World War II Draftee
World War II Draftee My friend and I had been to the movies and we were coming and they were talking about Pearl Harbor. We just said, “Where in the hell is Pearl Harbor?” We had never heard of it before. I went to Fort Bragg to be inducted in Army, after they gave us the physical and everything, I was coming back home to Salisbury (North Carolina) and someone said, “You that guy over there? He's crying!” I said, “What is he crying about?” One of my friends said, “You know something, they found him 4f.” We couldn't wait to go in the Army. Everybody was anxious to go, it was the thing to do in 1943. Three weeks later, I was in Fort Carson and we were doing basic training and we were all slogging through the mud. And one of the guys said, “That lucky son of a bitch, he got to be 4f.” We felt so sorry for the guy and three weeks later, we weren’t sorry for him any more. I was drafted into the Army. I was a draftee. We were all draftees. We went in the Army and we were all draftees. We had a first sergeant that was regular army. I don't know if he was in World War I or what but he was kind of an old man. He and the other sergeants used talk about us, “These draftees, I don't know what in the hell we are going to do with them. They don't know a damn thing. They are never gonna learn a damn thing. I heard all this conversation because at that time they put me in the orderly room because I had two years of high school typing. I heard all the conversations from the non-commissioned officers, also the lieutenants and captains. They told me when I went in there, “Julien, remember one thing.” I said, “ What's that sergeant?” He said, “Remember keep your damn mouth shut. Never say a thing about what went on in here.” I was privy to a lot of information that the other enlisted men didn't know about. They sent us down to Jackson, Mississippi to a German prisoner of war camp and I was there for a while. Then they shipped us out of Jackson and sent us to Fort Meade, Maryland and we had some more advanced infantry training. The Army had movies and we had to go see a movie every night. Before I went oversees, I was in a German prisoner of war camp, for the Germans that were captured in North Africa and shipped over here. They showed these movies to the Germans too, so we had a mixed audience. We had German soldiers along with American soldiers and the Germans, they used to laugh and laugh and laugh at the cowboy pictures because they can't imagine skills like riding a horse and shooting. And it was shoot, shoot, shoot, shoot and these Germans would say, “he is riding that horse and he shoots twelve bullets, but his gun is only a six-shooter. It is a six-shooter. I don't understand that.” The Germans weren't used to the American movies. I got go overseas on the Queen Mary, the ship the Queen Mary. I think they had between twelve and thirteen thousand troops on the Queen Mary, now can you imagine. We had sixteen people living in a cabin. We had bunks, we had three bunks there, and three bunks there, and three bunks there and four bunks in the middle. To get to bunk, I had to crawl over bunks to get to where my bunk was on top, two bunks you know, bottom and top. We were lucky, we had a small bathroom. We had to stay on the Queen Mary. You couldn't go outside of your cabin except to go to the dining hall. I was very impressed with the dining hall because the thing, it seemed like it was two or three times bigger than this room. They had this huge portrait of Queen Mary whenever she was in power, in England and that's why they named it. They had this huge portrait of her and you could see it as soon as you walked in the dining room, it was so big. During the war they converted the Queen Mary into a troop ship and all it did was carry troops from New York to Glasgow, Scotland. That was the safest way over there. You had to stay in your room. You were not allowed on the decks. Another thing is the ships going over there had to zig zag, this way and that way, that way, because of the German submarines. We only saw the Queen Mary at night time. That's when we loaded the ship because of security. We got on at night at New York and when we got to Glasgow, Scotland they landed at night again. We got off the ship and got on the troop train and we went down to Southampton, England and got on a smaller boat and went over to Le Havre, France. And when we got to Le Havre, France was all bombed, we could see, but they didn't want us to see anything. I was assigned to an infantry battalion headquarters and the colonel came in one day and said, “I want you guys to go out and try to pick up some dead Germans and Americans around a pill box. And we went out there and the guy next to me, not any farther than you to me, stepped on a German shoe mine and blew his foot off. The powder came in my eyes and I got temporary blindness for a few weeks and they sent me back to a military hospital and they kept me there for three months. Once you go to the military hospital, you don't get out the next day. But I got my eyesight back in two weeks. I remember I was terrified about losing my eyesight and when they took me back to the aide station and before they took me to the army hospital, I remember the doctor said, “Soldier, don't worry, you're going to see.” I was lucky, I got my eyesight back.