• Museum spotlights Reception Center

  • This is the third in a series about new exhibit installations at the Frontier Army Museum.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    This is the third in a series about new exhibit installations at the Frontier Army Museum.
    On Sept. 1, 1939, World War II officially began with Nazi Germany’s attack on Poland. Two years later, after the Japanese bombed the American fleet in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States officially entered the war.
    During peacetime, President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew the inevitability of America joining the conflict, so he and the U.S. Congress implemented a draft so they could begin to prepare soldiers and new-enlisting civilians for overseas conflict, according to the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, a research center associated with George Washington University’s History Department.
    As a result, more than 20 reception centers were established throughout the United States, and one of the largest, Reception Center No. 1773, was in the area where the Fort Leavenworth Commissary and the Post Exchange now stand.
    The Fort Leavenworth Reception Center is the subject of the newest exhibit at the Frontier Army Museum; it was installed March 12.
    “There were over 300,000 men that processed in here at Fort Leavenworth. Initially, when the Reception Center was built, they were thinking they were only going to have 500 to 1,000 men process through this station, and they realized then that they were going to need to build more barracks and prepare,” said Russ Ronspies, FAM museum specialist.
    The display includes the front page of the March 20, 1943, issue of the Fort Leavenworth Reception Center News, the predecessor of the Fort Leavenworth Lamp. The newspaper was an eight-page weekly published for inductees at the center. The first edition was published Dec. 27, 1941, and the last was published Sept. 9, 1944.
    The exhibit also includes a Reception Center seal, a World War II garrison cap and a footlocker, all of which belonged to Master Sgt. Leo Winneke, who served with one of the two companies in the 17th Infantry that operated the center. He was chief clerk of the center’s supply section until his retirement from the Army in 1946. The items were donated to the museum by Winneke’s daughter, Mary Sue Winneke.
    Ronspies said it was important to reestablish the Reception Center display at the museum.
    “It is really an important part of Fort Leavenworth history,” Ronspies said. “We still on occasion get some World War II vets that visit, so it is always nice to be able to have that available for them to see.
    “I hope that (museum visitors) can take away a greater understanding of a significant historic event that took place here on post and how big a role the post did play in processing and educating soldiers for entry into World War II,” he said.
    The Fort Leavenworth Reception Center No. 1773 became active on Aug. 9, 1940. In August 1943, Military Review published an article by Lt. Col. Charles Malone, commander of the center, titled “Operations of an Induction Station and Reception Center.” The article, available at the Combined Arms Research Library, talks of the step-by-step process soldiers underwent upon arrival at the Reception Center.
    Page 2 of 3 - Once a new civilian was recruited, they were issued a “Soldier’s Qualification Card,” which followed the soldier throughout his Army career.
    Following their induction, the men were sent to the Armed Forces Induction Station where psychologists, based on the inductees’ records and preliminary physical information, screened out those who would most likely receive the lowest grades in the regular Army Classification Tests.
    “The Army wants men who can learn to be soldiers,” Malone wrote. “Most illiterates are rejected, but not all of them.”
    For the “illiterates” who were accepted, Reception Center No. 1773’s Special Training Unit was reserved for those who could not read or write English at a fourth-grade level, Malone said. They had three months to learn or they were discharged.
    Following the psychological tests, the inductees received a complete physical examination at the Medical Induction Station. If they passed, the inductee’s Service Record was initiated. Then, the inductee was to choose what branch of service he preferred, Army or Navy.
    If an inductee chose the Navy — as long as he met the standards and physical requirements of the Navy — he was sent to the nearest Naval Recruiting Station to receive the oath of enlistment, Malone said.
    Inductees who chose the Army, upon meeting the physical requirements, were sworn into the Army and placed in the Enlisted Reserve Corps.
    After a 21-day deferment back home, the recruits returned to the center and were given a serial number and were assigned to a casual company, which officially began the second phase of induction, Malone said.
    During orientation in the morning, the recruit heard a series of talks about government insurance and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Acts and read through the Articles of War. They also watched movies on personal hygiene and customs of service.
    Next came three classification tests in the afternoon — the Army General Classification Test, which tested their decision and quick, accurate thinking skills; the Mechanical Aptitude Test, which often revealed potential skills of the trainees that were previously unknown; and the Radio Operator’s Aptitude Test, which was a test of sounds that determined potential radio operators.
    All of the test results were recorded on the Soldier’s Qualification Card.
    Following the tests, the recruit had his classification interview in which the interviewer filled out the rest of the qualification card. After the interview, he was sent to the Insurance and Records Department for the chance to take out government insurance. Then, he was sent to Supply for his uniform.
    “Up to this point, the only outward indication that the recruit is in the Army is a cardboard with his name and serial number hooked on him. As he leaves the Classification Section, he is about to discard his civilian clothes for the duration,” Malone wrote. “As he sits in line, waiting to be fitted for his shoes, shirts, pants and other clothing, he observes this sign, ‘You are now going to receive the best clothing ever issued to any army. You alone are responsible for it. Take care of it. Be proud of it.’”
    Page 3 of 3 - The recruit’s final stop of the day was the infirmary where he received typhoid and tetanus shots.
    Throughout the rest of his stay at the center, the recruit was taught the basics of drill and was assisted in making the transition from civilian to Army life as easy as possible until he joined his unit, Malone said.
    Following the war, the center out-processed more than 100,000 soldiers before closing in 1946.
    To learn more, visit the museum.
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