Jack E. Beecher, HQ 353RD
I joined (involuntarily, I must say) the Army in April of 1943 when I left my home in Ft. Madison, IA and traveled to Camp Dodge, IA where all Iowa inductees were sent. From there I had a long train ride to Camp Callan, CA. This camp no longer exists, but then it was located just north of San Diego on the Pacific coast. Those of you who are golfers know the area as the Torrey Pines golf course, which was built on part of the campgrounds following the war. Camp Callan was an antiaircraft training camp and we trained on 40mm Bofors and 50 cal. machine guns, in addition to the handguns I was fortunate (?) enough to be assigned to an OCS (Officer Training School) group, with the idea being that following completion of Basic Training we would be transferred to another post for officer training in the Coast Artillery.
However, as is the way of most Army plans, it never happened that way. At the completion of Basic Training, there apparently was an adequate supply of 2nd Looies in the Coast Artillery, so we were asked, believe it or not, if we would like to go into the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP). Considering the alternatives, most of us jumped at the opportunity.
After transferring to an assignment center at Pasadena Junior College, I was assigned to what was then Loyola University of Los Angeles. I believe it is now known as Loyola Marymount University. I must say this was a wonderful assignment. My wife of about 8 months, along with her sister and two other girls, drove to California from Iowa in our car. Imagine driving that distance with a maximum speed limit of 35 mph! Anyway, they made it and were only stopped once by a highway patrolman resulting in a mild warning. My wife and I rented a room with a Navy couple in Inglewood. It was a beautiful area then but has changed rather significantly through the years. I have to say that my stay at Loyola was the most enjoyable of any of my military assignments. Because I was married, I could live off the campus. The officers developed a very effective study plan for the married GI's. We had to stay on campus one night a week for every grade below an A received during a grading period. If you received all A's, then you could go home every night with no weekend duty. Thank goodness the Jesuit instructors didn't grade on a curve. The program at Loyola was quite complete with good instructors, good food, excellent facilities and quality officers. We even had our own band, which I was able to join, for our parades and formations. And, of course, living in the LA_ Hollywood area during that period was a fantastic experience. Having my wonderful wife there with me made it all the better.
When the ASTP program was curtailed, I was sent to Hunter Liggett and assigned to HQ Company, 353rd Regiment as a telephone lineman. I remember a period of training from some of the NCOs who had been with the 89th for some time. During one of those training sessions, General Findley visited the group, talked to us briefly, and inspected the hands of some of us. I can only assume he was looking for calluses. We could have all told him that was not the place you get calluses when you do a lot of studying.
After the indoctrination, we began hauling spools of telephone wire on backpacks up and down the mountains while we maneuvered against the 71st Division. They were lucky they had four-legged mules to haul their equipment, not two-legged ones. When it was decided the 89th was to be made a standard triangular division and moved to Camp Butner, my wife and I along with a fellow GI, Homer Rhodes, and his wife were allowed to drive to North Carolina. That trip was a bit of a story in itself. Anyway, the rest of the story is pretty much the history of the 89th. Subsequent to VE Day, I was one of those transferred to the 8th Division and assigned to the Division Band utilizing my secondary MOS.
So in July of 1945, back to the States I came for a grand reunion with my wife at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. Eventually, following VJ day when the 8th Division was broken up, I was transferred to the 5th Division at Camp Campbell, KY as a wire crew chief and, after spending three months in the hospital with double pneumonia, was discharged. The time spent in ASTP enabled me to get a full year's credit at Iowa State University and graduate with a Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering in three years. I guess it was all worth it in the long run. That's my ASTP story.