World War II Memories

This is one of six stories that David T. Daniel has added from his time in the Army during World War II

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6

1. BASIC TRAINING
A SNAKEY ENDING

I began my second year of college in September 1942. With mandatory infantry ROTC in place my first semester was shortened with a complete transfer of our class to an army camp nearby. Here we would have 17 weeks of basic training.

In early spring, near the end of basic, we went on maneuvers into lower South Carolina. This was hiking for 25 to 30 miles and bivouac at night. In the army your backpack consisted of a blanket wrapped by canvass of one half of a pup tent, meaning you pitch a tent with a bed mate.

In a short training period one is moved around and rarely forms pals or even acquaintances. On the second night I was paired with a large, dark skinned, mean looking man, probably in his thirties. In broken English he said he was from Sicily and was a new citizen of this country. In curse words I have never heard, he debased our country for drafting him, the army and especially this maneuver. In my sheltered youth of only 19, I never met this type of guy. In fact, I had never met a foreigner. I decided to be a little cautious.

It was a cool moonlit night, so we decided not to pitch a tent. We shoveled a clean area, gathered tree branches and twigs to make a mattress. The two tent halves and one blanket were placed on top, leaving one blanket for our cover. After a short walk for a hot meal we immediately retired. It seemed we had hardly gone to sleep when reveille tooted.

Jumping up, of course the first thing we did was to grab blankets and tent halves to pack up. Lo and behold, partially hidden under the twigs was a large Black Snake measuring 3 to 4 feet long, which is normal size for an adult Black Snake. He had crawled under us for warmth. This tough guy turned white as a sheet. I had never witnessed this fear. He didn’t know which way to run. I thought he was jumping into my arms! I shook the twigs with my foot and the snake quickly slid into the woods. No doubt this man had never seen any kind of snake.

To me a Black Snake is old hat. He is harmless, never bites, and certainly is not poisonous. Every summer our mother sent us kids into the blackberry patches to pick gallons upon gallons for her pies and jams. Invariably we would run into a Black Snake because he likes those juicy ones that fall to the ground.

We would joke and dare one to run. The Black Snake will chase one. He wants a little fun. Also, the Black Snake is sometimes referred to as a “racer”. We kids called him a “chaser”.

David T. Daniel
Southbury, CT © 2013

Part 2

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