Proud to serve

A Senior View

December 21, 2011 

War stories ... memories ... a pastime for old warriors. A history that the newer generation needs to know, knowledge that will help them in their own call to arms, once again, "what is past is prologue."

"What did you do in the war Grandpa?" is a question that is going to be asked here and now by the students and their teachers and directors of Minarets High School.

They mean to compile an oral history of these times now while those who experienced them are still with us.

The publisher and editor of the Sierra Star will allow me to make my contribution to this historical compilation right here in my weekly column.

So -- for the next few weeks I will build this column around an anecdote for each of the conflicts in which I served.

In Europe, WWII was just about over and my home state, New York, decided that an increased effort would be needed as we turned to face the Japanese and they allowed enlistment at 16 with the provision that these new volunteers would not face combat until they were 17 years old ... and that their parents approved of their enlistment.

In those days, life could be difficult for an American male who looked old enough and big enough and was not in uniform.

My mother agreed, signed the papers, and I'm proud to say that the United States Navy decided that they could use me to help them win the war.

I was 16 when I arrived at boot camp in in Bainbridge, Md.

For most of a barracks-full of teenage boys, it was the first night away from home -- and despite the excitement and pride of our new condition, I remember hearing some of these new sailors crying in the night.

The next morning they lined us up, gave us beans for breakfast, shaved our heads, had us sign over insurance to our beneficiaries, indicate the disposition of our remains, and issued us our uniforms.

God, I'd never been prouder in my life.

My country had called ... and I answered. My mother hung a flag with a blue star in our window back home and I had officially joined 16 million other Americans ready to do their duty ... perhaps not yet a man ... but ready to act like one. My mother boasted about me, and my sisters couldn't wait to see me in uniform.

Six months later, now 17 years old, trained as a combat air crewman, the war was over in Europe and I was transferred to the far East to prepare for the invasion of the Japanese homeland. They predicted that 500,000 of us would not survive.

Then, our president, Harry S. Truman, signed a small piece of paper, and we dropped a big bomb on Hiroshima ... and got a new lease on life.

God bless America. It would be the last war we would ever win.

Grandpa sez' "I don't count myself as a hero, just surviving was good enough for me, and come to think of it ... Japanese would have been a hard language to learn."

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