Biography of Charles S. Schmeltzer

CCCMan, Camp Robert Fechner, Fort Meade Military Reservation, Sturgis, South Dakota

Gunner, B17s, USAAF, WWII, USA

In the fall of 1936, after suffering six or seven crop failures in North Dakota, my parents along with my three younger siblings moved, along with the machinery and livestock they were able to salvage, to a rented farm in eastern South Dakota. From time to time I have thought of their situation as being destitute, although it was probably something less than that as we always had food on the table.

At any rate, there was a serious shortage of money with which to buy fuel and food and feed for the livestock, and it was for this reason that I was enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps at the age of 16. On the 13th of January, 1937, with one dollar in my pocket which was provided by my uncle, I was taken to Watertown, South Dakota, where we were processed for about two weeks before being sent to Camp Robert Fechner which was situated on the Fort Meade Military Reservation, near Fort Meade and only a few miles from Sturgis, South Dakota where I was to remain until the Fall of 1939 when I received a discharge.

Early on, one of the persons in camp who was working on a survey crew suggested that I try to get on the crew as a replacement for a person who was leaving. Having had but a Grammar School education, I had serious thoughts about my ability to be of much help surveying - so was pleased when my first assignment was to cut four foot laths into two pieces and to sharpen a point on each of them. After a month or so of that I was promoted to Rodman and then later to Levelman, Transitman and finally Chief of the Party.

Early in 1942 Uncle Sam found me a North and South Dakota farmhand and sheep herder, turned miner, working in the Sunshine Mine near Wallace, Idaho. I was inducted into the service in Spokane and served three years and several months in the Army Air Corps during which time I participated in 25 bombing missions as a Gunner on a B-17 Bomber. I was discharged in the fall of 1945 and because of the experience I had gained as a surveyor in the CCC, I was employed by the Bureau of Reclamation on the Hungry Horse Dam Project in Western Montana. After Hungry Horse I worked on two or three hydro-electric projects, and an aluminum reduction plant. It was there I became acquainted with the Anaconda Company who later employed by several who later employed me both in the U.S. and in Chile for a period of about six years. After returning from Chile, I was employed by several civil engineering consulting firms and for the last years I worked as a partner in one of these firms. It now appears that it all boils down to my ability to sharpen half laths in the CCC which, in turn, has provided me and my family with a good living. Thanks FDR!

----- Charles S. Schmeltzer


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