07 March 2022

The Gift of an Autobiography-Fort McClellan, Alabama

The post I wrote about military newspapers, Using Military Newspapers in Your Research, got me thinking about my father's time at Fort McClellan, Alabama. My dad wrote about his time at Fort McClellan in his autobiography.


     "The most beautiful sight I think I ever witnessed up to this time of my life occurred on the voyage home when our ship entered New York Harbor and for the first time I saw the “Statue of Liberty.”  What excitement to finally be coming home to see Mom, Dad, and all my friends. I was given a two-week furlough before an assignment at Fort McClellan, Alabama as a physical Training and Bayonet Instructor. We all figured it would only be a matter of time before we would be heading to the Pacific Theater. I did not have enough points to get out yet. While at Fort McClellan I also coached and played on a company basketball team in the evening for recreation. We didn’t have a very good team. At the end of the season there was a post championship tournament in which the seven regiments stationed there selected all-star teams from their regiments. Colonel Reeder, the Regimental Commander of the 7th Regiment, of which I was a member, asked me to coach the team which I gladly accepted. We had two weeks to practice, pick our team and get ready for the Tournament.

      The 3rd Regiment won practically every year and were heavy favorites as they had some college players, including one who played some at Notre Dame. I was discouraged when I held our first couple of tryouts as there seemed to be hardly any talent at all. Then one night I heard a knock on my door in the Officer’s quarters and a Captain from another company in our Regiment said he just got a shipment of new trainees fresh out of New York high schools and they wanted to play basketball and was there any openings. I would have accepted anyone at this time and told them to report to the gym the next night at 7 o’clock. Five boys reported and all of them had either played together or against each other in New York City schools.

     WOW ONE TRIP UP AND DOWN THE FLOOR AND I HAD MY STARTING FIVE. Jack Gilcrest was a 5-10 guard who could shoot the eyes out of the basket. An Italian lad named Pommerano was 6-2 had all the moves in the middle, shooting, passing, and rebounding. The other three boys were equally impressive, and they blended as a team as if they had played together all their lives. To make a long story short we won the tournament breezing handily through the first two games and whipping the 3rd Regiment in the finals by two points. I, along with the team, was the Toast of the Regiment as a result. My biggest contribution was probably staying out of the way and letting them play. I honestly believe this experience was a catalyst for launching my coaching and teaching career at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, following my release from the service.

     While at Fort McClellan the War in the Pacific ended in August 1945 with the surrender of the Japanese forces. I was honorably discharged at Camp McCoy north of Wisconsin on May 2, 1946, after 33 plus months of service. I left the service with the Expert Infantryman’s Badge, a Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and a World War II Victory Medal."


I wanted to find out more about the tournament he coached and since I am not able to go to Fort McClellan at this time, I thought I would see if there was a Facebook page for Fort McClellan. I found one, Fort McClellan Memories. I posted the paragraphs from my dad's autobiography and pictures of the tournament asking if anyone knew of any newspaper archives available. I did get a couple of interesting comments. One was from someone who had worked at Fort McClellan and said the gym was Miller Gym. Another thought the records were archived at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. This led me to more ideas for research. I will share my findings as I get replies from a few written inquiries.

My dad's autobiography has been a gift that keeps on giving. I am happy he wrote and published it. He gifted it to every family member. Since his death, in 2018, I have been asked by his former athletes and students if they could get a copy. I have shared it with those who ask. 

 Picture Information: The picture is one that was in my dad's collection. Bruce Glover is the last one on the right. I do not know who was in the picture with him and my father didn't remember their names.

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