Joining the army
Coming soon, a full book by George Weir, a WW2 veteran.
When I was 17 years old, my Uncle Fred (Gohlke, father of my cousin, Fred Gohlke, who is helping me organize this book) owned a 26-foot Mack moving truck (with a peak above the driver for extra storage space) which he leased to National Delivery Association, an interstate furniture moving company headquartered in New York City. Uncle Fred hired me and taught me how to drive truck during our many trips between Boston, Chicago, D.C. and all points between.
On December 7, 1941, while in Chicago waiting for a return load, we were having a bite to eat at a lunch counter. There was a radio playing on small shelf in front of us. Suddenly, there was a break in the program and an announcement that the Japs had bombed Pearl Harbor! Everyone stopped and stared.
When President Roosevelt ended his speech, saying, "This is a day that will live in infamy!", I asked Uncle Fred where Pearl Harbor was. He shrugged and said, "I don't know." Soon, we all knew.
Enlisting In The Army
When we arrived back in Boston in early 1942, I enlisted in the U. S. Army. Shortly after enlistment, we had to take an IQ test. If your test mark was 125 or more the interviewed you to see if you would be a good candidate for OCS (Officer Candidate School). OCS lasted for ninety days and graduates became a Second Lieutenants - 90-day wonders.
As I recall, my IQ was 135, so I was interviewed. It didn't last long. I was an 18-year-old high school dropout with no previous government service, like in the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), so I was not considered officer material. The highest rank I reached was PFC (Private, First Class) at $54.00 a month.
I began my service at Fort Devens, Mass in May of 1942. When I enlisted, I was assigned the MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) number 345, which identified me as a big truck driver. Thereafter, whenever they needed drivers for a certain location they used this number to find me.
On Day 1, I went for a physical at a building in Boston.
On Day 2, in a hall someplace in Cambridge, a Major gave us a rundown of the steps ahead for us. During his speech, he said, "I hope there is nobody here who is like the name of the County we are in." Cambridge is in MIDDLESEX County, Massachusetts.
On Day 3, we were sent to Fort Devens, Mass by train. On the first day, I was introduced to KP (Kitchen Police), the bane for all Army Privates. We spent a few days at Fort Devens before entraining for Fort Knox, Kentucky for 2 month's basic training.
Basic Training At Fort Knox
We arrived at Fort Knox on Day 5, wearing the heavy dark brown winter uniforms we were issued at Fort Devens. It was hot at Knox!, and we swapped our heavy uniforms for light tan, one-piece coveralls.
Draftees and enlistees came from all over the country. I was at Fort Knox only a few days when I realized many of the guys from the south still harbored feelings of antagonism for the north that went all the way back to the the Civil War. A rebel scratched, "Yankees don't wash the piss off their hands!" on a latrine wall. Underneath that someone scrawled, "Yankees don't piss on their hands!"
On Day 6 we had our first close order drill!
Fort Knox had a very large parade area and I soon got intimately acquainted with it. During our two months of basic training, every day, Monday through Friday and Saturday morning, we were rousted at 6:00 am by Reveille, that wonderful bugle call that we all learned to hate: "I can't get 'em up, I can't get 'em up, I can't get 'em up ... in the morning, ... I can't get 'em up, I can't get 'em up, I can't get 'em up to...daaay". Then it was shit, shave and shower, and get in line for chow at the Mess Hall for breakfast at 7:00 am.
At 8:00 am, the Drill Sergeant ordered "Fall In!", and everyone scampered into their position in formation. The first commands were always, Tennnn-shut!", "Dress Rooiight, Dress!", and we turned our head to the right while reaching out with our right arm and touching the shoulder of the guy to our right.
Then it was, "Readyyyy, Front!", "Ley...uft Turn!", "Hut, two", and everyone in the column turned to the left on their left heel and right toe, then snapped the right foot into position (amazing how easy, and how precise it is). Then, the drill Sergeant called, "Forrr-ward.....Harch" and stepped along at our side calling, "Hut, Two, Three, Four, Hut, Two, Three, Four, Hut, Two, Three, Four" as we marched off to the drill field for our twice daily Close Order Drills.
Close Order Drill
Close Order Drills are at the heart of the 'Execute' part of Salute - Execute. All communication is verbal. The Drill Sergeant shouts, "TENNN-shut! Fall In!" and we GIs snap to attention and arrange ourselves in ranks, quicker than a cat grabs a mouse.
On the drill field, it seemed endless: "Right Oblique ... March", "Hut, Two, Three, Four, Hut, Two, Three, Four", "Forward ... March!" "Hut, Two, Three, Four, Hut, Two, Three, Four.", "Column Rooo-ite ... March!", "Hut, Two, Three, Four.", "Ley-uft Oblique ... March", "Hut, Two, Three, Four.", "To the Reeaar ...... March! (you never knew when the March command was coming.)
There were quite a few other formations of GIs on the drill field, all doing what we were doing.
Finally, we marched to the front of our barracks and the Drill Sergeant called, "Halt! One, Two", and we all stopped at attention. "Stand At ... Ease", and we all relaxed. Then, if there were any announcements, the Sergeant made them before calling, "Fall out!" and we went back into our barracks.
I think the marching was another military way to get us all working as a team. I'll tell you a secret, though, I came to enjoy it. We were sharp. We looked good. I may have been the only one who was proud of the way we marched, all together, like one big machine, but I don't think so.
In July 1942, after two months of Basic Training at Fort Knox, I entrained for the Mojave Desert in California to join the newly formed 3rd Armored Division for training as an assistant driver/bow gunner. The temperature in the Mojave was over 100 degrees.