Valley Journal
Valley Journal

Veteran Spotlight

Ted Decker April 7, 1939 Cuban Crisis - Germany U.S. Army, Artillery, PFC

Ted Decker, a 1958 high school graduate, was working at the mill in Pablo when he got his draft notice. Rather than wait around to be called up, he went to the Polson office to volunteer for the draft and started his two years of service in September, 1961. 

    Ted went to Ft. Ord, California for boot camp. It was damp there and a lot of guys got pneumonia and spent time in the hospital, but luckily, not Ted. He spent eight weeks learning to shoot a rifle (which he already knew, but a lot of guys didn’t), attend safety talks, build strength by hiking, and learn to throw live hand grenades. The grenade area was a walkway with a pit beside it. Some guys got nervous and dropped the live grenade so the officer in charge kicked it into the pit. Ted didn’t have a problem with the grenades.

After a 21-day leave including Christmas when Ted went home, he reported to Ft. Carson, Colorado, where they spent their time mostly looking at guns. He spent January and February there in very cold conditions. One time an officer said, “Decker! Can’t you get this furnace going?” Ted said he’d never seen a coal furnace before.

From Colorado, Ted went straight to Ft. Dix, New Jersey and after a week there, went by ship on to Ferris Barracks Army Post at Erlangen, Germany.  The trip overseas took 10 days and lots of the men were sick the whole time, but not Ted.

Ted lived with 10-12 other guys in two-story barracks. They practiced artillery shooting every 2-3 months, mostly staying ready in case they were needed. Shells 8 x 30 inches were loaded into guns mounted on big trailers, rammed into place and the powder loaded behind them. They used old car bodies as targets. More bags of powder were loaded for longer distances, up to 10 miles. 

Erlangen was 14 miles from Neuremberg, Germany where there were good beer gardens. It wasn’t hard to get 3-day weekend passes so Ted was able to travel all over Germany and Italy by train and taxi. One time he paid $90 for a 10-day Greyhound bus tour that included the Isle of Capri where the water was beautiful and very clear. The highlight of that trip was swimming with local girls in bikinis. Another of his trips was a 3-day tour to Hitler’s Mountain.

Though Ted got to see a lot of places and would do it all over again, he never thought of staying in. He’d never been away from home before the Army, and at home his mom cooked for him, made his bed, etc. “I learned a lot after I got married,” Ted says. He still keeps in touch with a friend who worked at Plum Creek in Columbia Falls, Montana and is now in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Ted says it would be hard to give advice to young people who might be considering military service. It provides health insurance and a place to live while getting good experience by getting away from home. On the other hand, with the wars going on today, he wouldn’t want his kids to get their legs blown off so maybe now would not be a good time to join.

Thank you for your service, Ted.

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