My Dad was Walter J. Chamberlain Jr. He served in the Army from 1937 until 1967. In 1967 his division at Fort Carson was alerted for Vietnam. He said, “I got clipped in Italy and then again in Korea. Some Shave-Tail Butter Bar is going to get me killed in Vietnam”. So with 33 years service (including time in C.C.C.’s) he retired and we loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly. Okay it wasn’t a truck, it was a Chevy 440 and it wasn’t Beverly Hills, it was Marina California.
His first assignment was Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
“I” Company of the 35th Regiment, 24th Infantry Division.His first duty was shoeing horses. He left Hawaii in November 1941. He boxed for the company in the lightweight division. Have you ever seen “From Here to Eternity“? Dad loved that movie. Because he lived it. He said he had real names for all the characters.
The following picture looks like it’s from the movie, but it’s real life. It’s a 24th ID boxing match and the sign says that we’re going to “Lick the Chicks”. An apparent reference to the Air Corps contingent at Wheeler Field.
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Dad was on his way out.
Serving in the Massachusetts National Guard. He was activated, and sent to Officer’s School because of his prior service. He became a “90 Day Wonder”. At Fort Knox, he was in Armored Officer School. The instructor posed a problem:
Instructor: “A enemy tank is approaching your position. What action do you take?”
Dad: “Engage the tank with an anti-tank bazooka round.”
Instructor: “Where did you get the Bazooka Lieutenant?”
Dad: Same place you got the tank…..sir.”
Dad did NOT graduate Armored School. He got assigned to the Infantry.
He was with the 3rd I.D. at the Anzio invasion. He commanded a platoon as First Lieutenant “a couple of doors down from Lt. Audie Murphy” as he was like to say. He loved the movie “To Hell and Back”. There is a scene where Murphy is watching for German counterattack while the Division crossed the river. Dad said, “Oh yeah, we were upriver from him and were catching Hell from the Krauts while he got all the Glory.” Dad referred to Murphy as “That Smart Ass, but a Hell of a Soldier”. He also liked the movie “What Did You do in the War, Daddy?“. He said it was really like fighting in Italy.
After the war, he returned to West Germany to command a company of Military Police.
By the time Korea cooked off, Dad was a Captain. He commanded a Company of Military Police at Chip-Oh-Ree Korea. In addition to guarding P.O.W.’s, the company was taking it’s turn manning one of three outposts. Tom, Dick and Harry. One night his First Sergeant woke him saying, “There are Chinks on the wire”. They were being overrun by Chinese Infantry. Dad ordered the outpost silenced. They hunkered down hoping the Chinese would pass them by without noticing them. One of the company couldn’t get out of his sleeping bag. He panicked and started screaming. To silence him and save the company, Dad bayoneted him.
In another action, Dad was wounded again. He woke up in the air strapped to the skid of a M.A.S.H. helicopter. He loved MASH, the TV show, and said the real doctors were much more crazy than depicted in the show.
Years later, I was rifling his underwear drawer looking for porn when I came across his Silver Star. I asked him how he won the award. He said, “I was too stupid to fall back when everyone else did. Fifteen more minutes you could’ve went to West Point.” He never did tell me what happened.
After Korea, Dad got Rifted to Master Sergeant. Reduction in Forces. He said he applied for and was rejected a commission in the Regular Army. Probably because he got busted way back in Hawaii. He rose in the enlisted ranks to become one of the first two Sergeant Majors (E-9’s) in Army history. He was the Command Sergeant Major at Fort Carson on retirement, August 1967. In 1969, the Army restored his commission and rank of Captain.