• Living in Bethesda, Montgomery Co., MarylandI have no diary for 1941. I have looked through boxes and asked my brother to do the same. It is not to be found. But I am not totally lost. First, available online above is the information from his draft card. As Beula reported on October 17 last year, my dad did register on the first day of registration for the first ever peacetime draft in US history. It is where I got any information I have had about where he was living since Beula never mentioned it. He did “run away” to Maryland and was living in the DC suburb of Bethesda while working at a pharmacy in the city. Looking at Google Maps, it appears to be about nine miles to the store, which was about a mile from the White House.
• Working for People’s Drugs in Washington, DC
• William listed as next of kin
• Age 33
• Birthdate listed as 11/19/1906
• Signed H K Lehman
• Oct 16, 1940
• Light complexion, Blue eyes, brown hair,
• 5’6” 165 pounds
Two things stand out about the draft registration card. One was the signature. He often used his initials instead of a name. To many he was later known as “H K” and his store was either referred to as Lehman’s Pharmacy or H K Lehman Pharmacy. For me that was a moment of familiarity and, well, comfort. This is my dad.
More interesting is the age/birth date. One of the old story lines in movies and TV is about the young man who lies about his age to join the army. It usually meant they said they were older than they were. There was even an episode of M*A*S*H with Ron Howard playing the soldier who was actually younger than he said. But my dad, I guess in line with the Lehman idea of being different, lied in the other direction. As it would indicate on his military ID card a few years later, he is listed as a year younger than he really was. As of his registration date he was only 5 weeks shy of his 35th birthday, not his 34th. The upper limit for registration at that point was age 35.
I guess he wanted to make sure he got registered. The first enlistees were inducted the day before his actual 35th birthday. Since it was by lottery, it looks like he may not have been called right away.
Additional Enlistment Information
• Enlistment Date: 13 Jan 1941Did he actually enlist or was he drafted? The enlistment information above would imply it was not voluntary, referring to the component as “selectees”. But I have not yet been able to explore that. Nor have I yet been able to explore what “enlistment for assignment to another corps area” means. I have not yet been able to explore where he went next or what training he would undergo. With no diary I also have no collateral information from my grandmother. All I have is a picture dated August from Camp Blanding, FL.
• Enlistment State: Maryland
• Enlistment City: Baltimore
• Grade: Private
• Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for assignment to another corps area
• Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
• Source: Civil Life
• Education: 3 years of college
• Civil Occupation: Pharmacists
• Marital Status: Single, without dependents
Camp Blanding itself has an interesting history. It was established in northeastern Florida as a small National Guard camp. It’s history adds that it
is an example of an aptly timed, albeit humble commencement, for a soon valuable commodity. This young post's uses during [World War II] include service as a training site for a multitude of units, a basic training complex for the Infantry, and a Prisoner of War Camp. The contributions of Camp Blanding, Florida, under-publicized as they may be, were significant to the war effort.
The construction of the new facility… began in the latter half of 1939 following the conversion of Camp Clifford R. Foster in Jacksonville, formerly Camp Joseph E Johnson, from a National Guard Post into the Jacksonville Naval Air Station. Soon thereafter, a handful of Jacksonville residents united to form and Air Base Committee.
This fund raising body drew the responsibility for securing $400,000 to help finance construction of a replacement facility in the city's vicinity. It is unlikely that they realized in just a few short years this site would be the largest Infantry Replacement Training Center in the U.S. Army.
The original dimensions of the post were 28,200 acres, however, this bloomed into a sprawling site in excess of 170,000 acres following the federalization of the post in 1940. Thus, the once tiny station suddenly became the second largest training site in the nation in terms of physical size.
[T]he War Department initiated a rapid construction wave in 1941, resulting in the establishment of 10,000 new buildings. Still, the ballooning population of the Post far out paced the process of construction, and by 1942, there were some 60,000 troops quartered at the site. In conjunction with this development, construction estimates soared from the Guard Post, to $27.5 million for this federalized facility.
A shortage of quality labor to aid the process of construction presented a problem to contractors charged with this task. In response, one such company initiated a plan placing novice builders next to more experienced workers, thus allowing the former to learn from the latter. After the company organized this system, a standard mess hall could be cut to size in the lumber yard in 10 minutes, and erected in the field in 25 minutes.
In a short time, Camp Blanding included 125 miles of paved roads, in excess of one million square yards of motor parking areas, eighty one miles of water lines, twenty six and a half miles of railroad, and over two hundred fifty miles of electrical wiring. More important, the reservation boasted a highly advanced artillery range, and top notch rifle, anti-aircraft, mortar and grenade ranges. (Link to Camp Blanding history)
None of this indicates anything about my dad’s training since all I have at this point connecting him to the Post is the picture of a group of medics in August. But what the story of Camp Blanding illustrates is the amazing beginnings of a build up of the American military as had never before been seen. I will talk more about this at a later time, especially in relation to the medical services. Of main historical interest to me is the planning and foresight of President Franklin Roosevelt. From all I have read he knew that the day would come when the United States entered the European war. He did a great deal to make sure that when the day came the US would not be caught completely unprepared.
The nation may have been unprepared, but FDR was not when, on December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the US base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. America was now in World War II.
Where was Buddy? I have no idea for sure. I will keep digging. But when the calendar turns to 1942 I do know he was home, most likely waiting to be activated when the other “corps area” was ready.
At the end of 1941 the 10th Armored Division and the 80th Armored Medical Battalion did not yet exist. But now, it was only a matter of time. None of us would ever be the same again.