EA: “I was sent with a few other limited-service people to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.”

What is your birth year?

1921. 

How old does that make you today?

[98].

What branch of the United States Armed Forces did you serve in?

In the Army Air Corps. 

Where were you born?

In [the] White Salmon, Washington area. 

Can you tell me any specific memories you have from your childhood?

I was born in a place near White Salmon, Washington. We lived on a lake. The doctor had to come to deliver me on the train because there was no highway- and he made it. {Laughs} I went to a lot of different schools when I was young because my father was looking for a hotel to run. We were in Ontario, Oregon for a few years while I was on a dairy ranch, and I went to first grade there. The second year we were there we left, and we went to a wheat ranch, which failed. Then, we packed up a car- it was a paneled kind of truck- and went from there to Portland, and then ended up again back at White Salmon [with] my parents running a hotel. That’s when I was going to grade school. 

How did WWI affect your family? Did any family members serve?

No. 

Did the Great Depression have any impact on your family?

Luckily, they had this hotel, and the hotel was in Underwood, Washington, where there was a road being built- a highway on the river level before it went over the hill. They built a lot of tunnels and stuff, and as a result, we got activity.  

Do you recall hearing about Pearl Harbor? What was your reaction?

I was engaged to a young lady who was still in high school; I had my first car, and that Sunday morning we decided to drive down from Seattle to Tacoma. We got into Tacoma, and they were hawking papers. I said, “What’s going on?”, so I bought a paper. Immediately [I] drove back to Seattle and took her home to her parents, who were in WWI before they came from Europe- they were Yugoslavian. We just sat there and talked about war. 

How did you get involved in the military? Did you enlist, were you drafted, or were you part of ROTC?

I volunteered. I left home when I graduated from high school; [I] went to Seattle and went to work for Boeing Airline Construction. At that point, they were building A-20s, which were sent to Canada, and then flown to Britain. When they bombed Pearl Harbor and started WWII, they converted me to B-17s. I worked on the tail gunner position in sub-assembly. 

Did any of your family members also serve during WWII?

Yeah, my younger brother was in the Navy.

On his enlistment: 

Before my buddy and I volunteered- I met him at a class I was taking to become [an] aircraft instrument specialist. This was before we were in the military- we finished in Seattle, and we went to Spokane, and we were working on instruments over there. It was too early for electronics! We finished that, and there were recruits there to try and get us to go into the military. We did enlist; I was limited service, because of my eyes, heart murmur, and a busted eardrum that I got at Boeing, but he didn’t have any suppressions. So, we enlisted as aircraft instrument specialists. Because I was limited service, it ended up that I couldn’t get any more training because I couldn’t go with the airplane. 

What was your family’s reaction to your staying in-country?

They never said [that they were happy], but I’d guess so. 

Tell me about any specific memories or experiences that stand out.

Well, I had problems because they wouldn’t offer me any more training because I couldn’t go with the airplane. I didn’t know what they were going to do with me; I finished the stuff that you have to take in order to learn to be a soldier, and I wasn’t being sent anywhere. So, then they had me [with] other soldiers who were still training. I was still in a place where you’re temporary until you go someplace; I was taking care of recruits there. I was kind of upset about all of that, so finally I told a sergeant, “Put me on the first thing out of here! I don’t care what it is!” {Laughs} They sent me to Los Angeles to go to school for engineering and operations clerical. I finished that in three months, and because I was limited service, I was sent with a few other limited-service people to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. That was the place where they did research, trying to figure out better ways to bomb people. I worked in operations and doing clerical work- typing orders, and things that you had to set up before the next day’s testing. I did that for half the time I was at Eglin; I was at Eglin for three years, until the war ended. Half of the time I worked in operations, and the other I worked at the base hospital as a clerk typist there. I was in the hospital, and the Colonel, who was the doctor in charge, said, “How’d you like to come work for me?” I thought about two seconds, and I said, “Yes!” {Laughs} It was better than what I was doing. I was there until the war ended, and then I was sent to Camp Gordon, Georiga; I was a corporal, and I was the only person that knew anything about administration because all the guys who went with me were medical types. I was trained then to take over from a guy who was a first regrader, which means he was above a sergeant. I was a corporal, so I was going to meetings and catching hell. I wanted to get promoted, so I typed [a promotion] up for the officer to sign. He said, “What’s this?” I said, “It’s my promotion to sergeant!” He said, “Oh!” He signed it, and I was a sergeant! {Laughs} So, I did that again, and I was a staff sergeant when I got out of the military. I was running a separation center in Georgia, so I got paid to fly home, so that helped, to get discharged there instead of Fort Lewis. 

What were the most trying and difficult moments of your service?

I had problems during my stay at Eglin, because when I was working for Boeing with nervousness, and so forth. I finally found out I had an overactive thyroid, and I had a reoccurrence of it when I was working in operations. That’s what I was in the hospital for, and I told the doctor I had this and that I knew what it was, and that I needed some treatment. Well, he didn’t like my giving him the diagnosis! So, I had problems with him because of it. Finally, one day he asked me if I was ready to go back to work. I kind of blew up at him, saying that he hadn’t done anything, and how was I going to go [back] when he hadn’t fixed me yet? He called me into his office that evening and said he was transferring me to the psychiatric ward. {Laughs} I said, “Well, okay, if that’s what you want to do.” During the weekend, the major who had me entered into the hospital, and who had asked me to come work for him, said, “Why are you here?” I told him about it, and he said, “I’ll move you on Monday to my ward.” He gave me the medicine that I needed, so I became stable as a result of it. He did ask me to come, and I was transferred, but he was transferred also, so they didn’t know what to do with me. I finally went to work in the orderly room and earned an award for the work I did there. That’s why they made me a corporal. 

Were you kept updated about the status of the war abroad? Did you hear about recent events and battles?

Not really. All you got was propaganda. {Laughs}

What was your reaction when you found out that the war was over in Europe- VE day?

We didn’t really celebrate that much, because we knew we still had the war in the Pacific, so we were continuing on. There wasn’t much of a celebration on the airfield. 

What was your reaction when you found out the war was over in Japan- VJ day?

Then we knew the war was over, and we had no worry about where we were going to go because most of us there were limited service and hadn’t been overseas. A lot of them were going overseas, because they had more service time, and I was concerned about that because I really didn’t want to go overseas at that point. 

When, or why, did your service end?

I came up for a discharge, and so I was going to have to leave, and they were concerned about replacing me. I don’t know exactly what they did, but I had a few days before my airplane reservations, so the people who were civilians working under me [had] a big party for me in the city, which was nice. 

What was your job or education experience after your service?

When I got to Seattle, people I knew who were in the military said, “You’d better go down tomorrow and sign up, because you need to be signed up to get unemployment.” The very next day, I went there, and they gave me four possibilities of [places] to interview. One of them was the 13th Naval District in Seattle; they were running an officer’s separation center, and that was the same kind of job I had! {Laughs} Becuase of my previous experience, they hired me, so I had a job right away the next day! I worked about two weeks, and the officer in charge came to me and said, “I think you’re the guy I’m looking for!” I said, “Oh?” He said, “How would you like to run this place?” I said, “Well, I did it in the military, I guess I can do it here, too!” I didn’t go to college until September, and it was February, so I worked there for that year until then. I was going to start at the University of Washington as a freshman, but I ran into problems because I didn’t have a couple of classes in high school that I should’ve. So, I went to Ellensburg, and it was where you went to be a teacher; I could go there for the first two years. I transferred to [University of Washington] as a junior. That’s around the same time that I got married, so I started at summer school the same time as my marriage. 

I taught high school for 10 years; I got a degree in business and went to work for a bank, and then I decided that I really didn’t want to be a banker. Then I got a job working for a company coming into Portland that was in Seattle and San Francisco. I was the first one hired, and I was the office and credit manager. I did that for six years and then decided that I would become a teacher. That was the last thing I thought I’d ever do; I was helping students at church as their supervisor, and they kept saying, “You should be a teacher!” I said, “That’s the last thing I have on my radar.” {Laughs} Finally I was talking to people about that possibility; I really didn’t think I was qualified. One guy said, “Why don’t you quit talking and do something about it?” So, I did. What did you teach? Business education, because I had the degree and the experience.  

All my life, I’ve felt like it was fun. It seemed like everything fit as I went along- one thing rolled into another. I ended up being a community college administrator at Mount Hood Community College. I was there when it developed, and so it was a fun thing to do. It was a variety of things that I did there, and when people ask me about it, I say, “I was sort of innovator and a change-agent.” It was something new to do, and it got a reputation as a result. 

Do you think your military service impacted the way you think about wars today?

I look at my whole life that way. Everything I did seemed to lead to the next thing, and it was really a great experience because throughout my whole career I did things that I really enjoyed to do, and had fun doing it, particularly after I went to college.  

Do you think the world has any misinterpretations about WWII from books, TV, or movies?

I’m not sure that I know. 

How did your service impact your life as a whole?

Not very much. It was an experience that’s worth three years and three months. To me, it was a positive and a negative. Positive, because it gave me some experiences that helped me mature and so forth. There was negative because I seemed to be upset most of the time because I wasn’t doing what I hoped I would do, and didn’t do what I really liked to do in the military until the war ended. I have done a lot of research, and a lot of writing about the military part; I’ve written a book called “Letters Home”. When my mother died, I found so much stuff that she had saved- she never threw anything away. [The book is] all the letters I wrote to her after I left home, through the military and everything. It was so interesting to read because I could put it in a row and just go through it. My wife said to me one time that I kept saying, “I said that to my mother?!” {Laughs} IMG_0089Author’s Note: This project was recently featured in Portland’s Street Roots Newspaper. Read the article here: http://news.streetroots.org/2017/11/10/these-veterans-have-lived-something-extraordinary-portland-student-listens-shares

This interview has been lightly edited for readability. However, to maintain integrity, and to respect the stories of the veteran, content has not been altered from the original transcription. This interview was originally recorded and later transcribed. Questions partially retrieved from:

“Guidelines.” Veterans History Project. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 23 June 2017. <www.loc.gov/vets/guidelines.html>.

 

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