US Army Retired

US Army Retired

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Landes de Bussac, France

 What I remember most are the trees in the background

I was assigned to the First Platoon of the 581st Engineer Company (Field Maintenance) with our company headquarters located in Chinon, a hundred or so miles north of us. The camp had been an airfield during WWII used by the Lufwaffe. When I got there, the airfield was overgrown with weeds, the buildings used for storage of some kind. It was not a large base but had all the amenities, so my first two and a half months were not that difficult. I remember a Base Exchange where, with what little was left in my paycheck after paying my fine, I could buy the things I needed with a bit left over for an occasional visit to my favorite spot, a canteen operated by the Polish Guards. They had fled their homeland when the Nazis invaded and fought on the Allies side from England. They worked as guards with the idea that they and their families would be allowed to enter the USA after serving out their contracts. The beet was fantastic and I got hooked on the Kielbasa on fresh-baked rolls.

Harold and I found ourselves somewhat as outsiders. We were both from California while every other member of the platoon, from the Lieutenant to the lowest Private First Class was from somewhere in Dixie. They never let us forget that with the Confederate flag everywhere one looked. And, it took both of us a while to get used to some of the thickest “Ya-ahls” I ever heard. And, far from what I expected, the whites got along just great with the few blacks assigned to the platoon. They shared the platoon bay, the latrines, the messhall tables and everything else as equals. And, unlike some places I experienced many years later, the blacks didn't separate themselves from the whites. More of that later.
I worked repairing heavy construction equipment belonging to the engineer battalion we were attached to. I had a simple problem; while I knew the theory of how to repair and fix various problems, I was/am a total klutz when it came to actually doing it. If it should’ve taken fifteen minutes to replace a part, it took me thirty or more. To me, the best part of the job was driving or operating the equipment once it was repaired. For example, I’d driven a caterpillar tractor on the ranch, a small one. But, after fixing something on a big one, I got to drive that and it was really neat.
The engineer battalion spent most of its time practicing. There wasn’t a whole lot to do in the immediate area. I can’t remember when, but there was an earthquake in Lebanon and elements of the battalion were sent there to help clean up the mess. I seem to remember going along and stopping at the airport in Athens along the way. We only got off the plane while it refueled but were able to see the Parthenon from a distance. Lebanon, although torn up from the earthquake, was actually a very pretty place and it was clear why so many tourists came to the beaches. We were all too busy to sightsee, the few of us working around the clock to keep the equipment running. Everyone busted their butts trying to clear away rubble to find any survivors – and to recover the bodies. We returned to France after only a week or so. The equipment went by ship and we flew in propeller planes - I think they were C-130 Hercules which, at that time, were quite new.
The next time the platoon deployed was to Morocco for another major earthquake. I didn’t get to go along that time as I was no longer a mechanic.
I’d taken typing in elementary school and was stupid enough to put it down when I was processed into the army. The platoon’s supply clerk was due to leave and his replacement had not yet been found. The platoon leader and sergeant reviewed the records of all men in the platoon. At the same time, they asked for someone to volunteer to fill in temporarily for the supply clerk until a full-time replacement came in.
I ended up being “volunteered” for the job, partly because of the typing on my record but mainly because of my lack of proficiency as a wrench turner. Knowing and doing were, of course, two different things. Besides, with what I knew, the parts area was just up my alley.
So, I took the job and did well. It took little time to learn the ropes and the platoon leader was so pleased he helped me get PFC stripes as soon as I could.
But, I should’ve known! A replacement showed up from the company and the lieutenant called me into his office. He told me how pleased he was with the job I’d done and then explained the unit clerk was leaving and he wanted me to replace him. What could I say? You don’t turn down “requests” from the man who controls your destiny.
We had a strange situation in many ways. We were totally dependent upon the battalion for almost everything. We maintained our own records and supposedly reported directly to the company commander. However, the unit clerk worked in battalion headquarters with their personnel section. So, off I went.
I cannot remember anything about the battalion commander or even his Adjutant General, the guy in charge of all administrative and personnel matters. I do know the personnel officer was a senior warrant officer who’d been around, as we said, since Washington led the troops across the Delaware. My immediate supervisor was another Korea vet who was also a native-born Hawaiian. I’m not certain but seem to remember his name was SFC Kapalua. I once saw his real-entire name and it was so long it took up three lines on the form.
Surprising, at least to me, I quickly learned the job. The hardest part was typing without making errors. We had that white correcting fluid but most things had to be done with no strike-overs or errors. I often spent a lot of time painfully going through forms, filling the “file 13” more than once.
My job was to keep the personnel records up to date of the guys in the platoon and ensure the platoon leader was kept up to date on things that effected them. I also made out the unit morning report, a document that every military unit fills out. It had to be completed by a specific time, always very early, and I usually got it to the lieutenant just as they started the day working in the shop. SFC K would check it out and add it to the ones for the battalion after the lieutenant signed ours. I also had to maintain the platoon monthly pay reports. Our pay came from company and it was my responsibility that each and every individual had the right deductions. In those day, we paid for our laundry and always had someone asking for some kind of donation.
Payday was probably the most looked-forward to day of each month. A lieutenant would pick up our pay, which was in script. We weren’t allowed to be paid in US dollars but received military script to be used on any and all military facilities. So, how did we buy stuff off-base? We were allowed to exchange limited amounts of script for Francs. Of course, few businesses around the base or in town where we congregated refused to accept script.
The lieutenant would arrive wearing a sidearm with the sergeant, also armed. We dressed up in our dress uniforms and lined up before the pay table. It was a combination of inspection and checking us over. As the clerk, I sat at the table going down the payroll with the pay officer, ensuring each individual received what was on the list. I, of course, got paid last.
The pay wasn’t very much and mine was less, as a hefty percent went home to Duple. I didn’t want to but sorta got pushed into it. All she would’ve had to do was write my CO and I could’ve got into a lot of trouble for not sending money to her.
As any ex-military type will tell you, we lived month-to-month, paycheck-to-paycheck, I was usually stone broke by mid-month.
I also kept track of leave for the troops and was the one to fill out overnight passes and leaves of absence. You can imagine how popular that made me with the other members of the platoon. It also kept those senior from me from making life too difficult. It didn’t excuse me from things like charge of quarters, but I didn’t have to spend hours on cleaning details.
To follow: At last I get to leave the base and visit exotic France!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Voila! Gay Paree?

[I don't think this is all that different from when I saw it a little over 50 years ago]

It took forever to go through the seemingly endless rail yards approaching Paris. I remember row after row of gray building jammed close together passing the sooty windows of the rail car. Although the rubble had been cleared away, 13 years after the end of WWII, the signs of war were still there.
We pulled into a huge station. We were allowed to briefly disembark but warned to stay in a clearly marked off area reserved for US military personnel. There was a Red Cross booth where the Donut Dollies handed out coffee and, yes, donuts. There was even a special restroom for us.

Once we were under way, I remember staring out the window. It took forever for us to leave the grayness of the city and, I don't ever think we were in a position to see the Eiffel Tower. The countryside was far more interesting once we got out of Paris. I don't remember seeing all the expected vineyards, just miles after miles of hedgerows delineating boundary lines between farms. We passed through small railroad stations, just as gray and disinteresting as the big city.
As in Paris, the one thing I noticed was the lack of beautiful, young women. All the females wore dark, long dressed with coats and drab head coverings. Looking back now, I'm somewhat certain that we stopped in Orleans to let some troops off. Our next stop was Tours and then Poitiers. The next leg was longer and we ate K-rations on the train for dinner. The only good thing was plenty of ice cold milk and, for those who drank it, hot coffee. It wasn't until late in the evening when we pulled into the huge station in Bordeaux.
Once again, we were herded by MPs, this time outside into the dark. All I remember seeing was the outlines of buildings with spiky roofs, shuttered windows and cobblestones in the big plaza in front of the station. We loaded onto two American-style school buses in the standard Olive Drab and headed off into the night. We crossed on, then another, large bridge I guessed spanned a big river. Then we drove into the dark night with widely scattered villages.
I think the thing that made Harold and I feel best was to be met by a First Lieutenant and a Sergeant First Class. They were clearly waiting for us and, after handing over the sealed envelopes with our personnel records, we saluted the lieutenant as he left and got into a three-quarters ton truck with the sergeant. He took us two a WWII barracks on the outer side of a military camp and led us up some outside stairs to the third floor.
Welcome to your new home,” he told us. There were two vacant top bunks next to one another and a Specialist Five had us drop our duffel bags and follow him to a room where we signed for our foot and wall lockers as well as; sheets, olive drab, standard military; a blanket, olive drab, standard, military and a pillow, striped, feather, standard military. I don't remember much beyond that but to making my bed, putting my stuff in my wall locker, and falling into bed, instantly dropping off to sleep.
I don't think we got very much sleep. The Charge of Quarters came through, turned on the lights and yelled at us to “Hit the floor, then the door!”
I learned Harold and I were part of a small, separate platoon made up of the lieutenant, platoon leader, a warrant officer shop officer, the platoon sergeant and two specialist fives who only acted as squad leaders – we weren't organized like combat units. Every single one of them had Southern accents as this as anything I'd ever heard before in my life.
Everyone seemed quite happy to see us and went out of their way to welcome us and show us around. The mess hall was operated by the engineer construction battalion we were assigned to support and I quickly noticed our little group separated themselves from the others. We might have been in the land of “alimentaires magnifiques", but the mess hall food tasted exact like Army food everywhere else.
After breakfast, we joined all the other members of the platoon as they walked – not marched – from the battalion area to a gate allowing us to leave the confines of the base to cross a highway to another fenced-in area where a huge variety of large construction machines were parked. There was a very large building with bays where equipment was being worked on. Another bay lay at the very far end of the building and that was our destination. A big sign over the door said, 1st Platoon, 581st Engineer Company (Field Maintenance). Our Orderly Room was actually a small office in the back corner of the bay and that's where Harold and I reported in to the lieutenant.
It didn't take long until Harold was led off to have his work clothing issued. I had to stay behind to have a “small discussion” with the lieutenant and sergeant. They were not exactly pleased with the Record of Summary Courts Martial contained in my sealed personnel jacket. Both listened as I gave my side of the story. I only remember the lieutenant saying something about anything like that in his platoon and I would find myself in the stockade [confinement facility or military jail].
Not exactly an auspicious start to my stay in Southern France.
[And, sorry but photos of those days and place are very hard to come by.]

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's on Kindle!

I can't believe it. After more than a month, SONORA SYMPHONY is available in Kindle USA here and in the  Kindle UK here.

I assume there's a reason it's on Kindle UK and not USA. Hopefully, it will show up there in the next day or two or three or .....[quick update - it showed up on the USA site after I posted this!]

It has kept me quite busy sending out the press release and requests for reviews by a whole lot of different sites. I guess that's the downside to being a "published" author. It's a lot of work and quite detracting from the other things I'm trying to do.

Just a side word about Open Office. The more I use it, the easier it becomes. And, I'm quite pleased with the quick and helpful responses I've been getting from their website.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I had to shut down my computer due to a rare nearby thunderstorm here in the southern Nevada desert.
As usual, it quickly passed with no more than a few sprinkles on the back patio.
But, when I turned the computer back on, I found I'd forgotten the password to all my password-protected files! All my research and drafts!
Not the least inkling
And, to make matters worse, if I'd written it down, I couldn't remember where.
Now, I'd used it every day for months. Often as much as three time a day.
The problem? I'd done one of those "automated" "remember me" log in deals where I didn't actually type in the word myself - the computer did it.
I sent all night tossing and turning. Then, when I got up this morning, I sat and stared at the monitor for hours unable to come up with anything.
However, during my normal web-browsing, something caught my eye in a post and Voila! - there is was!!!
So, it now sits in a back corner of a drawer and the "remember me" is done for for now.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Tribe by James Bruno

I can't believe I'm doing this! I've been a beta reader for some authors and have critiqued samples in various writing forums. But, I've never sat down to read a book to review it. So, here goes my first - [and I put it up on Kindle]

A novel of international intrigue and political maneuvering, this is something I highly recommend to all.

Harry Brennan, a mid-level CIA analyst and operative, becomes embroiled in a mission to wipe out the Taliban in Afghanistan From the onset, he senses something wrong, especially when he's told that headquarters has canceled the mission. To support a Mujahideen leader – and friend, Brennan goes ahead with the operation. After wiping out the Taliban camp, the Mujahideen warriors are counter-attacked and seriously decimated. Brenna has no doubt that someone at the highest levels of the US government has betrayed the Afghan fighters.

Harry Brennan is, without a doubt, the equal of Tom Clancey's Jack Ryan, David Baldacci's Oliver Stone, and Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt. He is, at first, thrown to the CIA wolves, finds himself then moved to a high-level Top Secret group, meets a society firefly who introduces him to the highest levels of government and the private community, especially executives of oil companies seeking to gain access to unlimited oil in the “stan” nations now free of Russian domination.

As a writer, I find myself jealous of Mister Bruno's skills as a story teller. He has sucked me into the sights, sounds and touch of the novel. His use of words goes beyond the limits of just telling a story – he shows it to us! Here is just one small sample of his work:

Washington between November and March is simply rotten. Damp cold seals the city like a sarcophagus. Advancing winter makes its bitter presence felt by wreaking ice and snow squalls on a city JFK described as combining southern efficient and northern charm. Snow removal isn't contained in the local DNA. The self-absorbed citizens barrel down the metropolis's unplowed thoroughfares like kamikaze pilots. Leaving the office nights at nine therefore, doesn't irk me so much in this dismal time of the year. The days stink and I shiver, not of cold, but at the mere thought of the demolition derby rush-hour in a vast urban skating rink.”

and is available in Kindle Edition and Paperback.

James has also written “Chasm” and “Permanent Interests.”

I easily give The Tribe a five-star review and highly recommend it to anyone interested in the inner workings of the intelligence community and wish to learn more about the highly complicated social structures of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It will also open your eyes as to how politicians and bureaucrats design our foreign policy with far more than “national interests” in mind.

[I may just read it twice!!!!! And, I'll certainly check out the other two novels James wrote!]

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Just a Quickie

I am sitting here looking at a check stub from
So, I can not only say that I am a published author - but a paid one!
T'aint much but it shows a start.
And, I am not done yet!!!