the shot, But the Lieutenant came back in about an hour and apologized to the whole barracks. When he checked the angle that the round had travelled he knew it didn’t come from our barracks. Some of those shave tails sure liked to throw their authority around. One almost got me killed one time. He, two other guys and me.

That had been a short six weeks and as we were cleaning up the barracks we  wondered where we would go next.

We were cleaning the outside windows with toilet paper and made them shine as the Brass would inspect the area and if they were dirty we would have to clean them again. So we did a good job the first time.

Standing for retreat and rifle inspection one evening the Second Louie came up to take my rifle for inspection. We had been told to let go of the rifle as soon as we would see the lieutenants hand reach for the rifle. As you was looking straight ahead you would have to see that with your phriphial vision. The Lieutenant reached for my rifle and I let go and it fell on the ground. The rule was, If a Lieutenant missed your rifle and it fell in the dirt he had to clean it and return it to you. Damn, I thought i’m in for it now. Some of the guys were snikkering and one guy said good going Mob’s. The Lieutenant dismissed us after retreat and said. All dismissed except Moberly. I thought i’m in for it now. He said, Give me your rifle and I will clean it for you and return it to you after chow. I said, Sir, I don’t have anything to do after chow and I would like to clean it myself. He finally relented and I cleaned the rifle after chow and put it in the rifle rack. I could never really let go of the rifle at inspection after that when that Lieutenant was inspecting the troops. He never held it against me , So I  guess he had thought he had done his job of training us. He was one of the fine Officers that I had been associated with.

He was not the Bastard that accused us of firing a shot through the Barracks.

I did miss Cpls. Grounds and Gosney that had been our training leaders at Fort. Sill. But we had moved on to new territory and would probably never see them again. We cleaned up the the area and one morning we fell out and got the following orders. All of Company G  was to proceed to Fort Meade,Md. and processed for foreign service. What did that mean? We found out in a few weeks. All of us were processed to leave Camp Maxey all but one fellow. His name was Zelatoris. We had all trained together and now he would be left behind. he was very disappointed that he could not go with the rest of us. Why they left him behind we never knew. The Army always went in alphibetical order and I guess they left one for seed. We went to the Paris Tx. train station where there was a troop train waiting for us. We boarded the train for Ft. Meade. There were some new fellows on the train that I had never met before as they had been trained in other areas and now were joining us on the trek East.

One fellow was Robert M. Pedersen, another John Pfeiffer. Walter Nester. and lots of other guys. Pedersen was from Utica, N.Y. and Pfeiffer was from Pittsburgh. I don’t remember where Nester was from, but Pedersen, Pfeiffer and I would become good friends later.

We played poker and whiled the time away as there wasn’t much to do on a troop train. We layed in our bunks and read and just looked out the window.

The train had a seat and back for sitting and when you wanted to sleep the back was pulled up and it had two chains that hooked to the ceiling and that made a top bunk. I don’t know if Pullman designed this or not, but someone had done a Hell of a job of designing a troop train. We slept at night and went through the dining car to get chow. You have heard that the last shall be first last and the first shall be last Well the Army demonstrated that on this troop train. We would take our mess kits and file through the train in the mess car and the last guy to get through the line would be first to be in line for chow. Leave it to the Army to figure things out, but it worked. We would get our chow and go back to our seats and eat.

Later in the evening we would get in our bunks and try to sleep. It was a lot better than sleeping in those tents in the fields of Oklahoma with all of the rattlesnakes around us. We would wake up in the morning and the cooks would have to clear out all of the rattlesnakes out that had crawled into the mess tent. Oklahoma was loaded with rattlesnakes and a few guys had been bitten.

We were proceeding Eastward and we had a stop in Jackson, Tennessee. We would stop for a half hour for train orders and they would let us off to stretch our legs. The people would come to the train station and greet us and also a lot of pretty girls. We would talk and they would give us their address and we would write to each other as time went by. The next morning I woke up in Altoona, Pa. I looked out the window and a Lady was oiling the journal boxes of the train. I remember that large hill that the train went down going into Altoona. The City set in a very low area and it seemed that you had to go down a hill to get to the city and climb a  hill to get out. From there we proceded to Fort Meade. We stayed at Ft. Meade and in a few days were shipped out to Camp Miles Standish, Mass. In the meantime I was getting mail from my family and was writing cards and letters to them. We arrived in Camp Miles Standish, Mass. and was told that we couldn’t have any contact with the outside world. We had been quarntined. It sure felt funny, Only the guys you were with for company and no outside phone calls. I received a letter from my family that Grandma Scrivner has passed away and when I had tried to get leave to go to her funeral I was told that I had passed the point of no return and they couldn’t let me go. I really felt bad about that. This was a secret troop movement and once at this point we could only go foreward. This was mid December 1944.

Camp Miles Standish was a very secluded camp out in the boondocks it seemed and there wasn’t very much activity there. Only the bare necessities. The barracks were set back in the woods under trees and seemed very dismal. We stayed there a couple of days and one morning we were told to fall out that we were moving out. We got on a train and in a couple of hours we were in Boston loading on a troop ship. This was Friday December 22,1944. We were loaded on the Ship SS Aquitainna the second largest ship in the world, Second to the Queen Mary. We were loaded with troops and were at sea on Christmas day. We had to stand guard duty for four hours at a time and I can remember the deck frozen with a coating of ice as we had run into a storm at sea. You could hardly stand up on deck because of the frozen ice. In a couple of days we had picked up a convoy and you could see the ships off the port and starboard side. We wondered if we would be hit with a German Sub. But we tried not to think about that. The food was terrible. We had bologna and weiners one day and weiners and bologna the next day. The coffee was made in a garbage can and had the cream and sugar dumped into it. what you seen was what you got. I took a shower a couple of days out and felt dirtier than when I got in. The salt water was terrible for a shower. I slept with my wallet in the front of my undershirt as people were stealing wallets and anything they could get their hands on. There was a big crap game going on the ship and I suppose there was a lot of losers. A lot of the fellows lost their wallets and their money. I had heard about it and had played it safe. I would hang my pants on the bunk at night and they would be hanging another way the next morning, So I knew there had been a thief in the night.

It took us about 9 days to reach Glascow, Scotland. I looked out one morning and saw the most beautiful sight, land and a beautiful city.

Glascow was on the ocean and beautiful white mountains and sand. I thought this is sure a nice place to spend some time but no time for that. We boarded a narrow gauge rail line and was off to England. We would pass a train and it looked like we would smash into each other we were so close together. You could reach out and touch the other train that was passing by. The whistles had a sharp shrill and quite different than the trains in the States with their lonesome whistles that I grew up with. You could tell you was in a different area. I was 18 years old and my birthday would be January 17 and we were coming to the end of December soon. We pulled into Southhampton, England and got off the train and were put in tents to live for the next few days. hot food cold tents. No heat in the tents. There was a small stove in the tent and it looked like a funnel turned up side down. It would not heat the tent and would not draw up the pipe. I grew up with a fire to heat the house but this thing was worthless. Finally we would put all of our clothes on including our overcoat and try to sleep on folding cots that were provided.

New years eve 1945, The coldest night I have ever spent. We slept in that tent again, We didn’t sleep much as it was so cold. That is probably the most miserable night I had ever spent up to that point. I was glad to go for chow to get some warm food in my stomach. A couple of days later we boarded a Brittish ship to travel across the English Channel to Le Harve, France.

The white Cliffs of Dover looked beautiful as we passed by and we wondered what was ahead. We landed in Le Harve and went to a Repl  Depot  as they were called. they were used by troops coming back to the states also. Camp Lucky Strike was one of them. They were named after cigarettes. Across the ocean we had been able to buy cigarettes for $.50 cents a carton, But you couldn’t get your brand always. I was smoking Chesterfields and we would have a crap game using cigarettes as we didn’t have very much money. I would trade two packs of the off brand cigs. for a pack of Chesterfields. We didn’t know what lay ahead of us.

We stayed in the repl depots in Le Harve for a couple of days and then we loaded on a narrow gauge train for the front. We was sleeping in the boxcars on hay that was classified as a 40 het 8. That was a boxcar that would haul 40 men or 8 horses. Damn, I was being compared to horses. We had a sleeping bag and we would spread that on the hay in the boxcar and that was your bed for the night. We were waking up one morning and a guy was relieving himself out the door and it flying back in my face. I stuck my head in the sack. We were already beginning to get accustomed to rugged conditions and that would get rouger as the time went by. As we went through Paris, We woud trade cigarettes for a loaf of french bread. And since Paris had already been Liberated the people were very glad to see all of the American Soldiers coming into the area. They had it very rough as the Germans were very cruel and took all of their food to feed their troops. We ate the bread and it tasted very good and fresh. Also a bottle of wine would show up if you had enough cigarettes to trade. I had about 10 cartons of Chesterfields in my duffle bag but I was holding on to them.

We proceeded on toward the front and finally we got off the train and went to a Replacement Depot. A replacement depot is where all new recruits  went overseas and when a Division needed replacements they were drawn from the replacement depot. We stayed around the repl. depot for a few days and soon the new replacements  began to disappear.

 

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