After my Uncle Dan (Daniel Beck Guion) passed away in 1997, I realized that first-hand accounts of this particular “Slice of Life” would only continue to diminish over time. I needed to record the memories of my Aunt Biss and her brothers and share them with the family. This culminated in the idea of a Blog so that I could share these memories with anyone who would be interested in the personal histories of some members of The Greatest Generation.
Over a period of several years, whenever possible, I recorded the memories of my Dad and his siblings.
In July of 2004, I sat down with my Uncle Dave and recorded his memories. With the other siblings, the memories were recorded in a somewhat chronological order, but with Dave, after a few early memories, he went right to his Senior year in high school when he made the decision to enlist in the Army. The conversation continued through his service, from Basic Training and his posts in Okinawa and the Philippines until he came home after World War II was over. I then led him back with questions about his childhood. I will present his memories as they were recorded.
David Peabody Guion on furlough before going to Camp Crowder in Missouri
After Missouri, I got shipped out. We went over to … Oh, I got another little story. 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 the 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 maybe 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 was made, but at eighteen, 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.
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 twelve 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 were 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 dunked over and over again until you yelled, “Shellback”. A Shellback is one who has crossed the Equator. Now, I’ve always, even to this day, been afraid of the water. That was an ordeal for me. After the dunking, you had to run down a long line of Shellback’s that had paddles or rolled towels and they whipped 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 having crossed the Equator.
You can read Dave’s letters home, which tell a more complete story of his time at Camp Crowder. They are in the Category World War II Army Adventure. Dave wrote home fairly regularly and was quick to express his opinion of life in the Army.
Tomorrow, more of the Early Years with the Memories of David Peabody Guion.
I was in radio school in Fort Knox KY in 1963, and it was still just the same as your uncle Dave described it.
Nemorino – Lots of dits and dah’s, right? Are they still in your head?
Dah-dit dah-dah-dah, meaning no. I had
already memorized the list (from the Boy Scouts) but never really learned to send and receive them fluently, thinking I would never need to. Later it turned out, in Vietnam, that some units were still using clunky WWII-vintage radios with telegraph keys. The Vietnamese radio operators could send and receive fluently, but most of us couldn’t.
Nemorino – Interesting. I suppose you might say that Dave was fortunate when he got the Mumps because he probably would not have made the cut. If he had, he would not have received his further training as a clerk, which put him in a position to support officers in a safe environment.