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Basic Training (Boot Camp) During WWII

Discussion in 'WWII' started by green papaya, May 3, 2007.

  1. Martinis at 8

    Martinis at 8 Practically Family

    For WW2 I don't really know. But generally, I feel that most basic military training schools have been watered down over the last two decades. Sources tell me that Navy boot camp is the most sissified now of all the Basics. Dunno, I was in the Army. I went to Ranger school also, and sources tell me it is sissified also compared with what I went through in '81. I did Airborne school in '78, my son did it last year. From what I saw/heard it sounded the same to me. I got to pin my old wings on him, and see his final jumps. They made a big deal about dads coming to pin wings on their children.

  2. MisterCairo

    MisterCairo I'll Lock Up

    Gadshill, Ontario
    A photo of my father during an early phase of training (this is May 1939, British Territorial Army). He is indicated by the arrow. Taken at Burmondsey, south London.

    You will note the clothes and shoes! They look civilian, but they are similarly dressed, perhaps a form of what we would call in the Canadian forces now "work dress". Looks like a corporal doing the instruction.


    Last edited: Sep 27, 2017
  3. 52Styleline

    52Styleline A-List Customer

    SW WA
    Middle sixties-Vietnam buildup- Navy boot camp gave recruits plenty of exercise not much (except whale boat racing) very demanding...just a good work out. Our Company commander was a nice guy, good at motivating sailors without abuse. Other CC's relied more on intimidation. Basic in the Navy, at least back then, was about developing basic sailor skills you would need in the fleet. Looking back, I would say that it was designed to acclimate recruits to work closely together and get along in restricted (meaning lack of space) living and working conditions. A lot of the senior NCO's were WWII and Korea era and they told me that WWII boot camp was more intense because the likelihood of being quickly thrown into battle was greater. There were no classic ship to ship battles in the Korean or Vietnam Thingies.

    OCS was a different kettle of fish. We used to joke they taught us how to wear a sword and sip from a teacup. Actually it was a bit more than that...navigation, leadership, seamanship, etc. Mentally it was more demanding than Boot Camp but about the same physically.
  4. BlueTrain

    BlueTrain Call Me a Cab

    The joke from adolescent science fiction book about some officer academy was that was where you learned to eat ice cream with a fork.

    I went through basic training at Fort Knox 23 years after my father went through basic in the same place and about 37 years before my son did the same thing. In my son's case, he did all his training, basic and advanced, in the same place. Although he went to Germany (same as me and my father--as a POW), his unit had just returned from Iraq and a year later, they went back and stayed for fifteen months. Anyway, I suspect all of our experiences were quite different, just as they would have been had we gone through training in 1917.

    Generations are more different than you think, mainly because they grow up and come of age with different experiences and with different education. Today's soldiers have to use more advanced equipment than they did in 1965. All that time in front of a TV screen or computer monitor is good experience for sitting in the gunner's seat in a tank because it's basically the same thing. I'd also have to say that today's recruits are in better general health than before and that's probably not what you would expect. Rejection rates before WWI and WWII were supposedly surprisingly high for health reasons. That's why I say different generations are really different. Many who lived through the depression were undernourished.

    Although it is true that recruits were a little more rushed in WWII, they were also less extravagant with everything. Barracks, the temporary ones that were still in use 25 years later, were unpainted. The clothing issue was half what it was when I went in, although it has since been trimmed down to basically a dress suit (blues) and four sets of combat uniforms and all the accessories. Females got a skirt, too.

    My experience with drill sergeants is limited to one and I didn't think he was so bad. A lot rides on the expectations you bring with you to the reception station. For most, everything will be new and for some, an improvement in their life. After all, that's one reason people have always joined the army. But experiences vary, according to where you were, when you were there, the branch of service you were in and so on.

    Most of these comments are generally true for most armies, too, by the way. And people were thinking about the same things a hundred years ago, too. My father-in-law was in the Army Air Corps in WWII and had been a cadet at Virginia Tech, which was largely a military school at the time. Then the whole class was drafted and sent through OCS. He said he went to one school after another before he finally managed to get sent overseas. He said that when he finished one course, they didn't need them anymore, so he got sent to another course. He was stationed at the same place in England where Jimmy Stewart was stationed, but not at the same time. He flew in bombers. My son-in-law's grandmother, still living, was in the R.A.F. at the time.

    I think everyone going in the army in 1944 and 1945 were considered draftees, by the way. The local draft board was a very powerful institution at the time, too, and I imagine that a few scores got settled that way. My father was drafted when he 27 or 28 when he was drafted, although that was older than average. Bob Wills, the popular Western bandleader even went in the army at age 37.

    We certainly did get crew cuts in the first few days in basic but it isn't clear what happened in the 40s if you went in the army. Short back and sides were the civilian fashion everywhere in those years and that's exactly the hairstyle pictured in the German soldier's handbook.

    One difference between then and the time I was in, and which is still true, but mostly only in the United States armed forces, is the variety of other people you are with. Different races and from different parts of the country (a bigger difference than racial differences, I think). In other armies, especially in smaller countries, people are much more homogeneous, although women are serving in larger numbers than ever before everywhere. I think the fact that the army is both very much integrated and more progressive than was believed is troubling to some recruits.

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