The Chronicles of Harold: 1956 – early 1957

Life’s Lessons Learned

The Chronicles of Harold 

 

1956-early 1957

 

Really Getting Away This Time.

With No One Coming After Me to Drag Me Back

 

Army Training

 

I awakened early on the morning of the 21st of June and my sister fixed me a quick breakfast and the recruiter arrived to pick me up.  She cried as she wished me luck and said it was a terrible thing that I had to do this just to get away from the mess at home and she wished it could have been some other way.  Both Dad and Mom too, had abused her and she knew what I was going through. 

 

The recruiter took me to the train station and gave me a voucher for a ticket to St. Louis and I boarded the train.  It was not until the train crossed the Mississippi Bridge leaving Illinois to go into Missouri that I felt I had actually been able to get away.

 

Bus Accident

 

I was given a physical, some shots, took the oath of enlistment and then, after lunch, a number of us boarded a bus to go to Ft. Leonard Wood south and west down Route 66.  Shortly after leaving the St. Louis vicinity, at a cross roads that had a tavern and a gas station, some guy who had been drinking decided he did not have to wait on the bus and pulled out right in front of the bus—Crash!  Our driver was very good and it was a heroic battle to keep the bus upright, out of the ditch, and get it stopped since the impact destroyed the steering and brakes.  I was sitting right behind the driver and had been talking to him and when the State Police took our statements, I remarked about how cool and professional the driver had been and how he had been able to retain control despite the loss of steering and brakes caused by the impact. 

 

The police asked me about the conduct of the driver in the other car and I told him he hesitated briefly when he crossed the first set of traffic lanes and our driver had applied the brakes expecting apparently this to happen and this is probably what saved us–defensive driving.  I told the police that one could not maneuver a top-heavy bus like this to try and dodge the idiot, so the driver done the best he could.  We had to await a replacement bus and the coroner’s people to pick up the remains of the driver and it was noted by a person standing by that it was just a matter of time until this happened, as this guy was prone to do such things.  I called the attention of the police officer to this witness and the driver later credited me with saving his job and he receiving a commendation for the incident.

 

Fort Leonard Wood

 

We arrived at Ft. Leonard Wood quite late and only got a couple of hours sleep until we had to roll out, make our beds, shower and get dressed for the busy day ahead.  Instead of having aptitude tests that day, they decided that since we were not at our best due to lack of sleep that we would just draw uniforms and equipment and get squared away. 

 

I was lucky in that I had made friends with a National Guard Sergeant who was going through refresher training. Since I too had been in the Guard for a couple of months prior to enlisting in the Regular Army, he took me in hand and showed me a lot of highly useful things concerning my uniforms and equipment all that day, so I was a little ahead of the rest of my platoon when we did start basic training. 

 

I hemmed up my pants legs and the sleeves of my fatigue jackets, so they fit nicer than as issued.  This was the old fatigue pattern made from herringbone twill pattern material and was like wearing cast iron.  Needless to say, we had a lot of prickly heat incidents during that eight weeks of training in the hot June, July, and August sun of southwest Missouri.  I had more clothing than I knew what to do with! And soon learned how to pack it away in my duffel bag and have it still come out looking pretty good with few wrinkles. 

 

Basic Training

 

We finished our aptitude testing and they still had not told me what I would be doing.  When I got to our Basic Training company, they said they probably would figure it out before Basic was over.  I found I had scored very highly, but because I did not have a graduation certificate, some fields were closed to me. Basic Training was a breeze to me since I was doing all of the things I liked to do, shooting, hiking and even the close order drill I could handle pretty well. 

 

Our first payday coincided with our first liberty, and while a lot of the guys went over to the annex and swilled down the 3.2 percent beer, I went to the clothing sales store and selected some better fitting uniforms in the newer material and was able to buy five sets, so the old ones were laundered, starched, pressed and hung in the wall lockers from then on.  My prickly heat incidents lessened when I changed uniforms also. 

 

I enjoyed most everything about Basic Training and once on the rifle range after a week of known distance shooting at which I done quite well, we were on what was called the confidence course, which consisted of knocking down random pop up targets.  We fired the entire day and were going to have to finish a two-hour course the next day when I made the remark that if I had a shotgun, I would have finished the entire course the first day. 

 

The next day as I am getting ready to enter the firing line, one of the drill sergeants handed me a 12 gauge pump action trench shotgun and a bandolier of shells and took my rifle.  He said, “You already qualified yesterday. We heard what you said, so the Captain said to give you a shotgun for today.”  I had a ball and it only took about an hour to complete the course. 

 

When questioned, and I admitted to starting my shooting knowledge with a muzzleloader, the Captain said, “I knew it, I knew it.”  The Army paid an extra bonus for shooting expert back then and I got paid this bonus until they found I was not going to the infantry and then they stopped paying it.

 

Left Behind

 

The biggest incident that sticks in my mind during Basic was being left behind.  We had finished the day’s training at the hand grenade and mortar pits, and were packing stuff up to take back to the company area.  One of the sergeants took me down to a pile of packed stuff and told me to guard it until they came to pick it up.  All of the people and trucks left the area and about dark, I began to wonder if they had forgotten me. 

 

This was on a Friday night and I still had some of the C rations they fed us in the field, so I did not go hungry and I finally bunked down on a folded tent lying on the pallet.  All the next day, Saturday, no one showed up.  Sunday afternoon, the telephone rang on the end of the building and I answered it.  It was my Company Commander wanting to know what I was doing out there.  He said, “You know you are AWOL.”

 

And I said “No, I did not know that. They had assigned me to guard that pallet load of equipment until they came to pick it up.” 

 

He said “You have been there ever since?”

 

And I said “Yes Captain.” 

 

He was there in about thirty minutes in his personal car with a hot meal and drinks for me.  A truck arrived shortly to pick up the items and I rode back with the Captain.  The next morning, he called me in his office and asked me if I was going to report what happened.  I asked him if I was AWOL and he said of course not, the sergeant who had assigned me the job had to immediately leave when they returned because his wife had been taken to the hospital and I had just slipped through the cracks.  I told him I had followed my instructions and held the post until relieved.  He thanked me and I got an early promotion and certified that I had completed my Basic Training and then spent the next two weeks in the arms room, refurbishing the rifles, pistols and carbines and installing new parts as needed.

 

No Orders for Me

 

Basic Training was over and orders started appearing on the bulletin board for people in my platoon for various other training posts around the country.  A week had went by and the first sergeant told me to move from the barracks over to the room behind the dayroom, since there was a new platoon of trainees coming in.  Ten days later when I still had not received orders to go anywhere, I had to go back over to the qualification center for retesting.  The results were the same, but there was an anomaly in the Army regulations that stated that with scores like mine I was only to be sent to certain technical schools, all of which required a high school education. 

 

Quartermaster Clerk Training

 

Finally, in desperation, they asked me if I had any special skills.  I said I could type, since I had learned it in high school, so they gave me a typing test and I scored 62 wpm on the test. So they awarded me the skill as clerk typist.  They then decided to send me to Quartermaster Training School in Ft. Lee Virginia for further training.  I arrived there and the first day of advanced training, it was rapidly discovered that I was a highly qualified typist and a quick test revealed that there was nothing in the course curriculum that they could teach me that I did not already know. 

 

Qualified Cook & Baker

 

They did not want to take up a spot in the school for me, so they sent me over to the Consolidated Mess Hall for a rations clerk position.  I got along well with the Warrant Officer who ran the mess and since my duties required about two hours on Monday morning the rest was idle time.  One morning, while there was a lot of absenteeism due to an outbreak of the flu, he asked me if I would mind filling in on the serving line.  I did so, and since it was the officer’s line I was serving, one of the Majors asked if I would be continuing on the line?  I told the Warrant Officer I did not care, so he had me draw cooks whites to wear and soon I am on the line full time frying eggs, bacon, ham, etc.  The cooks took me in hand and in about six weeks said I was a qualified cook and baker and there was talk about changing my MOS. 

 

Orders for Korea

 

About that time, I came down on orders for Korea to the 24th Quartermaster Company in the 24th Infantry Division as a QM clerk.  That ended my cook and baker days. When going overseas to serve back then, it was the policy of the Army to send you home on leave prior to overseas shipment since you would be gone for at least sixteen months before returning to the United States and I really had no desire to go home.  I went to my sisters house and stayed there for a couple of weeks and they talked me into going home to at least see Mom before I went overseas.  While there Dad talked me into going squirrel hunting with him to fill the freezer since he had not been able to go.  A friend of his had a thirty acre patch of timber that a large amount of squirrels lived in and they had been tearing up his crib storage to get at a special type of white corn he raised for hominy, grits and cornmeal that the squirrels really had a taste for.  I finally agreed and we went to the woods patch early that next morning to go hunting. 

Unintentional One Sided Bull Fight 

 

Dad had a single barrel twenty gauge shotgun since that was all he was a able to handle after his disabling heart attacks.  I had my trusty 410 double with a rifled slug in the left barrel in case of a hog attack and a number four shot high power shot shell in the right barrel.  I had gotten four squirrels and Dad had gotten three and he moved around a brush pile to my right causing me to lose sight of him for a minute,  Suddenly I heard him yell and then fire his shotgun and heard him running.  As he rounded the brush pile, he slipped and fell and I could then see an angry Jersey bull that had started after him and him shooting him with squirrel shot had only made him madder.  I yelled to get the bull’ attention and when he saw me he turned in my direction and then making the classical mistake, paused, throwing up his head to bellow at me allowing me to get my footing set.  When he again lowered his head to charge I fired into his spine just back of the front shoulders with the rifled slug, following up with the shot shell in the other barrel so I could quickly reload with both slug loads.  After reloading and returning my sight to the target I saw I had been successful in breaking his spine and he was thrashing around on the ground bellowing very madly.   I stepped in closer and got a good heart/lung cavity shot from behind a front leg which finished him off.  I got Dad up and walked him back to the truck and was getting ready to go up to the owner’s house and tell him what happened expecting to get arrested but when I returned to the truck with our guns and the squirrels, the owner was there talking to Dad and apologizing for not knowing the bull was loose in that lot and how fortunate I was to have had deer slugs and be a good enough shot to kill the bull before he caught and killed my Dad.  He said he would take care of everything and not to worry.  When we got home, I helped Dad into the house where he took some medicine and went to bed to rest.  I dressed out the squirrels for Mom to cut up and package and then cleaned the shotguns and put them away.  I told Mom what all had happened and how lucky Dad had been to not have been by himself when that happened.  Two things came out of that incident.  Dad never thanked me nor mentioned it again even though the younger brother blew off at the mouth about what he would have done had he been there, knowing he had no slug loads for his shotgun since I had the only slug loads in the family and the second thing was that was the last time I saw my favorite shotgun since Dad let the brother sell or get rid of everything of mine while I was gone to Korea since the brother lied and said I gave everything to him when I left.   So much for leaving home. 

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