Reflections: Life of an Army recruit in 1941


By Evelyn Long - Contributing Columnist



Exactly 80 years ago, July 3, 1941, the following column was printed in the Morrow County Independent. It was submitted by Louis Shaffer, a 1938 Cardington High School graduate who had been drafted into the U S Army.

Shaffer agreed to share with readers his experience during that first week. But in order to keep the story within space guidelines, I will omit some parts.

“I left Mt. Gilead with two other boys on June 17 and arrived in Columbus where we were met by a truck and taken to Fort Hayes. I was made leader of the group from Morrow County. At Fort Hayes we did nothing but sit around but sat in the reception center waiting on my name to be called.

When it was called I had to take my physical exam. The next morning we were awakened at 5 a.m. when I took a mental exam which consisted of meanings of words and counting groups of blocks. The blocks took forms of circles after looking at them for hours.”

Shaffer said the next morning they received three shots, one in the right arm and two in the left. Later, they were given a lecture on court martial and the articles of war. They were told they were leaving for California the next day which led to the arrival of his father, mother, Chester Shaffer and Pauline Gartin.

He was surprised that while on their way to the train, the following friends and classmates came to see him off: Leon Shaffer, Sandy Haycook, Pete Williams, Russell Patterson, Ruth Reed and Moneta Smith all walked with him to the train.

Louis gives a detailed description of the train ride and the sights he saw passing through Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah and finally California.

He quoted some of the fellow inductees as follows:

“Think of it, one man, Hitler, causing all of this,” or “I can’t see how they will make a soldier out of me,” Is this all a dream or a nightmare,” “51 weeks to go,” or “I thought Ohio was a poor state, but let me go back and I’ll never think that way again.”

Shaffer said there were 23,000 men at the camp, Camp Roberts. “We had to walk one and one half miles to get to the camp,” he said.

They expected to have 50,000 men in the camp. Shaffer was in the 90th Infantry. According to Editor Conaway, Shaffer was to keep the readers informed of his Army career by sending letters to the paper.

More news from the past:

July, 1941: A new Lockheed bomber aircraft bound for England crashed on the LeRoy Foust farm, two miles southwest of Cardington on U.S. Route 42 on July 24 at 3:22 p.m. Both pilots were killed.

July, 1971: Barbara Gompf, a senior at Cardington-Lincoln High School, placed third in the 4-H District Safety speech contest.

July, 1981: Rusty Knauber, a 1980 Cardington-Lincoln High School graduate, graduated from a diesel engine school in Cleveland He was employed in New Mexico.

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By Evelyn Long

Contributing Columnist