I was born and raised in southwest Missouri and joined the Marines in December 1943 after graduating high school. Never being any distance from home, the trip to San Diego was quite an experience for a country boy. The train station in Kansas City was a large building; as a farmer would say, “It sure would hold a lot of hay!”
Arriving at the Marine boot camp, we were marched to supply where we received our new clothing and duffle bag. Then it was off to the barber shop for a cut about 1/16th inch long. Then back to our supply for our rifle, cartridge belt, canteen, mess kit and rain gear.
Being in good physical condition from farming, training was not too hard for me. I spent my birthday and Christmas in boot camp. I had always been with family, and here I was with a group of strangers. All we did was eat three meals and sit in the tent, thinking how Christmas would be at home.
My first bad experience was with the homemade fudge my folks sent for Christmas. Any package we got we had to open in the drill instructors’ tent, so I gave them a piece of my fudge. But that wasn’t enough. Every time we came back to our tent, they would call me to their tent to bring them some fudge until it was all gone.
After three weeks we went to the rifle range, then the bayonet range and finally swim training which included jumping off a 40-foot tower.
In the seven weeks, I gained 30 pounds from going to bed every night at 9 p.m. and eating three good meals a day. It was quite a difference from coming home from school and driving the tractor until 11 p.m. and getting up at 5:30 every day.
I still get upset when I think about those private first class drill instructors taking advantage of me with my Christmas fudge, but I guess that was training me for today’s world.