3.01 First Night:They swore us in and that day they gave us a movie pass to see Randolph Scott in Riding Shotgun. It was a 3D movie. And we went over and seen that. After the movie the train was in Wilkes-Barre. We came there, we had our stuff, we got on the train and they shipped us down Yemassee, South Carolina. But that’s another trip; it was on the train and it was one of the nicest trips I’ve ever had.
They put me in charge because my score on my test was higher than the two guys with me, my cousin and Ox, put together. If you added their two scores together I still beat them by twenty points or something. So they put me in charge, I’m the littlest guy there. We get down to Yemassee and the train pulls in it was nighttime, I guess, when it pulled in and we get off the train.
3.02 Stepping Off The Train:Ox goes first, I was last. Ox steps off the train, he gets down to the ground and this DI comes over and punches him right in the mouth, knocked him back to my cousin and my cousin knocked me over. I’m lying on the floor of the train. Ox started to speak and the DI yells, “You’re chewing gum. Get that gum out of your mouth!” Well I had gum in my mouth, I swallowed it because I didn’t want them to see me take it out of my mouth. So I just laid back and then the DI yanked Ox up, he yanked Joe up and then I’m there last. I was in behind the train.
The DI says, “Get in formation! Assholes to bellybuttons” that means close up, your bellybutton was against his rear end. That’s how tight we were. And he’s running around in a circle, I think there were two of them, but the one guy was the big mouth. He was running around kinda punching and shoving us and cursing. The people were in the station and they were walking around like nothing’s happening. I’m thinking, “Hey! What’s goin’ on? Don’t you see what this guy is doing to us?” I mean, I wasn’t scared, I was just in shock. I’m thinking, “What the heck is this going on?”
The DI was marching us around the station and the bus is out there waiting. There’s a pile of guys on the bus already. So he says, “Find a seat. Sit down at attention and I don’t want to see your eyeballs move. Hands on your legs and sit.” It was dark, so, we’re sitting there and I’m sitting next to Ox and my hands are there and I don’t want to turn my head but I ask, “What’s going on here?” “I don’t know…” So I says, “This is weird. We are Marines, right? This is the same place, right?” Ox says, “Yeah.” The bus trip was like twenty seven miles and I don’t think I moved a muscle. The DI is standing in the front of the bus just looking at everybody. It was dark but I mean you could hear a pin drop in there.
We get down to Parris Island. We enter the receiving area and they said, “Get your stuff and follow us.” We got out, I don’t know if we even got in the ranks or anything, I think we just followed in a group. We walked in and they took us to the second floor receiving and he says, “Pick a bunk out and sit on it.” We all picked a bunk and he says, “Sit at attention!” We always did everything at attention. So you just sit there and don’t move.
3.03 Showers and SmokesAbout nine o’clock or so the DI comes over and says, “Go take your showers now. Be quiet, I don’t want to hear nothing.” Ya go in and it’s an open shower where everybody is there. Ya shower and nobody is saying a word. Ya get done showering and we put our underwear on. So we’re sitting with our underwear on, on the bunk at attention and it’s five to ten. A guy in charge comes over and says, “If anybody wants to go out for a smoke you can go out.” We said, “OK” and these guys went out and I’m sitting on the bunk thinking, “ Well, I may as well go out and get a chance to talk to them,” because I didn’t get a chance to talk to them.
It was like eighteen degrees at that time. So they’re out there in underwear and I go out and these guys are already smoking. I says, “What’s going on here? This is ridiculous. I didn’t think it was going to be like this!” We just did our talking and everything else. I says, “Well I’m going in, I’m freezing.” They said, “Alright, we’ll be right in.” I open the door to go in and I hear, “Hey! What the ‘f’ are you doing?” “Coming inside sir.” “I told you you could go out! I didn’t say nothing about coming back in!” So we had to go out there. Ten o’clock he shuts the lights off and we’re all out there on the porch.
I’m thinking, “Oh man. This is ridiculous. I’m freezing.” I says, “I don’t even smoke and I’m stuck out here with you guys.” I don’t know how long we were out there, but I was freezing. The guy in charge opened the door and said, “Okay you can go in and find your bunk and I don’t want to hear no noise or anything.” It had to be at least fifteen minutes, but seemed like an hour. Maybe it was an hour, I don’t know, but we were out there and we were pretty cold. So we go in, get in our bunk, fall asleep.
3.04 Reveille:All of a sudden, man, four thirty in the morning these lights go on and they’re like spotlights, like you’re on a stage show. I’ve never seen lights so bright in all my life. I looked down and I saw mattresses flying, bodies flying, and six DIs. They come in throwing guys out of bed and everything. Fortunately I was on the end and I got up out of bed and was standing at attention. And they’re screaming. They’re running around. They’re doing this. They’re screaming and hollering, “Get dressed. You’re going to breakfast. And we don’t want to see this and all of that stuff.”
We got dressed. They came in, lined us up outside, and oh yeah, like cattle. That’s what they used to say, “You guys are like cattle. You’re not cattle anymore. You’re going to start marching so get in formation.” So we got in formation, they march us down to the mess hall which was pretty nice. We went in there and you walk through a line and they gave ya food like I never had. For breakfast you had the oatmeal and home fries, fruit and eggs and bacon and sausage and toast. Whatever you want. So I mean, that was kind of a surprise. Got down there, had a nice meal.
3.05 Aspero:Then they line us up. They took us back to receiving and then we sat on our bunks at attention again until they said, “Go outside while we’re waiting for the rest of the platoon to arrive. They’re coming from the Bronx in New York City.” They had chairs out there. So we sat at receiving and we’re sitting there and along comes the bus. The guys start stepping off the bus and there’s four DIs out there. The one guy, Aspero, gets off the bus and he has a leather jacket with zippers all over and scorpions on his sleeves and long hair, long black hair, duck’s rear end.
The DI comes over and he grabs him by the hair and slams him up against the bus, by his hair he’s holding his head. The DI says, “Are you a hood?” and he says, “No.” And the DI starts punching him and says, “You look like a hood!” He starts punching him and banging him and banging his head against the thing and he says, “You say sir! No sir!” and he started banging him, banging him and he says, “Now, are you a hood?” He says, “Yes...” and the DI starts banging him screaming, “You say, ‘Yes sir!’” “Yes sir!” “You are a hood.” He said, “Yes sir!”
The DI said, “I hate hoods!” and he beat him up again. He was bleeding, his nose was bleeding, his mouth was bleeding and the DI says, “I hate hoods! And I hate liars. First you told me you weren’t and now you tell me you are!” No matter what was said he was beating him.
3.06 Haircuts and Uniforms:In the meantime everybody else is getting out there. They have footprints on the ground and you put your feet in a footprint there. They got everyone straightened out and they started hollering back and forth. Then they come in for us and they got us together and we went down and we got in line. First we had to go get a haircut. We were in our civilian clothes, they take you in and cut everybody’s hair right off, right to the skin.
They marched us down for our uniforms. Then you get your uniforms and you’re processed. You go through, you just walk through the line, they hand you this, they throw your clothes, so much of this, so much of that, so much of this.
3.07 First Day Supplies:They took us down to get our supplies, everybody grabs a footprint and is stands at attention. The DI says, “Now here are your boxes.” There’s racks there. He says, “In front of each rack is a number. So if it says one you take one. If it says two you take two. Down the line. Is there any questions?” “No.” So we go through, it says “Towels. Two.” I grabbed two towels. I grabbed my various supplies down the line and placed everything at my feet. The DI walks to me and says, “Can you count?” And I says, “Yes sir!” And he says, “What did the towels say?” I says, “It says take two and I took two.” He says, “Oh yeah, ya did?” and I says, “Yes sir.”
He picks up one in each hand and he shakes them and one falls out. There were two in one bundle. I thought, “Holy crap.” I’m standing there. He says, “What are you a crook?” He puts one towel over my head and he takes the other towel and wraps it in a knot around my neck. Me and maybe eight other guys did the same thing. So now we hadda march around with a towel over our head like that. You’re looking through the threads. You can see through the threads while you’re marching. The mess hall was the only place I could open up the knot to feed myself underneath the towel. I couldn’t take the towel off. I hadda eat like that and go back.
So that’s one snare I got caught with. He called me a crook. That was a surprise. I said how they do it. They just have ways of doing things.
3.08 Postcards:We come back to the barracks and in the middle of the barracks there’s a table. The DI comes up and he stands on the table and we’re all at attention. He says, “My name is Sergeant Howe! But to you it will be Hell!” Then he said he expected us to do this and everything else. He was a mean dude. He was pretty mean, I can’t remember half the stuff that he did. But he was constantly really doing.
Sergeant Howe says, “You guys gotta write home to your parents. Your parents want to hear from you. So I’m giving you cards. I want you to write something, tell them all about camp because they miss you.” So he gives us all a postcard. I get my card and I said, “Dear Mom. I love it here. Everything is good. The DIs are good. I love it here. Everything’s nice, we got good food and everything is going good.” So Joe my cousin comes down and says, “Look what I wrote. I put down, ‘The DIs are creepy. They’re rotten. They’re beating us, they’re doing this…’”
I says, “Joe, you can’t write that!” He says, “Why?” I says, “The DIs gonna read it!” He says, “They can’t read our mail.” I says, “It’s a postcard! Why do think they gave you a postcard? If they didn’t want to read it they would have given us an envelope.” So he erased it and fixed it up somehow. I don’t know how he did it. I didn’t see that.
The DI comes around and collects all the cards and about fifteen minutes later I hear, “Yo! Private so-and-so! You think I’m mean?! You call this mean?” And he’s hitting him. And he goes, “Next guy, Private so-and-so. You said this? This is a lie! You’re lying to your parents!” and he starts beating him up. Joe comes down, “Thanks a lot Jack.”
I knew darn right they give you postcards I knew they were gonna read it.
3.09 Morning Introductions:The next morning we’re there sitting on the floor and we’re gonna meet our captains in charge of our platoons, there’s four platoons there, and he was in charge of the four platoons. So we’re sitting and they’re talking and he comes in and introduces himself. He starts telling you what’s expected of us. He says, “When you come here, every man is reduced lower than whale shit. You can’t get any lower than that. So every man, no matter if you’re a governor's son or a congressman’s son or a chief of police son you’re as low as anybody here. It’s up to you to rise to the top. Everybody is treated the same.”
So he takes us down and he’s tell us all this stuff. He gets done. He says, “Are there any questions?” And a guy leaves a fart in the back of the room and everything got quiet. The captain looks around and asks, “Are there any other questions?” So we got a kick out of that.
3.10 Shave:They told everybody to shave and shower. I think the DIs checked us before we went to breakfast. They came and checked everybody’s face, make sure you’re shaved. I didn’t shave, I didn’t even have a beard at the time, I don’t think. I don’t know if I shaved or not but I kinda was scared about the inspection. The DIs went through and picked like six guys that didn’t shave and they said, “You see us after breakfast.”
We go down outside the mess hall and the DI says, “Alright. Before you go in I want you to take your time and enjoy your meal, but be out here when we’re out here. That’s all I ask.” Well, they go into breakfast, we’re still out there waiting for our turn to go in. We go in. You’re in there getting your food and they put all the food on your plate. What they put on your plate you gotta eat, you can’t get rid of any of it. So we barely got our food served, the last guy got his food and we see the drill instructors getting up to walk outside.
You’re shoving down the food and guys are trying to throw some of it away and there’s a guard standing by the garbage saying, “You better eat that, baby.” So they’re shoving their food down trying to get out. Well, we’re all late and the DIs go through this, “We told you all we ask of you was to come out here when we’re out here. We were in the mess hall. We had a peaceable breakfast, we sat down, we talked, we had our breakfast, we sat around and talked and everything, giving you all the time in the world and we come out here and you guys still aren’t out here.” They start all of that. I don’t know if they made us do pushups, or something. I don’t know; I’m sure they did something to us though.
We returned to the barracks and they took the six guys that didn’t shave. They says, “Get your razor and your water bucket.” So they walk over and they’re standing in front. We’re sitting on the floor and they said, “Put the bucket on your head” and the six guys put the buckets on their heads. “Now, you’re gonna shave while doing stationary double-time and don’t cut yourself.” The guys start stationary double-time and they’re shaving and the bucket’s going back and forth like this, right? And they said, “Don’t miss a hair!” So you gotta feel where the hair is and shave during stationary double-time. They took the buckets off and they’re all bleeding, the blood’s coming everywhere. “I told you not to cut yourself, you’re government property!”
They start smacking them around and one guy takes off through the door and downstairs and the DI ran after him. You hear, “Boom. Bang. Boom. Boom.” The DI returns and says, “Two guys go down there and help him back up.” So the guy’s all bloody and he’s bloody from the DI beating on him too, man. He told the guys to go in and wash him, he says, “When you’re to shave, you’re to shave.” Well, I didn’t miss a day shaving. I don’t think I had a hair, but I made sure there wasn’t any. I swear I had peach hair, but he must have felt sorry for me because I was so young. So he let me go, ‘cause I don’t remember shaving ‘cause I used to shave once a month.
3.11 Showers:When you’re taking showers at night, you gotta be quiet. So if you weren’t quiet, he runs in and shuts the lights off. And you got seventy two guys in there taking showers. You don’t know where your towels are. Where your nothing are or this are. Or else, he'll come in and tell you to fall out outside. So you gotta go whether you are lathered up, soaped up, whatever, you gotta go outside and fall in out there.
Half the time, it was December don’t forget and when you’re loud the DI would shut off the lights and tell you to go outside, “Fall in!” Now you’d be out there with no clothes on. Somebody would have a towel wrapped around them. Some wouldn’t have nothing wrapped around them. You be out there and the nighttime sentry would be walking past and lookin’ at you. “What did you guys do?” “We didn’t do nothing.”
3.12 Medical Exams:We were sent for our medical exams. You’re in your underwear there and they write a number on your chest. You go through all the tests. Then they take you back and start forming a platoon, put you into groups. I was squad leader for the last squad, I guess the eighth squad. All the short guys, they put in according to height all the way through, so they made me a squad leader. They start just getting you ready and take you up to your barracks.
3.13 Cleaning the DI’s Office:That night they called four of us to go in and clean the DIs office. I don’t know where the other guys were, but they picked me. So I go in there and the first thing I see is the blackboard and it has everything on it for the week, ya know, what you’re gonna do. I’m thinking, “Man this is nifty. Boy I can go and tell all the guys what we’re gonna do.” So I’m standing there and the DI comes in and he kicks me in the rear end. And I mean he kicked me in the rear end. I thought it went up to my shoulders. I turned around and he grabbed me, “What are you doing? Are you a spy?” “No sir!” “You’re a spy. You’re not in here to read all this stuff! This is private information. This is classified information!”
So he gets me, he throws me across the hallway into a closet and he jumps on me. I’m lying on the floor there and he jumps on me. And he’s hitting me. I don’t even feel a thing. I don’t know if my adrenaline was flowing, or whatever, but he was pounding on me. He picked me up and he took me in the office and he says, “Get in there and finish cleaning in there and don’t look at that board!” And I’ll tell you one thing, I didn’t look at that board after that.
When I returned to my bunk the guys asked, “What happened?” “I don’t know, he caught me looking at the board. It says we’re supposed to go here and go there on Monday and here on Tuesday…” That was it for the night shift anyway.
3.14 College:One of the first days we were there we took tests for your IQ or whatever, all kinds of tests so they can know where they put ya. So I go in there, I get called in. I finished third out of two hundred and ten guys. I was the third highest score and they wanted to send me to college. And I said, “For what?” And they says, “For electronics. You’ll study electronics. You’ll go to the Great Lakes for six weeks and if you pass your course you go to San Diego College.” And I says, “I ain’t goin’ to college. I just quit high school.” Well, I got my GED there. They gave me the GED. They said, “Well you got your GED there…” as part of the course I guess. And they says they wanted me to go there.
I says, “No. I don’t wanna go there. I won’t study. Will have to take History and English?” “Yeah that’s all… it’s a regular college course, but it’s for electronics.” And I said, “I don’t wanna.” He says, “You’re passing up a good deal.” I says, “Sorry. It’s just not for me.” He said, “Well the other thing is when you’re eighteen eligible for Officer’s Candidate School.” And I said, “What?” And he said, “Yeah, you scored high enough to go to Officer’s Candidate School.” And I says, “I can’t be an officer.” He says, “Why?” I said, “Well, look at you.” He said, “What?” I said, “Look it at on your chest.” He had like six racks of metals. I says, “You got all them metals.” He says, “Them medals don’t mean nothing if you have a bar on your shoulder.” I said, “Well, it might not mean nothing to them but I couldn’t give you an order. I’m just not that kind.”
I gave up that school too. So I coulda went to school to be an officer. I coulda went to electronic’s school. Anyway, they gave me a good classification. That’s why I was a computer in artillery there. That was the skill I was assigned there. So that’s with the schooling. I passed up the schooling. I passed up some good opportunities. And they gave you classes on all of their stuff.
3.15 Son of a Bitch:In the beginning we just marched to the mess hall. Then we went for our medical exam or the dental exam. I don’t remember, one day you go to one, one day you to the other. Then you start marching. Well I said I was picked for the last squad, I was squad leader. They picked the platoon leader. His name was Swidonovich and the DI didn’t like Swidonovich so he says, “When I say ‘Son of a bitch that’s you.’” So he would say, ‘Son of a bitch.’” he’d be out there, “Yes sir!” He had a name for everybody if he couldn’t pronounce your name he made up a name for you. Mine was Chismar.
3.16 Fallout:The next day you get up you start your morning stuff. You go in do your shower, shave and everything, get ready for food. We get down and he says, “When I say, ‘fallout’ I want you to fallout in ten seconds.” So he yells, “Fallout!” Well, you run down and you’re never on time. “You guys are so slow get back up in the barracks!” Back up in the barracks you go. “Fallout!” You go down there again. “What? You guys are women! Get out of here! You’re six seconds late! Get back up there!” So you run up again and then you run back down and when he’s kinda satisfied you’re tired enough then he takes you down to the mess hall.
These guys from New York were in our ranks on the parade ground. The one guy from New York he, now he’s a big tough guy, he’s there and he says, “I have to go to the restroom.” The DI says, “What?” He says, “I gotta go to the restroom.” The DI says, “Whattaya gotta do?” and he says, “I gotta pee.” “Well go ahead.” So the guy started walking. “Where are you going?” “I’m goin’ to the restroom.” “No. Pee right there.” So he had to pee in his pants right there. That’s how it went. I mean, you did what they told you to do when they told you to do it.
During another fallout one guy runs and his hand went through the window while he pushed the door. The glass cut right up from his wrist all the way up to his elbow. And he was bleeding big-time there. It was kinda shocking for all of us. The DIs were shouting, “Didn’t you ever see blood before? You’ll be better. Go down to the dispensary. They’ll take care of ya.” as if there was no problem at all. He was bleeding like crazy. We were kinda mad. “What are you guys? Now you’re gonna start because a dumb guy cut himself? You know you don’t put your hand through a window!”
That was kinda a little bit of a shock there with that. I’ve never seen that much blood. I said, I was a kid! A little kid. To me it was really farce.
3.17 Door Knocking:When you go see the DI you used to hafta knock on the door and say, “Private so-in-so wishes to speak to the Drill Instructor.” “I can’t hear you!” And you’d hit your knuckles hard. “Private so-in-so wishes to speak to the Drill Instructor!” “I can’t hear you!” You knuckles would, you never got done with under three. Sometime’s five or six before your knuckles, and I mean would hurt on that wood like that. So he would say, “I can’t hear you!” So that was the one thing you hadda go through every time you hadda go out.
3.18 Novacain:It’s late at night, it’s like seven at night, the evening after the dentist visit. Across from me this is the guy from West Virginia. I forget his name now. He’s sitting there and he’s, like, crying. He’s got his hands up on his face and he’s rocking his head back and forth. And I could see tears in his eyes. He ain’t crying or anything, but I could see he’s in pain. And I says, “What’s going on?” He didn't say nothing. I says, “Are you okay?” and he says, “Oh man. I’m hurtin’. I’m hurtin’.” And I says, “What’s wrong?” And he says, “I had teeth pulled today.”
I forget how many teeth he said he had pulled. And I says, “And they hurt ya?” and he says, “Yeah, my mouth is killing me.” I says, “Did he give you Novocain?” He says, “What’s Novocain?” “They put it in your mouth to numb your mouth and stuff. A needle.” He says, “They didn’t do any of that stuff.” “They didn’t give you a shot to numb ya?” And he says, “No.” “And they pulled your teeth?” And he says, “Yeah.” “You better go tell the DI.” And he says, “What?” “Go tell the DI. You’re in pain. He’s gotta get you something. That’s not right.” So he says, “No. I don’t want to.” “Go on. You better tell him. You’re gonna have one heck of a night. You better tell him while it’s still early enough he can get you something.”
He says, “Alright.” He goes and I hear “Knock. Knock. Knock. Private so-and-so requests permission...” “Can’t hear you.” “Private so-and-so requests permission…” “I can’t hear you.” And he says, “Private so-and-so requests permission…” “What the heck do you want now? I’m on my… This is my relaxing time. What do you want?” And he says, “Sir, could I have a couple aspirin” or Tylenol or whatever. He says, “What?” “I need some Tylenol.” “What do you need Tylenol for?” He says, “I had some teeth pulled today…” “Seventy Two guys got their teeth pulled today and you need aspirin?” He starts beating up on the guy. And he was Howe. He was the mean one.
And he comes back. He’s sitting down and, “Thanks a lot Jack. Thanks a lot..” I said, “What he say?” “What he say? He mocked me there, ‘Seventy two guys got their teeth pulled today…’” I said, “Did you tell him you didn’t get any…” “I didn’t have time to tell him! He didn’t ask me.” “Oh man. Sorry guy.” He’s sitting there, now he has a toothache and a headache and probably choked too. He probably choked him.
Those dentists are rough too. I’ll tell ya, they weren’t there to make you feel good. But I didn’t have no problems. They pulled a couple of my teeth but they gave me the Novacain. That kinda helps. Well, they’re rushing people through so much, ya know, one guy probably gives the shots and the other guy he does the checkup and the other guy does this and somebody forgot to give the shots somewhere along the line.
I said it’s ridiculous how they… I went through boot camp feeling like I was in a show, or a Hollywood play or something. Ya know? There was just something always happening and something always funny.
3.19 Getting Into Bed:Then it started when ya got into your bed. When he’s say, “Get in the bed,” you just didn’t get in the bed. The lower guy hadda dive through the rack and the upper guy hadda put his foot on the lower rack and the upper rack and do a flip to the bed. That’s how ya got in bed. He explained that to us and he’d say, “Get in the bed!” Bloomp! Everybody… and that ain’t easy to jump through the bed as you get down there, and I was up on the top I’d hafta climb. I’d hafta put my foot on the bottom and do a flip into the thing.
And I hadda a light, one of those globe lights above my bed and I would hit that one out of three times with my heel. I kept waiting for my foot to go through it. He would say, “Get into bed,” Boom! Everybody. “Ah, that’s too long. That’s two seconds too long. Get get back out!” We get outta bed. “Get into bed!” Voom! “You guys don’t know what you’re doing. You gotta do that! When I tell you to get into bed I mean to get into bed!” Well, you would do that maybe three or four times a night, getting into bed like that.
And then getting in and outta bed in the morning ya hadda have two sheets and a pillowcase in your hand so they made sure you made your bed and everything. So when you jumped outta bed he’d say, the lights would come on and you hadda be outta bed in front of the rack with two sheets in your hand and a pillowcase. I mean, you couldn’t cheat and fix the bed, so you hadda start from scratch every day. But that was our nighttime routine and our daytime.
3.20 Rifle Teacher:Yeah, and when we got our rifle, they send ya to class to learn all the, take care of the rifle, how to field strip it whatever. We go there and the DI takes us, sits us down in class. We’re sitting at attention and then he leaves. And then the instructor comes in and says, “At ease guys. I am not a DI. I’m a teacher and I’m here to help you guys. I’m just one of you guys.” He says, “All I ask.. You can do what you want. You can talk. You can have a cigarette if you want. I don’t care.” He says, “All I want you to do is pay attention when I talk. That’s all. Other than that you guys are on your own.”
He says, “Okay. This is an M1 rifle.” And he says, “I’m going to show you how to disassemble it and assemble it.” He says, “The first thing you do is you pull this shaft out. Take that off. Then you take this off.” And he’s laying everything in front of him. He says, “Now I take this off and then you take this off and this off and then this comes off and then that.” And then he says, “We’re gonna put it back together the same way. It’s just the opposite.” So he put this in first then he put this then that. He put this and I knew how to do it because I learned how to do it in the Reserves.
So I’m sitting there. So he says, “Are there any questions?” and a couple guys raise their hands. They says, “Well, how do you do this?” “I told you I wanted you to pay attention to me!” He comes running with this long shaft. He hitting him on the head, “I told that the first thing you do is take this thing out! I asked you to pay attention! And I told you you could do anything but please pay attention! But you didn’t!” And I’m sitting there and the guys are all, “How’d you do that? How’d you do that?” The teacher went around smacking people man.
So see the reserves helped me in more ways than one. Because I learned a lot. How to say, “Yes sir. No sir.” and how to stand and how to march. So I was ahead of the bunch. But that’s when I was glad I was ahead of that one. That was nothing to me. Man all the guys are looking around, spinning their head, they’re afraid to ask him how to do it. So you can’t trust any one of them. None of them are your friends down there in the beginning. They’re all gonna help ya. They’re gonna help ya and they’re gonna help ya.
3.21 Posey Learns to March:They started taking us to march. Well, we had two guys, well, maybe five guys, but two guys were really bad at marching. They couldn’t march. One was named Posey and he called him “Pussy.” “Pussy, get over here!” right? We’re out behind the barracks. We’re all lined up. “Forward march!” To the rear, march! Left flank, right flank!” and the DIs would demonstrate how to do that. We would do it, they would walk you through it first, show you how to do that. They would just keep, it’s just constant hollering.
They have these four guys running around screaming and they never said anything nice, ya know? I mean it was always hollering. Hollering this. Hollering this. This Posey, he couldn’t march for nothing. The DI would stand there and, we must have had our guns at this time too, you don’t say “guns”. You don’t say “guns… Rifles, right?” We hadda go down and get our rifles one day and they’re all in Cosmoline oil, it’s like a paste that’s oil. You hafta strip that down and you hafta get all that goo off the gun, see I’m saying it again. I’d get punched for that. Terrible. You get your rifle, you gotta clean it, get that all clean then you start polishing the stock and everything on it.
Anyway, we did have the rifles at the time because, so, this must have been three, four, five days into the thing. Because, every day you did something, we got our medical, then we got the eye exam and then our dental exam and then they took us to get the rifles. We did have our rifles and we were in the back there behind the barracks. Our head DI, he pulls Posey out and he says, “Get out here! This is what I want you to do!” and then he’ll say, “Left! Right! Left! Right!” and he would do it. He’d say, “Column left! This way. Column right! This way. Reverse! This way.”
The DI is doing all that stuff and Posey’s looking, watching the seagulls flying out in the thing there. The DI runs over. He grabs him by the back of the collar, by the rear end and he takes him and throws him over the bank, maybe an eight foot bank, and down in the swamps. That’s where the Marine’s drowned back there, behind our barracks. It’s all mud. I think he threw two guys but I know I seen, well Posey, he was in my platoon or near my platoon, or squad. He was a short guy like me, so I was watching what he was doing.
Anyway, they tossed him in. He come out and his gun, there I said it again, his rifle was in there. And I mean it was in total mud. I don’t even know how he found it. He brought that up and he’s up there with that on his shoulder. And he had to go through all this training with his rifle. We continued with our marching and stuff. They marched covered in mud, but they better be clean the next time they fell out. They left them with the mud on there.
3.22 Motorcycle Marcher:Another guy couldn’t march, I forget his name. The DI says, “Alright. You’re embarrassing me. We can’t have you screwing up the whole platoon. So I’m gonna give you motorcycle.” So the DI gave him an invisible motorcycle. He hadda march alongside the platoon, when we’re marching he hadda be on his motorcycle. “Vrooom! Vrooom! Vrooom!” The DI’d say, “You better shift gears!” “Vrooom! Vroom! Vroom!” and he had to shift it.
We’d be doing our marching and I could see down in another platoon when they were marching. There was a guy had a ten gallon hat on, a cowboy hat? I guess he brought that. He wore that hat all the way through boot camp. You musta hadda wear that hat in formation in front of everybody. I don’t know who he was. I never got to meet him but you’d see him. He’d have that cowboy hat on there doing everybody’s drills there.
Anyway, they’d start him and he would hafta take his motorcycle. So we’d go down to the chow hall to get dinner and we’d get there and the DI would tell him, “You better find a tree to tie that to because there’s a lot of crooks down here. He had to go find a tree and, he says, “You got a chain?” He’d say, “Yes sir!” “Well, you better chain it because there’s lots of crooks here.” He would go to the tree and make on he’s tying his motorcycle to the tree.
Every night about five to ten, just about lights out he’d say, “Looks like rain. You better go out and cover up your motorcycle.“ He’d hafta run down the steps, he’s in his underwear. He had to go down there and make on his covering it. “Is it locked?” “Yes it’s locked. Sir!”
3.23 Morse Code:I couldn’t get anywhere near that morse code stuff, man that is tough. They’d say, “Listen to the beep. This a ‘t’” and they’d go, “Beep.” They’d say, “And this is an ‘r’” and go, “Beep. Beep.” “This is that.” so they “Beep.” and you know listen. They’d say “Alright listen.” They’d go, “Boop.” and that’s a “t.” “Beep. Beep. That’s the that.” And then they’d start, “Okay now...” They give ya like four or five of them to remember. And then they’d start, “Beep beep. Boop boop boop boop boop.” And I’m checking off. I was done checking off my hundred answers before they were done beeping. Man they start flying at you there with that stuff. I don’t know how them guys can do that morse code like that. That was tough. All the other stuff I loved. I loved doing all that Marine Corps stuff with the rifles and stuff.
3.24 Cleaning Toilets:We go in to clean the toilets. Sergeant Mastiff sent me and a couple other guys to go in and clean up the toilets. The other guys were doing other stuff. I go in and the DI hands me a wash rag and said, “Clean the toilets.” I says, “Alright.” So I’m over there, I’m wiping the seat off. So he runs over, he grabs me, “That’s not how you clean toilets! This is how you clean a toilet!” and he shoves my hand down inside the bowl, inside the trap. I hadda reach up inside the hole. With a washcloth and wash that all out. He says, “That’s how you clean bowls!” I says, “Sorry sir.” I think he almost put it in to my elbow man. I was like, “You creep you.”
He was a tough dude that Mastiff. He and that Sergeant Howe, Sergeant Hell. Yeah, they were tough, that’s what they… that was maybe the second day there.
3.25 Private Sunday:Sergeant Mastiff beat this one kid Sunday from New York City. He beat him with the rifle, he was just as bad as Howe. Mastiff was the old guy. Sergeant Howe was the older guy but he was a creep. Mastiff was a creep too. Mastiff took his rifle and hit him in the face with the butt of the rifle which has an iron plate on the bottom. It didn’t matter, the wood would have hurt him just as bad I guess. But his face swelled up, the one side of his face swelled up, and he was in bad shape. He went to the clinic, they hadda send him to the clinic, and somehow he got to somebody and reported the DIs.
They made a thing where we hadda go see the chaplain, the whole platoon. The DIs come in and told us that the chaplain was a war hero and he hates cowards. He says, he goes, “Well decorated. And the one thing he hates is crybabies and cowards. He hates when people talk bad about the superiors and he’s a good friend of mine. We go drinking so he’s a real good friend of mine. He’s gonna tell me everything you guys said.”
We go to visit the chaplain and we’re sitting at attention in church. The chaplain comes in and says, “Okay. At ease. You can do what you want.” Well, we all sat at attention. And he says, “Now, we figure there was some trouble. Did you guys see anything?” “No sir.” Nobody is saying anything. “Well, do you know what happened? Was there something said?” “No sir. We didn’t hear nothing sir.” He said, “There hadda be something. You were all there. Right?” “Yes sir. Didn’t see nothing sir.” We didn’t say a word.
The chaplain tried to get us all kinds of ways to talk and we didn’t say nothing. The chaplain finally dismissed us to return the barracks. The DI says, “Well what happened?” “Nothing sir. We didn’t say nothing sir.” Anyway, word did get to the higher ups.
That’s how these guys were and after the beating they got rid of our four DIs and they gave us four new ones. These guys got in big-time trouble. I mean they beat the heck out of us. I only know Sunday but I’m sure some of the other ones got beat too because they go, they constantly, they just go through the ranks and I was all the way at the end there and I mind my own business. I wasn’t watching anything. That’s one of the things.
3.26 West Virginia Guy:Sergeant Howe drank his coffee from a metal cup. After finishing his coffee he’d walk by everybody and talk the whole while hitting them in the head with the metal cup. He’d stand next to you and hit you on the head. Then he’d go to the next guy and he’d be talking and he’d hit him in the head with the cup. He’d go down, maybe five guys, and he’d go like this to hitting the guy and the guy would kinda flinch. He’d say, “You’re supposed to be at attention!” and he’d get his head and bang it against the rack. “You’re supposed to be at attention and you’re moving right in front of my face!”
So he gets done hitting everybody and then he gets, while he’s talking, you see they never do one thing. They always do more than one thing. Then he gets back up on the table and he’s talking and this guy from West Virginia reaches up and scratches his nose real fast. And things got quiet. And I knew that Howe seen him. It just got quiet. All of a sudden he jumps off the table and I hear him walking down toward us, he’s not saying a word. This guy is next to me. Sergeant Howe says, “Is your nose itchy?” He says, “Yes sir!” He gets one hand and puts it behind the guy’s head. He gets the other hand and he puts the palm of his hand on his nose and he kept twisting it. Pushing it into his face and twisting his nose. “Does it itch now?” “No sir.”
And I started laughing and I’m next to him. I’m thinking, “Well I’m getting it next now.” And he looked at me. Howe just kinda looked at me and he turned and walked away. I don’t know if they liked me or something, I don’t know. He walked away and after Howe got done talking he went back in his room. I look at this guy and his nose was halfway around his face was red like a red beet and pushed in. I said, “I think he flattened your nose.” Whining, “I didn’t think he’d catch me.” “Well, he caught ya.”
3.27 Quiet Guy:We had a quiet guy, I forget his name. He did not say a word. They couldn’t get him to say nothing. They finally got rid of him. They passed him back to another platoon because he was like in total shock. He would sit there, he wouldn’t look at anybody. He wouldn’t talk to us. He wouldn’t talk to the DIs. The DIs could beat him, he wouldn’t say a word. He would just, I think he was in total shock.
3.28 New DIs:Then we got Sergeant Corso, Lurey and two other guys, I don’t remember their names. They were funny mean. They were mean, but they kinda made you laugh when they were mean. I mean, these guys intimidated you really, really terrible. Ya know? So anyway, this Corso comes in and they want to impress everybody right off the start. When they do the barracks they have the little guys all the way to the end and then it wraps around like a “u” and then the bigger guys are across from you.
Dalton was across from me. He was the big guy. He was the biggest guy in the platoon. Corso came in and start insulting him. He said all kinds of stuff about him. Dalton just stood there. Corso says, “You’re a coward. You’re this. You’re no good. You’re slime. You’re rotten. You’re no good.” Dalton would just stand there. Then he starts on his sister. Then he starts on his mother. Dalton is starting to get mad now. He’s saying all kinds of stuff about his mother and everything.
Corso says, “You want to punch me. Don’t you?” Dalton says, “No sir.” And he starts saying different things he’s gonna do and all this stuff so Dalton gets really mad. Corso says, “You wanna punch me. Punch me.” So Dalton takes a swing at him and Corso stands back, grabs his wrist flips him on the floor and holds his hand while he’s stepping on his throat. Dalton is laying there and he’s saying, “You still want to punch me?” He says, “No sir.” So he gets up and… He just wanted to show the platoon he took on the biggest guy in the platoon. So, you know you’re not gonna take a punch at him.
That’s kinda how they do it. But that was the worst Corso did. He did do a lot of other stuff, but like I said, it was kinda funny kinda thing.
3.29 Christmas Carols:One night, this was around Christmas time too ‘cause I went in December eleventh. But around Christmas Temple University came down and was singing Christmas carols. We’re still kinda four five days into the boot camp and nobody wanted to hear Christmas carols. So you’re sitting in church, and they were beautiful, but I mean, your mind was certainly not on Christmas. It was kind of an odd thing. You’re sitting there at attention listening to Christmas carols where your mind is halfway here and halfway there. It’s not… you couldn’t really enjoy it. They did a beautiful job.
3.30 Christmas Package:So anyway. We got there and one night my mother, Joe’s mother, and Ox’s mother got together and sent us a package down. They said they’ll send it all in one package instead of sending three different packages, and they put it on Joe’s name. One night after our showers we’re sitting there and Corso comes in. He says, “Yakabovicz!” He says, “What?” He says, ”Get three guys!” So Joe picks this guy, that guy and this guy. He said, “Come out here.” So he goes out. Now they’re in their underwear. “Sit on the floor.” So they sit right across from his office there. “I got a package here for you guys. What do you think this is? A party or what? You come here to train!” He says, “I got all this stuff in here. What the heck to they think we are? Do you think I’m a caterer? Sit down.”
He gave Joe the package. It was already open. I think the DI took out what he wanted out of there. I don’t know how much he took out or how much was left in. But there was kielbasa. There was cookies. There was cake and there was all kinds of stuff. He said, “You guys sit there until it’s gone.” So he shuts the lights off because now it’s ten o’clock. So I go out there. I go by the hallway and they’re sitting there and they got a little blue light, they got like a nightlight. They’re sitting there eating the stuff and they had to eat the whole package.
I don’t know how long they were out there and I’m laughing and they’re saying, “You should be out here with me.” I says, “You didn’t pick me Joe.” The three guys, I guess they ate, I don’t know like I said I don’t know how much they ate but it was a big box. I know the DI took some stuff. He probably took all the good stuff out and left them with what he didn’t want to eat. Anyway, so that was the one night.
3.31 O’Mara Cookies:Then another night we had mail call there and Corso says, “O’Mara get over here.” So he comes up he says, “Here’s a package! It’s cookies your mother sent ya.” He says, “I’m giving it to ya but I don’t want you to eat them tonight. I don’t want you eating them. You just take them and put them away.” O’Mara says, “Yes sir!” He goes back, lights are shut off O’Mara is in his bed. There was about six guys in the beginning, “Give me a cookie. Give me a cookie.” So he’s giving them all out. So I’m lying in bed I didn’t say nothing.
I could see the night light and behind our bunks there was like a two foot space, they didn’t put bunks all the way back to the wall, and I could see Corso comes out of the DI room in his underwear. And he’s coming back there. He comes all the way around the back to O’Mara’s bunk whispering, “Give me a cookie.” O’Mara pushes his hand away and says, “Get out of here!” “Give me a cookie.” “Get outta here I told you I ain’t giving you no cookie.” “Give me a cookie.” “Get outta here. I only got a couple left.” All of a sudden you see O’Mara go flying out of bed and cookies flying. “I told you to put those cookies away!”
So that was quite a Christmas gift too that he got. It was just so funny. That’s how they did it and man I’m cracking up. I knew, ‘cause I seen him come out of the room. And so nice he’s sneaking behind the thing and I was gonna say, “Watch it.”, but I ain’t saying a word. So that was one night. That’s another fun night we had just one of those things. I said it was just games and we’ll go through some of the other stuff. That nighttime and the mail call.
3.32 Capelli Mail Call:I’ll tell you another one with the mail call was Capelli and his newspapers. Capelli’s American Legion got together and they got the daily newspaper sent down to him. The DI would get the papers but he would save them until he’d get ten or fifteen papers. They were all nice and rolled up tight. At mail call I’d see, he’d come walking out with all these papers. And he’d say, “Capelli get over here!” And he’d come up and he’d say, “What do you think I’m a paper boy?” He’d say, “No sir.” He’d say, “What are these papers?” And he’d say, “Well, I didn’t order them sir, the American Legion sent them for me.” He says, “Alright, well I have to deliver them. Go back to your bunk and when I call your name you stand in front of me and bow.”
So, he goes back to the bunk which is all the way at the end because he’s in my platoon, or my squad. So he’d say, “Capelli!” Well, he’d run up he’d bow his head and the DI would take one newspaper, smack him on the head with it, hand him the newspaper and Capelli would run back to his bunk. Then he would take another one and say, “Capelli!” Well, he’d have to run up and bow his head and he’d hit him on the head again. And he’d go back to his bunk. There would be a pause and he’d say, “Capelli!” He comes running back. Boom! Now all the papers are for Capelli.
He’s the only one that got them. He comes back to his bunk, “I’ll write to the town and tell them to cancel my subscription. I don’t even want the damn thing.” It would be so nice. He wouldn’t just, he’d pause and say, “Capelli!” He’d go up there and whap! And he whapped him too. It wasn’t a nice little gift. “Think I’m a friggin paperboy?” So that was a nice thing about mail call. I said it was all little things like that made it fun.
3.33 Fight:I got in a fight. I was in the head getting ready to go to bed, or whatever. There was a scapular, it’s a lace with a holy thing on it. So there was one of them in the toilet, on the counter there where he’s shaving, I guess he took it off when he was shaving. So I picked it up and went walking around. I says, “Is this yours?” “No. It’s not mine.” I walked to the other guys, these guys were all sitting around their lockers. I go around and I get to these guys from New York. And this one guy says to me, “Get that f’ing rag away from me.” And I said, “It’s not a rag.” “I told ya to get that f’ing rag away!” I says, “This is a blessed thing. You shouldn’t knock it.”
Well, he gets up and he punches me. When he punched me. I grabbed him. They had the poles in the middle of the barracks. I pushed him up against the pole. I was hitting him and his head was against the pole. I hit him about ten times. Then he fell on the floor. I picked his head up and there was a puddle of blood on the floor. By that time the DI came running out. “What’s goin’ on?” “There’s was a fight.” He says, “I’ll see you guys in my room.”
We go out and I mean there was a big puddle of blood. Whatever I did, I did a good job of it. I busted his lip or nose. We went in and the DI says, “What’s goin’ on here?” I says, “I found this scapular in the men’s room and I was asking whose it was. And he told me to get the f’ing rag outta his face. We got into an argument and he punched me. When he punched me I grabbed him and started punching him.” The DI says, “Alright. Well, you gotta have respect for that. Respect for each other. You shouldn’t insult someone’s religion like that.” And he left us go.
The next day one of the guys from New York come over and said, “Jack, I wanna tell you something. So-and-so is threatening to stab ya in the middle of the night.” I said, “What?” He said, “He says he’s gonna kill ya. He’s gonna stab you in the middle of the night.”
I says to my cousin, “Ox. How about trading places tonight and watch in case I’m sleeping, because I’m a heavy sleeper.” He says, “Alright.” We changed places, the lights go out and I hear Ox sawing logs. I’m thinking, “Oh man. You’re not helping me too much.” Anyway, that was the first night. I was up most of the night.
The second day we went through then the second night same thing. So we switched again. Same thing, lights go out and I hear both of them snoring. So then I musta fall asleep and I was sleeping with my bayonet in my hands. The night watchman came between the beds to look out the window. The window was open there. I jumped up, I grabbed my bayonet and almost stabbed the guy. I thought, “Oh man, I almost got you.” I says, “Somebody is threatening to kill me.”
The next morning I woke up and went over to the guy from New York. I gave him my bayonet. I said, “Here. You’re gonna stab me, you come at me now. You’re a big talker. You wanna stab me. ‘Cmon and get me.” “No. No. I’m not gonna do that.” I said, “I dunno. I’m hearing rumors you’re gonna stab me in the middle of the night.” “No. No. I was just shooting my mouth off.” So I said, “Good. Give me the bayonet, because I can’t sleep. Two nights I couldn’t sleep. I almost killed the fire watch.”
Anyway, that was another thing I got through. That was kinda exciting. See? I had an exciting life there. That’s thirteen weeks. Quite a variety of things.
3.34 Peeing Punched Guy:But the guys from New York, they were tough. The one time, this Malloy, there was this one guy that seemed like he was a homosexual or something. I don’t know if he was or not. He did something, or said something to Malloy and Malloy punched him. He went down. He wet himself. He just peed right there when he punched him. His face swelled up, from one punch, his face swelled up so bad. I thought, “Oh my god. You killed the man.”
These guys were from inner city. They were all from the Bronx. So they were tough dudes. I made it through with that, no problem at all. Except when I got in a fight with him, but I cleaned his clock good. And I was surprised at that. And I’m surprised the other guys stuck with me. I thought the other guys were gonna run in but they didn’t.
3.35 Walk Or Run:Then we start going with Corso. When we’d fallout for morning breakfast we’d have our choice to duck walk to the mess hall or run around the parade ground. So you had your choice. It was maybe a hundred yards, or more, to the mess hall. But that’s a long way to duck walk. Or else you hadda run round the complete parade ground to get there, to the mess hall.
Every morning we had our choice, “Duck walk or parade run!” “Well, we’ll do duck walk.” We’re thinking, “Oh man this is terrible!” We hadda do that. So anyway, that was another routine you got used to doing, either duck walk or running. And I think we found, I think we ran most of the time. It was a lot easier to run than to do the duck walk. And boy that was tough on your legs.
3.36 Margowitz:With the mess hall now, the one time before we went into the mess hall Margowitz was talking and laughing and everything. So the DI says, he caught him talking, and he says, “I wanna see you after. And I wanna see you Chismar after this. When we get back.” So we says, “Yes sir!” I’m on Margowitz, ”What are you laughing for? You know he’s watching. Right?” He says, “Well ya know. Let’s go.” The DI would call and… When you went to the DI, you just didn’t go to the DI. Anyway, we went to the DI and he starts on Margowitz, cause he didn’t catch us, the other guy caught us. He was the guy in charge there.
He says, “I had a report that you were speaking when you were supposed to be at attention and you’re laughing, not paying attention.” Margowitz says, “Yes sir!” He says, “Okay. For that, who’s your squad leader?” And he says, “Chismar is the squad leader.” “Well. Did you see him doing that?” and I says, “No sir!” He says, “Aren’t you paying attention to what your men are doing?” and I says, “I don’t know sir. I didn’t see him.” So he says, “Alright Chismar. Do fifty pushups.” I says, “Alright.” and I go down and I’m doing the fifty pushups and Markowitz is laughing now ‘cause I’m doing the pushups.
He says, “Do you think that’s funny?” and Margowitz, “No sir!” He says, “Well you’re laughing?” He says, “Well I didn’t think…” He says, “Go get your tie tie!” which is a long rope we used to use for a clothesline or whatever else we needed it for. So he gets Margowitz and he ties it around his neck and he throws the cord over the transom and he’s sitting at his desk. He pulls the cord and it’s wrapped around Margowitz’s neck. So he keeps pulling it up higher and he says, “You know you were talking and I had to punish your squad leader because you were misbehaving.” Every time he talks he pulls the cord tighter.
Margowitz was up on his tippy toes and he’s still pulling that cord tighter. I thought he was gonna hang there. And Margowitz was a big guy. He was heavy. And he’s pulling, and he’s spinning around there on this toes. He finally let him go, Margowitz fell down. I don’t know if he passed out or if he fell down on the floor. He just let the rope go, he just tossed it and he said, “Get outta here!” All I hadda do was the fifty pushups. He didn’t hang me! But that’s just the stuff they do, I don’t know where they come up with this stuff.
3.37 Lost Cigarettes:Well I said, it was quite the thing. These guys came up with another good thing. Another thing from the beginning the DI would say, “I left my cigarettes somewhere and I lost a pack of cigarettes. So I can’t find them. Somebody better find them.” We finally realized somebody better take him in a pack of cigarettes. I says, “Somebody better take him cigarettes or we’re gonna be in trouble.” We hear banging, “So-and-so wishes to speak to the Drill Instructor! I got your cigarettes.” “Well whose are they?” “They’re mine I’m giving them to you.” “I don’t want yours! I want mine! What do you think I am crook? Get the heck outta here!” and they’d send him back. He’d say, “I’m still waiting for my cigarettes!”
So I says, “You better just make a story up. Tell him you found them in a light fixture or something.” And the guy runs in and says, “Yes sir. Are these your cigarettes? I found them.” “Where’d you find them?” “I found them in the light fixture.” “Oh yeah, that’s where I musta lost them. I was fixing that.” So the next night when he wanted a cigarette. “I lost my cigarettes. You better find my cigarettes or you guys are gonna be in trouble!” Somebody would run out and I said, “Tell him you found them in the toilet.” and the guy goes in, “Found them in the toilet sir.” “Oh yeah, I was in there taking a crap. I musta dropped them.” Every Time you went you had a different story.
Every time he wanted cigarettes he’d say, “I lost my cigarettes. Somebody better find them. I don’t know where they are, but somebody better find them.” That’s the kinda stuff, they play games with ya all the time.
3.38 Fire Watch:They have the fire watches at night. One time at boot camp, I don’t remember when this was, but I was picked to be the fire watch and I was the second. One goes from ten to twelve, one goes from twelve to two, and then one from two to four and one from four to six. So they tell you who your replacement is. I go to bed, they wake me up at twelve. So I go over, you just have to walk around and make sure there’s no fire at night. It’s nice and dark and quiet. Like I said all they have is the little blue nightlights along the wall there. So I figured, “I’m gonna sit down a minute.” Well I fall asleep and it’s like quarter to six I wake up.
Now already there’s two guys I’m supposed to wake up before six. I think, “Oh my god!” So I run over to the guy who’s supposed to replace me and I said, “Wake up! Wake up!” He says, “Is it time?” I says, “Past time. Who’s your relieve?” He says, “What do you mean?” I said, “I slept through. Who’s your?” “Whoa. Down here!” So we hadda run down and wake the other guy up. And then I said, “Who’s your replacement?” So we woke him up. And I got him up like five minutes before six, before the DI got up. I says, “Your relief is done now. Don’t worry.”
I slept through there. So I got away with that one by five minutes, man. If I woulda slept a little long I woulda been in bigtime trouble. And I don’t know if the DI knew because they check too. They come through. He probably seen me sitting. Nobody walking around or something. I don’t know. Or I just lucked out that night too. So that was good. I escaped punishment there too. So that worked out in my favor.
3.39 Sleepwalking:I used to sleepwalk a kid. Another night at boot camp I rolled up my complete mattress, sheets pillowcases in a ball and I took ‘em down to an empty rack and I laid ‘em out and I fell asleep there. I was still sleeping. I woke up in the morning and I’m with all these guys. I’m thinking, “Who the heck are all these guys? What am I doing here?” Here, during the night, I rolled up my whole… The mattress is heavy, the whole mattress and I was on the top bunk. And I took that out and I took it down.
How I found a bunk with nobody in it? I laid it out, it was a bottom rack too. I put it in there and went to sleep. I was thinking, “Man that’s pretty cool. You know the stress I was under. Man I’ll tell ya, that was crazy.
3.40 Caught Smoking:Private Green. He got caught smoking in the head. Sergeant says, “Get your bucket and a canteen cup filled with hot water and meet me out here in the hallway.” So he sat Green down on the floor. He put the bucket between his legs and he put four cigarettes in Green’s mouth. And he lit all four cigarettes. And he said, “Puff them till they’re down.” Green’s puffin’ and puffin’ and the four cigarettes are gone and he throws them in the bucket.
The sergeant brings out one of those great big chocolate bars and gives Green a big hunk of chocolate. “Here, eat this and flush it down with the hot water.” He puts four more cigarettes in his mouth. Lit them. “Puff that down.” Puffin’, puffin’, puffin’. Throw them out. Gave him a piece of chocolate. “Eat that. Drink the hot water.” Drank the hot water and put it down. Puff puff, more cigarettes in his mouth. Puff puff puff.
By this time he starts throwing up. He’s sitting there throwing up in the bucket. The DI says to him, “Ya know if smoking bothers ya, you shouldn’t smoke that much. You can’t take it.” Green was throwing up. He was green. His name was Green and he turned green. He come outta that. Oh man he was sick as a dog. You know he never got caught smoking again. So that was one thing.
3.41 Basketball Game:They took us to a basketball game. We did good that week, they were gonna take us to a basketball game. So, we get to the gymnasium. We go in there, the DI brings us in sits us in the bleachers and tells us we have to sit at attention and he’ll tell us when to “Boo.” and when to “Yay!” So you’re sitting at attention and a player would do something good. The DI would “Yay!” and all the guys, “Yay! Yay! Yay!” We’d sit there at attention again. Then he’d go “Boo.” “Boo! Boo! Boo!” Then you’d sit at attention.
So that was the whole basketball game. So you know how you enjoyed the basketball game, you’re watching the DI wanting to know if you gotta cheer “yay” or “boo.” That was one of Corso’s things though. You see, that’s how Corso was. That worked out nice. But that’s the first time I sat at attention through a whole basketball game.
3.42 Snapping In:You go to the rifle range. They call it “snapping in” where you have to go through the positions. You sit and stand and you prone. There are four positions: standing, kneeling, sitting and prone. So they show you how to go through all of these positions. The sitting is the worst because you're sitting down and if you’re not low enough he sits on your back in order to get you down lower so that your elbows are on your ankles. And that’s called “snapping in.”
Well what happens, you’re on the main rifle range there when you’re doing this. And the rule is: you always have your bolt open so they know there’s no bullets in your rifle. See how I said “rifle” that time? You hafta always keep your bolt open at all times. If they catch ya they take your thumb or your little finger and they put it in where the bullets go and they snap that thing shut. And it snaps closed, ya know, spring loaded. And then you hafta walk around and tell everybody on there that you walked around with your bolt closed.
So you hafta walk in front of somebody and say, “I walked around with my bolt closed.” And you’d go to the next guy, “I walked around with my bolt closed.” In the meantime, that rifle is hanging from your thumb or your little finger, whatever he decided to do in there. And that’s a nine pound rifle. After seventy guys, that hurts a little bit. You don’t forget the second time. But that’s one of those things.
Or else when something happens and you give the DI a stupid answer he tells ya, “Go around and tell everybody ‘There’s ten thousand comedians out of work and I’m trying to be a joker.’” So you hafta walk up, “Ten thousand comedians out of work and I’m trying to be a joker. Sir!” “Okay.” Go to the next one, Ten thousand comedians out of work and I’m trying to be a joker. Sir!” “Okay.” Keep going, so you do that seventy two times. That’s one of Corso’s tricks.
One thing that surprised me with the rifle range. When you’re down there and you’re sitting looking up at the target. When them people are firing you could actually see the bullets flying. The sun picks up the reflection. That’s one of the things that amazed me.
3.43 Maggie’s Drawers:But the rifle, when you’re firing, they have all the targets there. When you shoot they tell, “Mark” and you pull the target down but there’s a second target that goes up in behind, like an old fashioned scale. And you mark the target. Well we had the one guy that couldn’t shoot. He couldn’t hit the freaking targets. When he’s shooting he gets the Maggie’s Drawers. The Maggie’s Drawers, it’s a red flag. When you don’t hit the target they run it up, it’s called Maggie’s Drawers.
Well he couldn’t hit the target. So the DI, Corso, gets tree limbs and makes him a bow and four arrows. He took the rifle off him and he hadda march with us with his bow and arrow, and he had four arrows shoved down the back of his shirt, they weren’t straight, they were just limbs that he cut off to make arrows from. So after dinner he said, “I want eight guys.” So squad so-and-so would come out there are eight men in a squad. So he said, “Four guys in the back kneel down and four guys in the front stand up,” they would be the targets. He’d have, what’s his name, he’s a rebel guy from West Virginia. Those West Virginia guys were funny.
He’d say, “Fire one!” so he’d take the arrow and he’d shoot it. It’d go crooked because the arrow wasn’t straight. The DI would yell, “Mark!” and the four guys in the front would go down and the four guys in the back would come up, and then they’d mark, “Maggie’s Drawers!” Then they’d do it again. “Ready. Aim. Fire round two!” “Boom,” he’d fire it and it’d go crooked. “Mark!” The guys would hafta go down and up. I said, just silly things and you’re sitting there watching them. “Maggie’s drawers. Sir!” “Okay. Fire three!” So every night he’d fire his bow and arrow, for like a week that’s what we’d do after supper. “Squad two today.” Squad two would be the targets and he’d be firing. I don’t think he ever hit anybody with the arrows.
That was one of Corso’s tricks too. That was fun. But I mean you hadda sit there with a straight face like if this is what’s happening. He’d catch you laughing and you’re in trouble, “What’s so funny? This is serious training!” It’s like I said, one joke after another. It was pretty funny.
3.44 Rifle Inspections:We had the rifle inspections, when the Commander comes down. You know how the snap it outta your hand like that? Allowatt was in front of me. We’re going and everything’s going along good. Allowatt’s standing at attention with his rifle and it was his turn and he walks up to the Captain and he steps on the Captain’s shoe. He took a hunk of his shoe shine off the front of his shoe. He looks down and the Captain’s looking at him and starts hollering at Allowatt. The Captain told Allowatt he was gonna shine his shoes.
Anyway, I was next in line and I looked down and I could see a quarter-sized right out of the tip of his shoe. I had a hard time not to laugh. That was a funny thing.
They’d check your rifle and if it was dirty, they’d throw it in the swamp. So ya hadda go down and get it. Now you’re down there, your feet are all muddy and your rifle’s all muddy. You hadda straighten that out. That’s one of the things they would do. I forgot, when they’re checking your rifle. Probably every time there would be two or three or four guys, their rifles would be tossed down in the swamp. They’d hafta go down and get it.
3.45 The Gas Chamber:We go to gas chamber. They take us down, “We’re going to the gas chamber today.” We said, “Okay.” We march down there and we get to the gas chamber, now all the gas masks are out in boxes. He says, “Pick one of the gas masks, and pick a good one.” We go looking all through the gas masks checking all the seams and everything and we’d sit there. He’d say, “Alright. Put them on your face now.” You put them on and then he’d say, “Now you gotta suck in and see if you can suck air in. Make sure you have suction and make sure you don’t have any leaks.” So you’re in there sucking, “Sniff! Sniff!” You’re trying to make sure it’s all sealed, you’re all good and sealed and everything. “Everything’s good?” “Everything’s good sir.” “Let’s go.”
He takes ya in and “Form a circle.” So we formed a circle around. And he says, “Alright. Check the masks one last time.” He checks the mask one last time. So he goes out and we’re all standing in there. Ya hear, “Sniff. I don’t smell nothing yet.” We’re all doing good. “We don’t smell nothing yet.” So then ya see the door open, and he walks in and he’s standing in the middle of the room. No gas mask. So we’re in there “Sniff. Sniff. What the heck’s going on here?” So he says, “Alright everybody, take the gas masks off. We’re gonna put the gas on now.” We hadda take the gas masks off and then they light the gas thing and he leaves.
Now we hadda put your hand on the guy in front of you, his shoulders. You’re gonna run in a circle and sing the Marine Corps hymn. You run in a circle singing, “From the Halls of Montezuma” while you’re choking. Your eyes are watering so bad. And they tell ya, “Don’t grab your eyes.” So you hafta have your hands on the guy in front of ya. Your nose is running. Your eyes are running. Singing, “From the Halls of Montezuma,” two choruses and then you stop. Well the first thing you do is rubbing your eyes ‘cause they’re burning. And you look, the guy in front of ya, his whole back is wet from your tears from crying.
So you made it through there. I said, it’s funny how you’re in there, you got your mask on, you think you’re all set nice. You’re good. Everything’s good. You don’t smell nothing. Til the DI walks in with no mask on. I says, “There’s something wrong here somewhere. He ain’t gonna walk in.” “Alright. Take the mask off. We’re ready. Put the gas on now.” So that was quite a day too there. I didn’t mind it that much, but boy your eyes water. And first thing he said, “Don’t rub your eyes.” Well the first thing wanna do is rub your eyes. And boy I’ll tell ya when you rub your eyes it just pours out.
3.46 Sand Field Days:Another thing we used to do, sand field days. Everybody hadda go out into the swamps there and get a bucket full of sand. And it better be a full bucket. So we would get seventy two buckets and you dump ‘em all over the floor in your barracks. And you gotta clean them out and if he finds one grain of sand you’re gonna do it all over again. And you know they always find one grain of sand.
So you get seventy two buckets of sand and then they throw it on the barracks floor. And then they spread it around. And then you gotta sweep it up and mop it up and clean, even with your toothbrushes, trying to get from the cracks because it has them cracks in the floor. You gotta clean that.
So that’s Sergeant Mastiff’s job. We hadda do them, I think we had at least two of them. That wasn’t fun. Usually you do it on a Saturday when he’s got nothing to do, so he wants to spend time in the room there. So he’ll just, “We’ll have a sand field day today! Get your buckets!” “Ah crap.” Then you got on your hands and knees all the while, trying to clean and get all the stuff out.
So that was one of Mastiff’s tricks.
3.47 Guard Duty:The one night we hadda go out guard duty. So they sent twelve of us down to the guard shack, down there there’s a Quonset hut. There was a rifle rack you put all your rifles in. We go to sleep. Well, I told ya I slept walk. I woke up in the middle of the night, I heard everybody yelling. They turned the lights on. I had my rifle with a bayonet on and I’m goin’ around axing and prodding my rifle through the air. They’re all in the upper racks against the wall, like this they’re sitting. “Jack! Jack! Wake up! Wake up!” I had the frigging rifle. I would have killed one of them in the middle of the night there.
That’s the two night walks I had. I had the one where I had my rifle and I had the one where I took my bunk and went to the other end of the barracks. But that one man, they were scared. They put the lights on and they’re all yelling, yelling. I look up and they’re all against the wall on the top bunk. So that was my guard duty night.
3.48 Dumpster Tanks:After supper we’d be sitting around and doing our things. The guys come around and empty the dumpsters out. The dumpsters, they call them “dipsy dumpsters,” they come out and tip them empty and close them. Corso challenged the other platoon, with the other dumpster, to a tank fight. We hadda go out and seventy two guys hadda get in the dumpster, however many could fit in there. The only one on the top was Swidonovich, he was the platoon leader and he hadda pick a guy to be his navigator.
The rest of the guys hadda get in the dumpster, or behind the dumpster. The other platoon did the same thing at the other end. The DI would say, “Charge!” We hadda go, “Vroom!” a motor sound, and he’d say, “Fire!” Everyone would go, “Boom!” “Fire again!” “Boom!” We be out there. I’m thinking, “This is ridiculous. It’s cold out here.” We’re out there with no coats on, just out there playing tank attack. We never lost a battle out there, anyway.
Nothing I know of qualified as a win. “Alright, it’s over. They surrendered.” That’s another Corso trick.
3.49 Car Wash:Another thing Corso used to do on Saturdays when he has a date. We’d hafta wash his car. So everybody be out there. Everybody gets a bucket of water and he’d drive his car in the back. We’d throw the water on his car and dry it off. In thirty seconds the car was washed and done. Then we’d clean the inside out. That was on Saturdays if he had a date.
3.50 Rabbit Stew:On Tuesdays or Thursdays Corso would said he wants to have dinner with his girlfriend. We had these two guys from Georgia, Craton and Crooks their name was. They could get rabbits with a rock. “My girlfriend wants rabbit stew tonight. You go out and don’t come back without a rabbit.” So they’d be climbing under barracks looking for rabbits and chasing them. And they’d bring a rabbit back for him. They’d get ‘em with just rocks. But that was during the week if he wanted to have dinner with his girlfriend, she liked rabbit stew.
3.51 Mess Duty:Every platoon hadda go to mess duty for two weeks. So they sent me and three other guys to DI mess. The other guys went to the regular mess hall where the guys ate. So we hadda go stay… see they slept at their own place. We hadda go live with the DIs. They sent the four of us there and we got there. I found out the cook was from Nanticoke, his name was Wolfkill. He was in the Marines for like twenty years. And he found out I was from the valley. He goes, I guess he told the other DIs.
They used to call me “Short Round”, Short Round is a shell that didn’t go far enough. When you shoot and missed the landing, it went short. Because I was short they called me “short round.”
One of my duties in the morning, I hadda go up and get two quarts of orange juice, and a quart of vodka and put it in with a nice chunk of ice. I’d put it in a basin under Wolfkill’s bed. So I made ‘em screwdrivers and the DIs used to go up there and scoop it out when they need one. So that was one of my tours of duty.
3.52 DI's Wake Up Call:The other tour of duty, they gave me a big wooden spoon and a dishpan. In the morning I’d hafta go up in front of the DI's doors, hit the dishpan with the spoon and say, “Breakfast is being served in the dining room!” And I’d go up to the second room, “Boom! Breakfast is being served in the dining room!” I’d hafta do that to all the DIs, there’s like maybe twenty. So I’d have to go around room to room wake them up with that.
Then we’d serve them lunches and stuff. Well, the guys would be eating breakfast and one guy didn’t come down. The DI would say, “Short round!” “Yes sir.” “Where’s Sergeant so-and-so?” “I don’t know sir. He must be up in his room.” “Well you go tell him he’s a lazy f-ing bastard. He’s no good.” I’d say, “Yes sir.” and I’d go up and knock on the door. “Sir.” “What?” “You’re a no good lazy f-ing bastard. You’re no good...” What? Who said that?” “Sergeant so-and-so. Sir.” “Well you go down and tell him he’s this.” I go down, “Sir.” “What?” “You’re no good…” “What?! Who said that?” “Well you go up and tell him this!”
They had me runnin’ up and down the steps cursing at each other like that. So that would be my morning while they’re eating breakfast.
3.53 Mickey Mouse ClubThen after supper I’d hafta get my wooden spoon and stand next to the TV, the Mickey Mouse Club was on. I’d hafta stand at attention and when Mickey Mouse would come on I’d hafta direct and they’d all sing, “M I C… K E Y… M O U S E! Who's’ the leader of the…” Well, all the DIs would be sitting there singing. I’m thinking, “These guys are dudes.” Right? Sitting and singing Mickey Mouse. Every night that’s what I hadda do.
3.54 Late Night OmelettesThen my first night and I’m in there sleeping. I hear, “Short round?” “Yes?” “Ya hungry?” “No sir.” “Yeah you’re hungry. C’mon let’s go downstairs.” So I hadda go downstairs. He’d say, “Go in the refrigerator get a half dozen eggs, some bacon, peppers, onions and garlic and bring ‘em out. We’re gonna make an omelette. A good Italian omelette.” We’d go in there, start the stove up, chop all that stuff up on there. He’d have one or two eggs left. He’d say, “Go stand by that door there.” He’d throw the eggs at me, I’d hafta duck the eggs. Then he’d say, “Ah, I’m not hungry. You better eat this. I’m goin’ to bed.”
He’d go to bed. I’d hafta clean up the stove, clean up where he threw the eggs. Clean up all that stuff and it’s like two thirty in the morning. I hadda be up at four thirty. I figured the next night I’ll fool him and I’ll lock the door. He knocks on the door, “Short round,” and I didn’t answer. “Short round!” I didn’t answer, I figured I’d make on I didn’t hear. “Open this door or I’m climbing in the transit!” The transit is open on top. He says, “I’ll kill you!” “Oops! I’m coming sir.”
“Go down get some eggs and some this that…” and we’re doing it all over again. I’m thinking, “Ah, you gotta be kiddin’.” He’s an Italian guy. Everytime he went out drunk that’s when he’s hungry, he’s gotta have an omelette. But he never ate it. He’d make me eat it, or throw it out. I’d hafta hide it so he didn’t know I threw it out. So that was funny.
3.55 Wolfkill Sleeps InThen one day I wake up. We go downstairs the four of us. No cook. So I go upstairs. Wolfkill he’s drunk as a skunk. He says, “I ain’t cooking breakfast today.” I says, “You gotta cook breakfast. They’ll be coming down in a couple minutes.” “I ain’t cooking I told ya! Get the 'f' outta here!” I get outta there. So I go down the kitchen the guy says, “Well, whatta we gonna do?” I said, “I dunno. We’re gonna cook breakfast I guess!”
I knew a little about cooking so I said, “Get the eggs, sausage and stuff. Eggs and toast and stuff.” And they served it. “Who the hell’s doing this cooking? This stuff stinks! Tell that Wolfkill he’s a lousy cook!” They knew he wasn’t there. I covered for him. We had a good meal. I did a good job. Cooked for all the guys, what they wanted: ham, eggs and sausage and whatever. Made a good meal. Coffee and stuff. I was on Wolfkill’s good list.
3.56 Ice Cream Sandwiches:We had the other guy. He come in. We had chocolate and vanilla ice cream sandwiches. He’d say, “Whadda we have for desert?” I’d say, “We have chocolate and vanilla ice cream sandwiches.” He says, “I want a strawberry.” I says, “I’m sorry sir. We don’t have strawberry.” He’d say, “Well I want a strawberry and there better not be any.”
So I’d hafta go back there and empty the whole thing to make sure there wasn’t one strawberry. ‘Cause I figured he’s gonna plant a strawberry one on the bottom of the cooler. Then I’d tell him, “There’s no strawberry” and he’s gonna go back there and find it. So I’d hafta empty every box and make sure there was no strawberry. And I’d say, “Sir there’s no strawberry.” He’d say, “Alright, give me a chocolate.” So every now and then he’d do that. And every now and then I kept thinking he’s gonna trick me and put a strawberry one in there. But he never did. So that was an experience there. That was fun ‘doin.
3.57 Sword Fight:Then on graduation day the DIs came in and they’re all dressed in their dress clothes in there, all their swords and everything. They’re in top flight. So the Italian one that keeps waking me up all the time. He says, “Come back here Short Round.” I come back. He says, “We’re gonna sword fight!” I says, “I don’t have a sword sir.” And he says, “Give him yours!” So the one DI gives me his sword. I’m thinking, “Oh man. I’m gonna die.”
He’s sword fighting. He’s jumping around. He’s jumping up on the tables. I thinking, “Man, he’s like a real buccaneer.” I’m just kinda holding my sword out and he’s hitting like this and everything. So he holds his sword out and I hit it and he drops it. He jumps off the table and he runs to the potato masher and he grabs it. “You take one step forward and I’ll blow this place right up!” And I’m thinking, “What a jerk!” They’re real actors like, like we’re in a real movie there.
I said, they were so much fun. When I was goin’ over there I was scared. I was thinking, “Oh man I’m gonna be with DIs. I’m gonna be in big time trouble.” I had a good time. I don’t know if it was a week or two. I think it was two weeks. But in the back of my mind I think it was only one week. Mighta seemed like two weeks. Anyway, the other guys had regular mess duty for the regular guys there.
See, so I was kinda favored I think of the guys because they kept picking me for nice things and they didn’t beat me up too much when I screwed up. Lurey, Sargeant Lurey he’s the old guy in there. He smacked me, he punched me one time, “Chismar, you’re the first guy I ever punched. I’m here thirty two years and you're the first guy I punched!” I don’t remember what I did. It was something. We were drilling or something. “See what you made me do? Thirty two years I’m in the service and you made me punch you! You’re the first guy I ever punched!” “Sorry sir.”
I lucked out. I says the marching I loved. We went through the drills. That was pretty nice.
3.58 Final Day:Yeah, it went good. And then the last time when everybody got together and everybody’s marching nice and doin’ their drills. You’re thinking, “This is thirteen weeks, we went from nothin’ to this.” You’re pretty proud. And they bring the band down for graduation. You march with the band and all the other platoons and stuff. Pretty moving. Pretty spectacular, when you’re thinking you’re a kid.
I was barely seventeen years old. Like three months into seventeen. That was a lot for me to see and absorb. I made it through boot camp. No problems at all. Like I said, I was just in good shape. Because at home I was a pin boy, I used to pick that bowling ball up twelve hundred times a night. Bending over picking up, and then setting pins. You hadda set them pins, reach out and do that. I was in perfect shape between my paper route, swimming and exercise and everything else. So when I went there I was in really, really good shape so nothing really bothered me.
Then we had the one guy, he was in the Army, he was in the Navy and then he joined the Marines. He was thirty years old or something. They kinda took care of him, the DIs, they didn’t baby him, but they didn’t punish him if he couldn’t do stuff. ‘Cause they had the respect for him. When that happened I was thinking, “Ya know? These guys got a little bit of compassion. Taking good care of these guys.”
So for a seventeen year old kid I think I did pretty good through boot camp.
Camp Geiger / Fort Bragg