Sunday, November 11, 2012

Russell Wilson Anderson


Russell Wilson Anderson
When Russell was 18, and he weighed 110 lbs., he got drafted into the Army.  For a while he didn’t have to leave with the others who were drafted at the same time because Denton was missing in action.  Eventually he was compelled to go and he left by train from Blackfoot to Salt Lake City.   There he stayed a couple of days at Fort Douglas for physicals then he went on to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for basic training.  His training was in field artillery where he used a 105 howitzer.  After basic training, he came home for a few days then it was off to Fort Ord, California, and then off to Manila on a boat.  The boat was a Merchant Marine vessel that had a terrible boiler that broke down several times during the trip.   On the way to Manila they pulled into Pearl Harbor the day before the first A-bomb was dropped on Japan.  They were all hopeful that the war would be ended immediately and they could go home, but that wouldn’t happen yet.  It was pretty scary when the boiler was down and the ship was dead in the water.  They felt like sitting ducks for the Japanese submarines.  The captain was absolutely fanatical about no light being visible from the ship at night and no garbage being thrown overboard to try to avoid any attention.  Somehow, no cooks had been lined up to feed the crew, so they had cold cuts and cheese for several days until someone volunteered to cook.  It took 35 days on the boat to get to Manila and they faced some really rough seas.  Barrels were placed in the room where they slept, to be used for the soldiers to lose their lunch in.  At one time the storms were so intense that the barrels would scoot across the floor and splash around.  Russell was not happy to have to be in the top hammock (of five layers of hammocks) until the seas got really rough.  When the men were throwing up before they could make it to the barrels, and all of the men in the lower bunks were getting the runoff caused by gravity, Russell was happy to have the uppermost bunk.


When they got to Manila, they slept in tents.  There were Japanese soldiers in the jungle who would set booby traps in the downed airplanes around Clark Field.  One day a scruffy-looking Japanese man fell in with their chow line.  He got carted off to the brig immediately.  Russell worked on detached service fixing the phone lines that went through the rice paddies.  The food was decent because he worked with officers.  He had a house and his own jeep. 


He next was sent out to another place with 15 other guys in a truck and the driver of the truck got lost.  The driver dumped all of them off at a place he thought they should be.  Those in charge at the new place hadn’t expected them, but they made a place for them anyway.  One man had always gotten a letter from his wife every day, but all of a sudden he quit getting the letters.  After 30 days the man complained to a visiting inspector that he wasn’t getting his mail.  Eventually the men found out that they had all been AWOL for 40 days. 


While in the Philippines, Russell had a monkey for a pet.  The monkey sat on his shoulder.  The monkey had to be given away when Russell was transferred.


The men in Russell’s unit were training to be the first soldiers ashore in the event that there was to be a landing on Japan.  They were to set up a communications system before the other soldiers were sent in.  Thankfully the Japan landing never materialized.


He was next sent by boat to Korea.  They went through the China Sea in January and it was terribly cold.  He was used to living in a warm environment in Manila where they slept out in tents and wore suntans (khaki tan uniforms).  All of a sudden they had to wear wool clothing.  It was so cold that the pipes froze on the ship.  To keep warm, Russell put on every stitch that he owned and crawled into the mummy sleeping bag that he was issued.  Once in Korea he was put on a train to Seoul.  There was no heat in the cars and no food that day.


There he was back to the switchboard.  He got put on the night shift, which was really nice because he seldom had any night time calls.  He would turn up the sound on the switchboard and pull his cot over next to it.  He could sleep on the job and then spend the day doing whatever he wanted to do.  Once there was a nail sitting on the top of the switchboard and Russell must have bumped it off as he turned on his cot.  The falling nail somehow managed to make every phone on the base ring at once, causing him a few moments of panic. 


While in Korea, the situation was getting a little bit tense with the Russians and the 38th parallel.  Guns were actually issued to the soldiers.  Russell knew that all of the vehicles in the motor pool there were not in running condition because no one had any knowledge about mechanics.  He was nervous about a possible attack when there was nothing available to drive away in, so he talked to the man in charge of the motor pool.  The man said that if Russell could get anything to run, he could have the use of it.  After looking around Russell found one “6 x 6” that was only missing a fan belt, so he charged up the battery and had it going soon.  Immediately following that incident, he lost his cushy job at the switchboard and got put into the motor pool.  He got almost everything running and then things calmed down with the Russians.


One day there was a posting on the bulletin board that said that anyone with a family member who had been injured, missing or killed in the war could apply to come home.  Russell immediately applied because Denton was still considered missing.  The others were jealous that he was able to go home.  Because Russell had attained the rank of corporal, he didn’t have to pull KP duty aboard the boat like everyone else did. The duffle bags of all the debarking soldiers were loaded up into a cargo net.  The sea got really rough and all of the duffle bags were washed overboard and forever lost. 


The boat came in to Bremerton, Washington.  There he had to get new clothes issued to him.  He had heard that there was milk and ice cream to be had in the PX.  In order to visit the PX, the men had to be in their dress uniforms.  When he opened up his clothing he had been issued a black tie, instead of the khaki tie everyone else had.  He put the black tie on and set out to the PX.  A guard stopped him and said he was out of uniform because of the tie.  Russell was threatened with a trip to the brig.  Fortunately, a sympathetic man who worked there gave Russell his own tie, making Russell eligible to get that longed for milk and ice cream.


Russell was drafted into the Army, but he got discharged from the Air Force.  How is that possible?  He was switched midstream by the military.


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