Veteran William Young

William Young

William Young writes:

In 1940. I was standing beside a highway in South Carolina hitching a ride to Valdosta, Georgia in my ROTC uniform.  Picked up by a young man whom I immediately identified as being German in origin due to his accent. This German had command of the German submarine U-137, which was docked in Havana at the time, and he was returning from a sightseeing trip to New York: my first contact with one of what would become the enemy.…”

A native of Staunton, Virginia, he believes as many worthy veterans do, that his WWII service is hardly worthy of discussion. As a youngster growing up in the 1920s and 30s, William built and raced Go-Carts, delivered newspapers, dashed through the snow on sleigh rides, and enjoyed Sunday afternoon rides in the rumble seat of the family car. A Norman Rockwell childhood.

Once in the military, though, he was thwarted on all sides. In the fall of 1940 when he reported for his junior year in ROTC for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, the Commandant told him, “I am sorry, son, but we don’t give contracts to bo-rats and that is what you are.” That’s when William was forced to transfer to the civilian dormitory. In the spring of 1942, he was told, “So you want to be a Navy Deck Officer. Well sorry, fellow, the only glasses used by a deck officer on a navy ship will be a set of binoculars.” In June of the same year, a Marine recruiting officer in Staunton announced to everyone hanging around the Virginia Post Office building, “Hey, listen to this guy with the glasses. He wants to join the Marines, says he can type pretty fast. Fellow, get out of here, you never saw a marine with glasses.” Pretty disappointing for a guy who dreamed of serving his country.

Finally in July of 1942, he was able to sign up for the Signal Corps, a branch responsible for military communications. He was sent to Camp Crowder, Missouri for Central Signal School and basic training for six weeks, then on to Eastern Signal School at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Honoring their training company commander, Lt. Carr, William and the fellows would sing in jest, “O, you can’t go to heaven with Lt. Carr because Lt. Carr ain’t going that far.” Just over a year later, Bill was promoted to Technician 5th grade, which buoyed his spirits greatly, until he ran up against another problem. “Oh boy, looks like I was going to get in this man’s war after all,” he writes. But then, “Son, what is that on your eardrum?” “Just a little calcareous deposit, sir.” “Calcareous deposit the devil, give me that lancet, medic. You aren’t going anywhere except to the 4-F squadron with that perforated eardrum.” Another dream gone sour.

Because of his 4-F status, William’s contribution was primarily administrative. He served with the Air Service Command, the Replacement Depot – ASC HF and Radar Installation, and Maintenance Group – 4525 AAF Base Unit. When asked what he would like for younger people to know and understand, he says, “We have an obligation to contribute to and not take from society. We need to enrich our environment, not diminish it.”

As told to Jean Kilby