CB: “As we got out of the theatre, we found out that there had been the attack.”

What is your birth year?

1921. 

How old does that make you today?

97 and a half. 

Where were you born?

Akron, Ohio. 

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

As I say, I was born in 1921. I have one older brother and one older sister, about 10 and 12 years older than I am. Unfortunately, in about 1925 or 1926, my mother died. I had an aunt from Iowa that took care of me, and I spent summers in Iowa. That went on for a couple years, and then my dad went on and married a sorority sister of his dead wife, my mother. My dad was a surveyor in Barberton; he did all the surveying necessary in Barberton. I continued on and went to Wittenburg University in Springfield, Ohio. The war came on, and I enlisted in the Naval Air Corps. 

Do you recall hearing about Pearl Harbor? 

It was just news, as far as we were concerned. It happened while I was in the theatre there in Springfield, Ohio during the school year. As we got out of the theatre, we found out that there had been the attack. I remember that night, in the fraternity house- it was a big gab session. “What is going to happen?” Then, practically all the fellows were enlisting or being drafted, so I enlisted in the Navy Air Corps.

How old were you when you enlisted?

[22.]

What did you know of the war, or the military, before your enlistment?

Minimal, because I was in college. During the summer, my dad had his surveying office, and I helped on that- I didn’t really follow it well. I just went along! {Laughs} 

On his enlistment and training:

They were a little bit slow in calling me; in spring of 1943, I got called just a couple months before I was due to graduate at Wittenburg. As I checked with them, they had allowed me to defer entrance into the Navy by a couple months so that I could graduate. I went in in 1943. They had a [lot] of applicants, and they had to add additional training ahead of the regular training. I signed, first of all, to a school- Wooster- for three months. It was more or less checking our ability to read and write and so forth- just classroom stuff. I finished up three months there and went to Detriot and were introduced to flying. From there, I went to school in Iowa, Iowa City- no flying, but a lot of training and so forth. I remember one joke that I had when I was in college, and on the swimming team- one of the activities in this preflight school was swimming, and just as we started the swimming I got a great big boil on my hip. I couldn’t go swimming, and I had to take a make-up course. I was able to swim well enough to pass! {Laughs} I got the lowest grade out of all the things- they had all these activities that I wasn’t familiar with, but when it came to swimming, I got the lowest grade that they give! Then, I went to preflight school in Pensacola, Florida, and spent quite a few months were we were introduced to airplanes- the actual, better airplanes, and started to learn how to fly. I graduated from there and went to Delaware, Chesapeake Bay- I was assigned to PBY, which is a seaplane. I continued on that training, and that was what I was being assigned to in connection with the war. I ended up graduating from Pensacola, and then to San Diego, and more flying of the PBY. I ended up flying the four-engine mariner, and these are more rescue planes. Then, the war ended. 

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

It was all pretty much a routine situation. The only problem I had was when I came in to land an airplane and instead of- you stall out an airplane when you land, and instead of doing it above the ground, I misjudged, and I had quite a substainal drop! I was worried I was going to get kicked out, but I stayed on through. 

Did you anticipate being sent overseas before the war ended?

Yes. I had no idea where, but I think probably planned on being on a flight carrier, where you land onboard the ship. That’s what I rather expected for the Navy Air Corps, and lo and behold, they didn’t choose me for that! I probably was a little older than most of the fellows in there- I think they were looking at the idea that I could be more involved with rescue work. The PBY is a slower-flying airplane and can land on water and so forth, so I think probably my age for graduating and getting my wings put me into that class. I had no choice, so I went along with that on the PBY, and with training. On the PBY, I was head pilot. I think that I was sitting there in San Diego, ready to go overseas, and I think very probably rescue work on people that were in turn- shot, onboard boats that sank- to try and pick them up. Going out and looking for problem situations that needed to be analyzed and so forth. 

Do you recall hearing that the war was over in Europe and Japan- VE or VJ day?

No, I don’t remember the specific. There was a big celebration! Just Thank God that the thing was over. I wasn’t following that too much, because I was in service. I had no choice where I was going, and what I was going to do! I did what I was told and that’s it. 

On his career and family after his service:

I didn’t want to continue flying, but I got a good number of hours there and had a couple good jobs- one was at the airport in Akron, Ohio, close to home. No flying, just a matter of helping passengers get on and off and get their luggage and so forth. I went with United to Chicago when they were doing an operation of trying to get permission to fly from Chicago to Los Angeles. They had to get clearance from the government, and I was involved in that. I took a job with the Ovaltine company- they were introducing a new product, [a kind of] chocolate milk. I spent a couple years with them, basically going to stores and giving them a free sample, and selling them the idea of stocking it in the store. When I left there, I came up to Portland, looked around and found a job in real estate property management, and took that and kept that for about 35 years. I met my wife here, so just lived here and worked with our own office, then retired! 

How did your military service affect how you think about wars today?

I’m sure it has had an influence. God blessed me with the idea that I never got involved with shooting a gun or having to shoot a person, so I was really bascially training the entire time. I didn’t get involved in that- the furthest I ever got was San Diego, and there wasn’t much rescue there! 

How did your service impact your life as a whole?

I never thought of it that way. I didn’t care for military life- the stuff that had to go on there, and I was the lowest rank, so I had to jump when anybody said jump. It was all training, and after I got out I was strictly on my own as to what I wanted to do. I don’t really have much answer on your question.

Author’s Note: CB was not able to provide any personal photographs from his service in the Navy Air Corps during WWII. The photos included are provided for the reader’s reference, but do not describe CB’s exact experience or his surroundings. The images are cited to their respective owners.  

NAS_Pensacola_NAN1-48
“Naval Air Station Pensacola”, retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_Air_Station_Pensacola

Author’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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