Infantry Basic Training, Camp Wolters, Texas
One day, our Sergeant announced a boxing tournament that was being held throughout Camp Wolters, between the training platoons within our battalion, and would eventually lead to the semi-finals, etc., and asked if anyone in our platoon had any previous boxing experience. I noticed that no one volunteered to enter the tournament. Then someone suggested asking me since I had been a "college boy" and had had some training in that sport in college. The Sergeant then suggested I represent our platoon in the first bout. In my innocence, I agreed! When the day came, I climbed into the professional type boxing ring, complete with a civilian referee who had been found in Dallas, that had been set up in the battalion quadrangle (I was equipped with boxing shorts, "sneakers", athletic supporter, a teeth protector and boxing gloves) and after the "glove shake" we proceeded to engage in boxing. Although he was somewhat shorter than I was, he was very agile and I spent the first round "dancing" around just long enough to stay away from his fists. About halfway through the second round, he managed to connect with my chin and must have knocked me out cold because I "came to" while someone was sponging my face with cold water. I noticed that everyone from my platoon was applauding and found out later that my opponent had been one of the champions in the amateur Chicago Golden Gloves tournament of 1942 before being drafted. When I asked why they were applauding my being knocked out, I was told that they were admiring me for being the only Chicago champion's opponent, during the previous 5 or 6 bouts of the tournament so far, who had not been KO'd in the first round. I wondered if I'd gained a reputation for being courageous, or stupid, enough to attempt to fight him? There were rumors going around in our battalion that our platoon should be ashamed to have let a "Jewboy" represent them in the tournament! I wondered because after the bout I overheard some "latrine" whispering like..."you see, the "Jewboy" wasn't worth a damn without his rifle!".(I thought to myself that it was better to be that way in combat than to be "not worth a damn with your rifle"!) Was this some kind of left-handed compliment or was it some more anti-Semitism? It made me wonder if I'd been set up for the boxing match as some sort of punishment for firing one of the highest rifle scores in the training regiment?
It was during one of our night maneuvers that I suffered a fractured left ankle after about 8 weeks of Basic. It occurred during our communications field training exercise, on a pitch-dark night (flashlights were not allowed), without any moonlight. Another fellow and I were carrying a BD-72 field-telephone switchboard between us, while unbeknownst to me, I was walking alongside, what I found out later had been, a 35-foot (?) deep ravine. I inadvertently walked into a mesquite tree whose sharply pointed branch glided under my helmet and touched my eyelid. My instant reaction was to step back, sliding down into the ravine while my "carrying" partner, on my right, simultaneously let go of his handle of the switchboard. My slide into the ravine, further aided by the downward momentum of the heavy switchboard itself caused me to incur an impact fracture of the distal end of the left fibula, i.e., left ankle. As a result, I spent 2 months in the Old Cantonment Hospital in Camp Wolters, and I remember having a hole drilled through the cast into the ankle by the orthopedic surgeon, a Major, from the Mayo Clinic, who said a stainless steel pin was required, temporarily, for about 10 days, for allowing the bone, which he said had about 7, or 9 (?), small cracks in it, to successfully knit.
After being released from the hospital, and my subsequent return from a convalescent furlough, I was told that I was classified as "limited service" and was to be assigned to a service unit to "ride shotgun" on a mess hall refuse collection truck guarding GI stockade prisoners who picked up the mess hall garbage! I refused such ignominious duty and asked to remain in the Infantry! The Training CO explained that if I could successfully run over the Infantry Obstacle Course 2 times in succession, with full field "winter" equipment, about 60 pounds of weight altogether, and with rifle and bayonet, the next morning at 0600, under the watchful eye of a cadre Lieutenant, I would be allowed to complete the remaining 4 or 5 weeks of the Infantry Basic Training cycle with another Training Platoon! Although I had some pains in my ankle and leg muscles while engaging in this exercise, I exhibited no outward signs of discomfort and was therefore reassigned to complete Infantry Basic Training.