Training at Camp Howze, Texas
Training with this Infantry Division was quite vigorous. It didn’t matter if I had a bugle–it was just extra weight. I remember one ‘funny’ incident. The captain was directing an assault on a house (fake house) and he asked me to blow RECALL–so I brought the bugle up and with my dry lips I made a loud squawk! The captain turned around and said, “Geeezusus Key-ryst”. He said it as if he had a mouthful of shit! I recovered and blew the call. The bugle they had given me to use was bent from use either in the Civil War, Indian raids or the Mexican War!
Often the troops were aroused in the morning in a surprise “Move ’em all out” exercise. We were ordered to pack an “A” bag and a “B” bag and have them at a central location. Then, in formation, we were led in ‘full field pack’ on a forced march. We were allowed only one canteen of water. Water is fuel for the body. Never leave home without it! We were not allowed to drink unless the command was given. You can believe how that rule made a person even thirstier!
On one such forced march, I was plain dying of thirst. On the hour we were given a break. If you were caught sipping water it was the hoosegow for you! BUT I am a farm boy and ingenious! Ha! On occasion a cub plane would fly over as if strafing us and we dispersed into the grass along the roadway. Grass grew shoulder high. While laying there I took a joint of this grass which became in effect a soda straw, I took off the cap of my canteen and inserted the straw under my elbow away from view. I was lying in a sideways resting position. I helped myself with a sip or two without being caught. The sergeant was walking back and forth looking for GIs sipping water. I saved my own ass from dehydration. This is really serious. You never are the same person after heat exhaustion.
On another such forced march we were first given breakfast and there were salt pills by the plate to take. I forgot my salt pills, which help you somehow retain water. I told the lieutenant that I forgot my pills and he said, “That’ll teach you”. I went on the forced march and we had to march on the double. The orders were that stragglers would not be picked up. It was an18- mile march with about 9 miles yet to go. I began to straggle, ran out of energy and dropped out of line exhausted. Others did also. The jeeps and trucks went on by just as they were ordered. I finally straggled the rest of the way to where the outfit was bivouacked. It was an 18-mile march! Try it sometimes!
I tried to find my company. I fell into sagebrush, unconscious. I was staring up at the sun when I came to. A few medics found me. The captain of the medics dripped water into my mouth from his hanky, which he dipped into his canteen. The other medics were doing CPR work on me. They left me there with a full canteen of water and said; “Don’t drink it all at once”. When they left I went ‘out again’ but I woke up on my own. The canteen was empty. I must have drunk it all in one gulp.
I straggled over to a group in the bushes. They were in the nice shade. They were lucky to be in a mobile outfit because they had a 6×6 and a trailer hitched to
it. I asked if I could fill my canteen from the jerry cans on the 6×6. I stood on the trailer hitch and drew the can over the tailgate and began pouring water into the tiny canteen hole from the big-mouthed jerry can. I was spilling some of the precious water. The GIs hollered at me, “Hey goddammit, you’re spilling water!” and I passed out again. I fell off the trailer hitch in a heap. I woke up on a jeep with some GIs rubbing my arms and legs and chest. They took me to the medics who were located in the shade in a dry creek bed. It must have been at least 10 degrees cooler there, so I laid on a stretcher with about a hundred others who were in various stages of heat exhaustion. I remember urping up everything and almost my anus!
The irony of this was that my pack was misplaced by the medics. On payday they deducted the cost of the pack and bayonet and other of my issued equipment. Luckily, I went to the medics and a benevolent medic thought well enough to toss all my equipment in the ambulance.
At other training I always tried to do my best, which was never the best. I ran so hard in competition that I tasted blood in my throat and I did it on purpose to see if I could really stand the rigors. I seemed to be in good shape except for the heat exhaustion. That ain’t fun. It never rained while we were in Camp Howze and the humidity was very high. Your uniform was stained white with salt from your sweat. In the latrines sweat poured off your elbows while sitting on the can.
Training in Texas Over
The training session was finally over. I had infantry training twice as some sort of punishment for begging to get out of the Army on a hardship discharge. Things were not going my way. That was the last time I had a bugle in my hand. I didn’t even see one after that except maybe the kind that an Army band might have used in a ceremony.
It hadn’t rained for all the time I was there and the weather was always hot, sticky and humid. It was like taking a Swedish steam bath most of the time. The salt tablets they made you eat came out in the creases of the fatigues when they dried out. White against greenish-colored fatigues.