Drafted After High-School and Sent to the War in the Pacific
The Year of 1945, March 7 to December 3 - I was 18 years old and in the U.S. Army
March 7: I rode the bus to San Francisco and reported to an induction center on Market street. It was my first time away from home and I was all alone - a scary situation for a "green" kid.
We were taken to the Southern Pacific Railroad station and put on a Santa Fe "troop" train headed for Camp Hood located in south-central Texas between Waco and Austin. It was a long 3-day trip.
The only thing I can really remember about the train ride was that our train ran over and killed an Indian near Gallup, New Mexico. For some reason he was on the track when he shouldn't have been. A popular song of the day was By the Time We Reach Albuquerque, and it became the theme song of my trip.
March 10 – July 15: Camp Hood was a large Army Induction Center where inductees were given 17 weeks of intensive training to become infantry soldiers. In 3 years of war, the US Army had lost many men in infantry fighting and it needed many qualified replacements to fight in the battles that still needed to be fought.
The job of the cadre at Camp Hood was to take young civilian kids like myself and in 17 weeks teach them to fight, hate, and to kill. As my time there progressed, I discovered that those three things were definitely related. The 17-week course was not so jokingly referred to as KILLER'S COLLEGE.
Our Company Commander was Captain Rodger Irwin, a scrawny little Texan who was as tough as they come.
M/Sgt.. Galloway was our company sergeant and he also was tough.
Cpl.. Pierce (we called him Fierce Pierce) was our most immediate NCO. In a very short time, we inductees hated all three of them more than any Jap or German we could imagine. They wanted it that way because it was an effective way to convert us from "green" civilians to soldiers who could fight and kill.
Some of the things I remember about my 17 weeks of training at Camp Hood:
My M-1 Rifle - As an infantryman it would be the weapon I would most likely kill with. Either by a slug from the barrel or with a bayonet attached to the end.
A guy named Murphy from San Francisco. Through no choice of our own, he and I became "squad" buddies and worked together in the deployment of our squad. Once in the field when we were using live ammunition, he almost shot me when he was supposed to be covering my advance. Cpl.. Pierce called him "big Murphy" and nicknamed me "little Murphy".
The German POWs who worked on permanent KP duty in the mess hall. Germany and the Nazis surrendered in June when I was about 2/3rds way through my basic training.
Practicing with the M-l at the firing range. A wave of the red flag (Maggie's Drawers) meant a miss.
Seeing Armadillos and Fireflies for the first time out on the plains of south-central Texas.
Our 20-mile "full-pack" hike through a rain that was so heavy I had to breathe through my mouth to keep from choking on the water.
My trip into town with the boys to see the Queen of Killeen. She was a strip dancer at a local bar. She was the first real naked woman I had ever seen (actually, she only stripped to the waist).
July 16 – July 25: A 10-day Leave back in Oakland before I was shipped overseas. I was the only "serviceman" now at 2253. Bill and Hank were in Europe and Van was in the Aleutians.
The only real vivid memory of my leave at home was the overnight camping trip that Rich and I made to Sequoia Park. As an "infantryman", I had learned all about camping out, and I was showing Rich how it was done. Dad took us up in the afternoon in the old Desoto and picked us up the next morning.
July 26: My 5 days at Fort Ord before shipping out. I remember the Sunday afternoon visit the family made to Fort Ord to see me before I left (Dad,Ma,Rich,Bet, and Dot)—only Ele didn't come. We visited the impressive NCO Club that was perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is still there nearly 50-years later.
July 31: My 19-day trip from Fort Ord in California to Leyte in the Philippine Islands. We rode a troop train from Fort Ord to the Embarcadero in San Francisco. There we boarded one of the Kaiser Shipyard "Liberty Ships" called the USS Osage. It was being used as a troop ship and I remember the "bunk" quarters were very "compact".
We sailed out under the Golden Gate Bridge on an overcast foggy afternoon to begin a long 14-day cruise across the Pacific to Leyte. The only rough water we had on the entire crossing was just outside the Golden Gate and I was "deathly" seasick for the first two days. After that, I was OK.
Bob in the US Army
Fort Hood in Texas
The land of Armadillos and Fireflies
Basic training at Camp Hood
I had never been away from home before being drafted.
The NCO Club at Fort Ord
Aerial View of the NCO in Fort Ord
My family visited me here on a Sunday and we had a drink and looked out at the Pacific Ocean.
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