Posted by: notsofancynancy | December 3, 2014

The Suitcase, Chapter 14, Camp Rucker

Now with updated picture, Special thanks to the family of Marvin Cain

The Suitcase

Camp Rucker, Alabama

Chapter 14

May 1943 letter

In the last chapter we found my father in intense, or at least what he thinks is intense training and learning about Chemical Warfare in Camp Rucker, Alabama. It seems they are really trying to get all of these men ready to fight in the upcoming war. Dad has gone through marksmanship training and also machine gun training. I wonder if they are still trying to make him shoot right-handed. He mentioned it early on in the letters but has not mentioned it again. Dad’s discharge papers tell me that he got a medal for Rifle Sharpshooter in October 1942 (click here to learn more)and would go on to get his Carbine Sharpshooter(click here to learn more) in March 1944.

From Dad’s Discharge Papers

7 May 1943 he writes,

It is about time I found time to write you. Haven’t much time now. It’s about 6:40 and we have class at 7:00. I have been one of the busiest boys you have ever seen. The last 4 days. Today won’t be bad though. Chemical Warfare school was rough. I came in third in the class but it took some work. You can blame Colonel Cobb about not hearing from me. I never studied so hard in my life. 8 hours a day classes and I never got to bed before 12 at night and I wasn’t running around. We have a truck and ordnance Inspection the 12th and Personal ins.(inspection) On the 23. They cancelled furloughs for 15 days so I guess it will be a good one. It will be by 7th Corps and that means rooouuuggghhh [sic] so it will be busy for a while yet.

The Chemical Warfare classes sound like they took most of the day. So they are not doing much other than learning about this nasty way of fighting. It does not seem that they would have much time for anything else. You can tell he is in a hurry as the letter has been hastily written. I do not like that fact that my dad might need this training in the near future.

9 May 1943

I saw “My Friend Flicker” [sic] tonight it was good. Wasn’t there some good scenery in it. Boy we went up to go about 1:15 minutes ahead of time and there was a line ahead of us about a block and a half long. God I hate to waite. [sic] Nothing has happened here I filled an application for a specialist school yesterday and I guess only 2 from the Company goes so I probably won’t have a chance. Anyway it was a good idea. Go to college. Wouldn’t that be nice.

(Read about “My Friend Flicka” here.)

Marvin Cain Wrote " Camp Rucker" Courtesy of the Cain Family

Marvin Cain Wrote ” Camp Rucker” Courtesy of the Cain Family

I wonder how different our lives would have been had they let him into that school? I mean I don’t believe he went as he comes out of the Army driving a truck, same as he is doing at this time.

16 May he angrily writes,

Just to show you what kind of an a-hole we have for a captain we have last week we passed three inspections and one drivers test. We were second in the division on the drivers test with an average of 97 and in the inspections we rates as excellent by our own I.G. (Inspector General) and by the I. G. of the second army we were rated one of the best QM he had ever inspected. The other one we passed satisfactory. Oh yes we had an ordnance (inspection) by the 7th corps and they said we were some of the cleanest rifles they had ever seen. Then the Capt. Have guts enough to call a non-com meeting and really chew us about 20 minutes worth. And say it wasn’t us but by the grace of God and Good luck we passed it. He was the only one who did anything to aid the cause.  So we have about all quit. He gets all the credit let him have the work too. Waite[sic] until next week until we get a chance to talk to the I.G.(inspector General) The closer the 23rd gets the harder they drive us. Believe me by next Saturday we will be going night and day. Last week I was on duty 5 nights and that wasn’t anything.  The 23rd starts our 7th Comp. Inspection and we have to be good. At least they say so. If I were as sure about some of the officers passing as the E.M (Enlisted men) I wouldn’t worry.

He sure is mad. I can understand it when he feels like he has been so cheated. Plus he has all this training in Chemical Warfare to learn. It seems as though he does not have time for anything more than what the Army is asking of him. The uncertainty of things to come and the training they are putting him through starts to show in the following letters. It is evident in the hurried script of his handwriting, but he still finds time to write almost every day.

1940 Era Gas Mask

(Courtesy of http://www.history.army.mil/photos/WWII/Preps/WW2-Prep.htm)

(Click here to learn more about the 1940’s troops preparing for war)

20 May

I have been in school again. And about all we had we the same thing we learned before. Anyway we put in 8 hours and have 8 more tomorrow. Then we have a four hour test. The test consists of decontaminating 96.67% pure mustard gas. If we get burned and have to go to the hospital we flunk the test. Doesn’t that sound good. Any way I hope it [sic] good. I think I told you I had some poison oak. Well I have one hand. I am going to the Medics with it in the morning. I can hardly close it and have some good size blisters between my fingers. It is about to drive me nuts. Are they ever excited about the inspection next week. Boy we are getting everything ready. I hope we don’t even get to first base. But damnit when we all get in a mood like that we run into lady luck again and pass it. That is the way it goes. I guess I won’t make that specialist school. You have to have at least one year in college and I haven’t.   So I guess I’ll just have to wait until something else comes along. Oh well the army is the Army whenever you find it.

What does that mean! How does one decontaminate mustard gas? Does one not need to be in contact with said gasses to decontaminate them?

21 May

I have been on the range running targets. Boy what a time. We have 60 men who have to qualify and maybe we will get through this day firing and rifle marksmanship. So all the Non-Coms in the pits have made up our minds to give them enough points to pass the. In two cases this afternoon I know of a couple of scores that couldn’t have been over 6 and we gave them 20-22 to get through with the affair. They can’t shoot so something has to be done. No Bob didn’t get married but I guess she is coming down and they are then.

That does not sound like good odds. It just brings more questions than it does answers.

Marvin Cain Wrote "Camp Rucker" Courtesy of the Cain Family

Marvin Cain Wrote “Camp Rucker” Courtesy of the Cain Family

25 May

Two fellows took a jeep and went to town the other nite [sic]. They got caught and were both busted and grounded. Man was that bad and one was in my squad and also a good driver. He might be able to drive later I hope.

It kind of reminds me of a day in the past in a little town in Arkansas where Dad drove his buddies somewhere other than the picnic he was suppose to be headed to. He ended up running into the front of the convoy. But they did not get in trouble. It seems that the Army is keeping a tighter rein on the soldiers.

27 May

We just had a blackout. Gosh what an experience. We had to move out in the dark and all and all that. About 2 minutes after the whistle started we couldn’t see anything. Less than four we were moved out. How is that for efficiency. Of course it was just part of the inspection. I don’t know how much area it covered. It lasted about 20 minutes of course I didn’t time it. The inspections have been going damn good. At least I think so. In the last two days I have skipped five classes on of them were at night. And one inspection. So I haven’t done so bad. You see a certain portion of the Platoon is called at a time to be inspected Well my squad was inspected on Field Sanitation and today we had 30 minutes to pitch pup tents display full field equipment and strike tents. We did it in 25. Beat the old Recon troop by 8 minutes and got another excellent for the Company. The rest I have skipped. I would have missed that too but they caught up with me. To tell you the truth I don’t give a damn anymore and I am acting the same way. So as I have said before don’t be surprised if you have to start writing a private.  The last rumor I hear today is that we are moving to Ft. Ord. But then I know we have 26 weeks more of Combat training and them we have maneuvers. By that time I will be in a padded cell so I won’t have to worry. Bob says hello.

I can still feel the desperation in his words. In Chapter 11 we hear about my Grandpop going through a “blackout” in Pasadena. (Click Here to read it)  Here is a glimpse into what the soldiers went through when they were on “blackout.”

Viola in 1942

There are 10 letters in June 1943 on 1 May he writes,

Another day another dollar, Still nothing done to help win the war. I’m sure in the dumps. Boy what will the kids think of an old man who couldn’t even get across in three years. I am almost in the mood to take a bust and joining the Rangers. We can now. But only Pvt. And Pfc’s can though. It sure wouldn’t take much coaxing. I sure hope you had a good time at the beach. I know you did so take care of the sunburns and all the insect bites. If you find any smears on here it is sweat. Man is it hot. And I want to go to a dance after a while. I’ll bet that is a hot place. There are over 400 WAAC’s in Camp. Maybe they will come up and we will have enough women. I hope. I just found out something for sure. Today was Bob’s birthday. I knew it was soon but not exactly when. I am in a heating[sic] up mood I have another letter after I finish this and then carry on so take it easy.

8 June

Gosh Darling I sure feel good tonight for some reason or other. Maybe it’s because I got cussed out twice today. Gosh I am reforming. Bob and I have just been discussing again. Maybe I am wrong about Madeline not liking me. But I’ll take my hunch until proven not guilty. We had a bitching session about recreation today. The Special Service Officer is going to try to arrange a dance in Enterprise and invite the WAAC’s. I guess we go into the fields for a week starting around the 14. Boy will that help pass some time until I get out. I wrote home for my money yesterday. I am getting all in the mood. By the way darling what kind of chewing gum do you like best. We can buy it here two packs at a time and I sure have been stocking up. So name your favorite kind. Gosh Darling I still don’t know about getting married. I sure hate to put it off and I hate to get married and not have you with me. Lets waite [sic] and talk it over between Mom, Pop, you, and I. How about that? Maybe they wouldn’t like the idea anyway? After I read your letter I would have gotten married right then and not even thought about the things we should. I damn near cried. Baby, ain’t [sic] I. By now though I have only read it about a dozen times through. See Darling I do love you and like your letters very much. Bye Darling, Love always, Lefty.

Lefty and Vi, in Kansas Dad’s first leave

It seems like Dad has gotten some kind of encouragement from Mom. I think it is sweet that Dad wants her Mom and Dad a part of the planning process. I wonder if he ever gets the chance to sit down with Pop and Grandma. I wonder if it is true or just the dream of his to be married before he sees action. It seems like he has been teasing Mom about getting married since about 1938 and here in 1943, five years later he is still waiting in the wings to sweep her off her feet. Will she let him?

© Copyright  notsofancynancy 2012

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