Monday, July 8, 2013

The Stolen Blankets Story

                                            The Stolen Blankets Story
                                                             1962
                                  A true story that scared the hell out of me.
                             Written 2013 and rewritten 01/18/2016 unedited
                                                    Howard Yasgar



      After I had enlisted in the Army Reserves, I completed my eight weeks basic training and I completed the entire 6 months of my active duty requirements.  Then once the 6 months was completed, I was required to do two weeks of summer refresher training every year after that, until my 6 year enlistment time was up.
      My Army Reserve unit in New Haven Connecticut was a fuel tanker unit, so every year I was always attached to some type of Army unit that was vehicular in nature. I never knew where I would be sent for summer training until I received my official orders in the mail. When we eventually did receive the government papers, we reservists referred to them as our marching orders.
     So in 1962, I received my marching orders to go to Fort Drum, located in New York State, I was sent there because I was a heavy vehicle driver and I was being attached to an Army Reserve unit of truck drivers coming out of New York City.
      Because Fort Drum was about a five hour drive from my home in Westville Connecticut, When I opted to use the governments travel vouchers rather than use my own car it meant that I would have no transportation in the evenings unless I met someone there with a car.  
      Once I arrived at Fort Drum I was directed to an old wooden army barracks where I quickly met up with several other guys that were just like me, they had come to Fort Drum from all around the country to do their two weeks of refresher training.
      Besides from those fellows there were about thirty tough looking rude dudes from the New York City Army Reserve unit that we were being attached to. Those guys had arrived by truck convoy the previous day before us. When these New York guys talked to us, they all had heavy accents, some of their New York accents were so thick we could hardly understand them.
       By late the first afternoon after all the reservists, like me, had shown up, and I was happy to see a few had brought their own cars, so if I made friends with some of those guys I wouldn’t be trapped on the base when we were off duty.
      Before supper, on the first day, the Captain of the New York Army Reserve unit gave us an orientation talk. His accent wasn’t so bad, and we all could understand him easily. He explained to us exactly what our mission at Fort Drum was going to be. He told us that there was a field hospital unit that was also coming to Fort Drum the next day. Their mission was to set up an entire field hospital at night, and do it as if they were under battlefield conditions.  Our mission as a trucking unit, was to support them by hauling all their equipment at night by convoy. Once the hospital was up and passed inspection, we were supposed to come back with all our trucks to haul everything again bringing every-thing back to Fort Drum. The Captain said that all of this was to be done late at night, with all of us driving under total blackout conditions, just like a real war.
      What that meant to us was that it was going to be a very boring exercise. For us, as truck drivers we all had nothing to do with our free time, once we delivered the stuff to set up the hospital. We were free until they were ready for us to pick the hospital up, a few days later. So for the next day, we all spent our time checking out all the trucks that were to be in the Convoy, We did all the regular maintenance, like washing and refueling the vehicles up.
     By the middle of the week they loaded up the entire field hospital onto all the 2-1/2 ton cargo trucks, then we drove at night in convoy to deliver them to a large field where the medics had a team that unloaded all the hospital supplies from our trucks. After we unloaded the trucks, all of us drivers headed back to Fort Drum, where we had nothing to do but sit and wait until the following Monday.
     By Saturday afternoon every one of the truck drivers was bored to death, so I asked if anyone had ever been to Montreal Canada?  I was familiar with Montreal because I had been driving there regularly from Connecticut with my cousin Allen, we went there to visit his relatives, who all lived in Montreal. I told the guys how our money was worth 25 percent more there and I told them how good Molsons beer was, and it was dirt cheap.  I told them how I had a favorite bar there called the Devon, and how it was located on St Catherine Street, the Devon never asked our age there, and they had free pork sandwiches.  Once I told all this to the other soldiers, they all got excited and they said, “Let’s all go to Montreal and have a Molsons beer and a free pork sandwich.”
      So Sunday morning two cars with eight of us truck drivers left Fort Drum heading for Montreal. Montreal was about a three hour drive from Fort Drum so by lunch time we were all standing in front of the Devon bar on Saint Catherine Street, but it was Sunday and the Devon bar was closed up tight.
      Now, depressed and with nothing to do, all eight of us, just sat on the curb, with our feet in the street. We were just all sitting in front of the Devon bar, considering what was to be our next move.
      As we sat there, a middle aged couple came walking down the sidewalk. They stopped and the man asked us in a heavy Scottish brogue “What are all you young fella’s doing here?” I said, we are with the U.S. Army sir, “With the American Army now are ya now,” He said. “Yes sir we all replied.”
     “Well what’s your problem,” he asked. “I told him we had come from Fort Drum in upstate New York and drove three hours for a Molson beer, but the Devon bar was closed.” He looked at his wife and then said, “Follow us boys.”
     There was a doorway in between the stores on Saint Catherine Street, and we followed them up a flight of stairs to the second floor, which then opened up into a big room with over 100 people in it. It appeared to us like a big party going on.  There was a long table with chairs, and on the table were bottles of all kinds of scotch whiskey and all kinds of food as well. At the end of the table, there was a bar set up and a bartender opening bottles of Molson Canadian beer, and he was also making mixed drinks.
      The fellow who brought us up, announced to everyone, “Listen everyone I got the whole American Army with me, and he welcomed us to the Montreal Scottish American Club, I think these guys had all been Scottish Canadian soldiers, at one time or another and they said “Eat and drink all you want boys, for the American Army it’s all on the house, and we did.”
      The next day, we were all back at Fort Drum, and we were all just  hanging around waiting for orders  to pick up the hospital unit, and that’s when a couple of the tough looking wise guys from the New York Army Reserve unit came over to me. “Listen up you, they said” I did listen, and it was like listening to the Mafia talk.
      They said, “Tomorrow night when we pick up the hospital unit, the truck in front of you is going to turn off on a side road. You pick up speed and close up the convoy and make believe nothing happened, do you hear me? I understood exactly what they said, these guys were going to steal a whole truckload of something from the hospital and they were making me into a crook.
      That evening as we loaded up the hospital and I saw the truck in front of me was full of army blankets. They were the brown wool ones with the big USA letters in the middle.
      I didn’t want to do it, but I really had no choice, and before I knew it, the truck in front of me had already made a right hand turn on a small dirt road so I closed up the gap in the convoy with my truck just like he was never there.
      I couldn’t sleep that night worrying about it, because I knew there had to be some kind of an investigation sooner or later. The army couldn’t just miss a whole truckload of blankets. I knew that each truck in the convoy had a convoy number, so I knew they had to come and question me. I worried so much about it that by ten in the morning I had myself convinced that I would be going to jail forever for stealing army property.
      How could I have been so stupid to let these guys bully me into helping them steal. I even wondered how long I would have to go to Leavenworth prison.
      I was sitting on my bunk looking out the barracks window, when I saw the Captain of the medical unit approach the Captain of the New York trucking unit that I was attached to. They were having an animated conversation, the officer from the medical unit was waving his arms around. I just knew they were talking about the stolen blankets.
I started sweating profusely and my heart beat rapidly as I saw both of them walking towards our barracks. I was certain they were going to question me about the blankets. Worse than that, I thought they were going to say I stole them.
      As they entered the barracks, I was ready to confess to everything, and tell them that I knew who stole the blankets, my heart was beating rapidly as the Captain from the medical unit said. “I accidently left my field jacket on the seat of one of your trucks, has anyone here seen my jacket”.
      By the end of the week, I left Fort Drum for home, and I never heard another word about the truck load of missing blankets.                            











       

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