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Serving Uncle Sam: A Military Life in WWll

Gerald Schwartz USAAC (USAAF) 1940 - 1945


Chapter 111: Headed for Fort Dix. Discharge. Homecoming. Love of My Life. That's All Folks!

Aug 24,1945 West Palm Beach, Florida This morning we loaded on board a train headed for Fort Dix, New Jersey. It contained only coaches with no sleeping or dining accommodations, which made for an uncomfortable journey since it took 24 hours. Occasionally someone came around with soft drinks and sandwiches Those of us who had bottles of whiskey in our duffel bags were able to better cope with the heat (no air conditioning), and boredom of the trip. We arrived the following morning at Fort Dix and were quite happy to debark from the train. We were picked up and trucked to an in transit barracks.

Aug 25, 1945 Fort Dix, New Jersey The next several days were spent getting physical examinations and being brought up to date with our shots and service records. We idled away the hours playing ping pong, reading, and relaxing.

Aug 28, 1945. I was interviewed by a major, who asked me if I wanted to remain in the Army Air Corps. He said that all the ratings issued from the day war was declared were only temporary, and that six months after war’s end the present grades would revert back to that of Dec 7,1942. On that date I was a Private First Class! Since I now was a Staff Sergeant, it meant that in another 6 months I would become a Private First Class once more! I would have remained in the Army Air Corps had I been able to retain my rank of Staff Sergeant. Returning to the rank of Private First Class was not a viable option for me!

In addition, six months after war’s end most soldiers were to be discharged under a general demobilization. So I told the major that under these conditions I wanted to be discharged. He sent me outside to get into a line to apply for discharge. When I got to speak with the Sergeant and told him I wanted a discharge, he asked me for my Army Serial Number. I told him it was 12020434 whereupon he told me to get into a different line. When I asked why, he said that this line was for Draftee’s and that they would be on the active reserve for 6 years after discharge. This meant that they could be recalled to active duty should any national emergency arise. Since I was in the Army of the United States (and not the 'American Army'), to be discharged I had to sign a special book in order not to be on the active reserve. I went to the other line and signed that book and was told that the only way the Army could recall me was by drafting me!

Aug 29, 1945 I was interviewed by the major again, and this time he took all the information necessary to prepare my discharge papers. He referred to my service record also, and told me that I could pick up my discharge papers the next morning.

That night, while I was in bed I was surprised to be awakened by my brother Murray. He had just returned from Germany the week before, and was already discharged. It was a great reunion as you can imagine, since I had not seen him in four years! He had been a forward observer in a Field Artillery Battalion and had served in France and Germany.

Aug 30, 1945 This morning I picked up my discharge papers, and got on a bus headed for New York City. At the uptown bus terminal in New York I took the Brighton Beach Express to Brooklyn and arrived in the afternoon. When I rang the doorbell at the front door, a boy opened it and asked me what I wanted. I said 'I live here' whereupon he asked 'Who are you?' so I told him my name. He said "I live here too, I am your brother Melvin'! I was somewhat shocked by this because the last time I saw him he was a lot smaller and more immature.

I had returned home after five years in the US Army Air Corps. 37 months of which were spent in combat in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Corsica. My parents (Gussie and Alex) were quite overcome to see me again, and I was happy to be home once more, permanently! They had held off on a Welcome Home party for my brother Murray, expecting me to come home shortly. So it was that the party for both of us was held several days later, on Labor Day. There for the first time I met Doris Wendorf with whom I had been corresponding for three years. Her mother was Annie Wendorf, who was the older sister of Harry Belove. Harry Belove was married to my mother’s sister Tobe. Thus Doris and I had the same uncle and aunt, yet we were not cousins. There was no doubt in my mind, that we would be married some day soon.

On May 19, 1946 (the next year), as my brother Murray and Ruth Breaker were exchanging their wedding vows, I slipped an engagement ring on Doris’s finger and we were engaged. The same September 22nd we were married in her home in South River, New Jersey.

I have included the above part pertaining to my marriage to Doris Wendorf, because it is part of my homecoming. Did I make the right move in deciding to marry a woman the first time I saw her? You can judge for yourself. As I write this in September 2005, we have just celebrated our 59 wedding anniversary. We have produced two fine sons who have graced us with fine wives and 5 grandchildren! As Walt Disney’s Donald Duck says, “That’s all Folks” !!

Gerald Schwartz

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