The November issue of the Legion magazine reminded me of my own experience in Japan and Korea with the 40th Infantry Division, assigned to 981st Field Artillery Battalion.
I was 22 when I reported to Fort Devens in Mass., 4 years after my arrival to the States from war-torn Greece. In Thessaloniki I had witnessed the night bombardment of WWII, the deaths they caused, the houses destroyed and the planes’ pieces falling down hit by the antiaircraft guns, the Jews’ collection and hoarding into the huge long trucks that took them away. Surviving hardships and prolonged starvation, I witnessed the 1,000 bombers flying over us at a northeastern direction before we were liberated in late 1945. When the Nazis left, we were notified by the US Embassy that my father was alive and asked us to provide it with required documents and get ready to meet him in America. In 5 months the Navy SS Marine Carp picked us up and nonstop in 11 days brought us to New York City. My father had returned from the Battle of the Bulge 9 months earlier, in July 1945, with a Combat Infantry Badge and two Bronze Stars.
Reunited in 1946, I responded to the Korean War call in 1950, and with the group reported to Fort Devens. We were processed and ordered, thousands of us, into a troop-train that took us nonstop to Camp Cook to fill California’s 40th Infantry Division. In Camp Cook they made soldiers of us: Early wake-up, quick getting ready, quick chow and running 5 miles in an hour to 15 miles in 3 hours, followed by classroom war tactics taught by hardened Regular Army cadre. In 2 months we were given passes to visit our families for Christmas and be back on Jan. 2. Alert and 20 pounds lighter, I embraced my parents farewell and returned 2 days earlier. My buddies and I visited Hollywood and Pasadena. Common objectives and group behavior were already in order and in March 1951 the division was deployed. We stopped in Japan and properly equipped, improved our efficiency by practicing in terrain similar to Korea’s.