Saturday, February 5, 2011

Remembering Norm

Since Norm and his family lived in California, I didn't know him.  With his daughter Lisa's help, they wrote a short biography several years ago.  I will excerpt it here over the next several days.  What I remember most was hearing about his experience in World War II and getting injured.  I heard about it from Dad's perspective on the home front.

Here it is from Norm's perspective:

The story of my military experience starts with an examination given country-wide to seventeen year olds to determine their qualifications to enlist for the opportunity for two years of college.  This program came to be known as the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP).  I learned later that Henry Kissinger was in this program, but he somehow escaped combat.

I was soon notified that I had qualified and should report for a physical and swearing in until further instructions.  When these instructions came I was told to report to the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY where I would be a student until passing the age of eighteen.  Eighteen at time was legal Army age.  I spent thirteen weeks there after which I had fifteen days at home.  My status at UK was that of a cadet with room and board and schooling provided.  At the end of this term I spent fifteen days at home before reporting to Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio for active duty.  There I became Private Norman Riley; allowed to wear the military uniform and use free mailing privileges, receiving a salary of $50 a month.

The contractual arrangement in the ASTP program was to receive thirteen weeks of basic infantry training and then back to college to complete the two years.  From Fort Hayes I was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia for the basic training.  The ASTP attracted many Jewish boys  In Christmas Day the Jewish boys in our basic training company volunteered to do the KP chores. It was here that I saw for myself Jim Crowism with water fountains marked for coloreds.  While at Fort Benning, they just reneged on the contract by discontinuing ASTP.

I was not good at soldering; just barely qualified on the M-1 rifle, as well as just getting by on the other army tasks.  I did though qualify well on the machine gun.  Which is why I was machine gunner when basic training ended.

From Fort Benning I went to Fort Bragg North Carolina to join the 100th Infantry Division where I was assigned to the 399th Infantry Regiment Company A Weapons Platoon Machine Gun Squad.  While at Fort Bragg with the 100th Division until the division was shipped to France.  While there I got two ten-day furloughs home (What a delight wartime furloughs were).

After D-Day June 6, 1944, the demand for infantry replacements was huge and many in our division were scheduled to go as replacements.  I was on the original list only to be pulled off at the last minute.  I've always suspected the Lt. Landis pulled me off the list.  I remained there with the 100th Division.  In late September 1944, the 100th Division moved to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.  In a few days there, we were given a twelve hour pass to New York City.  This was on  October 2nd, my Dad's birthday, I called home and wished him a happy birthday and let him know I was going overseas.

We recently found out that Harold Bischoff was also part of the ASTP program.  We will pick up later after Norm gets to France.

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