Vern Montgomery's Story




35th Troop Carrier Squadron

64th Troop Carrier Group


After being accepted by the Army Air Corps for flight training in December of 1942, I was permitted to return to junior college where I was enrolled in the third semester of my second year. My actual reporting date was deferred until after the semester was finished.  Therefore, I was called to active duty in February of 1943. I reported to Oklahoma City where I received my first experience with a troop train.

After spending the night in the Skirvin Towers hotel, we were loaded into a 19th century version of a railroad passenger car. After a while this car and one or two others were attached to an engine that looked as if it had served in the civil war. In 1943, all trains were pulled by steam engines. Most were coal-fired steam engines. Here in the Midwest the freight engines usually had eight driving wheels on four axles. There were four wheels on two axles up front to help the engine into turns, I suppose; with a similar number in the back under the cab. The passenger train engines were more streamlined with much taller drive wheels for faster speeds. This engine had only two driver axles, four wheels, with a single axle, two wheels, and no bogeys either fore or aft. It was primitive! We moved so slowly that some fellows got off and ran along side and had no trouble keeping up. After an all day journey on that "Toonerville Trolley" we were finally deposited on a rail siding in Sheppard Field, Texas.

I've been back through Wichita Falls, the nearest city, often since then but the place doesn't seem as bleak as it was that February. We were all wearing the clothes we reported in. I was wearing my one and only three-piece wool suit. I had been wearing it now for two days and after the full day in the train we were marched from the rail siding to our barracks. All along the route there were cries from the barracks as we passed: "You'll be Sorrryy!" It was two or three days more before we received our new uniforms and shoes. We were on the drill field all day marching and doing calisthenics in our street clothes and we finished each day with distance marches still in our street shoes. This was aggravated by the rounds of shots we were taking: typhoid, typhus, yellow fever, tetanus, and who knows what else. Sore arms, sore feet, fever, and aching muscles all contributed to the misery. All this and the constant taunts of "you'll be sorry" made life almost unbearable.

The only redeeming feature was the food. I know you've no doubt heard how lousy army food was supposed to have been. This wasn't true for me. I grew up eating rather plain food. The best thing about the food was the quantity. 




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