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On the morning of February 14, 1942, St. Valentine’s Day, a slow, cool rain was falling. In the half-darkness of daybreak truck after truck began passing through the main gate of Camp Bowie and onto the highway to the east. They moved with convoy regularity through Brownwood, Texas. The rain stopped and the hundreds of tires soon beat the gravel to a powdery dryness. We were on the move. Our column, over 60 miles long, stopped that night in the fields near Terrell, Texas. Then the rains came again. The next morning over 400 vehicles were stuck in the mud. Winches wouldn’t do the job. The Colonel said, "If machines fail, the men won’t." The tug of mud began. Ropes were attached to vehicles and one by one they were pulled to the road by heaving rows of men. We made it — we always had. That night, five hours late, we arrived at the scheduled bivouac area in Louisiana. The following morning, back on schedule, we rolled to a bivouac site past Jackson, Mississippi. "Convoy wise", after camping down at Montgomery, Alabama and Ponticello, Florida, we rolled into our new permanent station, Camp Blanding, Florida.

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Our ranks, depleted by cadres and transfers, were refilled at our new station with men from Ohio, Kentucky, Tennesse and West Virginia. Here began the long trail of replacements that grew constantly in volume and brought men into the Alamo Regiment from every State in the Union, men proud of their American backgrounds, their homes and their people, men from Brooklyn, Detroit, Kansas City and Los Angeles. In increasing numbers they took their appointed places in the thinning ranks of Texans as time went on, and later they fought together, side by side, securing for themselves new battle honors for the regiment to place with its older ones, attaining new heights of personal sacrifice, new records of endurance, suffering and courage — adding new luster to the common heritage of heroism of the colors of Texas and of the people of all the United States.

We had our first amphibious training at Camp Blanding, learned new expedients for crossing streams, learned to swim with and without equipment, and participated in exercises with live ammunition. On weekends we visited Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Daytona Beach, Jacksonville Beach and Silver Springs. We trained always; more marches ... more heat ... more sweat ... twenty-five miles per day with equipment ... rain ... mud ... wind ... sun. We were ready to take to the field again.

July 6, 1942. Our columns were on the roads once more. We arrived in the Carolina maneuver area and began the series of great field exercises that reached their climax on the great Pee Dee river. "This is your last dry run," the Corps Commander told us. "The next time you will face a real enemy." It wasn’t our last run, but it was dry — the marches all over again, the dusty columns, the tired feet, the heat, the sweat and the lessons of war. On the more enjoyable side were the, watermelons that tasted cool when taken from the fields in the early morning and kept in the shade until noon. Then there were the peaches, delicious and ripe; the "maneuver crop" was good around Wadesboro, North Carolina, in ’42.

Then flash! News travels in the Army ranks with a speed otherwise unknown to man. The 36th (Texas) Division will not return to Camp Blanding. We will entrain for Camp Edwards, Massachusetts. The word came straight from the mail orderly — who had talked to a truck driver, who had a cousin who worked at Division Headquarters. It was confirmed by a latrine orderly — it was true.

August, 1942 ... Camp Edwards, Massachusetts. Vast fields of cranberry bogs unfolded before us. Occasional weekends were enjoyed in New York, Providence, Buzzards Bay, Falmouth and Boston. We took Martha’s Vineyard .,in an amphibious operation and made it again secure for the United States. Night marches became more numerous and as a result we were continually falling in and crawling out of the cranberry bogs. ‘We endured the snow and the cold of New England. When it dropped to eight degrees above zero the rumor came out that we were headed for the tropical Pacific. The artic training was only counter intelligence work.

p12a.gif (11397 bytes)But before the snow melted on Cape Cod, the gang plank started rattling most realistically. Officers and men had been sent to North Africa as observers of the operations in Tunisia and were beginning to return with the "hot poop".

April 2, 1943. We sailed out of New York Harbor aboard the troop transport U.S.S. Brazil. Here began Ian entirely new type of existence—a life of cramped compartments and seasickness, a life void of radios and electric razors and limited to two meals a day. Entertainment consisted of playing poker on the open deck, chess and dice in the wardroom, reading in whatever spot we could find to sit down, and continually looking at the other ship in the convoy which was supposed to be loaded with WAC’s—but wasn’t. Then there was the screech of the public address system and the coarse, nasal tones of the speaker: "The smoking lamp is out; all port holes will be secured; these rules are for your own safety." Submarine contacts kept life from becoming dull. There were 26 contacts to be exact, but some G I said that most of them were probably fish instead of submarines. Yet the threat must have been there—one man was fined $15.00 for throwing an apple core over the side.

April 13, 1943 ... Oran, Algeria. Standing with our barracks bags crammed full with impregnated clothing and full-field equipment—standing looking out of the portholes and throwing cigarettes to the dockworkers—standing in the dark under the loading sheds at the port waiting for trucks—standing in lines—three years in the Army and two years standing in lines.

We struggled to get the heavily loaded bags on the trucks. Full as the bags were, muchp13a.gif (9989 bytes) personal equipment had to be left behind. Once on the trucks, we moved out to the staging area at Assi-ben-Okba. The next morning we tried out our French Lesson Booklet. "Bum jeer, Mon-sewer," we addressed the first civilian we met while walking down the road. "They speak French with a Texas accent," the Frenchman answered in English, indicating us to a group of GI’s standing near by.

‘We encountered our first 40-and-8 as we rode on the colonial railway from Oran to Magenta, an old French Foreign Legion outpost. Later came visits to the Headquarters of the French Foreign Legion at Sidde-bel-Abbess.

"Are those stories by P. C. Wren about Beau Geste true?" we asked the guide at their magnificent museum.

"Vee hav allways thot it a goot zing perhaps to be a Hollywood Legionnaire," he answered, arching his eyebrows.


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This World War II history is sponsored and maintained by TMFM