Like most servicemen I have met over the years, I am pretty loathe to discuss my time in the military. However, on the occasion of this year’s Memorial Day celebration, it might be a good time to discuss some of the highlights before they fade from memory.
As I recall, the only Memorial Day celebration in which I officially partook occurred some seventy years ago in Pusan, Korea. It was a full-scale celebration of the military life complete with marching band and several stirring speeches from highly placed officials.
By comparison, the most publicized event surrounding this Memorial Day was President Obama’s trip to Hiroshima, Japan. His visit to the site of the first atomic bomb explosion drew mixed reviews. Most of the active and former members of the military were adamantly opposed to what was perceived as an on-going part of Obama’s world-wide apology tour. As one of those myself, I remember the overwhelming sense of relief when the A-bomb was dropped while I was in Basic Training in Florida.
I was especially relieved because I had been informed by several cadre members that the reason for my unit’s extension of Basic Training from thirteen to seventeen weeks was that we could participate in extra drills for night-time missions and learn a great deal more about map making. As it was explained, our mission in the planned invasion of Japan was to go ashore ahead of the “first wave” in order to verify the scant maps that were available of the Japanese mainland. This was to be accomplished by taking us off-shore in Navy submarines, unloading us into a rubber dinghy and paddling ashore a nightfall. We were instructed on how to most efficiently dispatch any Japanese we might encounter. We were warned to maintain absolute silence and thus if we had to take care of any of the enemy, it was best not to slash their throat because they might make a loud gurgling sound, but to insert our daggers in a prime spot along the shoulder line.
Although I had originally joined the Army Air Corps Reserve when I was sixteen, and had been sent to Army Specialized training at the University in Auburn, Alabama, my hopes for a flying career were dashed when the war in Europe ended and many Air Corps pilots were discharged.
Consequently, after a Spring Semester at the University of Nevada, I received one of the famous telegrams that started off with “Greetings” ordering me to report to an Army Infantry base in Georgia.
After the indoctrination process, I was sent to Camp Blanding, Florida, some thirty miles due west of Jacksonville for Basic Training.
Because of my previous experience at Auburn and ROTC at Nevada, I was assigned as a squad leader. Squads consisted of a dozen men and each squad was assigned to a separate hut.
Following Basic Training, I was separated from my unit because of the death of my grandmother, which required me to receive emergency family leave. Once I returned to Active Duty, I was shipped to Camp Shanks, New York. From there, I had occasion to join the regular Army for the period of one year guaranteed and the next thing I knew, I was leaving Seattle, Washington on my 28-day voyage to Pusan.