Frank Kotoski: A Brief Battle, A Long Day
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 Milt Moncrief: Infantryman in WW II 

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Edward Ewers: 
A Damn Yankee in the 231st AFA

by Edward Ewers
Copyright  ©  1998, Sixth Armored Division Assn. All rights reserved.


Not all World War II stories focus around combat or overseas experiences. Edward Ewers started off with the 6th Armored Division's 231st Armored Field Artillery battalion, but got transferred to another division before the Super Sixth left for Europe. His memories are of the battalion's training days in the California desert, and they are not particularly happy memories. Still, things worked out, and Ed went on to serve out a 20 year career with the army, and he's proud of his start in the 231st.

From December 1942 to June 1943 I was a private draftee from Brooklyn NY, assigned to HQ Battery of the 231st Armored Field Artillery Bn.   I was 21 years old and married. (I'm still married to same girl for 57 years as of 31 August 98.)

These incidents took place in the desert in California:  the first camp was 60 miles west of Needles, California. The second camp was Camp Coxcomb (early 43). The third camp was Camp Cooke, California (now Vandenberg Air Force Base).

Upon arrival in the Battalion, it was evident to me that I was a "Damn Yankee" (I'd never heard this term prior to going in Army), and was persona non grata.  I understood that the unit was made up of National Guard members from Florida, Missouri, and Georgia.

I had five buddies, and all of us were in the same situation:

Joseph Silverman -- a furrier from New York City
Raymond Fernandez -- from Queens NY
Charles Smith -- a grave bigger from New Jersey
Yee Gae Soo Hoo -- from New York City
James Lowe -- from New York City.

I know I did not take basic training. I was given close order drill and told how to carry a rifle (every three days because there were not enough for everyone) and it was decided that we would all learn more by being assigned to a battery. I was assigned as a radio operator (low speed) to a half track that did not have a radio.

I attended the usual training classes, watched a few movies, and was assigned any detail that came along. I was permanent Battalion police out in Camp Cooke prior to my departure in June 43.

Desert Camp Coxcomb

One day 1st Sgt. Wolfe assigned Joe Silverman and me to a coal detail. We were driven out to a railroad siding where there was a closed box car full of soft coal and we were to load up a 2 1/2 ton truck and return to Camp.  We could not manually open the door -- it was stuck tight.  We had the driver put the winch chain on it in an effort to open the door.  The driver backed up and the whole box car started to roll.

I climbed on the box car, applied the brake, and stop the car. Joe and I went into the car; it must of been a hundred and ten degrees in there. So we shoveled the coal through an opening of 18 inches to 24 inches in all that heat and dust. You can imagine our condition when we were finished.  Hot, sweaty, and covered with coal dust from head to toe. We looked like hell.

Upon return to Camp we had to shovel the coal off the truck. I don't remember even having supper that night.  But here is the good part -- there was no water for us to wash up with.  First Sgt. Wolf thought this was funny.  "You Yankees will have to work something out" or words to the effect.  He was a real leader.  This was a real joke to lots of people.

So Joe and yours truly came up with some Yankee ingenuity.  As the sun was going down we infiltrated the area out behind the road where mess tents (kitchens) were all lined up.  We observed the guard that was on duty and timed our approach when he was on the opposite side -- we made four trips to a firing battery water supply and we made off with four cans of water. I figure about 20 gallons in all. After withdrawing a safe distance, Joe and I had the pleasure of a nice bath and it was great.  We were asked how we got so clean -- the "you know what" hit the fan in the morning when the kitchen did not have water for coffee. First Sgt. Wolf never mentioned our asking him for water.

Another incident

Not funny, but worth mentioning.

We had been out to the range -- fired our weapons (if you had one), then returned to camp. We had a formation, and were told: "Someone is holding some ammunition; turn it in now!" No one moved.  Then  we were ordered to get gas masks and ordered to "double time" up and down the area in front of tents. We did a few times, then a few men fell down and others just stopped.  I stopped too. Then we were told it's OK, because someone could not add. There was no shortage.

A third  incident

I could not buy a container of chocolate milk because I was a Yankee.  This was in the canteen and
I was in the same Army.

Camp Cooke

I was ordered to show up at Division Guard mount at the last minute. Sgt. Wolf selected me; I was to go.  I said "I'm not familiar with it, never fired it", etc. He said "Tell them you have".  I reported, and at inspection of the guard a 2nd Lt. asked, "Anyone here not familiar with his weapon"? Honest Ed said "I am not".  "What are you doing here?"  So I repeated what the 1st Sergeant had said.  Naturally I was replaced and Sgt. Wolf had to send one of his buddies.

World War II -- 1942 - 1945

These were trying times. The draft brought all kinds of people together: rich, poor, educated,  uneducated, different races, cultures, the whole bit. No one was prepared for all of these different people to be put in the same pot.  North vs. South, East vs. West, city people vs. country folk.  Attitudes -- how can anyone expect a person to change in a few days, weeks, or months?  All we knew was what we knew.

What a challenge it was -- and history has proved we did learn to work together -- and if nothing else to tolerate each other. We individuals as a nation are still learning and we have a long way to go. Perhaps someday we will really be "united" as in the USA.

Regardless of my having such a negative experience early in my career, I am proud to tell anyone that I started with the 231st Field Artillery Battalion in the 6th Armored Division. I learned while there and I learned through the rest of my twenty years in the Army. The Army was good to me and for me. I met many many fine men. 99% were outstanding in the performance of their duties.  Men who cared!  I completed my high school education in the Army.  I have two years of college credits, am a retired Army officer, and am proud of my contribution to the Army.

I have had great jobs and assignments, and have met people from all the world.

1.  Was a driver for the U.N. in the first general assembly in New York City.

2.  U.S. Army recruiter in Brooklyn NY for three years

3.  Served in Austria as first lieutenant for three years.

4.  Assigned II Corps in New York City.

5.  Managed clothing sales store in Okinawa 1956 - 1958.  Both children born there.

6.  Germany: Munich, Dachau.

7.  Managed upholstery shop -- traveled in Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Japan, and Okinawa.

I am thankful that I am a survivor.  I have a family, grandchildren, and all is well.  Oct. 31, 1998 I will be retired 35 years -- and it all started with the 231st and 6th Armored.

 Frank Kotoski: A Brief Battle, A Long Day
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 Milt Moncrief: Infantryman in WW II 

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