"Welcome to the US Army"
My experience actually began in the summer of 1950, when the North Korean Communists invaded South Korea, although I didn't enter
the army until December of 1951. We would read the newspapers and listen to the radio daily and everyone was hoping the hostilities
would end soon. However, it was not to happen. Basic Training
I was born and raised on the farm, but in August of 1951, at 21 years of age, I decided to leave the farm and pursue a career in manufacturing. I was working as a welder for North American Manufacturing Company (now Schaeff, Inc.), in Sioux City, Iowa when I received my "Greetings" (that was the term that was used for the draft notice, because it was the first word that you saw when you opened your letter).
My Mother (Mable) and Father (Jesse), sisters (Pauline and Julia) and brother (Glenn) were all very concerned and worried about the future for me. I tried to put on a good front and appear happy-go-lucky about it for their sake, but inside I couldn't help but wonder about the future. Where would I be assigned for basic training? Where would I be and what would I be doing during my tour of duty?
I notified my employer of my departure date, which was December 5, 1951. Of course there were things to be taken care of before I left, such as selling my pride and joy, a 1941 Buick Roadmaster. I ended up taking a 1937 Oldsmobile in on trade, so I still had a car to store. More about this Oldsmobile later in this narrative.
The week prior to Dec. 5 was a busy one, with saying goodbye to relatives and old friends. Some of my buddies had already went into the service, and some would be called after I had gone. The guys' names that I ran around with were Roger, Wes, Erv, Al, Dick and Bill. We were probably the original cruisers on the Sioux City Loop. We would drive up Nebraska Street to 14th, and down Pierce Street to 3rd Street, and around again and again. We loved our cars and kept them shining.
Wes and I ran a stock car at the now gone Riverview Speedway. I guess one might say we spent our summer evenings cruising, working on the stock car and looking at all the pretty girls. I think that's why I like the movie "American Graffiti". I could identify with it.
This period of my life was about to change as the morning of Dec. 5 had arrived. After giving my mother and father a big hug, brother Glenn took me to LeMars, IA, as that is where I was to leave from. I shook my brother's hand and boarded a Greyhound bus for Sioux Falls, SD, as it was the induction center for the tri-state area (Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota). I had passed my physical at an earlier date, so now there I was at a big government building in Sioux Falls. There were about a hundred guys there. They divided us up in smaller groups. Some went to the other branches of the service, but my group went to the army. We had to line up and raise our right hand and be sworn in. Then our leader had us take a step forward. That officially put us in the army.
We stayed in Sioux Falls that night, and were housed at the YMCA building. The next day was more paperwork and hurry up and wait. There is a lot of this done in the service. Rushing you here and there, and when you get there, you wait for hours for something to happen. That's why it's referred to as "hurry up and wait".
We boarded a train for Fort Sheridan, IL, late in the afternoon. Fort Sheridan was just north of Chicago and was not a training camp, but a Replacement Depot. All new inductees from this part of the country went there and were sent to various traing camps around the country.
The train ride from Sioux Falls to Chicago was interesting. The name of the rail line was the Milwaukee Road. It followed the Big Sioux River down through Hawarden, Akron and Westfield, IA. We stopped in Sioux City at the depot, which was just north of the Sioux City Auditorium. I remember getting off the train and calling home. My mother thought I was back in town and wasn't going into the service, but the conductor was calling "All aboard", so I had to cut the call very short and get back on the train.
As we passed through Sioux City it was already dark. The train went past the NAMCO plant where I had worked. As we rolled by, I could see my old work partner, John Prather, working in the plant. He was an old man at that time, and passed away while I was gone. That was the last time that I saw him.
As the train climbed the long incline out of the east side of Sioux City, it was no doubt a sad feeling to leave all of this behind, not knowing what the future held in store for me.
The rest of the train ride was uneventful as I probably slept most of the way. As we pulled into the station in Chicago, I discovered that it was a very busy place. I had never seen anything like this before. Commuters were busy changing trains, and a lot of people were in a hurry to go somewhere. We were a small group of confused kids from small towns, but somehow found our way to the correct commuter train that would take us north to Fort Sheridan. It was an elevated railroad that kept us above the vehicular traffic on the busy streets below.
We arrived at Fort Sheridan still wearing our civillian clothes. As we were marched to our barracks, there were some inductees on the sidewalk that had been there only a day or two, but were wearing new army clothes that had only been issued to them probably that same day. We could tell the clothes and shoes were right off the shelf. Wrinkles and all. There was this one guy giving us all kinds of guff, as though he was an old-timer. I remember one of the guys from our group hollered back at him, "How long have you been here, New Boots?" What a perfect squelch! We were rushed to our barracks, sent to the mess hall to eat and then lights out. The next morning, several of us were introduced to K.P., or Kitchen Police, or in other words, all kinds of kitchen duties. That started about 4:00 in the morning, and lasted until about 8:00 in the evening. Lots of hard work and a lot of yelling from the mess sergeants. That was just the beginning of breaking us into the eight weeks of basic training. It seemed so rough at the time, and I guess it was, but after it is over one can understand why it's done. The army needed strong people that could adapt to any situation, and there were many.
We stayed at Fort Sheridan only a couple of days, and then left for Fort Leonard Wood, MO, on Greyhound busses in the afternoon. It was snowing and cold; after all, it was December. A real gray day. Somewhere along the way I came down with a bad cold and a sore throat, so I was not feeling very good. I remember the bus stopped in St. Louis, MO, so we could be fed. By then my throat was so sore I couldn't have swallowed food if I wanted to. The sergeant in charge of our group was yelling instructions as we got off the bus. No one was to step out of line, we would march into the restaurant and sit at the tables that were designated for our group. As we walked in I saw on the cashier's counter a carton of Vick's cough drops. We had already been instructed that no personal purchases were to be made. Oh, how I longed to slip a Vick's cough drop in my mouth. I finally mustered enough courage to ask the yelling sergeant for permission to step out of line long enough to buy some cough drops.
"Absolutely not, you heard what I said! No personal purchases!"
As the line moved along I was standing right in front of the cashier and the cough drops. All of a sudden the sergeant came down the line and stopped by me and said in a voice barely above a whisper, "Buy your cough drops, but be quick." It was at that point that I realized that some drill sergeants really do have a heart. Those cough drops helped me survive the rest of the trip. I never forgot him for that kind gesture.