E Pluribus Unum - Out of Many, One

We helped Dave as he tried, without luck, to recover his service records. All we knew about his military service was what he told us. No recorded oral history was taken until August 2006, a few weeks before he died.  Jo and I were in Denver visiting him and we asked him to give us a complete oral history. Dave shared many parts of his story. His memory was clear. At 90, he had remarkable recall of events that took place more than 60 years before. In this excerpt, in his words, is the story of how he became a member of the 80th Field Artillery and Aide to Brigadier General Edmund J. Searby.

…I was called into the office and I was told that I was being transferred to the 80th Infantry Division and desert maneuvers near Iron Mountain, California and they were getting ready to take their test for overseas efficiency and their efficiency test on firing was below 50% – very poor – and I was supposed to go there and get them up to a passing grade. So I arrived at the camp and they put me in with the Headquarters Company which was the General and the staff officers of/for the artillery: S1, S2, S3, S4. S3 was operations, S2 was transportation, S1 was strategy or something, I forget. So every day I would go out with the crews and work with them. First we’d worked with a transit – I had to teach them how to read it, how to handle it, how to set it up, and how to locate a position relative to a map – we had to have a point on the map to start with that we could identify on the ground and from that point on we would locate the position of the guns. So we worked on transit. We finally got three or four crews that could do it. You see there is in the artillery – there were four battalions of guns. Each battalion had twelve guns. So each battalion had to be complete in itself as far as being able to function properly. So we worked with them and most of these kids had never been through high school or they never took math – they took the lines of least resistance so it was almost impossible to teach them how to do – algebra, calculus –  or anything related to math. So I created charts which gave them the question and the answer so they could take these in waterproof covering to the gun and in a certain elevation and a certain distance the answer was on the chart where to elevate and so forth and that worked pretty good! So we gradually worked with them and after 60 days we had a test and we got them up to about 75%. So eventually, after 5 months we were up to 95% which made us ready to go overseas.

In the meantime every night we used to play volleyball and Gen Searby was my height. As a West Pointer he was in charge – he was commanding officer of the artillery, a one star Gen, so he always teamed up with me. He picked me, so we were constantly beating all the other men because we were the two tallest guys so we’d take turns – one would stand at the net and fork it over…  So we got along fine and I had a lot of freedom because I used to take the crews out in jeeps. We’d go out on a problem we’d pick a spot and we would set up the guns and we’d pick another spot which was gonna be the target and we’d run a program where they would have to set up the guns and I would be the observer. And it was testing them the way they would be tested.

So, after we passed the tests they were told make ready and they moved us to Ft. Dix which was the point of embarkation for overseas. [Where was that?] New Jersey. So the General [Searby] called me into his tent there and he said you’re really not a part of the division here because you were sent here as an instructor on loan. But he said, if I send you back you won’t go back to the school you’ll go to an officer’s pool and you’ll probably be put into some infantry division as a forward observer. He says, the only thing I can do if you’d like to stay and go overseas with us – and I’d like to have you – is I would appoint you my second aide. My first aide is a 1st Lt. and my second is a 2nd Lt. so you would become my second aide. I says okay I’ll become your aide.

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