Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Ambassador Nelson Ledsky
I was assigned to Fort Dix, New Jersey, where I took basic training. The Korean War had come to an end with a cease fire; nevertheless I fully expected to be sent overseas. Cecile had started working again in New York. At the end of basic training, I was assigned to Fort Bliss, Texas for NIKE missile training. I was there for about two months, when Cecile agreed to join me in Texas. She and her brother drove a car and trailer across country and met me in El Paso. We rented an apartment there. I continued training for another two months, although I must say that I never became a very proficient missile man. I couldn't learn the technical aspects, which really were the key to the training program. I finished the training by the end of 1955.
Somewhat miraculously, I was assigned to Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, to the U.S. Army Historical Corps, which was headquartered there. I have no idea why this assignment was made. I was told that I had not done well in NIKE training, which led the powers-to-be to decided that I could not become a missile man. When I entered the army, I had taken some tests and had filled out numerous forms which indicated that I had done some work in history. When an opening came up at Edgewood, the director of the institute picked my name out of some list of eligibles. I still don't know how this all happened, but I was transferred to Maryland in late 1955. Cecile was quite upset by this turn of events because she had just started a new teaching job in the El Paso school system, even though she had no teaching certificate. She started work in September; in October I was told that I was going to be transferred. She had already made a difficult adjustment from New York to El Paso; she had just gone through that very unhappy pregnancy; she was not a happy Army wife. She liked the teaching job in a Mexican-American school, which was right on the Rio Grande border. Most of her students were Mexican and she loved teaching third grade.
Nevertheless, she gave up her teaching job. She and I rented a trailer, loaded it with all our worldly possessions and drove to Maryland. On Thanksgiving, we were in Chicago with Cecile's sister. We reached Edgewood Arsenal just after Christmas Day. I started working in the Historical Office of the Chemical Corps. I met a number of terrific people. I was very happy in the Historical Office, even though we were living in a trailer camp outside the city. We stayed there for a couple of months in the middle of a very severe winter. I met a number of people who became life long friends. One was Jim Nelson, who was also a private assigned to the Historical Office. He occupied the desk next to mine. He later joined the Foreign Service. Then there was Harvey Fergusotwo desks awawho also entered the Foreign Service. For unknown reasons, this was a collection of congenial peoplall draftees, of little or no rank.
Furthermore, the civilian historians who worked in the Office were terrific people. The director was a Dr. Brophy who was in his fifties and had been in the Office for about ten years. He had spent much of his life writing books on WWII and then had been hired by the Chemical Corps to write up its WWII history. He was assisted by Dale Birdsell, another professional historian and Gil Wing, who later also joined the Foreign Service. So there were seven or eight of us who worked together and socialized together; we had a great time. I was accepted as a colleague.