Howard "Toby" Louis

Excerpts from an article submitted by Art Curle, Hq 354, as taken from the San Luis Obispo Telegram-Tribune for Veterans Day of 1997. Art reported that Howard is probably San Luis Obispo's most distinguished citizen, who is now 90 (1997). Howard 's father came to San Francisco in 1861 and because of health problems moved to San Luis Obispo where he prospered and became a versatile businessman. He was a labor contractor whose workers built the Southern Pacific RR tunnels north of San Luis Obispo. Howard is the youngest of his father's eight children, all of whom were raised in an apartment above the Chinese art and curio store on Palm Street which was founded by his father and still operated by Howard...

They selected me for Army Specialized Training at Stanford University where I was to receive a crash course in Chinese in preparation for serving in China-Burma-India theater. I already had studied Mandarin for two years at UC Berkeley and had spent 1932-33 in China. In addition, our family spoke Cantonese. It was two months before the course began because the Army had to search for 30 soldiers who would qualify for this specialized training. Eventually, 28 were selected. That crash course was rough going with over 5,000 words that we had to learn not only to speak, but to write as well. Chinese has been called one of the most difficult languages in the world. I am positive it is. There are seven major dialects and there is no alphabet. The written language is composed of 214 radicals that are composed of one or two strokes. It was quite a battle for an old-timer. I was at 34.

I was able to contribute somewhat to the teaching because during my trip to China I had taken over 2,000 snapshots which one of the instructors used while discussing various aspects of the culture. Even though I was in my mid-thirties, I could still outrun the other soldiers in the 50 and 100-yard dashes and did so in some of the competitions that were staged at Stanford. And I could still do 40 pushups and 25 chin-ups without difficulty. I was so much older than the other GI's that they called me "Grandpa."

My physical abilities and my outstanding marksmanship with the M1 rifle in basic training worked against me, in a way for after about 10 months of that schooling, the Army decided that I should be assigned to the infantry. But it wasn't all bad, for my next duty was at Hunter Liggett Military Reservation in southern Monterey County, while the others in that class were shipped overseas. I was assigned to the 89th Division for training in jungle warfare. That kind of training meant there were no vehicles and that everything had to be carried. I was assigned to a heavy weapons company and my duty was to carry the base plate for a mortar. It weighed about 50 pounds. After training and maneuvers , we were sent to Camp Butner in North Carolina, where we were put into an anti-tank company of the division. It was summertime and we trained in the swamps. The heat and humidity were stifling. During this period, I was interviewed and then assigned to repair weapons in the headquarters company of the division. My wife and I drove there in a 1937 Plymouth, and she was able to get a job while I trained. That December we were sent to Camp Miles Standish near Boston. The snow was six feet deep and the cold was really felt by a California boy who had just spent the summer training in the heat of North Carolina. We were there for about two weeks before we sailed for Europe, landing on the beach near Le Havre, France, after a cold and stormy trip."

I have searched our Division History for Howard Louis and I did find a H. L Louis listed under A T 354, but no "Louis's " under division headquarters units, or any of the "service companies of the Regiments. To my knowledge he has never been a member of the Society. Art Gray did talk to him by telephone, but makes no mention of his being interested in the Society. He was inducted in 1942 and had quite an interesting tale of early training before ASTP and joining the 89th in 1944. Bill Johnson... ed.