Paul at Lackland AFB, 1954.


The Korea wartime story of Paul Reilly

501 - Madison, WI

The Korean conflict started when I was in high school. Seven of my best friends joined the Air Force. Upon graduation, I wasn't old enough to join on my own. Mother didn't want to sign for me. She said, "If you don't like it, you'll blame me. Once you're 18, you can do what you want." So I enlisted on my 18th birthday, Sept. 29, 1954. I went to Lackland Air Force Base, where I did not find basic training as terrible as some claim it was. Of course, I had to pull KP and guard duty. There were some things about training I liked. I always like to tell the story that for the first few days we were given aptitude tests to determine where we would be placed. I assumed that would be 'mechanic,' because when I was young I could take windup cars apart and fix them. All the relatives said, "Paul's going to be a mechanic.” So, a few days before graduation they called me and said they were putting me into accounting and finance. I said they were out of their minds! They said, "That's where you had your highest aptitude scores. Tough, that's where you're going." And I found that I enjoyed it. Accounting came easy for me. When I got out of the service, I enrolled in the University of Wisconsin and got a degree in accounting with a minor in finance. So, I thank the Air Force for showing me an aptitude I had no Idea that I had.

When I went to my first permanent assignment in Michigan, I was a part of the Defense Early Warning System (DEWS) located near Battle Creek. The base intrusion system was very sensitive and went off whenever anyone approached the fenced area, causing everyone to scramble to their defensive positions. Very sensitive. I did say sensitive, right?

After this duty, I was transferred to Okinawa Air Defense Command at Naha Air Base instead of going to Korea, since hostilities were winding down. In Okinawa, as in Battle Creek, base defense was constantly on our minds. We were at a high state of readiness in case of unexpected resumption of hostilities. It was an interesting time on Okinawa; it was good duty. I handled cash payroll along with the captain. We kept 45's on the table on paydays. I was the chief clerk for the adjutant, so I did communications and special orders. I oversaw the payroll clerks and other clerical staff. No mechanical work at all! I did help a friend with his motor scooter, though.

Back to the present. I was pleased to be part of the Badger Honor Flight day trip to Washington, D.C., on April 21, 2022. My guardian was my grandson, Brady. It was a thrilling experience for everyone and was so well planned and executed. I joined the welcoming committee from American Legion Post 501, Madison, Wis., for the trip on May 14, 2022, and helped celebrate the veterans on that Badger Honor Flight.

Paul Reilly
American Legion Post 501
Madison WI


Paul's 1956 photo in uniform.

Guardian Brady (left) accompanied his grandfather Paul (right) on the Badger Honor Flight in April.
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