Call To Arms

USS California sinking at Pearl Harbor

I should probably start just pre-war.  I don’t want to go into my early boyhood; but just pre Pearl Harbor.
 
We were a Sea Scout Troop that had use of a Boy Scout Camp just north of Chicago.  It was a great weekend and we enjoyed every bit of it.  We had hiked, had classroom study and walked through the wood, studied trees, played games and really had a great time.
 
We awakened to a bright sunny morning and arose to look out on a beautifully landscaped area, wooded and as beautiful as any state park could be.  Unfortunately this was our last day and we would be headed back to Chicago.  There were about twelve of us young lads, sixteen and seventeen year olds plus the skipper of our Sea Scout Ship, a very nice seventeen year olds plus the skipper of our Sea Scout Ship, a very nice man who was part of the volunteer group in the community center in Chicago
    
The community center was the hub of our activities in our neighborhood.  It was sponsored by the Methodist/Episcopal religious organization.  The placard on the front of the building read M/E., a four story brick building on Halsted Street and Eighteenth Street, around the corner from Sts. Peter and Paul Lutheran Church that I attended.
 
On the first floor of M/E was a chapel where people went to services.  As a part of the neighborhood group we all participated in the offered activities.  It was wonderful because it kept all the people off the street and all together and maintained a nice peaceful situation.
 
There were ball games which were tournaments and they lead those during the summer.  There was a swimming pool with lockers on the lower level.  There was another gentleman volunteer, an ex-naval officer, who taught swimming and Life Guard lessons.  He could swim like a fish and was an inspiration to everyone interested in water activities.  I got my Life Guard Certificate there.
 
The second floor was designed for the girls for sewing and home economics.  The third floor housed a library and the fourth floor was a gymnasium where there were basketball games and tournaments throughout the season.   As kids we played a lot of basketball.
 
The neighborhood was a mixed group make up of Czechs and Slovaks, Lithuanians, German, Italians and others.  It was a wonderful time and place to grow up and see the way the nationalities kept the peace and everyone got along well.
 
As I mentioned, it was the last day at the camp so we cleaned, swept and put everything in order in the camp, got our gear in order and my group went into the skipper’s car headed for Chicago.  He had the car radio on and though we were all talking, he heard something alarming and asked us to quiet down.  It was the announcement of the attack of the Japanese on Pearl Harbor.  There were bits and pieces of information and we were stunned and amazed that this was happening.  We were very irate and did a lot of shouting about the Japanese.  We could not believe that this was happening.
 
The next morning I went to school and there at Harrison High we heard the now famous “Day of Infamy” speech delivered by President Roosevelt.    Everyone was amazed and shocked.
 
Following this there was so much information on the news, in the newspapers, on the radio broadcasts and magazines, that it was overwhelming.  The stories about the courage of our people who were there during the attack was unbelievable.  We continued to see Pathe’ News Reels at the movies of our sunken fleet and destruction all around.  It was devastating to the point of disbelief.
    
We were aware that in the rest of the world there was a lot of chaos and that things were not going well.  The Nazis had marched over almost all of Europe and it seemed that the English were on their last leg.
 
In the Pacific the Japanese had come down without fear of our fleet and attacked Corrigedor and then followed the Bataan Death March.  They were taking other islands.  It almost seemed that we were powerless and it gave one an unbelievably awful feeling.  It was a chaotic time the whole month of December 1941 and the following year.
 
It did get better later even though the Japanese had attacked Wake Island and although Marines had done a wonderful job of defending it for a long time, the Japanese finally took it.  The other good news was that when the Japanese attacked Midway Island there was a big victory for us because our carriers were there and had sunk several of their ships so that they left without trying to take the island.  We were relieved and happy about that one.
 
­There was a state of panic.  Some of us were outraged and crushed and I think that is what led to our determination to go into military service.
 
When I got home my parents were both very upset.  They had the radio on and it looked like pandemonium had set in and it was not inconceivable at that time that the Japanese would take over Hawaii.   Everyone was upset. My father was upset because the Nazi’s in Germany had taken over almost everything. It looked like the whole world was collapsing.
 
It was a very patriotic time and as I mentioned everybody in my age group wanted to enlist.  We were 16.  This whole time the papers were full of stories about the heroism and bravery and all the pictures of ships that were sunk.  You’d see them in the newspapers and at the movies “Pathe News”.  We went to school the next morning and heard the now famous “Day of Infamy” speech from President Roosevelt.   We were all riled up and heard that the recruiting offices were full of enlistees.  The whole month of December 1941 and the following year was a very chaotic time.  There was nothing but bad news.
 
After Pearl Harbor the Japanese took over Wake Island with its Marine defenders and the Philippines.  The only good news was the Battle of Midway, which came a little later in which we won a relative victory and sank a few Japanese ships.
    
Over in Europe it was bad news as well.  The French had fallen. The English were the only ones left and they were being bombed regularly. The Russians were being pushed back on all fronts.  It was a bad time.   The general depressed feeling was that we were going to be an island resisting the Japanese and the Germans and we didn’t look too strong compared to them.
 
On the home front the draft was in progress; but with Hitler’s various victories in Europe there arose a segment of German Americans, in various cities in the United States that formed the German American Bund and they openly marched in their brown shirts with swastikas.  After all they contended, that this is a country of free speech. Very depressing.  The feeling that resulted from this was all the more anti Germany and anti Japan.
 
High school continued that year and we would listen to various radio reports about the progress of the war, which continued to be all bad.  We would go to the movies and see Pathe News or Movie Tune News and see pictures of the bombing in London and sinking of ships.
 
During my high school years I always thought of flying that was always a very popular theme. I thought I’d go into the Army Air Force or into the Naval Air Force that was what I was really crazy about.  But at that age, at 16, I didn’t have the right education to be considered or the right age for being accepted into the air corps so thoughts went elsewhere. 
 
Finally, during the rest of the year because of Wake Island and the Phillipines and the showing that the Marines had made they got more publicity plus some background thing I had heard about the Marines we all three decided that when we went we would go to the Marine Corp.
 
At Harrison High School in Chicago I tried out for the football team and the swim team and made both, that was in the spring of ‘42.  As it turned out I didn’t fulfill any of the requirements because of the things that followed. During the summer we played soft ball and baseball on organized teams.
 
On August 7th of ’42 we got the news and it came like a bombshell that the Marines had landed on Guadalcanal, an Island that no one seemed to know anything about or ever heard of.  We started getting the news about the landing and the battle progression as it occurred.  At one point in August it looked like the First Marine Division was in big trouble because the Japanese were landing a lot of troops and there was a lot of combat and our Navy was not able to give the protection that our troops needed.
 
This was the frosting on the cake.  After badgering my parents for months about joining the service and using the fact that I would be drafted sooner or later any day.  They finally consented to signing my application for the Marine Corp and I was very elated about that at the time.
 
The three of us went down to the recruiting office in downtown Chicago and turned in our applications and were told to report for our physical a few days later, which we did.  I remember one incident during the physical, which you might have heard before; but there was a young fellow in front of me In line and the navy corpsman was giving us the color blind test. I could see in front of me the numbers that appeared on the colorblind test but he was unable to see them so he was rejected.  The Navy corpsman suggested:

“Why don’t you try the Navy they might be able to take you”.

 This made me feel that they were taking the cream of the crop in not taking somebody for something as small as color blindness.
 
We all passed.  John Kurowski, Dick Buegel and I and were ordered to report for swearing in and leaving , This was August 31, 1942. Several days later we went to the recruiting office again with approximately fifty new recruits and were sworn in.  We went to the railroad station after a few hours to board a train to go to San Diego boot camp 
 
I’ll never forget, my parents came down to the LaSalle St. Station among a few other parents who also showed up and at that age I was a little embarrassed and felt they should not be there.
 
We boarded the train and as I waved to them I could see that my mother and father were very concerned thinking they might never see me again. Now years later I think of the consternation that I caused them but; it was one of those things for that time and it happened and it is over.
 

Boot Camp

milt_at_bootcamp.jpg

The Marine Corp has two boot camps one in Parris Island and one in San Diego (which you’ve all seen in “Gomer Pyle’s Adventures in the Marines”   on the TV series) that was the boot camp we were assigned to.  We boarded the train for the three day journey, no air conditioning, the windows were usually up on the train and we slept in our clothes in the seats, not too comfortable.
 
At the end of the trip we felt dirty and sweaty.  Arrived at the San Diego railroad station.  Trucks were waiting for us and we were piled into the back ends of two and a half ton military vehicles.  We all stood up in the back of the truck and were taken to the recruiting station in San Diego.
 
 As I stood in the truck I noticed all the lush landscape that was completely foreign to any of us from anywhere east or the Midwest.   It was just beautiful with palm trees and flowers and for me, unusually colorful.
 
By this time it was getting to be late afternoon and we were all tired and hungry.  We finally arrived at the recruit depot and saw the big sign out in front “The Main Gate U.S. Marine Corp Recruit Depot”.   The truck stopped and we were allowed in and I thought  “Boy, this is finally it.  It’s going to be a real adventure.  It Was!
 
They herded us into a huge barracks.  The main floor was a partially open area where we were met by several Marines, mostly DI’s and we all more or less lined up in front of this long table.  We were expecting to be greeted with some ebullience but it was quite the contrary.  This DI’s jumped up on the table in front of us and told us what scum-bags we were and how we had volunteered to get into the Marine Corps and they didn’t particularly care whether we were there or not, it was up to us.  He used a lot of strong language, which I don’t care to repeat here.
    
The DI looked every inch a “God”.  He had his brown stiff brimmed hat, starched khakis everything spit and polish and he looked like everything we envisioned a Marine to be, except we were taken aback by his attitude.
 
We were given little boxes to put our valuables in, to mail home later, and afterwards we were walked to the mess hall and had our dinner, a little late, on stainless steel trays.  I think it was “cold cut day”  (Friday) we sat down at long tables and ate.
 
Everyone was very tired and quiet, with just a little talk here and there.  We were taken back to the second floor barracks, typical barracks with double bunks on top of the other and lockers.  We were shown how to make up a bunk.  We were told to strip the bunk and make them up.  The DI afterwards checked to see whether we had done it correctly.  Well, if one or two people had not done it correctly, he made everybody strip the bunk again.  This happened three times.
 
We finally got it right and were told to take a cold shower, which we did, and afterwards finally got into our little beds and went to sleep or tried to go to sleep.  I lay back on my bunk wondering what the heck I had done! Anyway, the next morning a bugle on the PA system woke us up and we literally jumped out of our sack, got dressed and went back down stairs and were taken to have our physicals.
 
The physicals went fine except there was a line for everything.   As we went through the Navy doctors and corpmen were very efficient.  The final test was a blood test.  I’ll never forget how they used a tiny tube with a sharpened end which after tournequeting your bicep they put the tube into a vein and let the blood run down into a test tube which ended up corked and had your name put on it.  That was the end of that physical.
 
The next step was getting our gear, equipment and clothes.   As we walked over to the warehouse where all of this was stored we passed on the edge of the parade ground that was indeed a magnificent sight.  The parade ground at San Diego is pretty much the way Gomer Pyle shows it on TV.  A huge quadrangle of asphalt and the buildings surrounding it are stucco and clay tile, rather good looking.
 
The parade ground by this time was filled with recruits, formed platoons with the DI’s drill instructions.  You could almost tell by the way each platoon marched which week they were in, the first, second or third week.  It was very noticeable in the way they wheeled around and did about faces and some had rifles by this time, which was another indication that they had been in for several weeks.
 
After getting our clothing, pith helmet, shoes khaki shirts, greens and all of the other things, belt and whatever we needed at that point we were marched over to the PX and each man had to purchase a pail, scrub brush, Fels Naptha soap, shaving gear and tooth brush and tooth paste.  These would take care of our needs for the next seven weeks.
 
We were next assigned to platoons.  My platoon happened to be 743 and we were assigned a DI.  The DI assigned to us was Corporol Apple. He was a good looking guy with blonde hair and looked great, he was liked by the guys because he had a ready smile he tried to be mean and rigid but he broke into a smile occasionally as if to show that he didn’t really mean it.
 
This is probably one of the funniest incidents in Boot camp while not funny to us at the time. We were marched over to the barber shop and the platoon stood in three ranks waiting to get our hair cuts.  There must have been three or four barbers inside and there was only one way to get in, walked up two or three stairs and went in and took turns   The funny part of it was that as we stood out there each man had varying lengths of hair, some having longer curly locks which they were apparently vain about.  As each man came out with his head narrowly shaved the entire platoon would burst out laughing.  The same thing happened to me and everybody else; but we all got used to it.
 
 We lived in Quonset huts, which are half circles of corrugated steel. Inside were the same steel bunks every man having a bunk and some sort of a locker and the day’s work proceeded.  The first week was strickly close order drill.  We were taught to do our left face, right face, forward march and close order drill and we marched pretty continuously for several days.  We had several classes, class movies and it progressed that way until about the third week.
 
At this time we were issued our Springfield 03 rifle.   A World War 1 vintage wonderful weapon, lever action with 5 round clips.As we walked up they handed them to us and they were full of Cosmoline which is a thick green grease.  They marched us to a cleaning area where there were toothbrushes for cleaning each weapon.  We were given a lecture and were told that this rifle would be our partner for the rest of our Marine career.  We treated them with great respect.  The same day after the Cosmoline process and a thorough cleaning we had a rifle inspection and many of us had to go back and clean them again and probably again.
 
About this time Corporal Apple was transferred to another platoon. We were sorry to see him go.  He was replaced by Sgt. Sellers, who was a handsome man, a little older than Cpl. Apple.  Sgt. Sellers had a little mustache, Pith helmet, as usual the same spit and polish appearance, we grew to like him as well, although he was a lot more strict and a little more temperamental than Cpl Apple.
 
A little note about the DI’s we were instructed by, they had all been in the Corp for several years.  I think Sgt Sellers had been in for six or seven years and we heard that all of the DI’s on the base had been survivors of the SS Lexington the carrier that was sunk in the battle of the Coral Sea.  They told us little stories about being rescued after a day or two just clinging to the wreckage or rafts and finally being picked up.
 
A little about the make up of the platoon, they came from all over.   The platoons in marching order were arranged so that the biggest men were usually in the lead when we marched in columns and the shorter men were in the back, they got to be fairly small down to five foot six inches tall the last two or three were called “feather merchants” I don’t know where the term came from but that is what they were called.
 
Personalities varied as did ages some were seventeen as I was and some were as old as twenty, although there were not too many of those.  Some of them as you talked to them you realized that they had been around for a little while and as in the case of the one guy with the longer black shiny hair, had a loud sport coat when he came in, quite talkative and you could see that he had been around and was more or less a “city slicker”
 
Sgt. Sellers took us in hand after we received our new rifles and taught us the  “Manual of Arms” and the Marching Manual and had us marching with our rifles on the parade grounds and we were doing pretty well after two days.  We were slapping our rifles as hard as we could so that we sounded pretty good.
 
There were as many as 20 platoons at a time, all marching in cadence and each DI had his own little style.  The cadence was almost musical with the various DI’s and you could hear them from
afar.  The whole ambiance was really kind of exciting the cadence went, somewhat like this:  “wot, two, three, foe, three, foe d -u left, right, left hup o three, four, five, six, seven, eight” and you were expected to slap your rifle so that they all came down at the same time.  It was rather miraculous as we got to be good at it.  The sights and sounds of marching recruits all over that parade ground was quite a sight to behold.
 
There were two other events that happened during boot camp.   We were told that they were making a movie in Hollywood and wanted us on the parade ground with all the recruits of the boot camp at that time.  So we all had our rifles, marched out to the parade ground and   they assembled us all over that parade ground and we had been taught to do an exercise drill with rifles so that the entire parade ground was filled with recruits at about 5 or 6 feet apart each way and the cameras were on us.  We went through this rifle exercise to the music of “It’s Three O’clock in the Morning” and they had us do this several times while they shot and re-shot.   I don’t know if this ever appeared in a movie but for us it was a kind of a unique situation.
 
The other event was: every Saturday morning we would have an inspection and several of the higher ranking officers would come around and make the inspection walking past all of the troops lined up on the parade grounds in our “greens” with our rifles, standing at attention all at several stages of training.  Now and then one of the high ranking officers would stop and talk to one of the men and ask how they were doing in their training and of course it was always, very affirmative and up, up, and up.
 
One particular Saturday morning we were told that President Roosevelt was coming so of course we were out quite early all standing at attention on the parade ground.  On the perimeter of the parade ground were many platoons all lined up, all standing at attention.  The sun in San Diego during the morning hours was starting to get quite warm but we stood there and not too long afterwards an open black limousine came along  and there he was President Roosevelt, FDR himself!  The car went touring around the middle of that parade ground in the middle of all the recruits and we got a look at him and he left.  That was the end of that big event but it was quite exciting.
 
I had told you that we had gotten Pith Helmets originally; but we hadn’t since they were short of Pit Helmets so we got them three or four week later.  Most of us had the short over-seas caps.  Some of the fellows who were blond or red heads got some real sun burns !
 
Boot camp took seven weeks of which the first three or four weeks, was at the base and that went mostly as I told you.  On Saturday mornings it was inspection time but on one or two days a week in the mornings we had to wash our clothes and we were
marched out to the wash racks which were bands of wood racks with piping and faucets above about three feet apart so what you had to do was wash your clothes that morning, shirts, dungarees, skive drawers, underwear and scrub them with the Fels Naphta and a brush and hang them up to dry. All of the clothes were marked so that you would hopefully get your clothing back.
 
We were awakened by a bugle call at 5:00 a.m. put on our clothes rather quickly, and ran outside with overcoats because the San Diego mornings at that time of the year were quite chilly.  We would do   some calisthenics, then marched over to the mess hall for breakfast.
 
We were usually scheduled to do certain things during a particular day one of them being, bayonet course, obstacle course, class movie training films, snap in with rifles, close order drill and on it went. Occasionally, someone would foul up so the DI would make the offender do something strange or bizarre to make others laugh at him.  Scrubbing the stairs up to the drill instructors little bivouac with a toothbrush and soapy water, another one was to send  the offender  out to the salt flats to bring back a handful of  water.  Well, that was quite hard to do.  Usually very little water remained in the offender’s hands.
 

 

Rifle Range

The fourth week at Boot Camp at the recruit depot we were bused over to Camp Matthews, which is the Marine Corp rifle range.  I’d like to describe a little about the camp.  As we came through the big gates they had several mottos above the gates, such as “Make Every Shot Count”.
 
We were assigned to Quonset Huts that were to be our residence for the next few weeks.  We were a couple of miles from the Rifle Range.
 
Let me describe how the riffle range was set up.  They were a flat platform and spaced every so often for a position to fire from.  There was a burning soot-chamber that was used to thrust the rifle in and soot the front sight so that there was no glare off of the site.
 
The Range ranged from 100 yards, 200 yards and 500 yards.  Targets had “buts” which was a trench in back of each line of targets. The targets themselves were square with a big Bull’s-eye in the middle and a number of points much the same as a Dart game they slid up and down.  In the trench was someone tending each target and after each round was fired the person would pull down the target, put a white plug into it so that when he ran it back up you could see if you hit the Bull’s-eye because it had a white spot on it.
 
Every platoon that came in got a turn to fire and to tend the “buts”.  Beyond the 500 yards was a long hill into which all the bullets penetrated  and after a certain amount of time, from what I heard, they would go back there and collect all the lead by digging it out of the hill.
 
The first few days we spent time learning all the firing positions.  They consist of kneeling, prone and standing positions.  We were instructed how to use the rifle sling, how to wrap it around our arm and get a steady position whichever position we were in.  We were given instruction in the 45 caliber automatic Colt which was a standard side arm for the army the Marine Corp and I guess the Navy.  After a certain amount of instruction, I’d say in 2 or 3 days we finally started to fire and we got to practice firing at each position.   This took several other days and in the interim we fired at the 45 Caliber range with the pistol and I did fire expert with the pistol, which I was quite pleased about.
 
Some days later we were told we were going to fire for record, which meant that it goes on to your permanent record.  The three rating from bottom to top are Rifleman, Marksman and Expert Rifleman.  Of course everyone wanted to be an Expert Rifleman.   Record Day turned out to be a nice day, wind blowing slightly and I did quite well firing.  An instructor next to me made a mistake allowing me to fire two or three rounds at the five hundred yard range, without adjusting the windage knob on my rifle and this caused me to miss Expert Rifleman by two or three points.  It was upsetting but I did get Marksman and this was not bad and I felt pretty good all in all. After our Record firing we assembled and marched back. I might tell you that we were issued rifle jackets that were padded, had leather elbows and a leather right shoulder piece so that when the rifle fired it was in the shoulder and it would take up some of the brunt of the recoil.
 
The other thing I have to tell you our original instructor whom I envision throughout my life when I think about it, as an ideal Marine.  He was a great big guy, a French Canadian and looked like he was a Canadian Indian.  Tall, dark wore the typical brown broad brimmed hat and was so good and so likeable that everybody thought he was wonderful.  He would pick up that 03 rifle and show us how to fire standing up.  In that standing position I can see him now.  The rifle looked like a toy in his hand, he was so big, beautifully built and the typical Marine so that we all admired him.
 
After our firing on the range for Record we assembled and were marched back to our Quonset hut.  Sergeant Sellers marching along with us everybody could tell that he was quite upset.  The back of his neck was red and he had a very stern expression on his face.  We marched back to the Quonset Hut.  Later Sgt. Sellers told us that our DI had lost a bet with another platoon DI (a bottle of Scotch and some dollars).  He marched us out to the Salt Flat in the hot sun. for at least an hour.  We were exhausted so he made all of us pay for our misdeeds whether we fired poorly or for a job well done - it was all part of the game.

Artillery Training

The 105 Howitzer

Near the end of our time at Camp Matthews we assembled in an outdoor arena and were given some forms to fill out – questionnaires about our preferences for the further career in the service.  I put down that I would like to be a tail gunner in a fighter plane or a dive-bomber.  I’m looking back and I’m glad that didn’t come through.  My second choice was artillery and some days later, after we got back to the recruit depot, I found out that indeed I was assigned to the artillery.

During our last day or two at the recruit depot was the graduation ceremony.   It was typical of the Saturday morning inspection; we were all dressed in our greens and had our rifles and looked pretty good.  Generally a lot of awards were given out for best squad leader, etc.  I got none of those, but I was just glad to graduate.  We were now full-fledged Marines and could go around the recruit depot for another day or two and do many of the things that we were forbidden to do, like buying things that we needed at the PX.  Also the slop shoot was open to us, which was the drinking pub on the depot grounds and we could go in there and drink beer. That was our primary entertainment.

On another day we got a leave just for the day, so Kurowski, Beagel and I went out on the bus and we found out what San Diego was all about. It was not the city you see today; but much smaller and overwhelming with servicemen of all kinds, mostly Marines and Navy personnel.  We would go into the USO, which was located in the old YMCA building.  It was pleasant enough to pass a little time.  There were hostesses who would come around with coffee and donuts.   Places to sit and write, telephones and occasionally shows you could see.

The other spots were very orientated to military personnel with souvenir shops, and all sorts of gaudy storefronts where you could buy most anything.  There were two or three burlesque houses and we did go into one or two of those.   They were entertaining because they were different. I had never been in a burlesque house and it was fun to see the action on the stage. By today’s standards you could say it was family style entertainment.  The comedian would get up and tell a few racy jokes and there were always the chorus girls who would come on stage; they were all very nice and they looked good to us.

I believe it was about the middle or latter part of October that we went to Camp Elliot, the artillery and infantry training school.   It may be that it was a part of what was later to become Camp Pendleton.  We were assigned to two-story barracks, which were very new and decent, they had two tiered bunks and everything was ship-shape.  We had inspection again every Saturday and our bunks had to be just so.

Soon we were told that we were on alert. Later in the evening when we first got there we were issued ammunition and were told to be ready to go at a moments notice. The word was that they were afraid of a Japanese invasion of the California coast—this proved to be untrue of course.  Later it did come out that a Japanese submarine had come off shore somewhere in Northern California and had thrown a couple of shells into the coast line.
 

The training at Camp Elliot as far as Beagle and I were concerned was training on 105mm Howitzer, 75 mm pack Howitzer and we were shown the rudiments of the French 75 mm cannon that the French had used in WW I.  We were also given some rudimentary training on the 155 Howitzer.  These were the biggest guns the Marine Corp had for division use.

The 75mm pack Howitzer was called a Pack Howitzer because it could be disassembled, reliable, and could be carried up into the mountains on mules, then reassembled and fired from almost anywhere.  The 105 mm Howitzer had a 4.25 inch bore, split trails and was pulled by a truck or a tractor.  The projectile weighed 33 pounds and the shell casing, which you took off of the projectile, contained seven powder bags.  The bags were silk and they were all tied together with string; in order to fire a certain distance, by command we would take off one, two, three, or however many of the powder bags were required for the distance desired and snapped them off, putting the shell casing back on the projectile. The amount of powder inside that shell casing would determine how far that projectile would go.

The three main operators of the 105 were the gunner, who regulated the lateral aiming of the Howitzer.  The number one man who regulated the elevation of the angle upward or downward of the Howitzer and the loader who put the projectile into the breechblock.  Probably five or six other people took care of handling ammunition, opening crates for ammo, getting rid of the powder bags. During the next several weeks we trained on that particular Howitzer most often and were trained in the various positions; we did fire once or twice on the firing range.

Evenings were pretty much on our own.  Sometimes there was a show on the Base or we could go to the pub on the Base or do much of whatever we wanted, read or write letters home.  It was a Camp routine at that particular time. We did get one or two leaves to go into San Diego. The way to get into San Diego was to go through the front gate.  Getting sized up by the MP’s to see that everything was shiny, if it was you boarded a bus and went into San Diego.  That trip took a while, probably an hour the way I remembered it.

You could board the bus back from the USO at the YMCA and come back to camp.  When we disembarked from the buses, late in the evening or even in the morning the MP’s were waiting and you were inspected to see that you weren’t carrying anything into the camp.

Because Christmas was approaching I thought about my parents. We were given a three-day leave – not enough to get to Chicago and back – so I wrote a letter to my parents, and scouted around for gifts.  I bought several gifts with the little money I had, got my picture taken and framed and bought my mother a gold-filled necklace.  Not much.  When I got back home she still had it and seemed to like it though it was beginning to tarnish a bit.  I suppose it was a nice token to give her and she seemed to appreciated her gift.