Cameron resident Bob Earley, along with five friends from the small Iowa town of Frimgher, went together to join the United States Army in November of 1954. They were officially inducted into the military in January of 1955.
Bob traveled by bus from Sioux Falls, SD, to Kansas City, then by train to Fort Bliss, TX for basic training. However, when they arrived, Fort Bliss was not prepared for them, and they took another train to Fort Ord, California, near Monterey. Fort Ord closed in 1994.
Following basic training, Bob was sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, for engineer training. He arrived on Easter Sunday, 1955. During that time, he was assigned to the Officer’s Mess Hall for KP duty.
Bob enjoyed Virginia and the opportunity to visit many monuments in, and around Washington, D.C. Bob had a cousin with the USDA in the area who took him to visit many sites. One day they went to the Civil War Battlefield in Gettysburg. While there, an Army vehicle arrived carrying President Dwight Eisenhower. Bob saluted, and the President returned his salute.
Following 8 weeks in the Alexandria (VA) area, Bob went to Graduate Engineer School at Camp Kilmer (named after author Joyce Kilmer) who was killed in action while serving with the 69thInfantry Regiment during WW1. Camp Kilmer was a military Embarkation point for Europe.
Bob and 2200 other GI’s sailed on the USS General Darby to Bremerhaven, Germany, eventually ending up in Orleans, France, Headquarters for the Communication Zone, referred to as Com Z, where he was assigned to the AP 7805 Service Company. His duty was as a Supply Clerk. They were responsible for everything soldiers in the field needed, including fatigues, ammo, bedding, etc.
After two months, Bob was assigned to work in the NCO Club serving officers, including after hours. This was a good position since it only required 3 nights per week, and one weekend a month. Bob commented that the Army “made a responsible person out of an irresponsible kid”.
Bob enjoyed three R&R’s while stationed in Europe. The first was to Bavaria in southern Germany. He and friends were able to attend an Olympic Winter Games hockey match in Innsbruck, Austria, and tour the Alps, including King Ludwig the Great’s Castle (Neuschwanstein Castle) in Bavaria, which has been open to the public since Ludwig’s death in 1886.
His second R&R was to Barcelona, then to Madrid. He and some friend were able to hitch a ride on a military training flight to Frankfurt, Germany. He reports the pilot did a lot of “touch and go’s” along the route.
His final R&R was to London (via Paris) and commented on seeing the White Cliffs of Dover during the flight. In London he and his friends went to the Douglas House, which catered to U.S. military personnel and helped them arrange tours. From London they went to Edinburgh, Scotland, then over to Glasgow. He and his buddies arranged passage for themselves on “an old tub” of a boat to Dublin, Ireland. Eventually they took a ferry from Dublin back to London.
As Bob was about to fly home, Russia went into Hungary. The military was busy transporting Hungarian refugees to America and neglected to transport American GI’s home. Finally, a GI withsome connections was able to contact a member of Congress and report the situation and priority was given back to military personnel. Bob flew back on a C154 Constellation, stopping at the Azores and Bermuda before flying into Dover, DE. While in the airport he was able to phone his family and talked to everyone, including his fiancée, Donna. He also had a sad experience there as he conversed with an elderly couple on their way to claim the body of their son. It was Christmas Eve.
Bob took a train to Chicago, then flew on a DC-3 to Sioux City where the entire family was waiting to greet him. Bob married his hometown sweetheart, Donna Augustson, also from Frimgher, Iowa.
Bob then went to college at Iowa State. H was in the Army Reserves for 6 years, 2 active duty. The $50 a month from that was a big help in those years.
Bob and Donna moved to Cameron in 1961 where Bob operated Walnut Grove Farm Products providing livestock feed to area farmers. Eventually Bob and Donna started Earley Tractor and Farm Equipment and became very successful. Bob likes to comment that such a success story is “only possible in America”.