Camp Jackson
Richland County, South Carolina Genealogy Trails

 

Photo courtesy of John Howell

In 1916, the military bought land east of Columbia to built an Army training facility. Approximetely 30 plus families sold their land to the government, some waiting till the last minute. There are 26 cemeteries on this land and permission is needed to get to any of those 26 cemeteries.

John Howell and others decendants from families who owned this land, have joined together to start what is called "The Fort Jackson Family Reunion." Their first reuinon was held in 2008 with 100+ people attending.

John Howell writes of his memories about Fort Jackson----

On August 9, 1959 I reported to Ft. Jackson, SC for basic army training. The first three days were spent in personnel. Testing and evaluation were done here along with receiving clothing, equipment, and haircuts. I thought that this was a rough three days and made a statement that basic training could not be any worse. Was I ever surprised?

The army sent trucks to carry us to the training area. As the trucks stopped perpendicular to the company street we saw the drill sergeants lined up, some with their swagger sticks waiting for us. They started yelling that our walking days were over that we would run everywhere we went for the next few weeks. Some of the most obscene language was being belted out to us.

As we unloaded our duffle bags from the trucks packed with our new army clothes and our personal items we brought with us which had to be shipped home, we were ordered to run down the company street for formation. As we were running the sergeants were yelling threats and cursing us. One recruit in front of me was over weight. This sergeant was cursing him and assured him he would lose the extra weight. At some point the sergeant kicked this recruit in his ankles causing him to fall down the bank onto another company area. The sergeant jumped down and kicked him while he scrambled to get up and get to the forming area. I remember later that this soldier lost seventy pounds in eight weeks.

Our first physical training was an early morning run through the woods for three miles. We ran by platoons. This over weight recruit was in first platoon and I was in the second. After short distance he fell out and was lying in our path. Our sergeant, using profanity, told us that this hog was lying in our path and he didnít want any of us to step over him. As we neared the recruit scrambled up and continued to run ahead of our platoon.

There was a recruit in the fourth platoon that had fought in the Golden Gloves Boxing Tournament. He was mean and always picking fights. Our sergeant, Donald A. Logan, had broken up a fight he had started a few days before. This evening I was sitting on the steps of my barracks shining my boots when this troublemaker showed up. He asked me where my sergeant was and I replied that he was inside the barracks. He told me to get him. I asked him what he wanted, anticipating that Sergeant Logan would ask me the same. He told me he was going to kill Logan. He had an iron tent support about the size of your finger and maybe three feet long.

I immediately went to the sergeantís room and knocked on his door. I told him someone wanted to see him. He asked me for what reason. I replied that he said he was going to kill him. Logan told me to tell the "fool" he would be right out.

Sergeant Logan walked out of the barracks and stood on the small stoop. He asked what he wanted and the recruit told him he was going to kill him. Logan walked down the steps and stood face to face with him as the recruit raised the steel rod over his head. Logan told him that he had one chance and that he had better make it good. The recruit hesitated and dropped the rod over his shoulder. Logan then struck him with his hand in a chopping manner knocking him down. As he got up Logan kicked him back down and chased him back to his barracks kicking him down every time he tried to stand up. The last I saw of him was getting one last kick as he scurried into his barracks. We never had any more trouble from this "fighter". To say that Sergeant Logan commanded our respect from his actions is an understatement.

When our training started there was a sign over the entrance to our barracks, "Best Platoon". Sergeant Logan said this sign had better remain in place after we finished our training. Eight weeks later we were the best platoon, the sign was still up and he was elected the drill sergeant of the battalion.

Logan was approximately thirty five years old and never married. He had a new car but we never saw him go anywhere. He stayed in our barracks even on the weekends. Other sergeants would leave for the weekend and some lived off post. I suppose you could say Logan was married to the army. His face was twisted and surgery was apparent. He told me a grenade blew up in his face. He was always telling us we would be in combat some day and he would be retired. Years later I read in a newspaper an interview with him in Vietnam. He was using his normal profanity in describing what was happening. The correspondent said they were under fire as the interview was being conducted. I donít believe you could find a better soldier than SFC Donald A. Logan.

After a week of basic training three men decided they had enough and would go home. Again I was sitting on my barracks steps shining boots when they appeared in their dress uniforms. We were told we could not wear these uniforms for four or five weeks. We had to prove we were worthy. I asked where they were going and one replied home. Sure enough the next morning at roll call they were missing (AWOL).

About two weeks later they were caught and brought back to the company area. They were forced to stand in the August sun all morning waiting for the captain to interview them. They were kept in the company area for several days being escorted by an armed MP. At the chow hall they would eat while the MP had a pistol trained in their faces. I suppose this was done to show the rest of the trainees what would happen if someone decided to leave. They were court-martialed and sentenced to time in the stockade.

For the first four weeks we werenít allowed any food except army food. I was always hungry not realizing I was getting a good balanced diet. I remember walking guard duty and would drop coins in the vending machine but not getting my snack until the next round fearing I would be seen.

After normal hours each company would have a sergeant acting as CQ (Company Quarters). His duty was to receive any orders from the chain of command and alert his company to any emergency. A recruit would be assigned as his assistant. They called this duty CQ Runner. I was an assistant to Sergeant Logan.

Logan told me to go get a mop. He had spilled something. I asked where would I find a mop at this time of hour. Using profanity he yelled for me to get a mop. He said he didnít care if I had to break in a chow hall and steal one, just donít get caught. I found a chow hall with the back door not real secure. I was able to get inside and get the sergeant his mop. The CQ Runner also woke the men who would work in the chow hall that day as KP (Kitchen Police)

Once we were in class training in this chapel. There were about 500 men in this attendance. This was during the called "Cold War" period. This Major was the instructor and was interrupted by this captain running down the aisle and whispering to him. The major then reported America was being attacked by the Soviet Union and their paratroopers were landing in New York and Washington, DC as he was speaking. He said we would ship out immediately.

I did not believe this thinking they were trying to scare us. The major then called a chaplain to come forward and have prayer. At this time I was made a believer after hearing the prayer, thinking surely no one would participate in false prayer. I remember seeing soldiers crying and praying. My thoughts were that I probably saw my mother for the last time. After about fifteen minutes we were told this was not true just part of the training. The army wanted us to know the feeling of preparing mentally for combat. There was so much rejoice it appeared the roof of the building would be cast off because of the noise.

John Howell
August 28, 2007

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