Alvin Lipson

  • Date of Birth: March 20, 1936
  • Place of Birth: Cincinnati, Ohio
  • State of Residence: Ohio
  • Years of Service: 2 years
  • Branch of Military: U.S. Army
  • Rank: Tech Sergeant
  • Wars involved in: Peacetime Service
  • Theater of operation: United States

Alvin Lipson joined the service in 1959 after he graduated college at the age of 23. Mr. Lipson says that during this time, participation in the draft for the army was mandatory. There was an exemption for students in college with good grades. Each year, his grades were evaluated to see if he had good enough grades for exemption from military service. After six years of college, he was required to report for duty to Ft. Knox, Kentucky shortly after his graduation from architectural school. After Ft. Knox, Mr. Lipson went to Ft. Belvore, Virginia where he spent most of his time. He then went back to Ft. Knox where he was discharged.

As a college graduate, he was put in charge of his group during basic training, and this w the first time that he encountered people who were illiterate. Some, he says, could not even tell time. He says that some men would come up to him with letters from their wives or girlfriends and ask him to read them their letters. He was dumbfounded by this because he could not believe that there were people who could not read. After he read the letter, they would ask Mr. Lipson to write a letter back to whomever wrote to them. Close to the end of the two years many of these men reenlisted because in the army they were living better than they had lived at home and they had ha steady job and steady pay.

During his time in the service Mr. Lipson was a medic. Since he was a college graduate he says that he was eligible for officers training school. He decided not to become an officer because at that time, if you were an officer, after completing your two years on active duty, you were eligible for recall as an officer up until 55 years of age. He says that he knew architects who had completed their two years, gone on to open architectural firms or get jobs as architects and then have to drop everything because they had received notices that they had to report back to active duty to serve two years because they were officers. He did not want to have to be recalled. He thinks that if there were a compelling reason, he might have rejoined but he is unsure.

When he went into the service, everyone was put on KP (Kitchen Patrol) in a consolidated mess (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) for 600 people. He and others had to cook, do dishes, and set tables starting at 5 in the morning. The only people that did not have to do KP were medics, so he decided to become a medic.

He recalls that being a medic was very interesting. He believes that had he been a medic in wartime, he might not have liked it. By being a medic, he says, he was doing something useful, learning a lot, and helping people.

One of his main tasks during his time in the service was administering the polio vaccine. He says that he went into the service shortly after the Polio Vaccine was discovered and that one of his major duties was to vaccinate people with the polio vaccine. When he was stationed in Ft. Knox and in Ft. Belvore, Virginia, he and the other medics had the task of vaccinating hundreds of people. He says that this was one of his main duties for many months.

One of the most difficult part of being a medic, he recalls, were the training exercises. He says that men from all different disciplines were put together for these exercises. Unfortunately, they only had WWII equipment and munitions which were not all in good condition. Many times shells and bombs would not explode and rifles that would often jamb and misfire. Many injuries and some deaths occurred as a result. When a shell landed and did not go off crews were sent out to try and detonate the shells. As a medic, he had to take care of the men who were injured in these training exercises. He says that it was a tragic waste.

He also recalls that because he was Jewish, it was hard to eat. Most of the food was pork or ham or cooked with things that came from a pig. He ate bread, butter, potato chips, and fruit until he called his mother to ask her what to do. His mother said that on his next three day pass, she will make an appointment with the rabbi to ask him for help. When Mr. Lipson when to the Rabbi, the Rabbi told him that he could not eat anything from a pig. He told him that certain thing were ok because he was in the army and had no choice of what he was served. He told him that he could not eat pork and selfish but other non kosher things because he did not have a choice. He recalled that he ate a lot of fruit and when people asked he would tell them that he really liked fruit.

He says that an important thing to consider was that during his time in the service and before, there were no drugs. People did not know that they existed. This made a huge difference in comparing military service from when he went in to military service during the Vietnam war and later. He knew people who were in the service during the vietnam war who talked about men being stoned all the time, and that it could be deadly because during a war people rely on each other but when people are high you can not depend on them. They become a liability.

One of the most, as he put it “mind altering” things about being in the service for him was seeing and meeting people from all different walks of life. Before his time in the service, he had never been out of his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio because his family could not afford to take a trip. He felt that his time in the service was two year well spent. He says it was an experience that he could never get anywhere else do anything else that he could think of except that. He saw people in town while he was on a three day pass that did not like soldiers. He was told to wear civilian clothes when he went on a three day pass. He says that being in the army was an experience and a way of life and it is something that he could not have gotten anywhere else. He says that he is glad that he did it, but he is glad that he did it during peacetime.

After his time in the service Mr. Lipson began to study for the architects exam. After passing, he went to work as an architect in Cincinnati. He lives in Cincinnati today and works as a real estate developer.

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