Patton's Third Army was pushing through France with his tanks,
and General MacArthur was island hopping in the Pacific.
Finally, in New Guinea he was getting ready for the return to
the Philippines. Each needed more troops, especially the
infantrymen. So here we are, the 96th Infantry, at Camp
Carson, Colorado, the day that the sergeant had us fall out in
first class in suntans, which was unusual, or were on pass to
go to Colorado Springs for a good time. Naturally, no
one told us that we were leaving, but bording the train
going???? This was the longest damn train that I ever
saw, with a huge engine, but then that was what was needed to
pull through the Rockies in Colorado.
learned later that the 96th was split - half to Europe/Bulge,
the other for MacArthur's liberation of the Philippines.
The iron railroad cars were built solid and were not made for
comfort. Each car held about forty soldiers. I
remember the hard wooden seats - at least the backs were
movable so that two faced back and two faced front. That
way, we could sit together and shoot the bull. The order
was all window shades down, a guard at each end of the car,
and no unnecessary moving around in the
A couple of days and nights of going
through the mountains and winding about the country. We
could hear the steam engine straining, huffing and
puffing. We were three cars back from the engine and
could hear the click and clack of the wheels on the rails with
the smell of coal smoke as it drifted by.
Finally, we crossed the river on a railroad bridge into
California. The train slowed and pulled into a
station. Hot! Hot! (Noon) and humid. The guards
out. We filed off single-file into the station.
First the "can", and then in line to get a box
lunch. That's when I discovered we were at the railroad
"Harvey House" located in the Mojave Desert. We were in
Needles, California, and I now knew where we were. And I
also knew there was nothing ahed but more desert. The
next stop would be Barstow, Californiaq, and a railroad center
for all rail traffric to the Pacific. So that meant more
box lunch dinner at the "Harvey House". I knew Barstow
well, and my Grandpa had a hay ranch twelve miles out in
Hinkley. My family also lived there because of a new
Freeway in Los Angeles, which took out our house
That gave me a great
idea! I spotted a public phone outside the restroom, and
by golly I had a nickel. I quickly dialed "O". I
said, "Operator, I need to call Dixie Corner at Hinkley and.
please, collect." I waited, and could hardly believe
that Mrs. McCormick accepted the call. I talked to Mrs.
McCormick (she had a son in the Navy) without giving away our
"Secret Troop Movement". I asked Mrs. McCormick please
tell my mother I will be at the "Harvey House" around 5
PM. Thank you.
Time did drag on as
we rambled across the hot Mojave Desert. I was geting
excited and nervous about what I had done. How was I
going to see my mother without the MPs putting me in a
stockade? Buit remember that we were all in our
Well, the train ground to a
halt, and the engine stopped near the Barstow Bridge.
Guards out, single file, same routine. Oops! Only
now, I stepped off and my family had parked their '34 Ford
two-door at the corner of the brick depot. My mother was
waving ande calling, "Harvey, Harvey, over here!" The
sergeant pulled me out of line and said, "What's this?"
I said, "Oh, it's my m,ther. Can I tell her
hello?" By that time the shock had worn off, and he
said, "Make it short and get back on the train. Do you
understand, soldier?" A sarge with a
Well, my whole family was there
now, brothers Ray and Ralph and Uncle John, and a box lunch
too! And fried chicken for the guys and me. I will
always remember this as a very import6ant time of my
life. The rest of the soldiers on the train never had
such an opportunity before going overseas.
Later, at our port of embarkation, Fort
Ord, everyone thought we were to get a ten-day home leave
before overseas duty. Another train at midnight.
We pulled into San Francisco and again, single file and onto
an Army transport ship. I can remember going under the
Golden Gate Bridge. We threw pennies over for good
To this day I feel sad that on this
"Secret Troop Train" of hundreds of soldiers, I was the only
one to see my folks before leaving for overseas, especially
when ur infantry casualties were so high.
I have four grown children, nine grandchildren and one new
great-grandchild. The Good Lord has been good to
P.S. I hope the Army didn't find out
that they had a sergeant with a "big heart". Thanks,
sarge! I will always remember your