Sunday, December 7, 2008

When Things Got Serious

reposting in honor of Pearl Harbor Day

Bobby had enlisted in the Army in his hometown of Winter Park, Florida.

He did well in training, and ended up applying for a special school, hoping to become a pilot. The Army being the Army, he had to agree to taking a bunch of tests and special classes to qualify, and there was a pretty good chance he wouldn't be selected for pilot school... but he decided to go for it.

The specialty training include aircraft engine mechanic courses at Luke Field, located southwest of Phoenix, Arizona. The class was difficult, but Bobby was smart, and he didn't spend a lot of time and energy getting wasted after hours and on weekends, like some of his friends did. He preferred spending time at a church he had found. A church that hosted "mixers" on Friday and Saturday nights. Church mixers that had girls at them.

That is where he met Nancy.

Bobby and Nancy went out a few times, usually with Nancy's best friend -- whose name was Bobbe! -- and one of her boyfriends. Nancy was only 17, but Bob (it was too confusing having two "Bobbies") had also met her parents at the church, and they trusted him. Bob had even been to their house for Sunday dinner a few times.

Things were going just swell (his words, not mine). Bob and Nancy liked each other quite a lot, but she was still in high school. And being in training for the Army, he didn't know for sure where he would end up next. It was technically peacetime, but the Army was building up. There was talk of the trouble across the Atlantic, even though most Americans thought it was best to stay out of it.

They decided not to worry about it, and to take their time. It was a mature decision. And then Bob was selected for a special class he in California. He would be back after a few weeks, but maybe this meant he would get to learn to fly! So, he said goodbye to Nancy and promised to write to her often.

Not long after that, America was attacked, and everything changed.

There was confusion; there was fear. There were a lot of things happening all at once. Nancy's letters to Bob were frantic; she didn't know where he was, or if the rumors were true that California was next. She hadn't heard from her brother, a Technical Sergeant stationed in the Philippines. All she knew was that she loved Bob, missed him fiercely, and wanted him to be back safe with her.

By the time Bob managed to get a letter through, things had calmed somewhat. People at least knew the basics: the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor; the U.S. had declared war. The West Coast was not under attack. Nancy's brother, Richard, was safe for the time being, though he would be wounded in a sniper attack and end up the war as a guard at the POW camp in Papago, AZ.

Bob had also been turned down for officer training and pilot school. But this would turn out to be good news, because, as a high-scoring mechanic, Bob would spend the rest of the war at Luke Field, maintaining the trainers for the pilots of the P-38's.

And so, on the 28th of June, 1942, Bob and Nancy were married.

You could argue that without December 7, 1941, they might not have decided to wed. It's possible that without the shock of war, and the fear of losing each other, they might have drifted away and only been pen pals. But some things are meant to happen. After all, Bob did eventually learn to fly.

But that's another story altogether...

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