My service began at an age of 23, on 31 July 1941, when I was inducted into the United States Army in Chicago, Illinois. First, I was sent to Camp Grant near Rockford, Illinois, which was a processing center for new recruits. A junior college buddy and I entered the service the same day, and both of us were sent to Camp Grant together. There were about 150 of us from the Chicago area.
We arrived at Camp Grant at night and without supper, so we were served a meal at the mess hall. My buddy and I sat on the end of a table next to a middle aisle. Shortly afterwards, an officer came down the aisle welcoming various recruits at random. We were still in civies, and we didn't know one rank from another. The officer stopped and asked us where we were from. We said, Evanston. Illinois, where we attended Evanston Collegiate Institute.
Well, it turned out the officer was a Major and the base executive officer. He said "ECI, I have two daughters there. Do you know them?" Bob had dated the one, and I had a class with the other. ECI had a small enrollment and it was easy to remember anyone that attended there.
To make a long story shorter, he said he'd see that we could go anyplace in the Army of our choosing. Fly boys were not many in 1941, and the infantry and artillery was not very "glamorous." So, we asked for the Air Corps. Bingo, we were placed on orders for Chanute Field about two weeks later for basic and further assignment. Did anyone ever say there are no politics in the service?
But the story doesn't end there. He had us report to headquarters the next morning at 8 o'clock. This we did before our non-com even had time to process us. The Major retained us, took us to the officers club. When we got to our quarters the others had their uniforms and were in dress as we were still in civies. We were both on latrine duty until we left Camp Grant, but the sarge "hated" to see us leave, because according to him we did a super clean up job.
When Bob and I were taken to the Officer's Club, we stayed all day with the Major. We had lunch, popcorn, and beer, and were released just in time for retreat. The Major was second in command, so what could we do. Number one we were militarily ignorant, and two, could not afford beer.
When we reported to the barracks, the guys were standing retreat in uniform and we were in civvies, with the smell of beer no doubt. The sarge was in an outrage; we had missed our shots, too. The next day we got our shots and uniforms.
To make more misery for sarge, we told him we had a pass to Evanston on Saturday and the Major was driving us there, his hometown. The sarge told the company commander who checked it out as true. The Major had said that nothing was too good for friends of his daughter.
We tried to make up to the sarge because his authority had been tarnished by us. We did a bang up job on the latrine for two weeks, and departed in good terms with him. We were sort of "sad sacks" or like Beetle Bailey, I suppose.
On two different weekends while we were at Camp grant we went to Evanston with the Major. Bob and I both had girl friends, so we didn't meet his daughters. The Major didn't hold a grudge about that and came to the train and shook hands with us as we prepared to board for Rantoul.