Segment 1


Ehlers served in Company L and Company C of the 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division. He enlisted in October 1940. His brother was going to enlist to avoid being drafted and he went with him to enlist at Fort Riley. He was told that he was too young to sign up on his own. He had to have his parent’s signature. He returned home to get his parent’s signature. His father said yes but his mother would only sign if he promised her that he would be a Christian soldier. Ehlers told her he would do his best. He did do his best not to dishonor her or God. Ehlers found it hard to be a Christian soldier. He was 19 years old and away from home but he still couldn't get into the bars until he turned 21. He tried smoking cigarettes but after a few he gave them away to his brother. He didn't drink while he was in the service either. He lived a clean life in the military.He stayed with his grandfather on his farm near his high school in Junction City, Kansas. His grandfather listened to the radio and got letters from cousins living back in Germany. He told Ehlers what was going on over there with the book burnings and conscripting children into government schools. After the invasion of Poland in 1939 they knew that there would soon be another war with Germany. Even after that, the US resisted going to war even though the Germans were sinking our shipping with their submarines. Ehlers had signed up to be in a mechanized outfit. He was sent to the 7th Infantry Division. When they got to the 7th they found out that it hadn't been mechanized yet. They did a lot of walking and training. There was a big flu epidemic on the coast [Annotator's Note: the west coast of California] at that time. Ehlers’ brother got sick and had to go into the hospital. When he got out he had lost 30 pounds. Ehlers got the flu but he just stuck it out and finally came through it. He remembers being on the rifle range and not being able to see the target but still being able to put 8 out of 10 rounds inside the bull's eye at 500 yards. Ehlers thought about being a conscientious objector but then thought back to the promise he made to his mother and decided to carry on and do the best he could. When he was finally issued his M1 rifle he considered it his rod and staff and it comforted him. It comforted him many times in combat.Ehlers was fighting for freedom. The United States Army has fought for freedom since the Revolutionary War. The Civil War caused more deaths than any other war we have fought in and that was for freedom. World War I and World War II were fought for freedom. All 3 nations [Annotator's Note: Germany, Japan, and Italy] became democracies after the war. Ehlers was accepted into the service and took his basic training at the Presidio in San Francisco. They were then assigned to the mechanized outfit and stayed there for about one and a half months before learning that the 7th Division had been re-designated as a training division for the selective service men [Annotator's Note: draftees] coming in. A cadre of enlisted men and officers was kept and the remaining regular army men were sent to the 3rd Infantry Division. He was regular army since he had enlisted during peace time. Ehlers went from Company K, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division to Company K, 30th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division which was stationed at the Presidio in San Francisco. At the Presidio, Ehlers they had beautiful barracks and it was a beautiful place to serve. The food was good, it was really nice, and they were living it up, but that didn't last long and they were soon back to training.


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