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Becoming a paratrooper:

When Joe joined the Army in 1941, he wanted to become an aircraft mechanic. After flunking his aptitude test, Joe had the choice of Infantry or artillery. Joe chose the infantry.

At Camp Wolters Texas, in July 1942, Joe received his basic training. This basic training took 3 months, and during this training, Joe got an interest for boxing and was trained to become a scout.
After hearing about the paratroopers and the extra fifty "jump" dollars these soldiers would get, Joe signed up for the paratroopers and arrived at Fort Benning, Georgia in September 1942.
Joe still remembers the names of some of the guys he signed up with. Amongst them was his "pre-army" buddy, Bob Hill, who was killed on the 7th of January during the attack on Rochelinval in the Ardennes.
Joe remembers being in very good physical condition and that the training was very intense. The paratroopers would learn how to jump from 250 feet high towers in 4 weeks time. They also learned how to pack their own parachute and finally had to make 5 jumps to receive their parachutist's badge. Shortly after Joe earned his parachute badge, the 1st battalion of the 551st Parachute Infantry Regiment was founded. Joe joined the battalion in November 1942, and training would still continue.
The 551st commanding officer, Major Joerg Wood, called his men together on the 3rd of December 1942. The 551st existing of 450 men at that time, and Major Joerg informed the men that they would all be leaving for a destination outside the US, but he did not reveal their destination. On the 11th of December 1942 the 551st left Fort Benning. Between the 11th of December and the 27th of December the training of the GOYA's still went on. On the 27th of December 1942 the 551st was embarked on the USS Joseph T. Dickman. Before embarkation, all paratroopers were ordered to remove all signs which could identify them as paratroopers, including tattoo's. According to Joe, those with a tattoo were given two options: either having the paratrooper tattoo burned from their skin, or getting another tattoo over the paratrooper tattoo.
Joe chose the last option and still has that tattoo on his left arm.

During their overseas trip their convoy was attacked by U-Boats and 2 ships of the convoy were sank. Finally the convoy docked at Balboa, Panama and the 551st was transported by truck to Fort Kobbe, near the Panama Canal.