Monday, November 9, 2015

Dad's War Letters: Part Three of Nine

Ft. Benning, GeorgiaOfficer Candidate School - Part Two
Fall 1943 – excerpts from several letters
Those who made it to graduation became commissioned officers.

We were firing machine guns on the range today when they gave “cease firing” -- “unload” -- “clear guns” -- “atten-shun” -- “about face” and then they read us about Italy’s surrender.  It drew a good hand.  Most of the fellows here are married or engaged and don’t want to go across.  (Not that I don’t want the war to be over, but I want in it.)   

I’m still here and everything’s under control for the time being.  They kicked out 55 more men today, so our ranks were thinned a little...  Now when I get kicked out I’ll at least know some darn good men went before I did...  They tell us they’d rather kick out 5 good men than let one through that wasn’t a perfect combat officer.

I’ve gotten 2 letters from [my sister] Helen.  I think she writes because she’s a little homesick and wants letters.  Be sure to write her even if you have to neglect me to do so, as she’s young and a girl, and has absolutely no acquaintances there...  I sent her ten bucks.  I told her it was her own, and to do as she pleased with what I sent her, so if you can afford it, just pretend I’m not sending her any, and then what little I send will be extra.

Boy, am I ever a hot anti-tank gunner.  I made expert on the range.  165 out of 200...  If they would pass us on grades in tests and scores with weapons, I’d be a general.  But those little intangible things that I can’t do anything about will knock me out.  Age, for one thing, and size.  (Note:  On his army ID card he was 5’7½”  tall and 147 pounds.)  If I don’t make it, I’ll be the best non-com in the army...  

Nobody in our class has been hurt to speak of.  I got stabbed a little (don’t get excited) the other night.  A messenger and came down a path where I was fusing some mortar shells, and his bayonet caught the side of my helmet and glanced off and cut a little gash...  I bandaged it with a piece of tape and it’s all healed up now.

The dangerous part of this course is about over.  We didn’t have a single accident on the mortars.  They had been having quite a run of bad luck, but guess we broke their jinx.  Everything that happens here doesn’t make the papers.

Only 4½  weeks to go until I know one way or another about this deal.  Commission or no commission, they’ve made a man of me down here.

2½ weeks to go.  The strain is terrific.  We have started having boards at every odd hour of the day...  The 2nd one, when I walked in alone to meet one Col., three Lt. Cols., a Captain, and a 1st Lt., don’t think I wasn’t feeling like Daniel in the Lion’s Den...  I reported and they put me at ease, and told me to sit down.  The Col. asked me a few routine yes or no questions, and suddenly said:  “I’ll give you one minute to prepare a 5-minute talk on night fighting.”  I looked down for a couple of seconds and asked if I could start.  Yes, he said, so I put over a good talk...  He said, “I’d say that was right good.”  Then he said, “Do you think you could lead a night raid?”  I said, “Yes sir.” He said, “What makes you think you could?”  Me: “Because I know my stuff, sir.”  Colonel: “Could you instruct men?”  Me: “Yes, sir.”  Colonel: “Could you lead a platoon in combat?”  Me: “Yes, sir!”  Colonel: “That’ll be all for today.”

1½ weeks to go, and I’m still here...  18 men out of 50-some left in my platoon.  I think I may make it...  If I graduate, I will be the proudest boy on earth.

(Note:  He did graduate from Officer Candidate School, and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant.)

To read all nine parts from the beginning, click here.

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