On June 5, 1956, some 534 “kids” walked across the Kintner Gym stage and soon walked out to face the "cold, cruel world."
I wonder how many of us had a clue about what the future held. I knew that in about three weeks, I was going into the Navy for 3-plus years, but had no idea what that entailed.
Loosely, I had planned to come out, go to college, maybe study engineering. Getting married and having children was somewhere in here. But right now, and being a young 17, that was just an outline and quickly fell to the wayside when I stepped on the bus bound for the Great Lakes Navy Station.
For the next 4-plus years (I had to extend my enlistment if I wanted to get Aviation Electronics School), I was all over the place trying to plan my future. That school held promise; something called a transistor had opened a whole new area.
When I arrived in Florida for my first real duty and found out there was a “possibility” that I could fly, my little universe blew up! When that “possibility” became a reality, I thought I had finally reached my future.
My squadron had just recently switched to A3D-2 Skywarrior that had a three-man crew; Pilot, Bombardier and a Gunner-Navigator. Enlisted men could be the two latter jobs, but mainly the last for us young Petty Officers. I made PO-3 in November 1957, went to school in January 1958 and had my first real flight in the A3D in April.
For the next 2-plus years I was as “happy as clam” (whatever that means?). In late 1959 or early 1960, a rumor started floating around we were going to be getting a new plane, the “Vigilante,” a two-man crew, both of whom were to be officers.
In fairness, the Navy made me an offer: they would pay me to go college for four years, if I agreed to serve five years afterward. By that time, I’d be pushing 30. I said, “No thanks.” (Turned out that the Vigilante was a flop, and the Navy went to another new fighter/bomber, the “Intruder,” also a two-man crew.)
I was due to be released Oct. 24, 1960. The Navy had a provision that you could be released up to 90 days early if you were going to school. I figured that the Navy had talked me into extending my enlistment one year, even though the extension wasn’t necessary, so I looked around for colleges and their starting dates.
I found a small one in Missouri that would get me the full 90 days, applied, was accepted, and seriously considered going there. Well-respected academics and athletics. My discharge date was moved up to July 27, 1960, and I headed home.
A bus ride from Cannes, France, to Livorno, Italy, a night on an LST and loading onto the “Buckner," a troop ship. They packed us into five-level bunks. I grabbed a top bunk; the other four, you’d be lucky if you could turn over, if that bunk was in use.
We arrived in New York Harbor on July 17; taken by bus to Brooklyn. The next couple of days we spend “exploring” NYC. Finally, on July 27 I walked down the steps with plane tickets to Chicago and from there to Decatur (on Ozark Airline) It had been an interesting 4-plus years.
Future … still to be determined!