January 1941 - August 1941
Camp Shelby - Hattiesburg, MS
After an overnight journey from Fort Thomas in Newport, Kentucky, John reached Camp Shelby in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on January 24, 1941. Here, he was assigned to Company H, 112th Medical Regiment, taking on the role of a private. In this capacity, his training encompassed essential field medical tasks such as setting up hospital tents, tending to foot injuries, and caring for the wounded. The regiment engaged in bivouacs, including nighttime marches covering 5 miles, where they demonstrated their efficiency by pitching eight large hospital tents in just six to seven minutes. These exercises involved war games, simulating scenarios with soldiers acting as if they had been shot or exposed to gas.
In May 1941, John's journey led him to Fitzsimmons General Hospital in Denver, CO, where he underwent a three-month training program to become an X-Ray Technician. His certification was achieved on June 26th during this period, coinciding with the commencement of his romantic involvement with Bette Bowker.
However, by August, John found himself back at Camp Shelby. In letters to his family, he described the challenging conditions of his training, emphasizing the intense heat and difficulties he faced during this time.“We’ve been literally living like hogs. We wallow in every mud hole we can find. We can’t even stand our own body odors. There’s a lot of sickness and everyone has diarrhea and rashes. As soon as I’m able to I’m going to transfer to Denver. If I have to juggle bed pans all day it’d be preferable to this outfit what with Bette, Denver, and the climate and circumstances.”