Sunday, March 29, 2015

I have a long dead uncle that had an interesting WW2 history.

He was an amateur radio operator in the late 20s and 30s and had one hell of a fist coupled with a damned good ear. He could send and receive CW (Morse) at an ungodly rate.

Such a skill generally meant that the person would not be handed amusket and sent to the front. It meant they would be pulled out of basic training and turned into a radio operator or an instructor it the skillholder was good at it.

My uncle was offered a civilian job helping the war effort by training high speed radio operators and he accepted it. He was sent to Virginia instantly.

He was told not to enlist. Apparently Donovan wanted some of his people to remain civvies. I would have done the same thing because civvies are not under military control. He didn't want some idiot of an army officer messing with his people.

SpecOps military people have constantly had this problem. An example of a minor thing that has happened to the Green Berets could be that when they have been ordered into beards and paramilitary clothing only to have some pompous ass comes along and order them back into issue uniforms, clean shaven and strictly GI appearance.

These days military officers generally leave SpecOps types alone because the SpecOps people now have gotten themselves friends in high places. Messing with SpecOps types is a sure ticket to ending a career in Barstow, California counting dented mess kits. It wasn't always that way, though.

I believe my uncle was too old early in the war to be drafted but as it dragged on they raised the age and tried to draft him. By this time he was training high speed radio operators in Virginia. 

When he found out he was eligible he told his boss who passed word up the chain. An army officer was sent to his local draft board and told the old bag running it to lose his paperwork. He was not to be drafted.

Apparently the old witch figured such a thing 'wasn't fair to the other boys' and ignored the officer. She sent him a letter ordering him to take a physical.

I don't know why they didn't simply give him a 'critical to the war effort' deferment but my guess is that just about anything to do with the OSS was classified. People said OSS stood for 'Oh, So Secret'. My guess is that it would have come to light that my uncle had been taken into the OSS and they didn't want it on paper.

Anyway, my uncle got a call from his mother saying he had been ordered to take a physical. He told his boss and something pretty cool happened. A brigadier general took his physical for him. 

On the given date, a brigadier general accompanied by a master sergeant showed up and picked up his paperwork and proceeded to the medical officer in charge and had the MO stamp it 4F, medically ineligible for military service.

The brigadier and master sergeant then took the paperwork back to his local draft board and the woman there was given a memorable lecture. She was simply ordered to do what she was told and stop worrying about what was fair and what wasn't.

My uncle was left alone by the draft board for the rest of the war and continued to train high speed radio operators until hostilities ceased in 1945.

Actually he did quite well. As soon as he arrived in Virginia he got a small apartment somehow and sent for his wife. She took an Army office job and stayed at it for as long as my uncle was there.

At the end of the war they had saved enough to buy a house back home in Massachusetts and lived there until they died.

I liked my uncle. Actually I believe he was my great-uncle and my dad was one of his favorites. I always looked forward to his visits. I also looked forward to visiting him, too. His amateur radio station was pretty neat.

He was an old school code guy and I don't believe he even had phone (voice) capabilities.

His car had a trunk full of surplus military radios and an antenna that looked like something out of the Jetsons. He could hop in, start it up and put on a leg key. He could drive a manual transmission (a three in the tree), carry on a conversaton with an animated and highly curious grand nephew and communicate using CW with another ham in Outer Mongolia at the same time in complete safety.

I remember the constant beep a beep beep of the CW coming out of the speaker as we drove in heavy traffic. It is one of my coolest childhood memories.

He was kind of a spry old character, too. I remember when I was older and he was in his 70s. He visited us and my sister had just gotten s new bicycle.

My uncle said to her, 'Watch this" and took her bicycle. He sat on the handle bars, gave himself a shove and put his feet on the pedals and started riding it. It was pretty funny. He had to keep turning his head to see where he was going but he did a pretty good job of things. It was amazing to watch.

With a twinkle in his eye, he asked my dad to try and dad smiled and refused. "I'd bust my ass," he said and they both laughed.

He also had an old Model T Ford in his garage and occasionally took it out. He let me drive once even though I was too young to have a license. This was back in the 60s and it was in a large empty area.

I imagine that if we had been caught that it would have been overlooked as there was a thing called common sense going around in those days.

I didn't get to see my uncle very much but I sure remember the times I did.

To find out why the blog is pink just cut and paste this: NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE WRITING OF TODAY'S ESSAY

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