I turned 18 in 1943. The draft board was very prompt in calling people during the war and I got my draft notice right away. I was going to graduate from Milford High School in mid June so I wrote the draft board and requested I be allowed to stay and graduate with my class. That was granted and I did not enter the service until July 16th.
I took a test and qualified for the A.S.T.P. (Army Specialized Training Program). I was ordered to report for service at Fort Devins Massachusetts.
I had been to Boy Scout camp for a week or two, but spent very little time other than that away from home so getting on the train bound for Fort Devins was really a new experience.
Devins was a typical Army Post with barracks, mess halls, Post Exchanges (PXs) and everyone in uniforms. We went through the process of being changed from civilians to military in appearance, attitude, daily routine and values.
I stood in line for a lengthy period with dozens of other strangers waiting to be examined like I had never been examined before. The examination was physical and oral including questions that no one had ever asked me before such as sexual preference. All of this buck naked with only a sheaf of papers to carry from one post to another.
With much relief the medical exam ended and we were in the supply area where we were issued olive drab colored clothing. We got olive drab underwear, olive drab socks, olive drab neckties, olive drab belts, shirts, pants , hats, jackets and finally, boots. The army at that time was sold on strictly olive drab; no camouflage patterns like you a see today.
Charlie's first letter home from Ft.Devins
Aug 8, (1943) 12:30 pm
Dear Mother and Dad,
Well we just got thru our dinner which was very good. We had mashed potatoes, ham, salad, spinach, bread and butter, coffee and ice cream. How did you fare this weekend?
I wrote you a card, did you get it? I wrote Shirlie last nite and told her all about what we have done so far and asked her to call you and pass the information along.
This is a swell place. At the P.X you can buy everything from jewelry to smoked herring. I am in the day room writing this. We have checkers, a pool table, radio and etc. in the day room which is very similar to an enlisted men’s clubroom.
The only thing that I don’t particularly like is that we eat out of mess kites and have to wash them every two minutes. Also we have to stuff all our possessions in a barracks bag (duffle bag) at the foot of our bunks. Excuse my scribbling as I got a shot yesterday and the effects are just wearing off now.
How’s everyone? What did you hear from Clark and Malc? You can write to me here but I may not get the letter right away because we are liable to be shipped any day after Mon. I don’t dare tell Shirlie yet as she might be disappointed but I’ll tell you, we will get a 36 hr. pass if we are here till next weekend. Just keep your fingers crossed, I’ll phone or telegraph if I get my pass.
We have a good corporal and he fellows are a good bunch. I marked all my clothes with indelible ink this morning. We have just about everything except overcoats and guns and it all has to go into that damnable barracks bag. We even have two sets of long underwear.
Well I must write Shirl now and then. I’m going to try and phone you. I tried once when we first got off the train here. The line was busy and the operator was to call me back. Just as the phone rang, I had to fall in. Be good now and don’t worry about me. The army is o.k. Love to everyone.
We learned basic close order drill, how to stand at attention, at ease, parade rest and the other drill commands. We had lectures on Venereal Disease, basic grooming, bed making, military courtesy and such things. I and many others spent a great deal of time writing home. Not that we were homesick, because there were so many new things going on, but perhaps nostalgic for the things we had appreciated in civilian life. Things like not taking orders from some clown who was giving them just because he had been there a couple of weeks longer than you.
We spent a week or two getting indoctrinated at Devins and then boarded a train for Ft Benning Georgia. My fellow trainees were about my age, right out of high school, and together we headed for a rigorous 16-week basic training course at the Infantry Center in Benning.