My Exciting Night on Guard Duty
In January of 1949 I enlisted in the Army. They gave me a train ticket from Los Angeles to Salinas and a bus ticket from there to Fort Ord. The train trip took place at night and the next morning I caught the bus to Fort Ord. When I arrived there I discovered I was the only one in the company. The rest of the company would arrive a few days later. That gave me far too much attention from the officers.
I got assigned to a Field Artillery Battalion for basic training. I became a member of Battery B of the 29th Field Artillery Battalion. My barracks consisted of wooden two-story building with open studs. They turned on the heat for an hour each evening at 1700 hours. During the day the windows had to be open regardless of how cold the temperature.
At 17 I enjoyed the army basic training and did it with no problem. I had never fired a rifle before so had no bad habits to unlearn. I did well with the rifle and got sharpshooter class. I did what they required of you and with gusto. I remember once just before we were to undertake a 30-mile march with full field packs the sergeant asked if anyone there knew shorthand. Three idiots raised their hands, I guess hoping to get out of the exciting march. The sergeant then told them to report to the mess hall after the march because the mess hall was shorthanded. Another time he asked if anyone could type. Some idiots raised their hands. The sergeant told them if they could type they certainly could clean machine guns and that they did.
After some time there it became time for each of us to go on guard duty. We had learned the 10 general orders and knew it well. I got assigned to guard duty on the midnight to 0800 hours. My guard post was around a large group of warehouses. The circuit I had to walk was about 2 miles in length. We did the guard duty with an M1 rifle but unloaded.
During my first tour someone broke into the Greyhound bus station and of all things had robbed the Kotex machine of whatever quarters they found inside. The bus station was adjacent to my guard post and I got called to tell what I had seen which was nothing. On my next tour that night as I rounded one of the warehouses I came across a truck parked at one of the warehouses. Men were throwing some goods into the truck from the warehouse. At the top of my lungs and with some trepidation I screamed “Corporal of the Guard.” Of course the men quickly abandoned their thievery, jumped into the truck and sped away.
The Officer of the guard soon came driving up and I spent a long time explaining the situation. That might seem enough excitement for the night, but more excitement soon came into my life. One of the other soldiers on guard duty decided to desert that night while on guard duty. The fellow that deserted was a member of my platoon. He had put an item of his in my car. I had a 1936 Chevy. No one had told me you were not supposed to have a car in Basic training and I had brought my car to the post some weeks time after basic training had started.
That night he asked to be able to get his stuff out of my car and I gave him the key so he could get it out of the trunk of my car. Well that became his getaway car to desert. The next morning the CID called me into the Provost Marshall’s office to find out my involvement in his desertion. I spent several hours explaining the situation and that I knew nothing of his intentions. A few days later they told me he was just 14 and had lied about a number of things and indeed was wanted for armed theft in Washington State.
I thought might be both the end of it and my car but more was in store for me. A couple of weeks later my platoon was out in the field for a week’s bivouac. One early morning a jeep drove up in a hurry and a light Colonel jumped out and inquired about the whereabouts of a Recruit P. S. Noll. They ordered me into the jeep and off we roared with one scared soldier. Again taken to the Provost Marshall’s office, they gave me a phone to talk to someone. My mother in Monterey Park, some hundreds of miles away, on the phone informed me that my car was parked in front of her house and where was I. Very worried she had called the Army to find out where I was and why my car was in front of her house.
Apparently the young man who had deserted had gone home to his parents’ home in the LA area. He had told his parents I had loaned him the car. They didn’t believe him and after some days had taken the car to the address on the registration slip which was my mother’s home. The next morning she saw my car there but where was Paul. Worried sick she had called the Army to discover the situation. The army seemed to be greatly surprised I had a car.
The next weekend I hitchhiked home to get my car. I notified the police that my stolen car had been recovered. That afternoon four policemen stopped me in Los Angles and with drawn guns ordered me to the ground. After explaining the situation and a call to headquarters they apologized and on my way I went back to fort Ord.
After basic training they assigned me to Fort Monmouth to go the Signal School there.