On my father’s 91st birthday I asked him to write an account of his World War II military service, and below is what he wrote. And click here to check out his own humor website at www.AlZimblerComedy.com
I graduated from Bryant Elementary School in Lawndale on the Westside of Chicago in February 1938 and entered Crane Technical High School, an all-boys school, from which I graduated in June 1941, doing high school in three-and-a-half years. In September of 1941 I entered Herzl Junior College just months before the U.S. got into World War II after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The U.S. immediately started drafting all 18-year-olds for military service and I had only turned 17 the month before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
I finished the two-year junior college program and graduated in June 1943. Having signed up for the draft in November of 1942 (when I turned 18) I was not called into service until August 8, 1943.
Reporting for active duty in Chicago, Illinois
I went to the Insurance Exchange Building at Jackson and Wells in Chicago and presented my draft notice. I had not worn any type of eye glasses up to that day and so, when I saw there were two lines, I joined the Air Corps line, and that evening I was on my way to Miami Beach, Florida, for basic training in the United States Air Corps.
Basic training in Miami Beach, Florida
For the next 13 weeks I was in basic training stationed at the Evans Hotel at 10th and Collins, up every morning to be drilled by a private first class and to attend classes. Our training included rifle shooting practice, which required us walking six miles north to the firing range to shoot a rifle with instructions to hold that rifle firmly to your shoulder in order not to injure your shoulder from the recoil of the rifle.
Flight instructions in Kansas City, Missouri
After those 13 weeks I was shipped to Kansas City, Missouri, for flight instructions. With an instructor as a co-pilot I had 10 sessions in a Piper Cub. The only lesson I still recall to this day was the lesson on how to get out of a stall, which starts when you nose that airplane upwards at a very steep climb. It scared the hell out of me. I was not a good student and my flight book — which I still have — showed I might not have the skills to continue on to be a pilot in the Air Corps.
San Antonio, Texas
On to San Antonio, Texas, I went for classification. This is the place where it was ascertained if you continued on in flight school. I remember meeting with an officer to discuss my flight training potential. He gave me two yardsticks and told me to hold them out in front of me. Unfortunately for me that day, but also fortunately for me that day, I did not make the cut because, when I held those sticks in front of me, one was six inches behind the other. The officer said, “With that kind of depth perception, I do not think I can let you continue in flight school.”
Then I told a second reviewer what I knew about radio and mechanics. This brought forth my answers that I had listened to radio all the time while I was growing up and my favorite program was “Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy,” sponsored by Wheaties. (On each program Jack shared a secret message with his listeners who had previously sent in a dime and gotten the secret message card with the code to decipher the message.)
As to mechanics, I informed the interviewer that I had taken woodshop in high school and in that semester we were required to smooth a rectangle piece of rough and jagged wood and plane it down. At the end of the 13-week-semester, no matter how and why, mine was still not smooth and was now so thin that it could be folded up and used as a makeshift handkerchief.
The result of these two Air Corps interviews was that I got sent to Ypsilanti, Michigan, to learn how to build B24 bombers. Ypsilanti is close to Detroit, which is all I know. Soon after a stint there of working on those bombers I was sent to Keesler Field, Mississippi.
Keesler Field, Mississippi
To me it was the hell hole of the world. Hot, dirty, and the people. Going from civilization in Chicago to hillbilly country was a disaster for me, and I immediately learned that gambling was allowed everywhere. Every barbershop, restaurant and anywhere people might be found had rows and rows of slot machines. I spent a great deal of time at Keesler Field working on B24 bombers. (This is where I had that picture taken of me outside the front steps of a barracks.)
Then I was sent to Richmond, Virginia, to the Air Corps base there to service and repair P47 fighter planes. I was part of a mechanics crew that did grease and oil work on those airplanes. Each morning our repair crew would hustle out to the flight line and get into the cockpit and turn the magnetos to the right and left to see if they worked. This took place after we manually had first pulled the separate blades of each propeller to a new position to loosen up the blades. It took young, stupid, strong boys to pull each one of those props through its warm-up cycle.
Our early morning shift ended right after lunch and then we had free time. I had taken typing classes during my high school years so I managed to get a job typing invoices at the largest department store in Richmond. I stayed in Richmond and at that job long enough to earn close to $800 at a pay rate of about 60 cents an hour.
Boca Raton, Florida
Then I was sent back down to Florida to the Boca Raton Air Corps base where I was also assigned to the flight crews. One part of that job was to drive a motorized small cart that had a big sign on the back that read “Follow Me.” I was the designated driver to go out to the landing field whenever a plane landed and to direct the plane to the field hangars. I had never driven any vehicle before and so I was careful by going so slow that it took quite a while for me to get those landing planes to the hangar. Also part of my flight crew job was to take the mechanics — on a trolley attached to my driving cart — from the hangers to the mess halls and the barracks.
It was then that the Air Corps recognized my special skills. Namely typing.
Chanute Field, Illinois
From Florida I was sent to Chanute Field near Champaign, Illinois, where there was also an Air Corps field. Only this time I was in the office typing discharge papers for all the veterans getting out of the service based on the number of points they had earned. The war was over and those veterans were being released who had earned the necessary points based on the number of months they had served as well as where they had served.
My turn came on February 15, 1946. As I was receiving my honorable discharge I was asked if I would like to continue in the service by joining the Air Corps Reserves. I would then be eligible for retirement and a monthly stipend. I sort of yelled out “GIVE ME THAT DISCHARGE PAPER — I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF MILITARY SERVICE!” I do not recall that I said it in such nice terms.
HAPPY 91st BIRTHDAY, DAD! I’m so proud that you have now published five books of humorous short stories about love and sex, including your newest book DATING AND MATING SECRETS OF SENIORS AND OTHER SHORT STORIES OF LOVE AND SEX.
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