58th A.I.B - Co. 'C' - Personal Story
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There and Back Again - a Timeline
By Okey E. Taylor

  2. The War Starts

  College of William and Mary - 1941 to 1943

Looking back on it now, graduating from high school in 1941 would not the year of choice. William and Mary was also not my choice of colleges to attend. I wanted to go to Ohio State University because I used to listen to their football games on the radio and they played great games against the Michigan halfback named Tom Harmon. My aunt, Willa Jackson, selected The College of William and Mary for me to attend. I always thought it was because two boys named Tom and Virgil Andrews went there. They were the sons of her boss and were basketball players. William and Mary was a great college and I liked it fine after I got there.

I know that when it came time to go to college that it strained my grandparents financially but I did receive a scholarship and that helped. In addition to the scholarship at William and Mary, I also had a part time job. The job was working in the file room in the Fine Arts Department. I was paid to monitor the Fine Arts Library and to mount art pictures relating to painting, sculpture, architecture, etc. on cardboard backings so the professors could show them to class using an overhead projector. It was an easy job and I could study when there were no pictures to mount. I also served as the librarian for the Fine Arts library two nights a week. The job paid 30 cents an hour, which was not bad at all for a part-time job in 1941. It was financed through some government program I believe but I can not remember the name of it.

Out of state tuition and room and board were rather high at William and Mary. I believe that tuition was around $300 but I can't remember if this was for a semester or the year. Room and board in the dormitory was $108 for the semester. That was high for those days. Nowadays, it would probably not cover weekly expenses.

There was a soda fountain near the campus and I had another part time job for a while working there. We were allowed to eat some of the ice cream and when we closed for the night, usually around 9:00 PM, we would make an ice cream sundae to take home with us. I still like ice cream but I'm not crazy about it. I was pretty sick of it for quite a while.

While at William and Mary, I roomed with William H. Seawell who was originally from Glass, Va. Bill was a pretty nice guy and we got along well. He was a very large fellow and was probably twice my size. I only weighed about 125 lbs and was about 5 feet 9 inches when I entered college. Bill was over six feet tall and weighed at least 250 pounds and we shared a room on the second floor of Tyler Hall. The Hall was very old and was torn down shortly after World War II.

World War Two Begins

Dec. 7, 1941 - The Japanese bomb the American naval base at Pearl Harbor and sink or damage most of the American battleships stationed there. The aircraft carriers escape because they are at sea.

Shortly after lunch on Dec. 7, 1941 someone came into my room and told my roommate and me that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that there would be a war. Since I was only 17 I would not be inducted for a while but we were sure that we would be involved before it was over. The next day, all the students assembled in the dining hall to listen to President Roosevelt's speech to congress requesting them to declare war on Japan and Germany because of the dastardly attack on Pearl Harbor. Dec. 8, 1941 was my 17th birthday. 1941 was not the best of years to be graduating from high school or college either for that matter.

Dec. 8, 1941 - The U. S. Congress declares war on Japan.

It was decades before some of the truths about these events came out. Historians researching the Pearl Harbor attack interviewed several intelligence personnel who were involved in tracking the Japanese fleet and they said that they knew the location of the fleet just prior to the attack. They reported it to their superiors but no notice was sent to the Pearl Harbor commanders who were subsequently blamed for allowing the attack to happen. They were never court-martialed or allowed to defend themselves in any way.

Dec. 11, 1941 - Germany declares war on the United States.

The people who were tracking the Japanese fleet prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor were either enlisted men or lower level officers. They testified many years later about the period and the documents that would substantiate their statements. Many of the documents were mentioned in earlier history books also. Later searches of the Pentagon archives have determined that the documents were logged in at the times stated but are now missing. Bureaucrats love to alter history.

Historians have never been able to locate the whereabouts of President Roosevelt or General Marshall on the night of Dec. 6 from official records. It was verified however that they were not where they said they were. It now appears that they allowed the attack to occur in order to draw the United States into the war. I do not believe that they would have done this if they had known how devastating the attack would be in terms of casualties and sunken ships. It did definitely get the American people in the right state of mind to go to war.

Today as I am writing this it is Dec. 7, 1994. There is an article in today's Columbus Dispatch that photo analysts believe they have found a Japanese midget submarine on the ocean floor in Pearl Harbor. They believe, after analyzing various torpedo tracks, it fired two torpedoes at the USS Oklahoma and the USS West Virginia. The photos indicated that the sub was in a particular spot in the harbor. In 1981, a mound was found on the harbor floor at that location which scientists of that time believed to be a natural formation. Only 4 of the five reported midget subs involved in the attack were accounted for.

The remainder of the 1941-1942 school year was taken up with some studying - not enough - and much talking about the war news and speculating over how it was going. Much of the news was inaccurate if not down right falsified. The reason given was that they didn't want to give information to the enemy. They also seemed to be just as worried about giving information to the people. The Japanese usually knew when they sank a ship or captured a city.

Feb. 26, 1942 - Off Java, the Japanese sink the aircraft transports USS Langley, which from 1921 to 1927 was the Navy's first and only aircraft carrier. Langley is carrying 32 P-40 fighters desperately needed by Java's defenders.

One of my fraternity brothers at William and Mary was the headwaiter in the college dining room. The waiter jobs usually went to the college athletes with any extra jobs available being doled out by the headwaiter to anyone else who was interested. My roommate, Bill Seawell, also waited tables full time and he said it was a fairly good job for the money. You only had to work during mealtimes and then for only a short time. The job paid 25 cents a meal per table, which was pretty good pay for a part time job in the early forties. The job didn't take near as much time as my fine arts job and paid almost as good. I would go to the dining room early and could fill in sometimes when one of the regulars didn't show up on time.

May 25, 1942 - In Washington, Congress debates pay raises for the armed forces and by mid-month will approve a new pay scale. Privates will get $50 a month, sergeants $81.90, master sergeants $144.90, second lieutenants $157.50, colonels $383 and generals $666.

The Battle of Midway in June 1942 was reported in the press but only the Japanese losses were reported as usual. It came just shortly after Gen. Doolittle's raid on Tokyo and greatly helped morale but at that time the full scope was not known. It turned out to be one of the turning points of the Pacific war as later determined by historians but of course at the time it was just reported as an American victory.

June 4 - 6, 1942 - Planes from the aircraft carriers Enterprise, Hornet, and Yorktown destroy four of the six Japanese aircraft carriers that blasted Pearl Harbor. Eight consecutive attacks by US bombers and torpedo planes are cut to ribbons but dive-bombers from the Enterprise and Yorktown make a winning assault, turning the Akagi, Kaga and Soryu into flaming hulks. The Hiryu is destroyed later in the day.
    The Japanese fleet attacking Midway and the Aleutians consisted of 165 ships while Admiral Nimitz has only 71 to oppose it. The Japanese lose 4 carriers, a cruiser and 322 planes. The Americans lose one carrier, a destroyer and 147 planes.
  Midway is the first pivotal allied victory of the war.

The Battle of Midway was fought just at the end of 1941-1942 school year. I can't remember whether I had left school for the summer break or was in the process of leaving. I don't remember anything of interest that happened at home during the summer break. There were daily updates on the course of the war of course but nothing else of consequence. It was the last summer of complete leisure that I can remember having since I was in the army the following summer.

June 11, 1942 - Dwight Eisenhower is named Commander of the E.T.O.

The Navy opened a chaplain training school at William and Mary in the fall of 1942. While they were there, they ate in the college dining room. This opened up several additional jobs for waiters and I managed to land one, probably through the connections with my roommate and fraternity brother. We waited on two tables of ten at a time and made 50 cents a meal. The chaplains were also very generous and would leave us many tips.

July 9, 1942 - The Germans begin their attack on Stalingrad on the Don River.

1942 seemed to pass very quickly. We were always listening to the war news and speculating on the events as they occurred. Many of our older classmates were being inducted during the year and the class enrollment steadily dropped. It was hard to concentrate on studying with all that was going on.

Aug. 7 - 9, 1942 - The first US offensive begins with 11,000 men of the 1st marine division landing on Guadalcanal. The Japanese sink the US Cruisers Astoria, Quincy and Vincennes and the Australian cruiser Canberra and damage a cruiser and three destroyers. It is the worst surface action defeat in US Naval history.
    Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner orders the transports and supply ships to retreat to safer waters. They take with them 2,000 marines and half of the marine's supplies and equipment. The 17,000 marines on Guadalcanal are on their own.

In August 1942, the Americans landed on the island of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. No one at that time had ever heard of either Guadalcanal or the Solomon Islands. The fighting went on for over five months both on land and sea so there were almost daily reports in the newspapers. It was reported at the time to be a Marine operation, which it was but the papers both then and now still barely mention that the army had as much to do with winning the battle as the marines did. I also do not recall reading anything in the papers about the Navy withdrawing to safety and leaving the Marines on their own during the early part of the battle. Didn't want the Japanese to know, I guess.

Nov. 8, 1942 - A 500-ship armada begins landing 107,000 US and British troops in Morocco and Algeria.

The invasion of North Africa was of a little more interest than events in the South Pacific mainly I think because Africa was closer to home than some unknown islands in the South Pacific. One of my high school classmates, Ralph Stevenson, was also in one of the units that invaded North Africa. I remember reading about the American 1st. Armored division getting clobbered at the Kasserine Pass. Sometime after that I heard that Ralph had been killed in the fighting in North Africa. I do not know what unit he was in.

Dec. 2, 1942 - The atomic age begins when a team of scientists led by Enrico Fermi achieves the first nuclear chain reaction.

The winter of 1942-1943 seemed to go very slowly. I didn't get to go home for thanksgiving from Williamsburg because of the long train ride to Charleston and the terrible train schedule. If I had gone home I would have arrived at 3:30 AM on Thursday and would have had to leave at 3:30 AM on Sunday to get back in time for classes on Monday so it was just not worth it.

Dec. 5, 1942 - The Navy admits that 10 ships were sunk or damaged at Pearl Harbor. The actual number was 16 destroyed or damaged including 8 battleships.

I had to register for the draft shortly after I turned eighteen but I am not sure exactly how many days after your birthday you were allowed before you had to register. I know I registered for the draft at the Charleston draft board but I can not remember just when it was - it was probably during the Christmas break. I told them when I registered that I was in school and to notify me there when I was to be called for induction.

January and February were spent in going to classes and talking about the war. There was not too much time spent studying by anyone since most of us expected to get drafted any day and we saw little advantage in spending a lot of time studying. Men in my classes were disappearing almost daily to be drafted. The ones you knew well usually told you when they were leaving - the others just disappeared.

We had many parties during 1942-43 until most of us were drafted. During one big one we succeeded in almost demolishing Tyler Hall. Someone had found a large concretion that was at least two and one-half feet in diameter. I do not know how much it weighed but it took several of us to haul the thing up to the third floor of the Hall. During one of our parties, someone suggested that the thing was in the way and why didn't we roll it down the steps and get rid of it.

Feb. 2, 1943 - German resistance ends at Stalingrad. Of the 248,000 soldiers surrounded, 160,000 have been killed. Of the 90,000 captured only 5,000 survive to return to Germany 10 years later.

The big concrete ball rolled down the steps in fine fashion but it took most of the stair risers along with it. It also left a big hole in the plaster walls on each landing as it went. By the time it was out the front door, no one wanted to be seen with the thing so we all went to bed. There was only one concrete ball, not cannon balls as reported, but it was a doozie.

Dean Lambert, the dean of men, was needless to say not happy. He commented just before his retirement many years later that the Tyler Hall residents of that time were one of the worst groups he had ever seen at the College. I can understamd why Dean Lambert was upset but he failed to realize, I guess, that within two or three months, all of the students involved in this incident would be drafted into the armed forces and many would never return to William and Mary or anyplace else.

Mar. 6, 1943 - Maj. Gen. George Patton replaces Maj. Gen. Lloyd Fredendall as commander of the battered US II Corps. He is promoted to Lt. Gen. on Mar 11. He heads the only four American divisions actively fighting the Germans - the 1st, 9th, 34th and 1st Armored.

An article in the Alumni Gazette, June 1986 had this to say: "In an address he gave just before he retired from William and Mary, he offered some vintage Lambert - a story of an infamous building known as the Institute where "the roughest, wildest group of college men I have ever known" resided (they reportedly rolled cannon balls down the stairway from the third floor)." I think it was nice that he remembered us after forty years.

Some of the students living in Tyler Hall during this period were Harvey Marriner, Hugh and Jim Harnsburger, C. J. Stull, William Seawell, a fellow named Peeples (I believe) and me. We also ran around with Howard Smith who later was associated with the College. I do not remember exactly who was the ringleader but we were the ones living there during that time that I remember.

The Navy had an officer recruitment plan in effect during this period. They were the V-5 and the V-7 programs and they were recruiting for line officer and pilot training programs. The men who signed up for them were sent to officer or pilot training schools and were commissioned upon graduation in three to six months. Quite a few people at school signed up for them but I don't think that you could volunteer if you had received your draft notice. I wasn't particularly interested in the Navy at this time for some reason because when I was in high school before the war I thought that I would like to get an appointment to Annapolis if possible. I don't know why I changed my mind.

In March 1943, I still hadn't heard from the draft board and since many of my friends about the same age had been inducted, I made the terribly unfortunate mistake of writing the Charleston draft board and asking for information about my status. They replied that they had filed my papers as having been transferred but they hadn't transferred them to Williamsburg as requested. Therefore, as I finally figured out too late, I was not on anyone's list for induction. The draft board also came to the same conclusion.

About six weeks later, I got my first paying job with a monthly salary running into the middle two digits ($50). The draft board remedied their prior mistake and I was ordered to report for induction in Charleston, W. Va. on May 7, 1943. That's what you get for asking dumb questions of the government.

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