Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Military Service

My draft papers came and I reported to the Percedio of Monterey California on September 23 nineteen hundred forty two there I was sworn into the US Army. As I remember that was like a giant mixing bowl. We were issued clothing and assigned to KP duties and various other pleasant jobs, got lots of shots, answered a lot of roll calls, peeled a lot of potatoes and washed a lot of dirty pots and pans and was eventually was assigned to an outfit.

I was assigned to the Second Infantry Division, known as the Indian Head Division, which at that time was stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio Texas. So we were herded on a troop train and headed for Texas. I had never ridden on a train until I went into the Army. I did a lot train riding after that. We spent a couple of days at Fort Sam and were then loaded up in GI six by six trucks (that was a tandem duel axle truck with power to all of the axles front included)and hauled about thirty miles out in the desert to Camp Bullis where we took our basic training. Camp Bullis was just that, a camp, all tents and lots of dust and everything else that goes with a desert, primitive it was. There we were taught all the basic things a soldier needs to know like how to shoot a rifle and various other weapons, fight ,bayonet, kill, and how to survive under not to desirable conditions. This training came in very handy later under combat conditions. I was assigned to Headquarters Battery of the Fifteenth Field Artillery Battalion and our job was to keep communications with the Sixth Infantry Battalion, that combination was called a Combat Team. I was assigned to the wire section and it was our job to keep wire, for telephone communication between the infantry and the field artillery. So I got a lot of training on laying splicing and maintaining wire communications. 
Later on all of that training came in very handy under combat conditions.This is starting to bring back memories that I do not care to recall and I am finding it very difficult to write about. That is all of that for now anyway I’m getting ahead of myself. After basic training we went back to Fort Sam and I don’t think we were there but a short time and they loaded us up on troop trains and hauled us to Camp McCoy Wisconsin for winter training. And winter it was in about a weeks time we went from hot weather to downright cold weather. Most of the division were southern guys so there was a whole lot of shivering going on for a while. While we were at Camp McCoy we went up to Ironwood Michigan for winter maneuvers and there a few nights it got down to forty below zero. We tunneled into snow banks and put pine needles under our sleeping bags and had fires going to try and keep warm. We did keep warm in our sleeping bags however. They were arctic sleeping bags stuffed with down and were two bags. We slept with our clothes on except we took our parkas off and our foot wear, which were called snow packs. You soon learned to put your snow packs in the sleeping bag with you because if you didn’t in the morning they were so stiff from cold that you couldn’t get them on. By the time you got through the chow line your food would be starting to freeze so you had to hold your mess kit over a fire or eat a mighty cold meal and that army chow wasn’t the best even when it was hot let alone eating it ice cold. I don’t remember how long we were there, no matter it was plenty long enough. The ride up there and back in the back of those GI trucks with a tarp and not too tight top and back curtain at below zero weather wasn’t real cozy either.
Back to Camp McCoy for more training and more training . A few more months at Camp McCoy then back on a troop train headed for the east coast, like Camp Shanks New York. Where we were stuffed into an old Liberty Ship named the Hawaiian Shipper and headed for Belfast Ireland. That was anything but a vacation cruise. The cargo space was full of bunks at least four high and barely enough room to walk between the rows and it got pretty stuffy down there. I surmised that nothing could survive down there but GI’s and rats. We then went on a zig zag course across the Atlantic in a convoy. The zig zag course was to not go in one direction long enough for the German U Boats , submarines, to be able to get a bead on our ships with a torpedo. Having a German torpedo come into your bunk house wasn’t really a very pleasant thing to look forward to either. They also warned us to be careful while up on deck, because if you got washed overboard that no one would pick you up and in the North Atlantic water you would only live for a few minutes. We welcomed the fresh air so we went up on deck when ever we could. Of course a lot of us were sea sick so it was a pretty regular thing  to step in or slip and fall in vomit . We referred to it as puke and that didn’t do much for an already upset stomach. I never did get real sea sick but I felt mighty barfy most of the time. I think it took us about twelve or thirteen days to get there As I remember we were about thirty miles from Belfast Ireland. We were next to a small village there but I can not remember the name of it. By this time it must have been in late nineteen forty three or probably nineteen forty four and we were still training and waiting for D Day which was for sure coming but no one knew when. About a month before D Day we headed out, the whole Division I guess took off and convoyed to some port in Wales where we kept a pretty low profile and got everything ready and loaded for the big invasion of Europe. As I recall the weather was miserable rainy and chilly there.

Donald Pointer in Cerisy Forest soon after D-Day
June 1944
I do not remember for sure how long we left before D Day anyway the morning of June sixth we were off the shore of Omaha Beach in Normandy France. I didn’t land until June seventh. I survived the war and came back to the states and was discharged on November thirty nineteen forty five. I pulled a couple of old trucks out of the junk got them running and did odd hauling jobs. Not very profitable so I gave that up got married and went back to California. There I worked for the government on the Security Police Department at the Oakland Naval Supply Center, Oakland California for a little over three years. Gary was born when we lived in California. Then we moved back to Collins and on January  first nineteen fifty started in the Highway Standard Service on highway Sixty Five on the north west corner of Collins. Lisa was born after we moved back to Collins. In nineteen fifty nine I moved down town to my last station. In nineteen eighty one I went to work at the Animal Disease Laboratory in Ames Iowa where I retired from on February One nineteen eighty six.
Right now it is eleven o’clock eastern standard  DST , March tenth 2000 and I am at my daughter’s Lisa Pointer Mitchell house in Alpharetta  Georgia and I plan to return to my home in Collins Iowa on the eighteenth of March ,2000. This is just a brief sketch of my life that I have made up for my two children Gary and Lisa and my six grand children. Stephanie and Melanie Mitchell who are Lisa’s children and Dirk, Gail, Megan and Jacob Pointer who are Gary’s children.

Melanie's note:  To read this story and more about Donald's military service, you can view the photo book I created here or see below.

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