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Lewis J. Feucht
Arlington, TX -
"The only consolation in the remembrance of this excursion is that at least we kept the south free. These people really did, and still do, show their appreciation of what we did there. I would not realize the value of this adventure until almost 50 years later in my life."
- Lew Feucht
My name is Lewis John Feucht of Arlington, Texas. I was born January 19, 1926 in Ogden, Utah, son of Gottlieb Albrecht and Luise Weiser Feucht. Both of my parents were born in Germany. Father was born in 1879 in Weinsbach and Mother was born in 1884 in Steinsfurth. They were married January 30, 1908 in Brigham City, Utah. They first met in Utah after their individual arrivals in America.
I spent my childhood in Ogden until I was 18, when I graduated from high school. Utah is primarily of Mormon religion, also called Latter Day Saints or LDS. I was raised with seven sisters, all older than I was. Several were already married and had families of their own. I was known as the "baby" of the family and ended up with several nieces and nephews.
Dad was originally a farmer but during the Depression he lost the farm and we moved to Ogden where he became a common laborer. He worked in the Globe A-1 Flour mill. Mother did not work outside of our home. All things changed during the Great Depression, but the primary purpose of our folks was that we always had a home, food, and clothing to wear and that we always had a warm home to live in and food to eat. We lived in a middle-class neighborhood, but we were always known as the "poor" family on the block. Our old home is on the historical listing now and no one can make any changes on the structure without permission of the historical society.
I attended Polk Grade School, Central Junior High School, and Ogden High School in Ogden. I enjoyed school, but I had to work also and could not participate in any sports. They wanted me on the track team as I could run like crazy, but I didn't have time for such things as my salary was helping to keep our family together. These were the "war" years and everyone was doing everything they could to help out. I started out working as a "paper boy" during the winter months, then I got on with Western Union as a messenger. I became top messenger and was required to wear a uniform at the railroad depot. Military visitors to the schools was not necessary as the draft was in force and everyone was subject.
I made up my mind to go into the Marines and graduated from Ogden High School, Ogden, Utah, at midyear in order to do so. I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on January 18, 1944. I knew that I would be eligible to be drafted, so I was sworn in the day before I turned 18 to keep from being drafted. I beat the draft by one day. I was offered a deferment by my employer. It would have been good for a year, but I had already made up my mind. I wanted to be a Marine. I enlisted all by myself, but my folks had to sign for me because I was still under age.
I left home on Valentine's Day, and took the train from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles and on to San Diego where I entered the Marine Corps base which is where I took my boot training. I had never been away from home that long before. When I arrived at the camp, I was assigned to Platoon 146. Only one other guy from my school entered the Marines, and he was in the same boot camp platoon with me. I wasn't really very familiar with him. In fact, I doubt that he knew I existed. I can still point him out in our platoon picture. The picture was taken on a Saturday, but I was not present because I was in sickbay on that day. Since it was Saturday, I didn't lose any time over it. If I had, I would have been sent back to another platoon and have to start training all over again. "The Lord was looking out for me." I rejoined the platoon on Sunday so they didn't count any training days lost. Thank God I got to stay with the platoon as this was a "special group" as it turned out. I feel that the Lord has always treated me like I am something special. I like to think it has something to do with our special parents, who taught us according to the Lord's wishes.
All platoons were made up of 60 men in boot camp. That was standard at the time and may still be the standard practice, I'm not sure. There were 20 guys in each hut and we got to know all 20 of them quite well before too many days passed. That first day, we were in a wooden barracks and there was a lot of commotion about something. I asked what was going on and one of the guys said that Robert Ryan was there and that he was going to be in our platoon. I asked, "Who's that?" One of the guys said, "Don't you know? He's a movie star." This meant nothing to me as before I left home, I hadn't seen very many movies. My mother was an Apostolic Christian, and under her care we were not allowed to attend the movies. He turned out to be just another boot like the rest of us.
That very night, the 60 men who were assigned to Platoon 146 were bedded down in a single wing of the wooden barracks. The beds, or sacks were double-deckers and our choice was up to each of us. I found an upper bunk where I welcomed Taps being played over the speaker next to the head of my bunk. The next morning, I was most rudely awakened when reveille almost blew me out of my sack.
When we were getting our physicals, we were in one of the small wooden buildings. The whole platoon was stripped completely naked and we stood in line going from room to room for various examinations. When I went in to get my blood test, I had never watched before when they were drawing my blood out of my arm inside my elbow. This time I did. When they were through, I stepped out of the room back into the hallway. All of a sudden I felt faint and I called out, "Hey, something's wrong here." The next thing I knew, two corpsmen grabbed me under my armpits, sat me down in a cold steel chair, and pushed my head down between my knees. I remember they pushed real hard on the back of my neck, trying to get the blood back into my head. I never did completely pass out, as I could still hear them talking. When I recovered, they stood me back up and put me back in line again. I felt kind of foolish.
At that time boot camp was only six weeks long because they needed us overseas as soon as possible. We were fighting two wars at that time. Most of the time was spent drilling and practice, practice, practice. Memorizing, too. We had to memorize the general orders and know them by heart backwards and forwards. It kept our minds quite busy, so we didn't have time to get lonely or homesick. There was very little classroom instruction. Most of the time was spent building our bodies and minds according to what the Marine Corps expected for us to look like and how we handled ourselves mentally and physically. This was the time we were training our body and mind according to what the Marine Corps "hired" us for. All of our accommodations were in the huts that held 20 men each. They were compact, wasting no space for anything. The bunks were all double--upper and lower, with no extra space in between.
No NCO was allowed to touch a recruit for any reason other than emergencies. We had no troublemakers in any case in boot camp. They kept us too busy to make any trouble. Remember--we were still fighting two wars at that time.
They still had Camp Matthews as the rifle range until 1964. Everyone else was having digestion trouble from eating at sloppy Joes, but we had no trouble like that because our platoon ate in the "Blue Room." We ate in the Blue Room because Robert Ryan was in our platoon. I asked about this from those who made the DVD on Camp Matthews and they didn't know what I was talking about. I surmised then that the Blue Room was the officers mess. I remember coming back from there one evening all at peace with myself when all of a sudden I was lifted about a foot off the ground. It was Corporal Bansbach, our top DI, who lifted me off the ground with his foot or knee, then whispered in my ear, "Take your hands out of your pockets." He and the other two DIs then passed me by as I heard them snicker. The other two DIs were PFC Poppelreiter and PFC Monk. These were great guys that trained us quite well. We were well fed and they made sure everyone was included in all activities. Of course, this was before integration was considered and the Marine Corps did not accept blacks or anyone that did not fall into the category of European nationality. Chinese were an exception, but not Japanese.
Our squad leader calmed my fear of inspections when I asked him if he thought I would pass. He said, "Feucht, you will always pass inspection." However, I didn't pass the swim test. Just before graduation I learned that I was going to radio school, but since I hadn't passed swimming, I had to forego my furlough to take swimming lessons. One of the guys said, "Give me your dog tags." When I questioned him why, he said, "I'm going to pass your swim test for you." And he did just that. He told me later that he didn't think it was right that I should have to forego my furlough and if he could do something to prevent this, he just felt it was his duty to do so. That really showed the camaraderie we had formed in boot camp.
About halfway through the course, which lasted twelve weeks, I got an internal infection in my left foot. They kept me in bed and I was not allowed to put my foot on the floor. They gave me pills called "all purpose cure" pills, and after a few days in bed, they released me back to duty. I had missed some training days and this got me transferred to a later class. I was moved to a wooden barracks, where we received a lot more liberal treatment, but we still attended the same school. I was just lucky, I guess. When I graduated, I was the only one on the promotion listing with a serial number reading "548123." All the rest of them started with "8" or "9." That was because I was sworn into the Marine Corps before I turned 18.
Field Signal School
The Marines (and other services later) had enlisted native Indians to become code talkers, as they spoke an unwritten language only understood by others of their tribes. Years later, I told my daughter that I really wanted to see the movie, "Wind Talkers." It was the story about the Indian code talkers that the Marines had trained to overcome communications problems during combat. I became acquainted with some of these Navajo Indians during my time at Camp Pendleton. I took field signal training in Area 16, and some of these gentlemen were housed in the same barracks that I was in. After I joined the VFW in Dallas, Texas, years after my service in World War II, I attended the Marine Corps birthday party. Some of these Navajos were at that party and I remember them singing the Marine Corps Hymn in their native language for us at that time. Each time that I ran across these folks I have been impressed at their real and truly sincere attitude. They were real gentlemen, although they were also very quiet folks. It was a pleasure to know them.
South Pacific in WWII
We boarded the U.S.S. Patrick (AP150) on December 14, 1944. When we pulled out of port, we were just one troop transport ship by itself. They said we had a submarine escort, but no one ever saw it. I think it was just after we passed Hawaii that one of the guys turned up with meningitis. We then turned back to Pearl Harbor and docked there for a few days. This was Christmas time and we could see some of the remembrances of Christmas near the dock, but our ship was under quarantine, and no one was allowed to leave or enter our ship. After a few days, when no one else showed up with meningitis, we pulled out of Pearl Harbor and were on our way to wherever we were going. After that we didn't make any other stops, so it was quite an uneventful trip--a lot of "sweepers man your brooms" and "clean sweepdown fore and aft."
I had never been on a large ship before, but the moment I set foot on deck I loved the feeling, like I was being rocked to sleep, and that feeling never left me. I loved it and I never did get sick at any time. In fact, the more it rocked, the better it felt to me. I don't recall any rough weather on this trip at all. There was no entertainment on this ship at all. (I volunteered and practiced to sing with the ship's band, but it rained when it was time to perform and the program was cancelled.) Other than that, standing in line for food is about all I remember about the trip. We crossed the Equator the day after Christmas and the international date line on December 27, 1944. We got our shellback cards, but no initiation. They said our mission was too critical and they couldn't risk the attention it might attract. This was an army transport ship and those in charge were not particularly enthused about this Navy tradition.
Right after New Year's Day we pulled up to a little island called Pavuvu where we disembarked to join our new outfit. The First Marine Division had returned from Peleliu just shortly before then, and I was assigned to 1st Reconnaissance Company, Headquarters Battalion, of the 1st Marine Division.
Pavuvu is in the Russell Island group, and it was the headquarters location of the 1st Marine Division at that time. After checking in, we were then transported to Guadalcanal. When we were finally assembled on Guadalcanal, we got acquainted with our new surroundings and started our training. It was in the jungles and the kunie grass areas of Guadalcanal where we were doing our scouting and patrolling. Believe me, you can easily get lost in either one if you don't keep alert to your surroundings.
It really wasn't bad at all though. It seems the Seabees were our caretakers in our new home. They had built a barracks for us, furnished us with freshly baked bread and daily ice cream, and had 35mm nightly movies for us. What more could we ask for? Even the temperature was good for us, although we had to wear our helmets whenever we were outside as we were situated in the midst of a large coconut grove. The Seabees even furnished us with fresh water showers.
Our Recon Company was a self-inclusive outfit. We had our own cooks and corpsmen, and they were well acquainted with the Seabees, which made it good for all of our company. Our field exercises were conducted daily to keep us in shape for wherever or whatever we were preparing for. I don't recall exactly how long we were there, but eventually we left Guadalcanal and were transported back to Pavuvu.
Back on Pavuvu, we got thoroughly acquainted with the land crabs and rats. There was very little fresh water and almost no fresh water showers. As a result, some of us bathed in the lagoon by our tents and I ended up with a very good case of ringworm. Eventually it spread all over my body and I had to make a daily visit to sick bay to be swabbed with salicylic acid and alcohol. The corpsmen nicknamed me "the ringworm."
They said they had tried to eradicate the rats, but the land crab population exploded, so they had to stop this and let nature take its own course. We were in tents with dirt floors, but we had cots with mosquito nets for protection from not only the mosquitoes, but also the rats and land crabs at night.
Eventually we noted that ships were beginning to assemble in the bay so we knew something was cooking. Recon Company boarded the USS Renville (PA227) on February 23, 1945, but there was no word yet as to where we were going. This was a navy troop ship and the crew gave us first class treatment. They had 24-hour fresh water showers (denoting the heat and humidity) and they gave orders to take a pair of khaki pants and make shorts out of them. That's all we wore, with boondockers, since we didn't wash any laundry. Some guys slept in skivvy shorts, but most of us just slept in the buff. I had to tie my hands to the sides of my bunk to keep from scratching the ringworm in my sleep. I finally took a scrub brush and a bar of lye soap to the shower one night and scrubbed the sores. I thought I would die, but it did cure most of my ringworm, thanks to the fresh water showers.
we played lots of double pinochle on this trip. When they finally told us where we were going. a portion of our company got assigned to a special landing craft duty and I was among them. Two of us were assigned to each LCM. They told us that our duty was to guard the supplies and make sure the supplies in our LCM reached the beach quickly. We were to ride the LCMs until the ship was unloaded. We were told that this was to forgo the problems that they had run across on Iwo Jima. Iwo Jima was one of the deadliest battles for the Marines and where the raising of the flag there was recorded for posterity, The statue of it is near Washington, DC.
On Easter morning, April Fool's Day 1945, we started the invasion of Okinawa. The troops were unloaded to the LCMs and took off to the beach while I sat on the top deck, ate fruit cocktail from a big gallon size can, and watched them depart. I think it was about ten a.m. before they started to unload cargo and we climbed down the ropes onto our assigned LCM. This was our new temporary home, riding it back and forth from the ship to shore for three days and nights until the ship was fully unloaded. We were lucky. Our orders were to not help with the loading and unloading--just stand guard and make sure the supplies got in okay.
Everything went real good up until the day when we finished unloading. A storm was brewing which turned out to be pretty rough. The waves were getting real heavy and that evening, when we started to get back on board, we had to grab the rope netting and climb up as fast as we could while the LCM disappeared under us. We barely made it back on board ship that evening, but we lost a gun turret from the LCM when they were lifting it back on the ship.
After breakfast the next morning they tried to get us off the ship but without success. The storm was really bad. The ship's doctor finally came up on deck and said that no one would be getting off this ship. The convoy was scheduled to leave at 10 a.m., so we were doomed to ride along to their next port, which was Saipan. With the ship now empty of troops and cargo, the ride to Saipan was, needless to say, kinda wild. It was best to find a bunk amid ship and stay in it. It was a typhoon we were riding out.
Upon arrival in Saipan, we stayed on the dock while our leaders went to find us transportation back to Okinawa. They found us an LST on which we hitched a ride, and we were on our way back to rejoin our outfit. By the time we got back, our Company had gone across the island and was headed north with the Division Headquarters Battalion. Don't ask me how we found them, but our leaders were great scouts and we got back safely.
Now it was time to do what we were trained for. In the days of Moses, we would have been called spies, but today it's called reconnaissance. We were accustomed to being split up and doing our job as needed. However, our mission was to just report the facts as accurately as possible. Should the information we furnish not be valid, it could be disastrous not only to us, but to others that depended upon us, as noted in the book of Numbers in the Bible. Luckily I was assigned to Headquarters Platoon. Until we were called south to help the Tenth Army out, I stayed mostly at "home" with the Company.
During a lull period, a few of us decided to go "fishing." We proceeded to a small hill above the ocean waters and tied a boom-box to some blocks of TNT. When a huge school of small fish appeared, we set off the TNT. This stunned almost the entire school. Some Okinawa boys who were watching us dived into the water and collected the fish. They looked like frogs swimming around, collecting the fish in their baskets. (I recently learned that the reason the fish sank to the bottom was because the explosion knocked the oxygen out of the fish, thus they sank instead of floating.) I think these kids learned to swim before they learned to walk. They had collected a goodly meal for their family.
As we headed south to assist the 10th Army, this was the time that the Kamikai's were after our ships in the harbor. We had a more or less bird's-eye view of this action. At night the tracers lit up the harbor like fireworks. It was quite a show to watch but our hearts went out to those involved. We were so thankful it wasn't us, as this was the real thing, and it was taking place in the waters where we had been riding the LCMs just a short time earlier. Then the rains came, and the whole island turned into a quagmire of mud. We had to use our winch many times to pull us out of a sea of mud.
About this time I was assigned to Division Observation Post duty for several days. Right after we got up to the OP, the first thing we did was dig our foxholes to get settled in, making ourselves as inconspicuous as possible. Then a rocket outfit pulled in near us and shot off a truckload of rockets. It's not nice to draw such attention to a division observation post, and the repercussions of this showed up a few hours later. That evening the engineers came in and told us that we had to move our foxholes. They were about to construct a new road right where we were located. When the engineers said move, we moved or they moved us, so we did what they told us. I think the Good Lord sent these guys in for our protection as that night a barrage of mortars hit right where we had been located. If we hadn't moved, we surely would have been riddled or wiped out.
Our OP was up on the hills from Naha and not far from Shuri Castle. We did our observation duty of the front lines from the OP for several days and this was the first time that I had ever seen flame-throwing tanks in action. It was quite impressive as we watched while they sprayed the caves on the sides of the hills. I never did see anyone come out of the caves, but I'm sure that unless the caves were awfully deep, they couldn't live through this bombardment. It was strange that upon investigation later many Japs were found dead in these caves without any sign of being killed. The flamethrowers had sucked all the oxygen out of the caves and they had died of suffocation.
After several days of observation we were relieved to go back to our headquarters. It was not long after this that the island was secured and we went back up north to set up camp. When our camp was ready, our headquarters platoon was sent out to a small island off the north end of Okinawa, called Kouri Shima. We were to now conduct submarine watch, as it was felt that, should the Japanese conduct a counter attack, they might come back in by submarine from the north. Our orders were not to engage them. We were there only for observation and reconnaissance, and to keep the mainland forces advised of our observations. This made some of us kind of nervous, so the Lieutenant told our corpsman to break out the sick bay alcohol, which we added to our orange drink. Believe me, it did settle our nerves.
We had our platoon tent set up with all of our cots, etc., and I had the first cot at the end of the tent. I had my TBX-8 radio set up alongside my cot, and since there wasn't much to do, I tuned it in to Armed Forces Radio Service and put it on the speaker. When they announced that the A-bomb had been dropped, the Lieutenant, who was at the far end of the tent, heard it, and yelled at me to turn it up so everyone could hear it. So I did.
It was only a day or so later that we were called back to our headquarters. We packed up our gear and headed back to Okinawa. A few of the older salts went home from there, but the rest of us packed up again for our new assignment to Tientsin, China, for the next six months.
Our trip to Tientsin, China, consisted of a comparatively short excursion through the Yellow Sea (which is really yellow). This took us to Taku, the seaport of Tientsin, followed by a train ride inland to Tientsin itself. We were then housed in the grandstand of an abandoned international race track. The Japanese had turned over their vehicles to us and had them parked around the track itself. We were stationed there to stand guard duty over these vehicles. A MAG group also used these grandstands as their barracks. They had their Piper Cub landing strip down the middle of the race track.
We spent Christmas there and our cooks went all out in decorating our mess hall, fixing a tree, getting us plates and table clothes and cooking us a great Christmas dinner. All of our officers joined the enlisted personnel in this meal in the enlisted men's mess hall. The officers were Lt. Col. E.W. Silvey, Headquarters Battalion; Major A.W. Chilton, Headquarters Company; Major W.R. Walsh, First Military Police Company; Capt. D.W. Gentry, First Signal Company; 1st Lt. Joseph De Frank, First Assault Signal Company; and 1st Lt. C. Abrams, Recon Company. I still have the Headquarters Battalion Christmas Menu for 1945. It lists the following: Roast Tom Turkey, baked Virginia ham, mashed potatoes, giblet gravy, sage dressing, buttered peas, creamed corn, cranberry sauce, ripe olives, crisp celery, fresh oranges, mixed nuts, pumpkin pie, mince pie, bread and butter, coffee, cream and sugar.
During this time we heard rumors of the communist party of China causing some spotty problems between Tientsin and Peiping, but this did not prevent my trip on the train, by myself, to Peiping. I was sent up there to check out some radio equipment that the 5th Regiment had. I stayed in the German Legation with the 5th Regiment. I had a feeling that this was only a pretense to allow me to visit Peiping, as by the end of the week I was called back to our company in Tientsin.
Other than guard duty and regular military routines like keeping our clothes and equipment in shape, we were pretty well left alone to do as we pleased. This was more or less a free time for most of us, so I enrolled in a correspondence course that the Marine Corps offered from a school in the States. Other than that, I spent much time in Tientsin, cruising the city, eating supper out, and partaking of the private bath house which was much more desirable than the cold showers in the barracks. For approximately 35 cents we could order a steak and egg dinner, including a dinner salad, a roll, a small glass of wine, and a small dish of sherbet with a cookie for dessert. I always ate these dinners in what they called a "white Russian" restaurant in downtown Tientsin. Everything was furnished at the bath house, including a male attendant who drew our water, soaped us down, rinsed us off, and even helped us dry ourselves off. It was like having our own private man servant. To partake of all this--dinner, bath, and rickshaw fare to and from the city included was a total of about a dollar or so. This routine became quite popular when it was discovered by the individual. Shopping was always done on a bartering basis. We never paid the first asking price for anything. We always figured they were asking twice the price that they expected us to pay for any article in which we showed an interest.
We moved a couple of times. The first move was to what had been a Japanese officer's apartment barracks. There were four of us assigned to each apartment. This was much more private than the race track, but we didn't stay there very long. The second and final move was to an English school house where we were housed on a dormitory basis, but we had movies every night in the school auditorium. From there we were put on the rotation list to return to the States.
Upon completion of my six months duty in China, I boarded the USS General George M. Randall (AP-115), in the port of Tsingtao for my trip back home. This was April 1946 and by coincidence, we crossed the international date line on Saturday, April 20th, before Easter, giving us two days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, April 21, 1945. Our debarking date in San Diego was Saturday, April 27, 1946.
Between the Wars
After my discharge, I took a Greyhound bus through Livermore, California, to visit the farm where my youngest sister Ruth lived. After I arrived back in Ogden, I returned to my old job with Western Union as a teletype operator. At the same time, I checked into the possibility of entering Weber County Junior College in Ogden. All they could offer was courses in engineering, which included subjects I was not interested in.
I moved in with my mother and dad, but staying at home was too confining so I moved in with my sister Bertha's family. They had extra space in their basement. Even this was too confining, so I decided to get a room by myself and I moved into a basement apartment on my own. I was definitely unsettled.
As I mentioned earlier, I took a correspondence course in China which was offered by National Schools in Los Angeles. This was a trade school and I made up my mind that this was what I really wanted. I talked to my boss about it and he suggested I go to Los Angeles. Once I knew what my school hours were, I could apply for a transfer. By applying for a transfer after I got to Los Angeles, the company would not have to pay my transportation from Ogden to Los Angeles. That was okay with me, as I didn't expect them to pay my way anyway. With a transfer I would not interrupt my continuity of service with Western Union.
It was along about July 1, 1947 when I started trade school in Los Angeles. I was going to school for six hours a day, starting around 8 a.m., and working six hours a day, starting about 330 p.m. I had to work at least six hours a day to maintain my seniority rights. I lived in a rooming house about a block from school and I rode the street car from the school to work. This was only about a ten minute ride. There was a good variety of restaurants all around, so eating out was no problem.
My schedule was pretty well filled and I had met many new friends at work, but even so, I missed the camaraderie I had had in the service. I checked into joining the organized reserve at the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Training Center in Chavez Ravine near downtown Los Angeles. I filled out the enlistment papers and took my physical. They said my blood pressure was high so they told me to lay down and rest. They took it again and that time I passed. On October 17, 1947, I was sworn into the Organized Reserve, joining Headquarters Company, 13th Infantry Battalion.
I was now scheduled for Wednesday evening meetings, summer camp, and all the fixings for the next four years. I was a Corporal in the Organized Reserve and my bosses at work made sure that I was allowed to take time off from work to attend the meetings and summer camp. They were all 100 percent behind my decision. I was even allowed to wear my uniform to work on Wednesday afternoon and was released in time for reserve meeting.
My mother passed away on March 26, 1948, and I went home to attend the funeral. She is buried in the Salt Creek Cemetery in Tremonton, Utah. School at National School sin Los Angeles, California, only lasted until the first of May 1948. I then accepted an eight-hour daily assignment to work on the early night shift. I wanted to get into the wire and repeater section, but there was no opening at this time so I stayed on as an operator. Eventually I got into special events and I spent a lot of "work" time attending sporting events and other outside assignments. I was working lots of overtime and even bought myself a car. I drove it off the lot to get my driver's license.
In June of 1950 we were in our summer camp session at Camp Pendleton when problems started to show up in Korea. Before our camp session was completed, rumors (called scuttlebutt) were spread around that we would be called into active duty to help out in Korea, but no one wanted to believe it. We were released from camp on schedule, but within just a few days after arriving back home, we were notified to be prepared to be called into active service for the Korean "police action."
This was real sudden and I had to take care of all my civilian items and leave my car at my sister Lucille's home in North Hollywood. Believe it or not, Lucille, her husband Leonard, son Robert, a friend named Gus, and I went for a Sunday drive to Riverside, California, and wound up in Ogden, Utah. This was to be my farewell trip home and it almost ended up as just that. We stayed in Ogden just a few hours and then drove back to Los Angeles. I don't have records of the exact dates on this, but within a very short time I ended up back in Camp Pendleton, where the full wartime complement was being assembled for the First Marine Division.
This was such a whirlwind project that I remember absolutely nothing about shipping out from San Diego. Apparently my body was available but my mind would not accept what was taking place. The history books say there were 19 ships that left with the 1st Marine Division for Korea. I have no recollection at all as to the type, name or number of the ship I boarded.
My Second War
I remember almost nothing about the trip to Korea except that I was assigned to Headquarters Company, 1st Regiment, and we went directly to Korea. When we heard that Colonel "Chesty" Puller was the commanding officer of the 1st Marine Regiment, our group was slightly aghast. His reputation at Peleliu had preceded him as a "butcher," so some got the feeling that we were about to be "thrown into the fire." There were, however, mixed feelings about this. They said he was a front line officer and he gave them first class treatment, but he had no feelings for rear echelon or headquarter types. This proved to be true, as we found out later.
I remember absolutely nothing about the Inchon Landing. I can picture in my mind that after we landed at Inchon, our Warrant Officer and I tried to set up teletype communications but we never could get it working. Our AC power source was so unstable that the synchronous motor of the teletype could not stabilize to allow the machine to work properly. We finally had to give it up. The next thing I remember was riding down the road into Seoul and seeing everything all bombed out. All I can remember is some telephone or power poles alongside the road, but most everything else had been pretty well leveled.
I have no recollection either of when we left Seoul, boarded another ship or seagoing vessel to take the trip around the peninsula to reach Wonsan, but we did. History books say that we waited outside the harbor for them to clear mines, but I don't remember that either. Also I don't remember landing there, but I do remember going up into the mountains. My next remembrance is when it started to get cold. This was when we had reached Koto-ri. Somewhere along the line we were issued cold weather gear, but I don't remember when. In trying to analyze why I can't remember so much of this trip, I come up with two possible conclusions: God doesn't want me to remember or much of my memory of this was erased by the 15 shock treatments I received while in the hospital in Oakland, California, after I was evacuated from Korea. I really don't know which, but whichever it is, it seems to have worked. I just plain don't remember. I guess that's what the shock treatments were supposed to do.
There are a few things that are quite clear in my memory. It was awfully cold. We were in a tent which had a wooden floor and that's where we slept in our sleeping bags. We had a kerosene stove in the middle of the tent, which we kept going full blast, but it was still cold when we turned away from the stove. The snow was really deep. We had to trudge through it to gather the supplies they were air dropping for us. We were alongside of a railroad track and that's where our "heads" were located. Speaking of heads, I was always afraid that my rear end would stick to the seat when I sat down, which was as seldom as possible. I also remember the Tootsie Rolls that they air dropped to us. We savored them and probably could have lived off of them, but they were frozen solid like everything else. They were still good to suck on and eventually get them to melt in our mouth. I still love Tootsie Rolls. We watched the C47's landing and taking off with the wounded just north of where we were located. We wished that they would come back and take us all out. Of course that was impossible and we knew it.
I remember that they told us to spend as little time as possible outside the tent, but we had to keep our vehicles running continually by keeping the tanks full of gas. These were just plain common sense items for our survival. Our main objective at this time was our survival and the Lord gave all we needed for this. We had a most wonderful group of guys and we all kept watch for each other. We were all in the same boat.
One thing that has always bothered me was when they wanted a Jeep driver to take a load of supplies up to the front. I was a driver, but my license restricted me to daytime driving. This was not an excuse--it was a fact. It was between me and another young man, a friend of mine. He volunteered. I'll never forget his words when he said, "I'll go." He never came back. His Jeep was blown up. I have often felt that it should have been me, but it was obviously not God's wish. Still, I have always retained this in my memory, but I've been told not to dwell on it. This is what bothered me so much--that so many good young men were dying there and we could not claim a victory. Now we were stopped, and no chance to pursue our objective any further.
The only consolation in the remembrance of this excursion is that at least we kept the south free. These people really did, and still do, show their appreciation of what we did there. I would not realize the value of this adventure until almost 50 years later in my life. But then that's another story.
About this time the 5th and 7th Regiments were entering Koto-ri from Yudam-ni and Hagaru-ri. The surviving remnants of the Division were being assembled. I got the distinct feeling that there were lots of silent prayers being expressed, as no one had much to say. Of course, this may also have been a result of the cold temperature. The snow and wind had everyone pretty well exhausted and most bodies were running on automatic. One got the sense that we were running on God's will and with God's will, we would make it out of there alive.
They replaced the bridge that had been blown up at the power plant dam about three miles south of Koto-ri. They had parachuted in the bridge sections into Koto-ri and assembled them into three sections to transport them the three miles south to the dam. After this had been completed, we started our journey down the mountains to Hungnam. We left Koto-ri about three o'clock in the afternoon on the 7th of December.
Before we packed up to leave, I was told to ride shotgun in the radio Jeep. I never really knew why. Everyone else was walking. I can still picture myself riding shotgun with my legs and feet wrapped in blankets. I found the reason about a year ago when I received the history book that related the order that had been given at Hagaru. "Everyone would walk except drivers and radio operators." And, of course, the wounded that could not walk and had not yet been airlifted out. I was always regarded as a radioman all the time I was there, and I even copied a code message that was transmitted to us. Everyone knew I was a radio operator. I was floored when my discharge papers said that I was a clerk typist.
I distinctly remember when we crossed the bridge. It was night, which I was thankful for, and I was not driving, which I was also thankful for. I never did know who my driver was, but he sure did a good job. I did, however, have to get out a couple of times to push us through a couple of slick and slushy spots. I got my feet wet and had to wrap them in blankets to keep them from freezing. One of the young men from our company asked to ride for a while. I had to tell him my feet were wet and I had to keep them wrapped up.
When we finally arrived at the Hamhung/Hungnam area, our withdrawal was almost complete. It was then that Colonel Puller assembled all of us headquarters people together and gave us a royal chewing out. He as much as called us sissies for not being out on the front lines with the real men of our outfit. I had been depressed before and I think this chewing out was what broke the camel's back. I strongly felt that this was a time when we should be giving thanks for our survival, not a chewing out.
That's when I came down with fever and diarrhea, so I turned myself in to sick bay. They hospitalized me and I think they gave me codeine. I felt fine until it wore off and I went into withdrawal. Some of the doctors tried to talk with me and I think it was then that they decided to send me out to the hospital ship anchored in the bay. Apparently my reaction to the treatment they were giving me was not exactly what they expected. I guess my mind had slipped into deeper depression as my memory is hazy about what was going on.
I have some recollection that other doctors tried to get me to talk with them, but apparently without success. I then have some hazy recollections that they transferred me to another hospital ship that was headed for Kobe, Japan. The next I remember is being in the hospital in Kobe where they were giving me insulin shock treatments. When this did not give them the results they expected, they made arrangements that I was to be shipped back to the States for treatment. My fever had subsided, but my diarrhea had gotten worse and I was losing weight.
In the meantime I was given freedom to go to the PX where I purchased an 8mm movie camera with some black and white movie film. I still have the movies I took of the military transport plane that brought me to Hawaii. We stopped in Wake Island and I took movies of the nurses that were with us and some of the Goonie Bird transport planes, which really amused me. I didn't have a seat on the plane. I recall sitting on the floor of the plane for most of this trip. I do know there were some physically wounded guys with us that were on stretchers. We were all war-time rejects, eventually to be heading for home.
When we landed in Hawaii, they took us to the Naval Hospital there. I know that I couldn't sleep and the group I was with was kind of a rowdy bunch anyway, so they gave us all some sleep stuff. The other guys settled down, but I still couldn't sleep, so they gave me some real powerful stuff. I finally went to sleep, but in the morning they couldn't get me awake. I know I felt totally limp. I just could not wake up. The corpsmen were getting concerned until I finally started to pull out of it.
Then they put me on a commercial United Airlines flight to Oakland. I know that I was wearing dress greens at that time, so somewhere along the line they had retrieved my sea bag as I had all my personal items. I have no idea when or where this happened.
After we reached the Oakland commercial airport, they had transportation for us to Oak Knoll Naval Hospital where I was "enrolled" for about the next five months. They kept us in a locked ward where all our needs were accommodated. Our daily attire was just undergarments, light cotton robe, and slippers. I was diagnosed with "neurotic depressive reaction." They had obviously contacted my oldest sister who lived in San Francisco and obtained her permission to administer shock treatments to me. They obviously analyzed that the depth of my depression warranted this action. I was not suicidal, but they may have thought I had been pushed too close to the edge.
I recently talked to a friend of mine that lived in the Bay Area while I was in the hospital. I was curious about my condition when I returned home from Korea. Without hesitation, he emphatically stated that I was "totally out of it." He said that he and another friend took me to a concert one evening when I left from the hospital. I was totally surprised as I remember absolutely nothing about this. All I know is that after each treatment, I felt that I had slept a full night's sleep and I was surely more relaxed. I had no objection to this treatment.
One shot they gave me, however, I felt was a little excessive. It sent me back to my early childhood and when I started to wake up, I was in the "quiet room" on the floor. I pictured myself playing with the wooden blocks which I had when I was very young. I have no idea how long I was "out." I did eventually recover and was allowed back in the ward with the rest of the patients. I have no idea which treatment this was. All I know is that it's a strange feeling to relive your childhood this way. I also remember marveling at the black and white television that was in the ward. Later I wondered at what I was thinking. I had been through technical training in electronics school and knew how the television worked. I also thought that fooling around with the mind in this manner could be dangerous.
After I had been there for a while, they allowed me weekend liberty. My oldest sister in San Francisco would come to the base and pick me up at the front gate of the hospital. It was obvious that they had been in contact with her on various occasions, but I never inquired about this.
Before they released me from the hospital, they made arrangements for my transfer to Treasure Island Naval Base, where I would be employed in the post office until my enlistment was up. In the meantime, they also made arrangements for my upgrade to Sergeant, effective 13 April 1951. Effective August 3, 1951, I was issued an honorable discharge with my DD214 form indicating "Physical Disability" and specifying "Not Eligible to Reenlist at This Time." Thus, my military career ended and I was released back into civilian life.
My Career Begins
This was all just a beginning of what my life was to be. I was yet to go into supervision at Western Union. My career was just beginning and I was yet to go into the technical part of my employment with the company. But as they say, that's another story. And it sure is, as the Lord has been so good to me.'
My early night supervisor at this time was a wonderful woman, Helene Felton. She was the "mama" of our group. She is still here and now lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. She is 93 years young and calls me quite regularly to make sure that I'm okay. I love to chat with her on the phone. She has lost her son, daughter, and first and second husband, but she has always regarded me as her son and still does.
My main accomplice in attending these events was an older Morse operator named Julius Pearlstein, commonly known as Pearly. He was a Jewish man, and I think he was known by every reporter in the country. He was a great friend to everyone and was well-liked by all who came in contact with him. His major asset was his true regard for everyone.
Our special events assignments were as varied as they get. Mostly during the summer months we had baseball assignments. We covered two different teams. One was the Los Angeles Angels who played at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles. The other was the Hollywood Stars who played at Gilmore Field in Hollywood. One team or the other was in town almost every week. They never were in town at the same time. Pearly or Joe handled the play-by-play. I was there to handle the reporters' copy. I sent it either on direct circuits to the newspaper or via a press location in the main office downtown or some other major city. One summer I didn't miss a single game that they played in our area. I was at one ballpark or the other every evening or afternoon and on weekends too.
During golf tournaments we were at the Riviera Country Club quite often. During one tournament, it rained pretty good and they didn't have enough regular parking so we parked in the fields out front of the club. When I tried to get out, I was stuck, just like so many others were. The movie star Robert Mitchum and a couple of his friends tried to help get me out, but the mud was too slick. One of Mitchum's buddies lost his shoe in the mud. I ended up getting one of the tow trucks to pull me out.
During the football season we were always at the Los Angeles Coliseum. My future wife-to-be was the first woman that they allowed to work in the press box. Lynn was very sports-minded and knew all about the football teams and the players. She got along harmoniously with all the reporters because she talked their language.
Pearly and I also went to the Huntington Hotel in Pasadena two weeks before New Year's Day. This was where the visiting team stayed for the Rose Bowl game. They had a press room set up for the visiting press. We had two circuits set up to take care of their copy. They always gave us lunch along with the reporters. When Nixon was Vice President, he visited the press room and shook hands with both Pearly and I, along with the visiting press.
Most of the time I worked with Associated Press reporter Bob Myers. We beat all other wire services at one of the Rose Bowl games and from then on he asked for me as his operator.
When President Eisenhower came to Palm Springs, Pearly and I were called into service. Betty Hutton was entertaining the press there and she threw a chuck wagon steak fry for all of us just outside of town. We stayed in the motel there for several days. Eisenhower was staying at the Smoke Tree Ranch and the press stuck around Palm Springs until he left.
There were fashion shows, swim meets, basketball games, track meets, political events, and also the Academy Awards. The first Academy Award I covered, they had us stuck down in the basement of the Pantages Theater in Hollywood so we didn't see anything. The next one was in the NBC studios in Burbank, where Jack Webb was the MC. We were on deck with Jack and all the reporters and everyone else. They made a full spread sheet out of it in our company paper and just recently made a reprint of it in our retirement paper. After the show was over, they held a cocktail party for everyone there, including us operators. It was our chance to mingle with the stars and we did just that. I'll never forget Charles Cobern and his capacity to entertain the young ladies. He was an endless story teller and he had them all captured in his interest.
In April 1956, engineer Jerry Gott approached me in the Traffic Department and asked me if I was still interested in coming into the wire and repeater section. They had an apprentice bulletin that had expired and no one had bit on it. If I was interested, he would backdate my bid. I told him I surely was still interested. I entered my bid and took the test. I was told later that I got the highest score that was ever given on the test. I guess that about guaranteed me the apprenticeship, and I was transferred to the plant department.
During my one year apprenticeship, I made four trips to Chattanooga, Tennessee for training. On three of the trips I took the train from Los Angeles through New Orleans to Chattanooga. They sent me by first class roomette on the Sunset Limited to New Orleans and an upper birth to Chattanooga. That's all the Southern Railway had. The third trip I flew through Chicago, and took my one and only helicopter ride from O'Hare airport to Midway airport as I had to change airlines there. At the end of my fourth trip I took my vacation and took a bus tour through Washington, DC and New York before returning to Chattanooga and back to Los Angeles. I figured that since I was this far, I may as well see a little more of the country.
I was a full-fledged Wire and Repeater technician from April 14, 1957 through January 18, 1959. They then asked me if I was interested in contract maintenance with the Air Force out of New York headquarters. I was still single, so why not? On my birthday in 1959, I was transferred to New York headquarters as a Maintenance Supervisor. I was only in New York long enough for indoctrination into supervision. Then they shipped me to Chattanooga for training in the Plan-55 system which the Air Force had contracted from Western Union.
When this took place, we made arrangements in the Chapel of the White Star and got our license in the courthouse upon our arrival. Lynn made all the arrangements at the motel where we stayed and the next day after our arrival, on March 22, 1959, we were married. After the ceremony we drove to Boulder Dam for a look-see, then we drove to Los Angeles. We dropped Audrey and Richard off in Los Angeles and for the next week we "honeymooned" in a motel near the International Airport.
On Easter morning we went to church in the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, where Lucille and Leonard were members. This is the church where I learned the Apostles Creed as it was recited there during each Sunday morning service. I memorized it and I've never forgotten it. I like to recite this in place of a prayer sometimes as it re-affirms my Christian belief. I believe it shows my true feeling that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all mankind from our savage origin. The creed is used in services of worship by Catholics and by most Protestants as the principal traditional affirmation of the Christian faith. In the Anglican Book of Common Prayer it reads:
While I was an operator in Los Angeles, there was a supervisor, Henrietta Vavulis, who related seeing a painting of Jesus, by himself, sitting on an ass and ambling down a country lane, laughing and enjoying his Father's creations. I never did see the painting or even a reproduced copy, but I always remembered this, thinking what a beautiful thought this was, to picture the simplicity and peaceful joy of religious faith and belief. If every man were to understand this, it seems that we would know why the Father sent His only begotten Son to us to try to save His creations from self destruction. To me this was saying to us, "Calm down, My Children, and enjoy what I have given you." There are more things in life to explore and examine than there are stars in the Heavens, so why turn to hate and destruction of each other. "The Wonders of His Love" were never more evident.
Since it was Easter, the church was naturally full. We had to sit up in the balcony. During the service, I looked up and saw a vision of Jesus suspended over the congregation. I took this as an indication of approval of Lynn and my marriage, as I knew we were somehow meant for each other. We had known each other for the past nine years before taking this step, so this was by no means a whirlwind courtship.
Immediately after the service we hit the road to Chattanooga where I would be teaching the Air Force the schooling I had just been through on the Plan-55 system. I had 18 Air Force students in my class. We decided to take the "high" road and go through Ogden, where I could introduce my new wife to my dad. He was in a nursing home just outside of Ogden where he was bedridden because of an infection he had gotten in his foot. His arthritis in his hips had gotten so bad that his hips were now grown together and he would never walk again. Dad was so happy to meet Lynn and his eyes sparkled real bright. His eyes confirmed his approval of my choice and I never forgot that. Lynn also noticed this as she remarked later about his bright blue sparkling eyes.
After completion of my teaching job in Chattanooga, I was assigned to supervisory duties in the Plan-55 center at McClellan AFB in North Highlands, California, just outside of Sacramento. The Plan-55 system was an electro-mechanical switching system that used punched tapes to relay messages. I specialized in the electronics of the system while other Western Union supervisors specialized in the mechanical equipment. The Air Force technicians did the actual work and we supervised their activities. Our civil service rating as Maintenance Supervisors was equivalent to that of an Air Force Major and we were encouraged to join the Officers Club at McClellan AFB, which we did.
About the middle of 1960 headquarters needed instructors for a school to be started in Sheppard AFB, Wichita Falls, Texas. This was training Air Force Technicians as well as Civil Service personnel in the Plan-55 system. Six supervisors from throughout the country were needed as instructors, with one overall manager for this school. Lynn and I drove to Sheppard AFB as I was one of those picked for this job. This was ideal as it was in Texas and not far from Lynn's hometown in Rotan. I think there were approximately 30 students assigned to each class of both military and civilian types.
Almost as soon as we arrived there, my father passed away on August 29, 1960, so I flew to Salt Lake City to attend the funeral. Dad was buried in Salt Creek Cemetery in Tremonton, Utah, alongside of my mother. Both of my parents were God's servants in their own way. I always knew this, but I realize this even more in my retirement years. I note more of their dedication to the Lord, and thank God for them both.
The training class I taught ran from September 2, 1960 through January 15, 1961. When this assignment was completed, Lynn and I returned to Sacramento and McClellan AFB.
Our families were allowed to go with us on this assignment. We were allowed to take our own car since this was actually a temporary move and we needed our own transportation when we got there. Family expenses were allowed on the road from our current location to RCA Service Company, Cherry Hill Training Facility. However, daily living expenses while in training were only authorized for the employee. It did include apartment rental, however.
Lynn had found out before we left Sacramento that she was pregnant, but the doctor advised that it would be okay if she made the trip. There were thirteen in our class, most of them with families. Some with four or five children, so we certainly wouldn't be alone. We were to be released no later than July 21, so we packed up the car and were off across country from Sacramento, California, to Camden, New Jersey.
When we got into Philadelphia, Lynn said to me, "Take me back to California." It was a dark and rainy day, which didn't help any. When we crossed the Delaware River into Camden, New Jersey, I was about to join her. After we got out of Camden and into Cherry Hill, the scenery was much better. We found an apartment complex where some of the other families were located. We got a two-bedroom furnished apartment that wasn't too bad. After we got settled down, it was school time again. We were fortunate in that Lynn found a good doctor, so everything worked out quite well.
The system we were about to learn was a completely computerized message relay system that RCA had developed for Western Union, along with Western Union Engineering. The Air Force had been assigned the responsibility to furnish a complete system to include all the armed forces--Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, etc. It would eliminate each branch having their own system as had previously been the practice. It was initially called a "Communications Logistic Network," which is where the name "COMLOGNET" originated. Other names were tossed around before they settled on "Autodin", which was derived from "Automatic Digital Network."
Western Union was the prime contractor to the Air Force, with RCA and IBM as subcontractors to Western Union. It should also be noted that computers were in the transistor state, integrated circuits had not yet been developed. This made it quite difficult to maintain operation in large memory systems such as this one. It was especially sensitive to temperature changes. They did get the system going, however, and we got the schooling necessary to maintain it, both hardware and software, when it would be made operational.
It should also be noted at this time that, prior to system design, Western Union, RCA, and IBM had generated the ASCII code system as it now stands. These initials stand for "American Standard Code for Information Interchange." This is an eight-bit code, including a parity bit, for each character, alpha, numeric, or otherwise, which would be used to transmit such characters by electronic means. It was also decided, at the time, to break the total transmission of information, into what was referred to as "blocks" of 80 character units. This was a throwback of the 80 characters that IBM used in cutting their IBM "card" system. They also included at the end of each block what was referred to as an overall "block parity" character. This was done to cut the possibility of error down to less than "one part in ten million" by using both horizontal and vertical parity of each 80 character unit or "block."
The old code, Baudot (French) used a five-bit code with no parity, which made the possibility of error extremely high and was completely unacceptable for our purpose. We needed to strive for totally "errorless" transfer and transmission of all characters involved, including "escape" capabilities.
Our First Child
On our trips to New York and Washington, D.C., we visited such locations as the Empire State Building, Mount Vernon, and other notable spots. Since we drove our own car, it was not as easy as taking a tour, but Lynn did very well in her condition. We went to Long Island for Thanksgiving dinner on an invitation by friends Dean Quinn and family, who we knew from Plan-55.
Although we had a kitchen and dining room in the apartment, they were mostly used for breakfast. The dining room table was used most of the time for studying. We spent Christmas there and since most of the families had small children, we had decorated Christmas trees and all the gifts. Dinner was mostly left up to the restaurants.
By the time school was over, Lynn was well along in her pregnancy and we were hoping that we could stay there until after the baby was born. it so happened that they needed one other man and me to stay and help RCA test out some of the new equipment before it could be shipped out. Our testing lasted for several weeks. This worked out real well as our son David was born on February 10, 1962 in the hospital in Camden, New Jersey. According to the doctor, Lynn was overdue and they had to give her "dynamite" to wake David up. We were able to stay there until he had his checkup before he was able to travel. Of course, Lynn checked out okay too, so everything worked out fine.
When I was released from this detail, the three of us were able to drive back to Sacramento together. We took the southern route home to avoid the snow at that time of the year, which allowed us to go through Rotan, Texas, to show David off to his Grandma along the way.
As I mentioned earlier, Al Schroepfer and I had stayed in Camden after school was complete. We were in for a surprise when the system was made operational. He was named Site Manager and I was named Assistant Site Manager of the new McClellan Autodin center. I got my notice from the New York headquarters office on November 7, 1962. As Site Manager, Al's civil service equivalency was that of a full colonel. My rating as Assistant Site Manager was that of Lieutenant Colonel.
It was sometime around the end of 1962 that Western Union Headquarters was moved from New York City to Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. I was later to visit the new office several times. It was quite an improvement over the New York location.
Things were going along quite well, including the newly developed "high-speed" circuits which were carried over the microwave system between the exchanges. Besides McClellan there was Norton AFB, California; Tinker AFB, Oklahoma; Gentile AFB, Ohio; Albany, Georgia; Ft. Detrick, Maryland; Hancock AFB, New York; and Andrews AFB, Washington, D.C.--all Autodin sites. At that time "high speed" meant 2400 baud (2400-bits per second). 4800 baud was about as high as was practical with the equipment they had developed up to that time. In the modem section, 2400 baud took a full rack of equipment which included a splitter and combiner between two 1200 baud channels on one normal voice frequency spectrum--4KC on the new microwave system. With the equipment they have now developed since that time, 56 kilobits transmission is now common practice on voice channels. However, it must be recognized that we were still working with transistors in those days. Integrated circuits had not yet been developed.
About February Lynn found out from the doctor that she was pregnant again. This time, fortunately, we were settled down in a house in North Highlands, which is the community where McClellan was located. She had a full term pregnancy and our daughter Jodi was born on October 10, 1963, in Sacramento, California.
On November 22, 1963, I was in the carrier room when we got a call from Dallas. They advised us that President Kennedy had been shot. They couldn't give us any particulars at the time, but they did know that he had been taken to Parkland Hospital. They were not sure of his condition. Needless to say, all the world's eyes and ears were focused on Dallas for many days and weeks to come.
It was about this time that other government agencies were interested in getting into the Autodin system. Univac had developed an adapter system that would allow their computers to work into our network so one representative from each center was sent to Utica, New York, to be schooled on their adapter. I was the one from our center. I really don't know why this was necessary because all we would be doing was furnishing a circuit termination to them. These adapters were at the customer end of the circuit. It was a one-week assignment and it was cold and snowy in Utica, which we did not appreciate. We were just glad to get out of there when it was time to leave.
Everything went along quite well, but I did have to make another trip back to Camden for a couple of weeks, this time without my family. They were enhancing the system and were getting ready to bring in low speed systems. Plan-55 for the Air Force, plus Army and Navy systems also were being integrated into the Autodin system. I had to go back to school to learn about the new equipment that was being added--operation and maintenance thereof.
Shortly after I became Site Manager, one of the officials from headquarters came to McClellan and asked me to take a trip with him just north of Sacramento to a vacated ballistic missile site. It was quite an impressive location. It reminds me of the movie, "War Games," where in the very beginning the Lieutenant and Captain were alone in the control room. We visited the control room and each of the missile sites to investigate the possibility of using the sites for future Autodin locations. As you may recall, this was during the Cold War and the trend was to go underground for protection in case of a nuclear conflict. Fortunately, it was not necessary to use these locations.
As we started to bring in more and more of the low-speed circuits, the system started to bog down. These low-speed outlets did not accept the data as fast as it was being scheduled for them. The low-speed terminals were just too slow and couldn't keep up with high speed data circuits.
There were also changes in maintenance of the centers. The Air Force felt they could save if they provided their own technicians. Up to this time, Western Union technicians did all maintenance work in the centers. The Air Force technicians were being schooled, but the question was raised on how long they would be in the center before they would be transferred to another location.
All the Site Managers, including me, were summoned to a high-level meeting at Scott AFB, Illinois, regarding the prospects on this matter. During the meeting, our boss from UPSR headquarters asked the question, "Could the Air Force guarantee that trained technicians would remain at any one location for a minimum amount of time?" You could have heard a pin drop. No Air Force or Civil Service officer would commit themselves to any such thing. I should mention here that the Civil Service people were actually operating the centers. For us, this meant that we would constantly be supervising "green" technicians and constantly schooling new people, which meant that it would be impossible to maintain the system with this type of help. After this things started to get worse. Our supervising force was doing practically all the maintenance work. In addition, the Air Force changed their officer force and the new officers that came in had no idea what the system was all about.
On December 15, 1966, I submitted a letter to UPSR requesting that I be replaced for psychological and medical purposes. In return, I was offered a position in UPSR or in Washington, D.C., both of which I declined to accept. Also, Mr. Sulloway, Division Superintendent of the Pacific Division, made an offer in that area, which I also declined. I then called Mr. Rod Swanson, Division Superintendent of the Gulf Division. I had worked with Mr. Swanson in Los Angeles and I knew him quite well. He told me to pack my family together and come on down to Dallas. He would make sure I had work there. I was very grateful for this since we would be near Lynn's folks and we could visit them occasionally.
Needless to say, our Christmas that year was quite "iffy." We were not too sure of anything at that time. On December 29, 1966, Rod Swanson got hold of me and advised me that he had talked to Al LaFrance, my boss in UPSR, the day before. He just got a letter off that day to advise them to get me transferred to Dallas. He wasn't sure of the level I would be, but initially I would be Supervisor Technical Services assigned to the Dallas Division office. He further advised me that he told UPSR he would take me as soon as I was released by them. This was a big load off my mind, which I appreciated.
Everything started to gel--selling the house, getting bids for moving, etc. was now in process. We still had the 1955 Olds, but we also had an Olds F-85 station wagon. We decided to sell the 1955 Olds and take the F-85 to Texas. I didn't want to have two cars on the highway. We sold the old reliable "Bubble-mobile" for $50.00 to a friend across the street. It was about 12 years old and had well over 100,000 miles on it. It was a gas-guzzler, but it still ran good and was really in good shape on the inside and outside.
We searched for several days in Dallas and Farmers Branch and found nothing that would fit our needs. One day when we got up, Lynn said to me, "This is the day." And believe it or not, it was. We found a new home that the owner had built for himself and his family and then had had a heart attack. he then built a new one closer to town where his wife worked and had this one up for lease. It was here in Arlington where we wanted in the first placer. As soon as we looked inside, we said, "This is the place."
Our furniture was in storage and as soon as we signed the lease papers, we started moving in. I should note here that it was a one year lease we signed and at the time of signing, I asked if they would attach an option to buy to it. They agreed, which I was very thankful for a year later. This was all handled by his lawyer's office, so everything was perfectly legal, which I was also thankful for a year later. That was over 30 years ago and I still enjoy living in the same home.
There are so many stories I could relate of the times I spent in the service, about the men with whom I came in touch with. I only wish that I could remember the names of those I picture in my mind. I have pictures of many of them, but even so, without the labels I only recall their deeds and my association with them, which leaves too many blanks.
I can only thank the Lord for protecting me the way he has. I survived both World War II and the Korean War. In my survival all I can do is give thanks to Him and let others know how He has continued to take care of me throughout my 76 years.
My dear wife passed on almost seven years ago, so I dedicate this memoir to my son and daughter and their families, including my grandchildren. I also dedicate this to my remaining three sisters and all my nieces and nephews; my church family at Meadow Lane Baptist Church, The Chosin Few North Texas Chapter, the 1st Scout/Recon Association, 1st Marine Division Association, the China Marines Association, the Korean War Veterans Association, and the local VFW in Arlington, Texas. May God be with them always as He has been with me.