Verne White



When Verne White wrote his autobiography, it was intended for publication only  within his family circle. However, when we pressed him as to the path which brought him to Corregidor,  he graciously agreed to share two chapters with us : The first is "THE BASIC TRAINEE" and the second is "RECALLING MY WAR."



Verne White,
HQ Company, 503d PRCT


On February 28, 1943, I became eighteen years of age and eligible to join the military.  Pop took me to the draft board at the Mariemont community center where I requested voluntary induction. That happened on March 20th and my active service began one week later.  I reported to Ft. Thomas, KY and was issued the standard equipment and uniform.  Because of my ROTC, training the Army made me an acting corporal over ten other guys.  It was my job to see that they did all the things we were supposed to do to begin to get ready for basic training. There is probably a photo of myself and Bob Coen in uniform outside a barracks building.  We look rather silly, but what else could be expected from a couple of 18 year olds.

My Basic Training was given at Camp (now Fort) Blanding Florida.  This is located in the vicinity of Jacksonville.  Only a few memories remain to be related, so here goes:

Everyone had to learn to shoot the M1 Garand, gas operated, rifle.  It was to be addressed as your piece. If your piece was dropped or not kept clean the Sergeant would make you sleep with it in your bed.  Not only that, but you had to memorize the serial number which was engraved on the breech of the rifle.  Fortunately, my previous training had blessed me with good familiarity of shooting.  Marksmanship earned me an Expert medal from which hung small bars identifying which weapons were used qualifying me for that level. My medal had several of those bars.  It was also a requirement that we had to be able to field strip the M1 (i.e., take it apart into component assemblies) blind folded and within a very short, like seconds, time frame.  We also had to reassemble the thing in a similar manner. This was more difficult for me, but I made it.

The Army had a neatness complex.  Everything had to be exactly arranged and clean.  This went for everything, people, clothes, equipment, furniture, buildings, and grounds. 

For some unknown reason they selected me to be a radio operator.  Just about every day I was assigned to go to radio school, where several poor saps like me would put on earphones and listen to morse code messages for hours.  Each of us tried to get proficient in identifying those piercing little dits and dahs.  My patience gave out very soon and so with no supervision, it became easy for me to slip away before school and wander off into portions of the post where it would be unlikely for me to be caught.  One very hot day my meanderings took me up to the lake where enlisted personnel had a beach from which they could go swimming.  Since it was a normal duty day, no one was around.  I stripped off my uniform down to my undershorts and stretched out on the top of a picnic table.  In today's vernacular it was time to catch some rays.  The warmth of the day caused me to doze only to be awakened by shouts of "HELP, HELP!!!"  Coming out of the stupor it dawned on me that someone was drowning out in the lake.  There were three guys about one hundred yards out (deep water).  One of them was doing the yelling while the other two seemed to be in trouble.  Quickly I jumped into the water and swam out to help them. Checking with one man, I ascertained that he could reach the raft on his own, another was OK but did not know how to save his friend, and so my lifesaving merit badge from Boy Scouts came into play for the third guy.  When we reached shore he was able to stagger up to the picnic bench where he collapsed.  Although he was breathing, it was with extreme difficulty so I used some artificial respiration techniques to get the water out of his lungs. A few hundred yards up the beach was an officer's club and from there many off-duty officers and nurses came rushing down to see and assist in getting the three guys into recovery.  Well there I was in my wet undershorts with parts of my masculine anatomy exposed to any onlooker, not to mention the fact that I was not where I was supposed to be.  When all those people arrived and were so involved in helping the swimmers, I quickly donned my uniform and surreptitiously slipped away.

At one point a security organization of the government asked me to watch for things going on that would be detrimental to the war effort.  I was supposed to write a monthly report about any such shenanigans. This just wasn't my bag so it lapsed for lack of interest on my part.

>From Blanding the Army decided that my I.Q. was high enough to qualify for the Army Specialized Training Program.  So they began processing me through a series of steps to verify that the capability was also there. First they sent me to John B. Stetson University near Ocala, FL.  While there some of the other candidates and I had the opportunity to visit Silver Springs and ride the glass bottom boats on the lake.  The next step resulted in my being sent to Pratt Institute of Technology in Brooklyn, NY.

We were domiciled in a housing development that had been constructed for the poor folk of the city.  There were a few hundred of us and we were quartered in apartments with about four soldiers to each.  Each weekday we would fall out (an Army term meaning to get out of your quarters and line up outside into a prescribed formation), get breakfast, then march through the city streets to the school for classes.  At the end of the school day we'd march back, eat dinner, and were then dismissed to do our homework.  The courses we were taught were math, engineering, physics, etc.  The idea of course was to develop engineers.  On weekends we would cruise the local areas or go into New York City.  Being in uniform was a great help in getting friendly relationships started with the citizenry.

There were girls at Pratt and I was fortunate enough to meet one.  Her name escapes me at the moment, but we had a few good dates.  She had a roommate who seemed to want to share me with her.  More about the roommate shortly.  One time the girl, her father (a Lt. Commander in the Navy), another couple and I went to a small restaurant for a modest dinner.  Not long before the other soldier had told me about a stunt they had used in his previous command's mess hall. Well the dinner was served to us in a booth.  My friend (?) asked me to pass the salt.  Aha! says I, he wants to have me do that stunt.  So I tapped the shaker on the table twice and tossed it toward him.  WRONG --He had forgotten all about that stunt, so the shaker performs the normal parabolic arc given when a slight toss is made and impacts sharply on the table and splashes coffee on the Commander (my girls father).  Needless to say the parental impression was less than favorable The reason the father was there was to take his daughter home since the semester was over for the civilian students.  This led to another fiasco.

I went to the house where the girls were staying and waited downstairs in the living room for my girl to finish packing.  While waiting the roommate and she would take turns coming down and give me big wet kisses.  They were wearing lipstick which they refreshed frequently. In my innocence it did not occur to me that they were having fun.  It didn't dawn on me that my face was covered with lipstick and that when the father showed up there  I was smeared all over my face with the stuff. Good thing there was never a chance for anything serious to come of that relationship.

More often than was good for us we would go into Manhattan on the subway.  Just off Times Square proper was a company called Sharpe & Dohme.  This scientific company would pay volunteers $5.00 for a pint of blood, give some cookies and orange juice and tell the volunteer to take it easy and drink plenty of fluids for the next few days.  It doesn't take a genius to realize that poorly paid teenage soldiers took great advantage of that largesse.  As mentioned we did it more frequently than was good for us.  Luckily, being in good shape to start and in a non physically active daily environment no significant damage was done.

This academic life was just not my idea of being in the Army with a war in progress.  The courses were dull and the weather was too.  So good old patriotic Verne says "Sir, I want to transfer to a fighting unit."