Lad’s Army Life – Trip to Aberdeen Proving Grounds (1)

It’s May 1942 and Lad has just been inducted into the Army. He had been appointed as a leader and his Dad figured he probably would be busy and that the absence of a father would relieve him of one additional burden, so he said goodbye as the empty train pulled into the station. He didn’t know for sure but the plan was for the boys to go to Hartford for their final physical exam then to camp Devens and parts unknown. Lad shares the details of what, where, and when with his Dad in this first communication allowed.

May 18, 1942

Dear Dad:

Thursday – We left Derby on time and stopped at Ansonia. Here a second car was filled, and after a stop at Waterbury a third car was filled. Our next stop was Hartford. Here we detrained and walked about two blocks to the Induction Center. There were so many of us that the complete inspection was not over until 2:45 PM. The actual inspection per person was not more than 30 or 35 minutes, if that much.

At 3 PM the 88 who had passed the examinations, out of 169, were put into a separate car and in a few minutes a train coupled onto the car and we were off. The train

Alfred Peabody Guion (Lad)

traveled to Worcester, Massachusetts where we were switched back and forth, and ended up on a track going in the opposite direction.

Our next stop Ayer, Massachusetts there is no platform of any kind. The tracks run through the backyard of camp Devens. Here with our baggage we were again given a short march and after a little discussion concerning behavior in the camp we were issued raincoats and a barracks bay, another hike to Company B, first Battalion, and we were issued blankets. Then came supper, bed making instructions and at that point, we were more than glad to turn in at 9 PM.

Friday – We rose at 5:45 AM, policed the barracks and fell out for breakfast. Immediately after that we were taken to Q.M.C. and issued our uniforms. What a system! It takes about four or 5 min. from the time you start, stark naked, until you emerge at the other end very well fitted from the skin out, with six complete uniforms and two complete changes of everything else.

Then came and aptitude test – lunch – and a private interview. Back to the theater to be shown a film on the evil side of sex, a couple of short welcome speeches – supper – a couple of fallout calls to advise  some of the men that they were leaving early Saturday morning and then to bed.

Saturday – Up at 5;45 and out for reveille where 10 fellows and myself were told we would be ready to leave at 7:15 AM. A rush to breakfast, again to the medical section for immunizations and a vaccination, back again for clothes and we fell out for the trip to wherever it was. We were marched out to the same lot at which we detrained when we first arrived and here we were told to wait for further orders.

We waited until 8:30 and then were assembled and marched back to the road again, a distance of a couple of hundred yards, and were put on a truck. By truck we were taken a few miles to Fitchburg where we again waited and at 9:20 the train pulled in. At the rear was a special car and we were loaded into this.

By now we numbered 88. A sergeant was in charge. He would give us no information as to where we were going, not even if it was going to be a long trip. However, spirits undaunted, we had a good time. At Greenfield, Massachusetts we were shunted again and changed direction the of travel from West to South. Our next stop was at Springfield, Massachusetts where we were put onto a siding and taken into the station for lunch.

After lunch we boarded the car again and in a couple of minutes another train backed up and again we were off. We stopped at Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford, and Pennsylvania station. We were ordered not to mail anything or make phone calls until we arrived at our destination, so I could not write anything to you.

During our half hour stop in Penn station, a Pennsylvania engine was put on in place of the New Haven, while we ate a box lunch. And then began a  real ride. On the New Haven railroad we had made good time, with only a few stops, but the track was quite rough and I don’t think we traveled better than 45 or 50 mph.

The first stop on the new leg was at Newark, New Jersey, and then began a fast nonstop trip. The only times he slowed down below 75 mph were when we switched from the local track to the express or vice versa. Our next stop was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, then Wilmington, Delaware and then Aberdeen, Maryland.

Here, to our surprise, we all got off and were taken by truck, in the rain, to our present location: The Ordnance Training Center, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. We were issued blankets, assigned to barracks and were glad to go to bed even though it was only 9:30 PM.

Sunday – We had nothing to do, and also, being in quarantine for two weeks, we could do nothing. I acquainted myself as well as I could with our limited grounds and made a few purchases at the PX, which we are lucky enough to have within the grounds and again retired.

Monday – We began our training and learned marching fundamentals. Today, Tuesday, we heard from a few of the big shots on the duties of the Ordnance Department, and this afternoon, more drilling. Just now we are having an inspection of all equipment issued to us. And so I’ll end for today. And believe me, we are all glad to hit the hay at 9:00 PM when the lights go out.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

This is typical of the type of letter Grandpa would receive from Lad… very detailed and meticulous. Believe it or not, I took out quite a few even more minor details – like how he figured they slowed down to about 75 mph by figuring the mile posts were going by about every 44 or 45 seconds. This was the first 6 pages, there are 5 more, but never having been in the Military, I find the structure and the process fascinating, even though it also means hurry-up-and-wait. I will try not to give you too many of these detailed letters, but his description of the hotel in Caracas was very life-like.

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One thought on “Lad’s Army Life – Trip to Aberdeen Proving Grounds (1)

  1. Aral Guion Smith says:

    Talk about a round about trip! It’s actually great that Uncle Lad wrote in such detail…it really gives us a “feel” for what he and the other soldiers went through. They all must have been so apprehensive as well!

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