This is Slipdigit, posting again for Old Hickory. He has dictated about 11 pages of his recollections and I will be posting them for him. He says he will soon visit, as he gets better and when his wife can show him how to post here. In the meanwhile, here is some of what he has to say, as he spoke it. I'll post a couple of pages a day. If you have questions, please ask, he'll try to answer. If I am posting too much at a time, let me know and I will shorten the posts.
Words in [brackets] were placed by me to make the story more readable or to add pertinent information, as this was transcribed as he spoke it.
This is This is Old Hickory. I entered the army of the United States September the 2nd, 1942. Went to Ft. Riley, Kan Cavalry Replacement Center for basic training and we trained with horses. We were told we were the last unit in WWII to train with horses.
The Cavalry, at that time, was the pride of the army. Basic training was not easy in the horse cavalry We started the series off with how to drill. We’d gone about a week and the captain came out and said that we were going to have a parade. And said, “ I don’t expect you to look like a bunch of Marines, I want you to look like the United States Cavalry—better than the Marines.” So we went on with our training and we would usually train, work pretty hard on drill for the first few weeks of it.
And then we went to the firing range. The firing range was exactly 4 miles from our barracks. We would get up at 3:00 o’clock in the morning and have breakfast and run out there to the firing range .We’d leave there at 11:00 o’clock and come back in and eat lunch. After lunch we would run back out there and stay til about 5:00 o’clock in the afternoon. We’d come back in and have something to eat at the evening meal. Then we had to clean all our weapons. By the time we got in bed, it was 10:00 o’clock. We did that for three or four weeks, training like that.
I remember one morning, as we walked out of the mess hall, there was a bunch of fruit there on the table
and I picked up an apple and put it in my pocket. We were out there doing nothing, actually waiting to pull targets. I reached in my pocket and got the apple. There was a guy there, named Battenfield, that was a Pfc, but he was acting Cpl. He said, “Trooper, don’t you eat that apple.” And I looked at him and I went ahead and ate the apple. Well, I came up on Sunday morning, I came up on KP, got up at 3:00 o’clock in the morning and stable detail the next Sunday. That went on, not just me, but a lot of others. Acting Cpl Battenfield got a pretty good name for himself.
We went on through Basic. It gets cold in Kansas in October sometimes, we would wait until last call and then we’d jump in our boots, pull on our overcoats and run out for reveille every morning. One morning, I noticed the 1st Sgt was there. He wasn’t usually there, but he was there that morning. We all got nicely lined up and he opened ranks and said, “Gentlemen, remove your top coats.” And we stood out there almost 30 minutes in our underwear. I promise you that that was the last time that we didn’t get ready for reveille. The army always has a way of getting things done.
We went out one evening on a field problem and it was cold. It must of been in December and we came back in about 12:00 o’clock and we had hot chocolate in the mess hall for everybody. Those of you who remember, the old cups were almost a bowl to drink coffee out of. They gave me mine and I dropped it in the floor. The 1st Sgt yelled out, “Get that man’s name, rank and serial number.” And when pay day came, I owed 6 cents for that cup there. Course, I paid it and went on.
Basic training was a real enjoyable thing. I had a friend that was like I was, he grew up in the country and he could run and jump. We were running the obstacle course and the wall is 6 feet tall. A lot of people couldn’t get over it, but we could run and jump and roll hit the ground on the other side. We had finished the course and were there laying under the bush, resting a little bit. This Lt. came out and said, “I want to know something. We’ve got some “supposed to be good” athletes out there and they can’t get over that wall. How do you guys make it?” This guy spoke up and said, “Sir, it’s not much harder than what we did when we went in.” And it was really not much harder.
We went on and, after 13 weeks, managed to graduate from basic training and went down to headquarters. I was asked if I planned to go to OCS. I said, “I might, I don’t know.”
They said, “Well, we would like for now, if you will to go to mechanic school for wheel and track vehicles.” I told them I would. Then about that time, Christmas came up and all the cadre went home for a week. We were stuck at Ft Riley with nothing to do.
A little while before then, Pres. Roosevelt had asked Irving Berlin for a song and “White Christmas” was the song. He wanted a song that would last about 4 months. How long has “White Christmas” lasted? It’s still going on. We must have heard “White Christmas” a thousand times. The only thing we could do was that they would take us to town to a movie most days and that was our life for a week at Ft Riley, Kan. You might say that that was one Christmas that was not too enjoyable.
But anyway, immediately after Christmas, we went back to the school. I thought that I could do like I’d done in high school-just slide through. Well, after that first week, Lt called me in and said, “Trooper, your score shows that you’re capable of doing better than this. If you don’t pick this up this week, I’m going to give you a rifle and you’re not even going home. You’re leaving here and going somewhere.”
Each evening, from 7:00 o’clock to 11:00 we had a place where we could go and study. They were throwing it at us as fast as they could. Many, many nights after that at 1:00 o’clock in the morning I would be sitting in the latrine, where the only light was, studying. I made it through the course.
In February, we got through and graduated from the course. They picked 30 of us to send and we didn’t know where. All of us remembered acting Cpl Battenfield. We all paid him a visit and promised him if we ever ran into him again, that we would greet him. [Of] Course we never did see him again.
Thirty of us left Ft. Riley, Kan and got on the train and all we knew was that we were headed east and then headed south. Well, we went to Camp Blandon, Fla, They told us that we would join the Old Hickory reconnaissance troop. Each infantry [regiment] in WWII had a cavalry troop for recon and [there were] 16,000 men in a division.
We stopped in Jacksonville, Fla and you know how boys are, they take a drink sometime and do something and most of the group got pretty well lit. They came in and the Lt came out and greeted them and said, “Is any body in the crowd that’s not drunk?” A little ole boy in the back holds up his hand and said, “I hadn’t had a drop, sir” He said, “Well you go on KP in the morning, cause the rest of them won’t feel like it.”
Anyway we joined the Old Hickory Division at Camp Blandon, Fla. They said, “Since you already had Basic, you can help give Basic. We started helping give Basic to the rest of troops. They started off with 238 in the Old Hickory Reconnaissance troop. That was hard because it was hard to run in a sand bed. And that’s what we were in, in Fla.
They asked me if I wanted to go back to advanced mechanic school and I decided that it would be a good opportunity for me. Sometime in April , I went back to the cavalry replacement center at Ft Riley for advanced training. I got into the advanced course and actually, it was real easy, because I had studied it already going through it to begin with. I went through that and then they wanted to send me to a tank school for 3 or 4 weeks.
They said , “We’ve got a 2 week course in blacksmith“ That’s one of the best things I ever did. I went to 2 weeks of blacksmith’s school. I learned more about iron in those 2 weeks than I thought I’d ever know. It helped me all my life in some of the things that I did. I learned what kind of iron was strong and what was not. Also, I took a couple of weeks of arc welding. And that was one of the best things that I had.
Anyway, it went up into the middle of the summer. The troop had finished the basic training and gone to the maneuvers in Tennessee at the Headquarters at old Camp Forrest at Tullahoma, Tn. They had started off with 238. They wanted 149 but they weren’t there yet. We went on Tennessee maneuvers and all over middle Tennessee, Murphreesboro, Fayetteville, Tullahoma and all through there. We didn’t have enough weapons to go around, so we went be a slab pile and cut us out a rifle and we used pine logs as anti tank guns. We trained on maneuvers. Our artillery was exceptionally good. We went through the obstacle course, [where] the fire [is] over your head, crawling under the barbed wire. Tennessee maneuvers was really fun. You went out on Monday morning. You got up at 3:00 o’clock in the morning and ate breakfast and got ready to go and went out. You knew that you were going to have - 2 sandwiches for lunch that day. One of them was probably going to be a bologna and the other one was going to be peanut butter and jelly. We were out for lunch. The evening meal was a cooked meal.
We would train night and day until Thursday evening. We were through until Monday morning. It wasn’t too bad, we all got to go to Nashville and do what ever we wanted to do. On Sunday, we would all, course, we slept in the woods, we had no tents. We slept on the ground. The 1st Sgt came out and walked through and said,” Alright, men, we’re going to church. Get up and get yourself ready.’ We would usually go top the closest church. A lot of times they would ask some of us to go home with them for lunch. We’d go home with them and get a good meal a lot of times.
We went on through maneuvers. When I joined on Tenn maneuvers, I came in at night and [was] going out for breakfast that morning, [when] I met the Cpt and he said, “Good morning, Cpl.” So they had promoted me to Cpl while I was gone to Ft Riley that last time.
We went on with Tenn maneuvers and winding up in November or first of December  we would up the Cumberland River just across from Kentucky. We had a lot of things that we had to throw away, that we had to dispose of. There was a Keg and a half of 8 penny nails. The Captain came by and told me to get rid of those nails. I said, “Yes, sir.” I just couldn’t throw them away. I put them on the back of a jeep and took them up to a farm house and asked the farmer up there if he needed nails. He said, “I sure hadn’t got any, yeah.” We busted the wooden cases open and poured them out on the floor and went into his house and burned the case, so nobody would say he got them from the army. Then I went back and the farmer came back to where we were and asked me how many is in your group. I told him that 10 were in my section. He said, “We’re inviting your 10 to have a meal with us this evening.” We went to that meal and they had every kind of food that you could think of and it was a real, real good meal.
This short session happened at Camp Blanding, Fla. We were working hard and begin to come together as a unit. The chemistry was good and we got to where we were really enjoying the training we were taking. This is after basic training, we were taking special training. We’d go through the week, training hard and on Saturday, if we wanted to go to the show or whatever we wanted, we’d get a pass to Tallahassee, Fla. But a pass to Tallahassee wasn’t a very good thing because there were so many sailors there that you couldn’t walk.
We didn’t do that much. We’d come in around 11:00 o’clock, and go to the day room. Our 1st Sgt could really play the piano. He could play anything he wanted to. A lot of times, he would start playing and we’d hang around and listen and sing ‘til daylight the next morning at 6:00 o’clock. Then the 1st Sgt would say, “Okay, men let’s go get breakfast.” We had a friendship that was building while we were training and getting better and better.
Edited by Slipdigit, 20 February 2014 - 04:16 AM.