Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

August 13, 2012

Memories of Fort Knox

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

Fort Knox, Kentucky, 1944

A young boys dream to be on an Army Base!  As a ten-year old, seeing real soldiers drilling, driving tanks, and training for combat brought an excitement beyond my expectations.  As boys, we played soldiers back home . . . pretending we were in the midst of battles.  Of course, we could not comprehend the reality of war . . . injuries, death, separation from families.  But it was days of excitement for me and I would have many stories to share with my friends when I returned.

I am not sure even being on an army base brought the reality of war to my understanding.  But it was an experience I can never forget.  My father was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  In 1943 the base was renamed the Armored Replacement Training Center (ARTC).  Army personnel would spend 17 weeks here for instruction in various arms, big tank guns, tank driving and maintenance, chemical warfare, and other subjects.

With my mother and sister, we would spend some time on this base.  We traveled by train from Atlanta to Louisville, Kentucky.  I recall my father met us there and took us by taxi to a home in Louisville.  He had made arrangements for us to stay in the home of a lady for several days until we could move into base housing.  I recall the wide, winding stairs in the home.  It was a very large home, and the lady was gracious in providing temporary housing to families of service men.

In a few days, we relocated to the base.  It was a two-story building with two bedrooms, a sitting and eating area, and bath.  On the outside it was much like the barracks which accommodated the soldiers.  I do recall that my father was allowed to stay with us.

Because the base was enclosed, I was given freedom to roam . . . and roam I did.  There were some places, of course, I could not go.  I would hear the roar of the large tanks . . . and would try to see them, but I could only go so far.  Sometimes I could get a glimpse of those big tanks when they might top a hill.  But, oh, how I wanted to watch the exercises!

I always enjoyed a daily trip to the Commissary.  Many things that were difficult to find in stores back home . . . were there on shelves.  I know my mother enjoyed being able to purchase some things for family meals that she could not obtain back home.  Some candy bars that I loved . . . Mounds . . . were there and I always desired one.  Ice cream was a daily treat . . . and we were served because we lived on the base.  However, we needed to identify ourselves if we were asked.  The serial number of my father was our identification.  I had his serial number memorized . . . and could deliver it verbally without blinking.  In fact, I can still do it now . . . almost seventy year later . . . 44074640!

Fort Knox was also a site of a mass POW camp.  The primary group of prisoners were Italian . . . but about the time we were there, many German prisoners were brought to the camp.  With the coming of these prisoners, I was introduced to soccer.  I had never seen the game played.  I was allowed to sit on the hill and watch the prisoners play.  There was no fence around the field, and there would be times the soccer ball would roll close to me.  I recall so vividly that a prisoner would retrieve the ball . . . coming within several feet of where I was sitting.  I can still see a smile on the face of some of these prisoners as they looked at me.  I would smile back . . . sometimes give a little hand wave to them.  What were they thinking?  Perhaps recalling their home . . . their family . . . perhaps even a son my age from whom they were separated.

Within a short time, we would return home and my father was shipped to San Francisco for deployment over seas.  His belongings would arrive at our home shortly after we returned home.  We understood what that meant.  My Father was blessed as he was pulled from deployment at the last day.  Because of his age and some skills, he drew an assignment at the deployment base . . . but that is another story!

Our family was blessed . . . but think upon the thousands of military personnel that face the ravages of war.  Think on their families!

Why not today . . . pray for them?

Lawson

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