NO GOLD BARS FOR ME
At the end of 17 weeks of basic training, those of us that were pulled from college ROTC were given two choices. One was an immediate transfer to Fort Benning, Georgia, for officer training. In about 13 weeks one would be a second lieutenant. The other choice was to go to a special engineering school. This program was so new I had to wait for a couple of weeks for them to determine where to send me. I ended up in a small college north of Richmond, Virginia. Why did I make this choice? I just loved being a student and I was very good at it. More importantly, I had no ambition to become an officer. The simulated battles in ROTC convinced me that second lieutenants were the first line of offense. I could just visualize my dead body washing up on the shore of a Pacific Island with gold bars glistening in the sunshine. ASTP was wonderful with all advanced math courses, but the ax fell after 5 months. The War Department canceled the whole program. We were dispersed across the country into various infantry divisions. I was sent to the 95th Infantry Division located in Indiantown, PA. There was only one student I knew who joined me in a platoon. His name was Ken T. from Wisconsin. After about 4 months and after mountain climbing school in West Virginia, Ken and I were told to report to Captain N’s offices. He said that candidates were needed back at Fort Benning for officer training. Our division had chosen us. We could leave tomorrow and probably on the way have a week at home. Ken and I looked at each other and in unison said, “Do we want this? No!” The captain was all smiles. He wanted to keep good soldiers. This was a good decision. We were definitely headed for Europe. Even if I had gold bars they wouldn’t be glistening in the Pacific sunshine. My division landed in Normandy (via England) in July, approximately one month after D-Day and entered combat in later July. I was promoted to Staff Sergeant with 16 men (2 mobile squads) under my command. We had very heavy combat and terrible casualties. Just prior to our attack on Fortress Metz I was called back to company headquarters and received the same invitation to go back to the States for officer training. Ken was not with me, as he was wounded earlier. What a decision!! I wasn’t even old enough to vote. Now I must risk possible death now or maybe two years later. My quick decision was to stay. We had very limited information but I figured Hitler could not last much longer, but the Pacific War could go on for years. I almost lost my bet. In December, I was seriously wounded but completely recovered.