Meet the Boys: Gene Battles
Hello, my name is Gene (for Eugene) Battles, a native of Salina, OK. I just missed being an Arkansan by 60. mi, but I’m proud to be called a “Sooner,” and don’t object to that.
Most guys got into the Army after they had been in the CCCs, but I reversed the process. In 1931 I enlisted in the 2d Army Div. in San Antonio, and attended Cook and Bakers School at Ft. Sam Houston. In 1935, when my hitch was about up, they sent me up here to Ft. Logan to instruct the cooks and bakers. A lieutenant there said that the CCCs were short of cooks and bakers, and he talked me into joining up. My first camp was Co. 1822 (SP-14-C), Golden CO, where I stayed a short time, transferring to the Ft. Collins, CO Camp (Co. 809, SCS-8-C) near Wellington. George Mauk was Project Superintendent, and Galen Emerine and Carl Kling of our Chapter 7 were also there at that time.
Talk about being out in the “boonies!” We were about 11 miles from nowhere, on Box Elder Creek; rattlesnakes were everywhere. The camp Co offered a carton of cigarettes to the enrollee who killed the most snakes in any one week. (One week the count was over 300 snakes!) You had to watch it when going to the latrine in the middle of the night! For pastime, Doc (Lt. Herbert) Bell, the camp surgeon, and I would take our forked sticks out after supper and have fun catching the critters. We had a cigar box full of rattles. We planted buffalo grass and trees, some of which are still standing there, although the camp is gone. I guess the thing that put an end to the snakes was when we poisoned the prairie dogs, and that eliminated their food supply. Anyway, that part of the country is now free of snakes.
I got “antsy” in the Cs and wanted to try my wings outside, so, in 1938, I found a job as a cook and baker in the Chicken Inn in Greeley, CO, only to quit that job and go back into the same camp in October 1938. During this time I was in the National Guard, each summer cooking for 30 days at Camp George West during the annual encampment. In October, Mary and I decided to get married, and, since you couldn’t be married and be in the Cs at the same time, I got mustered out in January 1939. Then came the war.
Since I was already an Army vet, I was drafted early and joined the 45th Div. at Ft. Sill, OK, making Staff Sgt. (Motor Pool) early in 1940. My job was training draftees, and I served in that capacity in Wisconsin, TX, and Georgia. In May 1943, I was assigned to desert training in the Mojave Desert (CA) in preparation for the North Africa Campaign. I was with Gen. Patton all across North Africa, then on to Sicily as a First Sgt. with the 53d Amphibious Engineers. We made the initial landings at Anzio and Salerno, and on up the ‘boot’. I was Jockying a “Duck,” a land-and-water craft that swam and ran like hell on land. At Anzio, I got a busted ear drum but no Purple Heart. I was a caterpillar mechanic in the Cs, so that helped me on into France, Germany, Austria; and I was with the 101st Airborne at Berchtesgaden.
All in all, I had put in 12 years in the Army and four years in the CCCs. After the war, I got into home construction, but quit that to go to work for Schwayder Bros., retiring from that company after 25 years in 1976. Somewhere I have seven Battle Stars and a Bronze Arrowhead, the latter indicating an initial landing. Our outfit got a special citation for fighting at Anzio, too. The lessons I learned in the Cs helped me to no end in the military. I like to get together with my buddies at Chapter 7 meeting and go over old times. Without the Cs, I doubt that we would have won the war, its that simple. At least, that’s the way I remembered it.
All personal accounts are from Civilian Conservation Corps: the Way We Remember It, Nolte, M. Chester (ed), 1990, unless otherwise noted.