Sunday, January 27, 2013

Camp Farragut: Daily Life

I wrote a previous blog about Camp Farragut but gave general information.  http://bwardlehistory.blogspot.com/2013/01/wwii-camp-farragut.html
This blog deals with the daily life at the camp.  Quotes are from my father's letters.
Daily life
In a letter to his parents, after being in camp a little more than a week, Dad described his daily activities:
You asked me to tell you what I do.  We are getting up at 4:30.  We have until 8:00 to eat, clean the barracks and wash.  At 8:00 our working day starts.  There is no definite procedure we follow then.  We drill a lot, take physical fitness in the drill hall, run an obstacle course, take tests, see military pictures, and numerous other things.  We don’t do all these things in one day but we are kept busy.  At about 11:15 we go in the barracks and generally by 11:25 we are on our way for dinner.  We have to march from one end of the grinder [parade grounds] to the other to get to ‘chow.’  It is over a quarter of a mile long.  We generally wait in line for 15 minutes before we get our food.  At 1:00 we again start on the grinder [marching drill.]  Until 4:15 we work and from there on, our time is our own.  We eat, shower, do our laundry, got to pictures, or go to Ship’s Services.  At 9:00 the light are put out and there can be no talking after that.
There were some specific things about camp life which he mentioned in his letter.
Food:  Dad didn’t care much for the food.  One particular deprivation was milk.  “I had the first milk tonight that I gave had since I left home [over three weeks.]  It certainly tasted good.  I got three glasses of it.  You were only supposed to get one but I worked it through to get three. 
Haircuts:  Dad got a haircut shortly after arriving.  “It doesn’t take them more the 1 ½ minutes to have all you hair off.”  Dad documented at least three haircuts curing his couple months there.
Cleanup:   Everyone had to clean.  However the platoons alternated between morning and evening clean-up.  “I help in the morning now.  I have to swab the floor between rows of bunks the length of the barracks.”
Clothes: Dad had a lot of laundry, his clothes and his bedding.  However he did not do any ironing.  “We roll our clothes here.  You roll them tight so no wrinkles are in them.  It is pretty effective.  I put all my clothes in a sea-bag.  That way it conserves space.” 
Barracks: Dad described their barracks:  The whole company sleeps in one big room.  There are over 130 of us.  We have beds with a lower and upper bunk.  We have six rows of bunks the length of the barracks.  There are eleven bunks in each row.  We hang our sea bags at the end of each bunk."  Dad had an upper bunk.  "It is a lot cleaner than a lower bunk."
Ship's Service:  Ships services is like a canteen.  A small store and recreation area.  You could everything you needed--laundry soap, ice cream, fountain drinks.  When they first arrived they could go to ship's twice a week, and then after after three weeks, they could go five times a week.  "We get to go over the ship's service five nights a week so it isn't too bad."
Recreation:  Dad indicated they had most evening off after 5:30.  "There was a swimming pool, in one of the drilling buildings.  They play basket in the rest of it."  "They have a bowling alley, table tennis, pool tables, and a library and play room in the recreation building also."  There were boxing bouts to watch.  They showed movies and you could go a couple times a week.  "They were all free."  There was also a U.S.O. stage show, and Dad's company got to go a second time as they were the best in drill.  Dad also played checkers with a friend from Idaho Falls, Rex Kirby.
Liberty:  Liberty was provided on an occasional basis.  Dad's company missed there first liberty.  A sailor had come down with scarlet fever and they were quarantined.  Dad went on his first liberty a couple weeks later.  "Well I had my first liberty yesterday.  I had a pretty good time.  I went into Coeur D' Alene...  About the only place to go was the U.S.O.  They had a dance there and they have a playroom and reading room.  You could buy all the candy and gum there you wanted.  They served cookies and cake...  We went out on the lake [Lake Coeur D' Alene] in a motorboat.  It was a lot of fun.
Duty: Duty was assigned tasks to a company.  On was the clearing of brush.  here was also guard duty.  One week Dad's company was assigned to guard duty all week.  The had irregular shifts, often during the night.
Medical:  They had a 2500 bed hospital at Camp Farragut.  The sailors received numerous vaccinations.  "I have gone through another physical and my arms are a little stiff from vaccinations."  "I hear you spend a bit of your first two or three weeks in the hospital getting vaccinated with everything they have."  Dad took advantage of the medical dispensary a couple of times; once with a bad cold and once with a boil on his toe which they lanced.  They also had facilities for dental work, and everyone was expected to see the dentist and get all their work done.
Training:  Different courses included drill, plane identification, cross-country, shooting, rowing, swimming, putting on you gas mask and other courses.  Everyone had to swim.  The gas mask training was with tear gas, and there were consequences if you didn't get it on fast enough.  There was also a cross country competition while my dad was there.  He competed for his company in a camp wide cross-country race and game in 22nd with a time of 13:25.  The course was a couple of miles, almost all up and down hills.
Testing:  Camp concluded with aptitude and skills tests.  My father certified as a swimmer.  However one of the purposes of the tests was to determine what course work you might be assigned to after basic training.


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