Army made Bob an officer and a gentleman

Army made Bob an officer and a gentleman by Bob Karolevitz I read in the papers that something like a thousand World War II veterans die every day.

Good grief! I'm one of them!

Does that mean that I'm slipping and sliding on that imaginary banana peel called life?

Actually, it seems like it was just yesterday that I boarded the train in Brookings with the rest of my volunteer buddies for the trip to Fort Snelling in neighboring Minnesota.

We didn't know then that it would be three and a half years before we could shed that uniform and become "Ruptured Ducks" in civies again. (Incidentally, "Ruptured Ducks" is what we returnees were known as, and they gave us a lapel pin to prove our service.)

From Snelling we were sent south to Texas, to Camp Wolters near Mineral Wells, which we referred to as Venereal Wells. There we were scheduled for 14 weeks of infantry basic training, and I was assigned to an anti-tank battalion.

We learned to shoot a 37-millimeter gun on wheels, only to find out that the bullets we so accurately fired would just bounce off of German tanks. So we switched to 57-millimeter guns which we soon discovered were too big for our range.

The tracer bullets from the 57s started fires all over the place, so instead of shooting at our moving targets, we spent a lot of time fighting incendiary blazes of scrub oak, Johnson grass and chaparral.

My sojourn in the Lone Star State was anything but joyful. When our training cycle was extended to 17 weeks, we became a very angry bunch. We were mad enough to fight anybody.

I just missed going to the brig myself when I came to attention, and clicked my heels, for a new second lieutenant � while flat on my back. He was furious, and then our platoon leader � a Morman officer from Utah � stepped between me and the little lieutenant, and said: "Karolevitz, shut up."

He announced that "he would take care of me," thus saving me from a court martial. Take care of me, he did, and I spent the weekend on kitchen police instead of harsher punishment.

(Sorry to say, my benefactor was struck by lightning on our parade ground and died shortly after.)

Because of that incident, I got so I hated second lieutenants, but � wouldn't you know? � I eventually became one. Before that, though, I got into more than my share of trouble, so the Army made me "an officer and a gentleman" just to keep me out of mischief.

Come to think of it, it's surprising that I lived so long and that wonderful Mormon officer died so young. Oh, there are many more stories I could tell, like the time I was assigned to do an inventory of the kitchen.

The mess sergeant caught me counting the navy beans � I think I was up to 10,837 at the time � and I was about to start on the raisins when he put a stop to it.

Or when I was nabbed by the military police in Dallas for being "out of uniform" � but I won't bore you with that one.

I was a pretty good boy in the Philippines, the occupation of Japan and my recall for service in Korea a few years later, but then I was getting a little older and wiser.

Now I just hope that the newspaper articles about the fate of fellow World War II vets is wrong. I'm not ready to go!

© 2003 Robert F. Karolevitz

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