Entering the Army
The United States is in it's roaring twenties. It is the year 1925. The global economy had recovered from the Great War. The sky seemed the limit in the America of those days. Ford had introduced the T-ford and made the automobile available for the masses, Due to the assemble line it took only 93 minutes to build the simple but affordable car. Buying on loan had made it possible for many Americans to have luxury items like the refrigerator and the washing machine. The family Neff was living in Buffalo, Western New York. In 1925 they gave birth to twins. They called the two boys Robert and Richard. The family already had a little boy called Albert. He was one year older than his twin brothers.
The three boys grow up in Buffalo. The three of them attend the Riverside High school in Buffalo. Richard and Robert are unrepeatable. After school hours they work at the Fedders Manufacturing Co. Inc. Robert is the more responsible one while Richard is somewhat wilder. Both are very religious.
On December 7th 1941 the family Neff, like every family is shocked by the news that the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbour. After the initial shock not much changes for the family, the father is too old to go to war and the three brothers are all still in school. It will take at least another year before the oldest is ready and the family believes that the war will not last very long. The family is however patriotic and when the time comes the boys will go to war.
Albert graduates from high school in 1942. On his eighteenth birthday he receives his draft papers. He chooses for the Army and after a couple of months training he will end up with the engineers.
The twins are induced in the Army on August 5, 1943. At that time the Americans have already landed in North Africa and after the defeat of the German North Africa Korps at El Alamein, the British have chased the Germans across the desert and together with the Americans they have driven them out of Africa. In august 1943 the American general Patton and his British rival Montgomery are both racing for the price in the Sicilian invasion, the city Messina.
On the next day after Richard and Robert get drafted, they are on the train and on their way to Camp Upton to receive their basic training. After a long journey they arrive in the camp. Along the way the train stops at every little place. There is a USO show in the camp that evening and the brothers decide to check it out. The like it a lot and before Robert falls asleep on that first long day in the Army he takes the time to write his mother to tell her about the travel and the USO show.
The work at the camp starts with building sidewalks for the barracks. They use a shovel all day. They don't have a single day off in the beginning. They have detail every morning and that lasts all day. Their hair is cut to one inch and according to Robert they look like prisoners in their fatigues. The only good thing in camp Upton is the USO shows that every GI can see for free every evening unless they have special duties, like guard duty. Basic training means much cleaning and learning drills.
From camp Upton the two boys transfer to Fort Belvoir (Viginia). On August 28 Robert tells his mothers that his days start with cleaning the barrack, then they have time to go to chow and they exercise the rest of the day, that may mean instruction movies or drilling. They usually drill 8 hours and sometimes two hours extra.
By then the Neffs have discovered how important it is to receive letters from home. Robert writes how the boys around him light up when their name is called in the mail call and he notices that the boys read the letters they receive over and over again.
On September 14 Robert writes that they had to get up at two o'clock and that the then went on a ten mile hike that eventually became a 20 mile hike that night. By this time the brothers receive rifle practice and are shooting at targets 500 yards away. They also have received 14 hours continuous instructions in the use of camouflage nets. The food they receive on their marches reminds them of the slob that their mother gave the pigs while they where on the farm in their younger days.
At that point the boys aren't exactly thrilled that they are in the Army and they are living towards a three day pass so that they can fly home and see their parents and their four year old sister.
At the end of September the large scale manouvres begin near Kentucky, to train the American commanders in moving whole armies in a battle situation. The battalion in which the Neff's are in is in the Blue army. The front line is in Kentucky. One of the platoons in their battalion is at the front line, the others are fourty miles away. They are kept busy every minute of the day. They are loading and unloading equipment. No lights are permitted, just as in a combat zone.
The thanksgiving meal is special even in wartime. The brothers have turkey, mashed potatoes, salad, cranberry and a big piece of pie.
On November 30 1943 the boys go to the rifle ranch to shoot for their Expert Infantry Badges. The week after that, they end their Basic training and start their Engineer training which will take seven weeks. Richard explains to his mother that engineer training will involve building bridges and roads.
On January 4 1944, Robert writes to his mother that he and Richard are now stationed at Camp Reynolds, Greenville Pennsylvania. The camp is located 200 miles from their parents home. At that point they can only apply for a 12 hours leave and so there is no possibility for the brothers to visit home.
Robert writes his mother that he expects that he and his brother will be separated once they have finished engineer training. He tells her not to worry because he and his brother are making good friends with the other men in the camp and they expect that they will do fine on their own. At that point both men are part of company "E" 18th Bn 5th Training Regiment.
A day later their mother appeals in a letter to the President not to separate the twins who have gone through all previous experiences together.
At that time it is policy to keep the families in different units, but the family Neff feels strongly that the boys can take better care of each other if they are not separated and since they have done everything together upto then it is only natural to them if they stay together. On January 28, the family receives a letter from the Adjutant General at the War Department. The twins will not be allowed to serve together.
In 1942 five brothers got killed on the same day when their ship was hit by a Japanese aircraft in the Pacific Ocean. These brothers served together and all died in that attack, after that catastrophe the war department decided to split relatives up. As an exeption the Neff twins were allowed to serve together.
February 28th Mrs. Paul C. Kidder writes to Mrs. Neff. She works at a voluntary Red Cross canteen in Youngstown Ohio. The canteen provides free meals for the soldiers in the weekends. They drive completely on trained volunteers. She has met the boys at the registration office and thought of them as very fine boys. Later the girls at the Red Cross found out what the birthday of the twins was and threw them a party with a cake and all of them sang for the twins. The expression on the faces of the boys was priceless, so she tells Mrs. Neff. Mrs. Kidder has deep sympathies for Mrs. Neff and the extend of the "loan" she has given Uncle Sam by having three boys in the service.