By: John McGregor -- That's John on your left.
On what it took to become Glider and Airborne qualified in the forties.
By: John McGregor
When I turned 17 years old I couldn't wait to get into the military and the only question I had was which branch do I enlist in. Since all of my relatives had served in the Army I thought it was only right that I followed their lead; never gave it a thought that they had been drafted in W.W.II and had no choice of branch. I sold my mother on the idea by telling her I wanted to go to college and since we could not afford that I needed to enlist and get the GI Bill to pay my way. Mom was smart enough to know that she was being scammed, but she was also smart enough to realize that if she didn’t agree I was just going to run off and do a false muster just like her little brother did in WWI. She agreed to sign the waiver and off I went to the Army, enlisted in the Signal Corps.
|Basic training was at Fort Dix, New Jersey for 6 weeks, but then some personnel weenie decided that I should go to Signal School at Fort Monmouth even though I had applied for overseas OJT, and at 5 weeks they stuck me on a GI bus headed north to Oceanport. I hated signal school and my buddy Price said the only way out was to volunteer for Airborne school. We signed the applications and went to the hospital for physicals. Being young, athletic and full of confidence we passed those physicals with excellent scores; some old guy was also taking the physical and fought the blood pressure tests so bad they made him lay perfectly still on a bed for an hour to get his pressure down. He never did pass the physical. When Price and I turned in our completed physical forms with that big stamp “Passed For Airborne” to our First Shirt in B Company his only comment was “that’s good, now as soon as you finish signal school you can go to Benning.”||
I say he's got a broken
Could be , hell just give
a bottle of "GI Gin" and
put him on the next
|If we couldn’t get out signal school right away I said to hell with the airborne and promptly forgot about the transfer, but I neglected to tell the First Shirt to tear up the application. A week before we were scheduled to take final exams Price and I got orders to transfer to Fort Benning for airborne training; damn, there was another delay in my overseas assignment. I wanted to go to Europe real bad but I didn’t know how to get out of this paratrooper thing and young 17 year old recruits did not stomp into the orderly room and tell the man to forget it. So three of us, me, Price and a kid named Pete Funaro, were put on a train headed for Georgia.|
|We were scheduled to start
jump school about the middle
of April but when we arrived
in the casual company
we were informed that a class
of brand new shavetails had
volunteered en masse .
We were bumped for 6 weeks;
more delay for my trip to Europe
|I tried to think of a way to get out gracefully without being called a quitter before I stepped into the door but there was no honorable way, a quitter is a quitter no matter where you do it. You’re in for the whole thing or you’re on your way to Fort Jackson in disgrace so I was stuck with waiting. During this time we were also stuck with fatigue details. A week spent on KP at the BOQ mess was enough for me, especially when I had to look at those shavetails that had taken over our training slot, so I volunteered to be a prison chaser at the Benning stockade. Six weeks of guarding prisoners on work details while carrying a sawed-off shotgun. Not glamorous but it sure beat bussing trays and wiping tables and those cons were a whole lot more interesting than those West Point graduates even though Georgie Patton III was in the class.|
|The second week of June, 1947 we started in Class B-33A of the Airborne School. At that time jump school at Benning was 6 weeks, 5 day jumps and 1 night jump. The first week was pure hell for physical torture. Running around Lawson Field twice a day, PT four times a day, drop down and give me ten for every minor infraction and never walking, always running. For a kid just out of a classroom it took a while to build up those flabby muscles, but we learned to live with it. We learned loading & lashing for gliders and at the end of the week we took three glider rides in a Waco CG-14A troop glider carrying jeeps, motorcycles and 75 pack howitzers.|
|On the final ride my glider hit a guardrail post next to the perimeter road on a too short final approach. The top of the post ripped through the middle of the floor, opened it like a spam can, tore the tail wheel off and almost tore the rudder off the aircraft. The kid riding the middle cross seat in the rear watched the top of the post go right between his feet. Scared? Hell no, we were too young and dumb to be scared. We just thought that the glider pilot should go back to flying a desk because he wasn’t capable of flying gliders, after all he was Air Corps and what could you expect from fly boys. Besides, we had three glider rides in and were qualified.|
|The next three weeks went much better; we were beginning to get the hang of the routine with all that running, pushups, exercising and the pushup muscles were beginning to build up. Mayfield even specialized in one-armed pushups. During those weeks we worked the 34 foot towers, the 250 towers, suspended agony, the wind machine and learned to pack our own parachutes including reserve chutes. We also learned the nomenclature of packing tray, risers, apex, static line and all those other things in a T-7 parachute. We also learned that those lines were suspension lines, that using the terms shroud lines and emergency chute would get you 10 pushups for every instructor in the class. If you couldn’t learn to talk the talk your pushup muscle would build up real fast and you could take a trip to Fort Jackson to be a “leg” the rest of your military career.|
|Fifth week was jump week; the reason we were there. It took the first three jumps to figure out what we were doing. On the third jump we finally lost our first guys to freezing in the door. It seemed like every jump from there on had a quitter or two. It became common to see a couple of guys double timing down the runway holding their Corcorans backwards at waist level and they would be gone by the following morning.|
|The day consisted of the usual run around lawson Field, taking your chute down from the drying tower, packing chutes with your packing partner, suiting up and heading for the sweat shack to wait for your C-82 to load up. Advancing from single jumper in the door to two at a time on command and finally #5 was a mass jump from both doors. I didn’t think you could clear out a C-82 that fast. Two 16 man sticks, one out each door at the same time, damn that aisle gets crowded.||
| I was anchor man in my stick and that was fun, lean forward,
dig in and push as hard as you can. A lot like playing linebacker.
In our free time we were back at the 34 foot eliminator, exits from the
mock door and PLF’s from the platform, drop down and give me 10.
On Friday night we did something new, we jumped the 34 foot tower at night
with lights rigged inside of the tower.
That 34 foot sucker is bad enough in the daylight but at night it is twice as hairy!!
|Monday night of week six we chuted up, got assigned stick numbers and plane numbers and headed for the sweat shack; it was time for a night jump. The scariest part of the jump was when the pilot fired up those big engines just outside the windows of the C-82. That flame shot out of the exhaust stacks and I just knew we were on fire. Nope, no fire engines responded and down the runway we headed. The normal procedures seemed strange when done in the dark and equipment check was almost entirely by feel. Suddenly I was in the door. stepped outside and looked down. It looked just like we over a big lake, it didn’t look anything like Normandy DZ.|
|After the opening shock I was able to get oriented and began to
see lights around Normandy DZ perimeter and could hear commands from the
loudspeakers on the ground. Then it hit me,
this was my final qualification, I was Airborne, I had won my wings and
nobody could ever take them away. We were done, no more
qualification jumps, the rest of the week was spent in learning about equipment
containers, packing them, slinging them under the wings on a C-47 and how
to drop them. The instructors were even nice
guys; PT but no more punishment pushups. On a personal inspection
one of the instructors said some of us needed haircuts before graduation,
no gigs, no punishment, just a friendly suggestion.
I couldn’t believe we were still in Airborne School.
That night when we got back to the
company area we had a beer party
and that mean old Cajun
Field Sergeant that was always
threatening to send us to
Fort Jackson was right there shaking
hands and slapping backs; he even
called us Troopers.
|On Saturday of week six we marched onto the big parade ground and
lined up on the white stripes. The big guy, General Something-or-other
made a speech telling us what an accomplishment we had just completed and
then we marched up onto the stage in alphabetical order. The
general pinned on a set of jump wings,
shook hands and then I stepped back and saluted. Just before walking off the stage a bird colonel handed me a pair of glider rider wings
and said :
Hell, if that smirky grin don't say
"I'm Airborne All The Way"
nothing ever will !!!
|Following graduation we were marched off to the company area and the orders were read naming our assignments. I was assigned to the 11th Airborne Division and my orders read to report to Division Rear at Sendai, Japan for my unit assignment. At last, I was going overseas, not to Europe as I wanted but to the Army of Occupation in Japan. I had never tried real hard to become airborne, I just wanted out of signal school, but once I was at Fort Benning I decided it was better to stay than to quit. Now the army was sending me to the Far East when I wanted the ETO, but there was no decision to make, there were no airborne units in Europe and there was no way I was going to go back to a leg outfit, I was Airborne - All the Way. The only alternative was the 82nd and they were at Fort Bragg and North Carolina wasn’t overseas enough for me.||
So it was off to Camp Stoneman,
troop transport to Yokohama and the
4th Repple Depple then by RTO to
Sendai and assignment to the
511th Airborne Signal Company
at Camp Crawford, Sapporo,
|John and Paratroopers of the
50's want to thank Rudy Lucas
for repairing some of the pictures and letting us use some of his ; Rudy
and John Served together in the 11 the Airborne 511 th Signal Company in
Japan. To find out more about the 11 th Airborne in Japan Just :
Rudy, I am eternally grateful for what you did with those pictures. My wife fell in love all over again and I have had two indecent proposals from young ladies I am acquainted with.