Early Memories of Trumbull (22) – Dave – Signal School – Radio School – Cryptography

I’m continuing with stories from Dave so you can get a better picture of his time in the military.

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LAD – After I returned to New York I was stationed at Fort Dix. I don’t know how many months, a couple or three months. They didn’t know what to do with me. I went home every weekend and came back on Monday. Finally they said to me, “We don’t know what to do with you, so you might as well go home and get discharged.” So that’s what finally happened.
(During the War) Dan was in France. He was a surveyor and was coordinating between England and France, I guess helping to make arrangements. Ced was working at Elmendorf airfield when it was taken over by the military. He was employed there so he worked for the government as a mechanic. Later on, he was willing to do it, or was crazy enough to do it, but he would take a tractor and an AT wagon (a little wagon with tracks on it so it stayed on top of the snow) and go out and bring back downed planes. Sometimes it would take a number of days before he found the plane and was able to bring it back. Dick I know very little about. He went to Brazil and was able to converse with Portuguese civilians. He spent a couple of years there. I know nothing about Dave except that he was in the Philippines.

Dave on Front Steps - 1039

DAVE-I was sent to radio school and radio school was – what you had was earphones on your head and there were all these dits and dahs, dit-dit- dah-dit, all this business, and you were supposed to write down these letters as they came out. I found out they were random letters. I didn’t want to be a radio operator, didn’t want to hear all those dits and dahs in my head, in my ear. What I used to do – it’s tough to beat the service, they’ve seen everything – but I managed to get away with this. I don’t know how, but there was a key that you could send messages, I guess that was advanced training, and I found out that the messages, the letters, came through that key. So I used to take a little piece of paper and stick it in a spot where it broke the connection and then when the instructor went by I would sit and write any letter that happened to come into my head because they were all random letters. When he moved on, I would switch papers and write a letter to my girlfriend. Roundabout that time I got the mumps. I was in the hospital and when I came back out…. I guess it was may be before I went to radio school I got the mumps; I guess that’s what it was. I remember my finest hour – I begged and pleaded with the officer to let me stay in radio school even though I wanted desperately to get out and he didn’t buy my act so they sent me off to cryptography school. That was a better deal. I was encoding and decoding messages and I had to get an FBI clearance and people back home were interviewed, a big fuss made, but at 18, how much trouble could I have gotten into in my life. So I got into Crypt School and that’s where I stayed and although I didn’t do a lot of encoding and decoding, I was officially a cryptographer.

After Missouri, I got shipped out. So when it was time to leave…. We were a company – I can’t get away from radio – we were a company that when we got overseas we were supposed to police the other nets, conversations between one company and another or one unit and another. The guys that were radio operators really hated that. The guys really hated doing that because they felt like they were spying on their fellow soldiers.

For some reason or other they decided to send an advance party so there were 12 of us +3 officers. We shipped out quickly – very short notice – and went up to Ft. Lewis outside Seattle. We went from there to Hawaii. We are on a different ship after we left Hawaii – and we went down across the equator. I got the full initiation when we crossed the equator. A tank of water was set up on deck. You would be dumped over and over again until you yelled “Shellback”. A Shellback is one who has crossed the equator. Now, I’ve already, even to this day, been afraid of water. That was an ordeal for me. After the dunking, we had to run down a long line of Shellback’s that had paddles or rolled towels and they hit you as you went by. I forgot to say you had nothing on but underpants. So that was my initiation into being a Shellback after crossing the equator.

Tomorrow, I’ll begin a week of letters written in 1942. Both Lad and Dan are serving Uncle Sam. Lad is training as a gasoline and diesel motor maintenance instructor and Dan is training in surveying and map making. Ced is still working at the airfield that has been taken over by the militaru. Dick is back home from Alaska and working at Producto Macgine Company in Bridgeport. Dave is still in Trumbul with Grandpa, going to school,.

Judy Guion

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