Mr. Dave Spaulding: WW II — Part I

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To understand the background for this post, it will be helpful if you first read (if you haven’t already), “Where (and How) in the World is…..Mr. Spaulding?!!!“ as well as another post about him.

The following conversation is from this month.   Mr. Spaulding was very patient with me, teaching me (as always) as I would exhibit my naivete about the military and World War II.

* * * * *

David Spaulding, circa May, 1945, St. Louis. (Click photo to enlarge.)

David Spaulding, circa May, 1945, St. Louis. (Click photo to enlarge.)

L.:  When were you in the military?

Mr. S.:  I graduated from high school when I was sixteen, not quite seventeen.  I had to kill time until my seventeenth birthday, which was in August of 1944.  [August 18th]  Then I enlisted in the Navy.

L.:  Why did you enlist?

Mr. S.:  Well, my brother was in the Navy and there was a war on.  Everybody I knew was going off to it.  I wasn’t going to sit around and do nothing.

L.:  When did you actually start in the Navy?

Mr. S.:  I enlisted in the Reserve.  I was going to enlist in the regular Navy.  This was in Des Moines.  In fact I had.  Then they said I’d have to pay my way home because I wasn’t getting paid right then.  I said, “I don’t have any money.  How am I going to get back from Des Moines?”  They said, “Well, we can put you in the Naval Reserve instead and then we’ll pay your way.  I said, “Fine. I’ll take it.”

L.:  Where was home at that time?

Mr. S.:  It was in Monona, Iowa.  But, the reason I would have to pay my way home from Des Moines was because I had initially enlisted in the regular Navy, which at the time was a minority enlistment.  You were in ‘til age 21.  I didn’t know that.  I was senseless.  When they switched me over to the Naval Reserve, so they could pay my way back home, I said, “That’s all right with me.”  A year or two later I realized what a lucky break that was, because otherwise I’d have been in the Navy until I was 21, like it or not.  But, since I was in the Naval Reserve, I got out so many months after the war ended.  That was a break.

L.:  When you enlisted, what was the minimum amount of time that you knew you would be in the Navy?

Mr. S.:  At the time in the regular Navy that would have been four years.  But I did not know it at the time.  They didn’t bother to inform me.  They were just happy to get me.

L.:  When you enlisted in the Naval Reserve, how long were you committing to?

Mr. S.:  Nothing definite.  It was just wait-until-the-war-was-over and see how long I’d have to stay afterward.  It was indeterminate.

Mr. S.:  Do you know how the United States acquired Guam?

L.:  Not well enough to explain it.

Mr. S.:  It was the result of the Spanish-American War after the U.S. kicked the Spanish out in, I don’t know, 1898, something like that.  Anyway, the U.S. won the Spanish-American War.  Part of the spoils of the war from Spain was the Philippines and Guam.  I’ve forgotten what else they got.  But, those are spoils of war that the U.S. picked up.  There were some others, too.

L.:  The United States granted Guam local control instead of the United States controlling it.  Does that sound right?

Mr. S.:  I don’t really know.  I never paid any attention to politics when I was there.  It was just a possession of the U.S.

L.:  After you enlisted you were sworn into the Reserve in Des Moines.  Did you start immediately?

Mr. S.:  No, I went back home until they wanted me.  That was in August and I didn’t get called in to active duty until October of ‘44.  So I went home and went hunting and loafed and did whatever I wanted to do.

L.:  When you went active in October of that year, was the first thing you did was go to boot camp?

Mr. S.:  Yes.  (chuckle)  That’s what all recruits do.

L.:  Where was that?

Mr. S.:  Great Lakes, north of Chicago on Lake Michigan.  Great Lakes Naval Training Station.  It was a great big place.

L.:  How long were you there, and do you have anything to say about boot camp?

Mr. S.:  I was there I think three months.  Oh, there was a lot of petty stuff.  We had what you call the Great Lakes Shuffle.  They had hard wood floors in the barracks.  You’d put a pad of steel wool under your foot and you’d shuffle back and forth and you’d steel wool the whole floor.  It was a big long barracks.  We had to do that a lot.  Just petty work just to keep you in your place.  We’d stand guard duty for four hours at a time during the night.  All sorts of things to make you forget you were a person.  You were a sailor, instead.

(Click here to read Part II.  I’ll post more about Oregon in a week or so.)

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