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Follies of a Navy Chaplain

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Tanks for the Memories

A Mile in Their Shoes

A Mile in Their Shoes

2014, Aaron Elson


My Life

Monfrey Wilson

2014, tankbooks.com

Chapter 2

In the Army

    They took us to Cleveland, Ohio, for induction. All day it was "Open your mouth, bend over, spread your cheeks," and so on. We had fish for dinner. It was the beginning of a long ordeal for me for I had fish every Friday after that. After dinner a sergeant told me to pick up a broom and sweep the floor. I told him to do it himself for I was not in the Army yet. After we took the oath he sure threw his weight around, but I never saw him after that day.

    We were put on a train and sent to Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indiana. When we arrived they put us in a recreation hall and it was the same thing all over again. "Open your mouth, bend over, spread your cheeks." There were two fellows that were friends. One said to the other, "They got me, Joe. My mouth is sore and my ass is sore. They got me." They processed us there and gave us shots. I was sent to Camp Walters, Texas, for basic training.

    At Camp Walters we learned to fire the rifle, the mortar and the machine gun. Last but not least, bayonet fighting. I was very good at throwing hand grenades. While there, I went on pass to Fort Worth and Dallas. Then I was sent to Fort Devens, Massachusetts.

    At Fort Devens they put us in the recreation hall and a captain gave a speech about how great the First Infantry Division was. That was my introduction to the Big Red One.

    I was put in Company A of the 26th Infantry Regiment in the first squad of the First Battalion. A division has three regiments, a battalion has three companies and a company has four platoons. One is a heavy weapons platoon using machine guns and mortars. A rifle platoon has three squads. In combat there are always two units attacking and one in reserve. Well, we started to train for real including long hikes, rifle range and night hikes. We went on boat landing on Buzzard Bay. I got to go to Boston on pass several times. One Sunday I went to the post theater to see the movie "Sergeant York," and when I got back to the barracks I was told that the Japs had bombed Pearl Harbor.

    I had put in for a Christmas furlough. I sweated it out and I did get home for a week. It was great. All of my brothers and sisters were there. We had a Christmas tree and they had all put money on it for me. When I returned to camp, they said that they had sent me a telegram to come back, but I never received it. I did get K.P. (kitchen police). Well, we got on a train and went to Camp Blanding, Fla.

    We had a Major Drake over my battalion at Camp Blanding. He made us run around the camp before breakfast and train in the swamps without water. After training there for about three months, we moved to Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania.

    While we were there I got to come home a few times. At Indiantown Gap we were told that we were going overseas. Well, the last time I was home I didn’t tell them about going overseas, but they knew. When I left for camp, my brother Jim and sister Nell and my mother took me to Cleveland to catch the train. On the way they started to cry and then I cried. That was the last time that I saw my mother.

    Then they put us on a train to Hoboken, New Jersey. Then we rode the ferry to Brooklyn Army Base and then up the gangplank of the Queen Mary. We made a record run of five days to Gouroch, Scotland. Berlin Sally said that we were sunk at sea but we landed in Scotland. My platoon had to unload barracks bags off the Queen Mary onto a river boat. Then we rode the boat to Glasgow, Scotland. Then we rode a train to Tidworth Barracks in England.

    We marched and trained at Tidworth. One day we marched to a very historical place called Stonehenge. It looked like an old broken down castle. We had to eat English rations and they were awful. Oxtail stew, steak and kidney pudding. The officers had to eat it too. Finally we were put aboard ship and sailed for North Africa.

Stories                                   My Life, Chapter 3