For John Brock, joining the Army provided a higher salary at a time when everyone could use some extra money. Brock was born in Alabama on April 7, 1916, and worked in a grocery store earning $5-7 a week during the Depression.
“That wasn’t enough, so I enlisted,” Brock said.
Brock joined the Army as a private in January of 1941, before the attack on Pearl Harbor pulled the U.S. into World War II. At the time, he didn’t expect the U.S. to enter the war, Brock said. After enlisting, Brock spent a few months in Pensacola, Fla., and then went to Virginia and attended master gunner school. From Virginia, Brock was shipped to Trinidad.
Brock spent several years stationed in Trinidad, assigned to guard the Caribbean against submarines.
“We didn’t do a very good job of it,” Brock said.
A submarine war was going on, but Brock said the other side had all the submarines, and ships were hit frequently. Brock’s unit was in Trinidad when Pearl Harbor was attacked, but he said it didn’t actually affect them much.
“We were disturbed, but life went on,” Brock said. “It didn’t look like they were going to do anything with us, so we kept on guarding the canal.”
The soldiers stayed in Trinidad until Vice President Harry Truman announced that there were too many troops in the Caribbean, and called for many of the troops to return to the U.S. Some soldiers were thrilled to return home, but Brock said the assignment in Trinidad had been so relaxed, he did not want to leave. By then, he was a master sergeant.
“I didn’t want to go, that was too good a deal there,” Brock said.
Brock was sent to a base in California when he returned stateside, but he wasn’t there long before he was shipped overseas.
Brock was sent to the German front in the spring of 1945, a few months after the Battle of the Bulge. Initially, he was on the back lines, he said, and there wasn’t a lot to do. When a sergeant asked him to gather firewood one day, Brock said he had had enough.
“I said, ‘I want to be shipped out of here. I want to go to the front where there are things going on there,’” Brock said. “[At] 23, you make decisions like that.”
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