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Memories of WWII

After graduating from McClain High School in 1941, I obtained a job at Wright Patterson Air Field in Fairborn, OH. It was the main material depot for the Air Corps. My original job was working in the reproduction department. Prints were made of every thing the Air Corps had purchased. Later I worked as a clerk in the Recording department, which kept a file on each part and also the location where it could be found.

After working for one year at Wright Field in the fall of 1942, I entered Ohio State for one quarter of College, which ended in December 1942. On January 1943 I entered the service. I can still remember my Dad Ab, taking me to Hillsboro to meet the bus that took us to Fort Thomas, KY for our induction physical. It had to be one of the hardest things he had to do, recalling the time he had gone through the same process 25 years earlier.

Having applied and been accepted in the Air Corps it was necessary for me to take immediate induction, so after passing the physical I was put on a bus and headed to Camp Atterbury, Indiana. After two days my order came sending me to Biloxi Mississippi for basic training. We went by troop train that took three days. I recall my first week at Biloxi getting shots, living in a tent with seven other guys I had never seen before, and the regimentation that went with basic training just about did me in. Then on Friday, walking thru the mess line, the GI's serving really piled the food on my tray. There was no way I could eat it, however when I tried to return my tray the Mess Sergeant was standing by the door and ordered me to eat it all. He said "you took it... you eat it!" Finally after the 3rd attempt he let me out. I went to the nearest phone and called home. With my first time of being home-sick, Mother's voice helped me get thru it and we decided to call home every Sunday, from then on. 

After three weeks of basic training my orders came thru sending me to Haverford College located just outside of Philadelphia. The Pre-Metrology course was set up to be completed in two years, included an accelerated course in math which I had not taken in High School. About 90 % of the students in our course were junior and seniors in college, and I did not have a chance to make the grades necessary to stay in the course. The three months, March April and May in Haverford were fine because Mother and Maxine both visited me and I was able to get a pass and be home for Easter.

In June, 1 was sent to Atlantic City, NJ for basic training. The Air Corps had taken over all the fancy hotels, stripping down to the bare walls and added army cots with six in a room. With spring here and being on the Atlantic Ocean it could have been worse. Again the luck of the Irish came thru when about the second day, our Sergeant turned out to be Warren Watts from Greenfield, who wanted to know if I could count cadence, and made me a assistant drill instructor. No more KP or guard duty! !

Mid August orders came thru sending me to Fort Logan, Colorado for Administrative Clerks training. While at Ft Logan I ran into Carl McClain and Ernest Ellison who were also in training. Denver was a great place with two outstanding Dance Halls. The USO unit was very active and one day JANE WYMAN, at that time married to Ronald Reagan, came by. I took her picture, too bad I didn't get her to have Ronnie sign it!

After completing administrative school, I headed east and ended up being assigned to Headquarters of 370th Fighter Group, which lasted until the war was over in Europe. The Group was assigned for flight training at Groton, CT, which is the home of the Coast Guard Academy. My grandson, Andy Clyburn graduated from the Academy in 1992. After going back once a year for four years, on his day of graduation I found the Catholic Church l had attended more than 40 years before.

The 370th Fighter Group had been activated in Eglin Field, Florida, and our Headquarters Company enlisted men were made up of older enlisted men who had mostly been career soldiers, with a few who were technically trained for the maintenance of the P47's that were assigned to our Group. The remainder of our company had been trained in technical schools, which the Air Corps had set up. The Officers were all older mostly college graduates or had held commissions in the reserve. Of course the Flying officers had been in the service prior to Pearl Harbor and now were commanding the Group with its 3 squadrons. The younger pilots were assigned to the Squadrons for training for the combat that they would be flying in a couple months.

The 370th Fighter Group left Groton Air Base in mid January, traveling by train to Camp Shanks for overseas processing. I had been at Camp Mills in New York before being assigned to the 370th, and visited the Stage Door Canteen, which was THE place for enlisted men in New York City. One afternoon the Fred Waring Orchestra played for a dance and his special guest was Miss America of 1942. I cut in and danced with her for about three minutes when another GI cut in on me, the story of my life. The last weekend at Camp Shanks, Sgt. Joe Nemeth, Cpl. Walker, and Cpl. Marowitz and I had a farewell dinner at a Hungarian Restaurant on Times Square, which was the last good food we would have for the next two years.

When I started writing these memories, I sent a copy to Joe Blyskal, one of my closest friends in the 370th to verify and add any reflections to this record. Joe sent me 21 pages he had written while we were overseas and gave me permission to use part of his writings in this report. The following Joe wrote about our overseas physicals: "An event I remember is my overseas physical which I had previously heard was thorough. What a laugh! All it consisted of was stripping down, walking around nonchalantly like a contestant for the title of "Miss America" and looking at a couple of men (presumably doctors) who were more interested on reading the newspapers, etc., than examining the men before them. I haven't heard of anyone who failed the physical. In fact, I recently read a letter in the Yank magazine in which some GI said that he was given credit for 20/20 vision in his glass eye. Isn't that wonderful? What won't they make glass do next?"

Again I was fortunate to be assigned to Group HQ. And my assignment in administration allowed me to be in contact with men from all over the country. Our Sgt Major, named Yeager, was a career man from Alabama, S Sgt Bill Davis from Penn. Sgt Phil Byrne, CT. Sgt Carroll Van Ness, Chicago, Sgt Joe Blyskal from Ware Mass, who now in 2001 lives in San Francisco, CA. and Sgt John Knapp, New Haven CT along with Sgt Collins made up the Administrative (S-1) department of Headquarters Co. Several other enlisted men were great friends and I will identify them later. In all when we departed from the US on 31 January 1944 we had 24 Officers and 50 enlisted men in Group HQ. The 370th Group with 141 officers and 808 enlisted men embarked on the H.M.S. MAURITANIA (Cunard) line New York City at 1230 hours.

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