By Pvt. R.C. Bolton, who claims he prefers a tent, and pictures by Sgt. Ralph Stein, who wants some ice sent up to Room 1004 right away.

MIAMI BEACH, FLA.—So you’d like to spend the winter in Florida? Well, brother, just join the Army. It’s as easy as that. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. You guys who have the weird idea that life here is just one big vacation sprinkled with pay days had better change your brand. Try reefers and get on the beam.

Sure, we are quartered in modern hotels, the beach is at our back doors, the “Moon Over Miami” is beautiful as the song would have you believe, the climate is delightful, some of us have hotel beds (with double mattresses), each room has a private bath, there are venetian blinds on the windows—and, oh, how we long for the sight of a tent.

wwii army miami beach Your idea of a life in a Miami Beach hotel doesn’t include the jeep CQ who comes running through the corridors at 5:20 a.m., blowing his lungs out on a little tin whistle, and, when he has the breath, yelling, “Rise and shine. Up and at ‘em, men!” Nor does your notion of life here take into consideration the lowest form of human species known as hotel sergeant. The toughest top kick in this man’s Army is a mere trainee in the hard-boiled class compared to these three-stripers.

wwii army miami beach

“Yeah, this is room service.”

Want to know what it’s like here? OK, I’ll tell you. When the old whistle blows you tumble out of bed and snap on your lights—if you’re lucky enough to have lights. They are prohibited in some hotels. But be sure your blinds are tightly closed unless you want the corporal of the guard on your neck in 30 seconds flat. They have what they call a “dimout” here, but it’s the nearest thing to a blackout this side of London.

OK, you’re up, so now what do you do? Well, there are any number of things you think of doing (getting back into bed being at the top of the list) but you “decide” to fall out for roll call—and I do mean fall out. This is one of the most hazardous jobs in the Army here. Practically all of these hotels have front steps. These are very attractive in the daylight and make excellent places for the boys to sit during off moments, if any. However, at 5:30 a.m., you can’t see these steps even while you are falling down them, which is what usually happens.

You have about 15 minutes now in which to sit and meditate, or you can make your bed. It’s a good idea to do the latter, and it’s no mean trick. If you think hospital corners are difficult on a G.I. cot, try making them while you juggle an inner-spring mattress that is eight inches thick.

Of course falling out for breakfast is as dangerous as for roll call, and if you think it’s fun to stumble in the dark (they call it marching here) to a hotel a block away for chow, you’re eligible for discharge as soon as the man in the white coat catches you.

wwii army miami beach

“You don’t have to carry their bags, sir. Remember you don’t work here any more.”

Back in your room (it’s now about 6:45) you have a half hour in which to get shaved and clean your room. You learn for the first time why those venetian blinds are on your windows. They’re there so you can dust them every morning, and on both sides. You probably never stopped to figure that those innocent looking gadgets have about 40 slats and each one must be treated individually. Now you can understand why, with five jeeps in the room, one is assigned to that task alone.

Another job is the sweeping. You’re probably one of those unfortunates who has a pretty carpet on his floor of his room. This makes for a homey atmosphere but it also makes for plenty of grief. Be a contortionist and sweep under five beds, and you finally wind up with the nap of the carpet .

Dusting, except for the blinds, is the softest detail. That is grabbed by the “veteran,” the fellow who has been longest in the room. You gaze at him longingly each morning and dream of the day when you will have that job. But it never happens. By the time you work your way up to duster, you’re transferred to another hotel.

wwii army miami beach

“Have you a reservation?”

Our days outside the hotel are like those at most any camp. A beautiful golf course is our drill field, and the famous beach is the scene of our calisthenics. But our every waking moment is haunted by thoughts of our rooms and the inspection by the hotel sergeant. Many of our evenings are spent indoors—gigged. When we do get out we rush to a recently opened PX where 16 ounces of beer are handed out for a dime, and the chief topic of conversation is how swell it must be to live in a tent.

But the average daily temperature here is 78. Sun shines all day. Maybe we’d better stay here at that.

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