I spent about three and a half years in the Air Corps during WWII.
I was born on Fork Ridge, Glen Easton, WV. I attended a one-room schoolhouse from grades 1-8: Terrell School on Fork Ridge. I attended Cameron High School, Cameron, WV. After I finished high school, I spent 3 years on my father’s farm. The first draft for service was for men 32-37 years of age. The next one was for men 18 to 45 years of age. That is the one that drafted me.
I left July 16, 1942 on a bus from Moundsville, WV, to Clarksburg, WV, to the induction center. They gave us a physical exam and swore us in to pledge to defend the constitution. Next we went to Fort Hayes in Columbus, Ohio to get our clothing. On Monday, July 21 we got on a troop train and headed south—destination secret. The next morning we were stopped and we asked someone where we were and they said Atlanta, Georgia. By early afternoon we go to Macon, GA. It must have been over 100 degrees temperature. I bought an ice cream cone and it dripped all over me.
First Taste of War
This is where they classified you to a proper job. This is where I was classified for air craft mechanic. My Uncle Jerry was in the service before me. He said it looked to him that the Air Corps was the best service and a mechanic was a good job. I told them I wanted that job and they said you can have it. Then they had a lot of jobs listed and I saw weatherman. They said come back tomorrow and take 3 more tests. That afternoon I got in a long line. I would hear almost every one was told, “You did not pass; you are to take your second choice.” When I got there they said, “You passed, but we don’t know when we will have a school for you.”
Why a weatherman? My science teacher in high school was interested in weather. He taught us a lot about weather.
The next month I was in Miami Beach, FL. As we got off the next train I saw the bodies of 2 dead French soldiers being shipped back to France. That was my first encounter with the dead, but they had been killed in an accident. We stayed in the Frederich Hotel. We had a little military drill each day. About a month later they took 80 weather school trainees and divided us into 4 groups of 20. I was assigned to the school at Cochran Field in Macon, Ga. We had daily classes and hands on training to be weather observers.
A few days before Christmas we were shipped north to Camp Mills, NY. We were given medical exams. There was mud and snow and we had no boots. I went to the PX for ice cream. So I couldn’t have the ice cream. I told the sergeant and he called the men together. They took up a collection of $5 for me. At least I had a little money. I didn’t spend any of it until I got to Australia where I bought a Bible to bring back to my mother.
In a few days we took the bus to the Ocean Pier in Philadelphia, PA. There we were assigned a rifle and 55 rounds of ammunition and even a new pair of boots. There was no mud now.
I was assigned to t he Robin Sherford ship for a 67-day trip from Philadelphia to Iran. We went through Panama Canal and the Pacific Ocean. We zigzagged all the way to make our ship less of a target for a torpedo attack. We stopped in the Panama Canal and
Australia for fuel and supplies. We traveled by ourselves from Philadelphia to Perth, Australia. In Perth we picked up 4 ships and two destroyers for a more dangerous part of the trip. In the boat I was assigned to a fifth row bunk—that was the highest bunk, right under the engine. You had to step on the men below to get out.
Our ship’s journey ended in Koramshire, Iran. Our ship was hauling 4 locomotives to use in the supply line of supplies we were sending to Russia. We were the first soldiers here. The first week of our diet was sweet cherries and split-pea soup. The next week we got Spam. The water was not good for us to drink, so they sent us water by boat from India. Water was very rationed. We got a helmet full each Sunday to bathe and shave.
We lived in black tents and worked all night in the port battalion, unloading food, leather, and barbed wire. The natives wee hired to unload the ships. They would unload the barbed wire by kicking the bundles with their bare feet. They would also carry waste to a dump a short distance away. The native ladies would dive into the waste and get food for their children.
In a few weeks I was flown to Abardan, Iran. Temperatures were as much as 130 degrees on the runway. I was flown from Abardan to Darbelaig in Egypt as we waited for transportation to our weather stations in central Africa. From this point Rommel was near Alexandria, Egypt. Each night we could lie out in the sand and watch tracer bullets brighten the sky. This was as far as Rommel advanced as he ran out of supplies.
Our troops were also very short of supplies. We were told that nurses had to tear up their uniforms to get bandages.
Sand was very bad. It blew on our bunks. It was everywhere. The natives in Cairo would throw tar in our shoes. Shoes had to be clean so we had to pay them to clean the shoes. Kids would beg all the time—bakshesh? was what it was called.
Next our plane trip was to our weather station in deep Africa-Maduguri, Nigeria. We were short of personnel so every third Sunday you worked two shifts. The route across Africa was the Gold Coast eastward to Kano, Fort Lamy to Elgenina then to Elfasher and Masari Island. We could not fly after night as we were afraid with airport lights on we could be bombed.
Our station was about 10 miles from the airfield. When we rode the jeep between the two places at night, we would see a lot of wild animals. Some soldiers rented or bought horses from the natives and rode them back and forth. That was not allowed but they did it anyhow.
The natives (WOGS) cleaned out quarters. The sand storms were called aboobs.
During the wet season—May to October—you would have a big thunderstorm. During the wet season afternoons, going off base was off limits. Natives would bring things to our gate and sell them to us.
About every 11 weeks they would bring a few of our men back to a 22-week course in forecasting. It was lucky to get assignment at the first of October and spent the winter at Chanute Field, Ill.
I remember I was assigned to Alliance AFB, Nebraska. When I was on the train I met two boys. I told them when we get to Alliance tomorrow morning it will be 20 below zero. Just out of school I thought I was a real forecaster. The Chinook wind had set in and it got to 20 degrees above. I ducked off the train and did not want to see the boys again. I learned I was not a smart forecaster. At that base we trained paratroopers, glider crews, mainly. Our trained troops suffered large casualties in the Battle of the Bulge.
As the European conflict was winding down, we started training bombers for the Battle of the South Pacific. Our base was not Great Bend, Kansas. As we used the big bombers our crews would fly all night from Great Bend to the Caribbean and back.
My military grade started as Private and ended up a Technical Sergeant. With a total military service of about 3 ½ years the pay of a Private was $50 a month. As Tech Sgt. It was $125.
I am strictly against war both from experience and from my opinion.