143rd AAA Gun Battalion - Page 6
Let's see now......It was way back on the 10 July 1943, that the 143rd AAA Gun Bn was activated in Camp Haan, California and the cadre of officers and enlisted men started their pre-mobilization training in anticipation of our arrival in August.
This included a period of time at the desert firing and training camp 40 miles out of Barstow, California, and many were the terrible tales told of this isolated Camp Irwin during our basic training at Camp Haan.
Remember the heat they spoke of that could reach 120 degrees in the afternoon and could stay 100 degrees all night and the desert water bags that were to become familiar travelling companions but were then strange water containers.
And we heard for the first time of strange names that were flavor of goldmining days, Mt Tiefort, the rugged peak that was to keep us oriented in the many months of desert training; of Bicycle Lake, with no water but which in the desert moon shown like silver; of Calico Pass, used by the old gold prospectors and of Death Valley with its legends.
And in these days, before we arrived, the battalion began to take on color and spirit which we started to absorb on our arrival.
Remember the feeling of starting to belong somewhere when the cadre spoke to us of the firing at Camp Irwin and how the first sleeve target was knocked down after only 32 rounds and we saw the first of the sleeves that were to become so familiar later.
And of the field problem at Hemet where they had formed a provisional Hq and one firing battery.
We arrived, you remember, on the 24 August, coming, most of us, from Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. A band helped some, but we were homesick men coming to a strange camp that looked to us all brown.
Brown, brown, brown. The ground, buildings and uniforms.
But we were not allowed time to think for long and you remember well the dizzy pace of those first few days that changed us from students, drill press operators, bartenders, shop keepers, mechanics and ship builders into soldiers.
They soon assigned us duties and started us on the road to intimate knowledge of close order drill, M-1 rifles, shots in the arm, kitchen police, guard mount, machine guns, 90's, power plants, radars, directors, height finders, telephones and radios. We had begun to live according to a plan that was strange and new, but somehow it wasn't so bad.
The next six weeks we spent in basic training. We were introduced to that mystic phrase MTP (Mobilization Training Program) which was to control our lives for the next six months.
A lot of hard work went with learning the thousand and one details of common soldiering. Our first retreat parade with military music was a thrilling experience. Through those weeks of drills, classes and parades we became used to each other. We were a unit.