Summer is, for many, a period of relaxation and reminiscence on the times and events that have impacted our lives. A time that had a profound impact on my life was the summer of 1945. On January 18, 1945, I had been inducted into the U.S. Army at Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania.
My processing during induction involved receiving the military equipment and supplies I would require for my training. I also underwent an interview, more along the lines of an interrogation regarding my civilian life. I was interrogated by a sergeant who asked me the reason I did not complete high school. I responded “because I was drafted.” Surprised by the response, the sergeant called for a lieutenant colonel to whom he repeated my statement. The lieutenant colonel asked me if what I told the sergeant was true. I said “yes.” The colonel paused and responded “you are in the Army now.”
The sergeant continued the interrogation and asked me about my duties during employment at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. I told him I was an electrician helper who had helped build and launch the Battleship Wisconsin, the Aircraft Carrier Antietam, and six destroyer escorts including repairs on ships of the line. He then asked me ten electrical questions which I answered correctly. He said “you are an electrician.” I responded “please don’t put me on any high-powered equipment.” He said “don’t worry you are going into the infantry.”
After induction, I was sent to Camp Robinson infantry training center near Little Rock, Arkansas for fifteen weeks training. Here, I learned the art of infantry combat which included physical training, discipline, and bayonet and marching drills as well as the proper use of all the weapons needed by an infantryman.
Following my fifteen weeks of infantry basic training, I was sent home for a ten-day leave with orders to report to Fort Meade, Maryland at its conclusion for overseas assignment. During this time, the Battle of the Bulge was being fought in Europe.
During my processing for overseas assignment at Fort Meade, the War in Europe ended. Instead of going to the European campaign, I was sent to Camp Howze near Gainesville, Texas. Camp Howze, named for Major Robert E. Lee Howze, a Medal of Honor recipient, was an infantry replacement training center and would serve as my home for six weeks during which I received jungle combat training.
On June 7, 1945, I along with my company left for the West Coast to train for the invasion of Japan. Mock beach landings and climbing 60 foot cargo nets with full field packs and equipment put the finishing touches on my training.
On August 10, 1945, I boarded a troopship, the USS Extavia in San Francisco harbor and that evening sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge into the Pacific Ocean. All the members of my company stood on deck and watched as it disappeared from sight, wondering if we would ever see these shores again. Six days later, the ship’s captain announced the war had ended. We all cheered and our Navy gun crew fired the last salvos of World War II.
As you can see the summer of 1945 has had a profound impact on my life. The places I have been and the men I soldiered with are still fresh in my memories. As I reflect on my life, my proudest moment was when I wore the uniform of the United States Army and pledged my life for the cause of freedom.