Uncle Edwin’s Story, Part 2…In the Army

Richard Edwin Boone was called up for service in the US Army July 21, 1943. He was 36 years old. Being a Quaker, he entered as a Conscientious Objector. My Grandmother, Margaret McKinley, gave me a shoe box one day and when I asked what was in it, she said, “It’s Uncle Edwin’s letters from the Army.” So most of my knowledge about his service is from these letters. They were from Edwin to his parents. There were also some letters from his wife, Pauline to his parents. Incidentally, the word “free” was written in place of a stamp on the envelope for each of the letters sent while he was in the U.S.

campbarkeleyletterheadEdwin started at the Reception Center at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, IN. Then on September 8, 1943, he sent his first letter from his training station. He settled in Camp Barkeley, near Abeline, TX. His return address is Company A 63rd Medical Training Battalion. Edwin expected he might be there for 21 weeks & since this was a medical training center, he presumed he was now in the Medical Corps. The men he transferred to TX with started calling him “Pop.” He wrote “I don’t know why unless it’s because I’m the eldest.” In later letters, he calls himself “Old Pappy.” He described his barracks as a one story “hut” that held 16 men, had no wallpaper or rugs but did have a “good soft mattress.” He did complain later that he missed a good shade tree. The trees in TX weren’t very tall so he couldn’t “lay in the shade.”

He began training September 21, 1943. He mentioned in a letter on the 26th that he had been painting signs & doing class room work. He said they hiked 5 1/2 miles one day and also did the obstacle course. He was part of the Battalion choir. In October he talked about field exercise in which they all pitched their “pup” tents on the parade ground and displayed their field equipment for inspection. His Division didn’t pass the inspection so they were made to eat from their metal mess kits for a week instead of using the china in the mess hall.edwinobstaclecourse

In November, he ended up in the hospital with an “attack of the good old-fashioned shingles.” Then on November 23, he wrote that his wife, Pauline, had moved down to Abeline. Later that month, Pauline joined him at the camp for Thanksgiving dinner.

December 7, 1943, a War Department postcard was sent out that listed Pvt Richard E. Boone’s new address: Dental Techns Sch. Fitzsimons Gen Hosp, c/o Postmaster Bunell, Colo. His next letter showed he was a part of Company D SMDET (School for Medical Department Enlisted Technicians). So he had moved on to Dental Technical School to train to be a dentist’s assistant. He expected to be in school for 3 months. Pauline moved out to Denver later in December. Edwin is learning how to make false teeth & other dental appliances. He’s in a more relaxed atmosphere, able to go off post at night and for the weekend. So he & Pauline are able to spend time together.

In January he wrote of being on “litter detail—that is the squads of stretcher bearers who are picked out for each evening, theoretically to carry wounded from the hospital trains that come in. As none come in, there’s nothing to do, & all it amounts to is being restricted to camp for the evening.” Pauline got a job in the library. They also found time to do some sight seeing.

edwingoldenco

Golden, Colorado with Castle Rock in the background

In February, Edwin ended up in the hospital again. This time for hemorrhoids. He had one procedure & was expecting to have surgery. He comments on the fact that his bed has built-in radio earphones on which he has a choice of 3 radio stations. He had surgery for his “piles” mid-February & was back in school a month later.fitzsimonshosppostcard

Pauline sent a postcard home just after Edwin’s surgery. The X toward the left wing of the building marks the area of the hospital where Edwin was. The hospital had 608 beds.

In May, 1944, Edwin was on the train headed to California…

© MJM 2016

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