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Ray Sanchez in Germany during World War II.

I’ve always had a soft heart for Fort Bliss.

I was inducted into the United States Army there, my brother Ralph and some of my friends are buried there, and I consider the site a blessing.

Not every city has an Army post to defend it.

I was inducted into the Army as soon as I turned 18 on June 5, 1945. I had tried to join the Navy when I was 17 because I wanted to serve my country. I passed my physical, but as I was walking out, a Navy official called me over. There was a color chart on the table and he asked me to read whatever number was on the chart. I said, “what number?”

I found out I was color blind and I was turned down.

As it turned out, it was good for me. I was able to finish high school and get my diploma from El Paso High School.

BUT THE ARMY wasn’t so finicky. World War II had ended against Germany, but it was still raging against Japan. The Army grabbed anyone who could walk.

I was delighted, but I had an IQ above average and the Army didn’t seem to know what to do with me. At first, I thought the Army was going to send me to the Pacific war zone.

But I was assigned to parachute duty in California. I spent two days there, but before I could learn the ropes, the Army assigned me to the Army of Occupation in Germany.

THERE I NOTICED the terrible ravages of war. I visited concentration camps where Nazis had gassed Jewish people by the hundreds. Many cities were turned into rubble. I saw German civilians looking in trashcans for something to eat.

First thing the Allies bombed were factories. Luckily, the United States, with two oceans around it, was spared. We became the providers of goods for the world. We went from one of the poorest countries in the world to the richest.

MY BROTHER, four years older than I, saw a lot of combat with the enemy. He wound up stationed in India. He contacted malaria there, and suffered from it the rest of his life. He went from being a young, vibrant person to only the shadow of the man he had been.

Another casualty of war.

WHILE IN GERMANY, I was assigned to attend Seckenheim Radio School in Bavaria to learn Morse Code, and was then assigned to a tank. Really.

I was learning how to handle that job, but suddenly I was promoted to technician 4 and later to technician 5 and given the duties of clerk for Troop A 28th Constabulary Squadron.

Since the war in Germany had ended, soldiers were being sent home in droves. I wound up practically single-handedly running the troop. I performed such duties as preparing correspondences, endorsements, reports, roll calls, special orders stencils, mimeographs, morning reports, sick reports and other military matters for almost a year.

I OFTEN THINK of my times in the Army with fond affection. After all, the GI Bill of Rights was established in the United States. Thank goodness. I was able to attend what was then Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy (now UTEP), eventually graduate and become a sports writer then sports editor and columnist.

I must admit, though, that I have nightmares at times when I think of the horrors of war.

Maybe, someday, somehow, the world can live in peace.

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Veteran sports journalist, historian and author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column.  Contact him at (915) 584-0626, by email at rayf358@yahoo.com or online at raysanchezbooks.com.

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Veteran sports journalist, historian & author Ray Sanchez welcomes suggestions for his column. Contact him at 915-584-0626, rayf358@yahoo.com or raysanchezbooks.com.

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