My Biography - Part 2: The Armed Forces

Last week I told you about growing up in both Atlantic City (NJ) and Jamaica (NY)...and how I learned about the forthcoming draft and its association with the start of World War 11. When I was 18, the war started for the U.S. with the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japanese aircraft.

I learned from my favorite research tool, Wikipedia, that the draft (or conscription) was used by the Federal government to create the armed forces during this time. Actually, conscription (or draft) was used four times by the government...during the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and then the Cold War (Korean & Vietnam) to build up the armed forces. The third incarnation came into being from 1940 through the Selected Training Service Act and was the first peace-time one. It ended in 1949. 

In the draft, those men aged 18 to 25 were required to register and received an assigned number for the draft lottery. I registered, and my number was drawn and was told to report to the conscription center in New York City on February 15, 1943.   I lasted for about ten minutes as a draftee since I was diagnosed with "walking pneumonia" (or as the medics called it 'lobar pneumonia'), and was told to go home and eat well, rest, relax and continue to take X-rays until the large black spot on my lungs disappeared. It took about nine months for that to happen since there were no "miracle prescription drugs" available at that time.  I was classified "4F", and felt very bad that I couldn't enter the service where all my friends had gone.

After I recovered, I then enlisted in the USNR as an Apprentice Seaman for two years. I was told to report to "boot camp" at Newport, Rhode Island and was immediately promoted to Seaman 2nd class. During this servitude at boot camp I found a way to get up at 6:30 am instead of the normal 5:30 am for exercises by joining a local choir. 

One of the things my friends tipped me off was about an intelligence test given in boot camp, and they told me what subjects to study to get a good mark (which served me well later on as you will find out).  I also told my interviewer that I typed about 45 wpm.

In December 1943 I was transferred to the Naval Training School at the University of Chicago and started training as a Morse Code operator. Yes, my 45 wpm typing skills were achieved with two fingers ever since I learned how to do that since I was 15. there I was, typing way with my two fingers when the instructor came around to watch.  He asked, "Don't you use your other eight fingers to type?"  "Nope," I replied, I do 45 wpm, what's the matter with that?"  "With us, you use all ten fingers. You'll have to go back to the beginner’s class?"  And back I went, but at least I knew where most of the alphabet was on the keyboard, so I got back to the advanced class in about a month.

In February 1944, I ended up in the hospital for three weeks. What happened?  The cold, windy Chicago weather got the best of me and my right side of my face became paralyzed after I went swimming in an indoor pool, and walked outside to meet the awful Chicago weather.  And guess again, no miracle drugs to help cure me fast. As I result I missed my platoon, and was transferred back into another (and my original platoon was sent to the Philippines upon graduation.)

As a result, I had a chance to be picked for the pool for selection to officer's training school in the V-12 program. Ten naval seamen were chosen from the Chicago area based on the results of those boot camp intelligence tests (remember them?) and high scores while in radio training.  I was the sixth in line, and when four were chosen, it looked like I wasn't going to officer’s training school. But luck has its way, and I made the selection when the fifth naval seaman failed his physical exam!

I was made a Seaman, First Class, and was sent to Bowling Green State University near Toledo, Ohio, in July, to commence my training to be a Communications Officer for the Navy.

Should I tell you what happened next?  I was a so-so student with mostly C's in my first quarter. Besides, I lost two weeks of school since I had to go home when my father died. The Navy fortunately gave me another quarter to see if I improved...which I did and got up to B's in all my subjects...even though there were 100 seamen to 3,000 girls at the University!

It was, to say the least, one of the most wonderful years, and helped me get some credits when I switched to a regular university after my discharge.  The one class I enjoyed was creative writing class, and I can only remember one short poem I wrote that I can remember:

To find the volume of a tree

No matter what the sex,

It's calculus you see

We use the integral of X!

In the middle of October I was transferred to the University of Notre Dame to continue my officer's training program.  I did fairly well there, even though there were tens of thousands of girls across the road from the University!!!!!

While there, the war ended.  I received my discharge from the Navy on February 5, 1946, came home and then entered New York University and graduated in the summer of 1948, achieving a BA degree with a journalism major, courtesy of the G.I  Bill of Rights.

Somewhere along the past road "Lady Luck" played its hand real well, don't you think?



     Mothers-in-Law Cause American Women's Infidelity...Three out of every 10 American divorces are attributed to mothers-in-law. 80% surveyed women firmly agree that having an extramarital liaison has helped to cope with their meddling


One Line Senior Humor...I'm very good at telling stories...over and over and over and over and over. 


Bernie is a real person who resides in one of our Brookdale communities. Many of the stories he has written are based on factual evidence from newspaper stories and other sources available to the public.  He uses his imagination in parts to help supply the “twist” at the end.  The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Brookdale Senior Living.


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