Arrived Ft. Campbell from advanced infantry at Ft. Dix. Feb of 58.
Replacement Co for a week. Pt every morning and KP. General Westmoreland was just taking over Division.
They informed thirteen of us we would be going to the signal companies of the 501st Sig. I went to B Co Fwd Comm. We went where the infantry went.My plt supported the 327th BG.
From replacement Co they proceeded to take us in the early version of the UH1A and they dropped us in the middle of the jump school area. 501st was right across the street and some went to A Co and the rest to B Co.
As we entered the company area between A and B,we got a huge reception.Lots of troops hanging out of the windows. Here comes the new green army. Fresh meat,f****** legs.
The green army remark was because the Army was changing to the green uniform. I got issued one set of greens and one set of OD's. Ike jacket and pants made of wool and itched like hell. When they were wet you smelled like a dog in the rain.
As we entered the buildings it started in earnest. Stand at attention outside the orderly room and wait to be called.
First Sergeant calls us in one at a time and told us which Plt we were assigned to and that basically we were lower than a whales ass until we received our wings.No speaking to the Plt Sgt unless spoken to or going through the squad leader. We were also told when walking down the hallway if a person with wings was walking toward you,stop stand at attention with your back against the wall and let them pass while saying in a loud voice Airborne.
Got to the plt area and then it really started.We were called everything but a child of God. They pulled fake inspections. A Pfc dressed as a Major had a surprise inspection and threw everything in our foot and wall lockers on the floor. These guys also planted a 44 magnum under one of the new guys and did the phoney inspection again.He got chewed out and threatened with the stockade. I thought the new guy was going to have a heart attack. He did quit the same day. They harassed me to no end. I was very skinny and some of the muscle bound guys kept saying I wouldn't make it. 150lbs at the time and 6' tall.
Unfortunately we couldn't start jump school right away because we had a huge field excercise for 30 or 40 days.
Middle of May 58 it began.
The first day was interesting because the weekend before I went to Nashville to visit an Aunt I hadn't seen since I was 10,however I didn't get a proper haircut and the in ranks inspection was animated to say the least. Our uniform had to be up to par withe belt buckle brassoed inside and out.,boots spitshined plus shave and the haircut.
The black hat took exception to my haircut and told me to report to the front of the formation. One step backward,right face and doubletime to the front and report. He chewed my ass in front of the formation and asked if I thought I was Elvis. I replied No sergeant of course as loud as I could. He said do an about face and sing "You aint nothing but a hound dog.". I did that and he informed me if I reported the next morning not up to par I would be one sorry individual. Needless to say I caught hell the whole day but the next morning there was no problem.
My memory might be fading somewhat but I remember it was very hot 98deg or more in fatigues and boots. The pits were sawdust and went in every crevice of your body. On the suspended agony one fellow from 326th Med was in pain and he begged the instructor to let him back on the platform. Instructor said No. He tried to get back to the platform and when he did the black hat kicked him off and he passed out. The medics were called.
The instructors had no mercy.They used pull this little trick on a lot of people. For instance one of them asked me one day. #460 would you f***
my wife. I said No sergeant. Why not 460 isn't she good enough for you? yes sergeant. 460 if I catch you f****** my wife i will kill you. Yes sergeant. 460 give me 15 squat jumps and then go tell Sergeant Ford you want to f*** his wife. This went on for a while and I could hardly stand up because those squat jumps were hell, especially when you had a dummy parachute on.
Tower week was also not too good,. They didn't like my exit,feet apart and so forth. One black hat made me go up three times in a row,pass everyone waiting inline and hookup and exit. Of course by that time I was so tired I couldn't do a proper exit.I suffered that day.How about those riser burns?
PLF platform. One day a SSg didn't do a correct Plf and the instructor told him to correct it. He said something back to the instructor. He was brought inside a quonset hut and read the riot act,then came out backwards on his rear end and told to fall in and continue to do plfs.Never heard a peep from him again.
If you quit,you had to stand in front of the building all day at parade rest. You were required to scream I am a quitter to anyone who came close too you. At the end of the day you were released to your unit. We had several people quit in our unit. Our Bn Cdr was a Lt Col named Buerkle and he was a member of Merrills Marauders in WW2,. Tough man. Our XO was a little guy who served with the 17th Abn in WW2.
They didn't appreciate quitters. A lieutenant quit and the col made him doubletime through the company area with full field gear and M1 rifle at port arms shouting I am a quitter,after that he was shipped out immediately.As a matter of fact anyone quitting was shipped out the same day.
I remember we had fellows from different services,marines,navy and air force plus a chaplain,a major I believe. I don't think the major made it and a couple fom the other services. We had an ex marine in our platoon. He was bragging how Paris island was tougher than this training. It was kind of funny when he fell out in a ditch on the 5 mile run.
During our runs you had to look at the the persons neck in front of you. No looking around,no smiling ,talking. or anything. If caught, you were required to run around the formation while they were running ,stop do x amount of pushups and catch up with the formation.
There were many dropouts on the final run. It was hot!!
When we arrived back in the school area as we were running in they were soaking us down with water hoses.
When it got to the jumping portion,there was a rush to get our jumps in. I don't remember why but we had to jump three times in one day and twice the next. Jump hit the ground ,run to the truck and strap on the chute and back again. All on C-123's. On the first jump one student got killed. He was left handed and paniced when his canopy failed to open. He tried to pull the D ring on the reserve with his left hand when he should have used his right. Consequently he streamered in very close to me. He was alive and cursing the medics so I was told for just a short time. He was covered with his chute there and taken away. There were more refusals and a few more quit before the next jump.
Finally my last jump and I knew I had completed something I never thought was possible for me. I had a heart murmur growing up and my mother was especially protective. Everytime I tried some sort of athletic activity she would get upset. My school was so small we had no teams of any kind and really no sports activities. So I was not a jock and not very confident. All this changed from the time I went in the Army but in the back of my mind I thought this is so tough only the rough guys could make it. After a hard basic and difficult adv infantry and jump school,I realized that many tough guys had fallen by the wayside and I am still standing.
The proud moment was when we hit the DZ on our last jump and Gen Westmoreland pinned our blood wings on.
When we returned to our companies,I was told we didn't think you would make it. I replied never underestimate anyone because of looks. It's what inside that counts. AATW