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June 2017

— This Month —

An Editorial: Desecrating Americans

Rewriting History

Camp Kohler, California

The Signal Corps' "City"  

- - - - -

MISSION STATEMENT

 

Our Association is a not-for-profit fraternal organization. Its purpose is a) to foster camaraderie among the graduates of Signal Corps Officer Candidate School classes of the World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War eras, b) to organize and offer scholarships and other assistance for the families of Officer and Enlisted OCS cadre who are in need, and c) to archive for posterity the stories and history of all of the Signal Corps OCS Officers who served this great country. We are open to ALL former Army Signal Corps OCS graduates, their families and friends, as well as other officers, enlisted men, those interested in military history, and the general public. Please, come join us. For more information about our Association, to see a list of our Officers and Directors, or for contact details, click on the OCS Association link at left.

Please note: The views and opinions expressed on this website are offered in order to stimulate interest in those who visit it. They are solely the views and expressions of the authors and/or contributors to this website and do not necessarily represent the views of the Army Signal Corps Officer Candidate School Association, its Officers, Directors, members, volunteers, staff, or any other party associated with the Association. If you have any suggestions for improvements to this site, please send them to WebMaster@ArmySignalOCS.com. We are here to serve you.

 



 

ArmySignalOCS Editor

Desecrating Americans

~ An Editorial ~

Memorial Day passed a few days ago. The sun was shining where I spent it. At the time I wondered though, was it shining at the Wall? I’ve been to the Wall three times in my life. Each time I went the day started sunny, but by the time I left my hotel and arrived at the Wall, it was raining.

Three times. Rain.

There is no connection between the Wall and Memorial Day, except in my mind. In my mind when Memorial Day comes, I think of the Wall.

Memorial Day – the Wall… the two form a cenotaph of remembrance… remembrance for the 1.17 million American men and women who died fighting wars our country sent them to fight; first to create and then to maintain the freedoms we enjoy in this great land. This land of ours… this land, the one whose values are assaulted daily by fellow citizens—unappreciative, ugly Americans—people who have no idea what a memorial stands for.

The Wall came out of the sacrifice my—and your—friends made for this country. Memorial Day (originally called Decoration Day) came out of the sacrifice our forefathers… those who fought in the Civil War… made.

In the early days… just after the Civil War ended, there were two Memorial Days. One was held by Union Army veterans to honor those fellow soldiers they served with, the ones that died. The other was held by Confederate veterans, to honor their own dead. Note here that these two memorial days were observed by veterans and their families, not by the general public.

Back then veterans of the Union Army held their memorial day on the day the North felt the war had ended: 9 April 1865, when Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia surrendered at Appomattox Court House.

Confederate veterans, still sensitive about having lost the war, chose to hold their memorial day on another day… April 26, the day that General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered his armies to Major General William Tecumseh Sherman. From the standpoint of the Confederate soldiers, when Joe Johnston surrendered there weren’t enough troops, ammunition or supplies to continue the fight… and so they considered the war over. Until then, many of them still intended to fight on, no matter what happened at Appomattox Court House.

As the idea of holding memorial services for the fallen gained ground others—including many states—chose to hold a memorial day commemoration on yet other dates. In the first years after the war ended there were some 17 different dates that the people of the time considered as representing the true end to the Civil War. On these dates they held memorial services. Take your pick:

1. Surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia (April 9, 1865)

2. Surrender of General St. John Richardson Liddell's troops (April 9)

3. Union Capture of Columbus, Georgia (Easter Sunday, April 16)

4. Disbanding of Mosby's Raiders (April 21)

5. Surrender of General Joseph E. Johnston and his various armies (April 26)

6. Surrender of the Confederate departments of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana regiments (May 4)

7. Surrender of the Confederate District of the Gulf (May 5)

8. Andrew Johnson's May 9 Declaration (May 9)

9. Capture of President Davis (May 10)

10. Surrender of the Confederate Department of Florida and South Georgia (May 10)

11. Surrender of the Northern Sub-District of Arkansas (May 11)

Surrender of Confederate forces in Georgia12. Surrender of the Confederate forces of North Georgia (May 12, at Kingston, Georgia)

13. Disbandment after the Battle at Palmito Ranch, Texas (May 13)

14. Surrender of Kirby Smith (May 26)

15. Surrender of Cherokee Brigadier General [Chief] Stand Watie (June 23)

16. Surrender of CSS Shenandoah (November 6, 1865)

17. Presidential proclamation ending the war (August 20, 1866)

From this one can see that history is messy. People don’t move past their feelings of pain just because some other person tells them to do so. The pain of combat, for those who have served in it, sits deeply within us. It comes easily but does not leave so. Those who live this pain—the pain of a friend or relative having died in battle for their country’s cause… any cause, right or wrong—is held dearly; and so too are the dates and physical memorials erected to commemorate this pain and these people.

In most cases, memorial days for the fallen are held on the day the war they fought-in ended. For a Southern veteran soldier of the North Georgia campaign, May 12, 1865, the day Confederate Brigadier General William T. Wofford surrendered at Kingston, Georgia, to Union Brig. Gen. Henry M. Judah, would be etched in that soldier’s heart as the day his war ended. For such a soldier, tired, hungry, disheveled and depressed by his unit’s losses, the only positive thing about that day would have been the comforting feeling of the rations he was finally given to eat, by the Northern Army, after his surrender was recorded.

Those Union and Confederate soldiers that fought in the Battle of Palmito Ranch, Texasafter the war had already ended in Georgiawould say that the Civil War ended on May 13th, as on that date the Confederate units in Brownsville, Texas, surrendered… despite having won the battle that took place at the Ranch that morning.  

For a grieving mother during the Civil War, her war would have ended when she heard that her son had died.

What we know is this; wars end when a soldier’s misery ends… or begins, as the case may be.

For us Vietnam veterans, looking at the Wall, staring into its dark black shell, seeing the ghost of the past slowly come to the surface and emerge to spell the name of a friend, a fellow soldier that we served with… someone who died in the war… the war will appear to have ended on the day that friend died… or so it will seem.  Yet if one stands and stares at that friend’s name on the Wall long enough one will see that while the war may seem to have ended on that date for him, the war continues for you.

The WallTo this point, if you move close enough and keep staring at the Wall, focusing on your friend’s name, the shiny deep blackness of the stone will cause the letters of his name to slowly dissolve and liquefy before your eyes, from which they will appear to flow back into the stone, only to be replaced with faint pictures of faded memories of your time together… your collective past; memories that float through your mind, melding one within the other until they once again recombine into the cold chiseled letters of his name. It is only then that you will realize that staring back at you through those indifferent letters is a reflection of your own face… which if you stare at it long enough will tell you that while the war has ended for your friend, again, it continues for you.

The cruel fact is this: it is only for the dead that wars end; for the living—for those who served in war—it continues. Memorializing the death of a fellow soldier, a friend, is one of the ways to cope with a never ending war. Memorializing and honoring the dead is good... no matter what side they were on.

Yes, history is messy. Because memories of pain do not fade with time, those of us who served will all hold dear those dates that venerate our demons, no matter how different they are from the dates those who served alongside of us hold. Yet despite this, over time we know that just as the North and the South eventually came together, the memorial days and dates we honor must come together too… if only to serve to recognize and honor all that fought… all that died… in all of America’s wars.

The simple fact is that for life to go on former enemies must reconcile and come together. They each must forgive the wrong headed thinking that once set them against each other, with an intent to kill. The simple fact is that for humanity to prosper, no matter which party fought on the morally wrong side of a war, forgiveness between the two must flow.

We have seen this between our country and Japan, between our country and Germany, between our country and all of the other enemies that America has fought.

Today Vietnam vets freely travel to Hanoi to meet with their former enemy and talk of the war. Together they search for common ground and vow never to fight each other again. Together they forgive the past, and accept that for one side at least—our side—the principles that were fought for were wrong.

General P.G.T. BeauregardWhy then can we not do this for our own war… the Civil War? Why after 152 years do we let today’s dogmatic culture revisionists—progressive liberals—run about destroying our nation’s history and tarnishing the memories of those Southern soldiers that fought in the Civil War? Why do we let these ugly Americans lobby to define a whole new set of “correct” positions on social and political matters that ended a century ago? Their revisionist thinking serves no purpose other than to disparage the memory of those who, on the side of the South, fought in the Civil War.

Why do they not understand that the South learned its lesson long ago, and that the memorials the people of the South built in the past for those who fought on its side serve no other purpose than to honor these fallen men for having served? Honor them for their self sacrifice, not their belief in the cause they fought for. Why do so many condone the actions of these reckless, selfish, insensitive and uncaring Americans, as they tear down the memorials of the South? Destroy the statues? Debase the grave stones of those who died? Denigrate the sacrifice our Southern brothers and sisters made? Why is this allowed?

The men and women of the Confederate South—one and the same with those of the Union North—are our forefathers. Both of these—as one group—through their toil, blood and death, defined the principles of equality that we hold dear today. To turn our backs on half of this group, and disparage their sacrifice because they fought on the wrong side of the war, is no different than turning America’s back today—42 years after the war ended—on America’s Vietnam vets. After all, our Vietnam vets fought on the wrong side of their war too.

If you—America’s ugly Americans—are hell bent on demeaning, belittling and insulting the service of the South’s Confederate soldiers, then do the same for those of us that fought in the Vietnam War.

Oh, wait. You already did that once, didn't you? 

I fought in the Vietnam War. If you want to denigrate a soldier, try it with someone who is still living, instead of the dead Confederates of the past. Try me instead. As you pass me on the street today, spare me your bleating “thanks for your service” insincerities. Your hollow words only highlight your calumny. Instead, turn your head from me and spit on the ground—as you did 40 years ago when I came back from Vietnam—and as you are doing to the memory of America’s Confederate soldier’s today.

Turn your head and walk on by. Weall of us who have served this great country in war since 1776, including America's Confederate soldiersnever needed your approbation, nor your Memorial Days; not then, not now. We served because we believed in our country.

And when we found that the moral principles that made our country send us to war were wrong, we didn’t turn our back on it, as you do today when you tear down the memorials to those who fought in the Civil War… instead we stood even more proudly, believing that our sacrifice helped define ever more clearly those righteous principles that our country should stand for, versus those it sometimes fights for.

What of you? What have you done for your country? Lobby to rewrite America’s past? Is that the best you have?

Leave the dead of the past alone. Let their statues stand. Honor their sacrifice, if not their cause. Honor their memory. Pause and think of them before the tablets and headstones and obelisks that tell their story. Stop and read the historical highway markers that invoke their work and sacrifice. Let the brass bands and Memorial Day celebrations of their heroism continue, if only to remind us that the values we hold dear today grew from the blood they spilled. Yes, the blood of Confederate soldiers. Without their blood the values we all stand for would not sit as deeply within our souls today as they do.

~



 
Memorial Day



 

Vietnam Campaign Ribbons

This page last updated 1 June 2017. New content is constantly being added. Please check back frequently.

Update 3 May Received a few pictures of Candidate Joseph E. Passantino, OCS Class 43-15, sent to the Association's Archivist, MAJ (R) Green, by his daughter, Ms. Beck. We've started a new "mini-bio" page for Candidate Passantino, and posted the pics we received there. Ms. Beck has promised to send more of his old pictures to MAJ (R) Green to be digitized.

As he finishes them he has in turn promised to send them on to us for posting. In the mean time, enjoy what we have by clicking here, and our thanks to Ms. Beck for providing the photos to us.

Update 1 May Candidate Dennis Bielewicz, Class 09-67, sent in a couple of dozen pictures from his days in OCS. We'll be adding them over the next few days. Be sure to check them out here, and our thanks to Dennis for thinking of us. Hooah!


 2017 Army Signal OCS Reunion

Camp Kohler, California

Camp Kohler, California 

Camp Kohler in California first opened as the Sacramento Assembly Center in the spring of 1942 to serve as a temporary detention facility for Japanese-Americans removed from their homes in Sacramento and San Joaquin Counties. (National Archives)  

By Lieutenant Colonel Danny M. Johnson.
USA-Ret.

Over the course of its history, the land that comprised Camp Kohler was home to a Japanese-American assembly center, an Army Signal Corps training center, a prisoner of war branch camp, an Army Air Corps overseas replacement depot, an Army branch port of embarkation, and the Walerga Engineer Depot. The footprint of Camp Kohler, located twelve miles northeast of Sacramento, California, grew from a 160-acre tract to over some 3,800 acres at its high point in 1944. Most of the land was leased from seventeen owners and returned to them between 1946 and 1974, when the Army no longer needed the post.

Lieutenant Frederick KohlerCamp Kohler, located on land that had once been a migrant worker camp, was built on the site of one of the fifteen temporary detention facilities designated “assembly centers” and run by the War-time Civil Control Administration (WCCA) in the spring of 1942. Known as either the Sacramento (or Walerga, a nearby railroad flag station) Assembly Center, it housed 4,739 Japanese-Americans who had been removed from Sacramento and San Joaquin Counties while they waited to be transferred to a more permanent War Relocation Authority camp at Tule Lake, California. Walerga was one of the smaller WCCA camps and operated for only fifty-two days, from 6 May to 26 June 1942.

The War Department leased this 160-acre tract through eminent domain from the owners, Dean Dillman and his sister, Corinne Dillman Kirchhofer, and private contractors built the camp from scratch. The original camp consisted of temporary buildings that were inexpensive, avoided the use of critical war materials, and could be assembled quickly. Typical barracks buildings were single-story structures measuring 100 feet by 20 feet. Denver Post newspaperman Bill Hosokawa concluded that the camps “provided only for the most Spartan type of living.”

Aerial photographs taken in 1942 indicate there were eleven blocks with over 225 tarpaper covered buildings. Housing blocks were engineered for a capacity of 1,000 persons served by two communal kitchens and mess halls. Within each block, contractors erected showers and lavatories. The camp had its own three-building, 150-bed infirmary, as well as laundries, canteens, post offices, a bank, dental clinics, barber shops, warehouses, recreation buildings, administration buildings, and reception areas for visitors. Housing for military police was provided in an area separate from the assembly center enclosure.

In June 1942, the Army expressed interest in Walerga because the Signal Corps could deliver only somewhere in the range of 58,000 technicians at its training centers at Camp Crowder, Missouri, and Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. That figure still fell short of the Army’s requirements for 70,000 signalmen by year’s end. There was no space for further expansion of Fort Monmouth, and any development at Camp Crowder would require additional construction. The Walerga Assembly Center had all the makings of being an appropriate site because it had space for 5,000 soldiers at once, and it could be made ready to receive trainees in under a month. On 2 July 1942, the War Department approved its acquisition, cautioning the Signal Corps that the proposed site would be just a temporary solution.

The Signal Corps took possession of the camp on 8 July 1942 and renamed Camp Kohler in honor of First Lieutenant Frederick L. Kohler, a young Signal Corps officer and electrical engineer from Oakland, California. He was one of thirteen passengers that died on 14 March 1942, when an overloaded Chinese DC-2-221 developed engine failure and crashed into a hillside. Kohler was posthumously awarded the Paoting Medal of the Sixth Order by the Republic of China “in recognition of the exemplary services he rendered in helping the war effort of the United Nations” in combating Japanese aggression.

Bob Crist, a young lieutenant from Philadelphia, had his first view of Camp Kohler a few weeks before it officially opened. “I couldn’t believe what I saw,’’ he recalled. “They told me this was to be the third Signal Corps Replacement Training Center in the States. What I was looking at from the window of a bus was a collection of tarpaper-covered buildings plopped together on a small hill.” Crist added that the post bore little resemblance to Fort Monmouth or Camp Crowder.

Camp Kohler SignalmenOn 28 August 1942, Brigadier General Stephen H. Sherrill arrived at Camp Kohler and took command with Colonel William S. Morris serving as Director of Training. On 1 September, the Army established a Signal Corps replacement training center, the third replacement training center for the Signal Corps, at Camp Kohler.

The center opened on 15 September. The initial 481 trainees arrived at Camp Kohler on 19 September 1942. One group arriving by train found their situation disconcerting. Technician Fourth Grade Arthur J. Sweeney explained, “Tickets read ‘to Walerga.’ The men were dumped right there and could see nothing which resembled an Army camp.” Noting lights off in the distance, they trudged about two miles over to McClellan Field, which they assumed to be Camp Kohler. Officials at the airfield gave them directions and loaned the men a truck to get back to their post.

Basic training started on 21 September. In addition to basic soldier skills, inductees and enlisted men became proficient at different kinds of physical fitness activities. Kohler had obstacle courses, an infiltration course, and a ship net landing training apparatus. There was also a simulated French village to teach skills in street fighting. One famous person to come through the front gate was Pulitzer Prize winning dramatist William Saroyan. He underwent basic training at Camp Kohler and was later assigned to the Signal Corps Photographic Laboratory at Astoria in Queens, New York, where he created a production shown to the Army, Navy and Marine Corps.

When soldiers completed their four (later six) week program, unassigned soldiers trained to be cooks, clerk typists, code clerks, administrative and supply clerks, and truck drivers. Soldiers soon to be members of the Signal Corps began the basic communications training, which included the installation, maintenance, and operation of radio, telephone, telegraph, and teletype equipment used on permanent military installations within the country and by fighting units all over the world. As a part of the Signal Corps training, 250 soldiers at a time used their specialized communications skills learned under simulated battle conditions in the Tahoe National Forest near Sierra City, California. These training exercises lasted for five-day periods and were held in an area of approximately twenty square miles. The truck driving course at Kohler provided drivers and trucks for this field exercise.

The proposal for swiftly getting 5,000 men into training at Camp Kohler did not work out as planned. In spite of available housing for that number, sanitary and medical facility support was adequate for only 2,000 soldiers. Furthermore, Camp Kohler had no provisions for a rifle range, parade ground, or gas chamber essential to basic training. As a result, Camp Kohler would confine training to the basic courses and send the qualified men on to Camp Crowder for specialized training.

Camp Kohler Teletype TrainingBy 1 October 1942, there were 3,000 trainees at the camp, more than fifty percent over the limit initially approved. Having obtained Camp Kohler, the Signal Corps had no desire to relinquish the site as formerly planned. With the requirements for fully trained signal-men growing, the main expectation of holding Camp Kohler lay in changing it into a unit training center. Accordingly, the Signal Corps executed such plans with a limit of 5,700 trainees, but not until January 1944. Therefore, fewer men left for specialization training at Camp Crowder and Fort Monmouth.

Camp Kohler grew rapidly into a modern military training center, transforming hundreds of men into competent soldiers. As an Army post, Camp Kohler still had a long way to go because there were still post and training facilities that had to be constructed even though contractors had been working on adding new buildings since the post was established. There was no post theater or chapel, so movies and religious services were held outdoors in an oak grove. Until the theater and chapel could be constructed, soldiers erected a tent with a seating capacity of 400 persons in the oak grove. In setting it up, they placed the main supporting poles on the outside of the canvas covering, eliminating visual interferences usually inside. The new theater and recreation hall with canteen and cafeteria were finally finished on 22 November 1942. When the new chapel was dedicated just a few days later, the main auditorium could seat 360 persons and held offices for Camp Kohler’s four chaplains. A new rifle range was also completed on 27 November 1942. First Sergeant Thomas N. Johns, a member of the National Guard team which won the Camp Perry matches in 1937 and 1938, opened the range by splitting the bull’s eye with his first shot.

The installation was officially dedicated on 1 December 1942, with the Army’s Chief Signal Officer, Major General Dawson Olmstead, and Brigadier General Sherrill, in attendance. Mr. and Mrs. Henry H. Kohler, the parents of camp’s namesake, were honored at the ceremony. Since the official dedication ceremony for Camp Kohler was closed to the public, Sacramento radio station KFBK broadcasted the ceremony on the evening of 2 December 1942.

The building program that started in the summer of 1942 pushed through in record time. By January 1943, in addition to paving streets and naming them in honor of outstanding heroes and events in military history, contractors had finished, among other things, a prisoner of war camp, a 72,173 square foot laundry, a 330-bed hospital, and a guest house with nine sleeping rooms available for fifty cents per person and a reception room. Later, the Walerga Engineer Depot, consisting of a lumberyard with a railroad spur line from the main Southern Pacific Line was built.

Even with all the construction, it became clear that Camp Kohler still lacked enough space for soldiers needing specialized training. To accommodate the numbers of signalmen, the Army found an ideal facility within thirty miles of Camp Kohler, at the University of California’s College of Agriculture in Davis. The War Department approved the plan and soon signed a lease for the new facility. The Western Signal Corps School at Davis, under the administration of Camp Kohler, began instruction on 1 February 1943 and had a capacity for 1,000 students. Lieutenant Colonel Edward A. Allen was the first commandant of the school.

While most civilian studies at Davis ceased, university research on experimental farms was allowed to continue without interruption. The Signal Corps took over the classrooms, dormitories, fraternity houses, dining rooms, and athletic and instructional facilities of the university, and furnished the necessary instructional equipment. The initial specialties taught at Davis were radio operator, slow speed continuation; radio operator, high speed; radio repairman, ground; teletype installer repairman; repeaterman; and radio repairman, aircraft equipment. The new Davis school and the Signal Corps Replacement Training Center at Camp Kohler were combined to form the Western Signal Corps Training Center under the command of Brigadier General Sherrill.

Camp Kohler Instructor TrainingWhen the soldiers were not training for war, they took advantage of all types of recreational programs. Kohler fielded sports teams in baseball, basketball, softball, touch football, boxing, golf, bowling, volleyball, and table tennis. Besides sports for soldiers, Camp Kohler had an orchestra, a band, and a glee club that performed both on and off post. Other entertainment, sponsored by the Hollywood Victory Committee, included shows with all-star casts featuring famous actors such as Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Leo Carrillo, and Ann Ayers. Furthermore, the camp sponsored a beauty contest in which Ms. Faith Cathcart of Sacramento became Miss Camp Kohler. The Message, the Camp Kohler weekly newspaper with up to 10,000 readers, began as a single mimeographed page and grew into a larger publication over its 170-week run, with a final illustrated souvenir edition covering the history of the Signal Corps “city.”

Over the course of its life, Camp Kohler had five Signal Corps commanders. The first, Brigadier General Sherrill, had recently served in Washington, DC, in the Office of the Chief of Signal. Colonel Harry E. Storms, formerly Signal Officer of the Caribbean Defense Command, followed on 5 April 1943. Colonel James W. Green, Jr., who started the first radar school in the United States, arrived in June 1944. Colonel John L. Autrey, arrived on 16 August 1944 from Australia and New Guinea. After he left for Camp Crowder, Colonel Hugh Mitchell, formerly Signal Corps Officer for the Services of Supply in the Southwest Pacific, replaced him on 9 September 1944. Finally, in early January 1946, Colonel Harry J. Farmer (Transportation Corps) took command of the Camp Kohler Port of Embarkation.

The Army discontinued the Western Signal Corps Unit Training Center at Camp Kohler and the Western Signal Corps School at Davis, effective 31 October 1944, and the Army Air Forces assumed command for an overseas replacement center and took jurisdiction of the laundry on 14 December 1944. The $700,000 laundry, which continued to operate until 1973, had been responsible for processing more than 600,000 articles of clothing a month for soldiers and airmen from not only Camp Kohler, but also Mather Field, McClellan Field, and the Western Signal Corps School at Davis. The laundry employed 286 people at a wage of seventy-four cents per hour. Because of the large laundry requirements, German prisoners of war, detailed from the Stockton Ordnance Depot and later moved to McClellan Field, augmented the regular civilian workforce.

In addition to the replacement depot, other notable activities occurred at Camp Kohler during 1945. For three weeks during March, the California State Guard’s High School Cadet Corps held exercises and occupied vacant barracks. Then, on 13 July 1945, a German prisoner escaped, but was found near a stream in Roseville by some teenage boys who notified the authorities. He was captured and held until his return to Germany. On 9 November, due to a housing shortage in the area, 234 Japanese evacuees from relocation centers in the western United States were allowed to return temporarily to the barracks, much to the protest of the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. 

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