No Way Did I Want the Army
By Steve Karoly
When he enlisted, George Schmitt was not your typical Seabee volunteer. He was an 18 year old man with no background in construction.
George enlisted at a time when the Seabees were changing their recruiting focus: Instead of recruiting seasoned construction veterans, they started to enlist younger men who had little experience in the trades.
George remembers well his service dates: "I went into the service 4 February 1943 and served until 10 November 1945 when I was discharged at Lido Beach, Long Island. I went into service as an apprentice seaman."
Two years and seven months later, he was discharged as a boatswain's mate second class.
During that time, George served in four foreign countries (Canada, England, France and Germany); worked as a rigger, signalman and diver; directed Rhino ferries at Omaha Beach; and participated in the longest overland movement of a Seabee battalion in World War II.
In our discussions, George does not speak a lot about boot camp. I'm sure his memories are much like mine: Boot camp is something to be remembered in the past tense. It's hell when you're going through it, but fun to talk about in later years.
George first tried to enlist in the regular Navy. He continues: "I went in the Navy in December of 42 and left for Camp Peary in early January of 43. I was seventh from being accepted into the regular Navy when the quota was filled. The alternative was the C.B.s or the Army. No way did I want the Army. After we signed on we were given a seven day leave. The poor guys that went into the [regular] Navy left that night for boot. We went the normal routes from Peary to Endicott then to Davisville for ABD training."
In early 1944, the typical Seabee went to boot camp at Camp Peary in Williamsburge, Virginia. Boot camp lasted four weeks.
Following boot training, he and his fellow boot Seabees were formed into a Naval Construction Battalion and shipped off to Camp Endicott in Davisville, Rhode Island.
At Camp Endicott, also known as the Naval Construction Training Center, he received advanced technical training in a construction trade.
The battalion also operated as a military unit for the first time. Its Officers and Chief Petty Officers directed training and the normal day to day functions of any military unit: The Supply Department kept the men fed, clothed and supplied; the Administrative Department kept their records straight; and the Company and Platoon Commanders saw that they got to training on time and at the right location.
After four weeks of training, the battalion "crossed the street" to the Advance Base Depot at Davisville. When a battalion moved over to the ABD, it indicated that time was short in the states. At the ABD, the 69th was outfitted with all the equipment and supplies they would need for their pending deployment overseas.