MY MILITARY SERVICE
I was inducted into service on Setember 11, 1942 in Indianapolis, as I was working there and had entered the draft there. I was then called to enter service at Fort Benjamin Harrison, located near Indianapolis on September 25, 1942, giving me two weeks to get things in order before entering. Fort Benjamin Harrison was used as an Induction Center for newly selected soldiers. I spent less than a week there taking tests to determine my capabilities, taking calisthenics and going on work details about the camp. At the end of my stay here, I was shipped by train to Jefferson Baracks, located near St. Louis, Missouri.
There was a very strong build up of our Armed Forces at that time in anticipation of the need for a large number of soldiers needed to be sent to the European Theater Of Operations to conquer Hitler’s Nazi regime and free all of the countries that he had occupied, plus deal with Japan’s aggressiveness. The time was around the first of October and St. Louis can get awfully warm in the summer and fall. Being part of a very large group of soldiers, which was to start immediately taking basic training, we were placed in a low gully like area in tents, which was laughingly called “Pneumonia Gulch”.
Our time here was to be occupied with learning army procedure, the chain of command, the Army way, marching all day and then attending an inspection parade at the lowering of the flag at dusk in wool OD dress uniforms. This was a dreaded part of the day, as each company had to pass in review and then stand in ranks at rigid attention before and after the parade. With the wool OD’s it was hard to take, but they did prepare & had ambulances and medics on the scene in case someone passed out and a few did. We had many more tests here and were also asked if we had any reservations about entering the Army Air Force-of course I said “No”. At this time they were trying to build up our Air Force very quickly. After all of these tests, I was told that my order of capabilities would be: #1-Aircraft Mechanic, #2-Communications/Radio and #3-Armament . They asked which I preferred and I asked “Which moves more quickly”. Their answer was “Amament’, so that is what I chose. I really wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. It should be told here-that I weighed approximatel 190 lbs when I was inducted and after basic training I had trimmed down to approximately 160 lbs. That Basic Training is a sure fire way to lose weight quickly!! After being in that steam bath all day and then given only 15 minutes per meal per company to eat-we lost that weight fast. I guess it was here that I learned the bad habit of eating fast and have never strayed from it. After between 3 and 4 weeks here, my name was posted for shipment by train to Buckley Field near Denver, Colorado.
Upon arriving at Buckley Field, the group was placed in barracks and we were given our class schedules for our Aircraft Armament training. This was a very extensive and demanding type of training on all of the weaponry that we would be expected to be able to diagnose malfunctions and repair them. A lot of this was accomplished out on the firing range with live ammunition. Malfunctions were created by ouir instructors and then we had to try to diagnose the problem and fix it. Our studies consisted of learning all about 30 and 50 caliber machine guns, 20 and 37 mm canons, plus bomb shackles, gunsight cameras and gunsights. To pass this course we had to be able to take apart and reassemble the guns and cannons blindfolded. This course lasted approximately 2 1/2 to 3 months and after the course was completed, I was immediately shipped by train to Hammer Field near Fresno, California.
Hammer Field was used as a Placement Depot for holding personnel awaiting assignment to various Air Force Groups. I was here approximately one week and during this time I did calisthenics and base work details until my name was posted to ship by train to Hamilton Air Force Base near San Rafael, California.
When I arrived at Hamilton Air Force Base, I was told that I
was joining the 357th Fighter Group, which had just started forming. We were
all housed in tar paper covered buildings & were then introduced to our Squadron
commander, Major Hubert Egnes. While here, we had very little to do except calisthenics
and the normal military duties, such as KP, Guard Duty, etc. We were awaiting
our full compliment of personnel , before we were to ship out for some actual
Air Force training.