During the spring of 1943, I was a senior in high school and the war in Europe and the Pacific was fully underway. It was time to make a decision, either join or be drafted. I was approaching graduation time, which was near the end of June. My mother wanted me to wait until they took me, but I felt differently. Her reasoning was to delay it as long as possible by letting the draft catch up to me. My thinking was that I want to choose where I go, and I wanted to fly. I was always interested in airplanes. The Army Air Corps had an air cadet program that you could join while in high school that, if you passed all the tests, they would not take you until you graduated. I took it, passed and went on with my studies until graduation.
It was just about two weeks after high school graduation, June 1943, that I had to report for duty. At the duty station they gave all the aviation cadets special colored file folders and told us to go to the head of the line. I'm still not sure if the preferential treatment was because we were cadets or because they needed fliers more desperately. Somehow I found out that I didn't go in any sooner than if I was drafted, which made my mother feel a little better.
I served my basic training in Miami Beach. I know what you're thinking: boy did this guy get a sweet deal. Not so; we weren't there for vacation and the training personnel made sure we got the message real fast. In fact, it was tougher because we did everything in the sand. We ran, did calisthenics, played free ball and marched, always in sand. In addition to that, it was July, remember? One time we had just finished running the obstacle course, it was a very hot afternoon, and the instructor yelled "break." You never saw such a stampede for the water fountains in all your life. We overran the water fountains and trampled them down in the mad rush. We learned discipline that day the hard way, because none of us got a drink until the fountains were set up again, while we all sat in the hot sun..
Our squadron was quartered in the Leroy Villas Motel (the Army had taken over all the hotels and motels in Miami Beach ). Years later my job took me to Miami calling on customers in the late '70s. I went looking for anything familiar in that area. After a bit of hunting in and out of streets, to my surprise, I found an old rusty sign on a dilapidated little building, which read "LEROY VILLAS." It's hard to describe the feeling that came over me.