Massachusetts

Denton Crocker Enjoys Basic Training During WW II

Denton Crocker considered becoming a conscientious objector during World War II, but he decided Germany’s aggression had to be stopped. He was drafted while attending Northeastern University, but got a deferment until graduation. On June 29, 1942, he was inducted in his hometown of Swampscott, Mass. He spent 10 weeks at Fort Devens in Ayer, Mass., before being shipped off to Camp Pickett in Virginia for basic training.

Denton Crocker

Denton Crocker

It was at Camp Pickett that he chose the path that took him to the South Pacific fighting the Allies’ deadliest enemy: the mosquito.  During his first week in basic training he was noticed as officer material because, he believed, he was 6’4”, he had Boy Scout training and he was enjoying himself.

On Sept. 13, 1942, Denton Crocker wrote home to his parents in Swampscott.

There is hardly a spare moment during the week in which to write so I will send off a letter each Sunday. The program each day during the week is something like the following: Up at 5:30 for roll call & 15min of setting-up exercises, then breakfast. After that there is time to make up the bunk (it has to be ripped up & remade each day) to shine shoes, etc. Then there are 2 classes of about an hour each dealing with such varied subjects as (1) personal hygiene, (2) first aid, (3) elementary anatomy and physiology, (4) scouting, patrolling & the use of cover and concealment, (5) the organization of the Medical Department, (6) care & nomenclature of equipment, etc. Then come two hours of drill. Next dinner and in the afternoon there may be a hike (we have had 2 short ones not over 4mi with a light or stripped pack) or there may be classes -- or both. After supper clothes are washed, shoes shined, notes studied, etc. Lights go out at 9:30.

I have learned how to make up a full and stripped pack, what the procedure is in changing the guard, the general orders for guard duty and a lot else. I am scheduled to go on guard duty Wednesday.

In the same letter he tells his parents of his decision to attend Sanitary Technicians School. He also reported he was called into the platoon sergeant's room for a favorable report on his progress:

Friday I had the interview with a Captain in the Sanitary Corps. He described the type of work and it appealed to me so a week from tomorrow I start an intensive three-week course in the Sanitary Technicians School here. There will be frequent tests and probably studying in the evening. Also I well be held responsible for the material handed out in the {basic training} classes such as I have had this week. During my 3wk course I will be exempt from daytime {basic training} drill, hikes, KP, & guard duty. When the course is over, I will rejoin the group I came here with and finish basic training when they do.

He later wrote he was determined to do his best and have a good time, which explains his final paragraph:

I'd just as soon you wouldn't have people look me up here as I'll be very busy weekends & every other time and would rather not feel obliged to accept invitations, etc.

Photo courtesy Library of Congress. With thanks to the Library of Congress, Veterans History Project.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jim Cooke

    September 15, 2014 at 7:36 am

    Huh?
    “He spent 10 weeks at Fort Devens in Ayer, Mass., before being shipped off to Camp Pickett in Virginia for basic training.”
    If he began basic training two and a half months into his service – what was he doing those first ten weeks?

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