Leaving from the Seward Depot
You're In The Army Now
Excerpt from "Serving The Pieces" by Ed Walsh

August 21, 1942 -- Boarded the train about 7 PM at Seward Depot. There were about 21 or so Seward County guys. There were already many inductees on the train. It headed west and stopped in Utica for a few minutes. The local liquor store man, Mr. Groce, brought down a bottle for me and one for Lester Hans, a fifth for each of us. We just passed it around and it was soon gone.

First thing on the train out of Seward, there was a crap game going with a bunch of black guys and even though I was 22 years old, I had never heard language like they used before.

We picked up more guys at York and Grand Island and then changed trains to the Challenger. We picked up more men through the night in western Nebraska, then on into Colorado and arrived in Denver late afternoon of August 21, 1942.

We were taken to Fort Logan, a reception center by Army truck.. It was raining when we got off the train. In Fort Logan we were fed and shown a place to sleep, got to bed about 11 p.m., was dead tired. Up at 5 a.m., ate and took a hike down and back up a hill, some could hardly make it, were not in shape, and the air was different at high altitude. Then came shots and inocculations, speeches, films and tests, and dinner, more films, tests and the last thing the Army Ground Forces test or I.Q.test, always given after you are tired and worn out and under stress.

Then a haircut, clear to the skin and complete equipment issued. We were shown the showers, all open showers. Most of these farm boys had never had indoor plumbing at home. Maybe some had been in open showers in high school, but not many. Some were really embarrassed, but I thought, what the hell, everyone is naked again, just like the medical at Fort Crook.

August 24-- Back to the train and heading west again, crossed the Rockies, then down to Ogden, Utah, on to Sacremento where we had several hours to look over the capitol of California, the parks, etc. Back to the train, and heading north. After two days we arrived at Medford, Oregon, left the train and got on Army trucks, six by six.

August 27 - A few miles out of Medford, we came to Camp White, a basic training camp for artillery units and also the home of the 91st Infantry Division. Through the Rogue River valley and the small valleys coming into it there were small farms which were mostly planted to fruit trees, apple mainly, but these farms had been bought up for miles around by the government so to make up the military reservation of Camp White for maneuvers, artillery firing range, rifle ranges, obstacle courses and so forth

The days were busy, fifty minute classes with ten minute breaks, calisthentics, learning to march. We were told there would be no passes to go off the base til the 13 weeks of basic training were over, but after 5 or 6 weeks, we did get evening passes, and some from Saturday noon til Sunday night. We went to the theaters on the base.

One thing about the theaters,-- the smell of moth balls. It was the rainy season in Oregon, rain, mist, fog and even wet snow almost every day. It was so cold we wore the heavy wool overcoats and uniforms that had been issued and these had been stored in moth balls in the warehouses. When we got wet walking to the theater, it brought out the smell of moth balls and with about 500 guys in the theater in their wet overcoats, it smelled like the place was being fumigated!

There was talk everyone had to swim the Rogue River with a full pack before basic was over. I worried about this because I could not swim. Later I learned the river was crossed by good swimmers who would stretch ropes from side to side, and the rest would cross holding the ropes. The Rogue was not so deep here but it is wild and fast.

The last day of the month everyone was paid in cash. The pay officer took a driver and 2 guards and went to Hdqtrs to pick up the payroll for 500 men. The money was counted out in stacks on the table in the day room or mess hall. The men lined up by highest rank alphabetically down to the last private. When your name was called, you saluted the officer and the clerk says how much your pay is. The officer counted it out, then you counted it back and sign the payroll book.

Now beyond the pay line there always was a collection line, guys collecting from one who owed them. They wanted to collect before the guy got in a card game and lost his pay. Some time it took all the money some were paid to pay off their debts and they would be borrowing again on next month's pay. (A private at this time got $50.00 a month) - - - - - - -

(Read the complete story of basic in my book "Serving the Pieces". ('pieces' are the artillery guns.)

-----------At the end of 13 weeks we had completed basic training, Privates were promoted to PFC. got a raise in pay, and a stripe on the sleeve. We were now ready for our next assignment.

-----------From Camp White the 242nd went to Yakima, Washington to the Ninth Corp Firing Range, arriving there on Jan 15, 1943. We settled into artillery training for the next six weeks. This place was really a hole, not a tree in sight, just sage brush,desert, mountains and snow. The food was really bad, mutton stew at noon and at night, everyone lived on candy bars from the PX. I gained 20 pounds. It was too cold to eat in the mess tent, You would get your hot cereal, coffee, eggs and toast in the morning and by the time you ran back to your tent, the cereal was froze and the coffee cold. We went into town whenever we could get a pass, just to eat.

The middle of February we were told we were moving, get packed and ready. We were hurried to the depot at Yakima 'bout 6 in the morning. We stood and waited until eleven to get on the train. It was Feb 27. We were all in Pullman cars, and traveled under sealed orders from the 9th Corps Hdqtrs at Fort Lewis Washington. The train I was on traveled across Washington to Twin Falls, Idaho, across Montana, into Wyoming, to Colorado, Kansas and finally Oklahoma, all the time we did not know our destination. This took several days. On March 4th we pulled into Lawton, Oklahoma, just a few miles from Fort Sill.-----

Questions or comments?   Contact us at ltdan@windstream.net
Buy the Book or CD Today!