MARTIN  "RUDY" WHITTAKER
Stockton, California
German Linguist
February 1958 - January 1960

BACKGROUND

My father was a park ranger with the California State Park system, so I grew up in a variety of state parks, as my father's career took him around the northern part of the state.  I wound up graduating from Sonora High School, and started college at Stockton College, located in Stockton, California, where I completed requirements for the Associate of Arts degree before enlisting in the Army in February, 1957, at age 19.  I was still undecided about a major field of study, but knew that it would entail having demonstrable foreign language skills, so language school seemed like a way to make military service academically productive. 

ARMY LANGUAGE SCHOOL

After completing Basic Infantry training at Fort Ord, California, I reported to Two Rock Ranch, California for two months of TDY until my German class started at the Presidio of Monterey, in June 1957.  The Army Language School was an entirely new and challenging learning environment for me; much more demanding and intense than any of the language classes I had taken in high school and at community college.  And the social and physical surroundings were very stimulating to a country kind of kid.  Most of my classmates had completed their undergraduate studies before joining up, so had much more highly developed sense of self and purpose than most of the rest of us, and some of that rubbed off as we made our way together through the course. 

BERLIN ASSIGNMENT

I graduated in December 1957, and after spending Christmas and New Years at home, reported to Fort Dix, New Jersey, early in January 1958, for overseas assignment.  A bout with pneumonia delayed my departure considerably, and I didn't arrive in Frankfort until mid-February.  Only a week after my arrival, I was sent on to Berlin, one of the luckier things that happened to me while in the service.

 I bounced around on the night shift for a few months before I was selected to work the day shift (another lucky circumstance), where I remained for the rest of my tour.  Berlin, as it was for most of our Kameraden, was for me a powerful learning experience.  My skill with German increased exponentially and I gained an introduction to the world of art and classical music, and some exposure to literature.  A solid liberal education at the hands of daily associates is not an experience to be undervalued.  And, really, during my later educational experiences at the university, though they, too, were intense and demanding, I associated with no group of colleagues who measured up intellectually to the people I served with in Berlin.  In retrospect, it was a truly astonishing period for me. 

 There was considerable time wasted, too, of course.  I have occasional regrets about the time spent playing cards, drinking truckloads of beer, being a typical twenty-year-old with a modest disposable income, but those were learning times, too.  I also have some regrets about not traveling around more in Europe, but leave was tight until a few months before I left, and by that time, my main interest was to get into the mountains.  Charley Stevens and I had a couple of terrific hiking leaves in the Alps, and maybe those memories are even more vivid today than any more conventional travel might have been.

 So Berlin was a marvelous time for most of us, I suspect.  It really shaped many of us into the people we finally became, our careers, our interests.  I have maintained life-long friendships with a few of our colleagues, and a life-long interest in what they became.  John Hanft, with his perseverance, has kept us in touch a little, and this venture will do some more to keep us interested.

COLLEGE DEGREE

After my separation, I worked and went to school part time, until attending a summer German language program at the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies, in 1961, and then enrolled at the University of California, at Berkeley, California, majoring in German.  Unfortunately, about 4 weeks into the semester, I received a little letter from Uncle Sam, directing me to report to Fort Devens, Mass., for assignment to a Reserve Military Intelligence battalion that had been activated for the Berlin Crisis.  It was mostly a wasted year, though a group of us did make it to Fort Meade on TDY status.  I did get to see a number of Kameraden again, both at Devens and at Meade, but I'm afraid it was small consolation for what was otherwise a waste of time.  I was separated again in time to re-enroll at Berkeley that fall, and this time I managed to make it through to graduation in June, 1964, without military interruption.

WORK AND FAMILY LIFE

In February 1964, I married the former Julie Bower, of Escondido, California, who graduated a year before me, and after a year=s graduate work at U. C. Berkeley, the impending birth of our first child dictated that I seek more remunerative employment than my TA position.  I went to work for Western Pacific Railroad, where I remained for the next 9 years.  Two more children followed the first, and my wife got first a teaching credential, then a special education credential, and commenced her career of teaching multi-handicapped children.

The heavy travel associated with working for a transportation company finally took its toll, and I left the railroad in 1974.  I eventually got into landscape construction, and then, in 1980, started a wholesale nursery, which I sold in 1988.  In 1990, I went to work for the grounds department of our local community college, and, after my retirement in 1999, was hired as an adjunct instructor in horticulture.

 ADDITIONAL MILITARY SERVICE

Oddly enough, I went back into the Army Reserve in 1974.  I was coaxed into it by some unit members I had worked with; the bait being the opportunity to teach German to soldiers in a reserve ASA company_  I eventually moved to a Detachment Sergeant position in a tactical MI detachment, then became First Sergeant of an MI company, moved to the same position with a Psychological Operations company, then on to a tour as Operations Sergeant Major of a Psychological Operations group, and, finally, a tour as Sergeant Major of a battalion.  After retiring in 1998, I was appointed Honorary Sergeant Major of the Psychological Operations Regiment.  I had a number of trips to Germany, activations in 1992-93, 1994-95, and 1995-96, in support of operations in Haiti and Bosnia.  

 

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