Eugene M. Ferguson, CN 354TH
I enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard in Windom, MN. The unit was Company G of the 215th Coast Artillery and was scheduled to be activated on January 6, 1941. I signed up in Sept. but was not required to attend until Jan 6th. I turned 21 July 3, 1940 so I knew that I would be draft bait if I didn't enlist in the service prior to being drafted. At the time of my enlistment, I was living with and working for my parents in Heron Lake, MM.
In Oct 1940, I became concerned about the upcoming military restrictions and confinement so, I, along with four other local lads, took off for San Francisco, CA. Only one of us had the promise of a job upon arrival and we didn't have a place to stay nor much money to go on.
In late Dec., I wired the Capt of Company G and told him that I would remain in CA. and meet the unit at Camp Haan, Riverside upon their arrival. That didn't go over too big with him. I was at Camp Haan on Jan 6th and tried to report to any unit that would billet me until the arrival of Company G. No unit would take me in so I went back to San Francisco and worked a while longer. Sometime in late Jan., I again reported to Camp Haan and found that Company G had arrived. To make a long story short, I received 44 days bad time on my record. No other punishment other than K.P. which I didn't mind. In July, I think it was, the 215th was shipped to Kodiak Island, Alaska to set up our anti-aircraft around Women's Bay, supposedly to protect the Harbor. Our Company had 37 mm anti-aircraft guns and our unit had two guns. In the field at the gun sites, we lived in tents for one week and then got to go back to the unit barracks for one week. In early December, the Unit was expecting to receive orders to ship back to the states and then home to be deactivated. Well, December 7, 1941 changed all of those dreams and the Japanese could have had the whole of Alaska had they tried. We, at our gun site, had exactly 14 rounds of 37 mm ammo for our 2 guns.
In early 1942, I was promoted to Corporal, bypassing PFC, and made squad leader. Also in 1942, the 215th added Company A. It was issued three 3- inch anti-aircraft guns and was deployed at the south end of Women's Bay. I was chosen to be on the cadre of the basic unit and was promoted to Sgt. and placed in charge of one gun crew, or a platoon. After going through basic training again with our draftees and spending another long cold winter on Kodiak, in April I heard the Army Air Corp was accepting applicants into the Army Aviation Cadet Program. I applied and was accepted and shipped back to the states in Aug. 1943 and, once again, went to Camp Haan, CA. While waiting at Camp Haan to be assigned to a College, I got married to a California girl. The marriage was predicted not to last. We will celebrate our 55th Anniversary in September 1998. From Camp Haan, I was shipped to Denver, CO., Camp Buckley, I think, and after many tests was sent to Utah St. at Logan Utah arriving early November 1943. There were enough men sent from Colorado to form a Squadron. I still carried the rank of Sgt. which may have had some influence in their choice of making me Student Squadron Commander of Squadron XIV. At the College there were four Squadrons of Cadets and also units of ASTP students. At the beginning of the fourth month at Utah St. I was appointed student wing commander of our Squadron. Squadron XIV was loaded aboard a train and shipped to Santa Ana, CA for processing and classification. Well we made it to day 13 when we were called into an auditorium and given the sad news that we were being transferred at the convenience of the Govt. what a shock. In a few days, I was handed orders and a list of 763, names of personnel to be taken by train to Camp Roberts, CA. From Camp Roberts we went to Hunter Leggitt and into the 89th Inf. Div. and Company I for me. We were issued two blankets, a pup tent, assigned to a squad and told to flop in the dirt. Talk about a culture shock. Remember I was a Sgt., and they were trying to give me basic training again! When I arrived, I knew the nomenclature and how to assemble 17 different army weapons. Needless to say, the non-coms were careful around me. Shortly after our arrival the 89th was shipped to Camp Butner, Durham, NC and during the conversion from light infantry to heavy infantry, I was chosen to be on the cadre for the Cannon Company of the 354th. I think the entire cadre, except the 1st Sgt and Supply Sgt., were either Air Force Cadets or ASTP. I was made Platoon Sgt. and again went through basic training with the draftees assigned to Cn. Co. to complete our T.O. This made the 4th time that I went through basic training.
The Cannon Co. consisted of three platoons with two 105 mm Howitzers each. This is the way we trained at Camp Butner. When we were being shipped to Germany en route to Boston, I received my orders of promotion to S/Sgt., so now each platoon had a S/Sgt. I got my chevrons sewed on while on a one night pass to Boston. I don't remember how I got back to the Company. I had good buddies. In France, our T.O. was revised making Cn. Co. two platoons of three guns each. Our platoon Lt. was Lt. Drake and I was platoon Sgt. We were assigned two gun mechanics, one was Carl Muth and the other was none other, than our Society Pres., Donald Johnson (Big Red, then). We had a few scrapes and many scares but I had a good crew and was confident all the way. When the war was over we finished with the same 29 men we started with and had added two more draftees. I am still upset because they wouldn't call on us to fire our cannons during the Rhine crossing. We were up on a hill and the Germans knew it so there would be no surprise. In fact, we did receive some incoming rounds during the night, that's why I dug a foxhole in the rocks and slept in the fetal position when I could sleep.
When the war was over, Lovejoy and I had the most points so we were the first two to be shipped home. After 2 winters in Alaska and one in France, when asked where I wanted to be discharged, I told them California. So I was shipped home to North Carolina then sent by train to Camp Beale, Marysville, CA where I was discharged on the 4th of July 1945. My one-year in the National Guard turned out to be 4 years.