Prelude to War
1. A Few Good Men Remember Events for most of "Our Men"
The creation of a format in which the inclusion of excerpts from the very interesting material supplied by OUR MEN can be included in chronological order without creating unnecessary confusion for the reader has been a challenge. These entrys are the most important parts of the narrative, and the most valid reason for its existence. Each of the apparently personal entrys represents part of the common experience of all of the members of the 103d Signal Company and also experiences shared by many subgroups of the company such as; radio operating teams, wire teams, T&T working groups, etc. as well as the particular experience of those men who were assigned to one of the three regiments to supply communication and who were separated from the company command posts for long periods of time, or those assigned to isolation from the day-to-day operation and movement of the bulk of the company, at Supply and Repair and other fairly static locations.
In addition to the foregoing, each member of the Signal Company also belonged to groups defined by their army service prior to joining the company. Some of our men had been part of the "peace time army" and share the common experience of becoming officers after attending Officer's Candidate School, or attaining senior non-commissioned officers status as a result of their service experiences. The majority of the Signal Company men shared the common experience of basic training at Camp Claiborne after having been assigned to the 103d Division shortly after induction. A number of our men were assigned to the Signal Company after it had arrived at Camp Howze. They had varied common army experiences, and in several cases, rather unique previous adventures.
There were about 25 men who contributed personal experiences for this narrative. Unfortunately that number represents less than 10% of the total number of men who were at one time or another assigned to the Signal Company, never the less, it may be accurate and fair to say that they do supply a good active-picture of the majority of the men of the company, OUR MEN.
A brief biographical sketch is included of each of our contributing men, including his operational assignment and other significant information. An examination of the operational assignments of the men as shown in the chapter, 103d Signal Company Tactical Organization, may supply information that will indicate which or OUR MEN entrees most nearly represent the family member's experiences.
OUR MEN: JOHN ANANIA - Wire team member of EUGENE JONES' BOYS. One of the members who took basic training at Camp Claiborne. Most of the information relating to John in this narrative is being supplied by the editor after careful observation of John, and lots of frustration in trying to be as fair as possible and at the same time be honest and accurate.
OUR MEN: BILL BARCLAY - Wire team member of (SGT. EUGENE) JONES' BOYS, ASTP BOY
OUR MEN: BERNARD BECK - Became Commanding officer of Signal Company as a Ist/Lieutenant, was Captain during most of the period covered by this report. Had been an enlisted non-commissioned officer. Officer Candidate School graduate. * See notation on origin and editing of entries.
OUR MEN: MANUEL BERMAN -ASTP BOY - Wire team member of Sgt. JIM MURRAY, team assigned to division headquarters. Other members of the team were; JOHN BLAKE, EARL BROADHURST and JOSEPH MASPERI.
OUR MEN: THOMAS BROWN - Member of two man wire construction "trouble shooting" team with GERALD NELSON, or WARREN HILLIARD or PATRICK FAULKNER. Had been telephone company employee and had been in another infantry division before transfer to the Air Corps and then a 103d Division rifle company and finally the signal company!
OUR MEN: ORAL BROWN - ASTP BOY, in same barracks with Barclay during basic training at Camp Fannin, Texas. ASTP at Texas A&M before becoming a member of the signal company cooks. Fired first "shot in anger" of any of OUR MEN (see Lost In The Woods And On The Roads).
OUR MEN: JERRY BUTLER - Had been telephone company employee. Had basic training in 89th Division Signal Company. OCS graduate. Various assignments in 103d Signal Company, was Signal Supply officer while overseas.
OUR MEN: HARLON CHAFFEE - operated and maintained the wire-head (terminal board for connection of all the telephone/telegraph wire at division headquarters). Wire trouble-shooter, worked with JOHN LAZARZ. Keeper of important records of wire routes and assignments for the division signal officer, Lt. Colonel Brown.
OUR MEN: LOVELL COLLINS - Enlisted in army before WWII started. Had extensive training in telephone line systems during early service. Had been assigned overseas twice before coming to the signal company just before we left Camp Howze for what would be his third overseas duty. Master sergeant in charge of Construction section. Had lots of help from T/SGT. LYNDALL FRAZIER who made most of the daily assignments.
OUR MEN: JOHN DONLAN - ASTP BOY was assigned to radio operating team with ??? John kept extensive and detailed records of the activities of OUR MEN in his group.
OUR MEN: WILLIAM ERMELING - was a member of the Signal Company during the training and maneuver period at Camp Claiborne and moved with the division to Camp Howze. Was assigned to Headquarters while we were overseas. He has supplied some very useful information about the Claiborne period that is excerpted from letters he wrote home. Information supplied by Andy Beck.
OUR MEN: MELVIN EPSTON - was not an early member of the signal company, joined overseas. Had combat experience in as radio chief at one of the 103d regimental headquarters before being hospitalized and then sent to the signal company from a replacement deport. Operated the SCR-399 radio.
OUR MEN: PIERCE EVANS - ASTP BOY became radio operator on OUR MAN NORVEL HENNUM's radio team that included SEYMOUR FADER and MIKE SHINDLER, assigned to the 411th regiment. Prolific writer and story teller. Author of PAPA'S WAR *EVA. Many of the segments of this book attributed to EVANS were exerpted from PAPA'S WAR.
OUR MEN: SEYMOUR FADER - ASTP BOY became radio operator on Hennum's team.(A particular favorite of the editor who admired his uncompromising integrity.)
OUR MEN: BOB GILL - S/Sgt in charge of the radio operating team that included ARBYE CURTIS, and DALTON COFFMAN. Assigned to provide communication to and from 410th Regiment HQ. More than his operating experience however, Bob must represent the many of OUR MEN who may have thought they had nothing to contribute or were not too sure of how to say it. At several of the reunions, the editor asked Bob to write the story of his experiences on a radio operating team. It was at the time a segment of our story that had not been covered. Each time he insisted that he did not feel comfortable in doing it. At the 1992 convention in Anaheim, California, Bob said he had "a few notes". His narrative is one of the best, if not the very best, of all of those we received. He has particularly related the details and humor of the training at Camp Claiborne. We can only imagine the wonderful and important stories that have been left untold by OUR MEN.
OUR MEN: PAUL GRANT - T/Sgt. in charge of the Radio Repair section. Before and after the war, Paul had a very successful Radio Repair and Sales operation. A superior supervisor and a most pleasant and unselfish fellow. He was a primary driving force in the creation of first the Signal Company Reunions and their success.
OUR MEN: OLIN JOHNSON - Officer in charge of the construction section during the early months of our combat experience. A dedicated, hard working officer who became one of the first "medical casualties" of the company. He told us some of his story during the reunion in St.Louis (1991). He died soon after that.
OUR MEN: EUGENE JONES - Sgt. in charge of division CP wire team. Joined the company a Camp Howze. Was a very good man at getting results. He was a successful leader and deserved the respect of his team members, ANANIA, BARCLAY, RUDOLPH DORTMAN, WILBUR ELLIS, RALPH LARSON, HEBER TISCH and replacements, "Pop KRUEGLE and ? MATRICARDI.
OUR MEN: FRANK KRAFT - Member of Telephone and Telegraph Repair. Possibly the first of OUR MEN to send a story of some of his experiences - very encouraging. Frank shared much of the truck driving with EDWARD JALLOWAY.
OUR MEN: JOSEPH LOUCHART - Had been working at Michigan Bell Telephone before being drafted. Basic training at Camp Claiborne before being assigned to signal company. Leader of special wire team assigned to division HQ.
OUR MEN: GENE NANEY - Member of S/Sgt. WILMER LEE's wire team assigned to the 410th regiment. Excellent truck driver. Has supplied very candid views of the "off duty hours" of our more spirited men.
OUR MEN: ROSARIO NATOLI - Member of S/Sgt. DURWOOD BROWN's wire team assigned to the 409th regiment. Productive members of the team included; CHARLES LITTLE, LeROY STENDER, DONALD GRAY, DONALD VINCENT, EUGENE SANTISTEVEN and JAMES CURRIER. NATOLI Claims to have had a close working relationship with Colonel Lloyd, the Regimental Commander. Friend of ANANIA and "Little Joe" LAFATTA.
OUR MEN: JACK REYNOLDS - Sergeant in the Message Center with RUEBEN HINSON and ERICK WARMBEIN. Basic training in the Signal Company at Camp Claiborne.
OUR MEN: HAROLD ROREM - ASTP BOY at Texas A&M with a number of young fellows who became some of OUR MEN. Assigned to T&T at the Forward C.P. Harold has done more extremely successful work in gathering and putting in proper order the records of OUR MEN and kept them current than any other person. He has made it possible for us to be a vibrant veteran organization.
OUR: MEN WILLIAM R. SCHMITZ, ("SMITTY")- ASTP BOY, but before that, he had some grueling experiences in Air Force basic training in the plush hotels of Florida. When he was assigned to a 103d Division rifle company as an assistance BROWNING AUTOMATIC RIFLE MAN (BAR), his "military bearing" created such a stir among the German prisoners of war at Camp Howze, he was soon transferred to the Signal Company. "Smitty" was assigned to Radio Repair, with PAUL GRANT, EDWARD JALLOWAY, ORVILLE CARVER, HENRY KOLANDER, ERVIN KUHLENSCHMIDT and BENEDICT NOVOTNY.
OUR MEN: JULIUS SEDENSKY - A non-commissioned officer in the communication section of a "Square Division" before he went to OCS. He was one of a group of officers who came directly from OCS to the 103d Division Signal Company before the start of basic training at Camp Claiborne. While we were overseas, he was the section officer of several sections including T&T before he became the officer in charge of the Construction section.
OUR MEN: JOHN SHEWARD - Took his basic training and radio operating training in an Armored Division, transferred into Air Corps Cadet training just in time to have that program canceled and be assigned to a rifle company in the 103d Division. He transferred into the Signal Company a few weeks before it left Camp Howze for France. He was in the Radio Operating section, part of the time at the SCR-399 position and part of the time with a radio team with a regiment.
OUR MEN: JEROME WALDREF - ASTP BOY at Texas A&M. Was assigned to the Construction section at the rear CP. Had a number of extraordinary experiences. Apparently none of them had anything to do with the war effort, but were personally rewarding and satisfying. Another personal favorite of the editor, I have known Jerry longer than any other person in the company.
OUR MEN: IMMANUEL WILK - Had graduated with a B.S. in Chemistry before joining the Signal Company. Was assigned to the Radio Operating section and operated the SCR-399 part of the time. He also was a crew chief of a radio team during our very rapid advance through the Alps and into Austria and Innsbruck.
* INTRODUCTION to the letters written by Capt. Bernard Beck By Andy Beck - revised by Bill Barclay as of 11 March, 2000
Edited excerpts from portions of letters written by Captain Bernard Beck to his wife, Roslyn Nasser Beck have been included in the narrative. The original letters totaled 57 pages. As these letters are read, many years after the writing, it is important to keep in mind several factors. Captain Bernard Beck was a very young person, only in his mid twenties, who was placed in a position of incredible responsibility, in the largest war in history. (Ordinary) people and members of the Signal Company reading these letters at a later time may view these letters as quaint or even crude, but many decades of development have passed since the writing. Letters such as these were created in combat conditions and sent unedited. There was no time or room for sophisticated concept or literary development. These letters are truly from the gut and the heart.
Although he wanted to explain where he was and what he was doing, censorship rules prevented such descriptions. Therefore, Captain Beck wrote about an event after the fact or he wrote "around" what had happened and only explained how he felt or what he was thinking. After VE Day there was considerably less censorship. Captain Beck was able to both reminisce and explain what was going on at the time. Many of those later letters help answer the often asked question, "What did Beck do?" Indeed, we learn not only what Captain Beck did, but that his job frequently put him in harm's way.
Occasional notes by Andy Beck are included to give background and insight not readily apparent to the causal reader. Andy Beck is the youngest son of Roz and Bernie Beck.
In addition to the notes by Andy, the Editor has included an occasional note and/or comment. It is my intention to give Captain Beck the recognition he deserves as one of the persons who was most responsible for the success of the 103d Signal Company. The editing, inclusions, exclusions, and editorial comments were made in the interest of that worthy goal.
The men who became members of the 103d Signal Company were born and lived in that dramatic period between the first and second World War as outlined very briefly for interested readers at the end of this chapter.
It seems appropriate to include information about their family backgrounds and their experiences during their formative years. Reference material from other sources is included as noted as well as random notes by the editor to relate some personal observations and memories.
Biographical information of their early years contributed by some of the members of the Signal Company will be included in this chapter under the heading of "OUR MEN". It will, I hope, make a good contribution to the book. The diverse backgrounds and experiences of these men before they joined the army and the Signal Company will represent a cross section of the young men and the families into which they were born during a very dramatic period of time.
Although most of the men who joined the Signal Company and have recollections recorded here were born after the conclusion of the first World War and the earliest period of time they write about is 1920-1942, the record will show experiences of earlier dates.
The experiences of OUR MEN in that period between WWI and their induction into the service are unique, but they will give a view that is fairly typical of thousands of others of us at the period. The stories are in the details, this is the stuff we will want to know about our buddies. What made them the capable, competent and companionable guys that they were and are forever.
I will not be surprised if many of the younger people reading about their father (or grandfather) will learn for the first time just how it really was in the 1920-1945 period for their parents, grandparents and the other people of that age.
Historical information about some of the economic, climatic, political, etc. conditions of the period are included as a help in understanding events that may have directly effected OUR MEN.
OUR MEN: ANANIA
(1995 Editor's note: Natoli must have told Anania that if he would send me an audio tape (oral history) that I could help make the most of any story. Some are more interesting and fun than others. I have helped John as much as possible in the following.)
About my father: He came to the United States from Sicily when he was about fourteen years old. He had to work to support his family, his father had been killed in a railroad accident in Sicily. The money he sent back to the "old country" really made a difference.
He worked until he was old enough to go into the service during World War I. He was drafted and sent with the horse-drawn artillery to France.
One day, while he was feeding his horse, it kicked him and he was put out of commission for awhile. As soon as he could be, he was sent back into the front lines.
I still have the spurs he wore when he was in the horse-drawn artillery.
After his war service he returned with his unit to the United States for a short time. He went back to Sicily to get married and returned with his wife to this country.
My father and my brother were both trained in Camp Gordon, Georgia - at different times, for different wars.
I was born in New York. We lived there for three years before my father moved his family to Detroit. He was in the fruit and vegetable business there for quite a while. As a little boy, I would go with him to his work.
When I had completed High School, it was not long before I was working for Ford Motor-car Company. During the war, I worked in the aircraft building. We were pushing out one B-26 bomber every hour (in spite of the kind of work I did). That was a record for the Ford assemble plants. I was there three years before I went into the service.
A buddy of mine, Roy Lanzee, decided with my help, we didn't have anything better to do - so we decided to join the army. He ended up in the 409th, and I ended up in the Signal Company - I guess I may have done better on the code aptitude test.
I was assigned to the basic training at Camp Claiborne. They put me on a truck - I had never driven a truck before in my life, I did pretty good there in camp where all of us spoke the same language and the other guys on the road could yell instructions to me to keep me out of trouble. It was only when we went overseas and the "friendly advice" was in a foreign language that I began to show some lack of skill and natural talent.
The best of times for me were overseas with our wire team; JONES' BOYS. I have given Barclay permission to tell of some of our experiences as long as he doesn't distort the facts about my superior service, (fat chance).
OUR MEN: BERNARD BECK by Andy
Bernie was born on 29 July, 1919 in Brooklyn, New York. He was left motherless at the age of eleven, the years growing up with a hostile step-mother and an indifferent father steeled his attitude to the world in general.
As a young man, he was an athlete who would train personally or cheer his favorite team with equal vigor. He graduated with his 1937 class in Brooklyn as Valedictorian, Captain of the football team and anchor man on the world record setting track team. He was powerfully built and had an IQ of 152. His career began in high school by working part time as a commercial artist and calligrapher.
Bernie Beck's military service during World War II was characteristic of many men of his generation. He was drafted in the spring of 1941 and reported for duty on 9 April 1941 at Camp Upton, Long Island, New York. He was trained as a radio operator at Fort Bragg, North Carolina and then was assigned to a Field Artillery regiment of the 43rd Infantry Division located at Camp Blanding, Florida.
Exactly one year after entering the service, Corporal Beck entered Officer Candidate School at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant on 13 July, 1942 and ordered to duty, with a few other officers in the class, with the 103d Division Signal Company at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana.
Beck's entries in the narrative will be excerpts from letters that he wrote. His son Andy suggests as these letter are read, many years after the writing, it is important to keep in mind several factors.
In addition to that consideration, Beck wrote and mailed letters some time after the time of the actual experience for security reasons. The editor has put most of the excerpts from the letters in chronological order that the events occurred.
OUR MEN: HARLON CHAFFEE
I was born in 1912 and raised in the hill country in Wisconsin. My dad died when I was 11 months old. I had three brother, two sisters, a Step-dad and a very kind loving Mother.
We raised lot of our food such as corn, oats, wheat, buck wheat, potatoes, vegetables, pork and beef. We hunted rabbits and squirrels. Us boys trapped weasels and skunk in the winter.
Our income was from dairy cows, we sold milk at the cheese factory, and tobacco. We lived in a comfortable two story house, had a good barn and out- buildings. My step-dad and mother were hard workers.
I went to a one room school 2 miles from home, but most of my education was with a grub hoe, ax, pitchfork and straight hoe.
I went to high school in a small town, there were 19 in my graduating class in 1931. After I left home, I rented a room for $5.00 a month and did my own cooking. Bread was 5-10 cents a loaf, milk 5 cents a quart and gasoline was 9 cents a gallon.
During the depression, I rode the freight trains, worked for food, played for dances - old time music, accordion, guitar, banjo and some fiddle. I managed to keep my accordion with me most of the time. We played in private homes, halls, barns and entertained in saloons. I worked with migrant workers in sweet corn and sugar beet fields. At times, I worked at construction trades as a welder, mason, carpenter, and ornamental metal worker. We made railings, stairs, tables, lamp posts, etc.
About that time, I had a model T Ford I paid $5.00 for. I worked in a bakery, brewery, cotton mill, and at a company named Link Belt. It was a heavy equipment manufacturer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We made power shovels, drag lines, back hoes and cranes, all big stuff. I worked in the welding shop and in maintenance. Some of this machinery was shipped to foreign countries.
OUR MEN: JERRY BUTLER
I was born in 1915 in northern Nebraska. Grew up on a cattle ranch. The primary livelihood was cattle raising. This area had many lakes and small streams. With other members of my family and friends, I did both hunting and fishing.
We were 30 miles from the
closest town of Ainsworth. With the best of luck, it was a two to
three hour trip in a model T Ford, one way. A four horse team and
wagon took two days each way.
We had a one room country school. Grades 1st through 8th. We lived within 1/2 mile of the school, we were the closest ranch.
Some of the students came from as far as 3 miles away, walking or on horseback. In those days, a foot of snow was no excuse for missing school. At one time, we had a male teacher who rode horseback 10 miles each way. We usually had a "School Marm", fresh out of teachers' college. I went to high school in Omaha.
In 1933, when I was 18, there were hard times in our area, and all over the country. One winter two of us rode in a cattle car for 150 miles. It was 30 degrees below zero. We ran back and forth from the front of the car to the back to keep from freezing to death.
There were no local jobs. I started hitch-hiking to California. In Denver, I got a job in a filling station, 5 gallons was a big sale in those days. I went from the filling station job to "shag boy" for an auto parts house for several years.
I spent 5 years at the Denver Post in the paper cutting room. Then went to the Mountain Bell Telephone Co., where I was when I was drafted.
OUR MEN: COLLINS
I was born 29 June 1918, near the end of World War I in Appalachia, to second generation Americans - an Irish father and a German mother. I had four brothers and three sisters. We grew up on a land grant farm of several thousand acres on the south fork of the Kentucky river near the Virginia border in the Blue Ridge mountains.
I went to a private, semi-military (not a reform school) high school. Most of our teachers were from New York, Pennsylvania, or New Jersey. The students were required to stay on the campus during each semester.
We worked either Christmas week or New Years week. We were required to work out half of our room and board and tuition. We ate, slept, progressed through the daily schedule as groups by bugle calls.
The school had a diary with cattle, chickens, hogs, horses and mules. We grew most of our vegetables, fruit and meat.
I operated the school cannery as half of my earner's work. We had four cookers which held or cooked 24 gallons. There were about 100 students preparing the food.
In order to play basketball, baseball and football along with all the other activities, I learned to exist on four or five hours sleep. I Have been able to maintain that schedule seven days each week even now! I attended this special school between the ages of fourteen to eighteen.
Two years later,
while I was on a football and basketball scholarship, our coaches were
called to active military service and they advised all of us who were of
draft age to joined the services on a voluntary basis for better assignments.
OUR MEN: PIERCE EVANS
I was born July 8, 1924 in St. Augustine, Florida - grew up and still live here after some periods of time away during the war, schooling, and work in New York City. My father, from Atlanta, was Chief Rate Clerk in the Freight Traffic Dept. of the Florida East Coast Railroad, a stable position during the time of the pre through post depression years. He made about $15 a week.
Before her marriage, my mother had been in training to become a nurse. That goal was given up for "home management" of a family with three children. I have a younger brother and sister.
My mother and father were eventually divorced so my mother took a job as manager of the Fountain of Youth Park to help make ends meet.
We had a wonderful black "mammy" named Ruth who was like a second mother to us. Ruth cleaned the house, did the laundry, cooked nourishing meals, and was always there when we need her. We loved here like a member of the family and treated her that way. Some schoolmates thought we were rich because we had a "maid" but the soles of our shoes flapped like everyone else's and we stuffed cardboard inside to keep our feet reasonably dry. We were all poor but didn't know it because all of our friends' shoe soles flapped, too.
When I was in high school, a buddy and I became interested in radio building and experimenting and I acquired a hobby and a knowledge that would have a profound effect on the rest of my life.
I had studied for and was scheduled to take my amateur radio license examination on Monday, December 8th, 1941.
The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7,1941 - no license examinations were given the following day. Later, the military began to give examinations to high school students scheduled to be inducted into the service. I qualified for ASTP training.
OUR MEN: CLEM POST
My father was Harry Post from Kiev, Russia. My mother's father, Marcus Alter, was born in Russia. My mother, Clara Alter, was born in what was then Palestine. My grandfather was a pioneer there under the Baron Rothschild. He was an official in a small town where they grew grapes. He started those grape vineyards. But, he became disillusioned with the prospect of Israel ever becoming a country. He left, went to Paris for a few years and finally migrated to the United States. My mother was a secretary in a fur business and my father was designer and foreman of the shop.
I was born July 23, 1918 in the Bronx, New York. We moved to Brooklyn when I was four years old.
I went to Alexander Hamiliton High School. There was a lot of training geared toward the commercial world.
I played football and lacrosse and lettered in both during high school. I was not what you would call the greatest student in the world, but I graduated High school. At that time my father had been working in the fur business and he wanted to go into business for himself. When I graduated high school he started his own business and I started with him. I was about 18 years old and worked in the fur business for 5 years.
I was drafted in early 1941. I had a deferment for a couple of months to take care of the family business. After I was drafted at Camp Upton, I was sent to Fort Monmouth for Signal Corps training.
They put me in a lineman crew. I began to climb the poles and decided that I didn't care for this occupation too much. Very fortunately, I went to the officer in charge and said, "I'm going to be in the army for quite a while and why couldn't I do something I liked. I'd rather do radio work." He put me into radio work. Which was a rarity in the army in those days. I took training at Fort Monmouth and was placed in the 123rd Radio Intelligence Company stationed in Fort Benning, Georgia. Our task was to become astute radio operators with radio direction finders in order to intercept a given signal, wherever it was.
We began to learn code. Five words then ten words. I devoted myself to learning and soon I was exceeding the levels of most of the other guys around. When you achieve certain levels of radio, at that time, you were rewarded with a grade advance. Within 6 months I was a Staff Sergeant with a "T" under it, a T-3.
We went on maneuvers in the fall of 1941. We were doing our job on maneuvers of trying to locate the enemy by triangulation of 3 antennas triangulating on a source of signal. At that time, as a T-3, I was put in charge of a team.
After some time the commanding officer came to me. He had a request to send someone to OCS from the outfit. They needed radio intelligence officers. They had no experienced people in this field. He felt that I should be the one from the outfit to go. That's how I got to Officer Candidate School in October, 1942. I graduated New Year's Eve, December 31, 1942.
OUR MEN: MELVIN EPSON
I was one of the earliest draftees. I went into the service on March 15,1941.
At the time, I was managing a small company, owned by an aging bachelor who spent his winters in Florida and his summers in Maine.
When they held the original draft lottery, I got one of the lowest numbers - the nearest I ever came to winning a lottery.
In those days we were sent to a neighborhood doctor for a preliminary physical examination. He told me I would never be drafted because of an amblyopic eye, ie. an eye that simply doesn't see, although physically there is nothing wrong with it.
In November or December of 1940, they had the first call-up. I got all ready, but they needed only one man per draft board and they had a volunteer, so back to work I went.
A few weeks later there was a second call. Again I packed my things. This time the call was for three men - again they had volunteers.
In March, after a series of false alarms, there was another call-up, and I was in the army!
OUR MEN: JULIUS SEDENSKY
I was the youngest one in our family of four boys, one girl and our mother. Our father had died six months before I was born during the time of the 1917 influenza epidemic, my mother was left alone to provide support and care for all of us small children.
My parents were poor Hungarian peasants who came to the United States during the 1890's. We never had much money before my father died, according to my older brothers, and less after. My mother kept our family going, mainly with the help of my oldest brother, Joseph, but we children were separated from her home from time to time. I spent a few years of my life in an orphanage at the age of three and five and later on I went to the fresh air camp for several years.
Starting at the age of 10,
I spent all my free time at the East End Neighborhood House. The social
workers there did a lot in framing my way of life.
During my Junior and Senior High School years my education progressed and I did become salutatorian in junior high.
After graduation from high school, I did various jobs, mainly I worked in a lumber yard as a "yard man" and then I ran various machines in the shop. I was paid the huge sum of $.35 per hour.
I lived this way until World War II broke out, the draft was continuing to call men, I volunteered for the army.
OUR MEN: SEYMOUR FADER
I was born in New York City February 9, 1923 and raised in 3 of the 5 boroughs due to frequent moving--the cost of rent and the depression. Attended City College of NY at a tender age. My father wanted me to be an accountant since employment prospects were very good at that time and so I spent my first CCNY year enrolled in the business program. Finding the study of accounting mentally stultifying, I changed my major to history which was a then passion of mine. After 3 years at CCNY I found myself approaching the age of induction into the armed forces and so enrolled in the Signal Corps Reserve.
Why the Signal Corps? A friend of mine was a ham operator with a very large rig and in the course of our relationship I became interested in radio-- qualified for a ham license which I did not get because of the war the gov't put a stop to applications, but I did get a 3rd class commercial license. Why? I really don't know. I had no expectation or desire to become a radio operator on a Liberty ship. Maybe it was the challenge in getting a license. Anyway, the Signal Corps sounded better than the Infantry.
OUR MEN: JOSEPH LOUCHART
(Note: Joe has lost his sight so he is dictating the following to me, his wife, Beth. April, 1994.)
I was born in 1922 into a family of three. Later, I had one brother and two sisters.
We lived In St. Charles, Michigan a town of 700 people in an area of agriculture and coal mining.
My father worked in coal mining and my mother was a housewife. We were a poor family, but at that time and place, there were many families like ours. I attended Catholic schools through the ninth grade, and then attended St. Charles Public High School until I graduated in 1940.
I had no special training during or after high school that made it possible for me to get work at Michigan Bell Telephone Company. They apparently needed people and thought that I was trainable.
I was drafted into the Army on November 24,1942 and was sent to the 103d Infantry Division at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana for basic training. After basic training, I was assigned to the Signal Company and sent to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey for three months special training.
OUR MEN: ROSARIO NATOLI
I was born in New Jersey and moved to Detroit when I was a year old. We lived on the north side of Detroit, the neighborhood was a mixture like the League of Nations. There were Syrians, Russians, Polish, Italians, Hungarians, Lebanese, what ever you could think of, we had it there. It was a rough neighborhood, but, we made the best of it. We played softball with mixed groups and one ethnic team against another - we played "for blood" too.
As we grew older, the neighborhood got worse. We had gang fights; go into another neighborhood and tear it up, they would come back and kick us around, and all of that stuff. That's part of growing up. Not like it is today; you grab a gun, we didn't do those things, we used our hands, that's it.
When we were older yet, some of the fellows found work, those who didn't hung around the pool hall. In those days, work was scarce. When I wasn't working, I would head for the pool room in the evenings and on the weekends. We would shoot pool and we would gamble. Sometimes, on Sundays instead of going to church, we would be behind the pool room playing dice. The Cops knew it, every time they needed a little diversion and they thought there was a little money in the crap game they would come into the alley in their big, black sedan and race their motor and scare us so that we would run away and leave everything. They would pick up the dice, the money and everything and then go away happy. They pulled that stuff and made a big joke out of it.
The mayor and city hall wanted to breakup the gangs, they gave out "loitering tickets". The cops would hassle us every chance they could get over a long period of time.
When war broke out, the mayor was so happy, he gave the order to the draft boards to clean up Davidson Avenue and the neighborhood gangs of Detroit. By December 1942, I was in the army. the Avenue was cleared out, everyone was in service - Army, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, the Navy.
OUR MEN: JOHN SHEWARD
I was born April 26, 1922 in Stark, West Virginia. Stark was a lumber camp and is no longer existent. It was located in Boone County. My parents were David J. and Betty M. (Adams) Sheward. I have two younger brothers, Bill and Bob. While I was still an infant we moved to Columbus, Ohio, where we lived until I was 11 years old. We then moved to Galena, Ohio, a village of about 300 people. I attended school from the 6th grade on in Galena and graduated from Galena High School in 1940. I think that few people had much money from 1929 until WW II began. I would say that our circumstances as a family were moderate at that time. My father was employed by a brick manufacturing facility, first as an accountant and finally as general manager.
After high school, I attended Ohio Wesleyan University, majoring in chemistry for one year. I soon decided that chemistry was not my bag and worked for a while, fully intending to return to school later. Then along came my "greetings from a group of your friends and neighbors." In other words, I was drafted in October of 1943.
The editor, Bill Barclay, was in the Construction Section assigned to Sgt. Jones' wire team during the overseas operation. However, before that I was just a kid with the potential for maturing into almost a regular person. When that didn't happen, I became one of many young fellows hoping to find a home in the army. During the period before assignment to Sgt. Jones' tender guidance, I did have an existence.
It may be a rationalization or a surrender to ego, but I feel that I was in a unique place to view some of the events of this period between the wars. Our rented houses and unusual "homes" were in Los Angeles on the west coast of the United States. L.A. was a small city in which it was possible for kids to walk from near its center to the green hills and fields on the outskirts of town, growing into a very large metropolis.
This was a period of time of fairly rapid economic, political, climatic, population distribution and ethnical changes in the country. It was possible for me, although just a kid, to have a rather close-up and personal view of many of the dramatic events typical of the time because my father was a rather unconventional Los Angeles policeman who was involved in interacting with the social and economic changes of the period that were sweeping westward through the United States.
OUR MEN: BILL BARCLAY
I was born in September, 1921 in the mountains of the Sierra Nevada in California. My father was a plumber on a large hydro-electric project under construction. My mother was a part-time nurse on the project hospital. My older brother, Jack, was living with my parents in our tent-cabin at that time.
When the work in the mountains came to an end, our folks moved to San Francisco where my younger brother, Bob was born. These were tough times for a young married couple. My parents moved to Los Angeles and were divorced. I don't remember ever living with my mother. My brothers and I lived in a series of foster homes apart from our father who was having difficulty finding work. At times my older or younger brother was separated from me, most of the time I was with one or the other of them.
In 1927, my father became
a member of the Los Angeles Police Department, remarried, and our financial
and family situation improved.
2. The United States, Part of the World, 1918-1942
The Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt, was elected in 1932 with a large majority of the votes of desperate and discouraged citizens.
Considering the terrible financial, organizational and physical problems of this country and the other nations of the world, it was not a good or promising time to be elected.
On the day Roosevelt took the oath of office, 3 March 3 1933, the Japanese after a period of time developing a strong military force, invaded a province of China. It was only the first of their many aggressive moves toward the proposed domination of Asia and the western Pacific area. Coincidentaly, this was also the very days that Hitler was gaining control of the political system in Germany.
President Roosevelt's term started with a preconceived New Deal Program of Relief-Recovery-Reform. His first step was dramatic; within a week of taking office, using an Emergency Banking Relief Act the Congress had passed in an incredible eight hours!, he suddenly closed all of the nations banks for four days and installed a program of reformed and stable banking practices and national monitoring of them. Most of OUR MEN were in their pre-teens, but we remember this dramatic event at our neighborhood, or possibly, the only bank in town.
The Roosevelt short-range goals were relief and immediate recovery during the first two years. The long-range goals were permanent recovery and reform of abuses that had caused the existing depression.
Massive unemployment throughout the nation was a most critical problem. The private enterprises of the country did not have the capital to expand and/or hire, the citizens did not have the money to buy products and the state governments did not have money to provide relief.
The president and the congress used federal money to create programs to employ millions including special programs for young men. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) provided employment in fresh-air government camps for a total of about three million uniformed young men. The work included planting trees, flood control, trail building and swamp drainage.
The men were required to send part of their $30 per month wages home to help their parents and families. The $25 they sent represent half of the family income in many homes! Some of OUR MEN or their brothers were in this program.
The CCC was only one of many federal programs. There were programs for building roads, conservation of land and water, financing building of private housing and businesses, rural electrification, slum clearance and many more. The Social Security Act was past - its benefits are a part of all of our life at the present time.
In the United States, the
memory of that war (1914-1918) and the United States' involvement in it,
combined with the fact that the country was in terrible financial and physical
condition created very strong isolationist feelings in the people and our
leaders. "Let the countries and the people in the rest of the world take
care of their own problems and conflicts".
In 1932, I can remember hiking out beyond the streets of Los Angeles into the areas occupied by "hobo jungles" of men cooking, eating and sleeping in make-shift tents and boxes -it all seemed very exciting and depressing at the same time.
With the influx of families into California from the "dust bowl" and other areas of the country, we continued to see the events of the times. Late in 1933, a great drought followed by strong, relentless winds struck the states in the central parts of the country. Tens of thousands of families fled from their burnt out and bankrupt farms - heading west for a hoped for fresh start. In five years, 350,000 people from Oklahoma and Arkansas came into California by every possible method of transportation.
For a brief time, my father and some others, were sent by the Los Angeles Police Department, to near the eastern borders of California with Nevada and Arizona at command posts near Barstow, the first town across a terrible desert west of Las Vegas, Nevada and to Blythe California the first stop west of Arizona on the famous " U.S.Route 66". Their purpose was to turn back the hordes of men, women and children with their meager belongings who may have had Los Angeles as a destination. It was illegal, unconstitutional, and ineffective - but it happened and was publicized in newspapers and newsreels with the hope of discouraging the people moving west.
OUR MEN: BARCLAY
I can remember going with my father, my brothers and a young friend in Dad's 1936 Ford out to the construction site of Boulder Dam (now Hoover Dam) on the Colorado river. Many of his older friends from the mines of Butte, Montana had employment digging the tunnels necessary to build that dam and also the aqueducts across the desert to Southern California and Los Angeles.
After the election of President Roosevelt and the onset of the 'New Deal', Prohibition ended at the end of 1933, after fourteen years of speakeasy and shadow drinking. I remember that the first beer distribution system in our area was the use of "Ice Trucks" that were normally used to deliver 25-50 blocks of ice to homes for use in "Ice Boxes". The Iceman would now deliver cases of cool 3.2% alcohol beer along with the ice blocks.
The United States and our people struggled through the next four years. Radical political and economic changes were taking place in this country. Other radical political, economic and military changes were taking place is some of the foreign countries; our leaders chose to ignore them.
Roosevelt was re-elected in 1936 by a voting landslide. The national economy was better but there were still many problems, as OUR MEN may remember. Coming out of high school in the years 1936-1941, as many of us did, meant looking for work during very tough times.
The economy of the United States began to improve to the point where the "Big Depression" could be considered to be over only when the war industries of 1941-1945 created many jobs - and massive debt.
In July 1936 a civil war started in Spain. It was a conflict for internal political and military control, but it gave the fascist powers of Germany and Italy opportunities to test their combat airplanes and equipment against those of the Communist Soviet Union.
There were a few volunteers from the United States and other countries, men seeking adventure or responding to some political persuasion. For most of leaders and people of the uninvolved nations, the hopes were to stay isolated and pray the conflict would not spread.
The Anti-Comintern Pact was concluded by Germany and Japan, they would join in a joint effort in any future war. Italy joined later. Secret clauses of the pact made it clear that the main aim was to threaten the USSR from both west and east. It was not, however, a formal alliance since the Japanese did not want to be drawn into a future European war. They hoped that by strengthening Germany against the Soviets that Britain would be distracted from Asian affairs.*ALMA