Interview with Gerrit Nieuwsma

From the interview with Gerrit Nieuwsma of Hague, ND conducted by phone on June 30, 2005 by Eleanor Rigby from the Fort Worden History Center. Mr. Nieuwsma served in the US Army at Fort Worden from 1951 to 1953. Here he relates some of his experiences:

“We got there in the end of February, the first week of March we got a foot of snow. They said it was unusual,’You never get snow out here.’ We marched around in the snow and your boots would get soaked. It was about 30 above. It lasted just about two weeks it seemed. Then the next day you’d put your dry boots on again. But then a lot of the men got pneumonia and the chow line looked like it was bloody from the people who spit their blood out. Some of us didn’t have sweaters and some didn’t have field jackets, we didn’t have so much stuff at first.

…They were going to train us for the LCM landing in North Korea…Those are the most miserable things there are in the world to ride. …I was in about four or five months and they asked for butchers one day, so I volunteered for butcher.

They said,’Well, you know where you’re going to go?’ I said I didn’t. They said, ’They’re going to send you to the morgue.’ I said I didn’t care, ‘Anything is better than those boats.’

They sent me to the butcher shop and then after about two months I got transferred into 6008 Post Operating Company and all we did was cut meat for the troops.

…The butcher shop was a good place. …In the morning, when we’d come in we had a coffee pot that was hid and we had a hot plate. We had civilian friends who worked in the warehouse and they stocked food and stuff. They would come in and have a hamburger and they would give us coffee in exchange. Before we went to work everyone usually had coffee, and no other place on camp could do that.
…(There was) one pretty interesting fellow who lived in Port Townsend, he was Lieutenant Colonel Fred W. McIlroy. In the morning before anybody got up, at five o’clock, he’d be running around the parade ground. For physical training he would take us and run us around the parade ground for three quarters of an hour without stopping. One day he was showing this one company and he said, ‘You can’t even make an about face.’ The poor fellow was going to make an about face and he fell flat on his face, and that was the end of that.

He was 69 years old and drove a little MG. The reason I got to know him pretty good (was that) he’d come to the butcher shop. We’d cut T-bone steaks or something like that and get a lot of meat shavings. He’d get them (the shavings) for his dog. “

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