the BEACON Newspaper, Indiana beacon6-18 - Page 8

Page 8A S Raymond R. Thurman, Private First Class U.S. Army Tenth Mountain Division Submitted by Marina Rae Thurman Jenkins My father, who is now deceased, told the following story to my sister, Pamela, and me. He was a United States Army soldier during WW II. My father, knowing that WWII was being fought, had the desire to quit high school and join the United States Army, instead of being drafted, because he felt it was his duty to protect America. He met with opposition from his parents; they refused to sign papers for him to quit school. They needed him to stay and help work on the family dairy farm. So my father decided to drop out of school his senior year and asked a family friend to get him a job at the Schenley Distillery in Lawrenceburg. After working only two days at Schenley, he received his draft notice. The Government solved his problem. My father entered the United States Army on Jan. 25, 1943. He went to Camp Carson, Colorado for his basic training and eventually be- came a part of the Elite Tenth Mountain Division, the only group of its kind in the United States Army. He was also a member of the 605th Field Artillery Battalion. While in basic training, the soldiers had the task of break- THE BEACON June 2018 ALUTE TO THE MILITARY ing in pack mules, a task most soldiers did not seem to care for. But it did not bother my father since he grew up on a farm. The mules could carry 300-400 pounds up a moun- tain without falling and were of great use. Upon completion of basic training, the troops left for Camp Hale, Colorado. The 200-mile trip to Camp Hale took two months because of all of the equipment and supplies that were loaded on the pack mules. Before leav- ing on this rigorous journey, General David L. Ruffner was asked how many cattle and troop cars would be needed to make this move. He answered, “NONE! MY MEN ARE TOUGH. WE’LL WALK IT.” After arriving at Camp Hale, the soldiers had to learn how to climb mountainous terrain. Camp Hale was a 9200-foot-high camp, which would hone the skills of its soldiers to fight and survive under the most brutal moun- tainous conditions like the Alpine Mountains in Italy. These training maneu- vers, known as the D-Series, required the soldiers to live in the snow and ice, camping full-time, in a simulated com- bat environment. The combat environment prevented them from lighting fires or burning anything for warmth, and all of the food was cold. The men slept in sleeping bags dug into snow holes. Socks were dried overnight with their body heat. The next morning frozen boots were slammed against trees so that they could be worn. Walter Winchell, a news- caster in the 1940’s, visited Camp Hale and stated, “You people that are listening are concerned about our boys overseas, as well as myself. But, we have troops here at Camp Hale, Colorado that are training and living in extreme frigid temperatures of fifty-five degrees below zero. Some soldiers losing limbs and one had experienced a frozen kidney- we need to be concerned about them also.” Training at Camp Hale lasted approximately one year, after which field artil- lery assignments were given out to the three Regiments. The 604th to the 85th regi- ment, the 605th to the 86th regiment (in which my father was a member), 616th to the 87th regiment. These were all Mountain Infantry Regiments. The Tenth Mountain Divi- sion was transferred to Camp Swift, Texas for five months of flatland training which involved marching in full field gear for as much as twenty- five miles in eight hours of Texas heat. The resulting buildup of physical stamina played an important role in the Division’s success in combat. A simulated “MEDICAL MARCH” was done to teach the soldiers how to handle wounds, heat exhaustion cases, and other emergency aid. Even though times were difficult for the soldiers, some humorous events went on. Camp Swift received five hundred seventy-five pack mules from Oklahoma, to join the others already carry- ing burdens for the Division. Many troopers found it hard to control the frisky beasts. At one point, four hundred of these mules were stalling traffic on the state highway to Bastrop, Texas. It took a lot of work to get these beasts under control. The Te