The Trained Killers

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2011-08-03
  • Publisher: Trafford on Demand Pub
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"You gonna leave here a warriah, a trained killah! Gonna come a time when you life gonna depend on it, so pay attenshun!"June 25, 1950: North Korean armed forces, supported by the Soviet Union and China, drive deep into the heart of South Korea. They are met by the United States' First Marine Division, and a draft is instituted back home. Able-bodied young men enrolled in college for "critical skills" receive temporary deferment; upon graduation they are obliged to serve a six-year term.July 27, 1953: An uneasy armistice is signed. The Cold War has suddenly gotten much hotter, and the draft remains in full effect. Two years later, a crop of college graduates in engineering and the sciences arrive at Fort Dix, New Jersey, for basic training and the start of their service with the Scientific and Professional Detachment.Author Joseph N. Manfredo'sThe Trained Killersbrings us the story of the troops of the S&P Detachment as they serve their country and the conflicting demands of their twin gods-science and the military-with dignity, wit, and verve. In his humorous, true-to-life style, Manfredo recounts the lab work with rockets and explosives ... and the night furnace duty, Kitchen Police, and specially designed work details.October 4, 1957: Russians launch Sputnik. The honor and challenge of spurring on American technological advance falls to the engineers, scientists, and scullions of the S&P Detachment, uniquely equipped as they are for the days ahead.


By our second day at the target range we knew what to expect from the cadre. The Sergeants, who were older men, were tough, but reasonable, intent that we should become proficient and earn those medals. The Second Lieutenant, a very young man, was a different story. Lacking in actual experience he depended on bullying and sarcasm to motivate the recruits. When a soldier's shot pattern was off a Sergeant came over and offered advice, crudely but helpfully. Our Lieutenant shouted obscenities and ridicule. When a red flag waved, signifying a miss, the Lieutenant stood over the hapless soldier and ranted until he felt the man was sufficiently humiliated. That morning we had completed firing from the 100 yard line and had just moved back to the 150 yard line. "Firing positions!" shouted our Sergeants. We went to the ground and accepted the clips. We loaded the clips. One last inspection by the Sergeants, then signals were made to the tower. The tower spoke. "Lock and load one round Ball ammunition!" 56 bolts slammed a live round home. Each rifle held three live rounds. 168 live rounds were about to be unleashed on the targets. "Targets up!" 56 sets of eyes began sighting on bull's eye targets. Recruits remembered their training; "Don't jerk on the trigger. Gently squeeze it like it was your girlfriend's breast." 56 nervous index fingers tightened, slowly and softly on triggers. Our Lieutenant suddenly began running back and forth behind us shouting, "Watch out for the white helmet! If any of you bastards hit that white helmet I'll have your ass! Don't hit that helmet! I'll know who you are!" I looked for it and there it was, sitting on one of the short, white telephone jack poles at the 100 yard line. The Lieutenant had placed it there during the last exercise and forgotten to put it back on his head when we moved back to 150 yards. We had not noticed it until he brought it to our attention. "Ready on the right?" asked the tower. "Don't hit it! I'm warning you!" "Ready on the left?" queried the tower. "I'm warning you! I'll have your ass!" "Ready on the firing line!" shouted the tower. "If you miss your target I'll know it was you!!" "Commence Fire!" A shot rang out. The helmet spun around. More shots followed. The helmet danced, then flew off the post. It flipped in the air and fell to the ground where it jigged and bounced until the sound of the last shot faded. "Son of a bitch! Son of a bitch! The bastard who missed his target is gonna be court martialed! That helmet cost forty bucks! You'll pay for it, too! Son of a bitch!" the Lieutenant screamed as he pranced and paced back and forth behind us. He fell silent as a red flag on the end of a pole slowly came up from the target trench and waved left and right in front of one target. His eyes lit up and he grinned. "AHA!" he shouted, "I've gottcha, you bastard!" He started walking rapidly to the shooter who was lying in line with that target. Another red flag rose up and started slowly waving. The Lieutenant stopped and looked back at the other soldier. He reversed direction, unsure which soldier to approach first. Then a third red flag came up, and a fourth and another and another until 56 targets had red flags waving slowly back and forth. That day 56 riflemen had failed to pass the 150 yard test on that first set. But they scored 56 nicely grouped bullet patterns on the second 150 yard set, later that same day. Go figure.

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