WAR II MUSINGSby
Robert G. Cowser
1942, almost all of the young men in the United States were in uniform. Most of
these men were in hastily expanded training camps, three of which were located
near Saltillo, the town nearest
our farm. Camp Maxey, near Paris, was no
more than forty miles from us; Camp Cook at Gainesville
Fannin near Tyler
were somewhat farther. When I moved to Tennessee in 1970, I learned that one of
my neighbors had been stationed at Camp Maxey during World
War II. He told me that his duty was to guard German prisoners of war at Camp
Maxey. Hardly any of the people living a few miles from the Camp knew these prisoners
Both my brothers-in-law were trained at Camp Claiborne near
Alexandria, Louisiana, about 250 miles away. My sisters found living accommodations
in Alexandria and worked temporarily as saleswomen. At the Post Exchange, one
brother-in-law bought t-shirts with the statement “My brother is in the Army”
on each and gave the shirts to my younger brother and me. Influenced by technicalities,
I found myself explaining to those who commented on the shirts, “Well, actually
it’s my brother-in-law—not my brother-- who is in the Army.” One brother-in-law
was discharged in late 1942 because of a knee injury incurred while he was training
in the officers’ training corps. The other entered the service in November, 1943,
and served with an engineers’ battalion in France and Germany. He helped lay the
temporary pipelines under the English Channel and in France so that fuel could
be transported to the front lines.
Although my father was past fifty when
Pearl Harbor was attacked, he was required to register with Selective Service.
I went with him to the Chautauqua School, a frame structure located about two
miles from our farm house. When it was built in 1920, it was a model for other
communities planning a new school. It had four classrooms, a large cloak room
and a recessed front porch that served as a stage when the weather permitted.
A year before my father went to register, Chautauqua School had been consolidated
with the Saltillo School. Classes no longer met there, but there were still piles
of textbooks in one of the rooms. Desks had been shoved into the corner of the
I stayed quietly in the background while my father gave a
local woman the information the government needed: date of birth, marital status,
number of dependents, occupation, etc. A few months later I returned to the same
building with my father in order for him to apply for rationing stamps. Gasoline,
tires, and sugar, among other items, were rationed.
We listened hopefully
for news of progress of the Allied Forces from Gabriel Heatter and Walter Winchell
and other sources. Though the battles took place on other continents, the War
loomed near us.
© Robert G. Cowser
shoe horses, don't they?"
Guest Column, May 7, 2010
Columns by Robert