During the Second World War, it wasn't long before members of my family became part of the draft. One cousin was drafted July 16, 1941, as one of those who was to be gone only a year. He served 52 months in the Pacific area. My oldest brother, age 33, and a cousin left July 20, 1942. My brother was only in about 18 months. He had health problems and was given a medical discharge.
Men who were farmers were exempt, as food was a necessity. My mother was a widow and was allowed to keep one son to farm. After my oldest brother got a discharge, my youngest brother was drafted. He had not been old enough in 1942. He left February 19, 1944, on a train for Camp Fanin, Tyler, Texas. En route he contracted pneumonia, so he started his training in the hospital. This delayed his start in basic training, which may have been a blessing in disguise. The group he should have started with were all in the Battle of the Bulge, where many lives were lost.
As soon as his basic training was over, they were sent to Camp Mead, Maryland, and were loaded on a South American boat for their trip overseas. The trip was long, the food was bad and most everyone was seasick. Going through the Mediterranean Sea, they had a bad storm. Every two hours they had to change guard. They were strapped to the mast because the storm was so severe that they could not stand. The rains fell on them from above, and the waves washed over them from below. It was impossible to do any guarding. He wondered, "Why am I here?" They landed in Naples, Italy, and the storms still continued. There was a flood there and my brother lost all his personal things, even his watch.
They were on the front lines in Italy for 45 days and nights without relief. When they reached Austria, they met up with three other divisions, and the war was over. It was said to be the longest time any troops were on continuous duty.
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.