As I look back to the time I went into Army Basic Training, a myriad of memories come flooding back, some harrowing, and others just plain funny. But all are so indelibly etched in my mind that I have never forgotten one of them in the 65 years since the incident in question occurred.
Back in 1952 when I was 22 years old and the Korean War was raging, I volunteered for service so as not to be drafted. At that time I was in my prime and stood five feet, six and a half inches tall and was overweight and completely non-athletic. The funniest experience from that time occurred when I first made the acquaintance of my government-issued field jacket. Imagine my astonishment when I saw, clearly printed inside the jacket, the words “for men 5’11” and over.” From what I could see on other guys, the field jacket was designed to come down to somewhere around the waist; mine reached far below the knees. Out in the field, I must have cut a ridiculous figure, decked out in full battle regalia: a short, chubby bespectacled fellow with a field jacket down to his knees, peering out from beneath a steel helmet. I must have looked fierce, indeed, ready to strike fear into the heart of the enemy.
How could this have happened? Were those guys in Quartermaster so blind they couldn’t see how short I was? Or were they so stupid that they couldn’t read a tape measure? Or were they just so uncaring as to not give a hoot as they proceeded to fill my duffle bag with lots of other stuff that didn’t fit?!