157th Infantry Regiment Distinctive insignia, Second WorldWar

Vere "Tarzan" Williams

157th Infantry Regiment Distinctive insignia, Second WorldWar
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I am Vere L. Williams

( Click here for printer friendly version part 1&2 )


( Click here for part 2 )

By Vere L. Williams

I was born DEC 22, 1920. I was born and raised at Snyder Colorado, a small farming Community in the northeast part of Colorado, north of Brush. I grew up on two different farms, I am the oldest and have 2 younger brothers and a sister. My Dad, Claude worked for the lumberyard in Snyder 'till the fall of 1924, when my Grandparents wanted to go to California, to see if the climate would help their arthritis. My Mother, Eva was a homemaker, and she worked on the farm as much as anyone.

That fall, my brother Lovern & I got chicken pox, and scarlet fever. Then I got an ear infection and had a mastoid. A doctor from Denver came to operate on my mastoid. My Grandmother was in the operating room with me at the time, because my mom couldn't stand to see her son being operated on. I was four years old at the time. My grandmother told me that somehow the doctor had to chip the bone behind my ear to get to the mastoid. After the operation, it weakened the hearing in my left ear, and overloaded my right ear.

When I started the first grade, the teacher put me in the back of the class, as I was a dummy (because I could not hear well). One time at recess I was busy doing something and the teacher asked me if I wasn't going out to play, as all the children were out of the room. There were 16 girls, and 10 boys in class. There were 6 to 8 girls that would really tease me because I could not hear well. So I pulled my self into a shell as far as girls were concerned. Away from school, my 2 girl cousins, Lucille and Lily did not make any difference, as they did not tease me.

When I was 5 years old, Mom would tell my brother and me when it was noon or quitting time, and we would run out to the field where Dad was cultivating. Heck, Dad could have hung the lines on the hames and the team would have come to the barn by themselves. But he let me drive them back to the barn, and boy! I was really somebody driving that team. When I was 6 years old at beet harvest, Dad had to hook 4 horses on the wagon to take the beets to the railroad station where there was the beet dump. They could pull the wagon up on the dump and unload the beets into railroad cars, or put the beets into a big pile. Dad hooked 2 horses on the wagon, and 2 horses ahead. When he was loading the wagon with a beet fork, I could grab 2 beets by hand and throw on the wagon. Dad said I could almost throw as many beets on the wagon by hand as he could with a fork. Dad would let my brother & I go to the beet station and when we pulled by the beet pile, Lovern and I could throw beets off faster than Dad would shovel off the beets. After we were unloaded and across the scales and out on the road, Dad would let me drive the 4 horses and I could drive them clear into the field to where we would start to loading the beets.

When I was 8 years old, in the Fall 1929, my Grandparents came back from California to take over and farm the next spring. Grandpa had a big Elgin pocket watch, and some nights he would take the watch out and have me keep moving back to see how far he could hear the watch, and I would get about 4 feet from him, when he could not hear with either ear. Grandpa was hard of hearing also. One time he said let's see how far you can hear the watch, and I could only hear it half as far as Grandpa could hear it.

The spring of 1930 we moved to the farm with 160 acres, 5 miles southwest of Snyder on Wildcat. I finished the 3rd grade in a 2-room schoolhouse and from the 4th through 8th grade in a 1-room school. From the 5th grade on, I was the only one in my grade although there were at least 30 other kids in the schoolhouse.

In 1929 I drove 2 horses cultivating the field; in 1930 I drove 3 horses; and in 1931 I drove 4 horses; then 6; and then 8 horses after that.

When I started the 9th grade, I went back to the Snyder High School and the same girls would tease me that did in the first grade, but my cousins would tell me what they were saying, so that really helped. In the 10th grade Dad had Muscular Arthritis and got so he could not raise his hands above his waist. We had to help him put on his clothes and feed him. They sent him to the VA Hospital in Cheyenne Wyoming for 8 months before he could raise his arms over his head and start shaving himself, etc. I had to stop going to school and start farming full time. I had all the fields planted when Dad got to come home on a two week furlough after he had been in the hospital for a month. I showed him all the fields I had planted. Dad asked me, "Who told you how to plant the fields?" I said, "Nobody, I just watched how you did it." Later Dad told Mom, "We don't have to worry about the place. Vere has planted the fields like I would have". I finished the tenth grade by going to the Superintendent's house 3 nights a week. The next school year that Superintendent got a job with a small college, and he told the new Superintendent that I had to do the farming. And he asked him to give me night classes for 2 hours, 3 times a week.

The new Superintendent told me I had to go to school. I asked 3 of the teachers if they would let me take night classes and they said no, but one teacher said maybe 1 night a week, but I would have had to go 9 miles to her place. One teacher, who taught the 11th and 12th grades, lived in Brush, 11 miles from me so I didn't ask her. When my brother Lovern started the 11th grade the teacher asked him why I didn't come to school? He told her I had to work on the farm. She said she would have taught me at night, but by that time I was out of school for 2 years. But when Lovern would bring his books home, I would study them. He also brought books home from the Library for me. In later years, I had to take an IQ test at Camp Barkley. They asked me how far I went in college. I told them that I had completed 10th grade. They said I had scored at the 2 year college level. They were looking for officers at the time.

During the Depression years from 1930 on, money was really scarce on the farms but we never went hungry. We had 75 chickens to lay eggs, 17 to 18 turkeys that would raise over 200 more turkeys, and about 15 pigs that would also raise over 200 pigs. We would sell the turkeys and pigs. I can not remember how much money we got from the sales but at the time the prices were cheap. We got our milk cow herd up to where we would milk 12 to 14 cows, we took the cream and the eggs to town every Saturday and sold them to buy what staples we needed. We would butcher 3 or 4 pigs and there was always a calf growing up to butcher. Also, we had 12 working horses and raised enough feed for all the animals. We raised corn, grain, alfalfa hay and cane - also about 20 acres of sugar beets. We always had a big garden, and when we plowed the fields we plowed the garden. Mom always made sure we planted enough seeds to have enough to can vegetables to last all winter 'till the next spring. The peas would come on first, then string beans. The reason they were called string beans we had to have a string from the ground up 5 feet to a wire above the row so the bean vine could grow up the string and not on the ground. Mom would can plenty of cut string beans and sweet corn. Carrots we buried in the sand in the corner of the cellar and we kept sacks of potatoes there as well. We also raised tomatoes to can and had tomato preserves to last all winter.


At Christmas time when I was 11 years old Lovern and I got leather belts and boy, I had the world by the tail. The next year we got pocketknives and I had that knife 'till I got wounded the last time - after October 31,1944. When they moved me from one hospital to another hospital I was in PJs and then is when I lost the knife.

Photo Courtesy of the Yuma Museum PO Box 454
Yuma, Colorado 80759

I joined the Colorado National Guard, the 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Division, "CO L" at Brush, Colorado. Before I was 18 years old in the fall of 1938. We would go to the Armory every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. for 1 ½ hour for training. Once in a while we would go to the Armory on Saturday to do maneuvers in the field.

Every 3 months we would get $12.00 - I gave most of mine to Mom and Dad. When we would march in the Armory or on the street I was always out of step. I could not figure out why, 'till a tall sergeant, (he was 6 ft 4 in. and at that time I was 5 ft 10 in) showed me that I was taking too large a step. The marching pace is a 30-inch step and I had a 32-inch step. There was another man, Roy, who was 6 ft 2 in, but he had a real long body and short legs. He could not keep his shirttail in his pants and he took 28-inch steps. He was also always out of step and the Sergeant showed us how to take the 30-inch step. When I was 20 years old, I was 6 feet tall and weighed 175 pounds and wore size 12 shoe. Sergeant wore size 9 shoe and weighed 170 pounds.


In the summer of 1939, the "L CO" got on the train at Brush and went to Denver to Camp George West, a National Guard training camp. We got off the train into our company area, and were assigned to our tents and bunks. Another man and I were going up to the company Command Post (CP).

As we walked by the supply tent the Supply Sergeant had a 6x6 ft box he wanted in the supply tent, and the 2 men could not pick it up so the sergeant asked for help. Joe and I stopped to help them. The sergeant said, "When I say lift, lift", so when he said, "Lift!", my side of the box was all that come up. Heck, I was a strong farm boy and was always pitching hay or shoveling or other hard work-like driving 6 to 8 head of horses. The Sergeant said, "Boy, you are a Tarzan!" and the nickname stayed with me all through my Army time. My buddies still call me Tarzan. Another time that this nickname was put to use was when we were in Camp Barkeley, Texas for 9 months. There were 6 men in each tent. The 6 cooks were in the tent next to the Kitchen Mess Hall and I was in charge of the next tent. Julio worked in the Kitchen all the time and he was in charge of the KPs. At mail call the Company Clerk would come out in the Company Street, (the company at full strength was over 220 men, I can't remember the exact amount any more) and they just wanted 1 or 2 men from each tent to come get the mail. Julio started out the door and I told him to get my mail, he said OK. He came back in saying we didn't get any letters and I said, "OK". Later when a man named Chris, who was in the next tent, and was in my section came in saying, "Here's a letter for you Tarzan". Julio said, "I didn't hear Tarzan called", and Chris said, "His name is not Tarzan!", Julio grabbed the letter out of my hand and I had to tell him what my name was.

At Camp George West we went on maneuver, hikes and firing ranges, we fired on the 200 and 300 yard ranges and I made Expert Rifleman. One afternoon we were on the 1000 inch range (that is just over 82 feet), I could fire a clip of 5 shells in the target and it would look like I fired, one shot. I had a lot of experience in shooting before I went into the National Guard. On the farm we had two .22 rifles and would go out hunting rabbits and magpies (birds).

Lovern always said I was a dare devil, but both of my brothers and my sister would always go along with what I would do. Many times 6, 7 or 8 of us boys would buy a box or two of .22 shells for 10 to 15 cents a box and get on a stripped down model T Ford. We would go out to the sand hills where there were a lot of rabbits. For every shell we fired, we got a rabbit. The man at the service station where we bought gas would give us 5 cents apiece for the rabbits. He probably got 10 cents a piece for each rabbit as it was used for Fox and Mink food.

The stripped down Fords we used were the Model T's that would quit running. When the family would get another car, then us kids would get the car that no longer ran. Two of the kids lived in town and had garages so we would take the car there and tear into the motor. Most of the time the rod would be burnt out and we would put a piece of bacon rind around the crankshaft and clamp the rod to the crankshaft and away we could go. For tires we put on the old truck tires without any tubes and that made a good sand dune buggy. Some times when we came to town 3 of the boys had striped down buggies, and we would get together to go out on the sand hills to play with the cars. Two of the boys always wanted me to drive their car. This one time I was driving one car and the wind had blown out the sand from a cut in the small hill. It had piled the sand about 2 feet high and about 8 to 10 feet long, and where the sand blew out it was down about 3 feet. I was driving as fast as the car could go in the sand, and ran over the sand drift. When the back wheels went over the drift it threw the 8 kids up into the air, I drove out from under them and they fell in the soft sand. I had to turn around and pick them up. There were 4 boys and 4 girls on the car.

When I was 12, we started going to the Farmer Union meeting at the town hall once a month. After the meeting, they would have Square dances. Dad would call each dance and my Aunt Peggy taught me how to Square dance. After that I really loved to dance. I never did see Mom on the dance floor and I think that is the reason Dad never danced. Several of the girls from school came to the meeting and they would ask me to dance. I would dance every square with the girls. I never dated any of the girls but I liked all of them, but with the 6 girls teasing me in the lower grades I would not date. Lovern never dated any girls as long as I was with him - I guess because I would not date any. Rachel and Vivian teased me the most. Rita, Lela, Laura, Annamae, and Jean would not tease me. I can't remember the Garrett or Ray girl's names or the 2 sisters that were in my grade. There was also Theresa and Margaret. Their dad farmed one mile north of Snyder. They didn't tease me and were good dancers. Theresa's birthday was the 1st part of January and Margaret the last part of December close to my birthday.

3rd Army Maneuvers, 1940. Photo provided by Jackson Barracks Military Library

In 1940 the 157th Infantry Regiment loaded on trains and went to the Camp Polk, Louisiana area (it's Fort Polk now). We maneuvered for three weeks. We were assigned red or blue ribbons and maneuvered against each other. I never heard which Division won the team battles. Each Rifleman had blank shells so the Umpires could tell which side had the most firepower. I would get small rocks that fit in shell casing and put a gum wrapper paper to hold the rock and powder in the shell casings. Then when a rabbit would jump up I would fire at the rabbit and knock it over but not kill it. We lived in our pup tents all the time. We came back to Brush and were home 'till September 16, 1940 when the National Guard was mobilized into Regular Army. We stayed in the Armory for 10 days and on Saturday, 10 of us men went to Snyder and everybody was there for the going away. When the girls went to hugging and kissing me that's when I started to pull out of the shell I put myself into.

Post card 45th Division Fort Sill, Oklahoma

We got on the train and went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma (10 miles from Lawton, OK), an artillery training camp. As the train pulled into camp, . . . there was 3 story brick barracks. Boy, that will be good to live in! The train kept moving. . .We went by a two story wooden barracks - that will also nice to live in! The train kept moving . . . on the other side of the tracks were warehouses (that would have worked as good barracks! . . . The train stopped and we got off and were looking to go to the barracks. There were officers and men to take us to our areas. Where did they take us?. . . When we started moving, we went in front of the train engine, then out into a big open field with grass knee high and chiggers!, [(Chiggers are small bugs that get through your clothes and bite). Some people say the chigger will burrow into the skin, I never saw a chigger, but when they bit me there was a big red spot. I am allergic to them. While we were in Texas, I had to go to the hospital 3 times with chigger bites. We were on maneuvers for 4 to 6 days and could not take our clothes off. My pant legs would rub the red bites and make water blisters; then the blisters would break and cause infection.]

M-1934 Pyramid tent

There were stakes for each Company in the 3rd Battalion and for each tent in the company. There were 6 men assigned to each Pyramid tent and canvas bunks for each man. We had to put up the tents for the company CP (Command Post). the two tents for the supply sergeant, the cook tent and the kitchen tents. The cooks were setting up the stoves to get our supper. We also had to dig a latrine trench to use for several days just like when we were in maneuvers out in the field.

The next day we had to dig a 4x16 ft long trench 6 feet deep. Then the carpenters came to make a 2 ft high bench and put a 6 inch board on top so you could sit on the board to go to the bathroom. About a week after the bench was built, we put up a 6-ft high canvas all the way around it, but didn't have anything over the top to keep the rain out.

One day, when it was raining, a man had to go to the Latrine. He didn't want to sit on the wet board so he stood up on the board with his muddy shoes, took his pants down and squatted down, but he lost his balance and fell into the pit on his back, in the shit. (Heck, shit is a good word for it!) He went to hollering and we ran to see what was wrong. We found him lying on his back in the pit. He wanted someone to get in the pit to help him stand up. The sergeant that came to see what was going on said he had to go and he took his pants down and set right over Mac's head and it didn't take him long to stand up. The sergeant got up also. We helped him out then had to get 5 buckets of water for him to get cleaned up and to clean the bench also. Later, whenever he would go to the latrine, everyone would call out. "Watch out Mac so you don't fall in."

We started right in with our training. The construction crews were building the Regimental and Battalion Headquarters before they got to build the company kitchen, mess halls and bathhouses.
When the infirmary was built, the company went through the infirmary to get Small Pox, Tetanus and Yellow Fever shots.

When "L CO" went in to get the shots, we stripped off our shirts and left them on the ground in front of us. Then we went in the front door into the 2nd door and 2 medics put alcohol on both arms. Then I went up to where the doctor put the Small Pox serum on my arm. He was scratching the skin when something hit my left arm and hit the bone. I felt the jolt in every bone in my body (even my teeth!). I fell over against the doctor and he thought that I had passed out. He tried to catch me, but I knocked him over also. Then we fell against a tray full of glass and knocked it over and there was broken glass everywhere. I looked at my arm and there was a full hypodermic syringe sticking straight up from my arm, with enough serum for 10 men. A big woman nurse was astride of me reaching for the syringe, when the doctor said, "Get the hell off of us so we can get up". I got up and helped the doctor up as he was on his back and there was broken glass everywhere. The nurse tried to push the serum into my arm but none would go in. So she went to pull the syringe out and the needle stayed in my arm. The doctor had a hard time pulling it out. The nurse put the same needle back on the syringe and really hit my arm with it again! It felt like she was trying to push a ten-penny nail in my arm. She could not push out any serum, so she had to pull the needle out again and this time there was some of my muscle on the end of the needle where the point was turned up like a hook where it hit the bone. She had to get another needle. I asked the nurse if she thought I was a pincushion? The man behind me said the nurse filled the syringe and walked up to me and threw the syringe like a dart.

Then the construction started on the water and sewer lines and it was really hard to get around, as trenches were everywhere for 2 months. I was a Corporal when we went to Fort Sill, OK, so I was in charge of a tent.

By November 1940, the kitchen, mess hall and latrines were built. The last of November it was getting cold so they issued the Old Sibley stoves to each tent. The stove looks like a big funnel turned upside down. It stood 3 feet tall and had a 4 x 6-inch door to put the fuel in, and on the bottom was a 1-inch half circle to let air in the stove. We had to keep the ashes away from the opening or the stove could not get any air for the fire. We had to raise the stove every 3 to 4 days to take the ashes out or the fire would not burn.

The men in the tent next to mine let their fire go out during the night. One of the men found a big cardboard box and took it in the tent so when they woke up cold they tore up the box and put it in the stove, lit the paper and then went back to bed. When the cardboard really got to burning, sparks went flying out of the stovepipe and the sparks blew over onto my tent. When I woke up the whole top of the tent and one side was burning. I jumped up, woke up the men and moved the 2 bunks where the side was burning. We got the fire out - I thought!! There was still small sparks coming out of their tent so I woke the man in charge of the tent and asked what he had done. He said, "Nothing." I said, "Your stove is sure hot!" We were afraid our tent would fall over so we took it down, folded it up and tied the ropes around the bundle. We went in another tent and slept on the floor 'till morning.

At reveille we jumped up and got in line and of course the Company Commander had to say something, then we ate breakfast. By that time it was getting daylight. We went to the supply sergeant to get another tent and then we saw smoke coming up from the tent we had taken down. So I untied the ropes around the bundle and I could feel the heat so I raised the top layer and it busted into flames.

Our equipment was WWI vintage, the trucks were 1928 2x4 Chevys, I think. Our helmets and leggings were from WWI. The leggings were made out of torn 2-inch strips of army blanket with a 1-inch strip 3-foot long sewed on the end. We would wrap the 2-inch strip around the calf of our leg to our ankle and with the 1-inch strip, we would slip the end under the last wrap to hold the strap tight on our ankles. Our rifles were 1903 Springfield Bolt action and when the rifle was shot it would really kick. Talk about rifles! We went out to the Rifle Range to fire the rifles 3 different times.

When we were at Camp George West, I learned to take a bath towel and fold it, put it under my field jacket on my shoulder to absorb the shock from the gun. I would have all my men in my squad and platoon take their towels and do the same. By noon the men, who were without towels or padding, would have sore shoulders. They could not shoot without flinching and would stop firing their Rifles. So, I went up on the line and started firing on 2 targets, then 3 and it wasn't long before I was firing on 5 targets. I noticed my barrel getting hot. When I fired that time I missed all 5 targets. (Pretty unusual for me.) I put another clip of 5 shells and fired 3 rounds, when my partner said, "I saw the bullet land about 200 feet in front of us". I lowered my rifle down, fired again and the bullet landed 50 feet in front if us. On the 5th round my partner said I could fire his rifle. So I let my rifle cool and went to firing his. When I was cleaning my rifle I looked in the barrel and found that I had burnt the rifling (groves that turned in the barrel to make the shell turn to travel straight) out of the barrel. The next morning I got another rifle.

The reservation had a small creek running through it and there were Pecan Trees along the banks. When the nuts started to fall my cousin, Gordon, and I went to the creek and picked up about 20 pounds of the nuts and took them back into camp. All that week, most of my platoon enjoyed the nuts. The next time we went to the creek 10 men came with us and we took more pecans back.

On the first of January 1941 the first men were coming to the 45th Division for one year training. The Headquarters, Medical and Service (the truck drivers) Companies did not want to have to train the new men so they got men from the Rifle Company to do the training.

My cousin and I were transferred into the medics, my cousin was a PFC. and I was a Corporal. The Division was preparing to move to Camp Barkeley, Texas close to Abilene. The service company did not have enough trucks to move the whole Regiment, so the service company took all their equipment and headquarters to Camp Barkeley. Then they came and got 6 companies and 2/3 of the medics.

The medical detachment did not know anything about Army Regulations. We had to show them how to make beds, march, etc. We also had to teach them things they should have known as medics, such as rolling bandages, & general field medical information, etc. The first thing I did when we got settled was to show the men how to make their bunks. It took half the day to get them to make the beds to my specifications. Later if any one's bed was not made right, I would pull off the blankets and pile them on top of the bed. One man would not make his bed. I piled his covers off the bed. The next morning his bed was not fixed, so I piled his covers off, and even took the mattress off the bed and told him if he did not make his bed tomorrow, I would take all of his bedding and he would have to sleep on the bed springs. He made his bed after that. We would have Reveille at 6:00 a.m. every morning, the first morning at Barkeley six men in the tent next to mine did not come out. I told the sergeant "Give me one minute!" I went in their tent and flipped 5 bunks over on top of them. The 6th man jumped out of bed and I told the men to get their asses out on the line by the time I got there or I would report them as absent. Boy did you ever see men scramble out from under the beds! They grabbed their shoes and overcoats and when I got up to the line, here came the six men running. The next morning I just had to rack one man.

On Saturday morning there was a Regiment Parade. We were all ready to go out on the parade ground and Captain Combs, a dentist in charge of the medics, said we didn't have to go on the parade, and I said everybody has to go. Combs said, "We are not going." I said, "Call Regiment." He did and he came back saying "I guess you are right." The men in the Medics were like new recruits as they did not know how to march and neither did Combs. When we got on the parade ground and it was our turn to pass in review, as we came up to the reviewing stand, I told Combs to salute and he growled at me, "You don't know what you are talking about". I gave the command "Eyes right" and saluted as we passed the stand, Colonel Ankcorn and two majors were laughing at the way the men were walking. When we got to the Company area I got my Soldier's Handbook and showed Combs he was supposed to salute when we passed the reviewing stand. Combs started to say it was not necessary, when Major Hart said he needed to salute all higher officers and said, "By the way you need to salute me". Major Hart was in charge of the all the medics, and had been in the Army before during WWII.

There were three captains that were doctors, one for each Battalion. Monday morning I had to work at the Infirmary, but the other two corporals started the men marching. The next day I was on the line with them marching. After 3 days, the men were complaining their feet hurt, and that we were working them too hard. So I told them let's talk with Combs, and he said they didn't have to march. Major Hart was at his desk and he jumped up saying, "these men are medics and first-aid men but they are not soldiers 'till they know how to march. You leave the three corporals alone, and they will have the men in the Medical Detachment 'fighting first-aid men'." We kept marching and the men kept saying their feet hurt. I asked if they changed their socks and they said yes. About 2 weeks later we went on a 10-mile hike and over half of the men had blisters on their feet. I asked what size shoes did they wear, one man said 8 ½ but his feet looked bigger. That evening when all my men got back to the Company area I asked each man what size his feet were and what size his shoes were. Most of the men had shoes one size smaller and a few 1 ½, and one man had 2 sizes smaller. I went to the supply tent and got the shoe last and measured everyone. The next morning we went to the supply sergeant to get shoes the right size. The men had tried to see who could wear the smaller size shoe! I still can't understand why they did that!

The last part of March or first of April 1941, we were on the Parade Grounds again and Combs gave the order "Go Right". I gave the order "Column Right", Combs saw me step forward with my left foot and turn with my right foot. He yelled at me "Corporal Williams you started off with your right foot first." I didn't say anything until we got back to the Company area and got my book again and showed him all movement started with the left foot. Combs said, "You started off with your right foot." That's when we three corporals went to Major Hart to see if he could get another officer in charge of the medics. He told us to go to Regiment Headquarters and see Colonel Ankcorn and he said he would see about it. Three days later Combs broke all three of us corporals and the all of the PFCs that had been transferred into the medics, out to other Companies and I was put in "K CO". My cousin went to "F CO". I was put in the 3rd Platoon and was a yard bird; it took me 6 weeks before I made PFC. I tried to transfer back in to "CO L" but the captain and three lieutenants were transferred out and the new captain would not say yes. "K" Company's aide said he could not transfer me this soon.

Colonel Ankcorn called me to his CP (Command Post) along with the other two corporals that were transferred out of the medics. He said he had a lieutenant for the medics and wanted to know if we wanted transferred back in the medics. The men from the medics that came were Captain Coombs, the First Sergeant, the Company Clerk, and even the Supply Sergeant (he talked like Donald Duck when you could hear what he was saying), 3 sergeants, and 3 acting corporals. One of the sergeants was getting promoted and that's the position I wanted. The medics really set up a big howl when I said I wanted to be sergeant, and the other two men said they wanted to be corporals and work up to sergeant. I told Colonel Ankcorn that it would be a fight the whole time we would be in the medics. The Colonel kept us outside 'till the medics had left. Then he had us come in and he talked to us saying that he could keep the fighting to a minimum and he would make sure that we were sergeant and corporals, but he could also see our point about the fights. I had to go to the Infirmary for some reason and I got to talking with the men in the medics. They said they were really glad when we corporals were busted and transferred out of the medics but the new lieutenant was just as hard on them as we were.

When we moved to Camp Barkeley everything was built. The tents had wooden frames with plywood sides 4 foot high and screen 3 feet higher and the sides of the tent would come down below the screen and fasten on the sides of the plywood. Each tent had a gas stove - boy we were really up town!

The Regiment started getting the new 1½ ton 4x4 trucks with the front wheels having power also if needed (Actually front wheel drive). We got ¾ ton pickups, then later the ¼ ton jeeps. The Division sent down orders that there was a 1½ ton rating on the truck, and that 1½ tons was all the truck could handle - even though the truck really could handle 6 to 8 tons. When the 2½ ton 6 x 6 trucks came in, the rating said they could only handle 2½ tons, and they could really handle 15 tons - but that's the Army for you. Overseas the trucks held 15 tons or more.

We got to taking longer hikes and got to making 30 to 35 miles a day with full field packs. Later they sent down orders to carry an extra pair of shoes. We went on 2 to 5 day maneuvers and to the firing range. In August, the Division was issued the new M1 Rifle, a recoil Rifle that held 8 shells in a clip (with the recoil the Rifle would not kick). The Platoon Sergeant gave me the BAR Browning automatic rifle - the clip held 20 rounds. You could hold the trigger down and fire all 20 shells. I could take down and put back together both the BAR and the M-1 Rifles. I made Expert Marksman on both rifles.

The 45th Division would maneuver against the 36th Division, a Texas National Guard unit. We were part of the 8th Army. We would go close to Camp Bowie in Texas to maneuver for two weeks against the 36th Division two different times. We went in to the town of Brownwood. The 36th Division men said that Brownwood was "our town" and for us "to make sure we got out of it". We told them they had to show us that it was their town. Later they left with their tails between their legs. We really showed them.

Entrance to Camp Polk Louisiana in 1941.
Photo Credit: Rickey Robertson Collection

In the summer of 1941 the 45th Division and the 36th Division went to western Louisiana for a 2-month maneuver. One Army against the other. For 2 days we were maneuvering against the Cavalry, and the 3rd morning we got an early start and moved about 3 miles. We came up on the Cavalry and they had their horses staked out. They said they had to let their horses rest. We told them to get on their horses and get out of here. They rode off and we never saw them again. We were the Blue Army the other was the Red. We were in a sham battle and the umpires said that 8 of us were captured. So two Reds walked us back about 10 to 15 miles and the guard left us out in the open. I don't know where they went, so I said "Let's start back". It was getting late, and we came up to a kitchen and told the cooks we were from some Infantry. They said, "Yes, they are up ahead of us". They fed us and we got a good night's sleep.

Next morning, we ate breakfast and then headed out for the front lines. We never met any Red soldiers and when we heard gunfire to our left, we took off our red ribbons and put on the blue ones. (We had been issued both colors.) We came up to the Blue Army and it was the 36th Division that was beside the 45th Division. We were taken to the 36th Division and gave the information we had, then we went to the 45th Division with the information. The 45th Division made the next move we told them about and got the credit of taking part of the information that we told them about.

During this same time, I was on the water detail with a truckload of empty water cans. When the driver came up to the water station, there were 12 trucks waiting. The driver said, "I know where we can go to get a load of water". We went about 4 miles south and 2 miles east and a guard stopped us. The driver said where he was going, and the guard let us go on. We stopped to take off the blue ribbons and put on red ones then went to the red water station where there was only 1 truck ahead of us. The driver said he was some Regiment from the Red Army that we had seen on the way to the station. They wrote it down, we got the water and came back. We went by the first water station and there were still 9 trucks waiting. I never did know which Army won that war.

Once we were camped beside a river for 2 days and some men went swimming. There were cottonmouth water moccasin snakes swimming in the water also. Four of us were standing in the grass when I saw a 6 foot Green Racer snake. One man said, "Watch this" and he started running. The snake went after him, then he stopped and chased the snake. They went back and forth about 4 times before the snake crawled off.

The 45th Division went to Camp Bullis Texas close to San Antonio. The Cedar trees grew in clumps of four to nine trees. The needles that fell off the trees would be up to a foot deep and it was like flopping down on a mattress. We were infiltrating through the area. I jumped up and ran 100 feet and dropped down. Covey ran up and dropped down too, but he bounced right back up and turned white as a sheet. I jumped up and ran over to Covey and said, "Something is wrong with Covey". When I got beside him all he could say was "sssss--nn--ake!" I had to move to where I could see 2 big coils of a rattlesnake. A man in my squad, Brad, asked if any one had a loaded Rifle. I had shell casings with rocks in them so I gave him my weapon. He held the end of the barrel right next to the snake's head and pulled the trigger and blew the snake's head off. Then he reached down and picked up the snake.

The jeep was ready to take any heavy equipment in to camp. Melvin, the jeep driver, said to put a handle on the snake so Brad found some wire to put around the 2 coils of the snake. Melvin took the snake to camp. Cliff, our cook, asked Brad what he was going to do with the snake. He said skin it and send the hide to his brother in St. Louis, MO. The skin was 7 ft. long. Cliff said, "Help me dress it out. I will put it in salt water over night, cut the snake into steaks, then fry them, and feed it to the men". Boy! Now I could find out what rattlesnake will taste like.

The next evening when we came in we always checked the bulletin board because there was always details for KP and Regiment detail, like going with the trucks to different places to pick up supplies for the companies. Then there is guard duty every 13 days and here I was, on guard duty and had to hurry to get ready. I caught the first guard shift. The other 2 squads got to go to supper but we had to wait 'till after our shift at 2000 hrs to come and eat. Cliff had something fixed for us saying "I tried to keep some steaks for you boys but those hogs had to eat all of them up."

Right after that the Regiment was issued the M1 Rifles and I got the BAR. Then for a month it was to the firing range or the simulated city streets.

At Camp Bullis the wood ticks were so bad in the spring that when we would fall on the cedar needles the ticks would crawl on us. Every evening we would have to strip all our clothes off - even our shoes and socks looking for ticks. We would need some one to look at our backs also. One evening I had 63 ticks on me! One man went to sleep on the needles and when he woke up he brushed the ticks off his clothes, but that evening 4 men picked 254 ticks off him! They were in his hair and even under the foreskin in his penis. If you missed any ticks and they swelled with blood, the medics had Witch Hazel to put on the tick and it would back out.

When we got the new canvas leggings we did not need the old wrap leggings. Three different times when we were on maneuvers, I could not take off my leggings, and every time I got a chigger bite it would raise a red welt, then a water blister would form and with the leggings rubbing they would break and cause infection. I had to get to the Hospital once just before we left Camp Bullis and another time when we went to San Angelo, Texas for two weeks maneuvers with a tank Battalion.

In the evening the Lighting Bugs or Flies (they are called Lighting Bugs because at night they give off a light like a florescent light) would come out. I don't know where we accumulated the glass jars and bottles - maybe the soldiers ahead of us left them, but we would catch as many bugs as we could - 6 to 12 bugs - and we would have light in our pup tents. The bugs put out enough light that I could see to write a letter home. As soon as we would go to sleep we would pour the bugs out of the jar so we could get them again the next night.

We went out on two over night maneuvers and I got a good case of chiggers and I started getting blisters and took off my leggings and put them in my pack. We went by a major & he stopped me because I did not have my leggings on. I told him about the chigger bites, and he said, "Let me see." So I pulled up both pant legs, when he saw the blisters, the major pulled me back and we went to his jeep. He told the driver to take me to the hospital to see some doctor. So here I went to the hospital in the major's Jeep. When I was discharged from the hospital a truck driver from the 157th Regiment asked me if I was Vere Williams and I said yes. He said, "Come on, I came to get you". He had a 6 x 6 truck and I got to ride in the cab. Most of the time when we rode on the trucks we would have to sit on wooden benches along the sides of the truck box.
While we were in Western Louisiana, we had to wash the glue off the envelopes and stamps, as the humidity was so high that the envelopes would seal shut and the stamps stuck together. So, we would buy a bottle of glue to seal the envelopes and stamps. This was also the case at San Antonio that spring.

When we went on maneuvers with the 36th Division at Camp Bowie we went in some tall grass and I got the chiggers but I waited 'till we got back to Camp Barkeley then I went in the Hospital with the chigger bites.

I never went out much with girls at Abilene, but there was a Christian College there. Four of us buddies in "K Co." would go to town but we never looked for girls. I had a buddy, Cully, in "L CO" that really had a line of bull with the girls, but I never did see him keep a girl long. I think the longest he kept a girl was a month. He would be out of money and would come to me and say, "Tarzan, I have a real nice girl I want you to meet". Every time Culley would want me to go to town, I had to pay the way. He would have 2 girls there, but with the line of bull Culley would put out, I could tell the girls were ready to drop him. Culley talked in his sleep. When I was in "L CO" he was in my tent so when he got to talking, we would ask him questions. He would tell us everything, as long as we did not call his name he wouldn't wake up. I did like one girl, and she was fond of me, but she'd had an uncle killed in WWI and when we left Camp Barkeley, she went to dating a man in college.

Mortar, 60mm, M19
M1919A4 .30 Caliber Air Cooled Machine Gun

In October 1941, the Rifle Company made up the Weapons Platoon with 3-60 MM mortars and 21 men, 7 men to the squad, and two .30 caliber air cooled machine guns with 14 men- also 7 men to the squad. I was put in the machine gun squad as the second gunmen. The second gunman had to load the belt in the machine gun, watch that all the shells in the belt were even, (if one shell was pulled out even ½-inch it could not feed into the gun), and also have another belt ready when the 250 rounds were fired in each belt.

Mel Browne was the First Gunner. When we would go out on the firing range and with the machine guns, the target was at 1,000 inches, which is 82 feet 4 inches. There were 22 one inch squares on the target and we got 66 shells in the belt and were supposed to put 3 rounds in each square. Most of the time, Mel could hit the squares that ran up and down or straight cross, but he would fire from 5 to 7 rounds in each square, so he would run out of shells about ½ way through the target and with luck he would get a score of 55 - 60.

I would make expert with a score of 98 to 100. One time Mel was on KP, and the way he could suck ass, he got the first cook to put him as a second cook, so I was moved up to first gunner. Mel loved to eat, and when he gained up to 260 pounds, he would come back out on the line. There in Texas we would go on hikes a lot. One time we went on a forced march with full field packs, and in 24 hours we covered 54 miles. On that march, we did running as well as marching for over 36 miles. Mel lost 26 pounds. As soon as he would lose down to 175 pounds he would go back in to the kitchen.

On December 7, 1941 when the Japs hit Pearl Harbor I was on guard. It was Sunday night and I was on the first guard squad. I had to walk around the motor pool where all the trucks, ¾ tons, and the jeeps were parked at night, along with the civilian cars that some of the boys had. The motor pool was 3 blocks long and 1 block wide. The corporal of the first squad was bucking to make sergeant and he didn't like the men in the weapons platoon as we carried pistols.

I was walking from midnight 'till 0200, and the corporal came some time after 0100. He did not see me. The motor pool did not have any lights and I was on the far side. The corporal went back to the guardhouse and got another man, while I had walked around the motor pool. He had him walking back and forth on the 1 block length, so when I came around - here a man came meeting me. I challenged him. He said that the corporal got him to walk the guard because I was sleeping while on guard. I told him to get the corporal. He went to the guardhouse and here came the lieutenant with the corporal. The lieutenant said, "The Corporal said you were sleeping on guard, and we are taking you back and locking you up." The corporal started to take my pistol and I stopped him. The lieutenant said, "You better give the corporal your pistol or you will be charged for not surrendering your weapon."

They locked me in this room with nothing in it to sit on, so I had to sit on the floor. On weekends we were on guard 24 hours, but on weekdays the guards would walk from 1800 hours to 0600 hours, so we walked for 12 hours. The guard that replaced me finished the shift and went back to the company. Sleeping on guard duty was a serious offense which resulted in court martial. Well, I didn't get to eat breakfast. The court-martial was in the same building as the one the guards stayed in. Three majors were hearing the court-martial cases and did not get to me 'till after dinner.

When they came and got me, one of the majors said "The corporal reported you were sleeping on guard. What do you have to say for yourself?" I said, "I was walking around the Motor Pool, and I never did see the corporal 'till after I had challenged the man that he put on my post. The replacement had gotten the corporal and lieutenant." The majors had the orders of each post and said, "You have to take 10 minutes to walk around the motor pool if you walk fast, as you have to walk 8 blocks." I said, "That's right."

The majors wanted to talk to the corporal and lieutenant but they were out in the field so a sergeant went in a jeep and got them. When they got back to the court martial room they saw me. The majors asked, "What happened?" The lieutenant said, "The corporal reported Private Williams sleeping on guard." The major asked the corporal how long he waited and he said, "Well, I didn't have all night." The Major said, "How many minutes?" The corporal said, "2 or maybe 3 minutes." The major asked, "Have you read the rules on walking the post?", and they said, "Yes." The Major said "How long would it take to walk the post?" and the corporal said, "2 to 3 minutes." "Where is the man supposed to walk, Corporal?" "Just up and back on the 1 block side." The Major said "You never even read the rule book. The guard has to walk all the way around the motor pool."

The corporal and lieutenant really looked at each other and the majors gave them orders to memorize the rules for all the posts and come back in the next court-martial date. I said "I want my pistol before I leave here". The major told the corporal to "Bring his pistol here, I want to see it." The same sergeant took them back to the company and said it took the corporal 10 minutes to get my pistol. The corporal gave my pistol to the major and he inspected it and said it was all right and gave me the pistol and, told the corporal and the lieutenant that they had to know the rules word for word. As we were walking to the company I told the corporal that if I was ever on guard with him again, he would wake up with a knot on his head.

In March, I was on guard duty again, and so was the corporal. He really looked to see what squad I was in, and I was in the 2nd Squad. So when we got to the guardhouse, I changed with his last man, and he did not notice 'till we were at the motor pool again. When he saw me he turned white as a sheet and stammered that I was supposed to be in the 2nd squad. I just said "OK". When the corporal was supposed to come around in 1 hour, the corporal of the 2nd Squad, Jack, came, and I asked him why he was on this first squad. He said the corporal (I cannot remember that corporal's name) begged him to take his place. So I told him, "That the corporal said I was sleeping on guard and I said he would wake up with a knot on his head". Jack said, "That's the reason he was so scared." At 0200 when we changed guards, I told the guard that was supposed to relive me to go back with my squad, and I would walk in his place. The corporal didn't notice that it was me and it was dark. They had flashlights and when they got back to the guard house, the men laid down on the bunks. Soon the corporal saw I was not with the men. He tried to get both corporals to change with him and they would not do it.

At 0300 hours I was watching for the corporal to come. I could see Post #8 and I could see him with his light, but he sure did not come to Post #9, the Motor Pool. When I got in the guard house at 0400 hours, I asked the him why he didn't check Post #9. He said, "Oh, I did. Just ask the men." "The man at #8 said, "You checked my post, but then went back to the guard house." The next morning he was at the Company Commander asking to get transferred out of the Company. Later I asked the Company Clerk what happened and he said the Captain told him the only way he could transfer him was to bust him down to a private and the corporal said, "That's better then getting a knot on my head". I am a good-natured man but when somebody does me dirty I get even, and it doesn't take me long to do it.

About the last of March 1942, the Division was loading up the trucks and equipment on railroad flat cars to get ready to move to Fort Devens, Massachusetts. I think "K Company" had 5 coaches and a baggage car, and 2 or 3 more baggage cars - part of either the medical detachment or the service company. Then we had 24 flat cars with trucks, jeeps, and ¾-ton trucks. When the train come in to pick us up it also had a caboose. While we were loading on the train, the Engine unhooked from the coaches and backed onto the next track to get the 2 baggage cars to put in front of the coaches. When everybody was on the train, it pulled ahead then backed up to the 24 flat cars then got the caboose. They wanted 24 men to ride on each flat car so I volunteered. I got the first flat car, and we got to set in the cabs of the vehicles.

It seemed like the train would stop as much as it would move. The train stopped for 3 passenger trains and 3 freight trains coming west. The train even stopped for 3 freight trains going the same direction we were going. What I think, was that the railroad had a too small of an engine for our train.

It took 6 days to get to Massachusetts - 2000 miles. When we got to St. Louis, Missouri they unhooked the engine and caboose and a little switch engine started moving the train. We came to the Railroad Bridge across the Mississippi River. The Bridge was built high enough so ships could pass under it. The Engine just got over the top of the bridge and was starting down, the last car just cleared the switch when the engine spun out and the train stopped. The engineer tried several times to get the train to moving but no luck.

There was a switch engine with 4 cars a 100 yards farther up on the west side of the river. Finally, it backed up to the switch then moved forward to the back of the train. The engineer blew the whistle to let the engineer in front know he was ready to help move the train. So when the train started moving, the back engine got to spinning it's wheels & the engineer had to cut the power to the wheels 'till they stopped spinning & then put more power to the wheels. When the train was half way over the bridge they cut the engine loose while the train was still moving.

They pulled us into another railroad yard then put on another engine and caboose and we were on our way again. The man that had the last flat car was bitching that he had to walk so far to get to the car so I traded cars with him. On the morning of the 5th day of our journey, I just got to the last car for guard duty and was standing beside the track, when here came 2 men to get on the caboose. The conductor asked me if I wanted to ride in the caboose with them. I said sure. I got to talk with the men, and when the train got to moving, one went to throw a switch. The flagman has to throw the switch to line up with the main line and then had to run to catch the caboose as the train never stops moving. Then he said "Let's climb up in the cubicle on top of the caboose". When the train made a curve to the left, the flagman said for me to wave my arm up and down so the fireman could see me and tell the engineer so he would blow the whistle twice. I rode there 'till we got to the next railroad division where they changed crews and guards. Why we had to guard the cars I will never know. Of course when we left Pine Camp by the middle part of January with snow 4 feet deep on the level, if the wind had not blown, we would have froze riding in the trucks.

Fort Devens, Massachusetts was the first barracks we got to live in. Before we left Camp Barkeley the trees had bloomed. Then as we went through the Mississippi Valley the trees were blooming, and at Fort Devens the trees started blooming. I got to see the trees bloom 3 times in the spring of '42. We went right on with our training and maneuvers. That summer there was a tower out in the wide open space that was 20 feet high and 16 feet across the top that had rope nets dropped over each side to simulate a ship. With full field packs we would climb up the rope net cross over and down the other side. There was a wooden box 6 feet long, 2 feet wide and 3 feet high about 1½ feet away from the edge of the tower. When 4 men came down the net at the same time the 2 men in the middle would have to step on the box to get out of the way as there was 4 more men coming down right after you.

This one afternoon we had been climbing for 3½ hours and they let us rest a few minutes. The 4 lieutenants said let's climb the tower and swing over the side. The first and second lieutenant swung over OK, but the third Lieutenant - he was a little over weight, probably 200 pounds - grabbed hold of the rope running up and down, with his left hand. Instead of the rope running across, so that when he swing over the side and his weight coming down on his left hand, it pulled the rope out of his hand. As he swing on to the right, his right hand slipped off the rope he fell, side ways onto the box. It was a bad accident. The second lieutenant ran over to where we were yelling, and commanded "Fall In. Fall In". When we were in place, "Right Face, Double Time, March" and he ran us one mile. By that time we were getting tired. We were carrying our full field packs and we were slowing down.

It made the lieutenant mad that we were not keeping up with him and he kept us running for another mile. The lieutenant was not carrying a field pack, he only had his pistol and pistol belt on. By that time the ambulance had come and we had walked back to the tower. As we got there he gave the order to go over the tower. The first lieutenant, Cooley said, "Just a minute, you have run these men 2 miles, walked them back and you want them to climb the tower?" The second lieutenant did not talk back. He was the Athletic Director for the 157th. Regiment and he tried to make long distant runners out of us. One day, right after we ate dinner, this same second lieutenant called us out and we ran 1½ miles to a small lake, stacked our rifles stripped down and jumped in the water. Well, we were hot from running and only about 50 men went in to the water and 6 of those got the cramps. That made the lieutenant mad and he ordered every one out of the water and dressed. He left 2 men with the 6 men that got the cramps. Then he took us on a 5-mile forced march. I told the men in my squad that the lieutenant would get what's coming to him.

During the summer the 3rd Battalion of the 157th Regiment was first to go from the 45th Division, to the Cape Cod area on the Horn off Massachusetts, on Buzzard Bay close to Martha's Vineyard for amphibious training with the Navy as they had the new Higgins boats. The New Higgins boats came to a point on the bow. We had to climb over the sides to get in and jump over the sides. When we got out, with a full field pack, we had to drop down over 6 feet to the sand. We pitched our pup tent and that evening we got passes to go into town.

It was a regular summer resort town. It had about 12 beer Gardens along with the curio shops along the beach. The first Beer Garden we came to was the biggest of all and we went in. The song Deep in the Heart of Texas was just a new song, so I went to the jukebox and I think it was 3 for 10 cents. Anyway, I played Deep in the Heart of Texas and went to sit with the rest of my buddies.

There were several people in the Beer Hall so when the song started playing all the people stood up, but I could not figure out why 'till after the song was over. Two men came over to our table saying, "You fellows are not very patriotic". We asked "Why?" They said, "The National Anthem just played." I asked, "Who told you that?" They said "The soldiers that are here." I guessed I was more or less the leader of the men so I showed them my shoulder patch - The Thunderbird, an Indian Design of an Eagle with spread wings, which is really a Phoenix bird. "What patch do they have on their shoulder?" I asked. One said, "It was a Green Arrow with a darker "T" in the middle." That damned 36th Division - they want everybody to think Texas is the United States! I told them, "The National Anthem is still the same, and if you stand up when this song is played, I will make sure you are sitting when the song stops."

That put a bug in our ear. We went to all the Beer Gardens and told the bartenders to shut down the jukeboxes. I showed everybody we were from the 45th Division and told them that the 36th Division was having everybody stand up for the song Deep in the Heart of Texas and that it was not the National Anthem.The 36th Division men were on overnight maneuvers to Martha's Vineyard and would be at the Beer Garden the next evening.

The next evening 8 of us big men (I am 6 foot, 175 pounds) each had something to put in our hand when we hit somebody. I had my knife. We went to the first Beer Garden and there were 22 to 24 men around 2 big round tables. We kept our shoulder patches covered, I laid my cap over my shoulder and went to the jukebox and played Deep in the Heart of Texas. When the song started playing, the men jumped up yelling "Stand Up, Stand Up". We yelled "Sit Down"! They yelled "Stand Up" again, so we yelled again. Here came the men over to our table saying, "What do you mean sit down, don't you know the National Anthem?" Instead of spreading out they came to us in a tight group. I had my back to them but was watching. When they got 4 feet from me I swung out of my chair and really swung a hay maker punch in the leader's chin. The blow on the chin lifted him off his feet and he fell back against 9 men that fell to the floor. He grabbed his jaw and was saying something I could not hear. He said, "Get them, the sons of bitches!", and the fight was on. It was not long 'till we cleaned house and the men from the 36th were on the floor or back at their tables. I told them "Let this be a lesson to you."

One man said, "Damn that's the 45th Division!" After the fight there was a chair broken and we asked the bartender what we owed him for the chair. He said, "Nothing it was those men's fault.", Indicating the men of the 36th. My buddy, sitting beside me said he heard bones break when I hit that first man. We went all the way through all the Beer Gardens cleaning house. We went though about 8 gardens when two of our men were drinking in the garden.

They were short-5 feet 6 inches - but were really built, as they were coal miners here in Colorado. They wanted to know what we were doing. We told them that we were cleaning house because of that song. They jumped up saying they had to stand up twice when the song was played and they were ready to fight also. As they fought they would work together. One would try to get a man from behind and the other would hit him above his belt and one of the men, Sweed, really had a punch, so when the man bent forward Sweed really cold cocked him. As he was falling, another man hit Sweed on the side of his head and it staggered him. Sweed shook his head and said, "You SOB!" The man was ready to hit again when Sweed kicked him on his chin and it's a wonder he did not kick him between his legs. While bent from being kicked Sweed cold cocked him. Before we left to go to the next Beer Garden, Sweed said "I want to tell you men - Do not under estimate the 45th Division!" (Sweed's parents came from Sweden and his name was like Slevinasky but that was not his name and everybody called him Sweed.)

We went on to the end of the Beer Gardens then went back to the Company area and told our men that to watch out, that the 36th Division men may coming after us as we really had a fight in all the Beer Gardens, but everything was quiet. To say we came through with out a scratch wouldn't quite work - 4 men had black eyes, one of them had both eyes black, and all had bruises. My knuckles were all skinned. We went to the Captain and told him we were in a fight last night. He said, "I can see that, what happened?" So we told him. He said, "I wish I had of known that, I would have called out the Company and we would really have shown them!" Breaking someone's jaw is really an offense from fighting and when we told the Captain, he said if anything comes of it he would take it to our Major to straighten out, but we never heard anything from the 36th Division. We finished the maneuver then and went back to Fort Devens for more training.

The Middle of September 1942, the 45th Division loaded on trucks and went 400 miles to Pine Camp in New York, near Watertown. Pine Camp now is Fort Drum. It was nice when we first got there - then here came the snow. We were issued fur lined parka coats but the fur lined parka pants, were sent to Arizona for Desert Training (that's the Army for you!) and we never did get any pants all the time we were in Pine Camp. One night in December, I was on guard, and had the midnight to 0200 hours shift. The moon was shining and there was no wind but the frost was flying through the air and it was 42 degrees below zero. I had on my long johns, 2 pair of fatigues, and 2 pair of woolen pants and my legs still got cold. (I think that's the reason I can not stand any cold on my legs now.) You could not blow your breath straight out in front of you and walk in to it as it would stick to your coat and face.

One man who would blow his breath in front of him and then walk into the frost had his face all covered with frost. When he came into the guard house the frost melted off his face, but it was frosted so bad, he had be in the hospital for 2 months. We had to blow our breath to one side and still the frost would be all over the front of our coats. When we went in to the guardhouse we did not dare take off our mittens and touch our coats or we would frost bite our fingers. We had to wake the men up that had been in for 2 hours to unfasten our outer coats. As the snow got deeper we would go out on hikes, and when the wind would blow, the hard winds would come out of the northwest, and blew up to 70 miles an hour. The snow would drift everywhere and we would have to shovel out the paths for the trucks that brought the coal for the furnaces.

When the snow was 2 ½ feet deep the Regiment had an overnight maneuver and we had to put 1 extra blankets in our pack. About 1530 hours, we stopped maneuvering and pitched our pup tents. We had to shovel the snow out first. Being down below the top of the snow, it was not so cold. After dark the trucks brought supper out to us. That night we did not take any clothes off just our parka coats and lay them over us. About 0200 they woke us up saying. "Break camp, we are moving out". Here it is pitch dark, as it was cloudy and the stars were not shining either. You could not see your hand in front of your face. We tore down our tents and when we went to roll up our blankets, I found 8 tent pegs and I'd only had 5 to begin with. I asked my buddy how many pegs he had and he said 6. We got our packs together and they took us to our barracks as they said it was too cold to stay out all night. We had unrolled our pack to get our blankets and we really had a lot of snow in the blankets. When I got to the tent pegs, I had 3 pieces of branch of a tree. The next morning at Reveille one Sergeant was short two men so the Sergeant and the jeep driver went back out in the field and found the two men. They were still sleeping in the pup tents.

One morning in December we were going for a 10 mile hike. The second lieutenant that was the Athletic Director went to see the Major to have the Battalion run for a mile to start out with. The Major said, "So you want everybody in the Battalion to be in the hospital?" The lieutenant said "Why?" The Major said "With the men sucking the cold air on their lungs." The lieutenant came back to the company mad. After the hike, we came back to the barracks. One of the men in my squad had his feet sweat so bad that when he started to take off his shoes, they were stuck to his feet. We had to loosen the shoe laces all the way so we could get our fingers down under his foot to get his shoes off, then his socks were frozen to his feet. When we got his socks off there was ice between his toes and on the bottom of his feet. Boy, I was never so glad to get away from a camp!

End of Part 1

Click Here for Vere Williams PART 2

 

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