Sunday, September 13, 2009

Grandpa M's Youth

Our family was so blessed by our visit with our parents/grandparents. It was good to talk with them and hear stories of their youth, To learn more of our heritage. Many of us we were hearing the stories for the first time. Bill's mind is still exceptionally sharp, it just moves a little slower than it used to. He is in his 80's now.

The one story Dad told was of his experience in the military. His goal was to be an aircraft flight mechanic. His mom didn't want him to leave high school early and join up so he 'missed out' on WW II. He obeyed his Mom and joined right after high school for a three year hitch. The recruiter promised 'Sonny' (that was his family nickname) that he would get whatever program he desired as long as he was qualified physically and mentally. That was no problem as Dad is a very sharp guy. He did so well that they assigned him into the program working with the very first IBM machines/computers. It was cutting edge work and he did very well at it, only it wasn't what he signed up for, it wasn't what Uncle Sam had promised him. Dad made this known persistently to his commanding officer. He spent almost every day in the man's office on his lunch break. The officer soon had to resort to sneaking out the back door at lunch time as my father-in-law persistently reminded him that Uncle Sam had promised him that he could be an Army Air Force Flight Mechanic . Dad soon figured out the officer's trick and began to meet him on the sidewalk. The officer was so tired of his persistent pestering that he sent him out to the west coast to a cutting edge flight base...... where they had him put in cooking school. Dad had NO desire to be an army cook. He explained all this to his senior officers- repeatedly until they shipped him out to of cooking school and put him in a program to be an MP (military police). Things had gone from bad to worse. He explained to anyone that would listen that Uncle Sam had PROMISED him that he could be a flight mechanic. He even tried to find the recruiting officer that had made the promise, but to no avail. They put him on guard duty around a bunch of deserted barracks five miles out in the middle of no where here in the States. He was so despondent that he laid down and went to sleep while on duty. Not a good move. He was arrested and thrown into the guard house. When he was brought up before the judge he was told that they could shoot him for sleeping on guard duty, as they were still under war time regulations, but that they wouldn't (we all thank them for their mercy), instead they would either give him a dishonorable discharge or they would make him the latrine officer. He knew that his mom would be terribly disappointed if her 'Sonny' was dishonorably discharged so he made up his mind that he would be the best latrine officer he could be. He polished those toilets and sinks until they shone. He did such a good job that the officers in charge started noticing and one gentleman even went so far as to investigate and find Sonny. His name was Barney Oldfield, (but not the race car driver), he talked to Dad and heard the whole sad story. The officer did further checking and found it to be all true. He took Sonny into his unit and gave him some less disagreeable work until he could get him into the Flight mechanic program. He was then trained as a flight mechanic on a bomber (B-17 ?) He never did get to actually experience a flight in that role as all the guys who came back from the war got first dibs on those positions. He did get to work on the 'new' rocket planes and the cutting edge flight stuff. He found it very satisfying. He says that his final 18 months of service were much better than the first half. He was able to go to college under the GI bill once he finished his term.

Dad did have some parting words to the children. He didn't want them joining the military! Uncle Sam is just not to be trusted. He also shared his testimony about how he got saved AFTER he left the military.

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