Earl Colson was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in November 1924. He had two brothers. His dad was a caretaker at the Lancaster Armory and worked through the Depression [Annotator's Note: the Great Depression was a global economic depression that lasted from 1929 through 1939 in the United States]. He did not make much money working for the state. They had food most of the time. His oldest brother served in the war. His younger brother served in the Vietnam War [Annotator's Note: Vietnam War, or Second Indochina War, 1 November 1955 to 30 April 1975]. Colson heard about the Japanese attack on the radio [Annotator's Note: the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on 7 December 1941]. He was happy about it as he was not a Jap [Annotator's Note: a period derogatory term for Japanese] lover to start with. He tried to enlist but could not. He was drafted in 1943 about seven or eight months later. He went to basic training at Camp Pickett [Annotator's Note: now Fort Pickett, near Blackstone, Virginia]. It was not hard for him. He was in the Pennsylvania National Guard before that with his dad and his oldest brother. The military part of training was not challenging. He was in medics training and that was challenging. He was sent to New Orleans [Annotator's Note: New Orleans, Louisiana] for more training. He was a medic at first, and then made a machine gunner. He went from being a medic to training as a pipeline engineer. His worst duty ever was at Camp Claiborne [Annotator's Note: in Rapides Parish, Louisiana] where it was hot and humid. From there he went to Florida where he ran the rifle range. He taught there. He was assigned to the 86th Infantry Division and transferred to Europe by ship in a convoy. It was not bad, nor was it pleasant. There were two men for every bed. You slept when the other person was somewhere else. He did not get seasick. They landed in Le Havre, France. The walk from the ship to the post was something else. It was a long distance to walk. Colson never thought it would be so hard to remember this stuff.
Earl Colson landed in Le Havre, France [Annotator's Note: with the 86th Infantry Division]. They trained there as they knew they were going to the front. Some of looked forward to it, and others dreaded it. After you look forward to it for a while, you learn you are damn fool. He was an ammo bearer for a machine gun. He never fired it, but his crew did. He does not recall the names of the towns he went through, they were just towns. He had times where he had the living shit cared out of him. You never get used to it. They went down the river one night outside of Cologne [Annotator's Note: Cologne, Germany or Köln, Germany] on the Rhine River. It got pretty bad, and they had to get out. They retreated. It was a small patrol. A couple of guys in his outfit got shot, but no one he knew got killed. Colson was in Europe when the war ended. They were headed for the Philippines after being pulled out. He went there by ship. They landed at Luzon [Annotator's Note: Luzon, Philippines].
Earl Colson [Annotator's Note: with the 86th Infantry Division] did not have more than skirmishes in the Philippines with the Philippine guerillas. Their lieutenant went up and made friends with them. There was big difference between the war in Europe and the war in the Pacific. In Europe, they were fighting for their land. In the Philippines, they were fighting just to stay alive. His unit was to be the spearhead into southern Japan. He was damn glad the war was over. You could have heard the noise [Annotator's Note: the noise of the celebration] to hell and back. Colson did not go to Japan to occupy it. He came home and got a 30 day furlough [Annotator's Note: an authorized absence for a short period of time]. After the war in the Philippines, they had a mounted machine gun on a jeep and rode around looking for trouble. They did not find any. Colson did not lose any friends. They were all good guys.
It is tough for Earl Colson to remember things from so long ago. He returned home and was discharged at Fort Dix [Annotator's Note: now Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Trenton, New Jersey]. He returned to his sweetheart. He had a job as soon as he got home with his boss from before the war. He worked in landscaping. He has left out a lot because he cannot remember it. In most cases today, the country pays proper respect to the war veterans. Colson was not interested in respect and just wanted out. His brother was 11 months older than him. They went in at the same time. They went to Indiantown Gap [Annotator's Note: Fort Indiantown Gap in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania] where they were split up. Colson does not know how they came to put him in the medics. His brother was made an MP [Annotator's Note: military police] in Georgia. He loved it and stayed in for 29 years. He retired after having a bad experience with a new officer. He told Colson he could not stand the guy.
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