“I enlisted when I was 17 so I could have a choice of where I served. Otherwise, I would have been drafted and sent where they told me to go. They let me stay home until the day after Christmas in 1944, then sent me to San Diego. The ship was not ready and they gave us leave. I thought I had enough time to get to Houston to visit my family. The servicemen who had time off could get home fairly free by driving someone. I drove a woman from San Diego to Houston. In the meantime, we were called back to the ship. No one could find me because i was in the car. The ship left and they assigned me to a base in Houston. I became the driver for the admiral until my ship got back to San Diego. One day the admiral wasn’t there and I took his car to see my mother. I had access to the car, but I didn’t ask for permission. They were waiting for me at the gate when I got back the next day. They put me in the brig for a night or two and shipped me to San Diego.
After that, my time in the Navy was relatively easy. I served on the Nevada and in the Pacific. The ship was so large that you couldn’t feel the waves. I sat in the radio shack four hours on and then four hours off. I slept for about three hours and my shift began again. The messages were mostly about weather. Some things came in code. We typed as we heard it and someone else translated it. The war was over in the Pacific nine months after I joined. The Nevada later became a target ship for the testing of the atomic bomb on the Bikini Atoll
My dad was also in World War ll. He was an architect and was a captain in the military government in Europe. After the infantry went through and cities were liberated, the civilian government went in to set things back up and helped restore facilities. He went to Normandy in July of 1944 then went into the city of Aachen, Germany to reset the water systems. For three months he was in charge of everything in Nordhausen in Eastern Germany. He was in charge of the bank, the people, the prisoners, and burying the dead. He had thousands of refugees pouring in from Eastern Europe and had to feed and take care of these people. The war was barely over and he didn’t know if he could trust the Germans.
After the war was over, I went discharged in Mobile and went to college at Davidson in North Carolina.”
Dr. David McElroy (his wife, Janet, helped tell his story)
(This is the 10th story in “The Souls of World War 2” series.)