Before entering the service, Vince Raimond was a draftsman designing submarine chasers for a NY shipbuilder. When he recognized he would soon be drafted, he decided to enlist as a ski trooper but ultimately became a pilot.
Interviewee: Vincent Raimond
Interviewers: Shane Benz, Rachel Brown, Michael Buckley, Erin Cooper
Date of Interview: September 30, 2013
Colorado Ski Troopers
All my friends – all the guys on the corner – were all drafted. So, the draft to me was the worst thing that could happen to you. I decided I wasn’t going to be drafted. I used to read four or five newspapers a day. That’s how you lived in New York. There were seven/eight newspapers – there was The Times, The News, The Tribune, something else, The Sun, there was no Village Voice yet. They hadn’t started; they started after the war. But everybody used the subway. And there was nothing you could do in the subway, except look across the aisle at another person, or stand up, and hold the strap and smell somebody else’s breath. You found that life on the subway livable if you had a newspaper in front of you. So everybody read a newspaper.
I wasn’t getting drafted. In reading the newspaper, I found that the ski troopers were looking for troops like crazy. They were part of the army. In Colorado, they put together a group of elite soldiers, who fought like they thought they were going to go through the mountains in Switzerland, stuff like that. They need people who knew how to ski, but also were athletes.
I didn’t know how to ski. The guys in the office would – we had four foot rulers made out of steel, they would strap them to my feet and show me how I could turn, you know? I was all set to go. And then I got a card from the government that said I wasn’t accepted because I had never won a letter in high school. That was the criteria to start with, was that you had to have won a letter in some sort of sport. The high school had about 3000 students. We had a football team, and our front line averaged 212 pounds. I weighed 98 pounds – yeah, I was a little guy. I had my heart set on going there. And I was refused.
The first thing that happened in WWII was I lost all my friends because everybody got drafted. Our local board, which I think was 181 in the draft system, sent more guys to WWII than any other board in the country. Yeah, not only did you get the city boys, but I think some asshole in the military decided that when we were going to invade the mainland the best thing to do was to have soldiers that were small. Not big guys, because when you get in with the landing craft and you drop the door down, you don’t want big… big assholes standing there, you know? So you had a whole bunch of little guys — my neighborhood was an Italian Jewish neighborhood, and they were all little guys. And, most of those little guys got killed. We had a lot of gold stars in the windows in the neighborhood. It was [because] they’d lost their son.