Interviewee: Clark Gunn
Interviewer: Donald Gunn
Date: July 19, 1999
D: [I am Donald Gunn, and I am interviewing Mr. Clark Gunn on] July 19, 1999 in
Tampa, Florida. Mr. Gunn, tell me a little bit about where you were born and
raised and just, briefly, about your life up until you joined the National Guard.
C: I was born and raised in east Hillsborough County, a little community which at
that time not many people knew of, which was Valrico, Florida. We used to tell
everyone that we were actually from Brandon so we did not have to get involved
in trying to tell them where Valrico was. I went to school in Brandon, graduated
from Brandon when Brandon actually only had the one school that encompassed
the elementary, junior high, and high school. I graduated in 1946, and I was one
of sixty-nine graduating seniors. About the same time that I graduated, I
registered for the draft, in September of 1946. Sometime shortly thereafter, they
discontinued the draft. In January of 1947, I was attending the University of
Tampa. Most of my friends or fellow students at that time were returning ex-GIs
from World War II and were attending the University, I guess on something like
the GI bill. Some of them talked me into going over to the National Guard
Armory, which was not too far from the University, to join the National Guard. I
guess, primarily, they were interested because they could pick up their rank,
whatever rank it was that they had, and then [also it was a] a way of making a
little extra money which, I guess, back then was the prime motive.
D: How much was it a month?
C: I can faintly remember that I, of course not having any prior service, went in as
an E-1, and I do not think it was much money. It was something like, maybe,
less than $50 a month, and maybe it was not even that much, but every little bit
helped. Of course, theirs would have been more than that because they were E-
5s [sergeants] and E-6s [staff sergeants]. But after about a year, I noticed that
most of these guys had gotten out. They decided they had had enough of the
military. Of course, by that time, I had gotten a couple of promotions, and the
money was a little better. I was still going to the University, and it kind of helped
D: Was there any military training that you were involved in at the University, or was
this strictly just your National Guard?
C: No. It had no connection to the University. Back then, there was no ROTC
program or anything that I can recall. It was strictly a separate entity.
D: So what was your job in the National Guard? What was your MOS, or [military]
occupational skill, when you first went in?
C: When I started out, I guess I was kind of like a clerical [worker]. Then, I went into
an artillery unit, in what they called a fire-direction center. In a headquarters'
unit, they furnished the fire-direction operation for the firing batteries, at that time.
Later, I think the firing batteries picked that up and did some of that themselves
but then, at that time, it was all conducted by the headquarters.
D: At the battalion headquarters?
C: Yes. I guess I was probably one of the first ones, and my job was actually fire-
direction patrol, where we computed the range. We had something like a military
slide-rule or a slide-rule that engineers used to come up with the right settings for
the guns. I did that for quite some time, for probably two or three years.
D: And that battalion was the 116th?
C: Yes, it was the 116th Field Artillery Battalion, which was a part of the 51st Infantry
D: Where was the armory?
C: It was on Howard Avenue, which is right down the street from my business. I
never knew back then that I would be operating a business down the street from
the National Guard Armory.
D: Fort Homer...?
C: Fort Homer W. Hesterly.
D: Were there any other units there besides the artillery battalion?
C: They had a service battery, which was part of the 116th. There was headquarters
for the 51st Infantry Division, which the 116th was a part of. The 51st Infantry
Division of the Florida National Guard was split between Florida and South
Carolina, and this was the office for the Florida part that was also located on the
premises. It was located at Fort Homer Hesterly.
D: Who was the division commander?
C: I think at that time, the division commander was General Henry W. McMillan. His
civilian job, I think, was that he was a director of the IRS for Florida, but he was
the division commander of the Florida part.
D: You said this division was set up after the war. The 51st was not a wartime
division but was set up after the war?
C: I am not sure about the 51st, but the 116th, a lot of the people I served with had
actually gone into World War II with the 116th. They were inducted as a unit in
World War II. So, some of these people who I served with were in the 116th
before, served on active duty during World War II, and then kept up their service
D: They had fought in the South Pacific theater?
C: Yes, I think most of their time was spent in the South Pacific.
D: So, what was the condition of the National Guard in those early years after World
War II? Were the units fully manned?
C: No. I think at that time, they would take pretty much anybody who walked in off
the street. I am not saying that is why they picked me, but I know I worked in
recruiting for a period of time and recruited quite a few young people who we
really did not do too much testing on. They could walk in if they were pretty good
applicants. So, it was a building process. I know the first two-week summer field
training that we went to was-we did not go in 1947-in 1948. It was quite an
experience because everything was pretty much disorganized. We went to [Fort
Jackson, South Carolina]. The mess halls there, I guess, had not been opened
since the war, and I think some of the food that we ate that first summer at camp
had, kind of like the mess hall, been there since the Second World War. I guess,
compared to today or even later years while I was still in, it was pretty rough
around the edges, so to speak.
D: What kind of equipment [did you have]? Was it pretty antiquated?
C: No. The equipment was World War II-type equipment. The 105 howitzers were
the same. My brother Donald could probably answer that question better than I
because he actually was in the gun section. But, I think the weapons were
probably left over from the Second World War. I do not know that they were new
manufacturers, but they were pretty well-maintained. The actual technical or the
actual training that we took that first and subsequent annual training periods was
pretty well planned out and were certainly worth the funds that were being
expended for the program.
D: And that first encampment was a two-week?
C: Yes, it was based on two weeks.
D: What was the rest of the training cycle like during the year? What kind of training
did you do with the unit? It was different than the one weekend a month.
C: Well, at that time, we met for about four hours on Wednesday evenings. That
constituted a drill-period, Wednesday from seven until eleven, or something like
that. That was the case for quite a few years. That was what we called our
D: What kind of training would you do on typical Wednesday evening?
C: They would start it off usually as a company formation and close-order drills.
Then, you would break down into section training. Being in the fire-direction
center, we would run dry runs and prepare. All of was basically a preparation for
what we would be doing when we went on our two weeks active-duty part the
following summer. The mess section would be having classroom-training on
preparation of meals. We used the regular Army training-manuals [and] subject
schedules and all for conducting the inactive duty.
D: With the World War II veterans, did it help a lot having that experience?
C: Oh yes. I can imagine that it might have been a pretty sad affair if we would not
have had those guys because they, pretty much, were the key people. They had
been there, which made it a much more interesting program for someone like
myself, who was not in the Second World War. They, of course, pretty much
held the key slots. They were key enlisted people, and the key officers were
mostly from World War II.
D: Throughout the remainder of the 1940s... 1948 was the first camp, and where
C: I think during the latter 1940s, we pretty much had our two weeks at Fort
Jackson, South Carolina.
D: During those two weeks, did you go to the field there? Did they put you in the
barracks? How was that?
C: We would start out in the barracks. Usually, it was split. The first week, we
would be in the barracks and then the second week, we would go into the field,
out to the artillery ranges, and then return back to camp. Usually, in the last
couple of days, they would have a big parade and start getting ready to close
D: Now, was the whole division up there during these things?
C: Yes, I believe that it did encompass most of the division, the supporting forces,
the MPs [military policemen]. Also, the South Carolina part would be involved
too. It was kind of like a competitive thing between the Florida part and the
South Carolina part, as to who came up with the best ratings. We were rated by
regular Army inspectors who were on the premises. Not only during our annual
training two weeks but also during the fifty weeks of inactive-duty training, we
were under the inspection of a regular Army advisor.
D: In the late 1940s, the active-duty military was integrated. Was the National
Guard integrated at all in the 1940s? Racially integrated?
C: I really do not recall. I cannot recall there being any black people in the Guard at
that time. I do not know whether it was by choice or by whatever. As far as
being integrated, maybe there was not any real reason for there to be integration
because I do not think we really had...of course, it was all purely voluntary.
Maybe, it was just that we did not have any volunteers. I am sure that if there
had been, they would have been accepted, because we were kind of after
bodies, so to speak.
D: Were there any periods during the late 1940s where your unit was called to
active service for an emergency of any type?
C: There was just one occasion, and it would have been in the late 1940s because I
think it happened right after we had returned from our two weeks encampment.
We were called out for state active duty to a little town up in central Florida where
there had been some disturbances between the races.
D: How did they call? What was the process? Phone calls? How did they contact
the soldiers, or the Guardsmen?
C: As I recall, I think I got the notice at my place of work. They contacted my
company, where I worked at the time. They sent word down that I had been
called to state active duty. Back then, we had what we would call an alert type
program, where certain people had to call certain people, like section chiefs
would call the section people, if there were an alert. We were told to report to
Fort Homer Hesterly at a certain given time and be ready to depart.
D: Now, this situation was in Groveland?
C: Yes. Groveland, Florida, which was in Lake County. It is probably about fifty,
sixty, maybe seventy, miles northeast of Tampa.
D: Do you recall how the situation had escalated to call in the Guard, or what was
C: I guess there had been a lot of skirmishes between the black community and the
white community because of the nature of the incident. There was a claim that
these-I believe there were four-young black people who had supposedly raped a
white girl. I guess the governor-and I do not even remember who the governor
was at the time-had felt that the local law-enforcement were not properly
controlling the thing, and they called us. To my best recollection, we really were
kind of like, our hands were tied when we got there, because I think the local law-
enforcement, the sheriff, was very reluctant to turn over any of his control to the
National Guard. I think it was kind of a political thing. Whether we really
accomplished what we went up there to accomplish, I do not remember. I think
there was probably some pretty good training that came out of it, but as to
whether it really served the purpose that was originally intended, [I do not know].
The training being that, you know, a young fellow like myself, and at that time I
was in my late teens, I can recall going there. I was in a jeep with a major, and I
was a little bit concerned about where I was going and what was going to happen
when I got there. Then, it seemed that we were only there, maybe, a week. I do
not remember exactly.
D: What exactly did you do when you got up there? What was the mission?
C: Actually, as opposed to the firing-batteries [units], the headquarters units, [one of
which] I was in, were pretty much stationed in the downtown area. We actually
were housed in the school which was right downtown. Our principal purpose was
to take our turns on guard-duty, I think mostly just to show our presence in
uniform with our weapons in the downtown area, while all the firing batteries
people were stationed out in the areas where they were actually having the
problems, in the little community of Stuckey Still, which was a few miles down the
road from downtown Groveland.
D: Were you issued live ammunition?
C: In the headquarters units, no. We did not have live ammunition. We had .45s,
but we were not issued any. There were some key people in the firing batteries
who were, I understand, issued live ammunition.
D: How was the interaction with the local law-enforcement? Were you working for
them? How was that coordinated?
C: I think being in headquarters and being in earshot, so to speak, of the
commanders, I know that there was a problem between the command and the
local sheriff, as to what they were allowed to do and what they were not allowed
to do, thinking, I believe, that the sheriff pretty much had control of the situation
and kept them from being too aggressive in their efforts to correct the situation.
D: In that period of time, how did the Guardsmen that you served with feel about
[the situation]? Were there problems with them going up there and protecting
C: No, I do not think so. Speaking for myself, I did not have a problem with that,
even though we had not heard a lot about why we were there because of the
communications or the press. There was no TV. So, we were kind of unaware,
really, of what the situation was and were kind of, more or less, filled in about
what happened as we traveled to the area. So really, I think when we actually
departed from Tampa, a lot of us were not really sure of just what our mission
was. So, by the time we got there, even if we would have had a problem with it,
we would have had to have slept with it. The concern was mostly that the
problem did not escalate into a real terrible situation.
D: Talking about coming up there, when you traveled to Fort Jackson or when you
traveled on this deployment, how did the National Guard move [everybody]?
C: Pretty much the same way, I guess, as we would have moved when we would go
to our two weeks annual encampment, the two and a half tons and the jeeps,
except that we did not carry the howitzers, but the people. I happened to have
been in headquarters when I rode in a jeep with Captain Fisher, who was a full-
time civilian technician for the 116th. Speaking of Captain Fisher, it was
sometime after that when I chose to become a full-time civilian technician for the
Guard, and Captain Fisher was my first boss. I worked under him and actually
went to work as a unit administrator for the Charlie firing battery.
D: What was your civilian occupation in those early years before you got the full-
C: When I went to work for the Guard, my previous employer was U.S. Phosphoric,
which was a large chemical company east of Tampa.
D: What did you do there?
C: I was an equipment operator. I operated the plant that transformed the
phosphate rock into phosphoric acid.
D: Did you have any conflicts between your obligations to your employer and your
National Guard obligations? Was that ever a problem?
C: No, that was not a problem. I do not think that I was paid when I left and was
absent from my employment. It was only for a few days, and I do not think they
had any provision for paying us so I forfeited the pay. But I did not have any
problem as far as leaving or going back to my job.
D: Over the period of the late 1940s, from the time you joined the Guard up until,
like, 1950, did you see a big improvement in the readiness of the Guard?
C: Yes. Actually, I would say every encampment that we went to, there was
improvement, a noticeable improvement through the years. I think it was
probably somewhere in the neighborhood of nine or ten encampments that I
participated in, each one being better than the previous.
D: Do you remember where you were, or do you remember anything about, when
North Korea invaded South Korea? Was that a big news item at the time?
C: Oh yes, definitely. Of course, the big concern was that the unit, as a whole,
would be called to active-duty. Friends of mine were so concerned that they
decided to get out of the Guard. I forget exactly what the procedure was for
getting out at the time, because I believe we were on three-year enlistments, but
you were able to get out for hardship reasons or something, I guess. Anyway, I
did have friends who did get out because of that, who were subsequently drafted
because they re-instituted the draft. Then, we did not get called.
D: Did you see a lot of guys come into the Guard to avoid the draft?
C: Yes, then that happened. Originally, there was not a draft, and these people
were getting out. Then, I think they restructured the draft, and we started getting
people who were coming in to keep from being drafted.
D: Did the structure of the units change with the wartime setting? Did the units get
bigger, or did anything change in that way?
C: It seems that we did reach a point where we could actually be more selective in
recruiting or taking people in. We started testing and making them be, basically,
a little more qualified to join, as opposed to just taking anyone who came off the
D: Did you get new equipment or anything like that during that period? Did the
Army up it?
C: I do not recall that there was any real significant change in the equipment that we
had prior to the Korean Conflict. I think it was probably known that our particular
unit was not going to be called. I think I had heard some stories later on that
there were certain reasons that they were not going to call our unit, the 116th or
the 51st Division.
D: What year did you say you went full-time?
C: I think it was in November of 1951.
D: So, it was after the Korean War?
C: Actually, I think it was somewhere along about the same time that I did accept
the full-time employment with them.
D: Where did you work at?
C: Well, my first assignment was as a unit-administrator for one of the 116th Field
Artillery firing batteries. I had been in headquarters up until that time. Then, after
a couple of years, I took a promotion. The two years that I had left there, I was
on division level as an administrative-assistant to the division commander.
D: What rank were you holding?
C: I was a warrant officer.
D: When did you become a warrant officer?
C: I think it was in 1952 or 1953.
D: Did that have something to do with your becoming full-time?
C: Yes, because the slot that I filled when I became a full-time technician, the slot
that I held in the unit TO&E [table of ordnance and equipment], was as a unit
administrator which carried with it a warrant officer's position.
D: Was there any particular training that you had to go through, or anything
C: To qualify?
D: Yes, to move from the enlisted rank to one...?
C: Well, you had to have a certain number of points, and you earned points by
being...for instance, you would have points for being a high-school graduate,
points for college, points for prior service in the Guard, and then points for your
education, like the pre-commission extension series.
D: While you were working at the armory, what was a typical day like? What did
your work consist of?
C: A unit administrator was responsible, pretty much, for all the personnel-records,
supply-records, preparation for inspections. Pretty much, we were the right-hand
man to the commanding officer. He looked to us to keep him abreast of all the
correspondence and the changes, to keep the unit in a state of preparedness for
inventories that came down from the state adjutant general.
D: So, you did a little supply work as well as personnel work?
C: Actually, they called us an AST, which was an administrative supply technician.
That is what we were, really. So we were pretty much responsible for keeping
those records and making sure that all the different sections accounted for the
property when we came back from our summer camps.
D: Where did you live during this period, you and your family?
C: When I first went to work for the Guard, I actually lived in Limona, Florida, which
is a small community east of Tampa, near Brandon. But, during the time that I
worked there, I moved in and actually lived right on the post. There was a large
apartment building on the post property that was available for rent. They were
supposedly for full-time or Guard people.
D: Who paid your salary, as a full-time? Was it a state salary, a federal salary?
C: It was state funds, but I understand they were funds that were allotted to the
state of Florida by the Defense Department of the United States. They were
federal funds allotted to the state for maintenance of the National Guard.
D: When the summer encampments came around during this period when you
worked for the Guard, did you perform the same kind of administrative work?
Was that your Guard and your full-time job?
C: Yes. It was a little easier because I had a lot more help during the two weeks
than during the year because the commander was not a full-time person. He had
his civilian job, and he pretty much dumped everything on his administrators to
keep him looking good.
D: Now, that was the battery commander?
C: In this case, it was a battery commander for a firing battery.
D: During the early 1950s, were you still going to Fort Jackson? That was still
where the summer encampments were?
C: Actually, we went to Fort Jackson from 1948 through 1951, which was four years.
D: And then where?
C: Then, in 1952, we went to Fort McClellan. It was during the time that I was going
to Fort McClellan, between 1952 and 1956, that I moved from the position of
AST, or unit administrator of Charlie Battery, to the 51st Division Headquarters.
D: During the 1950s era, were there any more periods of active-duty or state
C: I cannot recall. I think it was in the late 1950s, right after I had left the National
Guard and went into the Army Reserve program, when they had a call up where
they went to a little village north of Tampa and buried dead chickens. I was kind
of glad I was not there.
D: What was that all about?
C: Well, it was a health hazard where they had the floods. That would have been
[in] Hernando or Pasco [Counties]. Anyway, Massayarikton was a little town, a
farming community, where they grew a lot of chickens. There were some areas
in there that were low, and I guess some of these chicken farms were in the low
areas. The flood waters were so bad that it was killing all of these chickens, and
they called the Guard out, I guess, to go up and take care of that situation.
D: During the 1950s, did you see a change in the focus of the Guard, as far as the
Russian threat becoming more of a focus of training, or through the Korean War
C: I recall, while I was the administrative-assistant for the division headquarters in
Tampa, first of all, that in order to hold a position, I had to obtain a top-secret
security clearance, and most of the key people in the division headquarters at
that time had to do the same. I would say it was only based around the Russian
[threat]. Even though I was not involved in any of the training, I was strictly
administrative, I still had to be. In other words, if I was not able to obtain the top-
secret security clearance, I would have lost my position.
D: After the Korean War, did anything change in the Guard? Did you see people
leave or come in? Did the conclusion of the war change anything at all in the
Guard, that you recall?
C: I do not recall that there was a big difference. [Tape interrupted.]
D: I believe it was around 1952 when they started requiring National Guardsmen to
go to federal basic-training. Do you recall anything [about that]? Did that make
things better, or do you recall much from that?
C: In a sense, I had pretty much gotten out of the recruitment and the procedures
that went on.
C: Normally, when I was in Headquarters 116th, I would have been abreast of all of
that, but on the division level, I did not really get involved in that part of the
military, and I do not recall too much as to how that affected or did not affect the
National Guard as a whole.
D: When did you leave your full-time position at the Guard? You did leave your full-
time position at a certain point?
C: Actually, I gave up my full-time position in, I believe it was, 1957 to go into
another field of employment. Along about the same time is when I transferred to
the inactive National Guard and stayed on an inactive basis until, I think it was in,
1958, when I signed into the USAR program.
D: Why did you make the change from the Guard to the Army Reserves?
C: I had a friend. I was kind of his understudy, as far as administrative duties that I
performed while I was employed by the National Guard. I followed him. He had
the same job that I took on the division level. He had been there and
recommended me for the job. Actually, when I got out of the National Guard, I
really had no plans of picking up my military career any further than that. But,
this friend of mine, who was a technician for the Reserve program, much like the
program that we had in the Guard, contacted me when he heard that I was
planning on giving up my military career, and he talked me into going into the
Reserve program and taking it up from there.
D: Were you full-time with the Reserves, too?
C: No, I did not take a full-time position with the Reserves. I had an opportunity,
from time to time, to take up a position, but I never did.
D: At that time, what were the principal differences between the Guard and
Reserves? Did you note any big difference?
C: The difference? To me, there was no similarity between the two, except that we
were all military and we were all ranked, and the pay statuses were very similar.
But, the missions of the two, to me, there was not a similarity between the
missions. Our mission in the Reserves, originally when I went in, came under the
auspices of, or we were under, the Transportation Corps. It was just a different
type of service. Our missions were different than what they had been in the
D: How long did you remain in the Reserves?
C: I remained in the Reserves... think I attended my first two-week tour of duty with
the Reserves in 1960. From 1960 until 1987, so that is twenty-seven years that I
attended each year at summer camp. I bounced around quite a bit in the
Reserves. I was transportation, and I ended up mostly back in my old field [of]
administrative and personnel work.
D: Thank you very much, Mr. Gunn. This concludes the Clark Gunn interview.