CCC man c.1940, Company 3556 D.G.115 (Division of Grazing) Green River Utah Serial # 320622
LIFE IN THE CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS 1940
I joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. on July 5th 1940 I was sent from my home in Cincinnati Ohio. to London Ohio for Processing. Enrolling in the 3 Cs was a common topic of conversation with the boys my age . There were instructions printed in the daily papers as to how and where to enroll. On the last days of June I took a street car down to the Ohio National Guard Armory and filled out the necessary paper work..and the enrollment oath. There I had a preliminary physical Exam. I was told to report back on July 2nd for processing. and more paper work i was assigned a Service Serial Number #320622 (3 is the Corps Area for Southern Ohio)
The contingent was scheduled to leave The Union Terminal on July 5th (No destination) The train was scheduled to stop at the station just a few blocks from my house. I had permission to board it there rather than backtracking to the terminal.
My father went with me and waited to see me off. At this time he pulled 2 packs of Lucky Strike Cigarettes out of his pocket and handed them to me. I had not smoked up to this time. I believe it was his way of saying Now you are a man. There was an expression at the time. You are not old enough to smoke them until you are old enough to buy them . (i e Earn your own money) I climbed aboard the B&O train and walked through the car to find an empty seat. A fellow that I knew started to chat. The Scuttle Butt was that we were going to a Processing Camp in Yellow Springs Ohio. That evening the conductor came through and told us This IS IT. We got off the train and we were in London Ohio Not Yellow Springs. .
The 3Cs had been in existence for about 6 years so I have no way of determining if this was an Army Post or not. They all looked alike in those days.
We were herded into a huge mess hall and were served supper (Dinner) A barrack Roll Call steered us into various Barracks. We made our beds and settled in for the night. The next day we went through very thorough physical examinations including dental exams. We stood around half naked for most of the day. In the Dispensary- Army medics gave us immunization shots for everything but the plague.
I recall one shot in particular for rocky Mountain Spotted fever. Two medics we positioned about 5 feet from the door. and as each man was given the shot- They walked to the 2 medics as their knees buckled and the medics caught them as they fell. and helped them to a chair nearby.
After the physicals- We were herded
into a huge supply room - As we passed a counter we were given a Blue Denim
Barracks Bag and all the clothing and accouterments that we were going to
need. In the CCC as well as the Army The standard G.I. ( Government Issue)
consisted virtually of two sets or pairs of everything. 2 Sun-Tan (Chino)
(Class A) Dress Uniforms for Summer, Two OD Dress uniforms for winter, sort
of Brown with a greenish cast to them- Plain old Army Uniforms. Great Coat,
and poncho. 1 Black tie, used for summer or winter dress uniforms,
Two Blue Denim work uniforms. 1 pair work shoes (1 identical pair) Dress
shoes, 2 pair socks, 2 olive drab Handkerchiefs. Turning back the pages of
time 58 years can be somewhat of a struggle. However I am quite sure
that the (Fatigue) Work Uniforms in the CCC were Blue Denim, the Green uniforms
were introduced with the military build-up just prior to W W I I. 2 bath
towels - A bar of soap in a metal case. A shaving Kit , Tooth Brush
in Metal tube.
These camps were considered Para Military simply because they were issued Hand-me down uniforms left over from WW I. To my knowledge there was no "Espirit D'corps" in any of the Camps. From what I can remember-Supply Sergeants didn't lose any sleep over the proper fit of uniforms, In the 3Cs or the Army. You were usually given a size larger than you asked for. The more Affluent among us would have theirs altered by a local seamstress for 50 cents or so. As for the other accouterments - There was an expression, I'm sure you heard, "A GOOD SOLDIER NEVER LOSES ANYTHING"
The implication being - If yours disappears, You can find one just like it somewhere????? I believe you were charged for replacement of objects lost or destroyed through negligence. You could reorder articles that were no longer serviceable do to normal wear and tear. (Without Charge) Shoes for instance. Or if they hurt your feet. It often took several weeks to get replacements. (Slow Mail Order Accounts) That old "Hurry up and wait Syndrome".
Next, after getting our equipment, were the welcome speeches and the rules and regulations. We were told about our pay and the Canteen Books.
Each Enrollee would get 8.00 a month - Thats what we got. The total was 50.00 -- 42.00 was sent home. The help at home was the main purpose of the entire effort. It was the Mother of the Social Security Adminestration before Social Security was enacted, But the government got something in exchange for the out lay.
The remaining $5.00 was spent or allowed for canteen books and the 3.00 was for laundry and misc. where you couldn't use canteen books. Originally the pay was 30.00 5.00 for the boys and 25.00 went home but in 1939 or 1940 it was increased to 50.00. I am not positive, but I think the asst.leader got 55.00 and the leader got 60.00 (old pay for these rates had been 36 and 45 per month). The basic 42.00 was still sent home from these men's pay so they had much more money each month on hand. Our asst. leader was a loan shark --25 cents now for 50 cents payday. He always had a few dollars. Theres one in every outfit.
From each months pay, five was expected to be used up with your Canteen Book. Each Book ( Pamphlet) consisted of 20 5cent coupons that could be traded in the PX (Post Exchange) We were permitted 5 one dollar book per month. We could request them in any order - One at a time or all at once- FIVE was the limit. Each book would be debited against your monthly pay of 8 dollars. I naturally gobbled up most of mine in the few days we were there.
Here we began the process where we were trained extensively in "Close Order Drill" although the "Manual Of Arms" was not incorporated as it was in the Army. This was to help us move about in orderly fashion in a large group. That was a great advantage when we did enter the Army. We knew our "Hay Foot from our Straw Foot" (Arkansas- Close order drill)
After all the indoctrination process was completed we were ordered into groups and taken to the railroad station on the 15th of July 1940. I imagine there were about 500 of us. We all formed lines and proceeded to board the train. It had been half loaded at the Yellow Springs Camp, now it had about 1,000 of us. These new boys had joined a few days earlier. The Troop train headed for the great unknown.
I was in a contingent of about a thousand young men who had joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. Most all of these men were from Ohio and Kentucky. Polocks from Northern Ohio and Germans from Southern Ohio. and Hillbilly's from Kentucky. We were aboard a B & O (Baltimore & Ohio) Troop Train headed for some unknown destination. The Sun was setting ahead of the train every evening. This was the only indication that we were headed West. At various stops along the way one of the Cars was detached. After several days we pulled into Denver Colorado and transferred to another Troop Train and headed South and continued our journey. The next morning we crossed the ROYAL GORGE in Colorado. Shortly after that we passed through GRAND JUNCTION COLORADO we noticed a sign WELCOME to UTAH. The following morning the last Passenger Car pulled into the D&RGW (Denver & RioGrand Western) Railway Station. The Sign read GREEN RIVER UTAH. I was assigned to Greenriver Utah, Company 3556 D.G.115 (Division of Grazing).
The Conductor walked through the train and yelled "This is it - Everybody Out" We all picked up our Barracks Bags stuffed with all our worldly goods issued in LONDON Ohio. There were about 150 of us left. We were met at the station by a Barrack Leader and his Assistant Leader. Each Leader had a Roster of the men assigned to his barrack. As our names were called , we formed a line and proceeded to follow him. After a half hour walk , we arrived at the Camp. It was situated 500 miles from Nowhere surrounded by Nothing. There wasn't a tree as far as the eye could see.
One of the Wise Guys yelled Look out there - There's tomorrows Train Coming!
We assembled on the Parade Ground for a formal welcome by the Commanding Officer Colonel Erwin. He said we had a fire in the camp two weeks ago and several of the buildings were completely destroyed. We lost the REC.( Recreation ) Hall the Laundry one garage and the LATRINE. Needless to say that LAST one got our attention.
I would like to point out that I was 3 months short of my 18th birthday, and had never been away from home alone or West of the Mississippi River when I was introduced to the para military life in the Civilian Conservation Corps. in July 1940. You never really appreciate a LATRINE until you are one of 200 men that have to make out without one. This was our predicament when we arrived at our camp in Green River. Utah. Needless to say it is rather difficult to discreetly hide behind Sage Brush in the middle of a desert when Mother Nature beckons. They don't call them "Tumbling Weeds" for nothing. Those of us that were used to the privacy of Bath Rooms soon found this new experience rather humiliating to say the least.
So I was eager to see the Latrine replaced. Luckily by some Miracle the Army Quarter Master Corps had delivered replacement PRE-FAB buildings. Wall Sections- Roof Trusses. Immediately after being assigned to our respective Barracks, we were segregated into several work crews to begin assembly of the pre manufactured buildings. All were modified versions of the common Barracks. I was assigned to the LATRINE construction (detail) crew. There was no infrastructure in the way of sewers, we did have a well that went half way to China that provided running water for Showers and Laundry in the Latrine as well as the Mess Hall.
The crew was instructed to dig a Trench (The Hard Way- We did everything the hard way) 3 feet wide x 5 feet deep and 30 feet long. A 3 sided box with 12 POT holes in the top, had been cobbled together by several Wannabe Carpenters, and positioned over this Trench. The Supply Sergeant provided us with 12 Brand New White Toilet Seats, which we happily attached over each of the "Pot Holes" The New Latrine was Christened before the first wall section was put in place. The entire building was erected and bolted together in about 2 days. A Coffee Can full of Quick Lime was added to each PoT HOLE every morning.
With the help of 200 "Volunteers." All of the pre--fab replacements for the other structures that had been lost in the fire were also up and running in very short order.
Each Barrack was home to 1 Chief (Leader) 1 Asst. Chief( Asst. Leader) and 38 Indians (Grunts) This Group was lead by a Civilian Employee called the foreman. The Foreman for our Barrack was Mr. Moffit. He supplied all the brains and expertise required to carry out the assignments delegated through the office of the Company Commander Lt. Colonel ERWIN.
The Daily routine started with Reveille at 0600 hrs. We didn't have a Bugler in the crowd. He was improvised with a record player and several 78 rpm records (albums) that loudly blared Bugle Calls through a P.A. system that could blow you out of the Sack. (Bunks in the military are referred to as a Sack That was Short for Fart Sack ). 200 men made a mad dash to the latrine to Wash shower Shave or whatever. Then form a line single file in front of the Mess Hall for breakfast.
The procession proceeded past the serving tables. The breakfast was ladled out into your Mess Kit. And Coffee was dispensed into the Aluminum cup that was part of the kit. A huge Sign hung in the Mess Hall that read "TAKE ALL YOU WANT BUT EAT ALL YOU TAKE".
Have you ever watched a person perform some function with such dexterity that it caused you to sort of "Giggle" just watching them. Well, we had a cook like that in Greenriver. I don't remember his name but watching him perform the simple task of frying scrambled eggs did that to me. He was literally Poetry in motion.
He placed a crate of eggs on each side of him, and with one motion, He would pick up two eggs with each hand tap them lightly on the huge stove-Roll each hand emptying the eggs and dropping the shells in a trash container. This action-difficult to describe was accomplished in one continuous motion in about 2 seconds.
The food was excellent in my opinion. Far better and more nourishing than most of the young men were used to at the home they left. The Mess Sergeant Had a recipe for making Pineapple Fritters that would melt in your mouth. They were actually Deep-fried Doughnuts with crushed pineapple in them. 58 years later - I can still close my eyes and taste those PINEAPPLE FRITTERS.
The most popular activity in our camp was mail call! MAIL CALL!
Memory being what it is, gradual erosion through the years, has a negative effect on the chronology of events. Many sporadic but memorable events are responsible for the disjointed thread running through this narrative. I recall regularly scheduled periods of calisthenics, but I can't remember when or just where we did them. Probably before starting off to work each morning.
ASSEMBLY was sounded at 0700 and we all "fellout" in front of our barracks for the daily work details.
Civilian Conservation Corps camps were allocated to various divisions of the Department of the Interior. Such as FORESTRY -- GRAZING -- LAND MANAGEMENT -- AGRICULTURE. We, Company 3556, were with the Dept. of Grazing. Our primary duties involved wild life management in the Southwest to help preserve the grasslands in the southwest for use of grazing herds. At the time there was an abundant supply of Kangaroo Rats that were eating the vegetation needed by the wild horse herds that roamed the area. The solution was to poison the rats.
Work groups of approximately 50 men were transported out into the desert and formed a line arms length (100yds) Each carried a canvas bag of poisoned oats. We would toss a pinch of oats with every other step. We killed thousands of rats. That was just our first assignment it lasted about two weeks. The government found out the HARD way that there were a lot of hungry mouths between the Rats and the wild horses.We took a major link out of the food chain. The other rodents couldn't take up the slack. Thats how so many species became endangered. Eagles Falcons Hawks were used to swooping down for a kangaroo burger.
Back at Camp I began to study physics and watermelons. One might ask - What in the world does the Laws of Physics have to do with Watermelons- A great deal I assure you I was subjected to the Law asserting that FOR EVERY ACTION - THERE IS AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE REACTION. Let me explain.
The area around Green River is some of the best Melon Growing Farmland in the country. A melon packing house was situated next to the Railroad Track that brought us to Green River. Shortly after our arrival we learned that this packing house was packing the Cantaloupe harvest. Since only green melons were suitable for packing and loading on to Railroad Cars. Most were were Green as grass, to ripen on the trip across the country. The melons moved along a conveyor on the second floor of the packing house. The ripe ones were discarded and thrown into a long wooden chute was positioned in line with a rather large holding pen to catch the melons that were too ripe to ship. Every day local Farmers came to collect these ripe melons to feed them to their Pigs.
Several of us boys would take the spoon out of our Mess Kit walk down to the packing house and have a Cantaloupe (Sugar Melon Feast. We would just catch a nice ripe cantaloupe -cut it open and eat the best part and throw the rest back for the pigs. The first ones were always delicious- but the fifth or six one didn't go down so well.
A short time after this, we were riding back to camp, after a hard day at the "office" and we noticed a Watermelon patch. about a mile from camp, just coming in to full bloom. Our attention was diverted from Sugar Melons to Watermelons. In 1940 stealing Watermelons was considered a prank - today you would be charged with Grand Theft Melon..
I invited my friends MATT and RED RYDER to go with me on a Watermelon Hunt after Sundown. That's a great idea we were sick of Sugar melons. As soon as the sun went down the three of us emptied the dirty clothes out of our barracks bags, slung the bags over our shoulders and started off toward the Watermelon patch. Barracks Bags were over grown Laundry Bags with a heavy draw string to close them.
At this point I should point out that virtually all farm land in the area is irrigated with rather large irrigation ditches. 4 or 5 feet wide and 3 to 4 feet deep. Many are filled with water from time to time. The three of us were Sneaking in a crouched position as we entered the patch under the cover of darkness. Each of us selected two nice ripe Watermelons and put them into our barracks bag.. Red just held the bag at his side while Matt slung his around his neck. I decided the best way to carry mine, was to sling the bag over my shoulder with one melon in front against my chest and one resting on my back. I have no way of determining the weight of a sizable watermelon but I suspect they weighed ten or fifteen pounds each.
Feeling rather smug at the successful completion of this caper. We started back toward the camp. Just at that time we heard the report of a 12 gauge Shotgun shattering the silence, not to mention what it did to our nervous systems. We took off running., as fast as we could with the Boom Boom Boom of the shotgun closing fast.
With each step I took - The two watermelons flew away from me them immediately pounded my Chest with a force that was excruciating. I just knew they were going to break a half a dozen ribs. I was afraid to stop long enough to readjust them . I thought if the Melons didn't kill me-the Shotgun would. Then I heard Matt yell as he fell headfirst into a large irrigation ditch full of water. With the 2 Watermelons tied around his neck- He almost drowned before we could fish him out. By this time the Farmer must have decided that we got the message and stopped firing. When we dragged back into camp the rest of guys in our barracks laughed until LIGHTS OUT . But we all enjoyed the vine ripened Watermelons That exploit is just one of the fond memories we have cherished through the years.
We retell it with each get together.
Young men with time on their hands are bound to conjure up harmless pranks or practical jokes to play on their buddies. One of the favorites was Short Sheeting his bed. In his absence, of course, The cover was removed , and the bottom of the sheet was pulled up to the top of the bed, then the cover was replaced. When the owner tried to get into bed he was tangled up with his feet in the middle where the sheet was folded. When he figured out why he couldn't get into bed,, He removed the covers and re-made the bed, While all the gang chided him. I tried this on a friend and someone ratted on me and told who did it. The Next night I crawled into my bunk and discovered a handful of wet sand right in the middle of my bunk. He had the last and longest laugh.
For the most part, memories of my life in the CCC spent in Green river Utah, were very pleasant. There was one aspect that I have always regretted. That Damn Dentist that told me my teeth were soft. In the Indiana University School of Dentistry in Indianapolis, there is a huge mural spread across a wall depicting the history of dentistry. It shows a Cave Man, scantily clad in animal skins. He is holding a large cone shaped rock in his left hand. The point of the rock is resting on a tooth of a friend who has an unbearable toothache. The "Dentist" is holding a rectangular rock in his right hand, preparing for the extraction of the rotted tooth.
The Dentist we had In Green River Utah, must have been a very close relative. His extraction procedures were not far removed from the one described above. Anesthetic was used only for extraction's. Fillings were performed with out the aid of a pain killer. (I still cry when I think of it)
The rocks had evolved into metal instruments but the results were quite similar. There was one instrument in particular that he called a Rotary Chisel. This "Chisel" was a small shaft with a sharp projection on the business end. With the aid of a foot operated power unit, this "Chisel rotated about 300 RPM. With each revolution, the projected tip would thump the bad tooth with enough force to jolt the head of his patient. Within a period of six months, This Dentist managed to completely ruin most of the molars in my mouth and eventually resulted in requiring dentures by age 35.
After spreading poisoned oats over half of the Majave Desert Our attention was redirected to the construction of Water Retention Ponds (Water Holes) to support the wild herds of nomadic mustangs. At 0800 Monday through Friday 19 Grunts and the Leader. (Sitting in the rear) , Piled onto a Army Troop (Truck) Transport and started out to a job site. The location had been scouted previously and determined to make a suitable site for a water hole 30 or 40 miles from camp. There we would "rip rap" a waterhole.
I have no idea where the term RIP RAP originated. It simply refers to the practice of covering the walls and basin of a natural or man made depression in the earth with rock. Apparently the small spaces between the rocks gradually fill with soil and harden. This serves almost like lining it with concrete. The process began by locating a source of rock then engaging in the process of reducing huge boulders into manageable size with the help of 16# Sledge Hammers and Crow bars. Needless to say - The practice is very labor intensive. I suspect it was invented by the Chinese in the Ming Dynasty. Or the ancient Romans. ??? The term also refers (erroneously) to practice of laying stone against a bank of earth to prevent erosion.
The Crew Trucks took us out to the job site followed a 3rd truck that was loaded with the tools of our trade. Picks- Shovels- Mattocks- Sledge Hammers - Crow Bars. There were also two 15 gallon cans drinking water (that had reached 98.6% f ) and for lunch of a box of apples and 41 brown bag lunches containing 2 Sandwiches. One Cheese and one P/B /Jelly or Baloney (Bologna).
I was in the truck load of Grunts with the Asst. Leader Fred Huston, We followed the lead truck about 5 miles then turned off the road toward the foot of the White Mountains.. The Dump Truck followed us to this "Rock Quarry " Each man was handed a tool (of his Choice if he was lucky) Eight or Ten of us chose Sledge Hammers and started making Little Rocks out of big Rocks.
I believe the hardest or most strenuous job in the C C C s was cracking huge rocks with 18# sledge hammers. and heavy crow bars. Then loading the rock by hand , on the dump trucks.
Making little ones out of big ones to be used to RIP RAP the water holes. Digging with picks and shovels was never a enjoyable past time. At the time though, we didn't really think too much of it.. We were young strong and healthy. In six months we were able to convert 18 pounds of flab into 20 pounds of muscle.
One interesting thing that sticks in my memory is the experience with echoes that fascinated me. Being from the midwest, I had never experienced them before. The rock crews were stretched over a rather wide expanse of terrain. You could watch one guy 200 yards away, swing the sledge hammer and watch it "bounce" off the rock, quietly back on his shoulder. Then you would hear the DING of the hammer. It was a very interesting experience in the speed of sound.
There was a break, at least, for the lunches that were trucked out with the tools. Our lunch out in the Desert while on a work project usually consisted of two sandwiches in a brown paper bag and an apple. The apples were simply carried in a basket or wood box. The lunches were distributed by the Leader or Asst-Leader. I considered myself to be on the "Good Side" of our asst. leader who was handing out the lunches. So when I worked my way up to receive the lunch, I took the liberty of selecting the nicest apple left in the box. Rather than waiting for him to make the selection. He didn't comment at all. However - From that time on - The worst apple in the box was always reserved for me. He learned that from the Bible -- "He that exhalteth himself shall be humbled"
After lunch it was back to work. The routine continued for most of the week. The depression in the earth , took on the appearance of a great water hole approximately 50 feet in diameter and 5 to 6 feet deep with a bed of rocks (lining) Rip Rapped around the periphery from the lip to the basin. The results of our efforts would be revealed after we had a good rain, sufficient to fill the pond. Several weeks had passed before "THE RAINS CAME" At the first opportunity we returned to the site.
We discovered, to our dismay, a dead horse 30 yards from the very dry water hole. Mr. Moffit surveyed the basin of the hole and discovered that a large deposit of alkali. That perhaps had not been exposed to that much water in hundreds of years. Rain filled the hole and the horse drank the alkali laced water and was poisoned by it. Several veins of alkali acted as drain lines, just as though several open ended drain lines had been run from the center of the pond.
Mr. Moffit told us we had 2 choices. We could either repair the fault or abandon the site. He thought it best to repair the fault. He said" Too much effort has been expended just to go off and leave it. That would be admitting defeat" We could salvage it with an underground Earthen dam made of clay, across and deeper than the alkali veins.
So we needed to get clay. I don't recall precisely where it was done - I believe it was near the foot of the White Mountains --- Visible in the photograph of camp. The clay was dug with picks and mattocks and shovels it took about 10 cubic yards of clay to seal the leaks. We would have to dig and haul clay from the "Rock Quarry" and haul water from camp to put in a trench. The Clay and water had to be mixed together to form a mortar that would harden like concrete and seal off the Alkali veins.
The solution to this Mixing problem would be solved by 20 bare feet. slogging back and forth all day long with teams rotating in 1 hour periods. .(The way Grapes were crushed in Europe.) One major problem -- The rotting horse was laying precisely where the trench had to be dug. I learned a lesson that morning " NEVER VOLUNTEER for anything. But I did.
I saturated the carcass with 5 gallons of diesel fuel and poured a stream away to a safe distance and ignited the fuel. The carcass was cremated but the smell gagged us all day long.
Once again the Clay diggers and Trench Diggers alternated each day. The Trench was very much like the Latrine Trench. Mixing the Clay was the most exhausting effort any of us had ever encountered. Small rocks and hard pieces of clay cut our feet and we were encouraged to were our Gaiters (goulashes). 15pounds of wet clay covered our goulashes. That was like walking with a concrete block tied to each foot. We finished the task. Its was a huge success and I'll venture to say that, That particular water hole has quaffed the thirst of several thousand mustangs and other wild life since its creation in summer of 1940.
One of the things in camp for our benefit was the PX. I believe the P.X s were initiated as a source of supply for most of the necessities that the government did not furnish. We were issued shaving kits but you had to buy blades and shaving cream after the initial issue was used up. Stationary was another hot item. They carried a wide variety of inexpensive gift items. Memorabilia to send home. Candy Ice cream Cream Soda and Bugler(roll your own) Tobacco were the Staple Items. They did a land office business for 2 hours after the Pay Call. After that -Business slacked off considerably. --- Likke the Army- ---We were paid in cash- less that which was owed to the local( Seamstress) Laundry Lady and the Company Barber.
When I was in London Ohio- I requested 1 Canteen Book and blew the whole dollar right off the bat. for candy and cigarettes. etc. Then when I got to Green River -I was issued 5 books.. Then on payday I drew 2.25 For my First Months Pay. The London canteen book was omitted until the second month. I with drew all 5 books that meant I was six dollars in the hole. I owed 1.90 cents for 1 months laundry and haircut. This is what the paymaster said when I worked my way up to the desk "Due London Ohio Post Exchange- 1 dollar- Due Green River Post Exchange 5.Dollars. Due Mrs. Martin $1.65 Due Company Barber 25 cents. Balance -due you 10.cents. I actually drew 10 cents for my second months pay. I blew it all on a bottle of pop and a Candy Bar. Ha ha MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS.
After a few weeks we became more or less oriented in our new surroundings. It took considerably longer to become acclimated to the rigors of the Arid Climate. None of us were used to requiring a drink of water so frequently, especially while we were out on a job. Our drinking water was laced with salt to stabilize the electrolyte we would lose by the profuse sweating, It was a Dry sweat- I know that's an oxymoron- but I can not properly describe the condition. The Brown Bag Lunches on the job did little to elevate thirst. I recall one incident during a ride back to came after a hard day. All the water had been used up . One of the boys said " I still have half of a baloney sandwich- Does any one want it. I volunteered again and he handed the half sandwich to me. I took one bite and that soaked up the last drop of moisture in my mouth. The bite of bread and baloney swelled up so fast I thought I would choke before I could spit it out. We also had to become acutely aware of the critters that were eager to bite and sting us. On one occasion while out on a job. One of the boys picked up a rather large scorpion and was holding it by a claw. When Fred Huston saw what the boy had - he swung the long handled shovel and hit the boys hand, causing him to drop the scorpion before it had a chance to sink the stinger into the kids hand. we were cautioned to inspect our shoes before we ever stuck our foot into one of them and get an unexpected surprise.
There was not much in the way of entertainment. Once in a while on Sunday Evening we would hang a Bed Sheet on the side of a barrack and show a Motion Picture with the antique projector we had. For the most part we sat around playing cards or roaming around the desert chasing little Critters. Such as the little lizards that could accelerate from a standing start to 60 mph in .05 seconds That was a real challenge.
One hot afternoon several of us happened on a good size Rattle Snake. We killed it and carried it back to camp. A group of boys were crowed around a hot poker gams with about 30 cents in the pot. I very quietly laid the rattle Snake on the bunk and coiled it up as though it was alive . The fellow that was closest to the snake - was deathly afraid of them.. I touched his shoulder and asked are you winning _ Mike.? He turned around and put his hand right on that Rattle Snake. You Can't begin to imagine the sheer pandemonium that ensued after that.. BUNKS AND CARDS AND FOOT LOCKERS WENT FLYING ALL OVER THE PLACE. We laughed about that until our sides were aching.
Speaking of Foot Lockers, each man had one. Did you need it ?-----Like a Dead Man Needs a Coffin---There was nothing else to store anything in and they frowned on things laying around on the floor. I can't imagine anyone selling Foot Lockers. The boys that went into the CCC at that time didn't have 5.00 to their name --I imagine some camps moght have charged for them on a dollar a month plan. But I never heard of anyone buying them.-- This was a standard G I Wood box with a hinged lid -no lock. Color Olive Drab. Name and serial number was stenciled with black paint. They had a Tray approx. 4"deep. Socks and underwear had to be folded and stored in a specific alignment. Personal items were also stored in a small compartment. Lid was raised during all inspections. The F.L. remained at the foot of your bunk when you left. The Foot lockers in the Army were identical to the ones in the CCC and were left at the foot of the bunk. When I was discharged from the Army. The doctors considered my medical condition so life threatening that I was sent directly to the England General Hospital in Atlantic City NJ. I was not permitted to return to camp to get anything or say goodbye to any of my friends. I lost my Dress Uniform and all my personal belongings. They were supposed to be sent to my home but I only received a fragment of what I left behind. After the war--Army surplus stores were selling foot lockers for 5.00 -10.00.
Most of what I remember were the antics that my friends engaged in from time to time. The work details have virtually faded away because they were very mundane and repetitive . We would rip rap one water hole while some one else was out scouting the desert to find other likely spot and where and how to get the necessary rock required to do the job. I recall a Forest Fire in August that most of the boys went out to fight but I was ordered to stay behind because I had not reached my 18th birthday. I was very unhappy about that. At the time (be careful what you wish for).
I vaguely recall a man made Geyser I believe it we in a place called Woodside-Utah. The story goes that some one was drilling for natural Gas or Oil and hit a water table deep in the earth. there was a 10" pipe in the ground and the geyser would spout precisely every 20 minutes. We used to drop a railroad tie down in the pipe and when the geyser spouted it would throw the railroad tie 30 feet in the air.
Most of the evenings were spent just roaming around town and sitting in the Barracks playing cards. There was a pool Table in the rec hall and a ping pong table. Other entertainment was infrequently provided in the form of a movie in camp. If my memory serves me - There was a movie projector that was passed around to several camps in the general area. I remember someone tacking a bed sheet to the outside wall of a barrack and a group of us sitting on the ground watching the movie. I can not recall what it was.That only happened once or twice. There was a also little Theatre in Green River I believe the charge was ten cents. The Movie Theater in Green River was just as bad as the bed sheet on the Barrack wall The Projector was in sad shape and the sound was worse. -I hope its been updated since then. They were poor I suppose.
But once I went to yet a third location to see a movie. One Saturday in the fall of 1940, it was halloween, I hitchhiked from Greenriver Utah to Price, Utah, 60 miles north. Just to see a movie. I didn't even know what was showing in Price at the time. I just wanted a change of scenery I suppose.
I still remember the movie it was called "The Way Of All Flesh" It was a tear jerker about a man that was seperated from his family and stood out side his home watching the festivities of christmas eve in his house. As I wondered through Price The smell of leaves burning and the children getting ready for Halloween started me thinking about being 1800 miles from home I was overwehelmed with Homesickness. Since I seldom ever had more than a quarter to my name at that time, I asked for the location of and then went to the CCC Camp in Price and made arrangements to eat supper in the mess hall and sleep in the NIGHT GUARDS bed while he was on duty. The following Day I hitch hiked back to my camp and arrived 13 hours late. I was ordered to gather 13 ---55 gal. garbage cans. Then in my free time, Scrub them until they sparkled. Col. Irwin The Commanding officer, said he wanted them to be displayed in a Jewelry Store Window.
I spent the next 3 Saturdays with a cake of Jewelers Rouge and polishing cloths. Company 3556 Had 13 of the prettiest Garbage Cans in the state of Utah.
It wasn't Easy.
The recreation equipment that we received shortly after the reconstruction program, consisted of a Pool Table and a Ping-Pong Table . We were assured that an order had been placed for a Photographic Developing Equipment as well as a Lapidary (Rock-Polishing) Set. 'The Photo equipment arrived about the middle of November.
At that time - The fellow who had been the " Night Guard" decided he wanted to go back to work. He requested to be relieved of this duty. Of course I immediately took advantage of the opportunity to move into this gravy job, where you could sleep all day while the other suckers were out cracking rocks in the hot sun. So I opted to take his place.
I reiterate-BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. The function of the "Night Guard" I was told, was primarily the tend all of the Pot Belly Stoves in all the Barracks, as well as (Especially)the Officers Quarters and the Mess Hall.
Desert heat dissipates quite rapidly after Sundown and it gets down right nippy in the wee hours of the morning. I didn't realize or stop to count the 13 Pot Belly Stoves that had to be kept good and hot or the two ENORMOUS Cast Iron Cook Stoves in the Mess Hall. That took a lot of Toten and Fetchen. It didn't take me long. to realize that the Night Guard did not have the world by the ass, as I presumed he did.
The Mess Sergeant assured me, in no uncertain terms, that it was absolutely imperative that the Mess Hall Ranges be RED HOT no later than 0500 hrs-7 days a week. The term Imperative has a much stronger connotation in the military than it does in Civilian life.
One morning I crept into the Officers Quarters to tend their Stove. Some Major (I don't remember his name) staggered out of bed. - Threw on a robe and headed for the Latrine. Just as he passed me, I was startled by the loudest Fart I had ever heard.
It literally rattled the rafters. He was Embarrassed about as much as I was. Neither of us knew how to respond at the moment. Then I said 'IT MUST HAVE BEEN SOMETHING YOU ATE."
He started laughing so loud and hard - I thought he was going into convulsions. He couldn't hardly stand up - he was laughing so hard. He managed to stagger out to the latrine weaving like he was drunk. Even after his morning constitutional he was having hysterics. He was very friendly toward me for the rest of my stay. Friendly between Officers and grunts means the former don't scowl when they see the latter.
The Professor said Don't Eat the Turkey
On Wednesday before Thanksgiving I told Matt Mecher that I was going to try to develop some film and try to print some pictures,in the Mess Hall - The big Prep Tables in the kitchen would be great And I ask if him he wanted to help. My sister had sent me a two dollar box camera. Matt stumbled into the kitchen about 0300. I had pans and trays and Developing Chemicals all over the Prep tables.
The Cooks (Normally came in about 0430). We had plenty of time !!!!! This was Thanksgiving Morning. They staggered in to the Kitchen at 0330. Then they proceeded to prepare the Turkeys. Our Trays and chemicals were swept off the Tables with a few expletives and the turkeys started to fly.
Matt and I dashed out of harms way and spread the word to several of our closest buddies. We decided not to inform the Officers or we would have a lot of explaining to do.
The 12 potholes in the Latrine
really were doing extra duty all day long. Matt and Red Ryder. Harry Kelch
and George Lockwood had a very pleasant thanksgiving. The Ham was
I just cant remember ever seeing any type of unit insignia being issued. I have been told some were used, but don't recall them in my camp.
In 1942 I joined the Army, serving basic training at Fort Hancock on Sandy Hook New Jersey.
Basic training was an experience I like to forget. heh heh-The most grueling aspect was the weather--- Colder than a tiches wit-- it lasted 13 weeks Under Strict quarantine.
But the physical exertion of Basic Training is nothing, compared to the dehumanizing of an individual into a weapon for combat. You are conditioned (Brain Washed ) every hour of every day to automatically respond, without thinking, to any command uttered by a superior officer. (Commissioned or non commissioned.) An example of what was expected was related to us regarding The Ancient Roman Soldiers. To demonstrate subornation-A platoon was marched across a wall 40 ft high. The Centurion ordered "Left Face" then gave the command 'Forward March" All 40 men stepped off the wall to their death. That is what is expected of a soldier. You must leave your Personality at home with your civilian shoes.
The word "Decimated" comes to us from the practice of Roman Armies method of discipline- A whole Battalion would be assembled. Then they would "Count Off" Every 10th (Decimo) man would step forward and face his comrades, to be executed then and there .The Army was decimated . December 10th 1942 several thousand of us were unloaded from troop trains that originated in the midwest. (Saint Louis-Cincinnati-Louisville) We were herded like sheep past the barracks and older buildings on Fort Hancock, to what was called Tent City.. Mud was almost ankle deep as far as you could see. We were lined up -counted off in groups of five- and assigned a Tent. where we spent the coldest winter I could ever remember. Right out in the New York Harbor. There may have been a few warm spells just to soften the mud. but they were few and far between.
After breakfast there was work to do. Two 55 gal drums were positioned outside the door of the Mess hall. One was filled with Hot Soapy Water and one was filled with Rinse Water. Mess Kits were swished around in each of the drums to give them the ONCE OVER LIGHTLY. Most of us used a handful of sand as pumice to finish the sanitizing process. Then a 2nd rinse to remove the sand.
Some of the "Basic Training" you see in the movies is exaggerated. Drill sergeants were firm and forceful but they didn't conduct them selves like they do in the movies. (Screaming in your face for example) I had a great deal respect for the one I had, even though his name escapes me. He was a poor mans Sergeant York.
Every Day- after an hour of Close Order drill in heavy "Great Coats"-The platoons would split up into squads and pretend to encounter enemy outposts. sometimes laying in the snow for an hour or two, crawling on our elbows. learning hand signals. Then there was the time honored Obstacle course. That was pretty much like you see in the movies. But after all that debasing- you come out strong and proud. with a greater respect for authority. So I guess they knew what they were doing. Even though we griped every minute of every day. It was a great experience!
I believe the most memorable events in the service, for me at least, I suppose you could call the "Pomp and Circumstance". The bugle calls never failed to make the hair on the back of my neck, come to Attention. A Close order march past a reviewing stand, on the parade ground, always seemed to make me feel as though I was an integral part of something special. The French call it "Espirit D'Corps" Something More than just another one of 10 million grunts.
The Winter of 1942-43 My army unit took basic training at FT.Hancock, Sandy Hook, New Jersey. This is essentially in the New York Harbor. An entire Infantry Regiment (12000) troops spent that winter in tents. It was called Tent City.
Upon completion of 13 weeks of Infantry Basic Training Our graduation Ceremony was scheduled to take place on a Saturday. All the Army Brass were to be seated in the "Reviewing Stand" (You have probably seen re-enactments of this on television) Friday afternoon it started to snow. By dawn Saturday it had accumulated to 8 inches. Immediately after breakfast The Entire Regiment was called out to the "Parade Ground" a 10 acre Field. The troops were dressed (LINED UP) shoulder to shoulder. We crushed 10 acres of Snow flat as a pancake with our feet in preperation for the review. then we changed into our class " A " (Dress) Uniforms and returned to the Parade Ground.
Then The command was given. "113th Infantry Regiment-PASS IN REVIEW"
This is a bit
of history that never made it to the history books. There is a regulation
in all the services that is called : The Table Of Organization
This is a list or table denoting the number of Commissioned Officers as well
as Non-Comissioned officers in any unit. Generals -Colonels- LT-Colonels
- Majors -Captains First Lieutenants -2ND LLieutenants - Sergeants--Corporals
-P.F.C s and Privates.. This explanation wiill help to understand the
Prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, all of our military forces were in a very deplorable state of readiness. Privates were paid $ 21.00/mo. A Sergeants pay was a whopping $26.00 /mo. All branches were staffed to a large extent with the dregs of society -People that could not exist without the room and board provided by the government. , Many of whom, were actually illiterate. Few made it through Elementary school. National Conscription Draftees were a whole lot smarter and better educated than the Non - Coms who were supposed to train them but due to the (filled) T.O.O. The Table of Organization was rapidly staffed-with a more selective group of men and pay was increased to $30/.00/mo. Older mon -coms were not demoted or replaced. They just had to fade away before a new recruit could be promoted
The Combat team to which I was attached had about 350 trrops many of them went through High School and quite a few had College training. The First Private was promoted to the rank of Private First Class 14 months after induction . Some of the " Non Coms experienced difficulty early on. We had a Corporal from New Joisey by the name of Egyed He was nicknamed CPL. EGG HEAD.
During Basic Training - I was assigned to a Heavy Weapons Company. I could choose a 81 mm Mortar or a .50 cal. Machine Gun. Cpl Egg Head ordered the three Machine Gun Sections (3 troops in a section) in the Mess Hall and comenced to explain the Technical Differences between the Recoil Cocking Action of a machine gun and the Gas Cocking Action of a M 1 Rifle.
It was quite obvious that he was in over his head and of course several of us took advantage of the situation by asking more complex questions than he was prepared to answer. Finally out of complete frustration - He gathered up the Machine Gun in his arms and threw the whole thing on the floor. Then He said 'I DON'T KNOW WHAT IN THE HELL MAKES IT WORK" With that he stomped out of the Mess Hall.
You can tell a great deal about a soldier just by looking at his uniform. If the trim is light blue-he is in the Infantry.If its red, he is in the artillery. If its purple He is a Medical corpsman. Strips on his sleeve tell how long he has been in the service. There are many other distinguishing marks --all of which are removed when he enters a war zone.
My unit was the Army-Medical Detachment, Headquarters Co., 2nd Bn. 113th Infantry Combat Team, Eastern Defense Command. I served in that unit from 12/4/42 -- 3/21/44 as a Corpsman- Ambulance Driver.
In the spring of 1943 It rained almost every other day, where I was stationed, in Georgetown Delaware. A hungry little pooch wondered into our compound looking for something to eat. Naturally we sort of adopted the poor thing and in a few days he secretly became our mascot. (more or less.) This little fugitive scampered out on the "Parade Ground" during "Retreat" formations on several occasions. This disturbance raised a few Officer Type Eyebrows. We were ordered to "GET RID" of the dog. (i.e execute) That didn't mean, find him a new home. We tried to lose him but we were not very successful. No one volunteered for the Coup d'Gratis. He always found his way back.
Capt. Bellermino told us that our camp was singled out for a Review by LT. General Drum, who was coming all the way down from New York on Saturday to Inspect our camp. (What a Thrill)
It rained all day thursday -It rained all day Friday-The entire compound was a sea of mud. I drove my ambulance the the vehicle area -Washed all the mud off the tires. All the Trucks Tanks and Artillery were lined up in perfect order. No Mud could be seen on any of the tires. Stove Black was applied to the tires so general Drum would think that we had somehow lifted all the heavy equipment, and positioned it in three inches of soft mud. in precise alignment for his approval.
The General was scheduled to arrive at precisely at 14.00 hrs. At 13:45 hrs. Four guards were positioned at 100 yard intervals to signal the arrival of our illustrious visitor. The Order to Fall Out was given at At 13.50 hrs. We were called to "ATTENTION" and then ordered to "STAND AT EASE " (That is different than the phrase "At Ease") We waited-and we waited and waited. After standing in formation for 45 minutes, The nearest sentry signaled the approach of the Generals Staff Car. Followed by his Entourage of five additional Staff Cars. We were called to Attention and held there until all the Officers Exited their cars and returned our Salute.
The General was a dumpy little guy about 5-7' tall and he looked as though he had slept in his clothes all the way from New York. I was expecting to see some one like General Eisenhauer.
This type inspection requires the attention of all the officers in the entourage. They line up in single file, according to rank. The General takes the lead and the last in line is a 2nd Lt. with a clip board taking notes. of any infractions. missing buttons- open shoe laces etc.) The General with a Riding Crop (To match his Britches) swaggered through the ranks. When he got about 5 soldiers from me. That Damn little Dog raced through the ranks and jumped up on my spotless uniform. I was frozen at attention, hoping he didn't want a bite of my leg. He turned around and ran off. The General looked at me in utter disgust. The 2nd Lt with the clipboard entered my name for future reference.
Then the Group proceeded to inspect the Armament and heavy equipment. The 2nd Lt. nosed around one of the light tanks. looking for dirty Knobs. Then he pressed a (Fire Extinguisher) button. That he should not have. The Entire Engine compartment was filled with Foam in 30 Seconds. The tank was returned two months later after the engine had been completely rebuilt. General Drum Must have shipped him off to the North Pole. I scrubbed greasy metal dinner trays for 6 hours in my spare time.
In March of 1944 I suffered from a medical condition which led to an honorable discharge from the Army shortly thereafter.
Rationing during that period was quite severe. Every week We had to go to a Ration Board to get stamps for almost everything (It was like going to a license Branch) . Gasoline was allotted according to how far you lived from your work and the Bus or Street Car Line - Public Transportation was the only way too go. You were given a sticker for your windshield that had a large letter on it A B or C with an A. Sticker you were allowed to buy 3 gallons a week. The B was 4 gallons and the C which was very rare allowed 5 gallons per week. You had to give a Ration Stamp for anything you bought. You couldn't buy Meat on Tuesdays. Anything made of rubber was impossible to buy The tires on a car were worth more than the car.
Theres one thing I have wondered about -Why there hasn't been more written about the Four years of Darkness. Cities near the Oceans were totally blacked out Can you Imagine 4 years of Total Darkness No Street lights Drapes pulled Headlights masked to a thin slit about 3/8". When all the street lights were turned out and what few cars were on the road had little peep holes for headlights, you had to feel your way. I can remember driving with my head out the window looking for the edge of the road. Our Camp Ground was so Dark - I walked smack into a Pine tree one night on the way to the latrine. I was holding my arms out and the Tree walked right in between them. ha ha Bam! DID I feel STUPID.
This was just the coastal states, since the black out was to protect ships from U Boats. There were periodic Air Raid warnings in the interior with Sirens and people scurring to underground shelters, in existing buildings. Much of the Neon Signs were turned off. It was just a generally subdued attitude. New Jersey was blacker than the inside of your hat. As my Dad used to say ha ha.
Two of the closest friends I had while in the Service were John L Hand from Heflin, Alabama and Henry Percival from Fort Thomas Kentucky. The characteristics of these two men were as completely opposite as any could be. John was nicknamed "Happy" Happy was rather slender farm boy that walked in a slouched position. He could laugh with no provocation whatsoever, he always wore half a grin. He could be talked into doing almost anything just to please the crowd. Henry was called Hank. -He was very short in stature. about 5'5" tall. But he was built like a block of granite. In Hanks mind, being selected to serve as a Corpsman in the Army Medical Corps was the most insulting decision the Army ever made. He was there to Fight Germans. Not to wrap bandages. He longed to go over there and win the War single Handedly. Every chance he got, he tried to get Happy to join him in requesting a transfer to a Infantry regiment that was slated to go to the E.T.O. (European Theatre. of Operations) I was forever trying to talk some sense into them. Thank God you are fighting the War in Delaware. Not in Belgique (Belgium) For over a year, I managed to persuade both of them to stay where they were and forget the Transfers. If The Army wants you over there- You will go. I was given a Medical Discharge the end March 1944 - with in 90 days Hank was able to talk Happy into transferring to a Infantry regiment stationed in the Port Of Embarkation in New York. They arrived in France in October 1944- By Christmas, they were both buried in Belgium. I have always felt that I could have saved their lives if only I was permitted to do so.
I might add that my mother also had 4 blue Stars hanging in the window. Fortunately none were replaced with the Gold Stars Indicating K.I.A.-- I had 3 brothers in the service at the same time I was. 2 older brothers Don and Bill and a younger brother Bob. Don was in Fort Benning Georgia - Bill was in Luxembourg and Bob was in the Solomen Islands. We all returned safe and sound.
Ed Braun can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com
Heaven's Dusty Roads, Mr Braun's Autobiography of the Depression, the CCCs and War Years
13 HOURS A.W.O.L. A CCC Story by Ed Braun (contained above in full)
Barracks A CCC story By Ed Braun (contained above in full)
Before World War I I A Story by Ed Braun
Company 3556 A CCC unit description by Ed Braun (contained above in full)
Company 3556 Retreat Formation, Photo of Company 3556, Camp G-115, Green River, Utah
During World War I I An Army Story by Ed Braun
Free Mail, An Army Story by Ed Braun
Go West Young Man A CCC story by Ed Braun (contained above in full)
Government Issue A CCC story by Ed Braun (contained above in full)
Hand Grenades, by Ed Braun
Lunch In The Field A CCC story by Ed Braun (contained above in full)
Pass In Review An Army Story by Ed Braun
Physics and Watermelons A CCC story by Ed Braun (contained above in full)
Poetry in Motion A CCC Story by Ed Braun (contained above in full)
Post Exchanges, by Ed Braun
Reveille & Assembly A CCC story by Ed Braun (contained above in full)
1940 Roster of Company 3556, CCC Camp Green River, G-115-UT, Green River, Utah
Tank Engines, by Ed Braun
The Best Seat in The House A CCC story by Ed Braun (contained above in full)
THE GREENBRIER An Army Story by Ed Braun
The Night He Got Lucky An Army Story by Ed Braun
Work Detail An CCC Story by Ed Braun (contained above in full)
Dodge T12 Ambulance, Photo, Use Back Key To Return (link to internet archive of page, original page gone
John L. Hand, 113th Infantry Combat Team & Unknown Unit, KIA, USA
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