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KP: 1942

September 1942. Fort Belvoir, Va. "Army Sgt. George Camplair on kitchen police duty." Our first example of the more than 200 photos shot by Jack Delano documenting this soldier's induction, training and home life. View full size.

September 1942. Fort Belvoir, Va. "Army Sgt. George Camplair on kitchen police duty." Our first example of the more than 200 photos shot by Jack Delano documenting this soldier's induction, training and home life. View full size.


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Onions are a horror

On KP at Parris Island in 1965, another Marine recruit and I peeled a 50-pound bag of onions. After a while your tear ducts dry out and you can keep going with dry burning eyes.

Believe these pics were taken when he was a private.

The lower picture shows him as a staff sergeant. No way would a staff sergeant pull KP unless he was being punished for a transgression. Heck, during WWII staff sergeants would more likely be mess sergeants or possibly running the mess hall.

A Hallowed Mess (Hall)

I believe that in my enlisted days I pulled KP in that very same mess hall, surrounded by the very same appliances and furnishings, and perhaps using that very same colander. Allowing for standardization that prevails in government construction, the rectangular patch of slightly different floor tiles is so familiar as to lay a pall over my heavy heart. It would have been in the old brick barracks on main (or South) post Ft. Belvoir, still very much in use in 1960-61 when I soldiered there. KP well and truly sucked: the cooks were surly and unreasonable, much time was wasted polishing that which could never shine and cleaning that which was about to be re-sullied, and seeing how one's food was actually prepared diminished the appetite for days afterwards. And in my particular unit, KP started at 0400, meaning that the CQ awakened the victim at 0330 hours. If you had Sunday KP, it made sense just not to go to bed at all, given that you probably would have been pursuing the EM's obligatory Saturday night debauch and it is better to segue into a hangover in a sentient state than awaken after an hour's sleep to one.

What did he do to deserve this...

In my 38 years Canadian service (mind you, KP in garrison disappeared in the 80s) only junior ranks normally did KP - I recall a Master Corporal (about E6 equiv) doing it as a result of 'extra duties', & even Corporals didn't do it very often (only tended to happen when there was a shortage of available privates). Never really minded it myself; other then the drudgery of the work, it could be a nice break from route marches & inspections.

Trust me

Sergeants never, ever pull KP.

Lights, camera, pose!

Potentially Delano's hand top left corner holding light - either Delano or it's the lighting guy.

Typical Institutional Kitchen

In the early 70's, I worked for a company that did Heating and Refrigeration repairs. We serviced a number of institutions that had kitchens of this vintage. I took one look at this black and white photo and knew that the tile walls were most likely a shade of green along with the floor. I also remember the various prep tables and sinks - some with wood frames and some with pipe frames - that were probably strong enough to drive a car over. Coffee pots, mixers and even refrigerators were still in use [although the refrigerator cooling had usually been upgraded with new compressor units]. I suspect that some of these kitchens still look the same today.

Is that all?

We had to fill garbage cans full of peeled potatoes when I had KP in the 60s.


Methinks they're onions. But where is he putting the peeled ones? Either he's throwing them into the sink (a dodgy plan, given that there's a can of scouring cleanser in the sink corner) or the photographer who staged the photo grabbed a colander of peelings from somewhere else in the kitchen, stuck a peeled onion in Camplair's hand, and didn't think through the rest of the process.

[Everything is going into the colander. (Comment moderator rule of thumb: Beware "methinks.") - Dave]

Sorry, Dave! I'm a scholar of the Renaissance, so the word "methinks" comes as a natural bit of irony--but I can see how it would get massively overused in online forums. In fact, I can see how it might sound to others as bad as "The Bard" sounds to me. I promise never to use any more period phrases on Shorpy!

RHIP (I always thought)

I was just wondering if Mr. Delano meant to say Private Camplair. I pulled plenty of KP as a junior enlisted man, but left all that behind when I made Sergeant. And while I normally wouldn't comment on somebody else's comments, that's about the dumbest reason I ever heard for someone volunteering to go back to Vietnam.

[He's a sergeant. As for the commenter you're referring to, Bill is an Academy Award winning cinematographer with three Oscars to his credit. - Dave]

Peeling potatoes was the easy part.

The hard part was getting up a 4:15 in the morning. Did not relish the 14+ hour days required for KP. I volunteered for a second Vietnam tour, and one of my main motives was the avoidance of KP.

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