HOYT’S WAR—A LIGHTER VIEW OF THE ARMY
Hoyt F. Overcash, Battery B, 13th FA, 1942-45
I was drafted in September 1942. Since my dad was in Field Artillery, that’s what I asked for. I was assigned to the 308th Field Artillery Battalion, 78th Division, the same Division that my dad was in during WWI.
I had played trumpet in my high school band. So, the First Sergeant gave me the bugler manual and said, “You will be the Bugler of the Guard, check the bulletin board.”
I remember the first time I blew TAPS, someone told me to “ blow it out of my home-sick barracks bag,” and some other places too!
One day I went to my bugler station for Retreat; I was a little early, but I went ahead with first call. Man was that a screw up! I had a lot of people scrambling to get to their stations. When I got back to my barracks, I had to report to the General’s office. He worked me over royally, and told me the next time that I was Bugler of the Guard to come to his office and set my watch with his.
After I returned home I played TAPS for many funerals and memorial services for men killed in Europe. One was for an old friend, Albert “Ham” Sloop, I still think of him often.
As a bugler I had some weekends free, and I would go home every free weekend I had. But when I got back to camp after Christmas 1942, my bags had been packed, my bed rolled up, and I found myself on the train going west. We boarded a ship and the next landmark I saw was the big pineapple at Honolulu.
We loaded on a little train and went to Schofield Barracks and Baker Battery, 13th Field, 24th Division.
The next morning we moved to our camp in the Eucalyptus Forest. Sergeant Fisher said a few words but mostly he said to be sure and check the bulletin board. I knew what that meant.
Sure enough, I was on guard duty. But, I had not had Basic Training and had never fired a rifle. So, I told the clerk that I could not pull guard; the Handbook states no rifle firing, no Guard Duty. So, I was sent to KP instead! In two days, I was on the firing range!
My first breakfast in Hawaii was creamed beef on a great big, thick slice of toast covering my whole mess kit, and I wondered what I was going to do with it. But I ate it all and liked it. We always had good cooks; men who could make a meal out of almost anything.
Sgt. Brafford was my Supply Room sergeant. He and others, including Sgt. Snow Redwing, our medic who was Native American, were all regular Army and were at Schofield Barracks at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl.
I felt lucky to get to know these men, and also our First Sergeant Fisher, Sgt. Bradford, Sgt. Gibson, Sgt. Gentry. We had a hundred or more men and I feel bad about not remembering all of them. We were family.
We shipped out to Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, where we stayed one or two nights and then went to Rock Hampton and set up a new camp on a hill.
We traveled by train on the way from our amphibious training on the coast of Queensland. The train stopped at every Outback station where the people would be waiting for us with cakes, cookies and pies — all kind of things to eat. Everything had raspberry icing. Every one bought something.
I had breakfast at the Red Cross on my first pass to Rock Hampton. I heard somebody holler, “Hey, Hoyt Overcash!” It was Harry Dayvault, a life-long friend and high school classmate. It sure did us both a lot of good.
We got some new men at Rock Hampton; one was Cal Inman from South Dakota. Cal and I hit it off right from the start and became friends for life. He married a young lady by the name of Mary from Texas; they taught winters in Texas and spent their summers at Hill City, SD. Cal was like a brother; he died in January 2007, and I miss him.
When we were to load on the LST going to Mindanao, I was supposed to load my Jeep on first so I would be last off. But it turned out I loaded last. So, I was first off when we landed at Mindanao. I scrunched so far down in my Jeep I could barely see where I was driving.
Then we moved on to Dutch New Guinea where we were in what they called a rest period. We were unloading ships and sleeping in jungle hammocks.
One day we were resting in our hammocks, when quite surprisingly my brother, Cardine, came by. It was great seeing him there in New Guinea, and we had many visits, but it didn’t last because I soon shipped out for the Philippines. We did see each other again on Leyte. Cardine Overcash died in May 2007, and I miss him.
The Mess Sgt. was a good friend so I became a cook! Me a cook? Well my mother had no daughters and she taught me to cook. I make First Cook. My specialty was sheet cakes, biscuits, and pies.
I made a nice cool drink from ice cream mix. My buddy knew the man in Davao who ran the ice plant and Cal was an agent for the whiskey the iceman also made. Cal would go to Davao to get ice, and his supply of whiskey. And that is how I was able to make the cool drink!
Cal and I had been to a movie the night we heard that the war was over, and on the way back to our camp all of the ships out in the harbor were firing machine guns and making all kinds of racket. It was a wonderful night, one that I will never forget.
We learned that an air craft carrier was going to pick us up, but we didn’t know where it was to take us. It turned out to be to Japan.
Just think, if I had had basic training no telling where I would have gone, probably to Europe. I am glad I got to go to Japan.
I had my share of combat. I drove a Jeep mostly delivering food and batteries for the forward observers. I also hauled ammunition for our 105 howitzers. I ran over a hand-thrown torpedo that knocked out my head light and beat up the grill of my Jeep. I got that Ford Jeep brand new, and wore it out completely!
On my route home, we landed at San Pedro and took a train back to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and a discharge. I got home about eleven at night. It snowed the next day and that was a treat. I had not seen snow in over three years!
This all happened to a guy who never had BASIC TRAINING!
Hoyt F. Overcash, 772 Ideal Dr. SE, Concord, NC 28025, Ph: 704-786-1522
The Taro Leaf, Vol 63(2) Spring 2009, pg. 16-17.