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Most of the young men who were drafted into the armed services from Henderson County had their first physical and were sworn in at Camp Croft near Spartanburg. I was among a group of 99 who went through that experience in March of 1943.
After the short bus ride to get there, we stood around for what felt like most of the day buck-naked while the Army medics poked, prodded, and thumped on our bodies to determine if we were fit for service. That was a totally new and embarrassing experience for many of the country boys from the mountains. Anyway, all that prodding seemed to be unnecessary because if you were breathing and had a pulse you were acceptable. The public nakedness would become routine for those of us who were accepted. The chosen ones swore to defend the United States of America from all enemies both foreign and domestic and were bused back to Hendersonville at the end of the day. After a one-week delay to "get our affairs in order," we were to report to Fort Jackson, S.C.
The group was transported by bus to the reception center at Fort Jackson. Each new recruit was handed a one-page (both sides) mimeographed set of instructions with the simple title "Information." It started out like this:
"Previous to your arrival at this Reception Center, you took your physical examination, passed it, and were inducted into the military service, so that you are now a member of the Army of the United States and subject to its rules and regulations.
"You are at this center in order to be classified; that is, to determine the best assignment for you and for the army. While here you will also receive your equipment, will have an opportunity to secure government insurance and to make allotments of your pay. When this has been completed you will be sent to your future station."
The instructions went on to explain in some detail all the steps in the process: verification of your enlistment, reading of the Articles of War, an opportunity to buy government life insurance, an Army classification test, issuance of army clothing and equipment, disposing of civilian clothing, another physical exam, a personal interview, and a visit to the dispensary to receive inoculations.
During the personal interview each recruit was required to furnish:
Your birthplace, your date of birth; and your mother's and father's birthplace. Your education, in detail. Your ability to speak any foreign language. Your favorite sport, especially competitive ones in which you have taken part. Any talent you possess for furnishing public entertainment. Your previous main occupation, in detail.
Your last employer, his name, address, and kind of business. Your second best occupation, in detail. Every other job you have had since leaving school. Your hobbies. Your previous military service, in detail.
The Army was clearly interested not only in finding fighting men but also in finding football players, song and dance men, and anybody else with special skills. The instructions also informed us that we would not be at Fort Jackson more than four days and that we would be paid on the first of the next month at our new station. The last line brought our situation pretty much into focus.
"You are in the Army Now. Make the most of it. Start Correctly."
Fred B. Jones, a Henderson County native and retired engineer, served in the Army during World War II. He lives in Mills River.