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The Arrival in 1958
I had thoughts about contacting my doctor and trying for a deferment or contacting the Red Cross because my dad was sick. But then I thought, real men just don’t do things like this...
A letter on the table
I can’t remember if the time was late 1957, or if it was Jan. 1958. My life was Drag Racing. For the past 4 years, I have been driving Fuel Dragsters, which is N.H.R.A.’S fastest class. I didn’t realize it at that time, but I was as good as I will ever be.
Portrait of George Breen taken when he was drafted in 1958 (Photo Credit: George Breen)
I had been invited to compete in a weeklong event called Speed Week. This found myself and my crew at a drive-in restaurant after work discussing what we should do to prepare for this big race. We decided that we should build a new, much larger and more modern engine. The engine would be an Ardun Merc. The reason for this engine was that we already had some of the parts needed, such as the expensive and rare cylinder heads. Soon after we would leave for home.
Everyone was very excited about the new engine idea and the week of Fun!
Arriving home, at about 11 pm, I entered my mother’s living room and there was a large envelope on the table. The envelope said that the letter was from the government. I opened the envelope and the letter read that I had been Drafted into the U.S. Army! I was to report on the 12th of Feb. 1958.
Never have I become so sick to my stomach, so quickly!
I sat down in my chair. My Mother now came into the room. I must have appeared sick because my mother asked, “What is wrong”? I told her that I had been Drafted! She began to cry.
My Mother soon returned to her room I sat in my chair, staring at the floor.
I was 23 years old and my only thoughts from age 16 were Drag Racing. I now felt all this, the life that I had built for myself, slowly slipping away. Disappearing. I was very scared!
I had thoughts about contacting my doctor and trying for a deferment or contacting the Red Cross because my dad was sick. But then I thought, real men just don’t do things like this. So, Wednesday, Feb. 12th, 1958, the day I was drafted, my life would change forever.
I was sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for 8 weeks of basic training. (Learning to live as a soldier) I think we served two weeks taking tests and such. After basic training, two weeks leave, then another 8 weeks of school. My school was wheel vehicle mechanics.
There was talk on the ship when we were on our way to Korea that we were going to Vietnam, but that was only a rumor.
George Breen in front of the tents that he pitched during training in 1958 (Photo Credit: George Breen)
The arrival to the land of the morning calm (first impression)
I am not 100 % sure, but I think I embarked from the U.S. in July 1958. I flew to Fort Lewis, located in Seattle Washington. I was there for 2 weeks waiting to board the ship that took me to Korea. It was named Ohara.
The boat ride took 14 days. Anyone that has traveled on a troop ship deserves the Medal of Honor! There are 10 men and 10 duffel bags in a space not much larger than 10 square feet! The sleeping “bunks” are hammocks, and they are only 5 feet high! You cannot turn on your side without bumping the man above you! And of course, there is always someone seasick!
We spent 1 day in Adak, Alaska, and one night in Yokohama, Japan.
I arrived in Incheon in July. I don’t remember the day.
Back in the year 1958, there was a line of troops coming ashore and a line going out to the ship. We boarded a landing craft getting off the ship and the front gate of the landing craft came down on a long wooden dock that stretched from shore far out into the sea! We were standing in the landing boat that took us to the shore, but we could not fall over as we slowly moved in the rough sea because we were packed in very tight.
Right after disembarking, I was taken by truck from Incheon port to the 570th ORD. CO. D.A.S. The trip to Seoul seemed like it took forever! The road was rough!
This is a picture of how we were often dressed during the latter part of our basic training. The pack on our backs weighed close to 40 lbs and the rifle we carried was 9 lbs. We carried all these 14 miles in the last week of training! (Photo Credit: George Breen)
Once there I couldn’t believe how relaxed everything was! I had never experienced military life like that!
For the first few months, I would have thoughts about how far away from home I really was! Would I ever see home again and the life that I loved so much? Drag Racing!
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