WWII Memoirs – 1943 – The Service Years Begin – Induction

My Service Years

(Jan. 43 – Dec. 1945)

And when the bugle sounded war,

They put their games away.

They left the peaceful river,

the cricket field, the quad,

the shaven lawns of Oxford,

to seek a bloody sod…

— Winifred M. Letts, The Spires of Oxford


Finally the day came to report for induction. I was instructed to be at the Portland Railroad Station, which at that time was the focal point of Service activity.

Portland Train Station (circa 1940)

Portland Railroad Station

There was no fanfare, no farewells, no last-minute waves or cheering send-off. Just another day, a mundane event, like going to school. But if wasn’t just another day. It was the day I was leaving for the service. I’d be gone for nearly three years; Or maybe I wouldn’t be back!

O.K. so there’s a war on.

Everyone was busy in those days and many, like my brother Clair, were in the service, others were working in a war industry, like both of my parents in the shipyards. My sister, Isabelle, was attending Jefferson High School here in Portland.

My cousin, Eddie Seibold, was also reporting for induction on that day, so a friend of his drove us so to the train station. We pulled out of for Ft. Lewis about mid-afternoon.

I had spent many an evening in barracks during my six-month hitch in the CCC. They were mostly routine, and eventually closed with “lights out!” And so it was with this evening, except this was a different setting. As the room stilled, I heard quiet sobbing in a bed across the aisle.

It was one of the draftees that had come in that day. Obviously the dark increased his feeling of loneliness, and all around him slept strangers. I’m sure others in the barracks heard him too, but no one responded to his distress, and after a while the young guy fell asleep. But I didn’t.

I lay there and wondered: Was this his first night away from home; had he led a “sheltered life?” Or was he sad about what he had to leave behind–family, friends, a job? Or maybe a very dear girl friend? Or maybe a happy, comfortable life style, Or perhaps he had a deep anxiety about what lay ahead, especially the prospect of military action–could he cope with it, would it bring him physical harm?

Eventually I fell asleep.

The next two days were tightly scheduled. I’m certain that the tests we took, the inventories and questionnaires we completed, the interviews we did and the other screening procedures we endured, determined our destiny in the Service. The process was soon finished, and I was on my way to Jefferson Barracks for basic training.

I had no time to think or have opportunities to make inquiries about the young fellow who had had the distressful first night. I felt sorry for him, and often wondered if he had “toughed it through” and adjusted to military life. I was beginning to learn that military experience would leave many unanswered questions.

Next Entry: WWII Memoirs – 1943 – Basic Training
Our drill instructor... was a good man, very skilled in his work. However, he seemed to have an awfully limited vocabulary...