My Naval Air Corps Service
November 23, 2010
I remember all too well what I was doing on June 25, l950. I was working at WBBM, the CBS radio station in Chicago, Illinois.
We had just received the news from our bureau in Tokyo, Japan, that the North Koreans, under the leadership of Kim Il-sung (president of North Korea), had launched an invasion of South Korea and were firing artillery shells all across the southern end of the Korean peninsula.
This was a portion of Asia that was not supposed to represent a danger for America and its allies in the post World War II world.
And yet, thanks to the perfidy of Joe Stalin and the naiveté of Franklin Roosevelt and even Harry Truman, this divided Korea did indeed present a danger to that part of the world.
I was only 21 years of age and I had not seen service in the Armed Forces during the big war, due to the fact that I was too young. But, since the draft was still in effect, I was classified 1-A which means I was eligible for a call-up.
I had many friends at WBBM. They were mostly all veterans of the big war.
One gentleman in particular was a commander in the Naval Air Corps. His name was Milton Korff. We all called him the commander because he had remained in the active Naval Reserve, and he latched on to me as a surrogate father.
He wanted me to join the Naval Reserve. He said many times, “You may not love the Navy, but you might like it.”
So, I thought I had better join the U.S. Naval Reserve while the joining was available. So, I went up to the Glenview Naval Air Station and took a very demanding physical.
Much to my relief, the doctor said I was good enough to be accepted in the Naval Reserve.
While I was a member of the reserve, I participated in the monthly weekend meetings. I studied the books I was given and I attended the two-week training at the Opa-Locka, Florida naval training air station.
I had a truly scary night flying down there in a rickety transport plane. It was a very stormy night over the skies of Georgia, when the chief petty officer said we should all put on our parachutes because we might have to abandon ship.
I felt my stomach sink to my feet when the cabin door was opened and the petty officer told us what the procedure would be. But, thank God, the crisis, whatever it was, had passed and we didn’t have to make that parachute jump into the dark and stormy skies — perhaps to be hit by lightening on the way down.
I truly thought it was going to be the end of my life. Then we were told we could keep our chutes on and take our places on the benches lining the interior of the plane.
We all breathed a huge sigh of relief. It wasn’t until later when we were on the ground in Macon, Georgia that we were told there was no danger while we were in flight. There was no reason we would have had to make a parachute jump.
After all, none of us had ever done that before. We had no training at all. Why were we told to put on the parachutes and be prepared to jump?
They said somebody thought it would be a good idea to test us and see if we had the guts to be in the U.S. Naval Air Corps. Ha Ha Ha. . . wasn’t that funny?
After we refueled, we took off for the shorter trip again to Opa-Locka for our two weeks of basic training.
That, too, was really fun because I was able to go into Miami Beach almost every night and shack up with some wild chicks who thought any 21-year-old in a Navy uniform was cute and sexy!
Before you start feeling sorry for me because I had to go into the Navy due to that mean communist, Kim Il-Sung attacking South Korea, don’t shed a tear for me. The war went on and brave soldiers and Marines died at Pork Chop Hill, the Chosin Reservoir, and other bloody places.
I really thought my unit would be activated, but it never was and before I knew it my four years in the Naval Reserve had expired and I was no longer classified 1-A. I was too old at age 26.
What does all this prove? It proves that life is unfair. Sometimes luck is not with us, and sometimes it is.
I am grateful it was with me on that fateful night in June of 1950 when the North Koreans unleashed their brutal attack on South Korea.