Rebecca West: Words & Music

The Processing Process

by Bob West

It was January 1954 and I was in the processing center at a base near Oakland, California. I don't remember much about my time there except that I was in unfamiliar surroundings with hundreds of men who had never met and we were all preparing to go to bases in the Far East. I don't think the processing itself took that long, but we were there several days waiting for our time to board the ship. During this time they endeavored to keep us busy with work assignments. I didn't mind working, but I hated KP and worried each day that I would be assigned that detail.

Fortunately, I had my set of Speedball lettering pens and waterproof India ink with me, which I used to make some name plates and other signs for the First Sergeant in the Orderly Room. He liked this and kept me busy doing that kind of work. I also earned some money lettering names and serial numbers in Old English on some of the airmen's duffle bags.

Just before we left the processing center to board the troop ship, one of the sergeants told me that I should find the ship's chaplain as soon as I got on board and volunteer to help with the ship's newspaper. He said that would keep me off the ship's KP roster. And it did.

During this time I got the idea for a comic strip featuring an airman with some of the same experiences I was having. However, that didn't materialize until after I arrived at my assignment in Korea. I began Airman Smith's adventures at the processing center in California. I still have the original art of that episode, which was published in newspapers in both Korea and Japan in a 3-column format. In order to scan and use it here in this space, I have had to separate the panels and change the layout. This was my first effort at doing a serial comic strip. I hope you enjoy seeing the result.

Over & Back, Part I, cartoon title
Cartoon panel: Initial Processing
Cartoon panel: Clothing Check
Cartoon panel: Formations
Cartoon: Payroll disbursement
Cartoon: KP and details
Cartoon: Boarding troop ship

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