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Panama:

After arriving at Fort Kobbe, the 551st PIB had to be organized and trained. Joe stated about this: "We were always working problems out like our uniforms, our jump equipment and other problems".

The training of the 551st PIB would be done by C company of the 501st Parachute Battalion, the rest of this battalion had left for the Pacific.
Joe remembers that the training was still pretty though, the GOYA birds were trained in al kinds of skills.
Running, judo, bayonet training, wrestling, weapons training, such as machine gun handling, mortars, rifles and the B.A.R., marches in the jungle, orientation, parachute jumps, the list went on and on.

The commanding officer, Joerg Wood, was earning the men’s respect in this period of time. During these training and forced marches, Joerg Wood was always there, leading the way.
The answer to the question: “where’s the major?” was mostly followed by: “Up front”.
According to Joe, during this period, the men had two nicknames for the battalion: NENSJK, which stood for No Eat, No Sleep, Just Kill.
The other nickname was: GOYA, which stood for Get Off Your Ass!.
Although the men had a preference for NENSJK, the major decided that GOYA had to be the nickname, one of his favourite expressions.
The major also used to call the men “birds”, and that’s how the phrase “GOYA Bird” was originated.
During their stay in Panama, many GOYA birds, visited the local bars in their spare free time. Many of times, encounters with “non paratrooper” personnel, ended up in a fight, and the GOYA’s started to get a reputation.
After a huge fight between the GOYA’s and local civilians, the city was declared off limits on the 19 th of April 1943.
During jungle training Joe got an appreciation for his rifle the M1 Garand.
He remembers the rifle being solid and very precise. Besides this rifle Joe also carried a Colt .38 on the side.

Training in the jungle was dangerous and filled with all kinds of hazards. Snake’s, quick sand and other predators were always on the lookout, especially at night.
The most dangerous hazard was the mosquito.....Joe also got a case of malaria in the jungle of Panama.

Joe & Ed Schultz
Joe remembers an incident with Lou Waters:
At a certain point during jungle training, the GOYA’s had to cross a stream by jumping to the other side. Lou yelled to the sergeant that if he would jump, he would break his leg. The sergeant wouldn’t have any of this, Lou Waters jumped and.......broke his leg.

On the 13 th of May 1943 all units stationed in Panama (551 st PIB, 550 th GIB and the 6 th Airforce) were put on alert.
An airborne invasion was planned on the island of Martinique.

This French colony was run by the French Vichy government, which sympathised with the Nazi regime.
The U.S. had a suspicion that the German U-boots, were being resupplied on this island and of course the U-boots would form a serious threat for certain coasts of the U.S.
Joe’s company A, were ordered to jump over the airfield of the island of Martinique. The battalion was taken to Balboa and there the waited on the airfield to board the planes. The battalion was good to go and the mission was cancelled. After this cancellation the battalion got a well-earned rest.

On the 20 th of August 1943 the 551st was send back to the States. There the GOYA’s were staioned at Camp Mackall for further training.