Biography of Jasper N. Terry
CCC Man, Company 3747, Camp SCS-31-MO, Paris, Missourri & Wentzville, Missouri
E-8, M/Sgt, 6th Marine Regiment, Reykjavik, Iceland & Heavy Maintenance Service Squadron 44, Ewa Marine Corps Air Station, Hawaii, World War Two & Nan Yuan field, Peiping, China, Chinese Revolution & VMF224, USS Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Cold War, USMC
I enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps on April 13, 1939. I eagerly enlisted because so many friends of mine were sent to forestry service in the Western States and I anticipated that service. As I had never been out of the state of Missouri at that time I had great hopes to see the Rockies. Alas, I was sent about 130 miles from my home to work on farmland which was nothing new to me.
I only know of 2 members of my company at Paris MO.. They were both from Harrisonville ( or near there) Missouri. I was transported directly from Kansas City Mo to Paris on Greyhound, I don't recall any other CCC recruits on the bus. I had no Army orientation before going into the CCCs. There was no military training or inspections. We did get a series of shots after we got to camp. I believe my physicals were performed at Harrisonville, MO where I enlisted. Can't really remember it.
The camp I was in was a Soil Conservation group at Paris, Missourri with Company 3747. I see that being a Soil Conservation Service Camp this means the camp was named SCS, but I don't recall the SCS designation ever being used and didn't know of it at the time.
Our Company Commander was Edward W. Fitzgerald, 1st Lt. Cavalry - Reserve of the U.S. Army. He was a pleasant man but we saw very little of him. He was kept quite busy I'm sure with Civilian Contractors and crew foremen. The other military staff in the Camp was our Sergeant as Mess Sergeant in charge of Food Service.
We constructed a series of small concrete dams in erosion ditches in farm fields. The dams we built were called Check Dams. We would go into a farmer's hillside fields or pastures where the normal runoff was on a constant path, eventually eroding huge deep ditches down the hillsides on their natural path to a water way or larger drainage. They utilized a CCC survey crew under supervision of a civilian foreman to plan the project. We would then construct a series of concrete dams in these ditches, the top of each succeeding dam level with bottom of the one above it. I was able in later years to witness the result of this work. Each dam was completely level with dirt which had filled in behind it. To prevent other gullies from eroding, our earth moving graders contoured the fields to block down hill runoff for erosion control.
After our series of erosion controlled dams were completed, when we had our first rain, our Foreman would take us back to the site on our road back to camp and let us swim in the pool that had been created.
We built fences to divide farms into controlled pasturing to prevent vegetation scalping by grazing. The graze scalping was a result of grazing fields continuously until all vegetation was gone. Our fence building was to section off these fields and the farmer would pasture one section while the other rejuvinated. By moving the herd from one to another the improvement in Pasture acreage was successful.
While at Paris, Mo., they moved us to Wentzville, Missouri on June 29, 1939. To move the buildings, we were moved to tents in the center of an oval auto race track adjoining the Camp. Then the barracks were dismantled. I can't recall the entire particulars of the disassembly of the barracks but I seem to remember we did some then boarded a train to the trip to Wentzville. There were some barracks already built there and others were constructed I believe by a civilian crew after we got there. I cant recall that the CCC men did any barracks construction but we did handle much of the material used. The laborers were local contract labor. Though many roads and small bridges were being built by the WPA at the time, I don't think these workers were WPA. I know we went right to work without much delay.
In Wentzville we were temporarily known as 3747 ½! One memorable event, while there we had the opportunity to travel by company bus to St. Louis to see the old St. Louis Browns play ball.
In Wentzville the train tracks were down the middle of the Street and week-end trips were made by catching a freight train headed west. Of course this was on the sligh and naturally unapproved.
Our work in that area was largely fence building, after our barracks were all erected. I worked ( without my jacket ) in box cars unloading creosoted timber. Being very hot near the top of a loaded box car, I received sunburn around my armpits.
I was discharged from the CCCs on August 30, 1939 as a result of accepting employment. As the CCC was a method to furnish young men with some type of employment, the rule was if a job was offerred you must take a discharge. My previous employer, owner of a Furnace and Sheet Metal Shop in Kansas City, and his wife drove to Paris and met with Lt. Fitzgerald and I was discharged and sent home with them to go to work. Had my past employer not come to the CCC camp for a meeting with the Camp Commander I would no doubt have continued in the CCC longer.
My life there in the CCC was pleasant. Plenty of food, freedom to prowl the area, good fishing & recreational facilities available.
After leaving the CCC's I joined the Marines. I'm not a combat veteran, however. Through no designs of my own I was assigned to areas and jobs where I was used in other ways.
I did not go into the Marines directly from the CCC, working for a while in Kansas City. At that time, I'm not sure what dates, the US was in a draft period. I knew of a few who were being drafted and as I was too young for the draft I decided to enlist. I joined the Marine Corps because I was wanting something other than a Sheet Metal, Roofing and Furnace mechanics job. I knew of a fellow from Kansas City who was in the Marines and I guess you could say curiosity got the best of me. On December 26, 1940, I drove to Harrisonville, MO (approximately 40 miles) to see my father to get him to sign a consent which he did. I then went back to Kansas City to the recruiter. My CCC discharge was endorsed by the recruiter as it was always used to show any seniority in government service. Many years later during a short period of service in the Post Office in the mid-70's my CCC service was included in my seniority at the Postal Service.
The Marine Recruiter was a retired Marine Captain, one of the great many of retired service people who were reactivated for service in the buildup to WWII and later during the war. They were usually assigned to troop training or casual group administration. I'm not sure if any of them were ordered into Combat units. Generally they were very likeable people having been in civilian life long enough to lose some of the regimentation they had been accustomed to in the service.
So on December 26, 1940, I enlisted in the Marine Corps for four years. I had my physical in Kansas City at about 2:00 PM and was placed on the train at 7:00 PM that night bound for San Diego.
At the Recruit Depot, San Diego, California on 1 January 1941 in Platoon #1 for 1941 was formed and began scheduled training. Boot Camp for my part was very uneventful, just routine. Run run, polish, clean, etc. My time in the CCC camp had really introduced me to regimentation so I had no problems accepting whatever was my lot. I do remember my DI's. They were Sgt. E. E. Wright, Captain (?) Shook and Pfc. D. D. Roe. They were very knowledgeable people and when required could be very strict. I fired expert on the .45 automatic (96 of 100) but not so hot on the old .03 rifle (before the days of the M1).
As you may or may not know, the Marine Corps also has the responsibility of ship board security for flag officers. Therefore, we had what was called Sea School. In this men were screened and given the opportunity to attend several weeks of Sea School where they learned about Shipboard life and language; deck instead of floor, ladder instead of stairs, bulkhead instead of walls, lines instead of rope, etc. Going there meant being issued a suit of the familiar Dress Blues. I felt that I had about all the class room training I wanted so declined the opportunity. Of my group, platoon #1 of 1941, a great many chose Sea School and I'm sorry to say were assigned the U.S.S. Arizona when they graduated. I have no idea how many of them perished at Pearl Harbor.
After a short period with the 8th Regiment at the Marine Corps Base in San Diego, I was transferred to Camp Elliot on the outskirts of San Diego. There I joined the 6th Marine Regiment or Brigade (Provisional). The Marine Corps ground troops are in units like 1,2,3,4 etc. Division, depending on how world conditions as to how many. When I went to Camp Elliot I joined the 6th Marine Regiment who had recently returned from duty in China, One Marine unit or another having been in China since I believe during the Boxer Rebellion. When the unit was formed to go on a special mission after I arrived, they did not take the entire Regiment, only what you might call a skeleton crew. Therefore the name of the unit that went was Brigade, Provisional (meaning a unit temporarily formed from others). My group was 3-HQ-6, meaning Headquarters Company of the third battalion, sixth marines. Being HQ Company we consisted of Rifle Units, 81 mm & 60 mm Mortar Units, Intelligence and other support units. I was a #3 Mortar Man in a mortar squad, I got to carry the base plate.
Our Sergeant Major Nagazini was a Congressional Medal of Honor winner from World War One. Members of our unit consisted of some of the first recalled reservists of that time. We had the Hollywood Unit, part of it, in our unit. Movie Star Craig Reynolds taught me to field strip a .45 automatic. There was no griping or complaining from any of them. It just seemed a normal thing for reservists to be called for. I don't know why they were activated but at this time the military was operating with minimum personnel. In my unit we only had one .30 cal. Machine gun non-preserved and 1 81 mm mortar. The rest of our supply were in cosmoline.
Shortly after I arrived, the 6th Marine Brigade (Provisional) boarded ship on the U.S.S. Biddle for a trip, to where we knew not.
We headed for the Panama Canal. The passage was made at night and all troops were ordered to stay keep below deck. This must have been to keep our movement a secret.
After passing through the Panama Canal we went into the Naval Shipyard at Charleston, S.C. There extensive repair to the cargo booms, hoists, was performed. At this point we also unloaded hot weather equipment like Pith Helmets, Mosquito Nets and light clothing. We then loaded aboard wool coats, overshoes, gloves, services fur trimmed hats, et cetera.
The cold weather gear was needed. From Charleston we went North to Placentia Bay Newfoundland. There we were joined by a large convoy and proceeded across the North Atlantic.
Our convoy from Placentia was made up of many types of ships, all blacked out at night. We were accompanied by various services vessels such as the Cherokee, a wooden type minesweeper, and tank lighters, which were later called LCT's. There was widespread seasickness but I escaped that.
During daylight the Convoy was widespread, German U-Boats were surely operating in these waters. One night as I went on deck a bright moon was shining and real close off our starboard bow was the conning tower of a sub. It was comforting to see it in the moonlight reflection and know it was ours.
As we passed in sight of Greenland we were told we were going to Iceland.
When we arrived, I'm not sure but 7 July comes to mind, it was the twenty four hour daylight. This was an asset to unloading the ships as work continued around the clock. The 30 foot tides prevented the military ships from entering the harbor so we anchored approximately 1 mile out, in the outer harbor, and started unloading using the U.S.S. Cherokee as a shuttle boat. Some civilian crews and British military assisted in unloading the ships at the docks. They were sitting on the bottom during low tide.
Our unit was separated into several camp locations in Iceland. I was across the harbor from Reykjavik. Our camp was named Broderhault Farm, for the property where we were located. Our supplies for erecting the camp were there for us. The buildings we would use were Nissen huts, the British version of Quanset huts. We only had to assemble. This was really an easy task. Work was being performed at all these outlying camps simultaneously. Many of these other troops we never saw.
Our unit joined the military forces occupying Iceland to keep it from the Germans, who might use it as an Airbase to attack convoys. The non-American troops in Iceland were a majority of them British. They had recently taken a beating at Dunkirk and it was more or less a convalescing or casual group, many which were recovering from injuries. Many Canadians were members of these units. We also had Norwegians who had been out of Norway when their war came. The had twin float Northrup low wing planes with machine guns mounted to fire through the prop. Their hangar was a target of a German machine gun strafing attack. On the hangar you could see the bullet holes in an X shape overhead. Also I seem to recall Finn and Swede military also there. All these were supported by the British.Our unit joined the military forces occupying Iceland to keep it from the Germans, who might use it as an Airbase to attack convoys. The non-American troops in Iceland were a majority of them British. They had recently taken a beating at Dunkirk and it was more or less a convalescing or casual group, many which were recovering from injuries. Many Canadians were members of these units. We also had Norwegians who had been out of Norway when their war came. The had twin float Northrup low wing planes with machine guns mounted to fire through the prop. Their hangar was a target of a German machine gun strafing attack. On the hangar you could see the bullet holes in an X shape overhead. Also I seem to recall Finn and Swede military also there. All these were supported by the British.
At our Camp Broderhault Farm we had to ride approximately ½ mile to the farmhouse area, where a water system existed to shower. The showers were of concrete construction, two stalls, roofed but no doors and NO heat. As we were preparing to return to the states we were in the midst of constructing a water storage unit, carving a cistern type tank in the midst of the living area to which a pipeline would eventually carry water from the mountains a few miles away.
As noted when we arrived in July daylight lasted 24 hours, the sun making a North West - South East oval pattern, never disappearing. To get the men to go to bed black out curtains were put on barracks windows at 2200 daily.
On December 8, 1941, I was walking a 12:00 midnight to 0400 post on our Camp perimeter. Our group was formed together in the early morning, about 0200 as I recall, and informed on the Pearl Harbor attack. As I recall it was rather a feeling of wonderment. At this time there was no concept of combat, the first world war having been over for so many years.
After the announcement, here day and elapsed time escapes me, again I was on guard duty. As it became daylight across the countryside, I could see the bow of a ship poking up above the horizon. I learned it was the U.S.S. Wichita, a cruiser, which had dropped anchor in a fiord over a submerged rock formation. As the tide ebbed, there was a 30 foot tide there, the bow was on the rock formation high and dry. It buckled the bow severely.
We occupied Reykjavik, Iceland and remained there for some time. One piece of drivel. We stood outside in the cold with overcoats on, without shirts, to get our yellow fever shot. As you know many stories are told and exaggerated but the popular idea was that as we embarked with tropical supplies, the serum was left aboard and I would guess expired unused might necessitate someone explaining!
After the Pearl Harbor attack our unit returned to the U.S.. The first bunch of Army Draftees were our replacements and were they sad and dejected as they watched us leave.
It was circulated information that a destroyer had been torpedoed just outside Reykjavik Harbor the day before we embarked. It was even said that it was the Ruben James. This I do not know.
I came back on the U.S.S. Menara, an old Dollar Steamship Line vessel. We spent time upon end or rolling from side to side the entire North Atlantic. This was also in a convoy of Naval and Merchant Ships. The Wichita, the cruiser which had grounded, accompanied our convoy back to the States. The rock formation had buckled her bow severely. As she rose and fell, water would rush out of the buckle in her bow.
We arrived at the Brooklyn Navy Yard the same day the U.S.S. Normandy burned at the dock. When we pulled in New York and received the information of the Normandy on fire, we sat still in the harbor for some time then pulled past her into a berth in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
We all received an immediate Furlough - transfer papers were made out and distributed freeing us to leave and report to Camp Elliot I believe in 20 days. The Red Cross Ladies poured into the Navy Yard with transportation to Bus, Train or Air Line stations. I left Pennsylvania Station on the Pennsylvania Rail Road bound for Kansas City, transferring at St. Louis.
I spent a few days with my brother and a few days with my father. I wonder how many people are familiar with or know of the Travel Bureau? That is a unit which has names of people wanting to go somewhere and upon contact by someone who wants a riders or expense sharing passengers would pay a small fee for the name. I applied and obtained a ride to San Diego, California. He even dropped me off at the Main Gate at Camp Elliot and bought my food on the trip. This man was driving a 1941 Cadillac he had just purchased in Detroit after returning to the States from a job with Kellog Company in Argentina.
After reporting back to Camp Elliot California , the next day I was sent to Camp Linda Vista, adjoining Camp Elliot. From there at my request after taking a simple test, sent to North Island Navy Base in San Diego for further transfer to Aircraft Sheet Metal School. I felt that my past experience with processing sheetmetal items would be an asset. I rode a train to Jacksonville, Florida and entered school there.
Thus I was transferred to the Air Wing. I arrived at the Aircraft Sheet Metal School at Jacksonville, Naval Air Station, Florida in August of 1942. Class Hours were 0600 to 1400 five days a week. In a class of 103 students I was the senior man and the only one who had been in the corps for a period of time. Therefore I was placed in charge.
While there I met my wife through a friend. She was was in Nurses Training and was just before graduation as an R.N.. We met in August, dated one time each weekend ( no week day liberties) and married on 19 Dec 1942 (note recent anniversary).
I was #2 in a class of 103 men, at graduation in February. I was promoted to corporal at the end of the school.
I remained at the Naval Air Station for a few months as Master of Arms of a Barracks. My Job of MA was an in charge position of the barrack. Since they put me in a cooks barracks and people were sleeping around the clock I had little to do. I was promoted to Sergeant in August. Soon after that I was transferred to Camp Marimar, San Diego.
Upon arrival at Marimar I was given further transfer and reported in to Camp Linda Vista, a satellite camp of Camp Elliot and then sent to the Marine Corps Air Station at Mojave California. I can't pinpoint the dates but from August 1943 to Dec 6 1944 I was promoted Master Sergeant. My wife joined me at Mojave where our first child was born. She worked in the local hospital while we were there.
My duty in this time was never as a sheet metal mechanic. I was told they needed mechanics so that's what I became in Service Squadron 44.
In Nov 1944 out entire unit, Heavy Maintenance Service Squadron 44 was sent to Hawaii at the Ewa Marine Corps Air Station. Our duty there was repairing aircraft returning from the Pacific aboard carriers and having a compliment of newly repaired planes ready to load onto a carrier for shipment back to the pacific theater.
The Ewa Marine Corps Station was due west from Pearl Harbor, around or across the harbor. It was 9 min flying time to Ford Island, the Navy Base at Pearl. We often had to go to depreserve and offload aircraft to be taken to Ewa for repair or to preserve newly repaired planes for loading onto outgoing carriers. I believe the base was razed as all the buildings were the wartime temporary type.
Barbed wire fences were string through the grounds of the Royal Hawaiian and Ala Maana ( sp?) Hotels making foot traffic up and down the Beach almost impossible. We could not tell where we were and I served on the mail censor board ( 1 time each week) but I sent my wife a picture of me on the street in downtown Honolulu and standing clearly beside me was a newspaper rack with "Honolulu Times" showing.
In Dec 44 it came time that my four years was up. I could either re-enlist or be held at the convenience of the government with the war still being on. So I re-enlisted. In a very few months the war was over and since I was not a reserve or draftee I handled the casual groups being sent back to the States for discharge. In March 1946 I returned to El Toro Marine Air Corps Station in Cal. In July was sent to Nan Yuan field outside Peiping, China. During the Chinese civil war we were transferred to Chang Wang Too ( not sure of spelling). I came home from there. I joined a Fighter Squadron VMF224 at El Toro and we were transferred to Cherry Point NC while there I spent 6 months in the Med aboad USS FDR carrier, also on trips to Puerto Rico. While in Med We visited Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Sicily. I was in this Squadron for 6 years or more and asked for a transfer for a change. I was sent to Opa Locka Naval Air Station in Miami, Fla and from there to Japan. After that duty I joined a maintenance group at El Toro and I was among the first group in the Marine Corps promoted to the newly established E-8 MSgt. At the end of my enlistment on 30 June I had exactly enough time to retire. I was 38 years old at the time.
Planes worked on during career: Grumman F3F, F4F, SNJ, SNC, R4D, F6F, F7F, A4D, F3D, F8U, F7U, FJ1, C119, R5C, Kaman Helicopter, Sikorsky copters, F2H, F3D. I suspect there could be more but I just can't recall. I attended J48 Jet Engine School in Hartford, CT with Igor Sikorsky, Jr.
After spending 20 years in the Marine Corps I look back and can say with certainty that the discipline I experienced in the CCC was the ground work that made a very successful military career possible, providing me the basics for adjustment to a life of discipline and proper conduct. When I entered the marine corps I already had the feel for authority and the life in uniform under full control of others.
I guess you're aware of the creation of the CCC by our government. I have read that it was exactly 17 days from the proposal of Franklin D. Roosevelt until the first man entered the first camp. I find so many of our "younger" generations are not even aware of the CCC and particularly the creation of the act for the CCC program. I'm glad to see any publicity for our past history.
I'm so pleased to be part of this page in the history of our country. I very much appreciate my involvement.
Jasper N. Terry
Email: txterry42 AT aol.com
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CCC Honorable Discharge, Front, Back, Jasper N. Terry, CCC Man, Company 3747, Paris Missourri & Wentzville, Missouri
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