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Pvt. Charles B. Smith Papers, 23 June-29 Nov. 1943

Forty-nine manuscripts, 23 June-29 November 1943, of Pvt. Charles B. Smith consist chiefly of letters from Camp Croft, near Spartanburg, to his wife, Alice C. Smith, Laurel Springs, N.J. The earliest letter present indicates that Smith had left Ft. Dix and traveled by train through Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington with other stops en route to Camp Croft.

The soldier's letters report that he was to be in infantry training for thirteen weeks, that Croft functioned as an "Infantry Replacement Training Center" where "they are getting the boys ready to go into combat groups," and that the men in his barracks were from New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. Upon their arrival, the Northern recruits braved temperatures that ranged, according to Smith, between 110 and 115 during the day. "The weather down here is not really bad," he wrote on 27 June, "it is not very humid and there is a breeze blowing all the time." Other early letters relate details of camp life?air raid tests, KP duty, and housekeeping chores. "We had a `floor show' in the barracks tonight," Smith's letter of 2 July recounts. "We had to scrub the floor and wash the windows. Some floor show what say?"

Basic training began in earnest following the Fourth of July and included marches with full field packs, gas masks, and rifles. A letter of 11 July reports that they would leave the following day to "go out on the range to fire for a record. We will go out for 5 days. Marching each way each day....It is about 4? miles to the range." "Since Sunday," he wrote three days later, "we have been on the move from 4 A.M. till 9 P.M. We get up at 4 eat at 4:15 and are on the way at 5:00. We walk about 4? miles to the range and get there about 6:45. Monday morning we were working the targets and in the afternoon we did some firing....Tuesday we fired all day that is off and on....This morning we went on the targets again. Tomorrow I will start firing for a record. I think I will qualify but I don't know." According to his 18 July letter, Smith made marksman, missing sharpshooter by thirteen points. "It was not bad the first two days as it was cloudy but the last three it was clear and hot," he noted.

Barely one month into infantry training, Smith and his fellow inductees encountered the toughest obstacle to date. "Boy am I stiff," he wrote on 25 July. "Yesterday we finished our course with a grand finale. We arose at 4:30 marched about 5 miles and then we started. First we had a class on grenades. We threw one at a target which I came close to. We then went through the infiltration course. We had to crawl about 60 yards under machine gun fire 15 yards of which was under barbed wire....That was all for the morning in the afternoon we had a class on demolition. The instructor made small bombs and set them off. Then we had village fighting we attacked a village and moved from building to building....After the village fighting we marched home 5 miles. We arrived about 7 had supper and then cleaned rifles. By the time I showered and shaved it was 9:30 so I crawled in bed. I think I was asleep in 2 minutes. I woke up at 6 this morning and had breakfast. Boy am I stiff!"

Next came code lessons, more drilling, maneuvers, and news that the training course might be extended to seventeen weeks or longer. Then there were the more pleasant aspects of a recruit's life: visits to the five local USO clubs and a trip to Spartanburg by Alice in September. Two weeks of maneuvers in October completed the training regimen, and by the middle of the month Smith was expecting a seven-day furlough, after which he would report to Ft. Meade. His last letter from Camp Croft is dated 26 October; it is followed by one of 29 November written from an undisclosed location, possibly Ft. Meade, that anticipates orders for shipment elsewhere.

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