96th Infantry Division Deadeyes Asssociation

Secret Troop Movement
 
  General 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.

   We 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 car.

   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 there.

    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 twenties.

   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 heart?

   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 luck!

   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 me.

  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 compassion.