One Marine's Stories

The Reserves:

I was sixteen in 1955 when I first joined the Reserves because the government was going to do away with the GI Bill. So they said if you joined the Reserves you’d be included in the GI Bill. Well, I couldn’t join because I was one month past my sixteenth birthday. I said to my friends, “They’re not gonna take me,” but they encouraged me to go down and try. I didn’t. So my three friends went down and they signed up and the Reserves accepted them because they were all of age. So the next month my friends said, “C’mon just try anyway.” Again, I didn’t try. When the third month arrived I said, “Yeah, maybe I’ll go down”. So I went down and they signed me up for the Marines.

When we started I was told to bring my birth certificate to the next meeting. Well, I didn’t. One of the reasons I joined was because they were going to North Carolina for training for two weeks. I’ve never been out of the Valley other than a quick trip here and there. I signed up, they let me go and the second month they asked, “Where’s your birth certificate?” to which I replied, “I’ll bring it next time.” I kept doing that and along came June and we went to training.

By that time I learned to march and how to take a M1 apart, how to clean it, how to rebuild it and how to field strip it. I also learned, pretty much, the manual of arms. So, actually the reserves kind of helped me out. Then we went to North Carolina down on the Pullman train. It was the first time I was sleeping on a train and that was kind of nice. We used to lay in the rack there and watch all the small towns. We went to Washington DC and I seen the Capitol for the first time in my life. That was pretty exciting.

We got to North Carolina and it was June and hot. They said, “Make sure you take salt tablets and when you’re leaving here you gotta be careful because it’s hot.” It was a hundred degrees that day. We went down and as we got there everybody started off the train and into formation. The guys were passing out because we were leaving an air conditioned train to a hundred degrees. And with all your equipment we had a couple guys pass out. That was good.

Then we got down to Camp Lejeune, the main base of the Marines on the East Coast. We started training in automotive. Working in teams of four we had to take a complete engine apart and put it back together again. It was a lotta fooling around, I mean, it was learning but you’re hearing war stories - the guys are talking what this happened and what that happened. The guys were great. Like I said, I was sixteen years old working with twenty-five and thirty year olds, maybe older. There were very few that were eighteen and under. I was way out of my class, but I got a kick out of the guys and it was pretty much a learning experience. At the end of two weeks the motor was back together. They said, “Who wants to start it?” and I wasn’t the one that wanted to start it, there was too many parts left over.

We did that. In the meantime we had other stuff to do, a little marching, a little calisthenics and everything.We had the training and we were in with all the old guys, I mean, these guys have been in the Marines for years and years.

We had an invasion, we had to go into the, like a duck where they take you out and get ready for a landing. These weren’t like the ones in World War II where they would drop the thing and you were in the water and you had to go. These would take you right up to land and put you on the land. You’d get out and spread out and do your formations and stuff. That was kinda disappointing to me because I was gung ho; I wanted to be dropped in the water like you see John Wayne do.

I felt like a sissy, I’m thinking this is kinda like a sissy thing, you just walk out and setup. To me, it was like a summer camp with a lot of big toys. You’re in boats, you’re in with these guys and the guns are shooting and you’re running around. To me it was wonderful.

Boot Camp Stories