"P.S. The guy that they have put in charge of our platoon is really a swell guy..." reads the ending of a letter written by a new Army recruit going through training at Camp Fannin in Tyler, Texas in June, 1945.

That fellow in charge of the platoon could very well have been John R. Jeane, of Pickering, who spent the last two years of World War II training his share of the more than 200,000 young American men who became Army Infantry Replacements between May 1943 and December 1945.



"P.S. The guy that they have put in charge of our platoon is really a swell guy..." reads the ending of a letter written by a new Army recruit going through training at Camp Fannin in Tyler, Texas in June, 1945.
That fellow in charge of the platoon could very well have been John R. Jeane, of Pickering, who spent the last two years of World War II training his share of the more than 200,000 young American men who became Army Infantry Replacements between May 1943 and December 1945.
Once soldiers completed training at Camp Fannin they were assigned to serve in both theaters of war. Many became casualties. According to some estimates, it's probable that at least 5,600 of the soldiers who trained at Camp Fannin lost their lives in World War II. Twice as many could have been wounded.
"I had the second platoon in the 150th Infantry,"  said Jeane, 91, of the new recruits who cycled through Camp Fannin. Jeane and three other drill sergeants would get about 60 new recruits every 16 or 17 weeks. Those soldiers would then be divided into four platoons. Each drill sergeant took charge of one platoon.
"I never slept a whole lot," he said. "They kept us going. They had to."
Some recruits got less training than others, said Jeane.
"When it came to the Battle of the Bulge, [the soldiers] didn't get but about a third of what they was supposed to get before they flew 'em out of there because the American side needed the troops to fight," Jeane said.
The Battle of the Bulge, fought in the winter of 1944-45, was the last major Nazi offensive against the Allies and was the single largest and bloodiest battle that American forces fought in the war. The United States committed about half a million men to the battle and suffered around 80,000 casualties, including 19,000 who were killed.
"They [didn't] know a thing in the world about the Army (and I didn't either)," said Jeane about the recruits he took under his wing on the eve of their deployments to war and possible death.    
"I carried a stick like this with me all the time," said Jeane, indicating his cane. "It wasn't a walking cane, but it was a stick, for a pointer, and that was for showing the soldiers what I wanted them to do."
But Jeane wasn't the typical drill sergeant depicted by Hollywood. Though strict, he was kind.
"I just couldn't bear ... being mean to a soldier, whatsover, no sir, no," he said. "I treated 'em good; oh, I wouldn't treat them mean for nothing in the world."
Jeane knows the sacrifice those soldiers were making, he said, and he's never regretted the part he played in training them to face the challenges of war.  
"I think the war then, see, it was very essential, because Hitler was going to take the world. We had to fight then.
"No, of the nearly four years I stayed in [the Army], I wouldn't regret any part of it," he said. "I was just a lucky person that I didn't have to get in combat."
In 1946, the land occupied by Camp Fannin was returned to non-military use. Only a few reminders of the land's purpose during that short time remain. Where once young men were drilled in artillery and hand-to-hand combat, now people pursue their own happiness in liberty that was preserved for them by the soldiers of Camp Fannin. Where once young men kissed their loved ones goodbye before shipping off to war, perhaps never to return, now families celebrate a freedom preserved for them by those same soldiers who learned to fight, and even die, at Camp Fannin.