Old and Interesting Stories from Veterans at the Nursing Home
When I got to work today I had an idea when I saw a veterans social was on the schedule. I received a release for every resident who had a story to tell about being in the military in the 1940's and 50's. All the residents were eager to tell there story and I couldn't wait to hear it. I'm the Assistant Director of Activities and I love my job and enjoy hearing all the old stories. I could have listened for hours.
Robert Searles is one amazing man and has done a lot of things with his life. This man simply amazes me and I know his entire family must be so proud of him. He was eager to tell his story and I was eager to hear it.
Robert was in the military for 27 years. Robert was in the Navy and served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, The Cold War and was also a Hurricane Hunter and even road in blimps. He always knew he wanted to be in the military. Even at the age of 17 he skipped school to go and try to enlist just to be turned away, he was told he had to wait to enroll when he turned 18. He stated his target was to fly in the Navy. Robert wrote a book and members of his family would love for him to publish. This man has been through and done a lot in his lifetime. He loved to travel as did his wife of 52 years. They also had three children.
The first thing I was eager to hear about was the hurricane hunting. It's not every day you meet a hurricane Hunter in Olean NY. He informed me they flew into the eye of the hurricanes from 1949 to 54. They had instruments that would tell them which way the hurricane was headed. He enjoyed being able to inform people There base was in Miami. He also stated he couldn't go into a bar and buy his own drinks because people insisted on buying them for him.
When Robert first enlisted in the Navy he only made about $20 a month but he quickly moved through the ranks. He worked with electronics and stated he had been through five crashes. I bet every time he left, his wife was a nervous wreck. He informed me the blimp he was in popped and they landed in some trees.
Robert asked me if I knew what a kamikaze was. I thought it was a drink. He stated it was when the Japanese would fly in there plane, the wheels would be released and then the plain would fly into a ship. It was a flying bomb. The next resident preceded to talk about his first hand experience with a kamikaze.
Mr Button was a pharmacist mate who was in the Navy but was shipped with the Marines. He was on the USA Missouri when it took over Yoka Suma Navel Air force Base from Japan. When I asked him if he ever killed anyone he said, "only two". He informed me the two Japanese men were yelling for help. He was informed the Japanese would have bombs on them so they were instructed to kill them.
Mr. Button enlisted when he was still in high school at 17 years old. He stated he saw a sign and it read, The army makes men and the Navy needs them so he enlisted in the Navy. In one event Mr. Button had a Japanese plane fly into there ships master tower. The Japanese pilot died. The crew gave him a propped military funeral and set him out too sea. He had first had experience of what they call a kamikaze. Mr. Button also talked about the underground hospitals in Japan. He stated they were amazing and much nicer than the ones here in the United States. After 3 1/2 years he decided to get out of the military. He had seen enough and was able to travel around the world.
These two men wanted to go into the military and loved it but not everyone back then was so eager to join so some men were drafted.
Mr. Elwood was drafted into the Army and into WWII. He was not happy because his wife had just had his first baby. He served from 1944 to 46. He did his training at camp Crowder Missouri. At one point he was ready to go over seas but went to Indian Town Gap because the war had ended and Japan had surrendered. When Mr Elwood was discharged he was discharged as military police.
Mr. Elwood talked about having German prisoners and they weren't locked up. Apparently they were not worried about any of them escaping because they had it so good in the United States. He was amazed as one could even take a piece of wood and carve a person's face in it. His pay was only 10.25 a month after he had to pay his own insurance.
Mr. Zalewski served during the Korean War from April 1952 to 54. He was also drafted. He did his basic training in Indian Town Gap for 17 weeks. He went to Germany for 18 months. At that time military men received a furlough. He remembers the best part was getting a furlough to go to England to visit his brother. Military men were allowed 30 days a year.
Many of these men feel the United States has war then the United States builds them up again. It's been going on for years. I felt like I could of talked to these men for hours with all the stories they had to tell me but it was time for work to end and I had to go home.