On Valentines Day, February 14th, 1944 as I boarded a train at the York Railroad Station, I was about to embark on a journey that would span the United States and two continents across the Atlantic Ocean. After signing up for aviation cadet, training at the York Post Office Air Corps Recruiting Center, which assured that I would be assigned to the Air Corps, I was told I would be notified by the draft board, and be inducted with a quota of draftees. As it turned out, two friends of mine who had enlisted in the Navy received train tickets from York to Harrisburg, Pa. on the same day as I.. In downtown Harrisburg I boarded a bus to the New Cumberland Army Reception Center and I assume the Navy recruits headed in another direction, as they ended up at Great Lakes Training Center for boot camp.
At New Cumberland we were issued GI clothes, shoes, and barracks bags and became privates in the U.S. Army, to wait for orders to ship for basic training. One evening before we left, my parents and younger brother visited before I left New Cumberland.
On the 17th of February I boarded a train headed for Miami Beach, Florida, where I was to serve my basic training. There were approximately thirty recruits from southeastern Pennsylvania and we stayed together throughout our stay in Miami Beach. There were two of us from York, the rest from Hanover, Philadelphia, McConnelsburg, Wilkes-Barre, Milton and, many places in between. The trip took two days and we arrived at Miami Beach on the 18 of February.
Our quarters in Miami Beach was Belmar Hotel, which along with many others, had been taken over by the Army Air Corps, and was located on Collins Avenue and 26th Street, and was between Collins Avenue and the Beach. At the time there was a broadwalk which resembled flagstone and was several blocks long. This became our assembly area every morning, where we would "fall out" for roll call, before going to breakfast.
We were assigned to rooms alphabetically, as was common in the army, and I was assigned to room 601, which was on the sixth floor overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It was a large room and six GI's were fellow boarders. Roommates were Jack Barry and John Blickly from Philadelphia, Keen Buss from Easton, Charles Campbell from Bethlehem, and Paul Callahan from Wilkes-Barre.
Our training NCO's were buck Sergeant Bell and Corporal Iderolla. Two very nice guys. We were their kids for six weeks.
Our training areas were the beach for PT and two golf courses, which also were taken over by the Army, where we practiced close order drill, and the manual of arms, how to handle a rifle, dry firing, which I never understood, and at the end of every session, policing the area.
To get to the golf courses we marched through the streets, and sang songs as directed by our NCO's. We also marched to a government controlled movie theater where we had lectures and movies on the articles of war~ medical subjects, intelligence and quite a few more subjects.
The big days were the testing days for aviation cadet training. Two days were written exams and a full day of physical exams. At that time aviation cadet schools were full and those with some college education were selected to go to on the line training at various airfields around the country, and many of them never got to flight school. Aerial gunners were needed and that was why the majority of us were assigned to gunnery school.
Before basic training was over we were sent out on a bivouac for three or four days to practice what we learned in basic training. We were loaded on trucks, taken to the north end of the island, and then with full packs marched to the bivouac area, that was covered with camouflage netting, to simulate battle conditions. During this time we would sleep in pup tents which were part of our back-packs each one carried a shelter half, two men assembled their halves and the tent slept two men. We wore helmets, carried canteens and mess kits, drew water out of lister bags and had a few meals of k-rations. A forced march got everyone up during the middle of the night. We had lectures on survival, aircraft identification and other subjects. During this time we were supposed to stay out of sight of any aircraft flying overhead, of which there were many, as there was a naval air station not too far away. This was the end of our basic training.