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  • Writer's pictureLee Weaver


MY ARMY CAREER Lee’s Blog #8 – September 2021

My career in the US Army – all 713 days of it! Doesn’t that sound a bit more impressive than two years?? Well, no, not to the real career guys! (I hope those readers realize I’m saying ‘career’ in my own case, tongue in cheek.)

I can’t claim to have come from a military family but a military gene was lying dormant in my psyche awaiting a wakeup call. My Great-great Grandfather William Weaver was in the War of 1812; my Great Grandfather George Washington Weaver fought in the Civil War; my Grandfather Robert Lee Weaver was born after the Civil War but died before WWI; my father was too young for service in WWI and too old for WWII but he had a brother who was a career Air Force officer. Uncle ‘Pete” (Major Davis U. Weaver) was Chief Operations Officer for the B-29 bombing group based on Okinawa. My sister’s husband Wayne, 11 years older than I, was in the 2nd Marine Division fighting island to island in the Pacific theater in WWII.

For me it began to manifest itself when I turned 18 years of age (June 1951) at which time I was required to register under the Selective Service Act (commonly known as the ‘draft’). All males were required to register upon reaching 18. Historical note: Conscription (‘drafting’) of men for military service was employed by the Union during the Civil War (aka ‘The War of Northern Aggression’) and again during WWI. The Selective Service Act was allowed to expire after WWI but was re-enacted in September 1940 as WWII raged in Europe. North Korea invaded the South on June 25, 1950; with heavy support of the US on behalf of South Korea the military buildup pulled in a lot of draftees. A number of young men enlisted in other services to avoid the Army.

In June 1953 I had finished two years of university and was working a summer job in the oilfields near Carlsbad, NM. This turned out to be the genesis of my “army career” – I had attended San Angelo College (SAC) three semesters and transferred to Texas Tech in Lubbock for the Spring semester of my sophomore year. I had made As and Bs in my classes at SAC but that Spring semester, my first time away from home, my grades were terrible! Those bad grades made it easier to decide to take another direction. In late June I got notice from my draft board back in San Angelo to report for a pre-induction physical. Knowing my draft number was imminent, I went back to my job in Carlsbad; rather than returning to Texas Tech for the Fall semester (remembering the disastrous spring) I waited for the draft call which came in December.

I reported to the Draft Board in San Angelo, Texas on December 18, 1953. In late afternoon I got on a bus with 15 or 20 other guys and after an overnight ride was delivered to El Paso, Texas. (It was a regularly scheduled commercial bus and stopped at every little podunk town between San Angelo and El Paso.) At El Paso we were picked by an Army bus to be taken to Fort Bliss.

It is interesting how we remember some of the small things in our lives wonderingly, and some of the larger things thankfully. When we got off the bus at Bliss an officer was calling the roll of the new arrivals – being Weaver near the end of the alphabet, most of the others’ names were called before me. Most of these guys would answer “Yo” or “here” or some other slang response. I don’t know what prompted me but I answered “Here Sir.” That “sir” got an appreciative comment from the officer.

Then when we got assigned to Basic Training companies, early on I was assigned to clerk for the Field First Sergeant (that’s a step below the company First Sergeant. The First Sergeant job is more administrative management; the Field First oversees most of the actual training exercises.) Our Field First had got pretty shot up already in Korea and had to be in surgery a lot, which meant I was a buck private standing in for him! The new guys in the next arrivals had no idea the soldier reading the rules to them had been there only a few weeks longer. Because I was clerking for the Field First I was excused from most of the basic training exercises but was required to qualify with the M-1 rifle; I qualified for the ‘marksman’ medal.

The third unusual circumstance was my assignment, after basic, to a nine-month electronics school. This was unusual because, as a draftee, I would only be on active duty two years; thus with basic training and radar (electronics) school half my time would be in training and only half productive. (Generally men assigned to the longer school sessions were those who had committed to a three-year enlistment.)

While I was at Fort Bliss I had a couple of gigs going. When a soldier was assigned KP (“kitchen police” – peeling potatoes, washing dishes, whatever the cook ordered one to do) the one assigned could avoid it by having another take his place. There was always someone wanting to make a little money that would ‘hire out’ to take that duty. I would agree to take the duty for say, $30, then find someone else to take my place for $15! Voila – I earned $15 brokering the duty!

The other gig was running a transportation service (after Basic Training I was able to have my car on base). Being familiar with Carlsbad NM from having worked there in the summer and fall of 1953 I was able to promote weekend trips for those soldiers desiring to be away from base for the weekend. The big draw was The Eddy County Barn Dance. Not in the league with Grand Ole Opry nor even the Louisiana Hayride, nevertheless it drew some pretty good Country and Western musicians, and lots of girls! Transportation fees for a carload of GIs provided me with some pretty good spending money to supplement my private’s pay.

So having been drafted 18 December 1953 just before Christmas, in December 1954 I had a short leave and was home for Christmas; on 26 December I shipped out, headed for Korea. I flew from San Angelo through Albuquerque (NM) and Portland (OR) to Seattle/Tacoma (WA) airport. One of my fellow soldiers at Bliss was Charles (Chuck) Miller whose home was Tacoma. Knowing I had several hours before reporting to the Army at Fort Lewis, Chuck picked me up at the airport and I spent a day or so with his family. Chuck had a REALLY cute sister named Rita. Rita and I were pen pals all the time I was in Korea. When I reported in at Fort Lewis I found a hometown friend – Ronald Parsley – who was stationed there. Ronald and his girlfriend were having a New Year’s Eve party at her parents’ house and I was invited. Since no one but Ron knew me I spent time holding up the wall. Eventually her Dad spotted me and said “Come on son – let’s get a cup of coffee.” He was a retired Navy man. I found that Navy coffee is so strong they must use it as paint remover when they repaint battleships!

I shipped out two days later on the USS Gordon, a 2-stack troop ship. I have no idea how many troops were on board but the racks (cots) were five high. During the two weeks it took to reach Yokohama (Japan) I’m sure I read every book on the ship and finally resorted to just sleeping.

From Yokohama I was transported to Inchon Korea and reported in to Battery B 65th AAA Battalion. Battery B was stationed on a hilltop on an island (“Wolmi Do”) in Inchon harbor. I was the radar maintenance guy for radar-directed 90 mm anti-aircraft guns. I was in-country from mid-January to mid-November 1955. Things were pretty quiet while I was there. I took the opportunity to visit at the DMZ (“demilitarized zone” at the 98th Parallel dividing North and South Korea, and shopped in Seoul where I had a suit, sport coat and pants custom-made by a Hong Kong tailor.

At that duty station I had another gig going, but this one didn’t earn any money – it just enhanced my reputation as the ‘fixit guy’. We had built a new comm shack (communication and radar control) and being on a hillside it provided a lower-level room with a concealed access that only 2 or 3 of us radar guys knew of. I would beg, borrow, barter or salvage electronic parts and built up a good inventory. (Since I didn’t smoke, I could also barter my allotment of cigarettes.) Anyone in the Inchon to Seoul extended area that needed an electronic part for a radio, phone or radar set came to me. One day the Range Officer (a lieutenant) came to the comm shack when my access trapdoor happened to be open. Naturally he just had to see what’s going on. As he climbed down into the previously ‘secret’ room his eyes got as big as saucers as he exclaimed “My G__, Weaver, where did you get all this stuff?”

After my tour of duty, I returned to Fort Ord, California where I was discharged on December 1, 1955. I had been assuming I would return through Fort Lewis, WA and have the opportunity to see Rita Miller, but at Ord I felt Texas calling me home. I heard from Chuck a few months later that Rita had married. I pretended to myself she was devastated that I didn’t come there, so she married on the rebound! Oh well, I consoled myself – the Millers were Catholic and I was content to remain Baptist.

While I was in Korea I had started preparations and had preliminary acceptance to Officers’ Candidate School, but when Texas called I decided to go back to Texas Tech for my engineering degree. I wished later that I had at least remained in the Army Reserve but no, I didn’t think far enough ahead. In my older years I’ve sometimes wished I had stayed on active duty.

The discharge at Fort Ord, California on December 1, 1955 ended my Army “career.”

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