Boot Camp

Three months of “boot-camp training” ensued. There were more physical exams, a multitude of shots (13, and I don’t believe I had ever had a single shot before), and a battery of tests to determine our intelligence and abilities. We were issued uniforms, told how to fold them, how to roll them, how to stow them in a sea-bag. We were told how to wash them, told to sleep in our GI long underwear, and what to wear daily, and how to wear it. Although we slept in bunk-beds, we were issued hammocks, and taught how to stow them properly. We were being taught to obey, sort of like obedience school for dogs! We learned to march, the manual of arms (with fake rifles), to do calisthenics, to get up at 4:30am, and to do double-time to the mess-hall. We learned to get up in the middle of the night, in order to march through the rain and snow, just because someone thought it would be good for us. We learned Naval tradition, rules and regulations (rocks and shoals), Naval etiquette, and how to salute. We studied our Naval Bible, the “Bluejackets’ Manual.” And we learned to eat Navy chow! I drank coffee (no real choice) and ate what was tossed onto the tray. There was really very little “training” as such. We learned little useful except how to survive in the Navy (which was very useful).

We had sent all our non-Navy, non-GI, belongings home, were permitted only a few dollars cash and were not given any liberty—so we didn’t get into much trouble!

I had always done well in taking tests, and was at the very top of our Company. Others near the top were sent to college in the V-12 program; unfortunately (or most likely, fortunately) my right eye was not good enough to become an officer, but I was given my choice of training schools. (I never could understand the rationale that says that an officer needs better eyes than an enlisted man; if anything the reverse should be true.) I chose to become a Quartermaster, which in the Navy is a rating involved with piloting, navigation, signaling, steering, etc.; a job carried out on the bridge of a ship (completely unrelated to the duties of the Quartermaster Corp of the Army). When we graduated from Boot Camp, we were “Second Class Seamen”; up one notch from “Apprentice Seaman”; and we were paid!

After Boot Camp we were given 10 days leave (plus 2 days travel time), and I enjoyed getting home to see the family and my friends in school. I was not the same kid who had left high school three months earlier. Sickness in boot-camp, Navy-food, and boot-camp activities had happily removed some 30 pounds; I had become stronger, a bit more aggressive, and slightly more worldly (at least I thought I was). I had survived not only some physical sickness, but had gotten beyond a good case of home-sickness.

I talked Mom into altering my uniforms to fit my new, more streamlined shape, and had a good time visiting high school, talking with my pals (and with Alice Collins), and having a few dates with Margie. All too soon, back to GLNTS to await assignment to Quartermaster School.

While awaiting orders, I was assigned to early morning KP duty at one of the mess-halls. One of my best days in the Navy was when the cook in charge started calling me “slim.” Only those who have been chubby can truly appreciate the feeling! We “made liberty” a few times in Milwaukee, but were kept on a pretty tight leash. (continued)