Home‎ > ‎


Local Board No. 2 of the Honolulu Selective Service System sent me a draft notice one week before I was scheduled to begin my graduate work (1951) at University of Hawaii, and employment as a Teaching Assistant for Botany 100, General Botany.  Dr. Harold St. John, Botany Department chairman, wrote to the draft board stating that if Al was drafted, "the University of Hawai‘i would not be able to offer certain required courses," so the Board granted Al a student deferment.  In those days, the Botany laboratories meet twice weekly (three hours each week, in room 101, Dean Hall (picture on right).  There were three lab sections, taught by three TAs (Ken Wilson, Gary Kikudome, and myself).  
After four years of graduate work in Botany, two years at UH, and two at the University of Michigan ([with a shared office near the loading dock of the Natural Science Building (picture on left), now known as Edward Henry Kraus Building; Botany now is part of the Biology Department, and 
the School of Forestry & Conservation, which once occupied a large portion of the building,  is now known as the School for Environment & Sustainability, 
and has relocated to the Dana Building) with a student deferment, the Board (1955) refused to give me any more time (unlike today's volunteer Army, military service was then, before 1972,  mandatory).  I had completed my course work and all the exams for a doctorate, but had only made preliminary research for my dissertation (a taxonomic study of a Western genus, since I had a summer job as a Ranger-Naturalist at Glacier National Park in Montana) at UM. Under these extenuating circumstances,and not wishing to be drafted in the middle of the semester, after I had paid my tuition and fees,  

I "volunteered" to be drafted into the U.S. Army, and had four months' basic training in D Company D of the 25th Infantry Division's Training Battalion at Schofield Barracks on O'ahu.  I almost had to repeat the training because of my adverse reaction to the flu shot (I was totally disabled for two weeks).  I had a few days of leave upon completing my infantry training. I was sent overseas, first from Honolulu's Army Pier 40 to the Oakland Army Pier, and then by slow airplane (DC-3) to Fort Dix NJ.  
I was assigned a bunk in the enlisted men's quarters (vertical rows of five bunks each) of the USNS General William O. Darby (A-TP-127) (picture on left), from thBrooklyn Army Terminal, NY to Bremerhaven, Germany.  Fortunately I had my camera (Kine-Exacta SLR) with me, and some high school and college journalism, and typing experience, listed in my 201 file.  I was told to put out the ship's daily newsletter in an office on deck (with fresh air), and the seamen were kind enough to provide me with a thin mattress to put on the desks, so I wouldn't have to return to the cramped and very smell cargo compartment to sleep. After a train trip to the Nürnberg Haupbahnhof, I was assigned to the 371st Armored Infantry Battalion (AIB) in Merrell Barracks (formerly the SS Kaserne, containing rooms sized for one to eight soldiers, with wood parquet floors!) in Nürnberg, Germany.   My camera and 201 file, as well as my master's degree,  led to my 
first assignment, on special duty as a Public Information Specialist in the
headquarters of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR)
instead of being an infantryman, whose daily duties would have involved mud games with the 371st AIB..  In Operation Gyroscope, the 3rd ACR replaced the 2nd ACR in August 1955,  with duties of border surveillance [1st Battalion in Bindlach bei Bayreuth (I was subsequently given complimentary tickets to the Wagner Festival by his granddaughter); 2nd Battalion in Warner Barracks, Bamberg; the 3rd Battalion in the Pond Barracks, Amberg]; and the 371st AIB and the the 3rd ACR regimental headquarters in Merrell Barracks, Nürnberg, Federal Republic of Germany.  Two of my colleagues in the then Public Information Section were journalism graduates (Jack McCafferty had worked for United  Press International, and Fred Lachman for the Seattle Times), and mentored me.  I improved my journalistic skills by studying all of their text books, plus all the available books on the subject from Amerika Haus, which was then part of the U. S. Information Agency, in downtown Nürnberg.  This self-study was 
Photo: A US soldier and a member of the German Customs Police peer across the border just inside the 50-meter restricted zone. Circa 196probably equivalent to a BA in Journalism [by coincidence, our oldest daughter is an Associate Professor in the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University (the premier school in this field), has a Department of Defense contract to provide in-service training to Public Affairs Specialists, and the school is also a "field team" for ESPN. She is also one of the North American representatives developing a cooperative effort with a consortium of 20 European universities.].  When Jack and Fred completed their tours of duty Map 8: Major Locations For Border Unitfor return to CONUS (Continental United States) and subsequent discharge from the Army, I was promoted to Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of the Public Affairs Section, which included higher ranking non-coms.  My actual military occupational specialty (MOS) was as a heavy machine gun (50 mm.) operator in the 371st AIB.  Since several incidents by military members against the local community created problems, the Seventh US Army Commanding General (Bruce C. Clarke) emphasized the importance of German-American relations.  While I had passed my German reading exam at the University of Michigan, there is a considerable difference between written German (it goes on for pages and pages, with the verb at the end of this several paged sentence) and spoken German.  My first assignment in Germany was to deliver some TV equipment, by train, to a pier in Hamburg.  On the way back, I was in the Dining Car, and following European customs, a young German accountant (Rainier Wilcke) asked if he could join me at my table.  We were required, when we were on duty outside of the barracks, to be in "Class 'A' dress uniforms.  He asked me. "How do you like Germany?"  I told him that I had been in the country only a few days and was unable to form an opinion.  He inivted me to have dinner with him a couple of weekends later, and gave me directions on how to get there by train.  His fiancee did not understand English, so he translated everything from English to German, and vice versa.  With regular dinner invitations, I began to remember some of my German language lesson, and in three months, my German had improved.  
I also made acquaintances with other local residents, E.U. Fromm, editor-in-chief of the Nürnberger Zeitung, policemaWolfgang and Annamarie Bunke, and many others.  I eventually became fluent in German, and speak with a Middle Franconian (Mittelfranken) accent.  I also served as the interpreter for the regimental commander (Col. Robert McCabe)   When my good friend, Armin Schikora, then assistant city editor for the Nürnberger Nachrichten wrote a full page feature story (see the newspaper reproductions below; this feature article may also be found as scanned attachments 1957-03-23, a, b) about Germans who had come back as GI's (draftees), he included a photo of me (picture on left, and lower right corner of the second clipping) with my office soldier colleague, Klaus Wassermann (Klaus is also in the center of the large photo showing the German GIs leaving Merrell Barracks).  

I also met an Italian Gastarbeiter, Pino Mancinelli, and went with him to his home in Rome, which gave me an introduction to the enjoyable and relaxed life in Rome.  When I returned to the States, we exchanged Christmas cards, but then lost contact with each other.  Seventeen years later, we rediscovered each other in Rome, with his apartment across the hall from ours!

Upon completion of my active duty requirement, I decided to take an overseas discharge and remained in Nürnberg, until I was employed as a Technical Administrative Assistant with the Machine Records Branch,
European Exchange Service (EES) in Katterbach bei Ansbach/Mfr., Germany.  This branch was known in German as the Hollerith-Abteilung, and was responsible for the EES inventories, using the latest computer equipment: IBM 402 and 407 accounting machines, and IBM 602 and 604 calculators (punched cards), and had four US and 150 German employees.  The section head, Milt Hornbostel, taught me how to wire boards (control panels).  Unfortunately the EES Commander in Nürnberg decided a year-and-a-half later to have a reduction-in-force (RIF), and since I was the most recent US employee, I had to return to CONUS.  

I left Bremerhaven on the same MSTS ship which brought me to Germany, the USNS General William O. Darby (A-TP-127).  This time, however, I was in the colonel's quarters, since the other American passengers were lower grade school teachers.  I transferred to the Army & Air Force Exchange (AAFES) headquarters, which was then in New York, as Senior Tabulating Operator.  A few months later I was transferred to the Plant Quarantine Division, Agriculture Research Service, U S. Department of Agriculture (PQD-ARS-USDA). 
 I subsequently found that my knowledge of the German language to be very useful in my international jobs (1975-78 and 1982-88), since German is the "secomd language" (much to the sorrow and indignation of the French) in Europe.                                       (Nov. 13, 2017)

Al Keali'i Chock,
Sep 26, 2014, 8:46 PM
Al Keali'i Chock,
Sep 26, 2014, 8:30 PM
Al Keali'i Chock,
Sep 26, 2014, 8:52 PM