As a senior at Neoga High School in early 1943, I took an officers candidate exam for either the Navy (V12) or Army (ASTP). Near the end of the examination, I was required to choose either Army (ASTP) or Navy (v12). Fortunately and perhaps because my father had been a World War I Marine, I chose Navy. In the Spring of 1943, I was notified that I had passed the exam and was requested to report to an office in Chicago for a physical exam.

My mother and I took an Illinois Central train from Mattoon to the old 12th Street Station in Chicago and we stayed with my Aunt Ina and her husband Johnny at their house in Oak Park. The next day, we took the Elevated from Oak Park to the Chicago Loop for the physical exam. It went well for me including a conversation with a psychologist until the final test which was a blood pressure exam. At that time, I had experienced some trouble in passing the blood pressure exam during the annual physical which permitted me to play varsity basketball so I was apprehensive. Sure enough my blood pressure was high on the initial test and I and another fellow were required to go to a doctors office nearby for further testing. He was examined first and he was disqualified because of high blood pressure. His failure did not raise my morale but luckily my second test was on the border of being high and the good old doctor approved me and sent me on. An Officer swore me into the Navy and Mom and I returned home to await the U-12 call in either June or October.

Prior to June, I was informed that I was to report to the V12 unit at the University of Illinois in Urbana in early October.
(When I took that exam voluntarily at the high school, I am sure that I had no idea of its significance to me. My selection of Navy was very fortuitous for the Army ASTP program was abandoned in early 1944 when I was at the U of I while the Navy V12 program lasted long enough for me to get a BSME degree in 2 and one half years. When I passed that exam and barely made the blood pressure test it opened the way to a BS degree in engineering from a prestige school, and a very rewarding career in higher education. It is strange how so seemingly little things have a major effect on a person's future.)

When I became 18 in April 1943, I became subject to the draft even though I had already been accepted for the V12 program. My father was chairman of the Cumberland County Draft Board but there never was any thought of a farm deferment which I might possibly have qualified for but really did not deserve. So in late April, the draft informed me to report to the courthouse in Toledo, Illinois at 5:00 am for transportation to the induction center on State Street in Chicago, Illinois.

So the folks drove me to Toledo in the early morning and left me at the courthouse. Assembled there were a motley group of men waiting to take the bus to Mattoon to take the Illinois Central to Chicago. Most of the men were older than me and over half of them were very drunk. Several had already been declared 4F on their prior trip to the induction center. A gangly drunk was loudly proclaiming the he had just laid his girl friend in the grass right outside of the sheriff's office. One of the more civilized fellows wanted very badly to get into the army and much hoped that the doctors would not discover the hernia which had disqualified him. Later they did and he was sent home. In that I was one of the few sober, I was appointed leader of this group of about 29.

So with some effort, the group was loaded on the bus and subsequently with even more trouble boarded the train in Mattoon. The drunks were particularly noisy and some of my time on the trip to Chicago was spent in preventing a few of the most drunk from falling between the cars in the passageway between the cars. Many had never been on a train before and although we were supposed to stay in our assigned car they took great delight in attempting to tour the train.

Finally we arrived at the 12th Street Station in Chicago. By this time many of the drunks were in a deep noisy sleep and it was with great difficulty that we got the folks off of the train and into a bus. Thank goodness the induction center was very close to the station.

First at the induction center, we were given breakfast, then we joined the assembly line medical inspection operation. Several of my potential troops were soon declared 4F as very obvious physical and mental deficincies were detected. Compared to my previous V12 exam, this exam was very simple. A psychologist interviewed me and asked me the purpose of a flash light he had. After satisfying him on that he congratulated me on my V12 selection.

Those who passed the medical exam then reported to a final station where personal matters such as home address, pay arrangements and insurance were disussed and appropriate documents were signed. My line was much held up by the Clay County High School basketball star, Elmo Hilderbrand, who insisted that he be the beneficiary of his GI insurance policy. Finally Elmo named his mother as beneficiary and the line moved on to swearing in and issuance of orders. My orders stated that I was on inactive duty awaiting call to the Navy U12 program. I have little recollection of getting back home but I do know that I got back to Mattoon by train late that evening after a very long day.

previous page
Powered by MSN TV
next page