Frequent contributor and Primrose resident Festus Paul
[Welcome, gentle reader. This is the 19th installment in a series of blogs written by actual Primrose residents. Please return often to read more! — Ed]
When World War II started, I was saddened but felt it would not affect me too much. After all, I was already in college and only 18 years old. One year later, the war was broadening and they were drafting 18 year olds. Finally, the inevitable closed in on me and I was summoned in February to Fort Harrison, Indianapolis, IN. Never mind the books, just go!
It was a bitter cold arrival at Fort Harrison for screening, physical exams and waiting. In ten days, I was loaded on a train for Texas and assigned to the 8th Infantry Division. Camp Swift was a welcome sight for one who had slept three nights on a storage rack on a very slow train.
Fortunately, my interviews met some of the expectations and I was assigned to the Headquarters Co. as a Chaplains Assistant. I had never fired a gun, but I attempted to do it correctly-laying on my stomach and shooting at the target. Before I pulled the trigger, I closed my eyes and jumped as though the shot had been fired at me. Little did I know that the Commanding General of the entire division was standing behind me and reacted in a non-military way with a sudden jump like I had done. My jump reaction caused him to jump and he was embarrassed before all his troops.
Four months later, we were on our way to Camp Forest Tennessee and a 10 day furlough to bid farewell to family and friends. From Camp Forest, we rode the rails to the east coast and met our ship. These troops movements were at night and we loaded onto the ship in complete darkness. It was the pits as about 600 soldiers stumbled in the dark for a bunk bed. It was a 13 day trip to Europe and arrival at our Northern Ireland camp for 6 more months of waiting for the invasion.
Our vehicles were water proofed (another type of work for which I had no apitutde). Six days later, I was relieved when my jeep kept sputtering and moving to land. What a noisy, crowded beach with mortar shells, planes and short tempers, but we made it to France and the war became more real for me.
Since you know the war history better than I do (we never saw any newspapers, nor heard any radios), I’ll skip to the ultimate victory. At the Battle of the Bulge, there were extreme casualties. We witnessed six large truck loads of replacement troops. One solder ran across the road to where I was. Thinking he wanted a quick visit with the Chaplain, I greeted him. Lo and behold, it was my brother, older than I and in the Army longer. He was assigned to my unit and we survived the rest of the war together by our concern for each other and assistance for each other.
by Festus Paul
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