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“We’re In The Army Now” April 13, 2014

Posted by nrhatch in People.

Dad ~ Top Right

Dad enlisted in the Army and reported for duty on June 27, 1946, at age 18.

His enlistment, at the end of his first year at Northeastern University, coincided with the end of World War II, just before the Korean War.

Earlier that spring, he received a draft notice, had a physical, and then the draft ended.  After considering his options, he enlisted anyway:

* He valued higher education but had limited financial resources.  He hoped to subsidize the expense of obtaining an electrical engineering degree with the benefits offered under the G.I. Bill.

* After spending 17 years in rural Vermont and one year in Boston, he wanted to see the world beyond the relative confines of New England.

At the recruiting office in Rutland, he passed the mental screening test with a score of 49 out of 50 ~ “to pass you need to get 15.”   From Rutland, he headed to Fort Ethan Allen, passed his physical, and was sworn into the army on June 29th.  Next stop:  Fort Banks in Boston.

A few days later, he caught the troop train to Fort Dix, NJ ~ “they have got between two and three hundred of us now.”

On the 4th of the July, at Fort Dix, his number came up on the processing roster and he received his uniform, dog tags, etc.  He bought stationary at the PX that afternoon and caught up with some letter writing:

“Before we finish processing, we will get 6 tests, some movies, several shots, and some other stuff besides.  Anytime after that I might ship out. The sooner the better.  After we finish processing we are likely to draw K.P. and other details.  When on K.P. you work for 16 hours straight.  The food is a lot better here then at Fort Banks.  If the food that I get the rest of the time in the army is as good as it is here, I won’t kick a bit.”

A few days later, he wrote his sister, Marjorie, also from Fort Dix:

“I am quite a ways from home now ~ it would take 12 hours to come home, but I will probably be a lot farther away in a couple of days. They say this fort is only 30 miles from Philadelphia.  None of us can get a pass to get out of here though.  The shots I had yesterday made my arm pretty lame, but it feels better today. I am enclosing some papers for Daddy to keep.  They are to show him that he is the beneficiary of the life insurance that I took out.  I didn’t take the $10,000 policy as the war is no longer on.  I decided that $5,000 would be plenty.”

The next day, July 8th, he wrote his dad:

“Just a line tonight to let you know that I ship out tomorrow.  Tonight I do not know where I am going; they will tell us in the morning.  (I suspect they have put me in the infantry and will send me to Fort McClellan, Alabama.) I will not send this letter tonight and will leave space to write in my destination tomorrow morning.  Enough for now. I have some friends to say good-by to.

P.S.  I was right.  I am going to Alabama.”


Aah . . . that’s better!

Continued tomorrow . . . “It’s a Rifle, Not a Gun!”


1. Pix Under the Oaks - April 13, 2014

Very interesting Nancy. I have a few letters that my Dad wrote my Mom when he was overseas in the Army. I cherish them. Looking forward to your post tomorrow. The military was so different then.

nrhatch - April 13, 2014

I enjoyed reading the letters my dad wrote home, first from Basic Training and then from Korea. Some of them show his sense of humor. Having never been in the military, I found this glimpse into the past quite interesting.

2. colonialist - April 13, 2014

Great glimpses of the past. He was obviously vastly over-qualified, mentally!

nrhatch - April 13, 2014

He ended up being selected for the Army Intelligence Corps on arrival in Korea ~ with interesting cases and more than a few perks.

colonialist - April 13, 2014

Not surprised at the selection – although I have to say that with some of our local Intelligence, it seemed a lack of that was the main job qualification.

nrhatch - April 13, 2014

It’s a different world these days. It’s like we took a wrong turn somewhere and can’t find our way back to Common Sense.

3. kateshrewsday - April 13, 2014

Really enjoyed this, Nancy. Looking forward to the next part!

nrhatch - April 13, 2014

Thanks, Kate. Having never been in the military, I found this glimpse into Basic Training to be “eye opening.”

Some of what dad went through . . . would NOT have added to my enjoyment of life.

4. barb19 - April 13, 2014

I love glimpses into the past, and your dad’s story is no exception. It reveals so much about the person and how things used to be. Precious memories.

nrhatch - April 13, 2014

I’ve been on the fence about posting this summary of dad’s letters since last fall ~ I wasn’t sure how much interest there would be and didn’t want to bore “the troops” to tears.

In the end, I decided to post since many folks are interested in history, especially that surrounding WWI and WWII.

Plus I loved the old postcards and wanted to share them.

5. Patricia - April 13, 2014

You are so fortunate to have letters and post cards that your dad wrote. I had a whole box of letters my dad wrote to my mother when he was in the Navy during WWII. But then my brother wanted to read them and now they are gone who knows where.

nrhatch - April 14, 2014

Sorry the letters are “gone,” Patricia. It’s nice to have bits and pieces of the past that give us a glimpse at who our parents were before they were our parents.

But we can get too caught up in “looking over our shoulders” at what once was ~ I’m trying to maintain a balance in deciding which letters to keep and which to toss.

Patricia - April 15, 2014

Reading the letters did help me understand some troubling things so I am glad to have read them. Although, after reading them I wished my parents were living so I could ask some questions.

nrhatch - April 16, 2014

I felt the same, wanting to talk to dad about his experiences.

Of course, our memories shift over time, shaped and filtered with later experiences ~ perhaps their combined recollections wouldn’t have provided an accurate reflection to fill in gaps.

6. jannatwrites - April 14, 2014

Great letters! What a way to experience history through personal ties.

nrhatch - April 14, 2014

I’ve enjoyed seeing dad at 18, especially his sense of humor when teasing his younger sister.

7. Three Well Beings - April 16, 2014

Your dad’s test scores are rather impressive, Nancy…not that I’m very surprised. 🙂

nrhatch - April 16, 2014

At first, I thought it was a mental health screening . . . to make sure he was not cuckoo!

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13. Tokeloshe - May 7, 2014

Very well written. I love the vintage postcard. Thank you.

nrhatch - May 7, 2014

I love the vintage postcards of Fort McClellan and the town.

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