Legionnaire of the Month
As we near the end of featuring the WW II Vets from Post 23 I want to again indicate if there are other stories that should be told, give me a call. If there are other WW II Vets who were in Germany or South Pacific, please let me know as we do not want to leave anyone out.
This month’s WW II Vet is Charles Warren. Charlie is the only Vet I interviewed who almost had to “fight” before he even got in the Service. You will read more about that later. I will avoid getting on my “soap box” about Government Discrimination and their fine example of “do what I say and not what I do” (my career included telling some employers that it was illegal to discriminate against people with disabilities).
But on with Charlie’s story. He was born on March 22, 1925 and attended the first 3 years of school in Sherman. Charlie still vividly recalls the big fire—“it looked like the entire town was burning and it almost did. If it were not for extra hose from neighboring towns and pumping water by hand out of Split Rock Creek, the entire town would have been burned to the ground.” Charles finished his schooling from the 4th grade through 12th grades in Garretson graduating in 1943.
Like the rest of his classmates he knew that the war would be waiting for him after graduation. He was ready to serve, boarding a bus load with 50 others traveling to Ft. Snelling to take their physicals. To his great disappointment he was classified 4F. A visual impairment that he had all his life was going to prevent him from serving his country. Most potential military careers would end there but but not for Charlie. He was very disappointed and wanted to join his classmates and serve his country. He was determined and ready to “fight to get in the service”. He talked about his situation with John Sanders. John suggested he try to enlist again as 1A (L) (Limited Duty—a classification available during WW I and WW II). And so he did just that. This time it worked and he was accepted into the Army and sent to Aberdeen Proving Grounds for basic training. “They ran some tests and the Army said I had ‘mechanical aptitude’ and trained me to be a mechanic. I hated it! Most of the others guys had been mechanics before coming in the service and knew what they were doing. I told them I’d rather be a cook or do anything else but no one listened.”
“About this time my dad became ill and I was given a leave to come home. I was 18 and recall visiting him in the hospital. We both had tears in our eyes as we said good byes and assured each other that we’d meet up again when I was discharged. But we both knew better and we never did see each other alive again.”
“Next they sent me to Camp Biel, California which was a staging area before going overseas. Eventually I went to Seattle and boarded a ship for Oahu. It was a long rough ‘salty’ ride but I never got sea sick. I was assigned to the 13th Replacement Depot to be later assigned as needed. Evidently we were not needed as we stayed there with little to do. The most excitement I saw was one day when they had us plant trees at an abandoned artillery range. There were a lot of ‘unspent rounds’ and we were told to stay 10 ft away from them. One guy didn’t listen and after stepping on a shell, he never had to plant another tree. I’ve always wondered how many of those trees grew and if the shells are still there?”
“They needed more truck drivers then mechanics so I started helping out driving 6x6 for 114th Signal Service Battalion Motor Pool. They said I was doing a good job and ask me if I wanted to be a regular driver so I jumped at the chance. But when they said I had to pass an eye test I knew I was in trouble. When I went to take my eye test they said, no way can you be a truck driver (even if I had been doing a good job at it). Eventually I ended up in FT. Kam and again had little to do. One day they ask me if I could type and I said I SURE CAN (I had 2 years of typing in High School). So for the next year and a half I worked my way up the ranks in Supply and was discharged as a ‘Chief Supply Sergeant’. This was a good job with good benefits. I had a driver assigned to me; we were well fed with a mess hall that had good food 24/7. I even did some moonlight bartending in the PX. When it was time to be discharged I had several very good offers to re-enlist but I wanted to go back home. Instead of riding rough seas and salt water waves I boarded a C-54 and landed in San Rafael, Calif. After some R&R I boarded a 1st class Sleeper Train to Ft. Leavenworth where I was discharged in March of 46. From there I took another train and eventually ended up all the way to Garretson (they called it the “Galloping Goose”).
“After returning home I worked at the Hatchery and for various farmers. Eventually I took a job for $.65hr at the Creamery in SF. I had enough money in my pockets to get married and Ardyce Martin was the one for me. Together we raised 3 girls and 1 boy. I had worked my way up to $1 an hour at the Creamery. Every time I went to get a haircut it cost me a dollar. I thought to myself, why I can do 2 or 3 haircuts and hour! So I enrolled in barber school in 1950. After school I had to do a 2 year internship in Huron. After that I worked in Lake Preston and eventually opened my own shop ‘Jets Barber Shop’ in Sioux Falls. In 1965 the military came out with a new program ‘Try One’ to encourage enlistment in the guards. I talked with them and they said I could start out in supply and start out with my old rank and pay grade. This sounded like a really good deal--good pay and good benefits. It was probably the best job I ever had and after 20 years I was able to retire at the age of 60.” After Charlie’s wife passed away he moved to Sioux City and through “THEOS” (They Help Each Other Spiritually) he met his 2nd wife Alma Van Ravensway. They continue to reside in Sioux City.
When ask if Charlie had any advice for young people and the military he said—“If you are at all interested, check it out. They offer good pay, good training and better benefits then most employers”. Charlie was active in the American Legion in Huron, Lake Preston and the VFW in Sioux Falls. He transferred his membership from Sioux City to Garretson as this is where his roots were. Charlie said, “My dad was Commander here in 1931 and although I never was, my son Steve will be carrying on the tradition”. Charlie’s determination is proof that if one door is closed, with persistence, you can open another door that may be even better. Charlie closed our interview by saying “I really wanted to serve my country and do my part. Although I never got shot at I was willing to do that if needed. I guess I was just lucky”. Thanks Charles for your many years of military service and ongoing membership in various American Legion Posts. It is good to have you back home in Post 23.