Infantry basic training 1944-45

John B. Campbell completed induction at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, and departed for infantry basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama.  His notes indicate he arrived in Alabama on September 19 (Tue) or 20 (Wed).  On September 20, his transfer was announced in The Vindicator in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio. 

The announcement indicates that two friends, Richard F. Rhiel and Charles L. Haddix, were transferred with him.  I assume they traveled by train; by car, the trip would be 7-8 hours today.

On map:  A = Youngstown, Ohio (hometown)

B = Camp Atterbury, near Edinburgh, Indiana

C = Fort McClellan, near Anniston, Alabama

6th Regiment - 16th Battalion -  Company B - 1st Platoon - 4th Squad.

A regiment is made up of battalions.  A battalion is made up of companies.  Companies are comprised of platoons, which are comprised of squads.

I assume Hut 4 was where he slept.  I wonder how many men per hut?

JBC noted that the training was 15 weeks [plus 3-4 days].  At some point, he became an assistant squad leader.  This seems significant to me; he was just out of high school and among those selected for a position beyond being a private.

Haddix traveled with Dad from Youngstown, to Camp Atterbury, to Fort McClellan.  They apparently knew each other from South High School (see Induction 1944).

Henry Beckenbach graduated from South High School with Dad.

Both of these men appear in photos from Europe, and both were with Dad on his trip home in 1946.  Their names will appear in additional WWII stories.

JBC is second from left.  The man kneeling in front is a sergeant (three chevrons on his arms).  I wonder why Dad isn't wearing his military overcoat too?

Life at boot camp

Dad saved a bulletin from a church service on Sunday, October 1, 1944. The service was dedicated to the 16th battalion that particular morning.  Dad keeping the bulletin and making it part of his scrapbook surprises me a bit, as he never enjoyed going to church when I was growing up.  The agreement my mother had with him was that we would go every other Sunday.  I was happy about this too!  Some Sunday mornings, he was unbelievably crabby.  I remember sitting in the back seat of the car, as he drove the three of us to church, marveling at his crankiness.  He was never a morning person, and the next day was a workday, so Sunday mornings were not his favorite.

The temporary pass was only for a single day.  Dad was apparently in Birmingham, Alabama, from 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 25 through 11:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 26.  The travel time between Anniston and Birmingham is about one hour today, so I guess he had to allow for that travel time.  Thanksgiving was on November 23 in 1944, two days prior to this pass.

The PVT after his name indicates he is a private.

In ~2002, JBC was interviewed by his grandson, Alex, "I found that basic training was very hard. Although I had been an athlete in high school, it was very tough. The train rides were terrible; most of them were at night."

Battalion photograph

Company B, 16th battalion group photo (December 1944, Fort McClellan, Alabama).

John B Campbell is fourth row from the front, ninth from the left.

The RTC on the flag in the back row stands for Replacement Training Center, I believe.

Close-ups from the group photo, L to R:  John B Campbell, Dick Rhiel, Charles Haddix.  All three were from Youngstown, Ohio.

I am grateful for this detailed list of individuals Dad knew from his 16th battalion group photo.  The photo hung along our basement stairs at the house on Forestridge Drive the entire time I was growing up.  I wasn't the only one fascinated by it.  Dad always said that he was standing slightly in front of the guy holding the flag.  Not true!  I believe he forgot that he had compiled this list.  

Charles L. Haddix, also from Youngstown, is listed as 30th from the left, front row.  I counted it twice, and I believe he is 29th; maybe Dad included the dog :)    

Dick Rhiel, also from Youngstown, is 22nd from the left, third row.  

I don't recognize any other names on this list.  Henry Beckenbach, another Youngstown "fellow," as Dad would say, was in a different battalion.

Parents visit

I don't know when Dad's parents, John Otey and Helen Louise Campbell, visited him at Fort McClellan.  He was an only child, so perhaps they traveled to be with him at Thanksgiving or Christmas in 1944.  Maybe there were certain weeks during basic training when parents were encouraged or allowed to visit.  I expect there was a graduation of sorts, so they might have traveled in late December 1944 or early January 1945 for that.  

Did they travel by train or car?  Today, the trip would exceed 11 hours by car.  However they traveled, it may have taken them more than one day to reach Anniston, Alabama, where Fort McClellan is located.  I assume that they only visited him once.

L to R:  JBC and JOC; John O., John B., and Helen Campbell (the two onlookers are UNK); JBC and his mother.

The photo with four servicemen might be Dad's hut roommates?  Hut-mates?  

Dad wasn't the only serviceman with parents visiting during this timeframe.  In the photo with seven individuals, note the two ladies on the right.  Helen Louise Campbell is second from right. John B Campbell has his arms over her shoulders and those of his father, John Otey Campbell.  John Otey is posing with a rifle.  

The serviceman to John Otey's right is wearing a man's hat (not an Army hat).  To his right is a serviceman who appears in the "hut-mate" photo.  On the far left is another father, I believe, posing with a rifle and helmet.  

I find it touching that the parents and sons found time for some lightheartedness.  Good for them.  This is my favorite photo on this page.


We have a series of photos of John B. Campbell and other service members in their dress uniforms.  There is no way to know if these images are all from the same day.  Are they from the date of the battalion photo?  The day these men "graduated" from basic training (boot camp)?  It seems there must have been some celebratory occasion, if multiple service members are in dress uniforms.

L to R:  John B. Campbell with a rifle.  

John B. Campbell (center) with two others; I don't know who they are.  Perhaps officers?

John Otey Campbell and John B. Campbell on far right.  In front of JBC is Richard (Dick) Rhiel, a classmate of his from South High School.  (Rhiel has been mentioned previously.)  I love the bumper of the old car in this photograph!  Note another father on the far left.

Dad poses with two friends from South High School:  Richard (Dick) Rhiel and Henry ("Becky") Beckenbach.  JBC and Becky would continue to cross paths in Europe.  Dad and Rhiel transferred from Camp Atterbury to Fort McClellan together in September 1944.

Two men with building with columns behind them:  Dick Rhiel (L) and John B. Campbell (R).

Two men:  Henry "Becky" Beckenbach (L) and JBC (R).

Three men:  Becky (L), Rhiel (C), JBC (R).

These men have no medals or insignia as of yet - just the standard-issue collar devices.  If this is graduation day, it is either before the big event, or just after (and perhaps the items hadn't been distributed or attached yet).

The images of Dad with his parents appear to be taken in this same location.  I wonder about Helen's headwear.  It isn't a hat, exactly - maybe a large bow worn at the back of the head instead of atop?

John B. Campbell, age 18

Helen Louise Campbell, age 50

John Otey Campbell, age 53 (if after December 2)

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