I want to continue to share with you my Dad's stories. I am still finding more of them as I sift threw boxes and boxes of his belongings. I came across these notes from a speech he typed up on an old piece of scrap paper. From what I can tell, he was addressing a group of young soldiers, probably around the early 1960's. It doesn't say where he spoke, but it is a true expression of my Dad's sense of humor and storytelling.
Since I was a member of the Sam Brown Belt, Brown Shoe Army, I get nervous speaking to you sophisticated modern army types. I don't like to be thought of as having the OSS (Old Soldier's Story) Syndrome. Way back, when I was your age, if someone asked me what JKF, CIA, LSD, PMD or IUD meant I would have said they are letters in Alphabet Soup! My father told my gang at the pool hall I had ROTC when I was in college, and bless their hearts, they sent me get-well cards.
It wasn't until recently that "grass" was something you mowed. "Pot" was something you cooked in, and poor people didn't have one to P in. "Coke" was something you drank at a soda fountain... for a nickel. "Crack" was a split in an aspirin tablet. Long hair and earrings were only seen on women. "Gay" meant happy and care-free. "Coming-out-of-the-closet" meant her husband had gone and it was safe to come out of the closet!
But, I am supposed to tell you about my time with the Big Red One's 16th Infantry Division. In November 1940, I reported to the 16th at Ft. Jay. I knew my ambition to be Chief of Staff was thwarted because unknowingly I reported on a holiday. BUT, it was misunderstood because in PA we celebrated Thanksgiving the week before the Army celebrated theirs! So when I spent the next month as officer-of-the-guard on weekends. I knew I didn't make a good first impression.
Then I was sent with the 3/16th to Puerto Rico for the first of a long series of amphibious landing exercises. From there we sailed to Boston to quarter the Division that had been assembled on that one post since WWI.
When it was time to move to Ft. Blanding Florida, as part of the 16th Quartering Party, we ran into our first combat. It happened at the local Honky-Tonk. Our "Subway Soldiers," as we were called, would not stand-at-attention when members of the 36th Texas National Guard Division played "Deep in the Heart of Texas" on the jukebox. You would have thought the Civil War was about to start all over again. The Department of the Army sent a British General to explain to both our Divisions that we were on the same side and to save our hostilities for the Axis who was really the enemy.
Again the 16th was picked as the Quartering Party for the Division to move overseas. I went to Tidworth Barracks in England where I was the first American to be captured by the British since the War of 1812. Let me tell you how this happened. While inspecting the training areas, I spied a wire line. Curious to learn about British communications, I followed the wire line. All of a sudden, two British soldiers with bayonets drawn surrounded me and prodded me with their bayonets. I told them I was an American but they didn't believe me and kept jabbing me in the direction of their Headquarters. Even after I have them my name (Hangsterfer), rank and serial number, the Interrogating Office was sure that he had captured a German parachutist. So then came the questions: "Who is Babe Ruth?" "What happens if you have four balls?" He knew that if you didn't know baseball, you'd have trouble with that one. Needless to say I was let go after I dazzled them with my baseball knowledge and finally convinced them of who I was! However from then on I learned NEVER to go where no GI had gone before. Which was easy. You could always tell where Kilroy had been by the trail of ration cans, cigarette butts, candy wrappers and other GI equipment. When I was in combat, if I didn't see a trail of this type of debris, I knew I was in hostile territory.
After that harrowing experience, I went up to London for a bit of R&R. I noticed a subway stop named Piccadilly Circus, so I decided a circus would be fun! For those of you not familiar with Piccadilly Circus, it is a shopping area around a circle and in the middle of the circle is a statue of Eros, the God of love. Well, in those days, the women-of-the-night hung out there and plied their trade. Prior to sailing to England, I read the book the army gave us regarding British customs and how they were very hospitable people, and on occasion they would invite you into their homes. On the other hand, I had also just given my men the "sex lecture." Have you had it yet: KYPIYP? Well I tend to practice what I preach so when she brushed up against me and asked if wanted to go home with her, I responded, "For a cup of tea?" She replied, "I'll give you a cup of tea as well, but it will still cost you two pounds." So I thanked her and told her it was way too much to pay for a cup of tea!
That is where his speech ended, hopefully with a big laugh and a round of applause.
When typing up this article, I had to look up two things, what he meant by the "Sam Browne Belt" Army. I was so glad to be able to find a photo with him wearing one.
Also, I looked up what a "Quartering Party" was and found this description on http://www.armystudyguide.com.
Thanks for reading. Please check back for more stories from an old soldier!