by HB Auld, Jr.
Today, December 11, 2021, is the 80th anniversary of the enlistment of my father-in-law, JB Kattes, in the US Army. JB, at just 22 years old, left his family farm in San Saba four days after Pearl Harbor and traveled to Dallas, Texas. There, he and other young men raised their right hands and swore “…to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic….” He left behind his parents, his three older sisters, a younger sister and a younger brother (Hugh Kattes, who would also serve later) 80 years ago today.
Like other young men across the US, JB joined the US Army to fight against Imperial Japan after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. He and many others headed for Camp Roberts, California, the military’s largest Army training facility in the US. There, he and thousands of other new enlistees underwent 17 weeks of military training, learning how to be Soldiers, before heading overseas. My own father, HB Auld, Sr, had undergone his own 17 weeks of training there at Camp Roberts just seven months before JB did, back in May of 1941. Both he and JB went from Camp Roberts to Fort Lewis, Washington, for further processing and training for Pacific Theater operations. JB and his fellow Soldiers were sent on to the US Territory of Alaska (18 years before it became a US state); my dad headed off to fight in New Guinea.
JB spent the first part of World War II at Elmendorf Base at Anchorage. While there, he advanced to Sergeant. He and his men lived in ramshackle, cold, wooden buildings and he washed his clothes in a wash tub. He wrote to his sweetheart, Jennie Alford, and told her how hard conditions were there. Jennie mailed him a small wooden wash board to scrub his uniforms and make washing his clothes a little easier. JB said he “rented” his washboard out to other Soldiers for a quarter each. That little washboard memento now hangs on the wall of his daughter, Susan Jones, in her home.
From Anchorage, JB transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia, to train Army Airborne officers. While stationed in Georgia, he went back to Texas on leave and married Jennie Alford, then took her back to Georgia with him. My wife, Jannie, was born 11 months later, just before World War II ended.
Thank you, US Army Sergeant JB Kattes, and all the other brave men of The Greatest Generation who served in World War II to ensure we live in freedom from tyranny today. JB’s Army enlistment began 80 years ago today. God bless him and God bless America.