Induction and Training
After receiving his draft notice, Raoul reported to Fort Devens for induction into the U.S. Army.
induction consisted of passing physicals, taking intelligence and proficiency
exams, getting you uniforms issued to the men. after processing the Army the
came basic training which lasted about 8 weeks. Uncle Raoul remained at Fort
Devens until he finished his basic training. Fort Devens has a unique history.
It was created by the demands of World War I, and had been a part of the New England scene for 79 years. Named in honor of Brevet Major General Charles Devens, a Massachusetts son who served in the Union Army during the Civil War, then later served as Attorney General during the Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes. Originally Fort Devens was a temporary cantonment area known as Camp Devens, the post came into existence on September 5, 1917. Two divisions were activated and trained at Camp Devens (the 76th and the 12th) between August, 1917 and November, 1918. Following the end of World War I, the camp was designated a demobilization center. Camp Devens processed more than 100,000 selectees into the Army, and as a demobilization center, processed more than 150,000 men out of the Army. On September 1, 1921, Camp Devens was declared excess to the U.S. Army’s needs and was put on caretaker status. From 1922, through the summer of 1931, Camp Devens was utilized as a summer training camp for New England-based National Guard troops, Reserve Units, ROTC cadets and Citizens’ Military Training Camp (CMTC) candidates. In the summer of 1928, construction of the first two permanent buildings got underway, one a regimental barracks and one a battalion barracks.
In September, 1931, the 13th Infantry Regiment was garrisoned at Camp Devens along with three companies of the 1st Tank Regiment. The following month the camp was declared a permanent installation, and in 1932, it was formally dedicated as Fort Devens. At that time, the three tank companies were inactivated and immediately reactivated as the 3rd Battalion, 66th Infantry (Light Tanks). A limited building program continued at Fort Devens, along with a post beautification program throughout the 1930s, with much of the funds coming from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
Following the outbreak of World War II in Europe, plans were formulated to increase the U.S. Army. In 1940, the first peace-time draft in the United States was instituted, and Fort Devens was designated a reception center for all New England men destined to serve for one year as "draftee."
A massive building program was instituted at the post in 1940. More than 1,200 wooden buildings, including two new 1,200-bed hospitals, were constructed at a cost of $25 million. In 1941, the Fort Devens airfield (Moore Army Airfield) was built at a cost of more than $680,000. The Whittemore Service Command Base Shop was constructed in 1941-1942 and when it reached its peak load of repairing all damaged U.S. powered vehicles in the First Service Command area, it was known as the largest repair facility in the world.
Three divisions trained at Fort Devens during World War II. The 1st, 32nd and the 45th, along with the Fourth Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) Training Center opened on post in April, 1943. Three months later, the WAAC became the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). In February 1944, a Prisoner of War Camp for 5,000 German and Italian soldiers opened at Fort Devens. It remained in operation until May 1946. In addition to training combat soldiers in World War II, Fort Devens was the home of the Chaplain School, the Cook and Baker School and a basic training center for Army nurses.
Following the end of World War II, Fort Devens once again was designated as a demobilization
center. On June 30, 1946, Fort Devens, for the second time in its history, was again put on caretaker status. On September 1, 1946, the post was utilized as an extension of the University of Massachusetts so veterans could continue their education. After his induction Raoul was sent to the U.S. Army's Transportation Corps. He was
assigned to the 716th Railway Battalion and sent to Camp Bullis in Texas.
Military Railway ServiceThe United States Military Railway Service has it's origins dating back to the American Civil War. The first use of Railroads as an effective means of transport was developed during the conflict. Troops and their vitally needed supplies were transported throughout the war to various campaigns and had a significant impact on the outcome of the war. By the war’s end it was evident that the railroad was a force that played a significant part in the destruction of the Confederacy. After the war the U.S. paid little attention to the military’s need for a sustained railroad service. The western expansion and the development of the civilian railroad networks took precedence over all other concerns. In 1916 when the U.S. Army mobilized on the Mexican border to fight Poncho Villa, it once again became evident that the Army needed a railroad force to maintain and operate the railroads south of the Rio Grande. Soon thereafter on April 6. 1917 the U.S. Declared war on Germany and the Central Powers. On May 14, 1917 General Order number 61 authorized eight railroad regiments. This number quickly expanded to 20 operational regiments that were later deployed to France. After WWI, the railway service became a skeleton force of the Transportation Service. During the 20’s and 30’s the service languished during prosperity and depression. In 1938 Carl R. Gray, Executive Vice President of the Chicago, St Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha Railroad was persuaded to serve as personal consultant in revitalizing the Railway Service. He immediately went to work as the new Manager of the Military Railway Service reorganizing the service and preparing it for the upcoming conflict. An Agreement was entered between the Federal Government and the railroad. The Railroad would nominate a Superintendent, an Assistant Superintendent, Engineer, Maintenance of Way and all other officers in accordance with their technical duties. Then the officers once they passed a physical would be commissioned and assigned to the unit sponsored. I f the railroad could not furnish an officer for the position one would be chosen from another railroad. Prior to 1941 the MRS units were numbered in series 489 to 620, but later that year they were renumbered 700 series as to give uniformity. They were broken down as follows: Ten Railway Grand Divisions numbered from 701 thru 710, Forty-three Railway operating Battalions numbered 711 thru 753 and 759, and ten Railway Shop Battalions numbered 753 - 758 and 763 - 766. In Addition in was necessary to form special units for special conditions such as the 770 ROB which was form to operate the leased White Pass and Yukon Route Alaska. The 61 Transportation Corps Composite Company was formed in India as a Provisional Operating Detachment. The 761st Railway Transportation Company was formed for service in England, North Africa, and Europe; The 790 Railway operating Company was originally activate for service in New Caledonia later it was expanded into a battalion. The 744th Railway Grand Division was an expanded grand division designed to replace the headquarters of the First MRS in Italy when it went to southern France. On December 7, 1941 the organization was pretty well organized on an inactive status all the officers had been selected, commissioned, and assigned. After Pearl Harbor, the units were slowly recalled to active duty, at first just the headquarters units and a few selected Railway Battalions and training units. Eventually almost all the units were activated and trained throughout the United States at the various railroad sponsors locations.
Camp Bullis, TexasRaoul arrive at Camp Bullis in late January 1944. He joined the men of the 716th already in training. Camp Bullis was established in 1917 to train troops in preparation for the growing threat of war in Europe. It was named for Brig. Gen. John Lapham Bullis, who as a lieutenant led the Seminole-Negro scouts during the Indian Wars. During World War I Camp Bullis provided maneuver areas and small arms and rifle ranges for troops from Fort Sam Houston. No units were stationed at the camp. During the 1920s and 1930s Camp Bullis provided facilities for training the Civilian Military Training Corps, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Reserve Officer Training Corps, and the Officer Reserve Corps. From January 1942 through November 1943 the Second, Ninety-fifth, and Eighty-eighth Infantry divisions used Camp Bullis. Smaller units continued to use the camp until 1944. In 1944 the Transportation Corps began to use the camp. 716th Railway Operating Battalion began it's training program. After the war 500,000 soldiers were processed out through the separation centers at Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis.
CAMP CUSHINGUncle Raoul transferred to Camp Cushing on February 21, 1944. Camp Cushing was a God-Forsaken place built by the Army for temporary training of new railroad inductees. This would remain the 716th's base for several months. The men would receive advanced military and technical training. Camp Cushing was located just off of Fort Sam Houston in Texas. Cushing was named after a Texas and New Orleans (T.& N.O.) Railroad Colonel. Located about 180 miles from Camp Bullis. The men arrived during the height of Texas rainy season and the landscape was nothing but endless mud. Plagued with ticks and chiggers the men continued their hapless training over the next few months. The T. & N.O. railroad was an integral part of the training of the 716th ROB. The Men would learn all the technical aspects of the railroading business. For the old timers that were drafted from the railroads it seems liked old times again, and for the youngsters it was the adventure of a lifetime. Raoul and the rest of the 716th remained there until July 20, when the unit received orders to ship east for overseas deployment to Europe.
CAMP SHANKS and the USAT EXCELSIOR
Uncle Raoul and the rest of the 716th left Camp Cushing by train on August 2, 1944 and arrived at Camp Shanks in New Jersey. There the unit boarded the USAT Excelsior, an army transport for deployment to England. The Excelsior was a C3 type freighter built in 1942 by the Bethlehem Steel Company. She was 492 ft long, 69.5 feet wide, with a 28.5 foot draft, 7,800 gross tons. A total of 465 of these types of freighters were built between 1940 and 1947. Most were equipped with a turbine developing 8,500 hp and could do 16.5 knots. Uncle Raoul and the 716th left the U.S. on August 11, 1944 headed for England and the European Theatre of Operations. The trip over was uneventful and the ship soon arrived on August 22, 1944 in Gourock, Scotland. All remained aboard until the next day, when the 716th unloaded from the Excelsior. Then the men loaded into railway passenger cars and proceeded to their next destination.
England and crossing the channelThe old timers and the young kids from all over the States arrived in Lehigh England at 0645 on August 24, 1944. The men detrained and loaded into trucks for an hour's ride to the bivouac area at Southampton. The 716th then marched to the docks where they loaded onto a British "Pig" Boat, the Cheshire. A non-eloquent term the GI's called the Brit's ships. The Cheshire would go on to further distinction as one of two ships in the convoy carrying the 66th division across the English Channel in December 1944. She would be spared , but the other ship the S.S. Leopoldville, would not be so lucky. The next day the Cheshire pulled out of Southampton with the 716th tucked safely aboard. The trip was boring and the men passed the time crossing the channel with the usual flair of crap games, and sight-seeing on the main deck. They listened to the radio, and the American and British reports of the liberation Of Paris. Ah! Paris, soon the men thought they would be there along with all the Mademoiselles and cognac! They were soon to find out otherwise.