Soldiers don't die

"A man dies only when he is forgotten"

Monday, June 3, 2013

More interesting photos from basic training

There are over a hundred undeveloped slides in a small cardboard box among Mel's possessions; I have digitized all of them.  While none of these are dated, they are most likely 1941-'42, as he was in the desert by '43.  None of the people in the slides are identifiable, but they are certainly his buddies.  I will post some of the interesting ones a few at a time from now on...

Guarding a drinking water reservoir.  Guard duty was a tedious but necessary part of being a soldier, as base security was maintained by the men who lived in it.  It would be part of routine "fatigue detail," what the officers liked to call these duties because they made one fatigued. A chore to some, a happy and easy job for others, being posted as a sentry also taught the men discipline and how to be vigilant.

Writing home.

Taking a nap. A soldier lays on his folding cot under the big tent; his backpack, ammo belt, helmet and first aid kit are piled nearby.

In warm weather, men slept outside underneath large tents with the side flaps rolled up. Here they have sleeping bags spread out on the ground instead of cots.

Grandpa's corner of the tent. You can see a wooden rack has been built to hang up his uniforms. There is only one chevron on his jacket sleeves, indicating a Private First Class.  His footlocker is to the right, with the tray balanced on it and his stuff neatly arranged. The end of the cot next to his in the foreground has a knapsack hung on it.

Partly to be patriotic and drum up support for the military effort, and partly for entertainment, the men sometimes rode into town in "convoys" to mingle with the public or hit the nearest bar.  This is similar to another slide in his memento album, so this is probably Charleston, South Carolina.

Some men looking at an odd anachronism within a WWII camp...a Civil War artillery piece. This was identified by a reenactor friend as a '3-inch ordnance rifle'.  The only place where this would conceivably be is at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, which would make the year 1941.

 Another tent neighbor relaxing. Most of the time between rigorous physical training was spent getting as much rest as possible.
The soldiers ate their meals with soup or rice served from old tin milk cans.
A friend on 'KP duty' washing his mess kit after a meal. As every Boy Scout knows, one bucket is for hot sterilization with soap and the other bucket is for a cold rinse.

It was clear that everyone knew he had a camera, as some of these pictures appear to be staged.
"R&R" time in camp for some consisted of playing team sports, like basketball, rugby and baseball.  I find the action poses entertaining.

There was also some cheap forms of entertainment in camp. The 8th Division had its own movie theater where you could go to watch newsreels or some popular "flicks," usually by request.  This was when a day at the movies cost you a couple of nickels.

A picture of an unidentified man shaving outside his company tent.

Eating watermelon.  Now why were soldiers eating watermelon, and why did Mel take a picture?
Summers in South Carolina tend to be hot and humid, and veteran Arthur Neriani of the 13th Infantry Regiment, 8th Division, attests that one day after a long march, the men came across a fruit merchant who wandered into camp and sold them fresh watermelons, much to the pleasure of the hot and tired men.  While this photo has very little significance, I find it interesting that this distant memory of an old GI was confirmed with my grandfather's photographs.

The incredible thing is not what is going on in these pictures, as every soldier in boot camp did mundane things like this every day.  But rather it is the fact that my grandfather was able to capture these images, and give us an impression of what Army camp life was like during the 1940's.

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