America as Alcatraz

Meningitis broke out at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in the early weeks of 1969, where thousands of young men undergoing basic and advanced infantry training were packed into wooden WWII-era barracks. I knew only that meningitis could kill, and I felt a little uneasy as we formed ranks to hear the protocols we must follow. All the windows would remain open six inches, top and bottom, and trainees would make their bunks with the heads and feet alternating. In the chow line and at sick call, we had to stand two paces apart. That was it, I think. In all other aspects we were thrown together …

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