This is Memorial Day, so once again, I thought I’d show you a picture of my father in WWII. He’s in the lower right – holding the tommy gun (Thompson machine gun). He wouldn’t hurt a fly, but on the other hand, he was a machine gun instructor. We think this picture was taken in Missouri, where he spent most of a year living in a tent.
My father was a professional drummer for awhile in the 1930s in Chicago (“no, Bill, percussionist”). He could also play harmonica very well and a little violin. He also sang with the bands. They played in hotels (like the Edgewater Beach in Chicago), clubs (like the Dreamland Cafe on S. State St.) and for private parties. He became a member of the band that Northwestern Univ. put together to travel to Europe to demonstrate American big band, swing and jazz music. That was in 1938 or 1939. They went over on a ship and stayed in Europe for about 5 months.
There he took notice of Hitler. When he came back to the U.S., he told people that there was this maniac in Germany that wanted to be Napoleon and take over the world. We’re going to be at war with this guy! Here people took little notice. Dad said people told me that we beat Germany in WWI and they were “nuthin'”.
Dad decided he wanted to be more than just a buck private with a rifle when the war broke out…so in 1940, without telling anyone, he went and joined the Army. He was sent to Rockford IL for basic training, where he tried to put a band together. Later, they found out he had taken an aviation course at Lane Tech high school in Chicago, so they transferred him to the Air Corps and he went down to Missouri.
Then he went on to Frederick Army Air Field in Oklahoma, where he spent over two years. Dad flew in B24s (made in Michigan) and B25s (Mitchell bombers). He never saw combat, but managed to get to most of the 48 states. One of the pilot instructors on B26s at Frederick was the future comedian, George Gobel (he comes on around 8 min. into the film).
We think the picture above was taken in North Carolina, where dad was a Supply Sergeant. He was about 29 years old in this picture. Dad was in the Army Air Corps for over 5 years, only getting out to help take care of his aging parents back in Chicago. After the war, he got a job at Bell and Howell for 75 cents an hour – and worked his way up to become chief liaison engineer.
He and thousands of others gave up years of their life to defeat a great evil. Today, we remember those men and women and we are grateful.