|Howard E. Nixon
Picture taken in Belgium in 1944
I and Leo Strom was drafted in January of 1943.
We went down to Fort Custer (near Battle Creek, Michigan) and was examined. They asked us what we would like to get into (like if we had a choice) and we said probably a motor cycle outfit. Well neither of us saw a cycle after that.
We came home from Custer and had to stay in town [Cadillac, Michigan] at Devere Johnson's. The storm was bad. Next day we came home and walked about 1 & 1/2 miles from highway M-55 in waist deep snow to get to our house.
We went back to Custer and was officially in the army. While in the induction center they called our names and I heard them call my cousin Milford Nixon (Bud). So I got with him and we went home to his place on weekend passes. My older brother Bruce and my mother came down to see us.
After the induction center when we were officially at our destination, some of the recruits had long hair very pretty. They cut it off real short. There was enough hair to make a mattress.
We wasn't in Custer long. Leo and I were going to stay together. It didn't work. Leo was soon on K.P. duty and that night they shipped me out without a chance to look him up. That's the last time I saw of him until I got home.
They shipped me to Camp Grant, Illinois. I was put in the medics. While there we got all of our shots, learned all sorts of medical practice - like bandaging, tourniquets, etc.
We took lots of hikes 5 miles, 10 miles, 15 and 25 miles. It was surprising how out of shape a lot of guys were. We stayed there about two months and they sent me to an ambulance co. in Alabama. I got assigned an ambulance. We had to learn how to change oil, grease, and take care of it. We even painted the grease fitting red.
In Alabama (Camp Rucker) we did all kinds of obstacle courses. I could climb up a rope and through a hole without touching my feet to the rope. I had had plenty of practice on the hay rope in the old barn. Those guys said, "Look at that guy go up that rope." We crawled under machine gun fire too.
We went on maneuvers up in around Bowling Green, KY. We learned how to dig fox holes and put shelter halves together for a tent. Each guy carried 1/2 tent in his fill field pack.
One night I and Ollie P. Becton put our tent outside the area in a pasture. That night a few mules came thundering by on the run and came very close to running over us. Well, we thought that wasn't such a good idea.
We had all our equipment, clothes, mess kits and such. We would line up for chow and when the cook hollered away, everybody went on the dead run. And if you fell down - tough luck. You were trampled on.
Standing in line for chow with a mess kit was something else. You didn't want to get next to a guy that was goosey. If somebody poked him he would swing his mess kit and clobber you. Some fun.
There on maneuvers I saw my first dead man. He had layed down by a half track and during the night it backed over his head, which made it about 3 inches thick. I had the honor to haul him to Nashville, Tenn. There they looked at him and identified him.
While we were on maneuvers we had to learn to set up camp quick like and move quick, and dig a fox hole quick like.
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© Copyright, Howard E. Nixon, 2001.
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