On March 6, 1942, while stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, I received orders to report to the barracks in Vancouver, Washington. I arrived at the Vancouver Barracks on March 12, 1942, as a Second Lieutenant and member of the cadre to form the 340th GS Engineer Regiment.
I was billeted into a crowded Marshall House where cots lined the halls and rooms were teeming with personnel. I bunked there until the 18th Engineers left, at which time I was ordered to the Grant House where I had a room of my own.
The train that carried our first contingent of troops derailed just short of camp; it ran into a loaded flat car on the tracks leading to the shipyards. We were close by and were able to take pictures of the wreckage.
While waiting for additional troops to join us we went sightseeing, this included the Columbia Gorge area, Bonneville Dam and climbing Beacon Rock. We marched around town along East Reserve, Ft. Vancouver Way, Fourth Plain and many other streets. I remember the City and its people were very friendly and kind to us.
A highlight of each weekend was the USO dance, chaperoned by some of the City folks and officers from each troop. The young USO women would gather by the High School Pharmacy, at 26th and Main Street, then be driven by truck to and from the dance area.
In early April, I volunteered to take the chaperon duty of an officer whose wife had come to town from Denver. At the dance, I met the woman who would become my wife of 67 years. Fate and the War had moved me from Morgantown West Virginia to Vancouver, Washington to meet my future wife.
As ordered, our unit departed the Vancouver Barracks, April 19, 1942, for Canada and Alaska as one of the units hurriedly building the 1600-mile Alcan Highway (The Alaska Highway) from Dawson Creek, Canada to Fairbanks, Alaska. The project was completed in eight months at a pace of seven miles a day.
Shortly after completing the Alcan Highway, our unit was ordered to Camp Hathaway located nearby the Vancouver Barracks and Clark College. At Camp Hathaway, we readied for deployment to the South Pacific and eventually onto Tokyo.
Even now, some 68 years later, as I look across the barracks grounds, I vividly remember the parading of troops; and I can still see myself on a raised platform leading the troops in calisthenics in the light of dawn.