March 2, 2014 — Recruitment posters like these were hung in schools and stores around town. While an effective tool for calling out patriotic high school grads, these posters also tell us volumes as historical evidence. They show us attire, plane types, and suggest the means by which men were inspired to join the war effort. One gut-wrenching bit of declassified info I found stated that B-25s were being manufactured at a rate that calculated plane life spans of just 11 missions. If that was the rate for planes, imagine the recruitment needs for men.
Dad and his buddies answered the call for airmen, not only because they wanted to fly, but because they had no desire to be on the ground. One of the first letters my sister and I found and read in Dad’s stash was one from a friend in South Dakota named Flora Peckham. She wrote to Dad during the war, and I used a section of her letter verbatim in The Tail Gunner:
“Do you remember when you were about seven and you were at the house one day, and I let you run the Hoover sweeper, and you were thrilled to death because it sounded like an air plane? I wonder if that terrible roaring of motors will always thrill you. I know just how brave you are and how anxious to get going, and all that, but the out-come is so far in the distance as I see it, and so vague. I feel the worst is yet to come.”
It’s from letters and posters like these that we can gain a context for the period. The range of research that’s required to construct even the simplest historical scene can be daunting for those historical sticklers among us. For example, I needed to know how young guys were recruited for the Air Corps, and what motivated them to sign up. Guys could either wait to be drafted or be pro-active and test for the branch of the service they preferred. Even boys too young to enter the service, like my uncle Wendell, were eager to join.
This led me to search for Dad’s Army enlistment record, which turned out to be available online through the National Archives. (http://aad.archives.gov/aad/series-description.jsp?s=3360&cat=all&bc=sl) This database allows many kinds of searches, the easiest being by name. I was able to find the enlistment record for my Dad and two uncles. These records are the first step to getting access to other military records as they not only show the individual’s serial number, they show the place of enlistment, division of the military, and the terms of the enlistment. Dad’s was, “…for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.”
His record also contained a mystery; why was his place of enlistment noted as Miami Beach, Florida when he was living in Washington State?
For that part of the cross-country adventure, you’ll have to check back tomorrow…