Wayne Shearer’s World War II Memoir, Part 3: Off To North Georgia College!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018 - by Dr. C. Wayne Shearer

(Editor’s Note: Dr. Wayne Shearer, 94, is a retired optometrist and retired colonel from the U.S. Air Force Reserve now living in Hixson. In his early 90s, he decided to sit down and write from memory and a few records he still possesses his recollections of going through Army Air Corps pilot training at several bases in the United States during World War II. A lifelong writer, he wanted to pen them as he remembered them happening at the time.

He also recreates now-lost letters as best as he recalled writing them and references newspaper articles he collected at the time and still possesses. This is the third in a series of regular excerpts from it.)

 

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Sept. 16, 1942:

Now is the time to leave home for North Georgia (Military) College at Dahlonega. It is sad to leave home, but I am happily looking forward to college life. At the “West Point of Georgia,” we know that we will not be allowed to go home until Thanksgiving. There are a dozen or so students from Cordele attending. We will know a few people from day one, so off we go to Dahlonega.

 

This is a letter home in the style I would have written them:

Sept. 18, 1942

Dear Mother and Dad,

I got moved into Barnes Hall.  We have quickly found out that the military school is just that. As soon as a freshman hears, “She’ll be coming around the mountain,” sung, he comes to attention. We learned that a freshman was lower than a snake’s belly and told to get into the prone position to demonstrate. This has continued and is expected.

Your loving son, Wayne

 

Another letter home:

Sept. 25, 1942

Dear Mother and Dad,

I have now gotten settled in my room with my fellow high school graduate, Whitfield. We’re both happy about it. Several of us freshmen from Cordele were placed in advanced English and advanced math classes. Believe it or not, I was one of them!

Your loving son, Wayne

 

The Atlanta Journal on Tuesday evening, Oct. 6, 1942, said: “MUTUAL AGREEMENT ON ALLIES STRATEGY.” This agreement between the Royal Air Force and Army Air Force concerned the RAF to bomb only at night and the AAF during the day. War was on everyone’s mind, and we knew we’d all be serving soon.

 

Oct. 8, 1942:

The college academics and military training are tough, but that’s what we came for. We have learned to obey the bugle calls, especially “Reveille” (wake-up), “Mess Call” (for meals), “Assembly” (to assemble), “Mail Call” (letters), “Drill Call” (form up on drill field), “Retreat” (lowering of the flag at the end of duty day), “Taps” (lights out, into bed).

 

Dahlonega is located in the mountains of Northeast Georgia. The mountains are a real treat for us flat-land South Georgia boys!  The musical bugle calls seem to roll off the ridges. This phenomenon, especially late at night during the playing of “Taps,” creates a sadness as the day ended. This sound will stay with me forever!

 

The Atlanta Constitution on Friday morning, Oct. 16, 1942, said: “LOWERING OF DRAFT AGE OKAYED BY CONGRESS.” Today, the House military committee unanimously approved a bill making 18- and 19-year-olds subject to the draft after adding new safeguards intended to prevent the induction of married men while single men are available for Army service.

 

Oct. 17, 1942:

This has become a conversation piece for days among us NGC students as we studied academically and on the drill field learning the left foot from the right. My thoughts are concerning when I should go to Atlanta to take the required exams to be a Naval aviator or Army Air Force pilot. I am going to volunteer and fly for my country! Probably I have gotten the idea from the aviation cadet half-page ads that it may be quicker and easier to qualify for Navy pilot training. I still am thinking about AAF airplanes, though. Why not wait until after Thanksgiving?

 

The Atlanta Journal on Tuesday evening, Nov. 12, 1942, said: “BATTLE OF GUADALCANAL.” This told about the start of a climactic battle between Japanese and American Naval forces. The war outlook seems to be getting better every day. Guadalcanal is needed for airplane runways.

 

Another letter home:

Nov. 15, 1942

Dear Mother and Dad,

Hope all is well. I know Dad looks good in his Georgia Home Guard uniform with those master sergeant stripes. Am looking forward to being home for Thanksgiving. I’ll be riding home with another student’s father.

Lots of Love,

Wayne

 

The Atlanta Journal on Sunday evening, Nov. 22, 1942, said: “BATTLE OF STALINGRAD.” The battle situation for the German attackers of Stalingrad is desperate due to the Soviet counter attack. Gen. Friedrich Paulus tells Adolf Hitler that the German 6thArmy is surrounded.

 

Nov. 22, 1942:

On this Sunday morning, after our mandatory church formations and special Sunday mess hall meal, we all discussed going home Wednesday for our Thanksgiving break. We are quite excited because, after all, we are not allowed to go home except Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break. At this “West Point of Georgia” we are kept busy!

 

Nov. 27, 1942:

Good to be home for Thanksgiving. Mother and Dad knew this would be my last Thanksgiving holiday at home for awhile. Mother fixed my favorite foods and desserts. My sister, Norma, is almost 12 years old and growing up quickly. I told Dad that I would be allowed part of a Saturday off in December and intended to go with several other students and take the Naval pilot training tests. I do not want to be drafted but desire to fly in the military by volunteering.

 

Dec. 2, 1942:

Sunday afternoon came too soon, but I need to be back at Dahlonega for Monday morning classes.  Velpoe’s father picked me up after lunch and went by Ellaville outside Americus to get another student. It was a long ride to the northeast corner of Georgia, where Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia come together in the Appalachian Mountains. For us South Georgians, it was beautiful! Back to college life to learn as much as we can before going into the military.

 

One of the greatest influences in the life of a North Georgia College cadet is his military training. The cadet learns what is meant by discipline. He learns what spirit means. The squad and company spirit at NGC is one of the most important parts of the military curriculum. Company “C” (Honor Company this year) is like a family to me! We learn as we “Blitz” polish our brass insignia that “fronti nulla fides” (all that glitters is not gold). A high polish must be put on the brass and the shoes.

 

The Atlanta Journal on Saturday evening, Dec. 12, 1942, said: “ROMMEL ABANDONS EL AGHEILA.” German Gen. Rommel retreats to Tripoli. His final stand may be in Southern Tunisia, as American and British troops are pushing hard to win.

 

Dec. 15, 1942:

That was good Sunday morning news several days ago, as our troops are now winning more battles. My plans with several others were to go by bus to Atlanta this Saturday, the 19th; but plans can change quickly. Without notice to us students, an Army Air Force pilot training-testing group arrived on campus. When I found out, I was in morning classes.

 

During lunch in the mess hall, one of my friends, Felix, told me they were going to give the exams again for those who missed the morning sessions, and that today, Dec. 15, was the last day a civilian could qualify for pilot training. He said he qualified and I could, also. Forget about afternoon classes, I can’t be held back.

 

As soon as the aviation cadet examining board adjourned after lunch, I was in line. Previously, my folks could not find my birth certificate. The Naval Aviation recruits had said a certified copy of my birth from the family Bible would be acceptable; so armed and with that, high school and college transcripts (including fall quarter grades) and letters of character reference from three prominent Cordele citizens were presented to the board and accepted. We were given test booklets and answer sheets for the Aviation Cadet Qualifying Examination with pencil and paper.

 

Those tests would determine our quickness in following instructions, comprehending directions, reading comprehension, fundamentals of math, mechanical comprehension and leadership potential. These were tough exam questions for 18 year olds. These were multiple choice and machine graded. The maximum time allowed was two hours and I took the full two hours. Without the strict teachers of Cordele High School, I don’t think I would have passed those Army Air Corps tests today!

 

One sample questions was: “If a man is to help reinforce a bridge, he is to: widen it, strengthen it, destroy it, close it, or replace it.” This was followed by some information about military courtesy, and I had to answer questions regarding my interpretation of the meaning of the paragraph.

 

Another question asked if a hangar is 30 feet high and casts a 20-foot shadow, what would be the height of a signal tower that casts a 70-foot shadow during the same time of day. The possible answers were 46 2/3 feet, 140 feet, 210 feet, 23 1/3 feet and 105 feet.

 

Mechanical aptitude was also tested for the potential flyer, and one series of questions showed a cutaway drawing of a fuel pump while testing the student about its actions as a result of certain operations.

 

After the time limit was called, the papers were graded and those who failed were dismissed. Those who were left, including me thankfully, then waited for the medical doctor to give us the physical. I passed again and was immediately sworn into the AAF. These two hurdles are some of many that await me and others in pilot training.  But the P-40 is now in my 20/20 sight!

 

Another letter home:

Dec. 15, 1942:

Dear Mother and Dad,

I got sworn into the Army Air Force today. I was told that I would receive my active duty papers in several months and to be more qualified academically to enroll in the winter quarter. Am looking forward next week on Wednesday (Dec. 23) to being home on Christmas break and being with you and sister Norma until returning to NGC on Monday, Jan. 4, 1943.  Felix S. of Cordele, a fellow NGC student, passed the AAF tests and was also sworn in today; he was a year ahead of me in high school.            

Your loving son, Wayne


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Dr. Wayne Shearer can be contacted at docshearer@epbfi.com


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