• January 6 , 1944
Had a letter from Buddy and a picture of the meds in his division. Gee it is good.
- Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman
|Note: Picture is cropped. Buddy is in center front.|
We are now in the middle of March. Not much of consequence has happened with the 10th Armored so far this year. They are still in Georgia training and training and then more training. My grandmother’s diary is very brief and understated, as always. There’s not much about what my dad has been up to. Beula mentioned letters about every third day. Usually all she says is that she got a letter or that she sent one.
What was Buddy doing? What was the role of a medic in training? He has been with the 80th Armored Medical Battalion of the 10th Armored Division virtually since the beginning. He was also not a “new” recruit or trainee, having had his original training following the draft in 1941 prior to Pearl Harbor. I am continuing to research medic training, but I would think that by this point he was well-trained and as ready as it was possible to be after over 18 months on active duty. (If anyone has any stories or information from family or friends about this, please let me know!)
Two other diary entries give a brief and tantalizing glimpse at what might have been happening. The first:
• February 1, 1944
Buddy may get a furlough. wants to go to NY. Sent him $100.
- Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman
Why is Dad going to New York instead of home on furlough? There is no hint in the diaries so far that he has been dating anyone or that he was interested in anything except the military. It is a more than educated guess that this diary entry hints at something that will make a huge difference in coming months.
The second entry, 75 years ago last week gives a slight glimpse at what might have also been taking up his time.
• March 10, 1944
Letter from Buddy. He said he is working in a big hospital in Augusta
- Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman
Was this common? Remembering that he was not a new recruit, was he as trained in the duties of a medic as he needed to be and could go off-base? Or, and perhaps more likely, this was part of the training. From later information I have found that in Europe he was a surgical tech. His own profession in civilian life was as a pharmacist. It is very possible that they had him working in a civilian hospital to learn that aspect of the medic’s role. It even appears that he may not have been living on base. In the back of Beula’s diary is a listing of his general’s name (Wm. H.H. Morris- commander of the 10th at the time), a phone number, and “the name of the people he rents from.”
This whole section highlights what for me has been my biggest regret in doing these posts- that I have come to this interest too late for many things to be found. It is only after I began this that I learned of 10th Armored reunions, now ended as even the youngest surviving veterans would be in his early 90s today. It is exciting to do the research I have been working on, but the many missing links are tantalizing and make me sad.
As far as the 10th:
Checking in on the Tiger’s Tale monthly newspaper for the Division at “Camp Gordon”:
The February headline was that the division’s “Bond Drive Goes Over Quota.” The original goal was to sell $50,000 worth of US savings bonds. As of the middle of February they had raised $55,500. That is almost $800,000 in 2019 dollars! The top unit was the 11th Tank Battalion which bought over 10% of that at just over $7,000. Dad’s 80th Armored Medical Battalion was 11th on the list with just over $2,000 purchased. At that time an enlisted man’s pay started at $50/month and went as high as $138/month (between $700 and $1900 in current dollars.)
US Savings bonds were the government’s way of borrowing from civilians with the promise to pay them back. On February 1, 1935 legislation was signed that allowed the Department of the Treasury to issue savings bonds. In April 1941 they became known as Defensive Bonds to finance World War II.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Defensive Bonds were informally known as War Savings Bonds. US Savings Stamps in denominations of 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, $1 and $5 featuring a Minuteman statue design were also sold to be accumulated over time in collection booklets which when filled could be exchanged to purchase interest bearing Series E bonds. All the revenue coming in from the bonds went directly to support the war. -- Wikipedia
(When i was an elementary school student in the 1950s, Savings Bonds were still popular. There was still the feeling of a patriotic and civil responsibility to bring in your dimes, quarters, or even dollars to purchase the stamps. They are still available, sold only online and have different restrictions.)
An interesting story on page 2 in March told of two underage soldiers being discharged. The older of the two was just six months shy of his enrollment-eligible age of 18. He couldn’t “see why age has anything to do with the qualifications for being a soldier.” He had faked his mother’s name on his application- and she is the one who turned him in. He hoped to convince her to sign permission now. The younger one was only 15 years old and turned himself in since he was afraid of the consequences of falsifying his age.
Also in March we hear of two members of the Division who had previously fought in the Spanish Civil War- both on the Republican side, also known as the Loyalists, against Franco and his Nationalists.
There’s “gossip” of events in different battalions and companies and lots of news about sports and activities. There was
• Basketball championships,
• Ping-pong, volleyball, wrestling,
• Boxing, polo, bowling,
• Rifle team and plans for the summer.
When you think about the task of keeping 10 - 15,000 troops occupied, especially in off-duty hours, this all makes a lot of sense.
And one little piece of trivia I saw:
The fresh milk for the division comes all the way from St. Paul, Minnesota.”
In a front page column in February, the General reviewed the high standards for the Division, his own take for the troops on the standards set by the Army. These were called “Preparation for Oversea Movement of Individual Replacements"("POR"). As the General wrote:
If you are POR qualified you are fit to fight and rarin’ to go; you are physically hard and tough; you can drive a tank all day and take the bumps; you can run, jump, hit the dirt and you can take advantage of cover to get up on your German or Jap enemy, surprise him with blade or bullet.
But the reality of war was also included in being POR Qualified. The General continued:
…your identification tags are correct and your wear them, your clothing and equipment are properly marked, well cared for and you are proud of them; you are protected from disease by inoculations against small-pox, typhoid and tetanus, taken within the past six months. You have provided your dependents with insurance and allotments; you don’t know where you’re going but you do know what you’re going to do when you get there; you are confident and ready.
D-Day was less than 90 days away, though no one yet knew the timing. The 10th Armored was less that six-months from leaving. For the 10th, a lot was still ahead. For Buddy and family, changes were on the way.