Once in awhile, I run across someone who appears to be “more patriotic” than I.
You know, he spent the entire World War II as an infantryman, fighting hand-to-hand with the enemy, got wounded and received a “purple heart” medal.
He volunteered for a dangerous assignment to “infiltrate” the enemy to find out certain strategic information, was successful, and received a “bravery medal” for his efforts.
He was so dedicated, that he received a “field promotion” to Second Lieutenant - without attending OCS (Officer Candidate School). His men could, would and did capture an enemy position so successfully that he was again promoted - to Captain.
A real hero. All of us were proud to have known him - back home as a quiet, unassuming young boy.
What was his name? It is “Legion”, that is, many individuals could fit in here.
I can’t name this individual, because he doesn’t exist, exactly as I have portrayed him. What I’ve described is an amalgamation of MANY young men, barely out of high school, during World War II. Hundreds could honestly fit in with the previous description.
True patriots - and heroes.
But, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, I was a Senior in High School. I was graduated the following May. I went to an Electrical and Radio Technical School in Chicago, to learn radio repairing. This was to be my vocation.
This guy, (we’re talking generically here) was graduated at the same time as I. He didn’t go to Trade School. He didn’t enroll in College. He didn’t even take the summer off.
He enlisted in the Army, to “fight the Japs”.
Why did the two of us choose different paths? Did he “love his country” more than I? Was I more interested in a career to make money, than trying to help my country?
I don’t actually know the answer to these questions - but they need to be asked - by me, as well as others.
After three months, I was graduated, and was finished at Coyne Electrical and Radio trade school in Chicago. I returned home to Mechanicsburg, awaiting word from the Army that I was to be drafted.
After arriving home, I applied at Patterson Field near Dayton (now WPAFB) for a job in the Aircraft Radio Repair division. I was hired.
I then spent 40 hours weekly at the Radio Shop, fixing radios to be put back in airplanes.
A couple months after that, I received my Draft Notice - “GREETINGS” - from “Uncle Sam”. I was to report March 1 for induction.
I was DRAFTED!
In the Radio Shop, we were told that if we received notice of induction, we should ask the Signal Officer at Patterson for a letter asking to be returned to Patterson Field, as official Radio Personnel.
I did that, and carried the letter from the Signal Officer with me to the Induction Center - in Indiana.
After the initial “hurry up and wait in line”, and the health physical, I was given special orders - along with 2 other men - to return to Patterson Field.
We traveled by bus, and arrived at Patterson late in the evening. It was March, with snow on the ground. We were directed to a Tent outside the building, and we slept the night.
I was given a furlough, while waiting for orders, then went to Mechanicsburg, and later that month, Jean and I were married in the Parsonage of our Church. My friend Bob Holman stood with me, and my sister Miriam with Jean. Both of them worked at Patterson, and were roommates in Springfield.
The next day after our wedding, I reported at Patterson, and Jean returned to work there. Jean’s cousin and her husband let us use their apartment in Springfield for a short time.
For about a month, we both commuted from Springfield to Patterson Field.
Then, I got my orders. I reported to the Base, then was sent to New Orleans, to join the 897th Signal Company Depot Aviation, to begin preparing for the journey that eventually took us to New Guinea, and Manila, Philippines. (Jean didn’t go with me. Smile!)
On October 6, 1943, we sailed from Newport News, Virginia, down the east coast, through the Panama Canal, briefly to Australia, then to New Guinea.
Previous “posts” on this blog describe those activities.
Now………..after having said all of that, was the “amalgamation person” described earlier more of a patriot than I?
Was he braver than I?
Did he serve his country better than I?
I should not be the one to answer that question, but I had better be “comfortable in my own skin” about my service to my country, as I saw it, and as it was laid out for me.