SOME MEMORIES OF WORLD WAR II
"The Memoirs of First Sergeant Bill Seuberling
of the 347th Ordnance Depot Company"
Chapter 1: The Beginning
I suppose this should begin at Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941. I was out of high school and working as a parts clerk at Schmidlapp Olds in Norwood, Ohio. There was much consideration on the part of my brothers and brothers -in-law regarding enlisting in the service. In my last year of high school I received an appointment to West Point along with another kid from Purcell. I passed all the mental tests and was planning on a career at West Point, until I failed to pass the very strict physical exam. All went well until the eye exam and even though I was given several chances, (in spite of eating lots of carrots) I was still unable to meet the strict requirements.
In 1942, brother Bob enlisted in the Navy. Bob Freytag also enlisted in the Navy and Auggie Langefeld enlisted in the Marines. Shortly after, brother Jack was drafted in the Army Signal Corps for what was to become known as Jack's sixty days in the Army. Shortly after he was drafted he suffered a nervous breakdown and was placed in the hospital ward for the mentally ill since the Army did not recognize a nervous breakdown. After several weeks of confinement with a group of wackos, Jack was given a medical discharge and sent home. I'll always remember meeting him at the train station in Norwood. He was wearing an Army overcoat which was several sizes too large and made a sad individual look even more sad. Wife Bert however, was very glad to see him and they quickly resumed married life where they left off. Baby John was born in 1943.
During this period, all I could do was wait to be drafted. Sally, Flo, Joan, and I went to many dances at the Eagles and other clubs which did their best to supply entertainment for military people as well as civilians. Sally and I won many dance contests (mostly doing the jitterbug) and the prize was usually a bottle of booze. My waiting to be drafted came to an end in late 1942 when I received that letter from President Roosevelt.
In order to take the Army physical I had to report to a large empty building on Fourth Street in Cincinnati. this was the beginning of a life with which I was completely unfamiliar. Stripped completely nude with about 100 other men, we all lined up for a series of inspections that I knew nothing about. The first was a search for "crabs" using a bright light and a tongue depressor in a hairy body area that had not been subjected to search before.
Amazingly, as I looked down I recognized the guy who was doing the searching. We had gone to the same grade school. Needless to say, we were both embarrassed. The next test was one called "short arm". This was repeated many times during my Army life since it is a test for syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases. Since the good nuns at St. Elizabeth had told us that any prolonged handling of your "private parts" during urination was a sin and would condemn you to hell, I was always careful not to linger while handling. The "short arm" involved not only prolonged handling but also "skinning it back and milking it down" to see if any strange fluid came forth. This was especially difficult for guys like me who had not been circumcised.
Next came the eye test which I was quite sure I would flunk. As we naked bodies filed from one area to the other, I noticed a large letter "D" hanging from the ceiling. As I approached it, a fellow asked me what letter it was. I responded "D". The man said "Next!" I said "When is the eye exam?" He said "You just passed it." So much for my chances of not passing the physical. This was the last chance to spend time with my family until many months later.
Each day after breakfast we had to assemble in the courtyard and the men's names would be read off and their assignments indicated. The longest list of men would go to the Infantry. The next to the Artillery, Engineers, etc. My name was called on the fourth day and it was the only one called in that group. I immediately thought that I must be going someplace dangerous. It turned out that I and two other fellows were assigned to an Ordnance Company at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma. This was because the three of us had experience with automotive parts. We were given our orders and train tickets and sent off. We arrived at Camp Gruber on a Sunday afternoon, the day after the Company had completed six weeks of basic training. The Company was the 347th Ordnance Depot Company and was made up of 170 men and 6 officers. All but the three from Ohio were "limited service" as opposed to 1A. It was a sorry assembly of humans. Six had one glass eye, one was hunchbacked, one had a short arm from birth, and most were almost blind or deaf in one ear. One had a testicle that hung down to his knees so he kept it in what he called a "ball sling". At night after he washed out the sling, he would hang it from the heat vents which hung down from the ceiling. You had to be careful not to get hung up in it if you walked to the john at night.
Since we arrived after the conclusion of basic training the three of us received none. They did give us a quick course in weapons assembly and close order drill. On the second day we were taken to a large warehouse where we found piles and piles of automotive parts, gun parts, etc. Our job was to set up a system to sort out, identify, number and store all these various parts. As we went about our assignment, it became apparent that myself and one of the others were capable of succeeding in the job. That is the reason I had five stripes (Tech Sergeant) in five months. I earned them so fast that I didn't have time to properly sew them on the uniform. Some I just had to temporarily pin on. Along with the five stripes came an increase in pay and I made a cool $125 per month, most of which I sent home.
The system was basically the same as I used at Olds Dealership. For storage we used tractor trailers that were 35 feet long. That is the way we operated all during the war. I didn't go off the base very often but I did take an occasional pass into the town of Braggs, Oklahoma which was just outside the gates of the camp. It was made up of about fifty shack-like buildings all selling beer and all with a jukebox playing Peggy Lee singing "Why Don't You Do Right?" The population of Braggs was about fifty Indians.