Fifty four years have passed since the assassination of President Kennedy. Old NFO has put up an interesting post.
On that day our company, training to be Combat Engineers, were marching back from the ranges where we had finished training on the M-2 .50 caliber machine gun. It was a miserable day with freezing sleet that became a big snow storm.
Our dilapidated WWII era barracks weren’t much warmer. Often the butt cans froze. As we were sorted ourselves out, the company clerk came running by shouting,
“The president has been killed”.
Soon the few radios some troops had were turned on to the commercial stations and we listened to the news. All of us started packing our duffel bags and within a few minutes we were prepared to move out. Several of us started re-cleaning and oiling our M-14s.
Then the rumors started. Fort Leonard Wood was locked down. No one could get on or get off. Dependents off post shopping weren’t allowed back in. (Yeah, a training base in the middle of the Missouri Ozarks was a major first strike target).
Next no shit! rumor was all trucks were being staged for something. Since I was one of eight trainees who went to truck driving school at the start of the cycle, why wasn’t I called for driver duty?
The rumors kept coming. The only “hard” news was what we heard on the commercial radio stations.
In the Army, and I assume the other services, no one important is dead until the official order is read to the assembled troops. For President Kennedy, that day was bitterly cold and windy with hard packed snow. We all marched in Class As to a convenient gravel pit that provided some shelter and the battalion commander read the order.
The battalion had a female officer, a Major, and she was in a skirt and wearing low heels. The Sergeant Major offered her his arm and together they gingerly slipped and slid down the road to the bottom of the gravel pit. Poor woman, talk about freezing your ass off.
Training resumed, the rumors died down, and we finished our training. We weren’t denied access to newspapers but they were only available at the PX, not convenient from where we were housed.
Another situation that allowed rumors to flourish was an all inclusive cruise on the good ship USS General Maurice Rose crossing from the Brooklyn Army Yard to Bremerhaven. A miserable trip, scheduled for nine days, took fourteen.
Part of the lunacy the military breeds was roving guards, armed with night sticks, patrolling the berthing areas and decks accessible to we unwilling passengers at night. WTF?
Soon another no shit! report was a submarine had surfaced alongside us and one of the night guards threw his night stick at the submarine. Yeah, he was getting an Article 15 for losing the night stick.
Rumors, how they start, how they circulate, and how people respond has been studied forever. How each of us responds is up to us. Me, being cynical, want hard proof before I start discombobulating.
One part of me understands the military approach to busy hands, less mischief. I was probably a poster child candidate when I served. Understanding doesn’t lead to liking shit details. Still, the practice worked. All the time spent avoiding shit details was time not spent stirring shit.
The JFK assassination and racial turmoil were two things that stick in my memory. Undoubtedly the racial turmoil in Germany wasn’t by accident. It was to the communist’s benefit to weaken the army they might need to defeat and creating racial turmoil was cheap.
I got out just as Vietnam was stating up. Not sorry I missed that.
Thank you for the recollections. And for your service.
You are welcomed to the recollections.As to service, no need to thank me; just doing my duty as a citizen. But, thank you anyway, and you for yours.
Wow! I took a "cruise" on the USNS Rose in November, 1960 to Bremerhaven. Thanksgiving in the middle of an Atlantic storm was, shall we say, memorable. Thanks for the picture.
After two attempts to post a link to a blog entry about our trip on the Rose, I give up. In the search window type General Rose and then look for, "Why I decided to walk to work".
Memorable meals I do remember. Bowl of bean soup goes sliding by. When it slid back was filled with vomit. Yeah, good times!
Yep, the military IS good for that...
Boredom and imagination.
Like I tell anybody who says they "missed" Viet Nam in Germany, if the Rooskies had come thru the Fulda Gap, you wouldn't have missed much. All you guys standing at that wall made all the difference, in my opinion, and I'll not disparage your service not one little bit.
I will tell anyone who will listen that I respect anyone who raised their hand, swore the oath, and did what they were assigned to do. That includes a mess hall cook doing his two years active duty at Ft Dix. You admire those at the tip of the spear but respect all who served honorably in any capacity.
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