Playing the Trombone and Joining The Marine Corps
This is the story of me playing the Trombone and joining the Marine Corps.
It started on a September morning in 1940. The summer vacation had just ended and school was about to begin.
Lo and Behold, Ms. Larsen, (the band director), came to our Bowen High School Branch to tell us about the Band and the instruments we could play.
My Mother insisted I play in the Band.
I have to tell you about the Bowen H.S. Branch. It was built in the 1800’s. My Mother and Father both attended. No air conditioning and a very inadequate heating system. Floors sagged and the plumbing sucked. The lights would go out every once in a while.
Back to the band, Ms.Larsen had several instruments she was promoting. The one that I liked was the Trombone.
So Mom and Dad bought one for me, (on time). The whole price was $50.00. $10 down and $5.00 per month.
The uniform was a whopping $5.00 per year to rent. (No buys). My trombone was made in Elkhart, IN. (In those days, “Where is Elkhart?”).
So I started lessons from Ms. Larsen. 3 days a week. You remember the long boring toots?
After the first year my Cousin George Kleinman gave me lessons on Saturdays. We called George “Junior”, after his father, who was a Mounted Police Sargent on the Chicago Police Force.
Junior was a really great Trombone Player who taught me so much, (along with his yelling at me for not practicing enough).
The one thing I remember the most was when he taught me to triple tongue,(ta-puc-it-ta). Try it, it’s fun.
After all the lessons I made it from 7th chair to 1st chair in the Marching Band and the Concert Orchestra.
Now comes the fun, I started dating one of the coronet players, (Geraldine Mc Cain). Gerry just loved to talk and she was constantly blabbing. This one day she was talking to another member of the coronet section and Ms. Larsen started yelling at her.
Me, the "Hero", told Ms. Larsen that it takes 2 to talk and it’s not always Gerry.
OK, next day, Ms. Larsen tells me to take my horn and music and changes places with Sharon, (7th chair).
“You’re kidding?? Not doing it.” I pack up my horn and music, and start leaving the band room. Ms. Larsen asks where I'm going.
“To join the Marines!”
“You are going to fail!!”
TOUGH!! Off I go to the war. It’s 1943. Middle of the war.
I went to the enlistment office the next day. I had to wait 2 months to be inducted, so I took a job in a defense plant as a laborer.
3 weeks later, I was promoted to shear operator.(Normally it takes up to 3 years. More money.)
2-1/2 months later, I was called up to be enlisted. Off I go. When the Sargent gave me the form to sign, he had stamped “Navy” on it.
Oh no! I enlisted in the Marine Corps! Sargent said they were all filled up.
OK, I will wait to be drafted.
You, A-- H---, sign here, where he stamped “Marine Corps”.
Our group met at the railroad station and we were assigned compartments.
Two to a room, first class. After 2 days, we arrived at a little town named Beaufort, South Carolina.
We asked the train conductor what it was like. His reply: ”This is where they turn little boys into men".
How true!!. The first thing we met was a Sargent in back of a big open truck with a stake fence around the back where we were to stand until we got to Parris Island Camp.
When we got off of the train the Sargent yelled, “Fall in". One of the recruits had hair, (as most guys did then). The Sargent walked up to the kid and slapped him so hard he fell to the ground.
The Sargent said, "How dare you come to my camp looking like that?”
What a way to start entry into the Marine Corps. Next We were taken to the camp where We had to strip naked and hosed down with antibiotic (ice cold). “Hey Ma, We’re here!!”
We then got buckets and moved to the Quartermaster's tent where we got blankets, sheets, utility uniforms, shoes, socks, and personal cleaning stuff.
Off to the Quonset Huts for assignment to our platoons. Ours was 513.
Now to the sick bay for shots and medical inspection. Teeth, ears, hair, bottoms (UGG), feet and whatever else they could think of.
End of day ONE. Revile,(5:30AM). Fall-out to rear of the Quonset Hut, where the sand is 10" deep. Half hour of exercise. Next, dress in fatigues and go to breakfast. We had to march to the Mess Hall (if you can call it “marching”). What a joke. GOMER PILE all over.
Now to Headquarters for testing. 3 hours of tests. Back to the Mess Hall. Eat. Go to the Quonset Hut for a little rest. Back to the Headquarters for more testing.
Just like school. Back to Quonset Hut for rest. Fall out-Line-up march to Mess hall for dinner. Then make our way back to Our Quonset hut for the rest of the night.
So tired we could hardly lay down. 5:30 Revile, and he we go again. Back to headquarters for the results of our tests.
Because I took Auto Shop in high school, I was
classified .014 (Auto-truck repair). My other test scores were above average. Whoopeee!)
Back to Quartermaster for our rifles. M-1. Do not drop it or let it get dirty, on pain of death. Now out to Parade Grounds for drill.
It's August and 105* in South Carolina. Drill Master, (D.l.), drill instructor lines us up in formation. Our assigned positions for the rest of boot camp, (3 months).
It’s 105* and hot as hell and we are standing at attention with our rifles onour shoulders and the D.I. says if any one of us passes out, do it in alphabetical order.
About an hour later, a man collapsed. The D.I. asked what his name was: “Austin, Sir” was the reply. (First name of the alphabet.)
“OK, let him lay until the Medics get here.”
We continued drilling. We drilled for up to 9 hours a day and we were getting very proficient.
In fact, we were getting good! When we marched to the Mess Hall, we were instructed to bang our heels in cadence when we approached the Mess Hall.
We sounded like guns and everyone came out to look at Platoon #513 with envy. The first month was spent learning how to march and use our rifles in close order drill.
Again, I have to say it was in the high 90’s to mid 100’s. No more passing out. The second month was spent learning how to clean our riifles, take them apart and put back together.
Lots of 10 mile hikes with full packs,(40+ pounds.) Then to the rifle range to learn how to fire our rifles, but also the Carbine rifle, the B.A.R. and the 45 cal. hand gun.
I qualified as Marksman on the M1, Expert on the Carbine, and B.A.R., but only qualified on the 45 cal.
Learned how to handle the Hand Grenade. Then a few days with Gas. How to put on our gas masks, go into this long tent where grenades,(Tear Gas), were operated to show how we were affected by the gas and how to throw the grenade.
Our last week was spent on Mess Duty. I elected to do pots and pans. When I finished doing each meals worth of pots and pans, I was done, but the other guys had to clean off the tables and set them for the next meal and sweep and mop the floors.
Some nights they didn't finish until after 8:00pm. I knew what I was doing, I usually finished before 6:00.
After our week of mess duty, we got our Dress Green Uniforms for our furlough home before going to the next camp for advanced training.
Had a 10 day leave at home to visit everyone.
I found Joe Cyborski, (my good friend), was at his home. Joe was classified 4F, (which means he did not qualify for military service.
Before I left home for camp, a bunch of us guys went to South State Street.
State Street was loaded with Burlesque parlors, and strip joints. There were also tattoo parlors. It’s where I got the small tattoo on my arm.
Joe Cyborski got a large tattoo of the Marine Devil dog on his chest.
As I mentioned earlier, Joe was 4F. We all had a laugh over that. All except Joe. Later in the War, Joe was accepted by the Navy. I bet it was fun when he took a shower.
My next camp was Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. This was in November and it was getting cold in North Carolina. We were sleeping in tents, 6 men to a tent.
I had volunteered for the Para-Marines. But they were cancelled because too many men were getting killed when they got shot in the palm trees on the islands they invaded.
I guess I was lucky the Para-Marines were disbanded.
Anyway, it was getting very cold and we had snow.
Our training was done in the snow. Marines fight in the Pacific on the Islands, but we trained in the snow anyhow.
I remember that on the Marine Corps Birthday, we were out on bivoua. As cold as it was, we were given a complete Turkey Dinner, with ice cream and a cigar.
Nothing too good for Marines on their birthday.
One night, I was called into the Commanding Officer's Tent where he offered me an appointment to O.C.S.,(Officers Candidate School).
Being the smart guy I was, I turned it down, I wanted to stay with all my friends that I went through Boot Camp with.
I didn't know that when we left Camp Lejeune, we would all be separated.
One day, while at Lejeune, I drew Guard Duty, (which meant I had to take care of the stove in 4 tents of my Platoon.
The hours of my duty were from Midnight till 4:00 A.M.
When I went to the wood pile, it was empty. So I then went to the coal bin, it, too, was empty.
After looking all over for fuel and not finding any, I broke into a storage building and broke-up chairs and tables. It was good oak. My guys were warm that night.
When we left Camp Lejeune, we boarded a train. We did not know where. Turned out to be Camp Pendleton in California.
It took us 14 days to get there. We stopped for every train that happened to be coming on our track.
They fed us once a day during the trip. A man with a large pot, and another man with a sub-machine gun.
Guys were so hungry they were tearing leather off of the seats. Finally, we pulled into Santa Fe ,New Mexico on a sunny morning and there were U.S.O. ladies with coffee and trays of donuts.
Guys started climbing out of the windows and rushing the doors. The ladies were so scared they dropped the trays and coffee and ran for their lives.
A few men went AWOL, and when the MPs caught them they came to camp in chains.
As I said, we were headed to California and when we crossed the Colorado River, it was like paradise. Desert on the Nevada side and lush green on the California side.
We pulled into Oceanside to detrain and then we were brought to Camp Pendleton.
Huge mountains all around and a bunch of us decided to climb the nearest mountain.
Didn't realize we would be climbing those mountains for weeks. We would start out at 5:30AM when it was pitch dark.
One morning a couple of Officers coming in from leave ran into the end of a platoon of men going out on training. A couple guys got killed and several hurt bad.
From then on each platoon carried a light at the rear of the formation.
I have to tell you one more thing about Camp Lejeune, There was a radio commentator named Walter Winchell who said to the Mothers:
"don't worry about your boy's in combat, worry about them at Camp Lejeune.”
They were dying at the rate of about 100 a day from pneumonia.
Back to Camp Pendleton. There were about 3000 men in the draft. We all ate in 2 large tents in shifts. Mostly we had spam and powdered eggs for breakfast. Lunch was in the field, K-Ration's or C Rations' K's were a hunk of dark bitter chocolate, a cracker, 2 cigarette's, and 2 sheets of toilet paper. A packet of lemon power, (for lemonade), and an ounce of alcohol to mix in the lemonade.
We kept the alcohol to add to the coffee in the morning. Pep-up!! Then back to field training. Back to dinner, more chili.
Sometimes we would get fried spam and frozen potatoes. And, of course, the half canned peach. Then on Sundays, the Chefs would bake loaves of Spam with brown sugar and pineapple slices on it.
Can't fool me, Spam is Spam.
This was in January and the first week in February about 20 of us. 14 of us were shipped to Camp Elliot, about 30 miles South of Pendleton. There were about 800 Marine's and 500 BAM's, (Broad Ass Marines).
We repaired jeeps, all trucks, and any mechanical equipment. This camp was like a vacation resort. There was a Movie Theater that had the latest movies. Doc and I would buy a dozen sandwiches and a 6 pack of beer and then sit next to the theater and have a feast until the show started.
Doc and I found a way into the theater by going up to the projection booth then out a door into the theate, grab a ladder on the wall next to the door, and down about 8' to the main floor. This, to save 10 cents.
We told the Mess Sargent about it and he tried it. (We forgot to tell him about the ladder.). About 15 minutes into the movie, there was a loud yell. When the lights came on the Mess Sargent was laying at the bottom of the ladder.
The name of the movie was "Call of the Wild", with Clark Gable. When the Sargent got a cast on his leg, Doc and I got 30 days Mess Duty. When our Mess duty was up, we got our orders to go overseas. That was in February. Then, just before we left on Feb 18, 1945, a bulletin on the radio, Feb. 19 said: “Iwo-Jima was invaded.”
We shipped out 2 weeks later on an Air-Craft-Carrier. The sea's were about 80' and the ship was like an elevator: “up-and down.”
Many of the guys never got up to the flight deck. After about 10 days, Hawaii came into view. What a beautiful sight! Except for Pearl Harbor.
There were still ships turned over and wreckage everywhere. We were billeted at Hickam Field until we were assigned permanent quarters.
I was sent to Iwo Air Base. This was for us Marines to do guard duty. While at Iwo, we had a day off during the week and I knew the Flight Sargent at the Air Field (Geo. Lalich). I went to Bowen H.S. with him.
He would get me a seat on a BTM as a gunner. This day I had the Gunner's seat and the flight was heading out on patrol when over the radio I hear a message, "I'm having trouble controlling my speed.”
The flight commander say's "head back to the base and if you still have trouble notify Land Sea Rescue and bail out over Pearl Harbor.”
That was OK. However, I didn't have a parachute. The pilot said he would try to return to the field. We made the landing strip, (emergency only). As we are landing, a Fire truck and Ambulance are racing along side of us.
After we landed, the pilot asked if we were OK. I said “Ya! and thanks for landing.”
"Piece of cake!!" . For you.
I wrote home to Mom and Dad and mentioned the flight. My Commanding Officer censored all mail. When he read my letter, he called me into his tent. Asked what I was doing flying air planes. Said it was against rules. I didn't know.
Tough. 100 hours police duty. All the crap jobs in camp. That is when I volunteered for combat duty.
While on guard duty , we had to guard the ammunition bunkers. This night my duty was from 4AM to 8AM. About 4:30 I hear this jeep slowly coming toward my bunker with no lights on. I yell, "Halt-Halt-Halt”! No response, so I pull the bolt on my rifle to insert a shell.
The jeep lights came on and the horn started honking and the Sargent of the Guard started yelling "Sargent of the guard!!”
Next thing I knew I was on a banana boat to Maui where the 4th division was stationed. I was assigned to the 60 millimeter Mortar squad. For the next month I helped carry the ammunition for our mortar. We trained every day in the jungle, mountains, valleys and on the shore of Maalaea Bay.
Cruisers would shoot 105 MM shells over our heads. We could hear them swishing through the air over our heads. This was very hard dangerous work. Saw a couple of planes collide and go down in flames.
Every Sunday I would go to the Chapel for services. One Sunday, a buddy of mine asked if I wanted to go to a civilian church in town and I agreed.
On the way out - after the services - a young girl asked if we would like to come to her family cottage for a steak fry.
“Ha Ha, get out of my way!” It turned out the cottage was on Maalaea Bay. It was much better without the War Games. The girl's family were ancestors of the Crockett Family,(original missionaries). Her name was Erminie Crockett. Her Father was the Prosecuting Attorney for the Island of Maui .
After that, I went to the civilian church for services. Erminie invited Frank, (a friend), an me to dinner at the Maui Grand Hotel: the best hotel in the Islands.
The maître d' knew her and her family so we got first class service.
Erminie had a little coupe that we drove all over the island in.
The second Sunday after church, Erminie gave me a Hawaiian Shirt all covered with flowers. Said I looked good in it. I wore it a lot to Maalaea Bay.
The Crockett's property is now a world famous golf course.
In the service, we had a newspaper named, "Stars and Stripes". In August of 1945, the paper came with a headline,
"Atom Bomb dropped on Japan.”
We had no idea what an Atom Bomb was.
After that, every thing changed. Companies started doing competitions between each other. Close order drills and such. Parties, (with entertainment funds the Division accumulated). Luau’s and dances. Lots of fun.
One day I was called into the company office and told I was to play a Trombone at a dance. I hadn't played for 2 years. They gave me a large storage hut to practice. Also a Trombone and music. I had a week to get my lip in shape and learn to play again. It was hard, but I got back some of my ability to play.
Then came the dance: 1 Guitar, Piano and drums. Not my idea of a band. We never played together before. We managed some rhythm so the troops could dance. We each got $5.00 for the night and we were not asked to play again.
I never played my trombone again.
The Division was divided into sections, those with enough points would be going home. Those without would go to China. I was in the group going to China. I was asked if I wanted to stay on Maui and help put all vehicles into running shape for storage.
The Sargent told Me the job would get Me Sargent' Stripes. Forgetting all Sargent's lie I said I would stay.(I had a lot of friends on Maui anyway). 10 of Us stayed to work in motor transport and put all equipment into running shape then the vehicles were covered with cosmoline,(like plastic. First all the trucks and jeeps and tanks etc. had to be moved down to the 18th Service Battalion to have the work done on them. The Mechanic's and Truck drivers moved the equipment from the base camp to Kahului Harbor Camp. After a couple of weeks the Mechanic's had enough equipment to work on so We started on the repairs. Hard to believe, but when the vehicles were cosmolined they were put on barges and brought out to sea and dumped into the Ocean. Some of the jeeps were buried into large holes back into the jungle. What a waste. The troops were able to go into town, Kahului, Wailuku, Hana, Lahaina and Paia, all except Lahaina which was on thee south end of the island and Hana which was 35 miles on the North end. Only went to Hana 2 times. There was only a one lane road and if you were lest than half way to your destination you would have to back up until you found a little wider road. After the war Charles Lindbergh built a house in Hana. He and Ann are buried there. Lahaina is on the South end of Maui and some of the original houses that the Missionaries' built are still there. Our Commanding Officer had a contest for the winner to get Corporal Strips. I had 100 % right but The Commander's buddie got the strips. My work came to a near stop after that, until I left the island. Another funny thing, the Commander of the Battalion, General Cates wanted the engine in His staff car painted orange and He would pay $5.00 for the job. I took it and set up the equipment ,spray gun, hoses paint and tarps. I put the paint into the spray can and turned on the compressor. Started painting when all of a sudden the spray can exploded spraying orange paint over every thing. What the hell happened? Someone turned the air pressure on the compressor up to 200LBS. should have been 75LBS. Thinking fast I got a bucket of gasoline and some rags and started cleaning up to paint. It took me about an hour and one half. So much work but I got it done and received my hard earned $5.00 and a good job-thanks from the General. There was another thing that happened while I was on the island. April first 1945 the guard in the guard shack called the office and told them the Ocean was coming into his shack. Yea, April Fool!! NO, No, look out the window. Water was now starting to go into the Battalion Office. Someone said it was a tidal wave and lookout for the next one. By now Marines were running down to the beach and picking up fish and whatever they thought looked good. Here comes the next wave --RUN. (tidal waves come in a series of wave each getting bigger. By now another wave was coming in and We all ran up onto the sand dune. When it went out we ran down and picked up what was washed up. The went on for about an hour and it stopped. The biggest wave was about 18 ft. 35 people were killed on the island. One last tine: the Black Marines were treated like They cooked outdoors, slept outdoors and were treated like 4th class citizen's. They had no tents and they slept in a section of jungle that got the name "Poka-cala" meaning Black city.
Finally the day came when We were going home. There where 2 Kisser Liberty Ships at the docks. Liberty ships are match boxes with bunks in them. Actually rows of ten high hammocks along the walls. If you made it to the top bunk you didn't get vomit on you. I slept for ten days in the bed of a dump truck that was going home with us. Back to shore Erminie and some of our friends were there to wish us Aloha they put leis around my neck and kissed me aloha. Erminie gave me a pipe which I still have.
Custom is if you throw the leis in the ocean and they float back you will return to Hawaii. I don't know if my lei returned or not. Maui "NO KA OI.
"ta-puc-it-ta" Put the Trombone away------I'm done!!