At the end of April of 1944, Pauline Boone, Edwin’s wife, sent a letter home from Colorado, where Edwin was finishing training as a Dental Technician. She said, “I feel like we are awaiting a sentence of some kind, which can be good or bad. He won’t know where he is going to be sent for a few more days yet, and I can tell you that the suspense is almost unbearable. If I only knew he would be allowed to serve his country here in the United States…but that is the Question!” Edwin had the highest average in his class and had completed his training, so they were waiting to see where the Army would send him next. She also wrote, “I frankly hope Edwin won’t get a furlough right now, unless it is a delayed routing, because that would indicate that he might be going over-seas. So I have hoped that he would be assigned someplace & then get a furlough later on.”
Mid-May, 1944, Edwin wrote that he was on a train headed to California. “We crossed the Divide about 5 o’clock after going through 31 or 32 tunnels!” He said he was in a “troop sleeper” car attached to a regular train. The car held 30 men with 3 tiers of bunks. He lists his new address as ASF-PRD, 1st Bn. Co E-1, Camp Beale, California.
Camp Beale was located about 40 miles north of Sacramento, near Maryville, CA. It was a large camp with training for several divisions. In May of 1944, it opened a German Prisoner of War base camp. Edwin was assigned to ASF-PRD which was the code for Army Service Forces Personnel Replacement Depot. It essentially was a temporary duty station for soldiers waiting new assignments.
Edwin’s letters from Camp Beale tell of a waiting game. He was expecting to work temporarily in the Dental clinic—can’t say that he actually did that. Otherwise, he had KP duty, went on hikes—up to 8 miles at a time, and loafed. He said in June that he started going to a ranch to help “thin out the peach crop, ” for which he got $5/day and his meals. He said that about 150 men from Camp went out each day with 10 to 20 going to each ranch, working for about 9 hours a day. He wrote about this in a letter postmarked June 8, 1944. One of the last sentences was, “It looks like the war is just a little nearer being over. At least we can hope and pray that it is soon.” Of course, on June 6, the US forces had landed on the beaches of Normandy. Perhaps this is what Edwin was referring to.
On June 20, he wrote that he had gone to a nearby Baptist Church on Sunday and was treated to Sunday dinner from one of the families. He then said he went on a 10 1/2 mile hike on Monday, drilled & then had Judo training. He was called off the field in the afternoon to prepare to ship out to Ft. Sam Houston, TX. He traveled by train to Los Angeles and then across country to Texas. He drew a picture of a yucca plant that he saw along the way.
Edwin stopped in Ft. Sam Houston for a few days, sending only one letter from there. Then he was back in Camp Barkeley, Texas. He was assigned to the 415 Medical Collecting Company. He was expecting to be on KP duty, but said “KP isn’t very hard here for we eat out of mess kits, consequently there will be no dishes to wash.” So I guess they changed things a little since he was first stationed there. Eating out of mess kits was the norm now instead of a punishment for not passing inspection. He also began to wonder what the next move would be. “They keep shipping me around this way, I’ll begin to think there isn’t any place for me in the Army.” Pauline moved out to Texas again in July.
By the end of July, Edwin had moved again. This time he was stationed at Camp Bowie at Brownwood, TX. He was still assigned to the 415 Medical Collecting Company. Camp Bowie was another large training camp. Edwin said the camp could hold 80,000 soldiers. He started painting signs again but didn’t do much else. Pauline followed him to Brownwood. However, with such a small town near the large Army base, Pauline mentioned that prices were “double or triple for everything.”
Edwin didn’t have much news to report home. He spent time in the field practicing carrying litters or riding in the ambulance. He indicated toward the end of August that the unit has been “alerted” and is to prepare to go overseas. Edwin didn’t think he would be going with the group. As he was nearing 38 years old, he was showing his frustration with the system & was hoping that he would get out of the Army. He also indicated he wished he could be home to help his aging parents with the farm.
He explained the workings of a Medical Collecting Company to his folks. “Contrary to what the name makes you think of, it has nothing to do with finance! Casualties are picked up at the stations near the front lines and are carried back to the Collecting station and sent by ambulance back to a “Clearing station” (serving several Coll Co’s), from where the “Clearing” evacuates them on to a field hospital. As I am a litter bearer in this Co. you know that they aren’t going to take me when there are younger men in the Army they can use.” Again he expected to get out of the Army. “Under Army Regulations they cannot change my classification (as a dental lab technician), so eventually they will either find a place for me or let me out of this Army.”
Still at Camp Bowie in September, soon after his 38th birthday, Edwin wrote of his job of “putting the men’s serial numbers in their shoes and helmets.” Two days before this the company had their physical fitness test, so he was glad to be able to sit and work on a task! The fitness test included the following exercises as well as “creeping and crawling in the mud” & a 4 mile forced march which they did in 44 minutes.
He still talks of the company moving out soon and expects he will transfer to a hospital where he can “begin to do some good for the Army.”
On Sunday, September 24, 1944, Pauline sent a letter home. Edwin had been restricted to Camp for the week before, but he managed to slip out & meet Pauline Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday evenings. He didn’t show on Friday night or Saturday. Pauline didn’t hear from him. She went to the Camp Sunday morning and was informed that “several hundred men left at 2 o’clock Friday nite and the 415th was among them. They shipped out under concealed orders, destination unknown. Of course, I know he is going to the Port of Embarkation.”
The standard War Department change of address postcard was also sent to his parents.It had an APO New York address instead of a camp name.
So Edwin was on his way to a new duty station with the Army…
© MJM 2016
One thought on “Uncle Edwin’s Story, Part 3…Moving with the Army”
Rough, discouraging times for them and others involved in this situation. Army does things that way. Waiting for the next chapter.