Most of this article is based on things I could remember or excerpts from letters I had written relatives. Most of the letters I had written home from wherever I was were returned to me. Letters also triggered memories that I would have forgotten entirely. Timewise, this article is based mostly on dates of these letters and in some cases on other papers relating to my military service.
I was inducted into the U S Army and sworn in on Friday, May 29, 1942 at the Elks Club on Water Street in Binghamton, NY, along with the rest of a contingent of men from the southern tier of New York. We were formed into a platoon in front of the Elks Club and marched to the Erie Railroad Station about 2 blocks away. A newspaper picture in the Binghamton Press of this platoon included me. There we boarded a coach for the trip to Buffalo and bussed to the reception center at Ft. Niagara. We arrived there at about dusk and were taken to a barricks, and an opportunity to clean up, and a cot to sleep on temporarily prior to processing.. From here on it was wait and see. After a couple of days we were taken to the Quartermaster and issued our military clothing. which in our case was summer uniforms: uniforms, underwear, socks, shoes, caps, towels, all khaki colored, bedding and toilet articles including razor, shaving brush and soap, a fatigue outfit and a jacket „ 2 pairs of everything.. Everything smelled like moth balls. After getting these items we now had to wait around for days. At this time we were not assigned to any unit and each day we had to get up and be in formation right after reveille was sounded by a bugler. This was a daily routine. And you were required to be on time.The roll was called to see that we were present. Then we could go to breakfast at 7 AM.
At this point we were known as “casuals” Our records were apparently being reviewed – what kind of work did we do as civilians, and the test scores for IQ. We were restricted to the Reception Center – couldn’t get passes to leave the base during this period. At about 8 AM we had to report to a designated area for our daily duty assignments. These were just for the purpose of keeping us busy. And again a roll was called. Once you were selected for an assignment names would be called out and you had to report to some particular area.
One morning we were late in getting up and in formation and were assigned various duties like cleaning latrines and picking up cigarette butts and any other scraps of paper known as policing the area. From then on we got up on time.
Fort Niagara is located about 14 miles from Niagara Falls, NY and 35 or so miles from Buffalo. When the weather is nice its a nice scenic place along the shore of the Niagara River where it flows into Lake Ontario. Where it enters the lake there is a Coast Guard station and the river current is swift and strong. Also located at this point is Old Fort Niagara, probably built some time in the 1600s. There is also a lighthouse equipped with a fog horn. The fog horn is especially annoying when it blows all night long when there is foggy weather. And our living areas are very close by.
We continued our processing on a daily basis lining up for protective shots such as smallpox, tetanus and typhoid. I didn’t have much reaction to any of these other than a mild soreness in the arm which lasted only for a couple of days.. As the processing continued we began to get the feeling that maybe some of us might be assigned to this Post .
Anyway, I’ve been exploring the area here. On weekends we would explore Old Fort Niagara. It was a French outpost way back in the 1600’s. It has interesting history and overlooks Lake Ontario where the Niagara River enters the lake. It’s a place we can go and relax and study its history. Other places we can go here is the Post Exchange (PX) and purchase things like candy bars, toilet articles, and a variety of other items that we need. And there is a theatre, modern, and shows the latest movies. At times during our training we have to go there and watch training films
We had a guy in our barracks who was the worst snorer I’d ever heard. He goes up and down the scale and was almost as good as a fog horn. Had trouble getting to sleep on his first night in the barracks, but we seemed to get used to it and eventually fell asleep In the first couple of weeks here some of us were granted furloughs for a few days and allowed us to go home wearing our new summer uniforms. For me, this meant taking the bus to Buffalo and taking, a Lackawanna train from there back to Binghamton When we returned we were soon assigned to tents with wood platforms. It was meant for making room to handle the influx of new arrivals. Since this was warm weather they were quite comfortable.. It was a tent city as you can see from the picture. Here’s some info on what it’s like around here. There is a small post theater where you can go to a movie for 20 cents. There is a USO club and you can buy sodas, sandwiches, ice cream, etc. It has a large lounge room where you can play cards, write letters, read, or just relax to go home
From a letter to Wilson & Helen I wrote on June 28, 1942 “We have a fellow who is in this tent is in class 1A when it comes to snoring, and he advanses to class 1A+ after he has a few beers. He goes right up and down the scale when he snores. The first night he came in I had a job getting to sleep, but by the next I was used to it. Since I’ve come back we have transferred to the tents which are quite comfortable at this time of the year.”
The Bell Airacobra, the one the fires a cannon through its nose is made in Niagara Falls not far from here. They fly over our firing range firing the canno and 50 calibre machine guns out into the lake. They are low and noisy.
I’m looking forward to getting a weekend pass and go to Niagara Falls to see the Falls. We can take a bus from Youngstown which is just outside the Post. It’s kind of monotonous here on week ends. That will change if I ever get assigned to some unit to work in and comes with more priveleges.
I’ve found the Post Library, the USO Club and the theatre since I came back and usually spend my evenings at one of these places. The library is prety much up-to-date, having the latest books, magazines, etc. The theatre is air conditioned and the admission if just 20 cents. At the USO Club you can buy sodas, sandwiches, ice cream, etc., and they have a large lounge where you can sit and write letters, read, or play cards or just sit.
“We’ve just put the tent flaps down for the night and although the sun is pretty high yet and being early in the evening, it’s becoming real warm in here. Howard’s mother-in-law and her daughter were up here last Sunday and found me watching a ball game. They were lucky to find me because we don’t stick around the tents during the day on Sunday, and that is because some corporal or sergeant may come in want you to do something. Nobody likes to do anything on Sunday. It’s getting too hot to continue writing and haven’t got much more to write about just now anyway.”
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but during the summer of 1942 I received my assignment to the Records Section. That would be my duty while I was at Fort Niagara Reception Center. And now I would have more priveleges such as passes off the post at non-duty times. A little more freedom! The job itself kept me quite busy processing records for incoming recruits. Work was all day from 8 AM to 4 or 5 PM.
– Russell F Wadsworth