Friday, February 29, 2008

Life of William Ricketts Smith, Part 10: Big Trips, Hawaii, and Japanese Surrender

(Part 9 is here.)

Summers are hot and winters are cold in that area [Fort Knox, Kentucky]. Sometime around the first part of December, we got orders that we were shipping out. Our First Sergeant Boyd was able to get furloughs for most anyone that wanted one, so we packed up our little family and returned by train to Lodge Grass. It was winter. When we left out of Chicago, there were over twenty cars on the train, all full, powered by a steam locomotive. It was below zero as we crossed North Dakota. Our car had a coal stove in one end but it was not well tended. We used an Army blanket and my GI overcoat to stay warm and it was almost impossible to get anything to eat. The steam lines froze in some of the more modern cars and they were without heat. We were happy to get off at Billings, where we changed trains to Lodge Grass.

I returned to Fort Knox a few days later and a week or so later, went by the ranch in Montana in a troop train bound for Fort Lawton in Seattle, where we boarded a ship bound for Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, from there by train to Schofield Barracks. We were housed in Area W which was used for temporary unassigned units, where we lived on C rations. After a couple of weeks, we replaced the 82nd Ordnance Company, which had been there for several years. They were due for rotation back to the States, but because they were not in a combat area any longer, they had to be sent to Okinawa and then returned to the States, not as a company but individually.

Our duties at Schofield was the servicing of the equipment of the combat units passing through on the way to Okinawa, and there was a big build-up of troops taking place there for the ultimate attack on Japan. Our unit consisted of many different sections: tanks, wheeled-vehicle units, gunnery, instruments, machine-shop, welding, parts and supplies, and electrical. We could repair most anything. As the flow of troops increased, we sometimes worked around the clock to get it all done. About July, I was promoted to T3. We continued to work hard. We would go to the beach on the north shore sometimes. The water was very clear and some great breakers. My head got sunburned several times before it got toughened up [Gran lost most of his hair early in life].

It was about August, I think, we got orders to start preparing to ship out. The workload was still heavy, so some of our men were assigned to preparing our tools and equipment to ship. Then President Truman ordered the Atom Bomb dropped and everything was put on hold and sometime later the Japanese signed the surrender. We were all assigned a MOS number, based on time served and number of dependents, etc. Some had numbers a lot higher than me, so I was pleasantly surprised when my number came up just before Thanksgiving.

(Part 11)

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