Camp Geiger / Fort Bragg

4.01 Ribbon Creek Incident:

After we went home on leave, then we went through infantry training. I’ve got some stories there. Lotta stories there. I said I got home on a weekend I guess and on a Tuesday those guys drowned down in the swamps at Parris Island. We went in the swamps, but never when there was water there. If you didn’t do right they’d throw you down. That’s what happened.We never went down and really did any maneuvers down there. We hadda couple hikes but that was through the woods, not through the swamp.

4.02 Compass Reading:

Then when we went back we hadda go to the infantry training at Camp Geiger. That was more our kinda Marine’s stuff, all what you would be doing and all that stuff. We had drills, and the first big story was, we went out on nighttime compass maneuvers. We got out there and they split us up in six groups and they put this one kid in charge. They give you a compass reading to follow until you reach a tree that’s painted white on the bottom and there will be a tablet with your second reading on it. Then you follow that to your second reading and your third reading and fourth reading and so on.

We go out we march, we find the first reading and everything’s okay. So we take our second reading and we go and find the second reading. We hit the tree. It was good. We take our third reading and we’re goin’ and we hit our third reading. We start marching to the fourth reading and we come up to a swamp with all briars and all them bushes like that. He said, “We gotta go through there.” I said, “We’re not gonna go through there. They’re not gonna send us through this. There’s something wrong.” He said, “We didn’t do anything wrong. We hafta go through there.”

And I says, “They’re not gonna send us through a swamp in the middle of the night with briars. They just drowned last week, they drowned six Marines. Ya think they’re gonna send us through a swamp now?” He says, “We’re Marines, we’re goin’!” I says, “Let’s go back, we’ll take one more reading and if it’s right then we’ll walk through the weeds.” So he says, “I’m not going back, we’re goin’ through.” So I says, “Have a nice day. I’ll see ya.” He says, “You can’t leave!” I says, “Can’t I? I’ll see you back at the base.” He says, “I’ll have you reported!” I says, “Do what you want.”

So I left. I kinda looked at the sky and kinda made a decision, “Well I’ll go this way.” ‘Cause that’s kinda the way it looked when we were marching in. So I walked back and found a road. I seen all the trucks there and everything, they were parked on a dyke, a bank. So I walked over and laid on the bank there. I just lit up a cigarette and relaxed and I’m sitting there. Time goes by and I heard them saying, “We’re missing one group.”

And they says, “Alright.” Turned the lights on, they turned all the truck lights on because they’re up on this dyke they turned all the lights on and they started firing guns. “Boom! Boom!” Giving warning shots to they kinda know which way they’re goin’. Well in twenty minutes or a half hour I hear these guys coming up the road. “We’re missing one man! We’re missing one man!” And they says, “Whaddaya mean?” “We’re missing one man! One man left!” “Who?” “Chismar.” I said, “That’s me. I’m sitting here.” “He deserted! He deserted! He deserted! I gave him a direct order and he left!”

He says, “You’re going to see the Major!” So I says, “Alright.” Me and the guys went in to see the Major. “What’s goin’ on here?” He says, “Chismar deserted.” “Whaddya mean?” He says, “I gave a direct order. He was supposed to stay with us and he left.” The Major says, “Is that right?” I says, “Yes sir.” and he says, “Why did you leave them?” and I says, “Well, because we took our reading and we were gonna go through this swamp. I told them ‘let’s go back and take another reading I think we’re wrong.’ And he says, ‘No, we’re goin’ this way.’ and I says, ‘I think you’re wrong. They’re not gonna send us through this swamp because they just drowned six guys last month. They’re not gonna send us through a swamp with briars in the middle of the night on a compass thing. I’m not going until we go back and we check the reading.’”

The Major says, “Is that right?” and I says, “Yes sir.” and he says, “Ya know, if this was at war time you could be shot.” And I says, “Well, I’d rather be shot than walking through those briars in the middle of the night.” And he says, “Get the hell outta here.” So that was the end of that. That worked out nice on my behalf. Ya know, ya gotta be dumb. It wasn’t like a combat mission where you’re training for combat. It was a compass reading exercise, just to see if you could read the compass.

That was one of my escapades in training.

4.03 Junk On The Bunk:

I was on Mess Duty for four days and we had a ‘junk on the bunk’ inspection coming up on a Thursday. So that’s all your clothes. Ya hafta have them folded and neatly display them on the bunk so the Captain can make sure you have all your clothes and everything’s in order. Ox, my buddy the big guy there, he was back at camp and I said, “Ox. I’m goin’ on Mess Duty for three days. I have my clothes here. Would you take ‘em down the Laundromat and get ‘em done. I got that ‘junk on the bunk’ on Thursday morning and I’m not getting off duty until Wednesday night.” They had a place that cleans your laundry. You pay them and they clean them.

Wednesday night I come, “You got my clothes Ox?” “Oh, I forgot.” “You forgot!” “I forgot all about it.” I says, “I told you, I got a ‘junk on the bunk’ tomorrow morning. Now I’m gonna be stuck. Half my clothes is dirty. I can’t lay them out on the bunk. I’m gonna get caught.” I started tipping over his stuff. He had lockers. I was gonna tip that over and I’m gonna get in a big brawl that day. He backed off. I was so stinking mad at him.

The next day I hadda have junk on the bunk and I had half of the clothes there. The General says, “This is what you got?” “No sir. I have other stuff but I was on Mess Duty and I couldn’t get to the laundry. Now I’m stuck with all dirty clothes.” He let me get away with that. So I lucked out with that. Man I was gonna kill Ox that day. I says, “Oh man. He’s a jerk,” and he is a jerk.

We had pretty much nice Infantry training. They take you out, they run you through the obstacle courses, naturally, and you do Bivouacs there. The one thing we had that was nice, we had a cooking school there, it had three different meals, ya had your choice because they were teaching the chefs. They would have three different chow lines so you could go to either one and get your meals. I thought that was pretty nice.

4.04 Driver’s Licence:

I got my truck licence there to drive all different kinds of trucks, from the Jeeps all the way up to the big trucks which was exciting for a young kid. I was kinda cocky doing that too. The one time I drove one of the big trucks, the real big trucks, and I was flying around on it. I hadda turn onto a road near this dock there and everything. When I turned the front wheel got stuck in the sand there and it was driving me right towards this dock.

I missed this big cement dock by an inch. I was in there and the instructor starts hollering at me, “You’re goin’ too fast!” I says, “Well, that’s the way I drive.” I was sixteen years old. I just got my drivers licence three months before I went into the Marines. Anyway, we went into the three-quarter ones, the smaller trucks, and the instructor was getting on my nerves, “Do this. Do that. Do this.” So I’m there and he says to backup. I was kinda mad and I put it in reverse and I floored it.

We went flyin’ down the road, spinning the wheels reversing down there. He says, “Stop the truck! Here! Here’s your licence. Go kill yourself.” So I said to him, “Thanks.” I was… I got a little cocky there for a while in there.

4.05 TV and Sandwiches:

Then we got outta training and my basecamp was at Geiger a half mile down the road, the same camp down there. We got to the camp and I checked in. The guy got me a bunk. He said, “This will be your bunk. At eight o’clock in the morning you hafta make roll call out on the road. They’ll call at eight and they’ll tell you where to go.” So I says, “Alright.”

In the morning we went to breakfast and everything and at eight I fell in. We went out on the road and I’m standing there. And he said, “Chismar!” I said, “Yo!” They said, “Alright.” I made the roll call and I answered. The roll call was done and they says, “Everybody break up and go to your units.” I’m standing in the middle of the road. I’m standing and everybody’s gone. I’m waiting. Nobody’s coming. Nobody’s telling me what to do.

I go into the barracks and I sit down on my bunk. I sat there about fifteen, twenty minutes and nobody came in. I said, “Bologna. I’m goin’ in the TV room.” I go over the TV room and sit down, watching TV. The Sergeant walks in. He says, “How’re you doing?” I says, “Alright.” “Ya feel good?” “Yep. I’m alright.” We’re sitting there and he says, “I’m goin’ down the mess hall. Ya want a sandwich or anything?” I said, “Yeah, bring me a sandwich back.” So he says, “Alright.” So he goes down and gets sandwiches, comes back and gives one to me. He’s sitting there watching TV with me. He says, “Well, I gotta go.” I says, “Alright. See ya.”

Next day I go out for roll call. I’m standing there. “Chismar!” “Yo!” They’re calling all the names. It’s all done, they’re giving out all the stuff they’re gonna do today. They says, “Everybody go to their assigned places.” I’m standing on the road and everybody leaves. I’m standing on the road again, nobody says a thing. So I go back to my bunk. I figured I’d go over and watch TV again.

The Sergeant comes over again, “How ya doin’?” “Okay.” He sat and watched TV with me for about an hour. Then he says, “Well I’m goin’ down. Do you need a sandwich or anything?” I says, “That’ll be fine.” He goes down to the mess hall and gets food, comes back, gives me my sandwich and we sat and watched TV. He says, “Well I gotta go.” I says, “Take care. See ya.”

Next day. “Call up for roll call.” I go out on the road. “Chismar!” “Yo!” Everybody checks in. Everybody’s in there, “Okay. All accounted for. Go to your assigned places.” Everybody leaves. I’m standing there. Nobody’s sayin’ a word. I go back to the TV room again. In comes the Sergeant. He sits down. He says, “Are you on sick leave?” I says, “No.” He says, “Well what are you doing here?” I says, “I dunno. I’m waiting.” He says, “What’s your name?” “Chismar.” He says, “I’ve been looking for you for three days!” I say, “I’ve been here watching TV with ya.”

“Get out here! You come with me!” He takes me to our outfit and he says to one guy, “You sit next to Chismar and I don’t wanna see Chismar six inches from you! Everywhere you go Chismar better be within six inches of ya!” That was it. That was all that was said and done. See, I was in an outfit I worked with all Officers and all upper guys. We did artillery. We did the firing and all the maneuvers and stuff. I was a computer with the team.

I was with the elite. I was out with Majors and Lieutenants and Tech Sergeants. I was a computer. In them days they didn’t have computers, they had slide rules. I used to run the slide rule and man, I was good at it too. You could talk to the Majors and Lieutenants like you could to a private. I mean, as long as you said “Sir” at the end you could tell him he’s stupid or wrong. As long as you said, “Sir.” that was it. It was a really nice outfit.

After I got in there things were really nice. Ox was in an outfit with me there. He was in the M.P. or something and I was in the regular outfit. We got to see each other once in awhile. We went on the field and we fired artillery from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and then Thursday when we were done. They would give us from Thursday to Monday night off. It was almost like a leave.

4.06 Hitchhiker:

So Ox was another one. He comes over and he wants to borrow money. I says, “Ox, all I have is seventeen dollars.” And he says, “Lend it to me.” He wanted twenty five bucks. I said, “I got seventeen bucks it’s all I have.” And he says, “Well lend it to me and I’ll have it. When you coming back?” I says, “Thursday.” And he says, “Well I’ll have it for you on Thursday.” So I says, “Alright.” I give him the seventeen bucks. The week of artillery training continued.

The bus fare was sixteen fifty or something for the bus fare to come home. I says, “Ox, where’s the money?” “Oh,I don’t have it.” “Whaddaya mean you don’t have it? I’m goin’ home.” And he says, “I thought I was gonna have it. I don’t have it. I’ll see if I could borrow it.” Well, nobody would lend him seventeen bucks. “Ox. I have eleven cents to my name.” He says, “Well, what can I do?” I says, “Heck.”

I went outside and asked one of the guys, “Which way is north?” They says, “Go out that corner there. That’s highway seventeen. That takes ya north. Where ya goin’?” I said, “Pennsylvania.” I go out, I start hitchhiking. I had eleven cents. I got picked up. A guy was going to Washington D.C. He pulled over and said, “This is as far as I’m goin’.” I said, “That’s fine.” I went down to the bus terminal or the train station, some kinda station. I got a cup of coffee for a dime and gumball. That was all the money I had. I get back on the road and start hitchhiking.

A guy picked me up. He said, “Where ya goin’” I said, “Pennsylvania.” He says, “Where?” I says, “Anywhere. Just get me to Pennsylvania. Then I’ll know where I am.” He says, “I’m goin’ north. What I’ll do I’ll pull up by a Pennsylvania licence and roll down the window and ask him where he’s goin’ and will he give you a ride.” We’re goin’ up the road. A couple people just kinda ignored me. One guy, I told him, “I need a ride to Pennsylvania.” He said, “Where?” I said, “I don’t care, just get me to Pennsylvania.” He says, “Alright.”

He pulls over and I get in the car with him. He said he’s going to Harrisburg. I said, “That’s good.” He drives to Harrisburg it’s early in the morning now, I think it’s two in the morning. He says, “I’ll tell ya what. I live up the road here. This road will take you to Williamsport, that’s route fifteen.” “Good. I got cousins in Williamsport.” He says, “I’ll tell ya what. I live a couple blocks from here. Do you wanna come to my house and I’ll make ya a sandwich and a coffee? Then I’ll bring ya back here and put ya on the road.” And I said, “Yeah. If ya don’t mind.”

He took me to his house. We went in and he made me a hamburger and a cup of coffee in a cup to go. Drove me back to the highway and he says, “This road will take you up to Williamsport.” I got hitchhiking there. I got to Williamsport six thirty in the morning. He took me into Lairdsville or Hughesville. There was a restaurant there. It didn’t open til seven. I says, “I’ll wait here.” Well actually I didn’t have any money. I’d wait to see if there was anybody goin’ to Wilkes-Barre.

A farmer pulls up and I say, “I’m goin’ to Wilkes-Barre. Can ya take me?” “Oh, I’m goin’ that way.” I get in the truck with him and he takes me up over the mountain. He turns around and says, “This is as far as I go.” “What?” He says, “You’re goin’ to Wilkes-Barre right? It’s that way.” So I says, “Oh man.” He puts me out on the road, it’s seven thirty. There’s not a car comin’ and I’m on the back road. I was there until about ten o’clock and two salesmen picked me up. They said they were goin’ all the way to Wilkes-Barre. I says, “Oh good.”

They drove and then stopped for a sandwich up on the road. They says, “C’mon. You want a sandwich?” “I ain’t got no money.” They says, “Don’t worry we’ll buy ya a sandwich.” They bought me a sandwich, coffee and a pack of cigarettes. I said, “Well that’s nice.” And then they dropped me off in Luzerne and I walked home from there. I seen your mother for twenty minutes or so. That was Saturday night and I hadda be back to camp on Monday night. So I start hitchhiking to go back.

A pickup truck picked me up in Maryland and he says, “Where ya goin’?” I says, “I’m going to Camp Lejeune North Carolina.” He says, “What’s that? Ya in the Army?” I says, “No I’m in the Marines. I’m goin’ back to the Marine base.” He says, “Oh. I know where the base is.” I says, “Alright. I’ll go with ya if you know where it is.” “Yeah, I know.” I get in the truck.

I says, “I’m gonna take a little nap because I’m tired.” He says, “Yeah, go ahead.” I fall asleep. I wake up and we’re goin’ up and down these hills. Up and down the hills and I’m thinking, “Man I don’t see no hills on the way home from here. It’s all flat.” Down south it’s all flat. I says, “Where we goin’?” And he says, “You’re goin’ to the Army base right?” And I says, “No. I’m not goin’ to the Army base. I’m goin’ to the Marine base.” “Oh, I thought you were goin’ to the Army base.” I said, “Oh man. Leave me out here.” There was a restaurant on the corner.

I got out and went into the restaurant and said, “Where are we?” They says, “You’re in West Virginia.” I said, “West Virginia? I gotta get to North Carolina.” This was already late on Sunday. He says, “Well you gotta get out there on the road. That’s the way. You gotta take the highways.” So I says, “Alright.” I get out, I’m hitchhiking again now.

I didn’t even know where I was goin’. I had no maps. No nothing. I had to rely on the people. Like I said, I was seventeen. I didn’t know. I’ve never been out of the state. Here I’m hitchhiking all these states. I would just say, “Take me towards here. Take me towards there.” and they’d take me as far as they could.

It was Monday during the day and I forget where I was. I think I was in Virginia and I hadda check by ten o’clock Monday night. I call the Corporal of the Guard. I says, “This is Chismar. I might not make it back.” And he said, “Whaddaya mean?” And I said, “I’m still up here…” I forget where I was, and he says, “I’ll tell ya what I’ll do. I’ll leave a blank space at ten o’clock. If you’re here before eight in the morning tell the guy to write your name in the blank space. You’ll be on time then.” I said, “Alright. Thanks a lot.”

I go. I get hitchhiking. I get a ride. I come running in at quarter to eight. I just had time to run in get washed and dressed and I ran out for roll call at five to eight. I made it by five minutes or I woulda been AWOL then. See you’re only supposed to go, when you have a four day pass, I wasn’t supposed to go past Washington DC. That’s the furthest ya could go. They had a three fifty miles or four fifty miles, I forget what it was. But I thought, “Bologna. I’m goin’ home.” I was mad at Ox.

4.07 Football:

We’re on training there, we went to Fort Bragg. I went out for football down there. I was a hundred and forty nine pounds. And I wasn’t that fast so I couldn’t be a halfback. I went out just to go out and play football, to be on the team. We had thirty-four guys on our team. Seventeen guys got hurt during the first game, we were down to seventeen guys. Everybody kept getting hurt; sprained ankle, busted this, busted that.

The coach says, “Who wants to play guard?” I’m sitting on the bench. I says, “I’ll try it.” He says, “Go ahead in. Play guard.” I mean I never expected to get in the games, ‘cause like I said I wasn’t that big and I wasn’t that fast that I could be a halfback and run with the ball. They put me in as guard and I’m against this big black kid with a face mask. In them days we didn’t even have a face guard, just a helmet.

He had face mask, all plastic with two eyes and a mouth cut out. I couldn’t even see him. First play he throws dirt in my face and punches me right in the mug. I thought, “What the heck?” I didn’t even know what I was doin’. So I get back in the huddle. We go out again, boom same thing. He comes at me. Now ya start to learn you’re gonna hafta defend yourself. That was maybe two minutes to go in the half. We finished the two minutes and went to halftime.

Second half coach says, “Chismar, you’re goin’ out again.” I says, “Alright.” I was a hundred and forty nine pounds. I played against guys, the biggest guy was two hundred and seventy five pounds. He was a tackle, ‘cause we went out to scout their team. He was a tackle on the other side of the line. When we went to play they moved him over me, figuring I’m the smallest guy. He’d be able to take care of me.

I held my own against him. I had him complaining to the referee. I kept clipping him. Ya could clip on the line of scrimmage as long as you’re within two yards of the line of scrimmage. That’s the only way I could get him down. I’d get on side of him and knock ‘em down from his knees. He kept complaining, “He’s clippin’! He’s clippin’!” Nothing you could do. In them days we played both offense and defense. Ya didn’t switch.

We only had seventeen guys and ya need eleven on the field. So we had six substitutes for the whole team. We made it through the whole thing and I wound up doing pretty good. I learned howda play football quick. I was the smallest guard in the league. The guy next to me, I was the right guard he was the left guard, he played for the University of Kentucky! He was six foot two. I’m five six. We had guys that played pro ball. We had guys that played college ball. We had all kinda guys. And I held my own with them and like I said I was only barely seventeen.

When we went to Fort Bragg we played for Fort Bragg football team. We held our own with them. We only won one game all year. But we had a good defense, we didn’t have a good offense because we had a small line compared to these other guys. See I could hold the guys out but I couldn’t move ‘em. In other words, I couldn’t open holes. We hadda run most of our plays on the other side of the line because I couldn’t really open holes. Our plays were limited. Other than that I did real good.

We had a good team. We played good ball. There were a lot of close games. Except the first one, we got blown out it was like sixty to nothin’ or somethin’ the first game. We played that team. They killed us. Other than that all the other games were close.

4.08 Artillery Training:

Then I was out with artillery and that was fun because you’re out there firing at night. We used to do night firing. We were in a company that hadda be in the shade because the maps were there. If you were out in the sun it would bleach the maps. Ya hadda be in a tent. It was pretty nice. We had trucks if it rained we could get in the trucks. We slept in trucks so I never hadda really dig foxholes or anything.

The one time we went on a mission. We were firing. We were out in the field. It was hot. For two days we were in there and we were firing pretty much all day long. Towards evening they said, “There’s gonna be a mock attack. We’re gonna put a perimeter out there. Go out fifty yards and form a perimeter and you’ll be at the outpost.”

It was just twilight time. We went out and I seen this tree, it fell over and the roots were still in the ground. There was like a pocket there. I climbed in between the roots and laid back and it was nice and cool in there. The dirt was nice and cool so I sat back and laid in there. We were there for a while and I heard the Sergeant coming, “Okay! All clear! There’s no charge! All Clear! We can go back!” I figured, “Screw him. I ain’t goin’ back!” I’m in there. I had it nice. I was smokin’ cigarettes at the time so I lit up a nice cigarette. I’m in there, it’s nice and cool. I’m sitting back.

About twenty minutes later I hear yelling, “Chismar! Chismar!” I ain’t sayin’ nothin’. I hear the trees all rustling all around me. The guy’s coming towards me, coming towards me and he gets next to me and I yelled, “Bang!” He said, “Who’s that?” I said, “Chismar.” He says, “Whaddaya doin’ there?” I says, “I’m here to protect. I hear there’s a mock attack.” He says, “It was cancelled an hour ago!” I said, “Nobody told me.” He said, “Don’t shoot. You’re not supposed to shoot!” and I said, “Whaddya mean I’m not supposed to shoot? There are enemies.” He says, “You’re supposed to say ‘Halt who goes there?’” “Yeah, I say ‘Halt who goes there?’ and you go and shoot me. I shoot first and ask questions later.” He says, “Yeah. Get out of here.”

Man that was nice. I was laying in there. Two days of lookin’ at a slide rule. I enjoyed the piece and quiet there.

It was nice. We’d be up on a hill and you could see down below the target area. We had fifteen guns, three rocket launchers and three eight inchers, we had howitzers, we had 105s and we had 155s. They’d get a target and then we’d figure how far each gun was from the target. Then we’d give ‘em a time to fire. The control man would start counting at sixty.

And if this gun was so away we’d tell him at fifty three to fire. The next gun fifty two. The next gun thirty six, and so on. They get it so when the shells hit, they’ll all hit at one time. We’d fire all the rounds off and then we’d sit and watch. Then you see the size of a football field, “Boom!” The whole field would go up at one time. I’m thinking, “Man. How can anything live out there?” The Lieutenant says, “You’re lucky if you get ten percent casualties if there was a battalion out there. Unless you’re almost a direct hit.”

Artillery shells put a hole in the ground and blast outward. You might get hit with some shrapnel. If the guys are laying down or in a foxhole you’re lucky to kill ten or twenty percent. But that was always nifty to watch and see them when they hit. If you’re behind the howitzers when the fire you can watch the shell go up into the air. To me, it was like fun.

4.09 Machine Gun:

At infantry training we hadda qualify  for machine gun. I had attitude. I had a bad attitude when I was young. I says, “I don’t wanna qualify for machine gun.” He says, “Everybody has to fire.” I says, “Alright.” So they send me up to qualify. There were maybe ten or fifteen guns up there firing. When you fire a machine gun you’re supposed to fire bursts, “Brrrat. Brrrat. Brrrat.” I was mad a the lieutenant when he made me go up and fire. I said, “I’ll go up and I’ll fire.” So I grabbed the machine gun and fired continuously. You could see the line of bullets zig zag across the target.

Man, the officer come screaming, “Who’s the John Wayne up there? Who’s the John Wayne?” They says, “It’s Chismar!” And he comes over to me and says, “Well son. I’m havin’ that barrel checked and if it’s warped it’s gonna cost you a hundred and twenty five dollars.” I was only making seventy dollars a month. The gunnery sergeant took it down, checked it out and said, “Nah. It’s alright.” He says, “You cannot fire them like that. You’ll melt the barrel.” I said, “You didn’t tell me that. You said go up and fire it and I went up and fired it.” That was in Infantry Training though.

I lucked out there. That was a lucky thing.

4.10 Surveyor Stakes:

Then we went to Fort Bragg we played the football team there. And when we were out there we saw Fort Bragg had really nice surveyor stakes. They were all brand new, painted nice. Ours were all rusty and old. We says, “Let’s go out tonight and we’ll exchange ‘em.” Three of us went out with this other guy, so four of us all together with our sergeant or corporal. We went out and found all their stakes. We pulled up their new stakes and shoved in our old stakes.

First thing in the morning there’s a lieutenant from the Army at our camp sayin’, “I think there’s been a mistake made.” Our sergeant says, “Why? What’s goin’ on?” He says, “I think somebody musta accidentally put their stakes in and took our stakes out.” “Accidentally?” He says, “I’m sure it was accidentally.” He said, “Well that could be. Sometimes we get out there and we get mistaken.” So we returned the stakes and took our old ones back.

4.11 Cutting Lines:

One night they were nighttime firing. When you fire, ya go out to run a communication wire to the guns. A guy runs a wire from here to there and here to there. We got mad ‘cause they took their stakes off of us so they says, “Ya wanna go out and cut their lines tonight while they’re firing?” “Yeah, I’ll go out with ya.” So I went along with all this crap. I was too young to realize ya could get in trouble.

We went out. They said, “Just hide alongside the road. Everybody find a wire. And cut it!” You’re lying there and you cut the wire, it’s laying right there on the road all the way down. So I cut the wire and then ya hide in the bushes. They send a runner out. The runner just holds the wire and runs til the break is found. Then he’ll repair the wire, then go on further.

We cut that wire. Then when the runner would go we’d move to another spot then cut that wire. That night they had a lot of shut downs and none of us got caught. That was fun doin’.

At night we had Army radios in the back of the Jeep. We could tune in stations all over the world. You can pick ‘em up and get things from all over the country. At night I used to go up and sit in the Jeep and put the radio on and have a nice cigarette. So that was nice.

4.12 Army Computer:

One day one of the Army guys got sick, they needed a computer. So they says, “Anybody wanna go?” I says, “Yeah. I’ll go.” I’ll go work with the Army for a day. That should be fun. They said, “Ya know where it is?” I said, “No I don’t know where it is.” And the one kid says, “I know where they are they’re up on the hill over there.” “Yeah alright. That’s good.”

We get in the Jeep and we’re driving along and I see these big holes in the ground all around us. I’m thinking, “What the heck kinda holes are these?” I look up on the hill and ya can see all the artillery guns up there. I said, “We’re on the firing range here!” He says, “Well this is the way up there!” He takes us there. We got up there. I says, “I’m private Chismar, comin’ up to do computer work for you guys.” He says, “Alright. Take a break. There’s two jerks out there ridin’ around in a Jeep.” I said, “What? Riding around in a firing zone?”

I’m glad they seen us. It wouldn’t be good if we pulled in after they already fired the guns. That woulda been a shock. But boy, they were deep craters. It looked like the moonscape! Big holes in the ground all around there. None on the road. None hit the road, thank goodness. That was another exciting thing and I still wasn’t even eighteen years old! I had quite an experience.

Then they used to have the trampoline there. I used to trampoline stuff. It was pretty nifty. It was fun.

4.13 Blackboard Jungle:

It was a Sunday and Ox said he was goin’ into town. I told him I was just goin’ to stay, I was on the bed reading the paper. He come back and said, “Jack. Look at the knife I bought!” I said, “What is it?” He says, “A bowie knife.” I said, “Let me see.” I got up and the movie Blackboard Jungle was just playing before I got in the Marines. I was playin’ the part. So I grabbed the knife and I says, “‘Cmon teach! ‘Cmon teach!” He comes over and he leans on the knife.

I held the knife and he’s pushing on the knife. I said, “Ox. I ain’t movin’ it.” He’s pushing further. I said, “I’m tellin’ ya. I’m not movin’ it.” And he pushed once more and the knife went, “Boop.” I could feel it go through the shirt. So I says, “Oh man!” He says, “Ya got me.” He’s standing there and I started laughing. I said, “Let me see.” He moved his hand and the blood was gushing outta there. So I says, “Get down. Lay on the couch!” He layed on my bed.

I took a bandage pack outta my cabinet and ripped it open. As soon as I put the bandage on him it was covered with blood. I grabbed a towel and said, “Here. Put pressure on it. Keep the pressure on it.” So he took the towel and pushed it down on him. I said, “I’ll go sickbay.” I ran over to sickbay and nobody was there. It was right across the street. I ran there and nobody was there. So I come back.

I said, “Ox. There’s nobody at sickbay.” He says, “Don’t make me laugh. It hurts when I laugh.” I said, “Ox. Nobody’s over there.” He says, “Well go get the CO” So I went out and came back in, “Whoa! I’m not goin’ up to the CO and telling him I stabbed ya!” He says, “Well what?” I says, “Well we gotta come up with a story.” He comes up with somekinda story. I says, “No. They’re not gonna believe that!” Now he’s bleeding to death. I mean he coulda died.

He’s laying there and he says, “Well tell ‘em the knife was on the upper shelf and when I went to take it down I tripped and fell against the locker and I stabbed myself.” I said, “That’s good.” I go up and get the CO I said, “Ox stabbed himself. He’s bleeding bad. He’s stabbed. Hurt.” He said, “Alright we’ll call the ambulance.” So they called the ambulance and the CO come down with me. Ox is layin’ there in the bed.

The CO says, “What happened?” And Ox told him. The CO’s holding the knife and says, “Wake up that guy there.” The sergeant in the next bunk slept through the whole thing. They wake the sergeant up and the CO says, “What happened?” The sergeant says, “I don’t know what happened. I’m sleeping.” He says, “You’re sleeping all the while?” “Yeah, I was sleeping. I don’t know what’s happening.” They let it go. Ox was there. They took him to the hospital.

The next day I was goin’ on maneuvers and a guy came over to me, “Jack, ya almost killed him. A quarter of an inch more and he woulda been dead.” I says, “What?” He says, “He lost seven pints of blood. He was lucky ya got him there on time or else he woulda been dead.”

We had an inquiry. Everyone that was in the building at the time hadda go in front of this board. They asked me what happened and I says, “Well, I was reading a newspaper and I heard Ox scream. When I got up I seen he was bleeding. I took him and I put a bandage on ‘em and I did all this stuff. Then I went to sickbay, nobody was there so then I went up and them them the story.” They says, “Okay.” and they called the sergeant. They says, “What did you see?” He says, “Well I was sleeping, they woke me up, I looked over and Private Adams was on the bed bleeding. The CO was standing there with a knife in his hand.” They all laughed. “That what I seen! You asked me what I seen.”

Then Ox told his story. That’s what happened and he accidentally stabbed himself. They let it go at that and didn’t pursue any further. Then they shipped all of us out. They shipped me to Boston. Shipped Ox to California and shipped the sergeant to Indiana. That was pretty exciting.

4.14 Bull Helsley: 

Bull Helsley was there, when he was leaving, he had an iron. He said, “Does anybody want the iron?” He was selling an iron. I said, “I could use it but I got no money.” He said, “Well, I’ll give you the iron and you can mail me the money whenever you get it.” I says, “Alright.” It was seven dollars I think. The first pay I didn’t have it. The second pay I didn’t have it. Then I was transferred to Boston. In the transfer I lost his address. I thought, “Ah crap!” I didn’t know his name. All I knew was Bull Helsley from Erie.

For years I told the story, nobody knew a guy from Erie. A few years ago I was down in Florida and met a guy who was going home back to Erie. I said, “Do you know Bull Helsley?” He said, “I don’t know. I know Helsleys, but I don’t know any Bull Helsley. What’s his first name?” I said, “I don’t know. I only know him by Bull.” He says, “I’ll check.”

He calls me up the next day, “I found your man. I got his phone number.” I called him up. I says, “Is this Bull Helsley?” He says, “They used to call me Bull.” And I says, “I was in the service with you. You gave me that iron I was supposed to send ya the money and I lost your address.” So he said, “I don’t even remember.” I says, “Well I do. I can’t forget! I’m comin’ to Erie to pay ya the seven dollars.” He says, “You don’t hafta do that!” I says, “No. I wanna. I’ve been lookin’ for you for fifty years.”

It was fifty years to the month. He was out in April and it was April when I went up and paid him that seven bucks. I met him at a restaurant up there. Probably he didn’t want me to come to the house. He didn’t trust me. He says, “Ya didn’t hafta.” I said, “Yeah I hadda. I felt guilty for fifty years that I stuck ya after you were so nice to give me that iron.” Can you imagine? That was fifty years to the month.


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