A WARTIME BATTALION
Most fraternity houses on campus had been taken over by the Navy V-12 students, and even though my fraternity, SAE, had rented a suite of rooms over Tom Crumpler’s ice cream parlor in the Village for our meetings, the atmosphere on campus had changed. We were now on a war footing. The Army and Navy personnel lived in barracks-like accomodations, even though they were formerly dormitories and fraternity houses.
The NROTC cadets, gathered outside the barracks on the ‘grinder’ (parking lot), early in the morning, for 15 minutes of calisthenics directed by one of the Navy staff chiefs. We then ran back into the barracks to shower, dress, and reassemble again in formation for our march up Westward Boulevard to breakfast at the Navy ‘mess’ in Kerchoff Hall. At 0700, exactly, our battalion commander, Bob Bailey, shouted the preparatory command, ”Batal-l-l-l yun,” followed by the three company commanders shouting,
”First company,” ”Second Company,” “Third company,” in unison, followed by the platoon leaders all shouting,
”Plato-o-o-n-n-n,” a short pause, and then Bailey shouting the execution command,
There was then complete silence, without a movement from anyone – all standing at rigid attention. Then Bailey, not quite having to shout now, said,
”Battalion-n-n, ” echoed by ”Company” and ”Platoon” preparatory commands, then Bailey, now shouting,
With a shuffling of feet, and a click of heels coming together, everyone turned to the right. Then from Bailey ,
”First company column left, second and third companies fore-wa-a-a-a-rd, ” (again the echoing sub commands), then,
With a ”Guidons out” command from the First Company Commander several cadets sprinted ahead of the lead column into the street to stand, with legs apart and hands behind them, facing the traffic and bringing it to a halt, while the battalion marched up Glendon Avenue, turned left onto LeConte, and then right again on Westwood Boulevard. Cadence was set by the Battalion Commander occasionally shouting,
”Left . . . . left. . . . left . . . . . ,” which was usually picked up by some of the marching troops shouting, in cadence,
”Left . . . . left . . . . . left my wife and 24 children without any gingerbread left. . . . left . . . . left my wife . . . . . . .”
Then a few choruses of ”I’ve got six pence , jolly jolly six pence, I’ve got six pence, to last me all my life – I’ve got tupence to spend, and tupence to lend, and tupence to send home to my poor wife….,” (George Vane recalls that some rowdies substituted “sexpants for six pence), and by that time we were nearing Kerchoff Hall, ready to fall out for chow. A line already had formed by some of the V-12’s who had arrived ahead of us, but we were soon picking up our steel trays, with the indentations in them to hold the various concoctions that were served to us by the cook’s assistants. We sat down at the long ‘picnic’ tables, and shortly finished our breakfast, lingering a little longer over coffee if we still had a few minutes left before leaving for our 8 o’clock classes. This was our daily routine, except for Saturdays, when instead of going to classes at 8 o’clock, we assembled in Royce Hall, seated by companies and platoons. The NROTC sat on one side and the V-12’s sat on the other side. We usually saw a training film, followed by special announcements, and then around 10 o’clock, we were dismissed, with free time until 12 noon, when both the NROTC and V-12 units assembled on the soccer field for Captain’s Inspection.
The Commanding Officer of the Navy Units at UCLA was Capt. Wm. C. Barker, USN (Retired), formerly captain of the battleship USS PENNSYLVANIA, when she was flagship of the Pacific Fleet. Capt. Barker would surely have become an Admiral if he had not had the misfortune of the PENNSYLVANIA running aground in fog one night on the rugged California coast. That pretty much ended his naval career, even though he was not directly responsible for the accident. When the NROTC units were authorized, shortly before the start of World War II, Capt. Barker, who was retired at that point, was called back to active duty to command the UCLA NROTC unit. In line with Capt. Barker ‘s training and life-long experience, he ran a ‘tight ship’ at UCLA. Having previously being privileged to command a battleship that was the flagship of a fleet, he took his command at UCLA just as seriously.
During Captain’s Inspections on Saturdays, he carefully inspected each and every man, with his staff in attendance, noting any discrepancies and names of the offenders. After the inspection, names of the offenders were announced, and they, along with any others previously sited for various offenses, such as smoking, having hands in pockets, or sitting on the grass, while in uniform, were assembled. These men held close-order drill, and marched, for a specified number of hours that Saturday afternoon, or were restricted to their barracks for the weekend, depending on the seriousness of the offense. One of the common causes for failing Saturday inspection was the lack of a recent haircut. ‘Haircut’ Barker would run his finger up the back of your neck and head, and if any hair covered his finger you wore “on report.” The rumor started that Capt. Barker had a barber’s chair installed on the bridge of the USS PENNSYLVANIA. This of course was a joke, but barely so. To play it safe, everyone tried to get a haircut each week.