At Sampson Air Force Base, N.Y., in March 1951, I was picked to escort the first graduating class of basic trainees to Keesler Field, Miss., for technical school. A couple of the 100 young men were from Letcher County. We would travel by train.
We had a three- hour layover in Buffalo, N.Y. I had a hard time keeping the group together as we walking around the city sightseeing. A few of them had their parents meet them there. Everyone was so nice to us. The Korean War had just begun and they wanted to buy us drinks. None of the young men were old enough to drink.
We soon boarded the “Bullet” train, destination New Orleans, first stop Biloxi, Miss., to drop these young airmen off.
The car next to ours was full of young ladies from Utica
College in New York for nurse training. They would become second lieutenants to end to our wounded men overseas. The lady in charge of them and I had a devil of a time keeping the two groups apart.
Military personnel met the train in Biloxi and escort the men to Keesler Field. I had to stay on the train to New Orleans so as to take the train back to New York the next morning.
This was my first trip to New Orleans and after I got a hotel room I went for a walk around town. I ended up at the Mardi Gras. I never saw such a sight like that in my life.
A military policeman spoke to me. He said, “Sergeant, keep your hand on your billfold. There are folks here that will pick your pocket.”
I went back to my hotel room and caught my train back to New York early the next morning.