Biography of Rudolph Kirchgassner
CCCman, Company 293, Camp MP-2, Vicksburg, Mississippi & Company 293, Camp P-209, Pine Grove, California
New York Ship, Gloucester, NJ
I was in the CCC in 1935, was inducted in Camden, N.J. and was sent to Fort Dix for about 2 weeks. The time spent at Dix was mostly Camp Policing and K.P. also spent some time on road work. The roadwork I did while in Fort Dix was just maintenance work on existing roads near the camp.
We lived in tents while there. My off ours in Dix we played cards and hitch hiked home for the weekend. After two weeks we were then was sent to Company 293 located at Camp MP-2 in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
I was only a replacement with about a dozen others going to Vicksburg. We went by Pullman train from Fort Dix to Vicksburg. I was never farther away from home than Cape May before that trip.
The Camp in Vicksburg was already established and very comfortable. We were replacements for men who had left, we were there to bring up the company to 200 men again. We had barracks and a Mess Hall and other buildings. We did not have any classes other than the library.
The Work In Mississippi was soil erosion in a civil war battlefield. While in Vicksburg, which was a very short time, we dug holes and back filled to prevent soil erosion. We looked for recesses in the ground, dug them out till you found solid ground and then refilled them and tamped them down. Then we put in grass. While digging same out we found hundreds of bullets and other relics from the civil war. I kept some bullets but the museum got the other stuff. The C.C.C. did a lot of work on civil war battlefields, at least where I was.
The only thing I did for recreation in Mississippi was go to town every chance I got.
After a short stay was moved later that year to Pine Grove, California. The trip to California was great by Pullman train also. Took 3 or 4 days from Miss. The same dozen replacements I came with to Vicksburg were the same ones I went with to California. I think the reason we were shipped out again to California was because we didn't get along with Southerners. The trouble we had was not in the camp. One instance I remember was in town being made to walk in the street as a group walked 5 or so abreast on the pavement and wouldn't let us by and also being heckled as yankees.
Our Camp in Pine Grove, California our camp was known as Camp P-209. Like Vicksburg it too was an established camp with barracks, mess hall and other buildings.
The work in California was mostly road construction. We cut large trees for road building. Some of the road work in California was widening fire breaks. Also a major part of our duty while there we were always on fire call.
When a fire broke out, half the company responded and the other half stayed in camp. When the company went on fire duty, not all were involved with directly containing the fire. Some were truck drivers, some first aid, some preparing food and water rations. I would say we had at least 6 rangers fighting the fire with us that I noticed and some of the Army officers were there too. I guess we used all the trucks we had to get there, about 20 men in each open bed stake truck.
My first fire scared me, but the rangers knew what to do. My job was to carry a tank on my back and a barren rake to put out hot spot fires from burning flying embers. We were told where to go for the spot fires and to be careful and come back if it got too big. Spot fires on windy days were the worst problem, because you could get trapped. We got pretty close to spot fires, sometimes 5 or 10 feet away.
The tank held about 5 or 10 gallons of water and had a short hose you pumped by hand. We brought most of the water for the back pumps with us. We had a tanker truck. Lots of times we took water from a creek or river.
Other details built back fires and kept the fire lanes open. We controlled the fire with fire breaks and back firing, not with hoses and water. You set some fires at trails and roads as directed by rangers or professional fire fighters.
If the fire was large other CCC companies responded, but I never seen them as we had our own area to work. But I know there were many camps all around the area.
You stayed on duty till you were relieved. You then got some eats and a rest or maybe a nap. You didn't have a time element involved, you stayed till the job was done.
If it was a long fire we were replaced in a couple days. Some fires you could see hours before you got there. They really lit up the sky at night or filled it with smoke in the daytime. I went to about 3 or 4 fires. I was to two large fires, one for 2 ½ days about 50 miles away. The other was not too far. All our fires were mostly in hilly or mountainous areas. That made the job even harder, carrying the equipment up and down hills.
In California our camp was near Sutter Creek where gold was discovered and any spare time went looking and panning for gold. Not much luck. Every other week company trucks took us to other camps and other National Parks. We also made one trip to San Francisco.
All our work duties were away from Camp. We worked 8 to 5. They brought our lunch to us. Usually hot meals, and we cleaned out own messkits in GI Cans with boiling water.
We had a visiting dentist every couple weeks and also a doctor once in a while.
I asked for a discharge to come back because I had a job waiting at New York Shipbuilding Co. I have 5 or 6 pictures of people I worked with in California and one of the camp or barracks. I have a few names of people from old photos from California. I don't recall their first names. The men are Newman, McArthur, Latanzio, Dooley, Kramer, Pusseferro, Manning.
I got the job through a Camden Attorney who went to college with the vice president of the shipyard. I had to wait a few months but I finally got a real good job. I was given a pipe-fitter apprenticeship. I worked there for four years with a raise every six months. I also had to go to night school. I worked on the ships installing piping systems of every system. After I became a journeyman for a couple of years I transferred to the estimating department with a good salaried job. All told I worked there 30 years with various job titles too. My best was Ship Foreman, where I had charge of 200 men. I worked on all types of ships in my career, Cruisers, Battleships, Destroyers, Aircraft Carriers et cetera. I went down the ways on launching and made at least 20 sea trials, some as long as a week. I made friends with some navy men from the sea trials.
I quit New York Ship in 1965 and went into design drafting at J.J. Henry Co. Naval Architecture and stayed there until I retired in 1980.
I am now 83 years old, was 17 when I enlisted. The time I spent in the CCCs was some of the best time of my life. I still belong to the CCCs, that is to two CCC Alumni organizations, one in Florida and the National Group, the NACCCA, in Missouri.
----- Rudy Kirchgassner
CCC Honorable Discharge, Front, Back, Rudolph Kirchgassner, CCCman, Company 293, Camp MP-2, Vicksburg, Mississippi & Company 293, Pine Grove, California
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