Remembrances: Clyde Solmon--Flashbacks to Camp Butner
Arriving at Camp Butner August 24, 1944 the first morning standing reveille, I got chewed out
by the Captain for having polished boots. "Get that damn shine off those boots." Being the only
one, they stuck out like sore thumbs. How was I supposed know the Infantry was supposed to look
slovenly? I had been in A.A. Artillery where a shine was mandatory.
The first formation of the day, the Captain said," We will now police the area and for the next fifteen
minutes I only want to see assholes and elbows."
And the boots...a hangman's noose for those on high who came up with the idea of reversing the hide
to make combat boots. They were colder and absorbed water like a sponge. If it was better
the steers would have grown the hair on the inside. Think about it.
I attended a class for the operation of flamethrowers. One of the men lost control of the nozzle
and all records were broken for the hundred-yard dash. No one was injured but only because of
the quick action of the Lieutenant in charge. Participating in night maneuvers my second week at Butner,
a sargeant in charge of the squad pointed and said to go that way. I said, "Wrong way that's toward the Enemy."
He said, "You follow me." And about five minutes later we were captured. Sitting in the holding pen for
prisoners having a smoke, he gave me a nudge and said, "Isn't this better than crawling around with
the snakes and bugs all night?" I was learning Infantry tactics fast.
The Lieutenant and my squad minus three men went out on the range one morning to practice
assaulting and capturing a house. The first man crawled within a short distance of the house,
ran the rest of the way to the windows threw in a grenade and stooped down below the window. I
was second in line, my job to step on the first man's back and dive through the window after the grenade
had exploded. I started my run but stopped short when the first man jumped up and started an Indian
war dance. After a minute of this he bent down and held up a cottonmouth snake at least three and a
half feet long and, I swear, three inches in diameter. I walked back to Lt. Cagney who was sitting
in a jeep and said, "Lt. you can take my stripes or put me in the Guard House. I'm not going down there
and trample snakes." The lieutenant called the practice off. The fellow that killed the snake couldn't
understand what all the excitement was about. It was only a snake.
Two squads of men were biking on the narrow back roads of the camp. A jeep came along
the road with a captain and lieutenant aboard. We moved to the side of the road still walking.
I turned to face the Jeep and gave a nice salute, my foot.