My Dad's World War II Story
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Here is an interesting story that my father told me back in 2000, it is about what he did during World War II.
Here are my remembrances of the World War II era. I was no hero. The heroes were our class of 1942 members that were killed – Mike Peters, Bob Hayes, Gene Williams, Lucien Kosoriek, Virginia Arujo, Earl Edwards and several classmates who were wounded.
After graduation I was placed in a 1A draft category. Plans to attend UCONN were cancelled. Temporary employment opportunities were limited but Pratt & Whitney hired me for the midnight shift. I delivered engineering papers to P & W plants in various towns.
During the summer of 1942, Mike Peters, Bud Cunningham and I had went to New York City. We were at Times Square when the air raid sirens sounded. We were herded into an air raid shelter. It was the first wartime air raid alert for New York City–fortunately it was a false alarm.
My neighbor, my best friend, my classmate through grammar and high school was Fred Newton. We enlisted in November 1942, a few weeks before we could be drafted. I took my military physical in Hartford. I couldn’t read the eye chart without my glasses. The doctor said “No problem–we provide the glasses and a gun–you’re now in the Army.”
Off to Fort Devens, MA on November 2, 1942. Around 2 a.m. next day after endless tests, outfitted with Army style shoes, clothing etc. we were given a one hour intelligence test – the Army wanted to see how smart we were at that late hour ! The new clothes were fine except for my GI coat. They didn’t have one my size so the one I got hung down to my ankles–it came in handy on cold nights.
After Fort Devens I was sent to Miami Beach for basic training. The Army had taken over the fancy resort hotels. Instead of two guys in a standard room, they installed bunk beds and six guys shared one room. Bathroom times were very limited. We were in the 14th floor. The elevators did not run–the Army believed we would be tougher if we waled up and down the stairs. Basic training involved marching to the local golf course and practicing how to play war. For recreation they took us to the beach–we had to run 100 yard sprints in deep sand with our heavy boots on and carrying our equipment. I was happy when the 30 days were over.
I don’t know how it happened, but the Air Force intervened and said I was to attend an Air Force intelligence school at South Dakota State College. After 3 months they said I was an Air Force intelligence specialist. I just wanted to go back home to Windsor.
In Oklahoma our outfit was organized. We were called the 6th Photo Tech Squadron, assigned to the 13th Air Force in the South Pacific. Our squadron consisted of 250 enlisted men and 50 officers. I was promoted to Sargent Major–I don’t know why–maybe it was because I was 20 years old and all the other guys were teenagers. Our mission was to gather intelligence material on the Japanese military. Our outfit took photos from B-25 and P-38 planes, analyzed them, made reports and recommended bombing opportunities.
From Oklahoma we moved to San Francisco. Boarded a troop ship with about 5,000 other military. While sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge we were given a letter from President Roosevelt. He said we were on a great crusade and he knew we would do our best. However there was a p.s. to the letter. It seemed that the USA was short of ships and planes, so we would not be escorted. The ship’s captain came over the loudspeaker and said he would take us along the South America coastline and the west towards Australia well out of the range of Japanese submarines.
After stops in Australia and New Caledonia, we disembarked at Guadalcanal. I didn’t like sleeping on the ground for the first couple of weeks. One time we ran out of cigarettes. There is absolutely no way to fight a war without cigarettes ! But one day a C-47 flew in from Australia–no cigarettes–but it had a full load of cigars. Everybody got a couple of boxes.
Next stop was on the Dutch island of Morati – a small island of 30 square miles [ the same as Windsor ] located just off the coast of New Guinea. At that point we were the closest Americans to Japan. The Japanese didn’t like this so they bombed us every night. I didn’t like this place. I wanted to go home.
Next to Leyte Island in the Philippines. After a few months were we loaded onto another troop ship bound for the southernmost island of Japan. We were not combat guys–our landing was to be D-Day plus 10-20-30 days, depending upon how the war went. Thank God Japan surrendered.
Four months later I was back in San Francisco. First day off the ship I bought a new pair of regular shoes–threw out the army boots–next, to a fancy restaurant for steak and milk–yes MILK, I hadn’t had any for 2 years.
Classmate Fred Newton is no longer with us. I believe he would have liked this WWII story. It was one of his favorites. Fred never had a furlough. He served in the Pacific area for 3 years. Upon his return to San Francisco he and his buddies took off for a few days to celebrate. The Army calls the AWOL–absent with out leave. The consequences can be severe. Fred and his friends faced up and reported back. At the return to duty desk, he saluted and said “ Fred Newton reporting back from AWOL.” The army captain looked up and said, “Fred this is your lucky day.” The captain turned out to be Sam Di Mauro, his Roger Wolcott grammar school classmate ! He said to Fred and his pals, “Lets just forget the whole adventure. The war is over: there will be no punishment.” Sam Di Mauro went from Roger Wolcott School to Loomis–I believe he graduated in 1942.
During my service time I received steady mail from my family. Also I received many letter from Sam Crockett, classmate Marie Hanson wrote as did Mike Peters, Bud Cunningham and Bud’s sister Helen. Letters were a great morale booster–another JFHS girl was special. She wrote every 2 weeks. She saturated her letter and envelope with perfume. The pleasant odor surprisingly carried the many miles overseas. At mail call I would be the brunt of jokes and applause because the mail clerk would first smell the envelope and announce loudly to all that I had a special letter.
I must mention that during the war I was well aware of the total effort on the home front. My mother and dad worked 6 days a week at Fuller Brush Co. [ Windsor- Hartford city line ] That company’s production went into brush manufacturing to clean guns. My future mother in law worked at Colt’s Firearms in Hartford.
My WWII career was dull. Others contributed more than I. But–I was there. I did whatever they told me to do. I hope I made a contribution along with 12 million other service guys and gals.