Marine Corps


My entry into the Marine Corps was inauspicious. A group of us traveled by train from Kansas City to San Diego. Remember that I had never been anywhere, so traveling in a Pullman Car, eating in the dining car, passing through places like Gallup and Barstow, were experiences of an extraordinary nature. I went to boot camp in San Diego, which in the Corps was scorned as soft, Parris Island on the east coast being the tough, the real boot camp. And it may have been. Boot camp was uneventful, but I learned there that I could be tough. I never once had to drop out of any activity or failed to complete anything required of me. That was an enormous boost for my self-confidence. I also learned a few other things like how to scam the system. Our Drill Instructor was fond of movies, and the only way he could go was to take the entire platoon with him in the evening—while other platoons were doing extra drills or whatever. Some buddies and I, uninterested in some pretty B-level movies, volunteered to stay behind as barracks sentries. We had learned how to get into the mess hall by an unlocked door, and while the rest of the platoon was at the movie, we would go to the mess hall and “requisition” much prized foods like canned peaches, cookies, and cocoa mix. We ate well—and we were really lucky not to have been caught.

MC buddies

I had planned to enter the infantry once I completed boot camp, but, in part because I knew how to type (sort of), I was assigned for further training in “field telephone school.” We learned how to climb telephone poles, string wire, run up steep hills carrying heavy loads of communications equipment, and the operations of a different types of field telephones. I was then sent from Camp Pendleton in California to the Norfolk Naval Air Station and the headquarters of the Fleet Marine Force Atlantic (“Fmflant” in acronymic speech). There I worked in an office directly across from that of the three-star general who commanded FMFLANT. I worked for a lowly captain but was surrounded by all sorts of colonels, majors, and the like. I also learned to operate an encoding/decoding machine, teletype, and other communications machinery, which I eventually ended up operating again for a brief period in Korea.

U.S military forces were being downsized in late 1947 under some budgetary pressure, and I chose to be discharged rather than the option of staying in that was offered. Actually, I very nearly decided to stay, but I was lectured to in no uncertain terms by some of my older friends who were WWII vets.