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Monday, December 31, 2012


*this is out of sequence.  I am asking anyone who happens to read this to let me know, if you know of course, why I am getting so many hits from France and for the one titled April 18, 1954.  The following can be found on my other blog The Adventures of Conley McAnally along with other adventures in Italy, Ireland, Germany, and Panama.  Thanks for you help.  Email
I look back on my time in Alaska with smiles, happiness, and humor.  Today I came across a log I wrote at the time I was experiencing all the wonders of Alaska.  Realities and memories don't match up sometimes it seems.
8-15-02.  Hooper Bay, Alaska

We arrived yesterday.  This is the most dismal looking place I have ever been in.  It is dirty, the houses are little more than plywood shacks and the teacher housing, at least for us, is some where next to the type you would find in the ghetto.

There are fly's all over the place, our food has not arrived, we have no phone or TV yet and we only get one station on the radio.  We are very remote here, you can feel it, we feel forlorn and even with both of us here we cannot help feeling alone and isolated.  A silence has fallen between us but it isn't out of anger.  I think I might have made a mistake.

Women are the ones who are the real pioneers and are the back bone.  They make a house a home.  Paula is doing all the right things but I can tell her heart is not in it.  It pains me to see her unhappy.

It is 52 degrees outside, the wind is out of the west at 17mph.

The school building is the pits.  My classroom is OK and in all fairness everyone we have met, native and teacher, have been very nice and helpful.  This is a good thing I guess given the fact that yesterday we were all strangers.

Note:  I will now and then blog more of this unedited log.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Just a Basic Day - Crawling

We had to low crawl it seemed every time we turned around.  As everything in the army there was a specific way to low crawl.  You had to lay flat on your stomach, extend your arms at the elbow placing your hands flat on the ground with fingers facing front.  Then you would spread your legs like a frog.  You would then extend your right arm forward while at the same time bringing your left knee towards the front while maintaining it parallel to and on top of the ground.  Then you would repeat the patters with the left arm and right leg and keep alternating until you got to where you wanted to go.  The idea was to present the lowest target you could to the enemy.  It works.

The biggest low crawl challenge you had is when you had to crawl under live machine gun fire.  During the first few weeks of basic you kept hearing about this and I suspect most of us had seen it done in movies.  It seems like there was always someone who had come across a snake, panicked and stood up and was shot.  It always was one or two cycles ahead of us but what actually was one of those urban legends never really happened.

Our turn to crawl under live fire finally came.  We were herded in to a trench at one end of a big long open field.  It was night.  The machine guns were set up at the opposite end and started firing over our heads.  When a bullet passed by you could hear a "snap" or a "crack" sound.  We were told that is the bullet breaking the sound barrier.  I don't know if that was true or not, but you did hear the bullet whizzing by. 

We were told to climb over the drench wall and remain low (that seemed obvious to me.)  Then we were to low crawl under barbed wire while the bullets zinged over head, every 5th round being a tracer round thus lighting up the night.

No one panicked and I realized that the guns were placed in such an angle and on platforms that one would have to jump up and down in front of the gun and then probably couldn't jump that high to get hurt.

I was sort of disappointed because the position I had in line was towards the end of the column and no fire was going directly over head.  I didn't see any snakes either.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Just a Basic Day - Shaving

If there is one thing the military likes more than shined boots it is a hairless face.  This is in far contrast to the old days or even regulations.  However make sure you shave your mustache if you are career oriented and if you are in basic training don't even bother to try and remind your superiors that you are with-in regulations dawning your handlebar.

One of the guys in our unit showed up with a bright red handlebar mustache.  It was curled on the ends at least twice.  Quite the sporty looking affair.  We asked him if anyone had said anything to him bout it and very indignantly said "no, it is within regulations." 

Two hours later a bunch of us ran into him again and he was clean shaven.  We asked him what the deal was.  He said that the Mess Sergeant refused to feed him until he shave his moustache.  He said he went to complain to the captain but could not get past the company clerk until he shaved his mustache.  Everyone needs to conform now and then I guess.

We had to shave everyday.  Even when we were in the field.  We would use hot water provided by the mess section which we poured in our steel pots.  If there was not hot water cold water had to suffice.  We had no mirrors so to make sure that we got all the right places we were taught a technique that insured we would be clean shaven.  First you select a companion, usually your tent mate, both lather up then looking at each other mimic what the other guys is doing with is razor just like you do in a mirror.  It really works.  Some little trivia there.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Just a Basic Day - Band of Brothers

You do not realize how sheltered of a life you live until you start meeting guys from all over the country in a guy setting, ie like Basic Training.  Just to name a few by geography, I have long lost the memory of their names, - South Dakota (went to law school) North Dakota (called him MoJo for some reason, ran into him ten years later at Ft Sill, had the room across from mine in the officers quarters one AT) Washington, DC (law school, George Town) Wyoming (he was very flexible, could kick his leg over his shoulder, one night we were talking and he told me his Dad had committed suicide, I did not have the nerve to ask how) Boston, Texas, Rhode Island, New York ( the first Jewish guy I had ever met.  He was not cut out for the program but would have been less cut out for the regular basic training program. He was a funny guy, took his pain in stride and never, never gave up and completed the course, he was also a law school guy.) 

We had a lot of guys from back east and down south.  Their exact locations escape me but they seemed to be more interested in where I lived than I thought normal.  I guess the word Kansas in Kansas City threw them a lot.  It took me forever to explain that Kansas City was in Missouri not Kansas and I am not sure they ever did figure it out.  One guy in particular was sincere when he asked me if we had cows on the street and did I own a cow boy hat.

I was very fond of all those guys.  Some were just cool guys, others were down home types, some were nerds but all were likable.  There was not one guy in our platoon that I did not like or nor get along with. 

The last day we were there a guy, one of the nerds, put up a piece of paper on the bulletin board for all of us to put our names and addresses on.  We all just laughed about it knowing who the poster was, but we all seemed to slip our name on the paper.  I don't remember if I copied any of the names down, but wish I had now 50 years later. 

I don't dwell on those guys and each year I remember fewer and fewer.  There is a Basic Training book that was made and it is some where in one of my many boxes I keep stuff in.  Guess I should go find it and pay a short visit to a band of brothers who at one time were very important to me.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Just a Basic Day - PT

PT stands for physical training.  Most recruits are out of shape when they arrive at basic so the Services deem it their responsibility to get one in shape and up to fighting standards.  "More sweat in training less blood in battle" was posted on a big sign when you entered Sand Hill. They do this by not allowing you to walk any where in the company area unless in formation, having certain obstacle courses you have to negotiate before meals, the daily morning run, and of course the Daily Dozen they are called.  The the Daily Dozen are a series of exercises that if dun daily will make you a lean, mean, fighting machine.  I cannot remember all of the calisthenics but they consisted of deep knee bends, squats, push ups (four and eight counts) squat thrusts, waist bends, and others.  After you thought you were through you were supposed to shout "more PT Drill Sergeant" and pretend that you meant it.  If the Drill Sergeant didn't think you meant it he would just have you do more calisthenics.  There must be some logic there some where.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Just a Basic Day - Mess

I am not sure why the serving of food in the military is called Mess.  I suspect it comes from some British Term and not the way the food is prepared or served.  The food we were served while in Basic was good and I can say I never had a terrible meal while in uniform. 

The food was always plentiful and not bad tasting and the degree to which it was not bad tasting was due to the pride the head cook took in his profession.  I cannot remember any specific meal but the food was served on a two week rotation.  That meant that every two weeks you got the same thing.  Like if you got spaghetti on Sunday, two weeks later you would have spaghetti unless that particular Sunday fell on a holiday and then you had the holiday menu.  It varied from roast beef to ham to turkey.

When at all possible we were provided hot meals in the field.  Instead of trays we used our mess kits, a silver looking metal device that could be folded up and carried on your side along with a knife fork and spoon.  We drank out of our canteen cups, which was the metal device that our canteen was held in taht we wore connected to our ammo belts.  The food served in the field really wasn't bad at all. 

C rations were another matter.  They came in tan boxes and contained all sorts of stuff stuffed in a OD green can which was impossible to open almost. They were supposed to come with an opener called a P38 but more often than not they were no where to be found.  Once you came across one you kept hold of it.  Seemed like there was a mix of fruit, a meat can, peanut butter, jelly, cheese spread, crackers, eggs and cigarettes depending on which box you drew.  Kool, Winston's, Chesterfields, Lucky Strikes, Camels, and Marborals.  They were good trading items. The highest trading item was ham slices. It is said that one would kill for ham slices.  That is putting it a little strong but they were tasty.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Just a Basic Day - Bits and Pieces

It has been many years ago and even though somethings stand out very clearly other things are a blur and most aren't remembered  in the sequence in which they occurred.

For instance, we were issued two pairs of boots.  We were supposed to ware a different pair every other day.  The "odd" day boots we were told to make a notch on the inside portion of the outside heal.  I did not want to do that because that meant that I would have to polish twice as many boots as we were supposed to and the army seemed to have a fetish about shinny boots.  So I just ignored the edict and kept one pair as display and wore the other so they would get broken in sooner. 
One day we were in formation when the Drill Sergeant told us he was going to check our boots.  It was the "odd" day so a notch was required.  The Sergeant walked behind each squad and had each man raise his right foot and the Sergeant would run his finger over the spot that the notch was supposed to be.  It became my turn and I wondered what punishment I would have to endure.  He slid his finger along the heal so it would touch the notch and then passed on by with out feeling or saying a thing.  That taught me that somethings in the army you could ignore if you knew who was going to do the inspections.

Speaking of breaking in boots.  No matter what we all got blisters.  We would sit in the middle of the floor in the barracks and prick the side of the blister and drain the puss then put band aids over the remaining skin.  I don't think that is what one is supposed to do to blisters but it was what we did then.

We would run in the morning.  I never was a distance runner and never seemed to keep up, but it was more mental than physical.  I seldom "fell out" but only on a few occasions did I run towards the front of the line when towards the end we were told to "move out," that was sort of a race to the end.  Sometimes I would anticipate the command and start running before everyone else. 

I use to like waking up in the middle of the night.  It was quiet, no one was yelling at me and I could go back to sleep easily.  I use to sleep on the top of my blankets so I would not have to make my bed in the morning.

My favorite thing to eat in the mess hall was eggs, bacon, and toast all made into a sandwich.  I stole a pie while on KP once and hid it under the mess hall and was going to retrieve it after my shift was over and bring in back to the guys in the barracks.  I had a 15 minute break and went and told the guys what I was bringing.  As I was returning to be mess hall I saw the only stray dog I have ever seen on an army post eating the apple pie.  After shift I returned to the barracks empty handed and my story about the dog was not believed. 

Like I said, just bits and pieces.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Just a Basic Day - Hand grenades

Most of us have shot off fir crackers and have pretended to throw hand grenades when we "played" army as a kid.  I was particularly good at both, at least in my mind and I guess successful because I never blew off any fingers like my aunts and grandmother kept telling me I would do some day.

We were sitting in bleachers listening to the instructor as to how a hand grenade worked.  I am not sure of the details now but I do remember that you could not pull out the safety ring with your teeth like John Wayne use to do. 

We were lined up.  Told to do nothing unless we were told to.  The first man in line was given what looked like a short squat pringles can, told to hold it by his throwing hand and place said hand against his chest and when told to "move out" he was to run to a man sitting behind a concrete bunker.  That man would take the grenade out of the container, place it in our hand properly, help us assume the throwing position (you did not throw it like a base ball but a rounded arching motion) and when he felt we were comfortable tell us to throw in the direction we had our non throwing hand pointed (he made sure the non throwing hand was pointed towards the impact area.)  After we threw it we were to drop to our knees and look out a thick glass window and watch the explosion.  One thing was made perfectly clear to us.  If for some reason we were to drop a live grenade we were not to try to retrieve it our selves but to let the instructor do it.  If the instructor thought we were trying to do his job after we had dropped it, he was bailing out of the bunker and let us deal with it.

Grenades are loud.  The first one that went off made us all jump up from the bleachers and none of us waiting were overly eager to toss a grenade about no matter how easy it seemed.  It was my turn
-  Canister in right hand against my chest, order to move out, on my knees behind the bunker, grenade taken from canister and placed in my right hand, now the non throwing hand takes the ring, pulls the pin, aims ring and non throwing hand down range, order given to throw grenade -  I threw that thing has hard as I could, just like a would a base ball, I dropped to my knees and have no recollection of where it landed nor did I see an explosion. 

The good thing is I only had to throw one and for some reason feel like I  could do it now without any qualms and most of all I did not lose any fingers during the process.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Just a Basic Day - "Ready on the Firing Line"

We were all issued an M14 rifle and two clips to place the ammo in when it was given to us which was not then of course.  One of the DI's went through some rudimentary procedures on how to carry the "weapon" which they insisted we call it and if anyone ever called it a "gun" they were doing push ups soon after.

They loaded us on a 2 1/2 Ton army truck and we sat in the bumpy rig for about a half hour.  As soon as we departed the truck we were organized in to firing parties and sent to different stands for a lecture on how to aim and shoot.  This went on for a couple of hours and then they showed a demonstration where a marksmanship instructor fired the M14 holding it against his chin and then is groin.  That was to show us that if held properly the "kick" of the weapon would not hurt us. 

We were told that we were to do nothing on the firing line until told to do so.  We marched off and lined up behind firing positions told to lay our weapons on the ground and then we were handed three bullets.  It would be tedious to discuss the procedures that we had to follow and go through before we could actually fire and the methods we used to site in our weapons, and the long hours we spent doing all of it, so lets just say by the end of six weeks we had a pretty good handle on how to load, aim, fire, maneuver, and hit what we were aiming at.  I found out that all the shooting I did with my BB gun back on Crisp Lake was of some help.  I qualified expert on the final exam.  I felt very comfortable with my gun, oh, I mean my weapon.  Hand granades were a different story however.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Just a Basic Day - Instruction

Like I stated earlier, there is the right way, the wrong way, and the army way.  That goes for military instructions methods also.  I do have to say however that the army and the military in general has a way of instruction that is superior.  They start out with the premise that the student doesn't know anything so they tell them what they are going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what they told them.  Oddly enough it works. 

The first class I remember having, and I guess it was on that first day, was how to salute, when to salute, and who to salute.  Not as easy as it sounds.  We all knew you were supposed to salute officers, we were not sure about sergeants however.  That answer is no if you didn't know already.  They showed us a film about saluting etiquette.  Like if you are passing by a restaurant and see an officer through the window you are not expected to salute.  However they stressed that saluting is just a greeting of sorts and the one saluted had just as much an obligation of saluting you back as you had in saluting. 

During our first break we all had to practice saluting each other.  Our hands had to be at a certain tilt and angle and are arms the same.  A sloppy salute was disrespectful and no salute at all.

A lot of time was given to marching and what they called close order drill.  We saw a film and a demonstration then all piled out side again to practice.  Attention, at ease, right face, left face, about face, present arms, (with out a weapon means to salute) order arms, (stop saluting), forward march, column left, column right, to the rear march, right flank, left flank, open ranks, etc, the list goes on and on and seems like we never did it right enough for the DI.

The first few days we just marched to class and back twice a day and really thought we were doing something.  Eventually we were told to fall out in our fatigues (before this we had been told to dress in our class B [ khakis] with canteen and helmet liners.  We were going to receive the rest of our field gear, along with real army helmets and real honest to goodness rifles.  That morning we went to the firing range.