Biography of Raymond Branch

Enrollee, CCC Man, Company 1732, Blooming Rose, Missouri

Col. (ret.), USAAC/USAAF, USA, WWII

CIVILIAN CONSERVATION CORPS AUTOBIOGRAPHY

   My name is Raymond Branch and I had passed my 17th birthday in March 1941 when I enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCCs). I had finished the third year of high school at the end of April and had my Grandfather, who was my guardian, take me to the CCCs recruiting office in Rolla, Missouri, the following Monday morning. The recruiting office was in the Headquarters of the U.S. Forest Service for the Mark Twain National Forest. The same day, myself and two other enlistees were taken to CCC camp #1732, Blooming Rose, Missouri, about 40 miles from Rolla. That first day at the camp will always be imprinted on my mind. At the time, I was 6 ft. 1 in. tall and weighed about 130 lbs. We were introduced to our barracks Corporal who weighed about 200 lbs who demonstrated how to make our beds and other barracks discipline. After we had practiced making our beds to his satisfaction, he informed us he would beat the "crap" out of us if we caused "his" barracks to not pass inspection at any time. I believed him and it was true that punishment for infractions of verbal rules was quick and efficient. The First Sergeant. only saw you when it was recommended by the Corporals or the Forest Service Foreman that you probably were not worth saving. One strictly enforced infraction was being caught in the shower masturbating, which led to immediate discharge from the camp. We were all issued a toilet kit which included a safety razor, shaving soap and a lather brush and a standing order was that every enlistee shave every morning. I and many others didn't even have fuzz on our chin or upper lip. The Company Commander was an Infantry 1st Lt. stationed at Jefferson Barracks, St. Louis, Missouri, about 135 miles away and usually showed up about once a week but never stayed overnight. He was very visible because of his new yellow Buick convertible. The 1st Sergeant ran the administrative side of the camp with a Supply Sergeant, Mess Sergeant, a Corporal canteen and Recreational Hall Manager and two regular Army Private First Class Medics. There were several Corporals who were heavy equipment operators and barracks chiefs. Enlistees were paid $30 a month but received only $5 payday with the remaining $25 sent directly to their families. With your $5 you could buy a chit book at the canteen to be used to purchase candy, soda, soap, etc. or for use of the pool tables. The day started with a bugle call, time to shave, then a reveille formation with light exercises, breakfast and then work formation where enlistees were turned over to Forest Service Foreman for work assignments. The work day was limited to six hours. I had a number of work assignments including pulling a chain for a survey crew, road culvert crew member and planting young pine trees. I also spent some time working in a pine tree nursery. Crew members were issued a tea or table spoon and showed how to get down on your knees and cut weeds out of a row after row of pine seedlings from one inch to 12 inches tall. The Forest Service Foreman raised a lot of cain if he saw little seedlings among the cut weeds between the rows so we put them in our pockets and threw them away on the way back to camp. One project I worked on of interest was one of the first rest stops on famous Route 66 between Rolla and Waynesville, Missouri. It consisted of a turnout road, picnic tables and his and hers Roosevelt toilets. Evenings in camp were not always free. There was generally a movie once a week, and once a month an Army Chaplain would show the same film on the horrors of venereal diseases. The Forest Service Foreman also gave evening classes in basic building trades. Since I had completed three years of high school, I was one of the more educated enlistees in the camp. There was a high number of men who were illiterate and I was asked to give evening classes in the ABCs and basic Arithmetic. When I asked to be released at the end of the summer to finish my last year of high school, I was asked to stay and work in the camp education center. The camp would pay for me to go to a high school nearby during the day and teach in the evenings and some weekends. I had lettered in basketball and track and had a girlfriend at my home high school and foolishly turned the offer down. I was the alternate first baseman and catcher on the camp baseball team that summer. One team we played against was a CCC camp located on the Ft. Leonard Wood Missouri Military Reservation which was still under construction. CCC boys, as we were called, were not well liked by the Army men we crossed paths with. We wore the same uniform except for our neckties and belts, which were Forest Service Green instead of tan and we were being paid $30 a month verses the Army $21. I have always been grateful for my experiences in the CCCs and when I enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942, my three and a half months in the CCCs made the transition easy. I retired from the US Army as a Regular Army Full Colonel with 36 years of service.

----- Col. Raymond Branch USA (Ret)

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