A series following the story of my father in World War II 75 years ago. This updates the series Following the 10th Armored that I did five years ago. The beginning posts set the stage for 1944 and 1945 when he was in Europewith the 10th Armored Division's 80th Armored Medical Battalion.

#10- Building an Army

◆ November 28, 1943
◆ Seventy-five years ago today:
The Tehran Conference was held. President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill met with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in Iran to discuss war strategy.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the early 1940s the United States faced a seemingly daunting task. Build a world-class military from next to nothing. Beginning with the first “peace time draft” at the end of 1940 and then expanding almost exponentially after Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the US Armed Forces underwent a transformation perhaps unprecedented in history. From top to bottom the military needed to become an unbeatable force. The reason was simple and now, almost 80 years later, almost overlooked. By Pearl Harbor, the United States was all that stood between world peace and the demolition of everything Western Civilization stood for! One of those who answered the call in 1941 was a surgeon names Brendan Phibbs. Over 45 years later he wrote a memoir of the time, The Other Side of Time: A Combat Surgeon in World War II. I came across it in my research this past summer and was blown away by its power. It was another piece of information about what my Dad was facing. In the early chapters of the book he reflects on the world at the beginning of World War II.
It’s hard today to remember the glow that bathed our armed forces as the country hitched up its weapons for the Second World War. It was a springtime, a virginal encounter when a generation distracted and sometimes desperate could turn happy and relieved to the ancient simple virtues…. Because sometime during the twenties and thirties the United States Army had disappeared. While the rest of the world rumbled and flamed through a tortured decade, [Old pictures of the US Army] certainly didn’t seem any match for the well-drilled hordes that thumped and banged their way across the newsreel screens, flaunting the terrors of Germany, Russia, Italy, and Japan…. Out of the radiant past came the army we have forgotten.
Help was needed. The pictures from Europe and the Pacific were horrendous. How could the United States compete with that kind of military power that was at once brutal, overwhelming, and in control of a great deal of the world?
Maybe we should never use total black or clear white to symbolize the capering of the human animal, but in 1942 we … knew we were marching out against the closest approximation of total darkness the planet had ever known.

We were a reenactment of American history, from Louisburg to Chateau-Thierry, a levee en masse around a skeleton of barely competent professional soldiers, when somehow, always, the carpenters and salesmen and tavern keepers and foundry workers got themselves sorted into ranks, most of them to become adequate and some of them to become heroes…. It was going to be our army, we were prepared to love it, and I suppose we would have felt even more strongly if we had known what we really were: the last American crusade, an army marching out with the cheers and blessings of a whole people, to save our country and the world from black, unrelieved villainy.

We were marching out to become the last people’s army in the history of the United States of America.
— Brendan Phibbs, The Other Side of Time: A Combat Surgeon in World War II. 1987.

As we move into 2019 (and 1944) I will expand on some of the ways the United States accomplished this miraculous task. To the point of this series I also did some digging into the needs for medical personnel as well as training the medics in combat. On Quora I found some of the history of the process:
The Army, on the other hand, primarily managed their combat medic training pipeline by earmarking medic candidates from the very first day they joined the Army. Medics went through a combined basic training, infantry class, and medics school, taught continuously for the student. Prior to the war, Army Medic training (combined with basic training) was 13 weeks. In the 4th quarter of 1941, the Army truncated the school to 11 weeks. Since 1942 saw the enlistment of millions & millions of men, Army Basic/Medic school was cut to just eight weeks for ten months. November and December 1942 saw the program extended back to 11 weeks; May to August 1943 increased the class to 12 weeks. From August 1943 to war's end, combined basic training/medic school stabilized at 17 weeks. Whatever curriculum was cut short, was picked-up by field training detachments after the apprentice medic arrived at his first duty station. (-Link)
From a U.S. Army history of the growth of the medical corps in World War II came this information:
Despite the country’s desire to avoid involvement in another European war, the US Army had been gradually expanding in the years before Pearl Harbor, from 191,450 troops when Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939 to about 1.5 million when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941. The National Guard had been mobilized in 1940, the same year Congress approved a peacetime draft. Guard units faced several obstacles, however. Industry was not producing enough military equipment, and troops had to train with limited quantities of outdated items. Medical training itself was a bottleneck; for instance, not enough brick-and-mortar hospitals existed to provide full training for all newly enlisted men, and courses had to be shortened to ensure at least some hands-on training for all enlistees. (-Link)
In short, there was a lot going on in those years- and by the end of 1943 U.S. Military personnel were fighting and dying in many areas.

They had only just begun.

#9- Thanksgiving 1943

◆   November 25, 1943
◆   Thanksgiving Day
◆   75 Years Ago Today…
My dad had been home for around 10 days on furlough. It was time to head back to Georgia and Camp Gordon. Grandma’s diary simply records that she got up at 8:00 (early for her), got dinner, and then “took Buddy to the station at 2-.”

By 6:00 both Carl and Ruth were also gone.
Such was Thanksgiving 1943.

Meanwhile in Georgia:
The troops that were not on furlough over Thanksgiving had their own feasts. Since they had formed in 1942, the 10th Armored Division, the Tiger Division, had produced a newspaper:

From Vol II, No. 11 on Dad’s birthday, they had the following information about the upcoming Thanksgiving:

"Next Thursday is Thanksgiving, traditionally a holiday that ranks as a day for good eating, good fellowship and general celebration. The Tiger Division should have a typical Thanksgiving holiday. Turkey dinner in the mess halls. Two Tiger grid teams will clash on the post gridiron in what promises to be a fast-moving, hard-fought contest.
Sometime during the day every Tier might well stop for a few minutes to consider why he, personally, should feel thankful on Thanksgiving Day 1943. Here are a few reasons we can think of: We are part of the greatest Army in the world, preparing to fight for the greatest country in the world; our forces on the fighting fronts are everywhere surging ahead; on the home front, production is ever on the increase and there is no longer any doubt that we shall have the planes, ships, and tanks necessary to destroy the enemy;… there is plenty to be grateful about… So lets consider ourselves very lucky, and enjoy the day— and then, the next day, go on about the business of winning the war so we can return home and have our old-fashioned Thanksgivings."

#8- Birthday 1943

    ◆    November 19, 1943
    ◆    75 Years Ago Today...
It was my Dad's 38th birthday. He had arrived home in Jersey Shore on the 16th on a 15-day furlough. My grandmother doesn't note anything special about the day. She had been ready to send a package to him in Camp Gordon near Augusta, Georgia, where the 10th Armored Division and the 80th Medical Battalion were in training for entering the war in 1944.

#7- A Year of Coming and Going


  • January 1, 1943
Well, we start a new year and I hope we all have good luck and good health. Father and I are all alone and it is a dark and dreary day.
— Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman

As the new year begins Beula and Bill are home alone. Buddy has been in Georgia at Fort Benning since August. There, the newly formed and activated 10th Armored Division and its many battalions and companies are beginning the arduous task of building a world-class army after years of minimal development. I am going to post more about that task in some future posts. At this point I will focus more on this last full year of “peace” for the home front in Jersey Shore, PA. Over this and the next few posts, by the way, I am going to catch the dates of posts and the story up to the calendar. While there will be side stories, background, and updates, by next week we will be in the 75th Anniversary mode of these events that shattered an old world and defined the new one for three-quarters of a century.

For many, and Buddy was no exception, 1943 was a year of coming and going. In general life was still moving in a relatively normal fashion back home. Beula would regularly note in her diary about Carl or Ruth and their travels in and out of town. She continued her visits to the “club”, which is never named, the weather, her trips to the store, or just visiting with friends. She noted one day that she had to go to the “schoolhouse” to get her ration book and in another that her brother Henry brought a can of lard. There were the three to four times each week when letters were written, sent, or received.

In January, she noted on the 14th that it was “10 weeks ago today since father broke his arm” in the accident at work and, on the same day a letter from Harold that he might be home soon. He had been away since August 6. Two weeks later he called from Atlanta that he was traveling and her response was, “Gee, I am nervous." Perhaps there were still memories and concerns from the months prior to his being called back up when one thing after another kept happening. It would not be a surprise if she was wondering what this visit would bring. Had he changed? Would he go back to his reckless ways?”

He was delayed in Washington but made it home on January 30. In his two weeks at home there is little mention of him except for one entry halfway through when he went “out and did not come home.” He returned to Georgia the middle of February and called about six weeks later. “Gee, I was glad to hear from him and to hear everything was O.K.”

A second furlough happened in May. Dad arrived home on May 18 for a ten-day stay. Again, in the middle of the leave, one incident- “Harold went away. I don't know where he went. Gee it is lonesome.” On May 27 he left to return to Georgia. “I did not go to the station with him.Gee I miss him.” Then a few days later, she "wrote to Buddy. It is awful lonesome.”

On his return to Georgia the 10th Armored and his 80th Medical Battalion packed up and went to maneuvers in Tennessee. From June 21 to September 3, just shy of three months, they participated in a major training event. It was still a year away from their overseas deployment but it was a significant training which I have found mentioned in other sources from other Divisions. This was part of the intense development of a world-class military that would be heading overseas into war. I will talk more about this growth and development in a later post.

During the maneuvers there were still the letters. Mail was able to find them, as was promised in the newspaper, The Tiger's Tale, that the 10th Armored produced in Georgia. Beula, conscious of dates, noted in her diary on August 6 that is was “one year since Buddy left.” Then with maneuvers over the 10th moved to a new home near Augusta, Georgia, at Camp Gordon, where they would be for the next year. With the move complete Dad had another two-week leave in September and then again in November when he was home for fifteen days.

With that year we catch up to the calendar. He arrived home on November 16, 1943 for that 4th leave  of the year, seventy-five years ago this week.

Through all of this I continue to wonder what was going on in both their lives. Beula was, at this point, an obviously lonesome person. What the causes were, was it medically related, was it her age and medical history catching up to her, was it the tension Harold had brought into her life? We will never know. In any case, from this point on, in a clear and obvious change of language, Harold becomes, more often than not, “Buddy.” It was a more endearing, even intimate reference.

Buddy was Beula’s baby, her youngest child.
He is getting ready for war.

#6- Turning Points

• January 1, 1942
Well, this is new year’s and it is a stormy day. It snowed and then it rained. Harold did not come home for lunch, so it has been a long day. Harold did not come home all night and I am just sick he is starting the new year in a bad way.
- Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman
At one point in my planning for this series I thought about calling it “Buddy’s Wars”, “wars” being plural. I have a hunch that there was far more going on behind the scenes of my dad’s life than any of us will ever know. In earlier posts I have given some of the clues, slight though they be. They include his “running away from home” at age 35; his seeming intent on joining the Army and lying about his age so it would happen; the family memory of something to do with a German flag; the unusual mentions of the person I knew to be a one-time girlfriend. Sure I may be reading into all this from my own background in mental health and psychology, but the signs are there.

Dad, of course, wouldn’t have been the first to join the Army as a way of either escape or growing up. But he wasn’t a kid. He was an adult with a profession and a business. We will never know what it was that finally broke in 1940 when he lied about his age and registered for the draft. I kept the word war in the title as singular since it is all parts of his greater war. World War II may have finally given him something that he had been looking for.

I hope so, though he never talked about it with me.

As I said in the previous post, my dad was drafted and reported for duty in January of 1941. Where he went other than Camp Blanding in August. He was obviously then sent on some type of extended leave and by January 1942 was back home in northern Pennsylvania. As grandma’s diary entry says above, it was not a comfortable time for him. “I am sick he is starting the new year in a bad way” would indicate that Beula was worried, again, about her youngest child. It didn’t end with that. Over the next three months there were a number of posts about Harold, more than in any previous diary.

1-Feb - Harold did not come home
2-Feb - Harold did not come home last night nor for lunch today
3-Feb - Harold did not come home last night. Today at 1.15.
22-Mar - Harold did not get up. He did not get come home until 6.30 this morning. And I am just sick.
23- 27 Mar - [He came home late 6 more days in a row.]
Another memory surfaces; another of the myths of my father. At one point I was told that he got angry with his girlfriend and slashed her tires. In mid-January Beula had noted that dad was together with that girlfriend. That was the first such entry where they were together. Then this shows up in the diary a month after those six nights.
13-Apr - Harold did not come home until 2.30 and he did not come home for lunch. So I am not doing a darn thing. He was out last night cutting tires.
It was said so matter-of-factly, but with more than a little anger. “I am fed up,” Beula seems to be saying. “I am done trying to get anywhere with this son of mine.” I wonder how she knew what he was up to? I know that the girlfriend’s mother, as well as the girlfriend herself were friends of hers. It wouldn’t be unheard of in a small community like Jersey Shore for half the town to know by nightfall the next day. Twenty-some years later it would be just as difficult for either my brother or myself to get away with anything without being found out.

Then there was one more entry about this…
• 14-April - Harold did not come home last night. Came in at 1 went to bed. He is working tonite. But gee I am sick. I don't see how I can stand it any longer
….and then silence about any problems. Things began to look up. No problems are mentioned after that. In the few times he is mentioned, dad shows up as doing things around the house, being home, being a dutiful son. I will continue to do digging into newspapers of the time to see if there was anything ever reported on this, but I doubt it. Something, however, made him change. I doubt it was the anger or fears of his mother. Perhaps it was a run-in with the police about it. Perhaps it was his own fear of what he had done.

Then it was time to go.

On July 15, 1942 the 10th Armored Division was activated at Fort Benning, Georgia. Ten days later Harold got the notice that he was to return to service twelve days later. The progress of my dad back to the Army and into World War II shows up ever so clearly in Beula’s diary beginning just eight months after Pearl Harbor.
• 6-Aug - Took Harold to the station. Left for New Cumberland. Gee I do miss him.
• 14-Aug - Harold called at 7 saying he was leaving New Cumberland tomorrow.
• 15-Aug - Harold called from Washington- he is leaving for Georgia. 28 of them going.
• 20-Aug - Got a letter from Harold. He is at Ft. Benning, Georgia.
• 29-Aug - Gee but I am lonesome. I miss Buddy.

• 1-Sep - O gee I am so homesick. Wish I could talk to Buddy.
This is the first time she consistently refers to Harold as “Buddy.” It was an almost unused nickname up to this point. Here and there she referred to him that way, but most of the time it is by name. She mentions him as Buddy only two more times in September and then as Harold for the rest of the year. He will become Buddy almost entirely from then on. Through the end of the year, and the war itself, there will be many references to letters, cards, and boxes going back and forth. I wish I had even a few of those letters. But they are long gone until postcards at the end of the war.

Buddy’s war has taken on a new direction. He is in Georgia with the 10th Armored Division as part of its organic medical battalion, the 80th. For the next thirty-seven months World War II will transform him into the man I knew. His parents, Beula and Bill, and his siblings Carl and Ruth will be at home.

In November grandpa fell off a box car onto a flat car at work and hurt his wrist. (He is 66-years old.) A couple weeks later she writes:
• November 26, 1942 (Thanksgiving Day)
It is a lovely day and we are alone. But we are thankful we are well. Having a roast chicken.
- Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman
She then writes on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that even with both Carl and Ruth around, she misses Harold. It won’t be the last time.
• December 24, 1942
Looking for Harold.
• December 25, 1942
Looked for Harold. I am disappointed.
- Diary entries, Beula Keller Lehman